HEAVEN HEARS — Eternal:Life Upon Life Upon Life  John 3:16-21

A few weeks ago I saw an advertisement for a movie that’s going to be released on December 23rd.  The movie is taken from a book that was written back in the 1960’s, entitled Silence.  The book is a novel about two Portuguese missionaries in the 17th century who travel all the way around Africa, India and finally get to Japan to share the gospel with the Japanese people.  Japan had just gotten out of a season where missionaries were readily welcomed, and they were entering into a season where they wanted absolutely nothing to do with Christianity.  The Japanese, during this time, persecuted Christians with a vigor and passion that was really unprecedented other than by the Roman Empire up until this point.  The story’s about these two priests, these two Fathers, who go to share the good news of the gospel with these Japanese people and end up stepping into this tension of feeling like “God, we’re serving you and doing your work and yet we find ourselves being beat up for it.  On top of that, maybe even worse, is we see Japanese people responding to the gospel.  Because they respond to the gospel, they’re losing their lives for it.”  The entire novel is based around this tension — what do you do when you feel like you’re doing everything God wants you to do and He’s silent?

One of the priests, Father Rodriguez, writes a letter back to the church in Portugal.  I’m going to read a section from this book because I think it paints the picture that maybe many of us feel this morning.  He’s writing back to the church in Portugal.  He’s going to refer to a man by the name of Kichijiro, who was a part of the faith and then left.  Here’s what he writes:  “I do not believe that God has given us this trial to not purpose.  I know that the day will come when we will clearly understand why this persecution with all its sufferings has been bestowed upon us — for everything that Our Lord does is for our good.  And yet, even as I write these words I feel the oppressive weight in my heart of those last stammering words of Kichijiro in the morning of his departure: “Why has God imposed this suffering on us?” and then the resentment in those eyes that he turned upon me.  “Father,” he had said, “what evil have we done?”  (Rodriguez writes…) I suppose I should simply cast from my mind these meaningless words of the coward; yet why does his plaintive voice pierce my breast with all the pain of a sharp needle?  Why has Our Lord imposed this torture and this persecution on poor Japanese peasants?  No, Kichijiro was trying to express something different, something even more sickening.  The silence of God.  Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians;  the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of the churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent.” — Shusaku Endo, Silence  

The novel invites us into this tension of what do we do when we can’t hear the voice of God.  Better yet, what do we do if we can’t hear the voice of God when we’re serving God?  Better yet, what do we do when we can’t hear the voice of God when we’re serving God AND we’re getting beaten up for it?  It only struck me halfway through this novel that I was preaching a series entitled “Heaven Hears” and reading a book about the silence of God!  That’s the tension we face, isn’t it?  We walk in these doors and we’ve walked through seasons in life where the job didn’t come through and we wondered where the next meal was going to come from and it seemed like God was silent.  Where we prayed fervently for the healing to take place and it just felt like our prayers echoed off of heaven’s doors and God seemed silent.  There’s some parents in this room today and you’ve trained your children up in the way of Lord and they walked away from the faith, and you’re begging, “God, will you move, will you work, will you do something that only you can do?” and it just seems like God is silent.  What do we do when the Almighty King of Creation doesn’t seem to hear?  Where do we go when it doesn’t seem like God cares or it doesn’t seem like he’s willing to reach out…..and we’re just asking for a little whisper, not even complete sentences, God, just the recognition that we know that you care.

It was that type of a situation that Nicodemus found himself in as he approached Jesus the Messiah.  We’ll be camping out in John 3 this morning.  Nicodemus was a Pharisee; he was a teacher of the law.  He knew the Scriptures, and yet, he had this question that was ringing around in his heart—the question you might have, too, this morning.  It’s God, how do we approach you?  God, how do we come to you?  God, how do we really hear your voice?  It’s to that situation, to that silence, that Jesus speaks.  John 3:16—It’s the silence-piercing declaration of love from heaven to you:  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  I am praying that something happens in our soul this morning that allows this well-known passage of Scripture to somehow be fresh in the soil of our soul.  I think that if this were the first time that you ever heard that passage of Scripture, it would blow you away.  Just like Nicodemus, we might go wait just a second, because I thought what you said was that God LOVED this world, this broken world, this sinful world, this pain-stricken, death-stricken world….I thought you said He loved us.  If that was the first time you heard those words, it might shock you.  But, it’s not the first time you’ve heard it. My guess is you’ve probably seen, like me, the signs at football games and baseball games.  (Shows picture of a World Series game that has John 3:16 sign right behind the catcher.)  If you’ve gone to California, my guess is you’ve eaten at the mecca of fast food hamburgers called In ‘n Out burger.  You may not have known that on the bottom of the cup on the inside of it, you find out why those burgers are so good.   On the bottom of every cup is printed John 3:16.  Or maybe you’ve missed both of those and you saw it in 2009; Tim Tebow had it on his eye black during a national championship game.  Did you know that after THAT game, 90+ million people googled “What is John 3:16?”  Wow!  Pretty amazing!

