Many Prophecies. One Story.

“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:1-3

The Bible tells us that long before the world began, God had planned that the crucifixion of Jesus would be the method and payment for sin – the only payment that would reconcile sinners to a holy and loving God. 1 Peter 1:19-20  says, “It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake.”

God provided us with a roadmap throughout history. He spoke of things that mankind should watch for so that the Messiah would be recognized and believed. These signs or prophecies were given to us in the Old Testament. The Old Testament, written hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, contains over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled through His life, death, and resurrection. Only God could foreknow and accomplish all that was written about Jesus Christ.

For example, the Bible prophecies that the Messiah would come from the house of David: From Jeremiah 23:5-6 we know He is from the line of King David: “For the time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. And this will be his name:‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” Reaffirming that Jesus is from the line of King David, we have this prophecy from 2 Samuel 7:12-13, which was actually spoken by Samuel to King David: “For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for my name. And I will secure his royal throne forever.”

Another Bible prophecy is that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the little town of Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” This prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus, as we read in Matthew 2:1-6.

A third prophecy is that the Messiah would be presented with gifts: The Old Testament declared that Gentiles from around the world would come to the Messiah, bearing gifts that actually included gold and frankincense (Psalm 72:10-15; Isaiah 60:1-6). When the Magi from the east visited Jesus, they brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor Him.

Could this be by chance? Could 300 predictions about one person who was to be born hundreds or thousands of years in the future just happen to come out right? Just think of it in mathematical terms: One person fulfilling eight prophecies: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000 1 person fulfilling 48 prophecies: 1 chance in 10 to the 157th power 1 person fulfilling 300+ prophecies, yet all those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. You can find Jesus on every page of the Old Testament: agree or disagree and why?
  2. Genesis 49:10-12 prophesies a ruler from the line of Judah who will bring about a kingdom of prosperity. Isaiah 9:6 speaks of the birth of a child who will be named “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:2 refers to a ruler who will come from Bethlehem. What does that matter to believers today?

A Gift Too Wonderful For Words

Emmanuel. God with us. He who resided in Heaven, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit, willingly descended into our world. He breathed our air, felt our pain, knew our sorrows, and died for our sins. He didn’t come to frighten us, but to show us the way to warmth and safety.” –  Charles Swindoll.

Wondering about the wonder of God is always worthwhile. But the wonder of wonders is God with us. Two millennia ago in a small, rugged Bethlehem barn, God the Son became Immanuel, “God with us”—God incarnate. He lived as we live, suffered as we suffer, died as we die, yet without sin. And He overcame the power of death in order to give us eternal life.

At its heart, Christmas is the celebration of a promise God had made to provide a Savior and King. That Person is His Son, Jesus—God-Man, conceived miraculously, taking on human flesh, living among us in order to die in our place.  God becoming flesh.

God becomes human to walk among us, teach us, and love us in radical and liberating ways. The beauty of God with us is that God didn’t come to us in the form of a Hercules-type Demi-god, almost human, but stronger, faster, richer, and better in every way. No Emmanuel came to dwell among us, as one of us. God with us came to be in the midst of two ordinary people. God with us came to be in human form through Mary and Joseph. There wasn’t anything special that Mary and Joseph had done, just as there’s nothing we can do, to make ourselves more worthy of God with us. God is with us in spite of our imperfections and our struggles and our sin.  God became like us so that we could become like Him.

Hopefully, we will walk slower and think deeper this Christmas.  Hopefully, we will take a few minutes to wonder as the shepherds wondered and to worship as the wise men did. And hopefully, we will take a few moments to imagine the infinite God in the body of a finite baby. The best gift we have ever received came on that first Christmas—delivered in a Person from God the Father . . . to us.

“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you explain “the Incarnation?” Why do you think it’s important?
  2. Do you see grace and truth at work in your relationship with God? How can you experience more of it?

How About A Little Peace?

“Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis.

“Peace on earth” is a phrase you will hear over and over during the Christmas season. For many people, peace is hard to find at Christmas or anytime  Sometimes we struggle to find peace with ourselves. We regret past mistakes, struggle with our present weaknesses, and worry about the future.  We struggle with the uncertainty of tomorrow and the turmoil going on in the world around us. World news brings few positive reports if any. We wonder if “peace on earth” is even a possibility.

Think about how much has changed from 1903 (Wright Brothers 120-foot flight) to 2021 (rover vehicle running on Mars). The world has seen an unbelievable amount of progress over every time horizon in those 118 years. Most people think things are so much better today. We are progressing, but even with the best of intentions, our human effort to be good and make this world a better place often falls short.

If you are looking for a solution for peace, then turn to Jesus Christ. God revealed himself to people through the person of Jesus. Jesus came to earth in a peaceful way as a baby in a humble circumstance of a manger and proceeded to live a humble life. Jesus came to restore our broken relationship with God so that we could first experience wholeness and peace with ourselves, and then extend it to others around us.

