Memory and Hope: We live in the present between memory and hope. The past lives on in memory, for good or for ill, enabling or debilitating us for the future which looms ahead. Do we see an open doorway to hope, or is the door closed? The last Sunday of the year is a good time to pause and pay attention to our memories of the past year and our hopes for the new year. We will have a time of body life to share memories and hopes for which we can give thanks and offer prayers.
John 1:19-34 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory” (1:14). After writing the most astounding good news to ever be written “the Word became flesh,” why does John then say, “and we beheld his glory?” Why didn’t John say something like, “and we received the gift of eternal life?” Or, why didn’t John say something like, “and God and humanity were reconciled?” Why does John say, “and we beheld his glory?” Come Sunday as we conclude our Advent series discussing this important phrase in John’s prologue.
John 1:14-18 Before time and space began, God was already as a community of perfect Love: Father, Son and Spirit, fully present to one another. Out of the generosity of this great love, God through the Word, created a cosmos to experience his presence. In the fullness of time he sent his beloved, his One and Only, into the world, into space and time. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He did not abhor the Virgin’s womb, but dwelt there for nine months. In the man Jesus Christ, God was present to his people in love. God drew near: his One and Only has made him known.
John 1:6-13 Like a musical overture to a symphony, the prologue to John’s gospel introduces the major themes of his work — the pre-existent Word, light, life, witness, darkness, rejection, believing, birth, glory. It is poetic — prose, dense with layers of meaning, ambiguity and especially surprise. After we are initially captivated and seized by awe with John’s exalted view of the the Word — preexistent, creator of all things, equal with God (John 1:1-5) — we can’t help but wonder, How will the Word make its grand entrance on planet earth? What kind of reception will the Word receive? What impact will it have in a world shrouded in darkness? The answers John gives are not what we would expect, but equip us with realistic expectations and tools for how to spread God’s light and love in a hostile world.
John 1:1-5 How one begins a story says a lot about what that story will be about. In his gospel, John begins with the Word who ‘was’ before anything else came into being. Whose greatness is matched only by His love. And who is powerful enough to ensure that the Darkness will not overcome the Light and that Death will ultimately be defeated by Life. Come join us this Sunday as we begin our Advent series walking though John’s introduction to the story of the One who was both fully God and fully man, the Word who became flesh and dwelt amongst us.
Genesis 22 This week we come to the climax of the Abraham and Sarah story. In what has been called the most difficult passage in the entire Bible, we come to the binding of Isaac. Way back in chapter 12, God calls Abraham and Sarah to cut themselves off from their past. Here in chapter 22, God calls them to cut themselves off from the future. It’s a monstrous test from God to Abraham, one in which we struggle to find the words to understand. But, could it be that through this uncomfortable, even horrific test, we make the ultimate discovery about God?
Genesis 21 Do you live a life of wonder and amazement at God’s great gifts? Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? After a long 25-year wait, the promised baby finally arrives and, wonder of wonders, it’s a boy! Sarah responds in wonder and amazement at God’s great gift. However, not everyone is happy with the new baby. But even in the turmoil and conflict we discover another wonder-ful attribute of God – he hears all our prayers. Wonder upon wonder and every wonder true! Come this Sunday full of wonder at God’s great gifts, then share them during our time of body life.
Genesis 19 Genesis 19:1-29 Last week we saw that God came down to investigate whether Sodom was indeed wicked. On his way to Sodom, he stopped to see Abraham and Sarah. And, we saw Abraham’s hospitality on full display. In chapter 19, the two angels arrive at Sodom, and they find the people of Sodom not very hospitable. In fact, they are very wicked and depraved. They are living by the motto: No one tells us how to live our lives. So, God judges them. However, within God’s judgment, we find deliverance. Lot is delivered for the sake of Abraham. The story ultimately reminds us today of our deliverance from sin, evil and death through Jesus Christ, who gave his life as a ransom for all (1 Timothy 2:6).
Genesis 18 After God’s promises to Abraham last week, we expect chapter 18 to be the birth of Isaac. But, it is not. Lot enters the picture again and will be the main focus of the next two chapters. (Remember he has moved into the wicked city of Sodom.) But God, in his great love and mercy, initiates contact again with Abraham and Sarah. They’ve done nothing to deserve all this attention. Yet, God continues to initiate. And, in this week’s text, he initiates contact disguised as strangers, even angels. How will Abraham and Sarah respond this time? Both of their responses become quite instructive for us. But, through it all, we continue to learn about God and his character.
Genesis 17 This week we return to the covenant. God had already entered into a covenant with Abram in chapter 15. Chapter 17 completes it. God wants Abram and Sarai to be active partners with him in his work. But, what does it look like to be an active partner with the living God? In other words, what marks us out who partner with him by faith? (Here’s one hint – this is baptism Sunday.) What is amazing is that this chapter stands alone in the Old Testament as containing five long and elaborate speeches by God himself.
Genesis 16 God made extraordinary promises to Abram and Sarai, but it has been ten long years and still no hint of fulfillment. They have grown weary of the wait. They are desperate people in a desperate situation, and they do what desperate people do in desperate situations. They act! But, they act without consulting God, which ultimately sets in motion the most hostile conflict in world history. But, within all the brokenness and fear and pain of not waiting (in trust), we still find hope. We find a “God who sees.”