Advent means anticipation, expectation, coming, it’s this short season when we prepare for celebrating the coming of Jesus into the world, when we prepare for the coming of the centuries long promise of God to send a Messiah, when we prepare for the fulfilment His redemptive purposes He announced and started way back in the garden of Eden when God said the seed of woman will crush the head of the serpent. The first promise of salvation in the Bible included babies. That promised seed of woman who would crush the head of the serpent comes in the form of babies. The Bible is full of babies, God-sent babies, babies who influenced and changed the world. Out of the mouths of babes and infants God has spoken and shown Himself. This advent season we will reflect on five babies God used to influence or change not just world history, but salvation history and eternity. They are Isaac, Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist and Jesus. These are babies God used to prepare the way to crush the serpent.
This has been a challenging year for all of us and for me as a pastor. I have been pushed to the limits. But I want to be clear about something. I have not ceased to give thanks to God for you. I love you and I thank God for you and for the privilege of being your pastor. How do you give thanks in a year like 2020? 2020 will go down in the history books as one of the worst years ever, not the worst, there are several contenders for that title, but certainly one of the worst, and perhaps the worst in most of our life-times, with the possible exception of those of you who endured the Nazi occupation of Holland. But back to my question, how do we give thanks for a year like 2020? Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should write-off 2020 like a bad investment and try to forget about it. Maybe we should just look forward to 2021. How do you give thanks in the midst of disappointments, heartaches, fears, losses, health challenges, loss of loved ones, discouragements of all kinds for all the things we couldn’t do. How we give thanks for 2020 will depend on our theology, on what we believe about God, on how we understand the sovereignty and providence of God.
What an interesting week? We never know what a day will hold do we? I was observing this with the men Thursday night in our Men’s Study on Job. We never know what a day may hold. Job woke up the greatest man of the east, a righteous man and fabulously wealthy, and went to bed the poorest man in the east, utterly miserable. What a difference a day makes. Zacchaeus woke up the richest man in Jericho, a notorious sinner and fabulously wealthy, and went to bed considerably poorer, and never happier. What a difference a day makes. Luke 19:1, Context. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for the last time. As He was making His way south through Samaria and Galilee He was approached by a very rich ruler who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. Seeing the place money had in his heart, Jesus told him to give all his money to the poor. This man went away very sad because he was extremely rich. Jesus observed how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle. Hang on to your hats, folks, you are about to witness a camel passing through the eye of a needle. What is impossible with man is possible with God.
You will recall from last week Paul and Barnabas were barely able to keep the people of Lystra from sacrificing to them as gods. Don’t miss the irony here. They are stoning their gods. It was with great difficulty that Paul and Barnabas restrained the people from making sacrifices to them as gods. It was with no difficulty that some Jews from Antioch and Iconium persuaded them to stone Paul and Barnabas. One day they were sacrificed to, the next day they were the sacrifice. One day they are ready to bow down and submit to anything they say, the next day they hate what they have to say and stone him to silence him. Crowds are fickle, mobs are easily manipulated. Today they shout hosanna, tomorrow they shout crucify. We usually read over this passage quickly and casually. What was it like to be stoned, to be pummeled by rocks, bruised and battered, in terrible pain until mercifully he finally went unconscious? There is more than just the physical pain, there is the mental anguish and utter humiliation. Then to be dragged out of town and thrown on the town trash dump for dead.
What is the hardest thing you have to do? What is your biggest challenge week in and week out? What presents you with the most daunting obstacles? Is it seeking to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, or resisting some sin or temptation, or loving someone hard to love, or striving for a Christ-centered marriage, or raising godly children in the home, or doing your work with integrity, or serving others, or engaging the culture in a war for morality and truth, or taking the Gospel to the lost? The most serious challenges we face in life are never just one skirmish or one battle, it’s continual warfare. To quote my favorite motto: “It is a sore fight to the end, laddie, a sore fight to the end.” It is a hard fought battle and it is to the death.