WITH HIS HEAVEN ON EARTH THROUGH JESUS AND THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WE HAVE THE ABILITY TO LIVE IN HOPE, LOVE, JOY AND PEACE

  Advent means "to come"; In this season, Christians look backward to Jesus' coming at Christmas, and forward to Christ's glorious return from heaven. And yet, we too, come before him in humble praise and thanksgiving. It is a season of pause and a great breath in the celebration of Messiah as already-not-yet.

 

For Advent is more than a celebration, it is a time for spiritual journey, reflecting on our weary world in need of deliverance from evil, oppression, injustice, and sin. As God's revelation in flesh, Christ delivers. But more, he reconciles. The light of our hope is at times flickering and faint, at others blazing brighter than the sun. Yet, it is a true light that shatters our fallen darkness, shining with the anticipation of a King who brings truth, peace, justice, and righteousness. In this great anticipation, we look to the coming of Messiah, once a babe in a manger, once again a King reigning in glory. 

 

As a church body, over the next four weeks, we will be discovering together "His Heaven on Earth" through the season of Advent. We will discover what the powerful words of Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace look like among the lives of followers of Jesus in today's world.  We have created, alongside some of our Oasis Family, devotionals to help us learn and put into spiritual practice what it means to live in "His Heaven on Earth."  His Heaven on earth is not just a "statement" or cool phrase, but it is a kingdom truth through the power of Jesus coming to earth and fulfilling His Father's plans for redemption of mankind. Oasis Church, I want to strongly encourage you to lean into these devotionals and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to the deepest parts of your hearts and minds, and know this season is a time for us to grow deeper in the Kingdom of God

 

HOPE

His Heaven on Earth: Hope
00:00 / 02:44

HOPE ONE


At Oasis Church Chicago, one of our core statements that we have operated as a church is simply this: “Jesus: Our Hope.” This is a powerful statement we proclaim as a church which embodies how we operate as a church family, what we proclaim within our lives and around this city, and why we do what we do. It is all tied around the steadfast, faith-filled knowledge of Jesus being our hope. Jesus being our true hope. The hope that has yet to fail us, and continues to be our constant reminder of God’s love, grace and mercy towards us. That in Jesus being our hope, we have: a confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness to see it through. When I look at this season, with all that we are facing this year, I want to more than ever to find myself pondering on the goodness of Jesus arriving to this world. What a moment to stop, breathe, and just reflect about the power of that truth! Jesus has come. He came to this earth despite all the world’s rejection of His Father. He came to save us and redeem us back to the Father’s heart. To break the chains of evil and commit to His promises. Hope came to the world. The birth of Jesus, which was miraculous and overwhelming in itself, gave hope to our world that a Savior was born to bring anyone who calls on the name of Jesus back to Him. That separation of our hearts to our Creator and King could be mended and healed through the hope of Jesus coming. He came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, and set people free from the bounds of sin and death. Hope came. Hope was brought. Jesus came - He came to be the hope of the world. However, I cannot help but think back to the moment it all happened. What it felt like before Jesus arrived. The moment in which the people of God were waiting for their “hope” to arrive. How did they feel? I am sure they were filled with deep longing and expectation. They had been promised this, and had waited for a long time. In the waiting, how did they speak about it with one another? What were they doing as they waited? I then think about the moments when the plan was set in motion and “hope” began to fill the earth that the Savior was coming and was fulfilling the promise of old. . I think to the moment of Mary, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of The Most High. Even at that moment, she wasn’t hoping for a child, but that certainly changed. "The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.' 'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" (Luke 1:28-34) Mary is rattled. She is startled. She is definitely overwhelmed. She doesn’t know how to react and begins to look at all the “circumstances” around her. But something changes. Hope comes. "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.' 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:35-38) I believe Mary’s whole spirit changed from hearing the news of carrying a baby - hopelessness - to now knowing she would be carrying the Hope of the World - hope beyond measure! Mary went from a position of uncertainty to being certain that she was a part of a bigger picture of God’s grace and compassion for humankind. In the faith of knowing this - Mary was filled with hope I have to believe. She hoped for her future, she hoped for her family, she hoped for her friends and community, she hoped for many. She hoped that their lives would be filled with the Savior Jesus and that He would become the Hope of them all. The Son of God was coming to them. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the only way that we can lean into hope. Just like Mary, it is a hard shift for us sometimes to go from a level of hopelessness because of what we see or what we hear around us to become people that say “I am the Lord’s servant.” In those bold words, like Mary, we remind our own spirits that we are not hoping in ourselves, but we are dedicated as a servant for the one who is Hope. No matter what is around us, no matter what is asked of us, we can lean into our Father as our hope because what He has for us is “... no Word from God will ever fail.” This is our hope-filled portion. We are not people wandering in hopelessness, but people with the hope of heaven reigning in our spirits. His heaven on earth is among us through the hope of Jesus in our hearts today! RESPONSE Today - I encourage you to focus and meditate on these scriptures below. To remind your spirit that hopelessness is not our portion. That as we wait before the Lord, we begin to be filled with hope. We begin to be filled with the assurance that God is with us and for us. We begin to look at the hope we carry with the same anticipation that Mary did when she realized what was inside of her. Today, I pray you rest in the hope of Jesus. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 “But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “ Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2 “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “Many are saying of me, “ God will not deliver him. “ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 3:2-6




