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Week 1 Blog: Responding to Christmas

Written by: Pete Geiger in on January 4, 2012

Context:

This past weekend, Pastor Vernon taught on “Responding to Christmas,” concluding our Advent series, “The Cast of the Christmas Play.” In his message, Pastor Vernon asked us to consider the roles of Simeon and Anna in the coming of Christ---which, though lesser known, are vital to the Christmas story.

Simeon and Anna demonstrated great patience in waiting for the promised Messiah because of their hope in the purposes of God. In Russ Ramsey’s book, Behold the Lamb of God: An Advent Narrative, he writes of Simeon:

He knew that God was at work to save His people… Simeon was at his post, watching, awaiting, poised to respond. He was devout… He knew how to want what God had promised. He knew how to delight in God's goodness. And he knew how to wait.

Simeon and Anna’s story informed our worship as we praised God for His wise and perfect purposes. God is always on the move, actively at work in the universe He created, and in our lives.

Participatory Worship:

Call to Worship: We were called into worship with a video piece entitled “Christmas Really Happened,” which reminded us that though our cultural celebration of Christmas has passed, we can take much joy in the truth that Christmas truly happened and the Savior really came!
 

“Wonderful King” (David Crowder): This song, which we regularly use in worship, reminds us of the reason of why we gather---it’s all for Him.

VERSE:
We are here because of grace, because of love
We are here because of You, because of You

You are here because of grace, because of love
You are here because of You, because of You
You fill our hearts with more than we can hold inside and so we sing

CHORUS:
Beautiful Savior, Wonderful King
Beautiful Savior, Wonderful King

VERSE:
You are here because of grace, because of love
We are here because of You, because of You
You fill our hearts with more than we can hold inside and so we sing

CHORUS

Oh, beautiful sound, the joy of heaven here
Oh, wonderful sound, love of heaven now… (Repeat)

CHORUS

“How Great Thou Art” (Stuart K. Hine; arr. Charlie Hall):

VERSE:
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed

CHORUS:
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

VERSE:
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

CHORUS

VERSE:
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, “My God, how great Thou art!”

CHORUS

“Our God” (Matt Redman, Jonas Myrin, Chris Tomlin and Jesse Reeves): The line of this song that stood out to me this week was: “Into the darkness You shine / Out of the ashes we rise / There’s no one like You.” Scripture often speaks of Christ as the light of the world. The Apostle John wrote, “There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man” (John 1:9 NASB). God purposed to have His Son step into our darkness to defeat sin and death, so we can be brought into His marvelous light!

Out of this song we read responsively from Isaiah 60 to remind each other of this truth:

Leader:
Arise, shine, for your light has come!

Congregation:
The glory of the Lord has risen upon us.

Leader:
Let us praise the Lord together.

Congregation
The sun shall no longer be our light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on us,

Leader:
for the Lord will be our light,
and our God will be our glory.

Congregation:
The Lord will be our everlasting light,
and our days of sorrow will end.

All:
Come, let us sing to our light and salvation!

“Great I Am” (Jared Anderson):

VERSE:
I wanna be close, close to Your side
So heaven is real and death is a lie.
I wanna hear voices of angels above,
Singing as one.

CHORUS:
Hallelujah, Holy, Holy,
God Almighty, Great I AM.
Who is worthy, none beside Thee;
God almighty, Great I AM.

VERSE:
I wanna be near, near to Your heart,
Loving the world, hating the dark.
I wanna see dry bones living again,
Singing as one.

CHORUS

The mountains shake before Him;
The demons run and flee
At the mention of the name, “King of Majesty.”
There is no pow’r in hell
Or any who can stand
Before the power and the presence of the Great I AM,
The Great I AM, the Great I AM….


Sermon:
 

Pastor Vernon, preaching from Luke 2:25-35, talked about the importance of Simeon and Anna to the Christmas story. Both of these Biblical figures demonstrated great patience in waiting for the Messiah, yet their responses to His arrival differed. Each acted according to the role God had given them.

Simeon is a man we know little about, other than the fact that he had been given a great promise by God---that he would see the Messiah before he died. Simeon is in the story for the personal message he gave Mary (Luke 2:23). God took great pains to keep communicating with Mary, who was likely only 15 years old at the time.

Anna, on the other hand, comes from an impressive line of prophets and teachers. She immediately proclaimed the good news to all “who would hear.” Anna is in the story for us.
Pastor Vernon challenged us to ask ourselves, “What is my role in the story? How is God speaking to me?” We too can tell of the nearness of God and proclaim that the Kingdom is near. Our ability to do that comes down (or up) to our beliefs. In this season of “New Year’s resolutions,” our focus should be on the beliefs that motivate our resolutions. Are we ultimately seeking to become more like Christ? How will our choices change us? How will they change the world?

Cited books and references:

Dallas Willard: The Divine Conspiracy
Billy Graham: Nearing Home
Jonathan Edwards: Resolutions (#17. “Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”)

Closing:

“New Year” (Charlie Hall): This song reminds us of the great hope we have in God as we begin the new year, and the opportunity we have to “point the way to God’s great live.” The song was recorded on Charlie Hall’s album “Bright Sadness,” and I had the privilege of re-working the arrangement of the song with Shane Smith (guitar).

VERSE:
My heart beats like a drum
Flying up with the sun,
I grab Your hand again.
Renovated with life,
My eyes again bright,
And You are radiant
Where hope can hold the hand of sorrow
And we can walk into tomorrow,
Where peace is found in troubled days
And the joy of Jesus carries pain

CHORUS:
This is a new year,
This is a new day to rise, shine,
Lift up your eyes.
This is a new year,
This is a new day to rise, shine,
And point the way to God’s great life.

VERSE:
I’m held in a place,
A beautiful space,
Where heaven meets the earth.
My heart opens wide
And the Father pours life,
Deep inside my soul.
Where hope can hold the hand of sorrow
And we can walk into tomorrow.
Where peace is found in troubled days
And the joy of Jesus carries pain

CHORUS

Over the closing of this song I read Hebrews 4:16 from the New Living Translation: “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” As we step into the new year, let’s approach God boldly and endeavor to become more like Christ!

Benediction:

“And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.”

– 2 Corinthians 3:18
 

Comments -

Pete Geiger said (Added on January 19, 2012 at 11:31 a.m.)

Hi Nancy, this version of 2 Cor. 3:18 comes from the 1st edition of the New Living Translation (1996). It really is worded beautifully! And thank you for your kind words!

Nancy Gordon said (Added on January 18, 2012 at 07:26 p.m.)

What translation did you use in 2 Cor 3:18?  I tried to find it on my I phone app but was unable to do so.  I like the way it is worded.  You guys do a great job.  Thanks!

Jillian said (Added on January 8, 2012 at 02:54 a.m.)

I like this message. It is easy to start the year out thinking of our own plans. Even though I believe God is with me and walking with me through this journey it is a different perspective altogether to think I am walking in His plans rather than He is with me in my own plans in life. God help us to be surrendered to Your will.

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