This known verse, this known passage:  For God so loved….   Don’t you just love that John just can’t say, “For God loved the world…”  We might miss how emphatically he loved it if John would have just said, “Well, which brings me to my next point: God loves the world.”  No.  He emphasizes this idea, this phrase, this word:  that God SO loved the world.  You want to know how much God loves this world?  You don’t have to look any further than the face of Jesus.  That’s how much God loves this world.  What John doesn’t say is you know what, for God so loved everybody who would love him back.  Which, by the way, is what every other religion says.  Their god loves people who love him, or her.  Christianity is the only religion that posits that God loves ALL of creation, even if they antagonistically hate him.  What John wants to emphasize as he records the words of Jesus is both the scope and the magnitude of how much {Will you look up at me just a second?} God loves his creation.  In the beautiful hymn The Love of God is Greater Far,the hymn-writer writes this:  Could we with ink the ocean fill, / And were the skies of parchment made, / Were every stalk on earth a quill, / And every man a scribe by trade, / To write the love of God above / Would drain the ocean dry. / Nor could the scroll contain the whole, / Though stretched from sky to sky.   Here’s what he’s saying — If ALL the ocean were ink and every blade of grass a pen and every person an author and we tried our best to write about how grand and how beautiful and how great and how breathtaking the love of God was, we could NEVER, EVER, EVER describe it in its fullness.  We’d run out of ink.  We’d run out of paper.  We’d run out of energy before we ran out of things to say.  That’s good! That is…..Merry Christmas!!

Here’s the problem with love though.  The problem with love is….I love burritos.  I love the Broncos.  I love books.  Some people love cars.  I love coffee.  I love my wife.  I love my kids.  It’s a hard word though, isn’t it? It’s so multidimensional, multi-faceted, so deep that it’s hard to pull back the layers and actually figure out what this beautiful, complex word actually means.  I think that this most popular verse in the entire Bible actually tells us what this word means.  Look at it with me.  For God so loved the world, that he gave….  You will never find a selfish love.  Love, by its very definition, is ‘others-centered.’  Because of that, love is sacrificial.  It doesn’t calculate the less or the more.  It doesn’t try to figure out how little it could give.  Love wants to give everything it has.  I can remember when I went to Jared’s Galleria of Fine Jewelry to make two months’ salary last for the rest of my life.  I went in there and I was looking at the ring that I would eventually buy for my now-wife Kelly.  I went in and looked at the ring and thought, “That ring’s beautiful.”  I looked at the number next to it and thought, “Oh dear God!”  I actually did the math and thought, “It’s going to cost me somewhere around 250 hours of opening at Starbucks at 4 o’clock A.M. in order to pay for this ring.”  Then I picked one that was cheaper……no, no, I didn’t!!  I paid it gladly.  Why?  Because Kelly Hesser had captured my heart.  And that’s the way love is.  It’s sacrificial.  It’s willing to give of itself.