HOPE TWO


Matthew 28:16-20 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ______ As a kid, Christmas time in my family was not marked by any major traditions. Sometimes we opted out of the cultural celebration of Christmas altogether, deciding not to exchange many gifts or decorate our home with lights and festive candles. There were a few reasons for this, financial strain being the main one. Aside from some expert level deflecting at the lunch table when kids would share all the things they got over the holidays, Christmas was still a time marked with great hope. What my family didn’t have in Christmas cheer, they had in a true reverence for Jesus. Christmas in my home was a time of reflection and gratitude, thanking God for the year and His faithfulness. Sometimes we’d choose not to do the traditions of the holiday because we wanted to check our hearts and make sure that our hope was in the promise of Jesus and not in the glamour of new things. In no way do I denounce Christmas traditions or giving gifts. My family wasn’t holier because of their decision not to engage in holiday festivities - those things are good and represent some beautiful aspects of Jesus’ arrival. Honestly, I look back on that time and think that while I had a focused view on Christ during Christmas time, I missed a major command of his people. After Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, He appeared to his disciples and he charged them to go and tell the world who he is. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I picture myself around those same lunch tables, embarrassed to tell people I only received a couple gifts, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I shared that I went to church on Christmas Eve - not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I wanted to worship God for what He’d done by coming to the earth and surrendering His life for mine. How my family gathered on Christmas Day and we prayed together and we praised God for His love for us, and His sovereignty in our lives. How we shared our reflections of the year and set our expectations for what God would do in the year to come. I wonder what the response would have been. What hope could have been received? I’m sure there would have been some sneers and laughter, some confusion to what I was saying. But there may have been someone curious enough about my celebration of Christmas to ask a question, to ask who Jesus was and why I was excited to celebrate Him instead of receiving an array of gifts. Maybe someone would’ve noticed the hope that I had, not in a new flip phone only a few years aware from obsoletion, but in the eternal saving grace of Jesus. And yet, I didn’t share those things. I kept it to myself because I was afraid, and there was safety in keeping the hope I had in Jesus to myself. But that is not what we are called to. Jesus tells us to share our hope with the world, so that they may hear and know where they can find true hope. I am not responsible for their response but I’m responsible to Jesus’s call. Paul speaks about this call in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, he says, “…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” We as followers of Christ have been entrusted with something so precise, the good news of Jesus. We have nothing to prove to anyone, we’re only asked to surrender our hearts to God and honor him with our devotion. This Christmas I look forward to getting some new things because new things are nice - can I get an amen - but I also hope for a chance to share that I’m not exchanging gifts because it’s what this time demands of me but rather it’s a symbol of presenting gifts to king Jesus. How I can give and receive because the greatest gift has already been given, and that is where my hope lies. _____ RESPONSE Are there people you hope to be able to share with this year? Write down their names and pray for them consistently. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel this Christmas season. Pray for God to embolden you to authentically share where your hope comes from.