 “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled,” is a line in Hark the Herald Angel Sing that gives a picture of Jesus as God’s gift of peace to us. Jesus demonstrated the kind of peace we all long for. He always treated people with respect, wisdom, and love. He brought peace to those around Him, and He ultimately wants to bring peace between you and God. If you want tranquility that is unending, you need to build a relationship with Jesus Christ. We, too, can enjoy the oneness that He and the Father experienced. When the Lord says, “My peace I give to you,” He is not referring to a loan. His peace is a free gift, available to every one of His children.

If we focus our attention on the Son of God, then He will give us perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). That does not mean we are immune to sudden shocks or occasional times when we are thrown off balance by circumstances. But the power of the Lord’s prevailing peace is adequate to carry us through anything He allows us to experience.

Peace is a gift that we can receive and give to others. Creating inner peace means that we don’t allow the outside world to define the state of our inner being. We take time to breathe, regain our composure, and think clearly. We take a moment to pause and pace ourselves in a healthy way, not letting the pressure of others and the holiday dictate our lives.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When you think of peace, what picture comes to mind? Where are you? What are you doing? What’s going on around you?
  2. What are some things we need to do in order to experience the “biblical” version of peace? How can the group encourage you when your life gets hard?

It Is Your Choice?

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – Luke 2:13-14.

How does the old song go? “Forget your troubles and just get happy Ya better chase all your cares away.”  I can hear Ella Fitzgerald’s cheerful voice in my ear now, but most of us know that simply snapping our fingers and trying to get happy is easier said than done, even when tis’ the season to be merry. Christmas should be a season of peace, but the advent season can often make us feel like our life is a tangled-up string of Christmas lights.

While we may love the Christmas season, worry, busyness, family conflicts, and unmet expectations can take their toll. We are faced with a choice. We can choose to get bogged down with stress or we can choose to bow down in worship.

Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of praise in Luke 2:13-14. That’s not the only place the Bible records angels worshipping the Lord. In Hebrews 1:6 it says, “And when he brought his supreme Son into the world, God said, ‘Let all of God’s angels worship him.‘” And Revelation 5:11-12a says, “Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus.

Angels are a model of worship. They bow down before Jesus. They shout with incredible joy as they sing songs of praise. Angels intentionally and deliberately spend time praising God. Keeping Christ in Christmas is more than just a cliché. It is an intentional act of worship. It requires a heart of adoration, much like the angels had. When Jesus is the focus of our holiday, we’re focused on His love, peace, and joy.

When worship fills our hearts, it makes our choices for us. When our hearts are filled with worship there is no being annoyed at the long lines at the gas station. It also eliminates the stress that is often a part of the season. When we focus on what Christmas is truly about—the amazing gift of a Savior—we won’t stress out about what presents to buy. Rather we will exhibit the grace of God to others. Worship turns our attention to giving thanks to Jesus for all He has done and leaves little room for less important matters.

There will be lots of choices to be made during the month of December: where to serve, what gifts to buy, and how many events to attend. The most important choice we can make is to worship and sing praises to our Lord. For His gift. For His love. For His peace.

And when our hearts are at peace, our holidays can be too.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the way I worship say about God? What does my worship say about how I see God?
  2. We have choices to make this Christmas season: what can we do to make godly decisions? 

The True Christmas Gift

“but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” – Luke 2:10-14.

Despite man’s efforts to take Christ out of Christmas, He just won’t go away. Despite society’s best efforts to keep Him out, God intrudes. That first Christmas, there was no room for Him in the inn. The world never wants to make room for Christ at Christmas and in everyday life. Man killed Him and sealed the tomb with a huge stone to shut Him out of our lives once and for all. But God removed the stone to prove Jesus will not be shut up or shut out of His plans.

Christmas was never meant to be an event or a season. There are some things that could be changed when it comes to Christmas. For example, take out all the materialism. But we should never take the gift out of Christmas. After all, how can we take Christ, the true gift of Christmas, out of Christmas?

The question is why would people want to take Christ out of Christmas?  He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus, the one who saves us from our sins. What a gift. His resurrection gives us life after death. That’s a gift. His death on the cross offered forgiveness for sins and a fresh start with God. That’s a gift. His grace offers the assurance of a secure future with God. That’s a gift. These are gifts we don’t deserve, but God desires us to have them. And the One guaranteeing the gift is the One who created all things and defeated death by rising from it. Christ is The gift of Christmas that no other gift can surpass. Jesus brings joy to the world and hope to our lives in the message of Christmas.

Today we face the danger of turning our attention away from the Gift of Christmas. You should never want to take Christ out of Christmas. He is The gift of Christmas that no other gift can surpass. Worse than taking Christ out of Christmas is leaving Christ out of your life. The gifts Jesus Christ offers are the things we need the most.

Discussion Question:

  1. Christmas was never meant to be an event or a season, it was meant to be a gift. Agree or disagree and why?