Here’s the other thing love is:  it’s personal.  Did you notice at Christmas that we don’t celebrate the fact that God gave us a message?  God gave us a messenger.  Why?  Because just delivering the message from heaven….hey, even if it fell out of heaven, crashed into earth on gold tablets, it would not be enough.  Love is distinctly personal.  For us to understand God’s love, it had to be clothed in humanity.  It had to be clothed in skin.  It had to live and breathe, because to send a message isn’t enough, it had to be a messenger.  Because of that, we can know that God’s love for us is not just for us universal.  {Will you look up at me for just a second?} God’s love is distinctly, personally, uniquely for YOU!   Here’s the way the great fourth century theologian, St. Augustine, put it:  “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

So if you’re anything like me, you have absolutely no problem believing God loves the world.  It’s believing that God loves us uniquely that’s the problem.  We could generalize the world and think, “Well, God loves his world. He has to, he created it.”  God made us all.  God loves us all.  But to think and know and believe that He actually loves us, in all of our brokenness, in all of our shame, in all of our sin…..He looks down on us with a divine, holy, passionate, reckless passion and says, “I love you and if there were only one of you, I’d love you just the same.”  In my heart I thought there was going to be (a footnote), so I looked and when it says, “For God so loved the world,” there’s an ‘8’ next to it.  What it DOESN’T say is ‘except Paulson.’  But that’s the way we read it sometimes.  We have no problem believing God loves everybody else.  But we know ourselves well enough to know there’s times where we’re just not lovable.  And God says, “Merry Christmas!”

Love is generous.  Love is giving.  Love is personal.  And then love is…..creative.  Have you ever noticed that love has this creative element to it?  It’s why so many songs are written about love.  Not a lot of songs being written about hate.  But love….oh, man!  I mean Meatloaf, in a beautiful ’80’s ballad, went so far as to say that he would do anything for love.  But after eight-and-a-half minutes he said, “I won’t do that,” but didn’t define what ‘that’ is!  That’s why there’s so many movies about love, because love has this creative element to it.

Did you know that love creates Christmas?  Last week we said destruction is the reason for the season.  I want to remind us today that the reason for the season—the reason that the season even exists—is because of love. Love is the most powerful force in the universe and God has set his affectionate on YOU!  Listen to Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Ephesians 1:4 from The Message:  Long before he (God) laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, {Can you just soak that in for a second?  Before he speaks it all into existence—makes it all out of nothing—he has YOU in mind.)  …had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love.  What an absolutely beautiful statement!

So, John says this love is giving, this love is personal and this love is creative.  Listen to what this divine love at Christmas creates.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  At Christmas, extravagant, reckless, beautiful, gracious love gives birth to eternal life.  That’s great news!!  The motivation behind the incarnation is affection.  God’s affection for you. That’s what drives him to clothe himself in skin, to step into humanity, to become a part of the story that he is telling.  Do not believe anybody that tells you any other motive that God has for stepping into humanity in the person and work of Jesus.  His motive is LOVE!  Giving, personal, sacrificial and creative love.  Christmas isn’t just about a baby being born.  Christmas is about life being given.  It isn’t just about life in the manger, it’s about the life in your neighborhood, in your workplace, in your home that’s being renewed, restored.  It’s about the life that you and I will live forever.  Christmas answers the cry of our heart.  The cry that says:  O come, Thou Key of David, come,/And open wide our heavenly home; {God, make a way where there is no way.  God, open the door that’s locked that no one else can open.  Key of David, turn and open the door of eternity that you’ve purchased on our behalf.}/Make safe the way that leads on high,/And close the path to misery./Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel/Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Solomon, the author of the book of Ecclesiastes, makes this very comprehensive statement that God has put eternity into man’s heart. (Eccl. 3:11)  You’ve never met somebody who walked the face of God’s good earth who didn’t long for immortality; who didn’t long to drink deeply of life.  That’s why, regardless of how sick or how old somebody is when they pass away, there’s something in us that goes, “I think we were made for more.” God designed us for more; He designed us for eternity and He put eternity into our hearts to testify, to scream out “We were made for more!”  Oftentimes, when we think of eternal life we think of heaven.  Our understanding of heaven is pretty simplistic sometimes.  We live a life a certain amount of years.  We die.  Then we go to heaven.  Heaven is eternal life.  If you were to have a more nuanced reading of the Scriptures, you would find that eternal life is NOT something that starts when you die.  In fact, this whole chart would be a little bit different if we read it through the lens of what Scripture actually says.  According to Scripture:  We live.  We die.  We go to heaven.  Then as N.T. Wright so poignantly states:  “Heaven is great, but it’s not the end of the world.”  We will be resurrected one day.  Someday God will speak life into our dead bones, we’ll be called up from the grave in the same way that He was called up from the grave.  We will be clothed in immortality.  At that point, we will live in the new heaven and the new earth.  Do you know how much of that’s eternal life? ALL. OF. IT.