 

LOVE

His Heaven on Earth: Love
00:00 / 02:59

LOVE ONE


SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 JOHN 3:1a; 1 JOHN 4:7-11 Six year old Evelyn escorted me to the couch with her Christmas catalog in hand. As we sat together, she led me through every single page, each circled with items she desired. To be honest, I thought, it would have been easier for her to circle the items she DIDN’T want. Slowly we turned each page, reviewing each choice with her unashamed explanations of what she’d do with her selections. Not keeping this opportunity to herself, to my delight, she had included gifts for her brothers to receive as well. In the midst of the experience, I noticed every listed price was scribbled out. I inquired, “ And why did you do that?” To which she replied, “Because I don’t have to pay for them.” Evelyn in her pure faith already recognizes the invitation to receive gifts, and at no cost to her. Do you like to receive gifts? Maybe your joy of the season is in giving gifts. It was God’s heart to send the gift of Jesus to each of us. “For God so loved the world that He GAVE… He gave HIS SON…” Jesus was the first Christmas gift ever! This treasure was delivered into our world that through His sacrificial life and death years later we could become children of God. Did we earn it? Did we deserve it? As in the days of Jesus, we can get caught up in religion and tradition. We may believe that by our good works and morality we have earned God’s love. The fact is that if we receive Jesus as our Savior, there is nothing we can do to cause God to love us any more than He does. On the other hand, when we fall short He doesn’t love us any less. His love is truly unconditional. God loved us first, and that is why He sent His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus laid down His life to pay the debt that we could not otherwise pay. Such a gift of life and love is not for this season only. God has given those who believe all that He has. The love that was born in a stable is ours to share with Him everyday of the year. Each new day as we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find in Him grace to be transformed by Him in His love. And as we become more like Him, our hearts will be full of love that pours out to those around us. During these weeks, I want to remind you that the list of activities of the season can often create busyness that finds no room to be with Him. Each day brings new invitations for gifts to be had with Him. As God has given you abundant, continuous love and life, take time to ENJOY Him. Bask in the fruit of all that belonging to Him brings. Lastly, as Jesus so freely gave Himself, may you be awakened to those around you. The gift of love is to be shared with all the world. For God so loved them as you have been loved. TAKEAWAYS: 1. Consider the bounty of gifts you have already received from God. Have you taken the time to thank Him for these unearned blessings? 2. What is God inviting you into this Christmas season? Ask Him. Listen for His answers. You may be surprised!




LOVE TWO


Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-19 Growing up, I’ll never forget a story my parents once told me. They described their very first time grocery shopping together. My mom, as she picked up a familiar brand of butter, was surprised by my dad’s suggestion of an alternative brand that is more expensive. He tells her, “Honey, this brand is better.” Although this may sound insignificant, my mom tells me that something profound took place in that moment. She realized that by being married to my dad, she was no longer bound to what she could afford in the past. She could now partake of new and better options. She was able to not “settle” for what was once, but step into what was now open to her. I wonder if we ever project our scarcity onto our relationship with God. If we never step into the “deep love” that He has for us. In some circles, God is a traditionalist concerned with doctrine and morality. While in others, God is an activist, preoccupied with social justice. Truth is, in neither circle God seems to be lacking in compassion, joy, and love. Although we have progressed in our conception of God as angry and easily disappointed to a father seeking relationship with His children, do we really comprehend how full the love of God truly is? We teach that God is extravagant and unconditional in His love and yet, seldom do we take that seriously enough. We keep thinking about the life prior to our radical encounter with Jesus and think that is more “afforded” to us, instead of entering into the deep love of the Father for us. This struggle isn’t new, as even Paul prayed, that the people of Ephesus would understand the love of God: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19 ESV In this season of Advent, as we anticipate Christ and reflect upon the truth of who He is, may we continue to explore His love for us. Let us resist to keep in idle state of His love for us and love for others. Instead, let us pray to open ourselves in such a way that we are able to hear God say, “I love you!” Inspiring in us a depth of love that may deepen our roots, transform our understanding, and allow ourselves to be His expression of love to others. Reflection: Spend time today thinking about the depth of God’s love for you. How has your concept of His love changed over time? How does God express His love for you? In what moments have you felt His love most intimately? Who are you embracing in love? How can you extend your love to include more people?





