Hope for our sad hearts at Christmas

“Christmas Time is Herel” was written and produced by Lee Mendelson and Vince Guaraldi for the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Here are the lyrics, notice the last lines, italicized:

Christmas time is here
Happiness and cheer
Fun for all that children call
Their favorite time of the year

Snowflakes in the air
Carols everywhere
Olden times and ancient rhymes
Of love and dreams to share

Sleigh bells in the air
Beauty everywhere
Yuletide by the fireside
And joyful memories there

Christmas time is here                                                                                                             Families drawing near                                                                                                         Oh, that we could always see
Such spirit through the year

Christmas time has a unique way, unlike other times of the year, of pushing sad feelings to the surface. There are just as many reasons to be sad and cry at Christmas as there are reasons for joy and laughter. I think this is why:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”         Prov. 13:12

This is the way things are with everyone. Everyone wants hope and desire satisfied. But we all know the truth: we all live in a broken-down body in a broken-down world with broken dreams and crushed spirits. We are all longing for an existence, a real place and time, where the joy that Christmas promises will never again disappear. Christmas has a painful way of reminding us of ambushed hope. But the wise observation that Solomon gives is a sign-post that points to Christ. Hope in Christ does not take away the pain that we live with, but it does provide the soul with a joy that one day all the hopes that were deferred in this life will be satisfied in him. This is why scripture records angels, shepherds, Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth, John the Baptist, the Wise Men, Simeon in the Temple – all rejoicing that the Christ has been born. There is so much sadness in the world that the hope of Jesus is the only “tree of life” to cling to. Finally, hope deferred no longer.

Paris, Memory Loss, Starbucks, and “the counsel of His Will”

It’s Saturday morning, Nov. 14, 2015. We’re in Springfield, IL. with Cheryl’s parents, attending a memory loss seminar for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Cheryl is with her parents and I’m sitting at Starbucks over-hearing several conversations about the horror in Paris. One middle-aged man near me says to his friend, “senseless – someone needs to do something to stop this.” Earlier this morning at the Memory Loss seminar during registration, I observe the alone-ness on many faces as husband, or wife, or daughter, or son, or close friend, attempts to learn more on how to deal with this elongated good-bye to the person that you love dearly; like sand that slowly slips downward in an hour-glass, your life-long friend moves from one kind of existence into another – right in front of you – and they’re never the same again, and you too. Back at Starbucks, there are three young teenage girls who are absorbed in their mutual class work for class next week – “Anatomy and Physiology”. As I sip on my Clover pressed Hawaii Kau, I finish up preparing for our Apologetics & The Gospel class for next Wednesday evening, as we work through “Onward” by Russel Moore. Put it all together:

For my church family, we need, I need, to know that God is working everything according to the counsel of his will so that his grace toward us in Christ will be enjoyed forever. I never do this, but I want to send the sermon outline to you so that you may pray for your church, Jesus’ Universal Church, yourself, your worship of Christ as we meet tomorrow. Let us pray for the few believers in France, that they will show the refuge of Christ in dangerous times to their friends and neighbors. We do not minimize horror. But we neither despair. Prepare for worship!

“He Works  Everything According to the Counsel of His Will.”

                                    Acts 20:27 & Ephesians 1

To the Ephesian Elders:

Acts 20:27  “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

“Counsel” = aim, goal, plan

 To the entire Ephesian church:

 Ephesians 1:3-14

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Q. What is the goal of all that God the Father has done in his Son?

A. It is to bring sinners to enjoy the beauty of God’s grace.

>Everything is Penultimate

>The Enjoyment of God is Ultimate

Why Do I Love the Whole Counsel of His Will?

  1. God will not leave the ultimate success of the enjoyment of his grace to the will, counsel, or determination of man.
  1. Every reason for joy and every reason for sorrow in this life will be united in Christ.
  1. My salvation in Christ serves a greater purpose than being saved from an eternal hell.
  1. All my questions will be resolved in Christ, someday.
  1. God’s predestination of my salvation in Christ does not encourage lawlessness, but hope for holiness.
  1. The Whole Counsel of His Will shapes my worldview and satisfies my heart like nothing else can.
  1. The Trinitarian God is fully committed to making me eternally happy in Him.

 

“What Cancer Cannot Do”

My parents received a Christmas card from some special friends that shared this title and perspective below. But if cancer is not your lot in life, something else is just as formidable and threatening for the New Year. Replace the word “cancer” with whatever feels overpowering, threatening, and frightening. Look to Christ who overcame all things and believe that he is Lord over all things, including the bad stuff.

“Cancer is so limited . . .

It cannot cripple love

It cannot shatter hope

It cannot corrode faith

It cannot destroy peace

It cannot kill friendship

It cannot suppress memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal Eternal Life

It cannot conquer the Spirit

We cannot understand the countless mysteries of life, yet we rest in the promise of One who does.”

May the Lord Jesus Christ bless you with peace as he ordains every trial for your future enjoyment of his grace.