So wait, Paulson, you’re saying that when Jesus talks about eternal life, He’s not talking about something that happens or starts when we die?  That’s awesome and that’s true and that’s good, but that’s only part of the story.  The eternal life that Jesus talks about, that Jesus invites us to, that God gives his us in order to purchase for us is the kind of life that lasts forever.  It’s the kind of life that we’d want to last forever and it starts the moment we start walking with the God who says ‘I am forever.’  Eternal life is every day we spend walking with the One who purchased eternal life for us.  It’s eternal in both quality—where we taste it and go YES!—and in duration. So in John 10:10, Jesus says the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  But he says, “I have come that they may have life when they die.”  NO!  …..that they may have life and have it abundantly.    Life upon life upon life….starting today.

So if your question is Paulson, what does that life really look like and how do we step into that eternal life, that’s both heaven—-no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind could come close to describing what God has in store for His people. Yes and Amen!—-and life that starts today.  Ryan, what does that look like and how do we step into it?  I thought you’d never ask.  Here’s what it looks like in John 3:17, where Jesus is speaking into the darkness and silence that Nicodemus is living in:  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,  {Which literally translated could be ‘judge.’  He didn’t come to judge.  You may be thinking, “Wait. Doesn’t the Bible talk about God being the judge.  Yes, hold off, we’ll get there.} ….but in order that the world might be saved through him.  The declaration of the angels is not ‘Behold, I bring you terrible news of great condemnation!’  You go to some churches and that’s the way you leave feeling, right?  “I know this is suppose to be good news, but it sounds terrible!”  No, Christmas is about a God who says, “I set my affection on you before all of eternity and I am going to execute my saving plan in your life because I am passionately for you!” Christmas is not about bringing guilt and shame, it’s about bringing GREAT JOY!  What John is saying is that God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger at humanity telling them how bad they were.  He came to help put the world to rights.

As we step into this eternal life now, one of the things we have to keep in mind is a renewed confidence in God’s desire to save.  And not just to same some, but to save {Will you look up at me for a second?} YOU! You! That’s what this story’s about. That’s what God’s overflowing love says to us.  The Scriptures are really clear. God says, “I don’t want ANYBODY to fall away; I want ALL to be saved.”  That’s the desire of our Father’s heart and that’s great news.  Here’s what John is saying in verse 17 — He didn’t come to condemn, but to save.  He’s saying, “God’s not mad at the world; he’s mad ABOUT the world!”  He is so for us that He is coming to be the light.  I’ll tell you what, man, I grew up in church and somehow I missed that this was at the very nature of God. You may have too.  But the book of 1 John (4:16) makes it all the more clear.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.    That may be the most powerful thing that could happen in your life! That you come not just to hear about, not just to believe, but in your very bones KNOW the King who created it all has an affection for and over me.  If you hear THAT voice of love breaking the silence in your life, I’ll propose to you, you can walk through anything.

He goes on to say (in 1 John 4:16) — God is love, {It’s who he is.  He never operates outside of that.} ..and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  The Scriptures say you’re fearfully and wonderfully made, that before you were ever a thought in your parents’ mind, you were a thought in God’s.  He wove you together in your mother’s womb; He knows how many hairs are on your head and he loves you passionately (Psalm 139).

