There are more nut-cake families and fruit-cake families than angel-food-cake families in the Bible. Do you think you have a dysfunctional family? Imagine being a member of the Adam-Eve family or the Isaac-Rebekah family. Then there is Joseph, who received special treatment from his dad Jacob. The anger and hatred grew among his siblings until they decided to murder him. Fortunately, they settled on selling him into slavery instead. The day of reckoning came when the brothers needed Joseph’s help to survive.
When someone hurts us, we want to get even. But that can turn into an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The remedy is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy. It is difficult and painful. We wonder if there are limits on who we must forgive and how many times we forgive them. The apostle Peter thought he was bighearted when he said we must forgive seven times, but he found out that Jesus had different expectations about forgiveness.
Somebody hurt you, maybe yesterday, maybe a lifetime ago, and you can’t forget it. You didn’t deserve the hurt, but it went deep, and even today, that hurt is bothering you. So how do we follow Paul’s words in Colossians 3 that say, “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
One of the most powerful concepts of the Christian faith is forgiveness. Yet many of us struggle with it. Maybe we feel guilty over something we have done, and the feelings of shame hound us over the years. Or, possibly our relationships with others have been fractured, and people have been cut off from one another. So how do we work towards forgiveness with God, our neighbors, and our family and friends? In a four-week sermon series, we will explore the many dimensions of forgiveness.
Every parent knows the frustration of buying Christmas gifts that sit unused while the empty boxes become the child’s source of joy. That expensive gift you put a lot of thought into for your loved one is now set aside and forgotten. The toy that your child yearned for over the months is suddenly left sitting in the corner unused. What is the most incredible thank you the giver can receive? It is seeing the gift becomes a regular part of the recipient’s life. As Christians, during Christmas, we know we celebrate the gift of Jesus coming into the world. And we realize that the most significant way we can show our thanks is by availing ourselves of that gift. How might God’s gift to us affect our daily lives?
When you throw a party, one of the first things you do is make up a guest list. The list would be about whom to include and whom not to include. God’s list of guests consists of some surprising people. God invited the lowest on the social ladder and welcomed the prominent and wise. That’s God’s idea of a party.
What are your Christmas traditions? Do you put up a Christmas tree? Do you give gifts? Do you have a gathering of family and friends on Christmas day? Have you ever noticed what we leave out of our Christmas traditions? For example, we generally leave King Herod out of our nativity set because we see him as the story’s villain. Yet as the villain, he helps us understand who we should be in contrast.
When it comes to the Christmas story, Joseph is the man in the shadows. He is often forgotten and almost invisible. So why do we need Joseph? When Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant by the Holy Spirit, this news hits him like a ton of bricks. Mary’s pregnancy creates a serious dilemma for him. How he handles this crisis explains why he is essential to the story.
On this first Sunday in Advent, we focus on Mary’s Magnificat. It is a beautiful song that is confrontational. There is nothing meek or mild about Mary’s song. At times governments have prohibited the out-loud reading of this song by Mary. How might it direct our living today?
People who give thanks are healthier and happier. They have more friends, they do better at school, and they thrive at work. Being grateful has fantastic benefits. If you deal with depression or anxiety, giving thanks can help tremendously. But we frequently forget to give thanks. Often there is a gratitude gap in our lives. In this message, we find ways to make Thanksgiving a rhythm in our life.