 

JOY

His Heaven on Earth: Joy
00:00 / 02:39

HOPE ONE


At Oasis Church Chicago, one of our core statements that we have operated as a church is simply this: “Jesus: Our Hope.” This is a powerful statement we proclaim as a church which embodies how we operate as a church family, what we proclaim within our lives and around this city, and why we do what we do. It is all tied around the steadfast, faith-filled knowledge of Jesus being our hope. Jesus being our true hope. The hope that has yet to fail us, and continues to be our constant reminder of God’s love, grace and mercy towards us. That in Jesus being our hope, we have: a confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness to see it through. When I look at this season, with all that we are facing this year, I want to more than ever to find myself pondering on the goodness of Jesus arriving to this world. What a moment to stop, breathe, and just reflect about the power of that truth! Jesus has come. He came to this earth despite all the world’s rejection of His Father. He came to save us and redeem us back to the Father’s heart. To break the chains of evil and commit to His promises. Hope came to the world. The birth of Jesus, which was miraculous and overwhelming in itself, gave hope to our world that a Savior was born to bring anyone who calls on the name of Jesus back to Him. That separation of our hearts to our Creator and King could be mended and healed through the hope of Jesus coming. He came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, and set people free from the bounds of sin and death. Hope came. Hope was brought. Jesus came - He came to be the hope of the world. However, I cannot help but think back to the moment it all happened. What it felt like before Jesus arrived. The moment in which the people of God were waiting for their “hope” to arrive. How did they feel? I am sure they were filled with deep longing and expectation. They had been promised this, and had waited for a long time. In the waiting, how did they speak about it with one another? What were they doing as they waited? I then think about the moments when the plan was set in motion and “hope” began to fill the earth that the Savior was coming and was fulfilling the promise of old. . I think to the moment of Mary, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of The Most High. Even at that moment, she wasn’t hoping for a child, but that certainly changed. "The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.' 'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" (Luke 1:28-34) Mary is rattled. She is startled. She is definitely overwhelmed. She doesn’t know how to react and begins to look at all the “circumstances” around her. But something changes. Hope comes. "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.' 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:35-38) I believe Mary’s whole spirit changed from hearing the news of carrying a baby - hopelessness - to now knowing she would be carrying the Hope of the World - hope beyond measure! Mary went from a position of uncertainty to being certain that she was a part of a bigger picture of God’s grace and compassion for humankind. In the faith of knowing this - Mary was filled with hope I have to believe. She hoped for her future, she hoped for her family, she hoped for her friends and community, she hoped for many. She hoped that their lives would be filled with the Savior Jesus and that He would become the Hope of them all. The Son of God was coming to them. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the only way that we can lean into hope. Just like Mary, it is a hard shift for us sometimes to go from a level of hopelessness because of what we see or what we hear around us to become people that say “I am the Lord’s servant.” In those bold words, like Mary, we remind our own spirits that we are not hoping in ourselves, but we are dedicated as a servant for the one who is Hope. No matter what is around us, no matter what is asked of us, we can lean into our Father as our hope because what He has for us is “... no Word from God will ever fail.” This is our hope-filled portion. We are not people wandering in hopelessness, but people with the hope of heaven reigning in our spirits. His heaven on earth is among us through the hope of Jesus in our hearts today! RESPONSE Today - I encourage you to focus and meditate on these scriptures below. To remind your spirit that hopelessness is not our portion. That as we wait before the Lord, we begin to be filled with hope. We begin to be filled with the assurance that God is with us and for us. We begin to look at the hope we carry with the same anticipation that Mary did when she realized what was inside of her. Today, I pray you rest in the hope of Jesus. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 “But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “ Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2 “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “Many are saying of me, “ God will not deliver him. “ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 3:2-6