A number of years ago, when my son Ethan was one-and-a-half, we lived in California.  In our house there, his crib was right against the wall.  If he were to lean out of his crib (which of course he never did), he could open the door and look down the hall at us.  One day he reached over and instead of opening the door, he accidentally locked the door.  The locks on that door actually needed a key, which we didn’t have.  I called my friend and told him my son was locked in his room.  My friend is my ‘one-call guy.’   I asked if he knew how to pick a lock. He didn’t but he knew a guy.  “We’ll be there in five minutes.  I’m right around the corner.” MacGyver and his friend come in and try to open it with two paper clips, then try to drill it open.  At this point, my son is bawling his head off.  We know he’s crying so he must be fine.  We keep working on trying to break into his room.  A few minutes into this chaos, he stops crying.  My father’s heart started beating faster.  My friend looks at me and says, “You want me to break down this door?”  I looked back at him and said, “Break that bad boy down!”  We take the crowbar, pop a hole in the door, reach through and turn the knob, and find my son as fast asleep as I’ve ever seen him in his whole life!  But I’m going, “I’m coming for you!  Even if I have to break down this door, I’m coming for you!”  What God says to us at Christmas is even if I have to cloth myself in humanity, even if I have to come and live a perfect life on your behalf, die and give my life on the cross, I’m coming for you!  Because I love you and I’m for you!  This love creates Christmas.  Will you remind yourself today that the God of heaven speaks over you and he calls you the ‘Beloved.’  Here’s the way Henri Nouwen says it:  “Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.”  Being the Beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.”  It expresses the core reason Jesus came.

Here’s the way John continues in John 3:18 — Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  Here’s the dividing line of every single person that’s ever walked the face of the planet.  Are you ready for this?  It’s not how many good works you’ve done.  It’s not how nice you are to your neighbor, although those things are really, really important.  It’s not how much you’ve given to the church.  None of those things are the dividing line that stands between you and anybody else.  Here’s the one dividing line — What do you do with Jesus?  That’s it! In all of history, there’s two categories of people.  There’s belief.  There’s unbelief.  That’s it.

Belief is one of those slippery words, too.  Here are two other words you could use to replace it, because we can say we believe things and have it not change us at all.  Belief, according to the Scriptures, could be substituted with ‘trust.’  God, I believe you, therefore I trust you.  I trust you with my life.  I trust that your grace is enough, that it’s sufficient for me.  God, I trust that your message of belief alone is all that I need to stand right before your throne.  Second, it’s this disposition, not of just ‘I believe cognitively,’ but I surrender. That’s belief.  You can’t believe in Jesus without surrendering to Jesus.  He refuses to be a nice hood ornament on your already nice car that you drive around.  He’s not going to be an addendum to anybody’s life.  He’s the God of the universe.  This is the dividing line.  What Jesus says is people who believe, they step into, what He calls, salvation.  It’s a complete restoring and rescuing of the human condition.  It’s not just going to heaven, it’s being woven back together, to have the Shalom (peace) that God created you to always live in. Then this perishing is:  You want to hold onto your own sin and your own darkness, well, you’re going to hold onto it for all of eternity.  That’s the dividing line of every single person that’s ever walked the face of the globe.  Maybe this morning, the invitation from Jesus is to remember His desire to save and secondly, to remind ourselves that because of grace, God’s SOLE requirement for salvation is faith.  Trust and surrender.

If you’re saying Paulson, you didn’t keep reading, and not only that, Ryan, but if we could ask questions here, I would ask…Jesus says I came to save and not to condemn, but if you were to go over to John 9:39, what you’d read, Ryan, if you’d done your study is:  Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world…”    What do you do with that?  Is Jesus contradicting himself?  In John 3, he says I came to save, and in John 9, he says judgment has come.  It’s a contradiction that’s only apparent, it’s not real.  When Jesus says, “I came to save, that was my intention,” He is absolutely 100% telling you the truth.  But in coming to be the light, he also exposes that there are people who continue, even though they know the light has come, to live in darkness.  “For judgment I came into the world,” He says.  He means that as I save people by truth and love and righteousness, a division happens between those who say, “Yes, I believe,” and those who refuse to say, “I surrender at your throne.”  So this morning, we remind ourselves of the truth of the matter that God’s sole requirement for salvation is faith.

Listen to what Jesus says as he continues:   And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light…  You know what’s interesting?  This is the picture of what Jesus is saying:  Ryan opens an umbrella and puts it over himself.   The light of all humanity stepped into history and that light shines.  Some people have chosen to say, “I’d rather hold onto my own darkness.”  He said, “People loved the darkness.”  Did you know your affection will always determine your direction?  The things that you love, the things that you worship will always determine the course of your life.  What Jesus says in this passage is I came to be the light, but in coming to be the light, what it exposed is that some people want nothing to do with light because they are so entrenched in darkness.  So the question for us today is: Are we willing to step into this marvelous, beautiful, piercing light?  Or will we cling to our sin, will we cling to our shame, will we cling to our guilt, instead of stepping into the light that is shining whether you want it or not? That’s the message of Christmas — The Light shines!  There is not a corner or a cavern on the face of the planet that the glory of his light does not shine.  The question is….will you give up your own self-salvation projects, will you give up your own darkness, will you surrender the evils of your own heart to the glory of his marvelous light, and so be purified by the light that came and the love that came to save you?

