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Showing posts with label Luke 2:1-20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Luke 2:1-20. Show all posts

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Prayer of Adoration

Introduction
Throughout the season of Advent, we’ve been studying prayer.  Prayer is so much more than we might have thought.  We can pray and ask for God’s help--help with our lives, help for those we love.  That is a type of prayer--intercessory prayer or petitionary prayer.  But there is more to prayer than just that.  Prayer can be meditating on Scripture. It can be reflecting and examining your day.  Prayer can be celebrating Holy Communion or worship or other responsive readings or traditional prayers.  Prayer can be surrendering to God and allowing Him to change us.  At its heart, prayer is spending time with God as a child spends time with a loving parent.  And when we do, the Father shares His love with us and teaches us and molds us into His perfect image.

On this Christmas Eve, as we celebrate the precious baby that was born in a manger, I want to tell you a little about another kind of prayer.  It’s called The Prayer of Adoration and it is a fitting lesson as we pause to remember and adore the Christ-child born to save the world from sin.

Slides – Luke 2:1-20
1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Adoration a Baby is Natural
Can you imagine those shepherds that night standing before the baby Jesus, adoring him.  And later the wise men also came from the East to bring gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. They gave their gifts and adored the baby who was born to be king of the Jews and Savior of the whole world.  We don’t know how many others might have laid their adoring eyes on the baby--whispering sweet “goo goos” to him or lovingly cradling him in their arms.  It seems everyone wants to come see a newborn baby.  We can probably imagine what it was like for them to adore baby Jesus.  If we have ever seen a newborn child or held a tiny little infant, light as a feather, if you’ve ever seen those tiny little hands grasping your finger while looking up at you with bleary eyes (seeing everythig for the very first time), then you know something of the wonder of those who gathered around the manger to adore the baby, Emmanuel, God with us.  

I saw a new mother post a picture of her baby on Instagram—her very first child.  Her caption read, “I never knew I could love someone so much.  How is this possible?”

Isn’t it strange that we would be so captivated by a baby?  A baby doesn’t do anything except be “cure”; however, people still adore babies.   To behold a baby brings us joy and wonder and hope.  Babies have the power to fill our hearts with love and it’s not a selfish kind of love; it’s the kind of self-sacrificing love that would make a complete stranger risk their life to save a baby.  

God designed us to adore little babies, to love and protect them.  It is an innate part of our character to love little babies this way.  No one has to teach us.  And so it was that God came into our broken world as a tiny little baby.  And the shepherds came--men who I’m sure were rough and tough from surviving the cold winter nights while protecting their flocks from wild animals and ruthless thieves.  They came and were overcome with wonder and awe at the sight of a little baby in a manger.  They adored him.


Stumbling Blocks to Adoration
We, too, are invited to come and adore Jesus.  Adoration is an act of prayer and it’s actually what we were designed to do.  God created us to love Him and be loved by Him.  All creation praises Him and we are the creations crowning glory.

To adore is as natural to the human spirit as breathing, but we don’t always adore God as we should.  There are several reason we get distracted and don’t adore Him as we should.

We are in too much of a rush.  We are always so busy doing doing “important things” we don’t slow down enough to notice all the amazing signs of God’s presence all around us.  I wonder how many people in busy Bethlehem failed to notice the young couple Mary and Joseph and their newborn baby.  And even of those who stopped in to take a quick look, how many took the time to really soak in the wonder of it all and to turn their hearts to adore the glory of God who is the giver of life.  I also wonder how often we fail to slow down enough to notice the glory of God all around and lift up a prayer of adoration to God.

We often fail to adore God, because we are stuck worshipping idols.  When I say we worship idols, I don’t mean some statue we bow down to.  An idol is anything that takes the place of the one true God, anything you turn to for the fulfillment that only God can give you.  We can make an idol out of money, power, our career, our church, even our spouse or our kids.  Many of the things we adore are good things, but they are bad for us when we seek fulfillment from them that we can only get from God.  Idolatry is dangerous for us and for the things we worship.

So we have to slow down and we have to focus our adoration on the One who truly deserves it.  He is the One who made us.  He is the source and sustainer of our life.  He is the God who loves us and daily blesses us with signs and wonders designed to turn our adoring hearts upward toward Him.  But we have to slow down and turn our eyes away from the blinking distractions of our noisy world in order to take notice of the subtle beauty and wonder of the Lord of all creation.  He is the One who came down from Heaven and was born in a tiny manger for us to adore.  He is the One who walked among the sick and lonely and poor, who spoke in parable that only those with ears could hear.  He is the One who died on a cross to save the world.  He is the one who bore a cross, the symbol of a lost cause, and turned it into a victory worthy to love and adore.

Steps Along the Path of the Prayer of Adoration
We out to continually give thanks and praise to God.  Thanks is adoring God for what God has done for us.  Praise is even more wonderful; it is adoring God simply for who He is without any regard for what He’s done for us.  Praise is selfless adoration of the Lord.  We can give thanks.  We can praise Him.  We can magnify Him.  To magnify is to try to exaggerate how wonderful God is.  We sometimes brag and exaggerate how great we are, but I bet you can never over-exaggerate how wonderful God is.  Give it a try.  I bet you can’t over-exaggerate how wonderful God is!