HOPE TWO


Matthew 28:16-20 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ______ As a kid, Christmas time in my family was not marked by any major traditions. Sometimes we opted out of the cultural celebration of Christmas altogether, deciding not to exchange many gifts or decorate our home with lights and festive candles. There were a few reasons for this, financial strain being the main one. Aside from some expert level deflecting at the lunch table when kids would share all the things they got over the holidays, Christmas was still a time marked with great hope. What my family didn’t have in Christmas cheer, they had in a true reverence for Jesus. Christmas in my home was a time of reflection and gratitude, thanking God for the year and His faithfulness. Sometimes we’d choose not to do the traditions of the holiday because we wanted to check our hearts and make sure that our hope was in the promise of Jesus and not in the glamour of new things. In no way do I denounce Christmas traditions or giving gifts. My family wasn’t holier because of their decision not to engage in holiday festivities - those things are good and represent some beautiful aspects of Jesus’ arrival. Honestly, I look back on that time and think that while I had a focused view on Christ during Christmas time, I missed a major command of his people. After Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, He appeared to his disciples and he charged them to go and tell the world who he is. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I picture myself around those same lunch tables, embarrassed to tell people I only received a couple gifts, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I shared that I went to church on Christmas Eve - not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I wanted to worship God for what He’d done by coming to the earth and surrendering His life for mine. How my family gathered on Christmas Day and we prayed together and we praised God for His love for us, and His sovereignty in our lives. How we shared our reflections of the year and set our expectations for what God would do in the year to come. I wonder what the response would have been. What hope could have been received? I’m sure there would have been some sneers and laughter, some confusion to what I was saying. But there may have been someone curious enough about my celebration of Christmas to ask a question, to ask who Jesus was and why I was excited to celebrate Him instead of receiving an array of gifts. Maybe someone would’ve noticed the hope that I had, not in a new flip phone only a few years aware from obsoletion, but in the eternal saving grace of Jesus. And yet, I didn’t share those things. I kept it to myself because I was afraid, and there was safety in keeping the hope I had in Jesus to myself. But that is not what we are called to. Jesus tells us to share our hope with the world, so that they may hear and know where they can find true hope. I am not responsible for their response but I’m responsible to Jesus’s call. Paul speaks about this call in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, he says, “…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” We as followers of Christ have been entrusted with something so precise, the good news of Jesus. We have nothing to prove to anyone, we’re only asked to surrender our hearts to God and honor him with our devotion. This Christmas I look forward to getting some new things because new things are nice - can I get an amen - but I also hope for a chance to share that I’m not exchanging gifts because it’s what this time demands of me but rather it’s a symbol of presenting gifts to king Jesus. How I can give and receive because the greatest gift has already been given, and that is where my hope lies. _____ RESPONSE Are there people you hope to be able to share with this year? Write down their names and pray for them consistently. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel this Christmas season. Pray for God to embolden you to authentically share where your hope comes from.





 

PEACE

His Heaven on Earth: Peace
00:00 / 02:56

HOPE ONE


At Oasis Church Chicago, one of our core statements that we have operated as a church is simply this: “Jesus: Our Hope.” This is a powerful statement we proclaim as a church which embodies how we operate as a church family, what we proclaim within our lives and around this city, and why we do what we do. It is all tied around the steadfast, faith-filled knowledge of Jesus being our hope. Jesus being our true hope. The hope that has yet to fail us, and continues to be our constant reminder of God’s love, grace and mercy towards us. That in Jesus being our hope, we have: a confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness to see it through. When I look at this season, with all that we are facing this year, I want to more than ever to find myself pondering on the goodness of Jesus arriving to this world. What a moment to stop, breathe, and just reflect about the power of that truth! Jesus has come. He came to this earth despite all the world’s rejection of His Father. He came to save us and redeem us back to the Father’s heart. To break the chains of evil and commit to His promises. Hope came to the world. The birth of Jesus, which was miraculous and overwhelming in itself, gave hope to our world that a Savior was born to bring anyone who calls on the name of Jesus back to Him. That separation of our hearts to our Creator and King could be mended and healed through the hope of Jesus coming. He came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, give hope to the hopeless, and set people free from the bounds of sin and death. Hope came. Hope was brought. Jesus came - He came to be the hope of the world. However, I cannot help but think back to the moment it all happened. What it felt like before Jesus arrived. The moment in which the people of God were waiting for their “hope” to arrive. How did they feel? I am sure they were filled with deep longing and expectation. They had been promised this, and had waited for a long time. In the waiting, how did they speak about it with one another? What were they doing as they waited? I then think about the moments when the plan was set in motion and “hope” began to fill the earth that the Savior was coming and was fulfilling the promise of old. . I think to the moment of Mary, when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of The Most High. Even at that moment, she wasn’t hoping for a child, but that certainly changed. "The angel went to her and said, 'Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.' Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.' 'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'" (Luke 1:28-34) Mary is rattled. She is startled. She is definitely overwhelmed. She doesn’t know how to react and begins to look at all the “circumstances” around her. But something changes. Hope comes. "The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.' 'I am the Lord’s servant,' Mary answered. 'May your word to me be fulfilled.' Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:35-38) I believe Mary’s whole spirit changed from hearing the news of carrying a baby - hopelessness - to now knowing she would be carrying the Hope of the World - hope beyond measure! Mary went from a position of uncertainty to being certain that she was a part of a bigger picture of God’s grace and compassion for humankind. In the faith of knowing this - Mary was filled with hope I have to believe. She hoped for her future, she hoped for her family, she hoped for her friends and community, she hoped for many. She hoped that their lives would be filled with the Savior Jesus and that He would become the Hope of them all. The Son of God was coming to them. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the only way that we can lean into hope. Just like Mary, it is a hard shift for us sometimes to go from a level of hopelessness because of what we see or what we hear around us to become people that say “I am the Lord’s servant.” In those bold words, like Mary, we remind our own spirits that we are not hoping in ourselves, but we are dedicated as a servant for the one who is Hope. No matter what is around us, no matter what is asked of us, we can lean into our Father as our hope because what He has for us is “... no Word from God will ever fail.” This is our hope-filled portion. We are not people wandering in hopelessness, but people with the hope of heaven reigning in our spirits. His heaven on earth is among us through the hope of Jesus in our hearts today! RESPONSE Today - I encourage you to focus and meditate on these scriptures below. To remind your spirit that hopelessness is not our portion. That as we wait before the Lord, we begin to be filled with hope. We begin to be filled with the assurance that God is with us and for us. We begin to look at the hope we carry with the same anticipation that Mary did when she realized what was inside of her. Today, I pray you rest in the hope of Jesus. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles: they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 “But now, this is what the Lord says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “ Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1-2 “For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “ plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 “Many are saying of me, “ God will not deliver him. “ But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Psalm 3:2-6