Earlier this week, I read that somewhere around 39-40% of us will buy a gift card for somebody over this holiday season.  I also read that in our households individually, most of us have somewhere around $300 in unused gift cards.  They did this total between 2005 to 2011 and said there was over $41 billion worth of unused gift cards floating around.  Faith is that same way.  It’s there.  The invitation’s on the table.  Will you receive it??  Or will, for all of eternity, you’ll hold on to your own darkness while the light shines all around?

Jesus ends this passage of Scripture by saying:  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light, {Isn’t that true? If you grown accustomed to the darkness and then you step into the light, it hurts your eyes a little bit, doesn’t it?}  lest his works should be exposed.   {That’s the core of the issue….if I step into the light I’ll be known.  If I step into the light, my evil will be seen.  If I step into the light, the only thing that’s going to save me then is mercy.}  But whoever does what is true {I would have expected Jesus to say, “Whoever does what is GOOD, whoever does what is RIGHT, whoever changes the way that they live…then they can be my disciple…   He doesn’t say that.  He says whoever does what is true, as if to say, WHOEVER is willing enough to be honest to say, “I need the light, because in myself I am dark.”} comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.  Both the evil ones and the good ones.  Even those who perversely choose to love darkness, they are standing in the light.  They just refuse to receive it.  But for you and I, here’s the invitation this morning.  The invitation from this passage is to do what is true.  To say God, will you search me and will you know me.  To say God, there are some things in me that are evil and I want you to shine your light on those.  I want to receive the grace that I stand in, the mercy that’s mine because of the work of Jesus.  I want to, for all of eternity, stare at your marvelous light, the light of your love that says I love you enough to come to give my life and to die.  I want to look at THAT light for all of eternity.  I don’t want to go into eternity carrying my own darkness and my own shame and my own guilt and clinging to it for all of non-time.  That’s not what I want.  I want your marvelous, beautiful, glorious light to shine on me!  Friends, this is confession. Confession isn’t telling God something he doesn’t know.  It’s bringing our dark deeds into the light to see that they’ve been there the whole time.  It’s just simply getting honest.  That’s Jesus’ invitation to you and to me.

So as the Apostle Paul says to the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 9:15) — Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! Friends, at Christmas, what we celebrate is that extravagant love stepped into space and time, clothed Himself in humanity, that you and I might step into timeless relationship with Him.  I pray not just that you will experience eternal life when you die…I pray that that’s a decision that by faith you have made.  Trust and surrender to Jesus.  But I also pray that you’d recognize that that beautiful journey doesn’t have to start when you take your last breath, but that as we remember that God longs to and loves to save, and as we remember that the only thing He requires of us is faith and as we get honest with him and us, we walk into that eternal life today.  So the only question on the table is–Will you accept or reject his gracious gift?  Let’s pray.

I just want to give you a minute before we all go rushing out of here.  Trust and surrender.  That’s the invitation in front of us this morning.  If that’s a decision you’ve never made and you sense the light shining on you this morning, on a new and fresh way, and you want to give your life to Jesus, He would absolutely love to enter your life.  It’s just saying back to him, “Jesus, I step into the light, confessing that I’ve loved the darkness.  I believe that you came to my rescue and that you love me.  I surrender my life to you.”  What a beautiful story we gather around this time of year.  What God asks of us is simply that we would believe, trust and surrender at his throne.

So, Father, this morning we would ask that we would see your light shining all around us.  That there’d be this renewed confidence in our soul that you long to save.  Thank you!  And that our response to your indescribable gift would be, “I receive it and thank you!”  Father, for all my friends in here, I pray, would the story of Christmas, this extravagant love that gives birth to eternal life….may it well up in our souls, Jesus.  For the glory of your name, for the good of your world, and for the joy of us, your people, we pray.  In Jesus’ name. And all God’s people said……Amen!