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Friday, November 27, 2020

There Is Hope

The Jewish people were burdened under the heavy hand of the Roman empire. Was there no hope?

Isaiah said, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)

The people were looking forward, wondering, yes, hoping. Their hope was in a promise. They were longing for the coming, the Advent, of Messiah.

As Christians, we believe that this hope was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus as told in the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Yet we find ourselves in a world that may not live under the threat of yesteryear, but our world is filled with troubles, with hatred, with anger, with pandemic and other great diseases of the body and heart. Some, around our world, still live under the heavy hand of government.

We too, like the people of old, find our hope in promise. "I will never leave you or forsake you." "If I go and prepare a place, I will come again and receive you unto myself."

As we approach the Christmas season we can find ourselves celebrating with the world. But, we need to take a step back. We should recognize the brokenness of our world, even the brokenness of our own hearts and contemplate our need for a Savior. Yes, He came as a baby, but for our sakes the Son of God grew into a man who on the cross took the penalty for our sin. Then, He brought recognition of new life through His resurrection, and to give us hope, said, "I will come again."

We also find our hope in an Advent. Not the advent of a child into the world, but the advent of a conquering Lord who promises everlasting life.

This Sunday, November 29, 2020, is the first Sunday of Advent. As we light the Candle of Hope, let us remember the Light of the World, Jesus, who not only came to save us from sin, but who is coming again to make all things new again and to receive us into His presence.

Yes, there is hope!

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Blessing,
Richard 


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic Year

It's November 25th, the day before Thanksgiving.

All of us have been touched in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic this year. Some have lost loved ones, some have lost jobs, some have experienced the actual illness itself, and others have been impacted by the separation that it has caused. That's on top of everyone who has experienced loss, pain, discouragement, and more that's not related to the pandemic.

How, in the midst of all of this, can we be thankful?

First, we can look to the history books of our American celebration of Thanksgiving. We all learned that the Pilgrims and a local tribe of Native American Indians celebrated that first feast together after a bountiful harvest. But, a closer look shows that this was only one-half of the original group of settlers. The other half had died during the previous harsh winter. One-half! Let that sink in.



In a video, I posted about the hymn, "Count Your Blessings" (the YouTube link is https://youtu.be/mKZhIsRQQPQ ), I noted that we are tossed by the tempests, discouraged, burdened with a load of care, seeing others who have more than us, or in the midst of the conflicts of life - all concepts raised by the song, In these areas and so many more, our blessings are found in trusting in what God has done and is doing in our lives. It's not based on this world that is passing away, but the eternal promised that He has given to us.

The scripture, Ephesians 1:3, backs this up: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (English Standard Version)

We can look around at the things we've received and the family and friends that God has blessed us with, but we should look up and recognize God at work in us to accomplish His good will. Then, we are able to look inside of ourselves and let the gratitude build until it impacts those around us.

May your heart be filled with Thanksgiving to God for all of His blessings regardless of the circumstances of you life. May you be encouraged on this day through Jesus Christ, God's Son and our Savior.

Blessings,

Richard



Monday, November 16, 2020

Start to Celebrate Christmas Early?

When does the Christmas celebration start?

Well, everyone should know, Christmas starts when Santa waves at the crowds at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. HA!

But, then comes 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I type this, it's November 16, 2020, and people are already decorating for Christmas. What gives? 

There was a day when the Christmas tree didn't go up until Christmas Eve - see the Walton's movie if you don't believe me. But recently, it's been acceptable practice for yard decorations and displays to be turned on on Thanksgiving evening.

Now my wife is in the know better than I am on this subject, and I understand from her that this year has been so crazy that people are wanting to have something to celebrate, something that can give them and their children joy. Therefore, many have chosen to start their Christmas celebrations and decorations early.

At least, Christmas is a good choice for celebration. Jesus is the one who came in the midst of our pain and sorrow to give abundant and eternal life. He comes in the difficulties of life to give hope.

So:
O come, O come, Emmanuel...
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Sure, you can start to celebrate Christmas early!!

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The Popular Hymnal

The Popular Hymnal is another of my hymnals from the publisher, Robert H. Coleman. For some reason this name strikes me as being a...