HOPE TWO


Matthew 28:16-20 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4 ______ As a kid, Christmas time in my family was not marked by any major traditions. Sometimes we opted out of the cultural celebration of Christmas altogether, deciding not to exchange many gifts or decorate our home with lights and festive candles. There were a few reasons for this, financial strain being the main one. Aside from some expert level deflecting at the lunch table when kids would share all the things they got over the holidays, Christmas was still a time marked with great hope. What my family didn’t have in Christmas cheer, they had in a true reverence for Jesus. Christmas in my home was a time of reflection and gratitude, thanking God for the year and His faithfulness. Sometimes we’d choose not to do the traditions of the holiday because we wanted to check our hearts and make sure that our hope was in the promise of Jesus and not in the glamour of new things. In no way do I denounce Christmas traditions or giving gifts. My family wasn’t holier because of their decision not to engage in holiday festivities - those things are good and represent some beautiful aspects of Jesus’ arrival. Honestly, I look back on that time and think that while I had a focused view on Christ during Christmas time, I missed a major command of his people. After Jesus was born, lived a perfect life, died and rose again, He appeared to his disciples and he charged them to go and tell the world who he is. “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I picture myself around those same lunch tables, embarrassed to tell people I only received a couple gifts, and I wonder what would’ve happened if I shared that I went to church on Christmas Eve - not because I had to but because I wanted to. Because I wanted to worship God for what He’d done by coming to the earth and surrendering His life for mine. How my family gathered on Christmas Day and we prayed together and we praised God for His love for us, and His sovereignty in our lives. How we shared our reflections of the year and set our expectations for what God would do in the year to come. I wonder what the response would have been. What hope could have been received? I’m sure there would have been some sneers and laughter, some confusion to what I was saying. But there may have been someone curious enough about my celebration of Christmas to ask a question, to ask who Jesus was and why I was excited to celebrate Him instead of receiving an array of gifts. Maybe someone would’ve noticed the hope that I had, not in a new flip phone only a few years aware from obsoletion, but in the eternal saving grace of Jesus. And yet, I didn’t share those things. I kept it to myself because I was afraid, and there was safety in keeping the hope I had in Jesus to myself. But that is not what we are called to. Jesus tells us to share our hope with the world, so that they may hear and know where they can find true hope. I am not responsible for their response but I’m responsible to Jesus’s call. Paul speaks about this call in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4, he says, “…just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.” We as followers of Christ have been entrusted with something so precise, the good news of Jesus. We have nothing to prove to anyone, we’re only asked to surrender our hearts to God and honor him with our devotion. This Christmas I look forward to getting some new things because new things are nice - can I get an amen - but I also hope for a chance to share that I’m not exchanging gifts because it’s what this time demands of me but rather it’s a symbol of presenting gifts to king Jesus. How I can give and receive because the greatest gift has already been given, and that is where my hope lies. _____ RESPONSE Are there people you hope to be able to share with this year? Write down their names and pray for them consistently. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel this Christmas season. Pray for God to embolden you to authentically share where your hope comes from.





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