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  • Scripture Isaiah 35:4-10 & Luke 1:46-53
  • Date Sunday, 18 December 2016
This is the final in the Advent series for 2016! Fourth Sunday of Advent is upon us. Therefore, we also wrap-up the series by considering one more clip of that fine, old, Frank Capra movie, It's a Wonderful Life. This week, we'll focus on that moment where George has assessed the world void of him and decides that no matter about his trouble, he wants to live again.

On the first Sunday of Advent we considered how “It Might be a Wonderful Life” and on the 2nd Sunday of Advent we explored how “It Could be a Wonderful Life.” For the third Sunday of Advent we messed around with how “It Was a Wonderful Life” and finally, this 4th Sunday of Advent, with “It IS a Wonderful Life.” Through the "might be" and "could be" and the "was" ... a common thread has been the point that we traditionally celebrate Advent as the Coming of Jesus via His first birth into the human world. However, since "advent" is the waiting for the arrival of something, we can't logically wait for what has already happened. We can celebrate it and we should. I'm not suggesting we take Jesus out of Christmas. I'm suggesting we use Advent as a time of preparing ... but the preparation needs to be for that which is yet to come -- Jesus' second return to earth to claim His own.

Has the time come in our history to alter a major tradition of Advent? Some Christians in the Church do not even acknowledge Advent. That is as bad as acknowleding it for the wrong purpose. We need to use Advent as a time to recognizing our individual positions and asking ourselves, "Am I ready for Jesus' return?" Jesus uses the story of the maidens waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. The bridegroom is delayed; they do not know what the bridegroom will finally come. One-half of the maidens come prepared with adequate oil for their lamps. One-half of them do not bother preparing, thus do not have enough and need to run to the local, corner 7-11 for lamp oil at the last minute. While they are gone, the bridegroom arrives and the doors are locked. Thus, those who are prepared are inside with the bridegroom; the others are left out in the cold.

To which group do you belong? Think about it. Do you believe the maidens standing outside the locked doors, realizing that it is too late to do anything, left out of the banquet, would claim, "this is a wonderful life"? Who is more likely to claim the "wonderful life" -- the maidens inside or the ones left out-in-the-cold? Yeah, I know, it is rather obvious, but in life, how often can we not find our car keys laying right in front of us?

This Advent and future Advents, use the time as a time of reflection and preparation -- are you ready for the arrival of God to this earth? Ready for both His first coming AND His second.
  • Scripture Isaiah 7:10-16 & Matthew 1:18-25
  • Date Sunday, 11 December 2016
Well, sorry this is so late in coming. However, I'm getting it entered anyway. Our ongoing series using "It's a Wonderful Life" by Frank Capra continues Sunday morning, considering the statement, "It Was a Wonderful Life." Sometimes, we plan and prepare, but things beyond our control change and then we must readjust. As we noted last week, we need to "recalculate."

Our scripture references for this Sunday include a time when Ahaz needed to recalculate. It was a good life, but things seem to go rather poorly. Ahaz made a bad decision in responding to God and life took a turn. And, in Matthew, we see how life was going along pretty good for Joseph. He had a nice young girl promised to him in marriage. He had a career and maybe was looking forward to that little house down on the corner with the white picket fence in the front yard. But, then everything changed. First, his betrothed is suddenly pregnant - and not because he had any involvement with her. OK, big problem. Then, after he stays with this whole situation through Bethlehem, expecting to return and resume their life together, he has to flee to Eygpt in the night!

It was a wonderful life ... until ...

I have been suggesting we 'recalculate' about how we view Advent. This is a change. It is new. But, it is also critical. We can easily put more energy and focus into preparing for the birth of Jesus (which, by the way, has already happened) than we do into the return of Jesus, which is yet to happen. Since 'advent' is, by definition, the waiting for something significant, it seems strange we 'wait' for something that has already happened.

So, I encourage you to prepare. It is Advent and we are called to prepare for the coming, for which we wait. Now, how are you going to prepare for the coming that is yet to happen? That's the real question.
  • Scripture Isaiah 11:1-10 and Luke 1:8-16
  • Date Sunday, 04 December 2016
Second in the Advent series. Last week, the first Sunday in Advent began with "It Might Be a Wonderful Life." An introduction to another way to view Advent. We continue this week exploring what Advent is about and what it should lead us to think about.

I introduced the idea of our existing in the "in-between" time now; that time between the expectation and the reality. That's the 'in-between'. Waiting during this 'in-between' can feel like forever, so we need to keep our hope intact with the aid of patience, which needs plans and preparation in order to continue being patient. Hope stays alive with expectations.

You see, it could be a wonderful life when one properly prepares. We each need to prepare, because Advent expects the arrival of something. Jesus, God's Son has already come, so I guess advent must point to the return of the Messiah. Well, are you ready?
  • Scripture Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matt. 24:36-44
  • Date Sunday, 27 November 2016
First Sunday in Advent!

There is a time everybody experiences. It is called the "in-between" time because it exists between the time of expectation and reality. A child experiences it as he/she contemplates a gift under the Christmas Tree. There is expectation as to the contents of that package. The child may dream it is exactly what was desired. When the time comes to open that gift, reality occurs as the gift is seen, touched, and cognitively processed. That time in between -- that time between the expectation and the reality -- is a most interesting place to be.

Believers exist in between. God sent His Son into the world that the world might be saved through Him. That is done. So, why do we observe "Advent." Advent signifies something for which one waits. The 'coming' of that thing is its advent. By March, we long for the advent of Sprint. We wait for it. We anticipate it. We curse the cold wind and know warmth and flowers are coming.

Believers wait in between. God sent His Son ... but that's not the end of the story. God having sent His Son means we anticipate the Return and Restoration. What a glorious day that will be!

But, now we are between the expectation and the reality. That "in-between" ... what are we doing with it? Are you more excited about Christmas ... or His Return? But, for now, we are 'in-betweeners'.

Jesus said to him, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

John 14:6

Pleasant Valley Church, Holland, IA

Pleasant Valley Church

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Christ first, the Bible as God's inerrant Word & work, our future is both temporal & eternal. Hell on earth? Wait 'til you get to the "eternal" part!



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