In his book Prayer, Richard Foster recommends we start with simple things in adoring God.  Rather jump right to the grand and cosmic scale of how wonderful God is, look at a baby.  How wonderful is the God who would create human life and cause it to begin in a tiny little child--so fragile and yet fully formed and amazing.  Don’t analyze and study, just be amazed at the miracle of life and adore the One who created it.  As we regularly adore God as revealed in the little things, we train ourselves to see and adore God everywhere.  As we become more filled with wonder about God, we can begin to thank and praise and magnify Him.

Adore Him
This Christmas, I pray you will slow down and refocus.  See the baby Jesus in the manger, born to save the world.  Adore him.  For He is God.  It is what you were born to do.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Home is Where You Make It

Home is Where You Make It
Christmas Eve Message
Luke 2:1-20

Luke 2:1-20
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Introduction
            Christmas is a time when people like to be at home.  Most businesses still close on Christmas day (though more and more are staying open).  They close so that people can be at home with their family for the holiday.  Yet, there are some places that cannot close.  No one wants fire stations of police stations to close on Christmas.  (What if there is a fire or a crime on Christmas day?)  My wife Kelly is a nurse and she has to work tomorrow night, because—believe it or not—babies are still born on Christmas!
            The shepherds in the story from Luke were working on the first Christmas night.  They were not at home warming by the fire.  They were out working the night shift keeping the sheep safe when the angels appeared to them. 
            And then, there is Mary and Joseph.  If anyone wanted to be home, I’m sure it was Mary and Joseph.  Mary, a young girl having her first child, was miles away from home and everything that was comfortable to her. 
            Sometimes when Kelly and I go to visit family in middle Georgia, we will get hotel to stay the night.  My mom’s house is not big enough to sleep my whole family comfortably.  Neither is my mother-in-law’s.  Sometimes we split up and send part of the family to my Mom’s house and part to my mother-in-law’s, but that has it’s on challenges too (Who’s gonna stay where?  How are we going to get back together in the morning?)  Sometimes it’s just easier and more comfortable to get a hotel and call that home for the night.
            Mary and Joseph couldn’t even get a hotel room.  They tried, but all the rooms were full.  So, all they had to call home for the night was the stable where they kept the animals.   

Sometimes, home is where you make it.
            Life is messy.  It doesn’t always go the way you plan.  Babies are born at inconvenient times.  The hotel doesn’t always have enough room.  So you have to make do with what you have.  Sometimes, you make home where you are.
            In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul said, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
            You see, when your heart is right with God, God can teach you to bear with any inconvenience.  But don’t get the impression that God just makes you tough enough to grit and bear it.  God can actually take an impoverished situation and turn it into an abundant life.
            Take Mary and Joseph.  There were no doctors or nurses or cozy state-of-the-art birthing rooms available.  Mary gave birth in a barn and laid her precious baby in a manger with animals all around watching.  Yet, angels announced his birth and the shepherds came running to see the miracle child.  Before long, Wisemen came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  But the greatest gift of all was the privilege of bearing and raising the Son of God.  This was not merely getting by.  This was being at the very center of God’s eternal plan to save humanity.
            I don’t know if Mary and Joseph knew the full ramification of what they were doing the night Mary gave birth to the Christ.  I think they had some clues, but didn’t understand in full.  That’s the way most of life is.  We may suspect something important is happening in our life, but we don’t fully understand what it is.  All we know is that this is the hand life has dealt us and we can complain about it and mope around, or we can have faith that God is doing something truly amazing—that God has already given us a tremendous blessing we just don’t fully understand yet.
            Several from our church went Christmas caroling to our at-home members.  (These are members of our church who for health reasons are not able to get out much.  Many of them live in assisted living or nursing homes.)  Nancy Ware, Rena Gallman, and I had the privilege of visiting with Virginia Wallace over at Tranquility Assisted Living.  I asked Virginia if she liked living at Tranquility and her response was full of wisdom.  She said, “I love it her.  It’s a very nice place.  Of course, no one wants to leave their home and move into assisted living, but I couldn’t ask for better.  You can choose to be unhappy because you are not at home anymore, or you can choose to be happy.  It’s up to you.  I am very happy to call Tranquility my home.  It is a wonderful place.”
            We would all do well to listen to Virginia’s advice.  Your attitude makes all the difference.  So whether you find yourself like Virginia in assisted living, or if you find yourself like Mary and Joseph and all you have is a stable and a manger, remember:  home is where you make it.  Maybe you ought to get busy making it a home. 

An Invitation to Come Home
            I want you to remember that any home we have in this life is only temporary.  Ultimately, our Home is with God.  Even when this life comes to an end, we have a Home awaiting us in Heaven.  Hebrews 13:14 tells us, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.”
            If you want to go Home for Christmas this year (not necessarily your family home or your childhood home, remember, we are talking in a spiritual sense), you must get your heart right with God.  1 Peter 3:18a tells us, “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”
            The glorious Good News of Christmas is that, through Jesus Christ, God tore down every obstacle that keeps us from being at Home with Him.  There’s nothing in the way—no sin that can’t be forgiven, no fear or anger or grief or shame that can’t be overcome.  All you have to do is decide that you truly want to be at Home with God.  Do you want to be at Home with God?  Will you decide to come Home today?  As for me, I’ll be Home for Christmas this year.