Archives For Mary

LESSON #3 – What are some things we can do to help us make the most out of advent?





[This is my personal story but you should share your own] I remember the biggest surprise I ever received was when my wife through a surprise birthday party for me a few years ago.  She went through the trouble of getting some people from church to gather and they all surprised me with gifts, food and laughter.  I felt completely excited and at the same time humbled that people even cared for me like that.

In the same way the season of Advent is about a Child who came and reordered the world as we see it and the fact that he is going to come again and re-reorder the world into the New Heavens and the New Earth.


Have students break up into groups of 3-4 and read the following passages: Isaiah 49:1-50:3; 50:4-51:8; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-3.  Talk about how these passages all are Messianic Prophecies discussing how Jesus (the Servant) was called into this world to serve the brokenness of our humanity.  Have the students talk about how these verses portray Jesus and anything else that spoke to them during the reading.

After they have finished reading…ask them to pray for what needs to be done in their lives to be ready for the coming of our Lord.  Then ask them to pray for what they need to do to help others be ready for the coming of the Lord.

Give them a few minutes…


I want you as a group to come up with ways, like Jesus, you need to serve people in your communities.  It could be people inside of your local church but it could also be people outside of the church.

Give them a few minutes then SAY…

To make the most out of this season we need to do three things (I shared some of these in the sermon I preached at Main Street this past Sunday so these may be new to you but old to some others)…

  • SERVE…

Here are some ideas of areas where you may serve.  Donate your time to a charity or to a family in need.  Put up Christmas lights for a family.  Put up decorations for the elderly.  Bake cookies for someone who lost a loved one in your local church.  Provide warm meals for the homeless.  Sing carols at a local shelter.  Read Christmas books to children in the hospital.  [add more ideas…]


The average American will spend $646 dollars this Christmas season.[1]  Check this statistic out: In 2010 the total amount Americans gave to charities was $290.89 billion.[2]  According to the National Retail Federation  on Black Friday this year Americans spent a record $52 Billion.[3]  The same organization estimates that in 2011 Americans would have spent an estimated $465.6 Billion on Christmas spending alone!!![4]  Paul said it best, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Tim. 6:7-9).  Do you really need those presents?


 Herod the King did not want to Jesus to come into this world.  The reason was because he felt his kingship was threatened.  The prevailing view was that the Messiah would come and would establish himself on the throne and all other kings, rulers and princes would be subjugated to serve the Messiah.  This is why Herod sent wisemen, or Magi, to go find where Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1-7).  Herod said that he wanted to worship the child (2:8) but the real motive was that he wanted to harm the child so he could remain as king (2:12).  What I am concerned about is the reaction the Magi had to the Messiah when they saw him: “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (2:11).  Do you want to know what this season is about?  It is about an opportunity to participate in the kingdom of God where Christ sits as both Lord and King.  Presents are ok, ham is ok, lights, trees and all of that is ok but it is only a shadow of what is really important.  Jesus serves as our king and our Lord and this season calls us to simply surrender to the one who came and will come again.  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36).


How good is “good news” if we do not share it?  The real story of Christmas needs to be shared to someone and perhaps you can offer them a chance for them to participate in the story.  A chance for them to be “washed” of their sins but also a chance for them to live a holy and sanctified life with the saints helping others join the kingdom.  “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (Ps. 34:8).  “Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Ps. 66:16).


As you well know I am big into media and visual images with powerful songs.  A most powerful song is “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”




I close this series with joy filled in my heart anticipating Christmas day.  I long for the time with family, the meals, the happiness, the presents but also the knowledge of why we are there.  “Advent” is a word that comes from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming.”  It is the Latin translation for the Greek word parousia which is used in the New Testament most often to describe the Second Coming of Christ (see 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11).  Apparently advent was started in the 18th century to recognize not only the birth of Jesus but also the coming of the Lord.  We live in a tension right now that all Christians live in from the time Jesus ascended in Acts 1 until the time of Jesus returns.  The tension is entangled in mystery and wonder knowing that God has wrought a day in which the Lord will return and we shall be like him and dwell forever.  But not yet…not now…not here…not long.  The advent season is about recognizing and celebrating the birth of Jesus but paradoxically anticipating the return of Jesus.  The fact is…Jesus is here and there are implications for you and I.  To really celebrate Christmas is to subvert the consumerism that society puts out and to make it more than simply “HAPPY HOLIDAYS.”  I saw last night where the ACLU sent memos to Tennessee schools warning them of celebrating one religious holiday to the exclusion of others.  That’s fine but the celebrations typically seen are incorrect for the real point of advent is to show that everywhere and anywhere Christ is the Lord who was born of a virgin from the seed of David.  Caesar was not Lord nor is the president today.  Our idols of power, freedom, pride, consumerism and safe-living all miss the mark for the only true Lord in this world is and was Jesus Christ.

So celebrate appropriately.  Decorations are only a hint of the beauty of Christmas as we celebrate the coming of God himself.  We celrbrate that JEsus is Lord.  We anticipate that one day all wrongs will be right and that true peace will reign at the coming of our Lord.  We long for that day but know there is much work for us to do while injustice and evil still reign.  Jesus, we welcome you in our lives as Lord.  Thank you for coming down to this earth and relinquishing your God-abilities to be human.  We recognize the work of your Father as the work we adhere to.  Forgive us this season for our consumerism and allow us to celebrate what is most important beyond the toys, decorations and false narratives sent by society.  Allows us to celebrate you.  Thank you for coming.  I love you.  Reign in my life and let my breath breathe the air that comes from only you.  Amen.

Below is an advent poem by W.H. Smaw and then a couple of songs I thought were worthy of note.  Peace.

I am. I was. I will be.
I am not coming soon I am here.

I was born on a cold night in a cold place
Unnoticed, unheralded by cold people
Who turned my mother away.
On that night were you listening?
On that night the “least of your brothers” was me.
Now do you see, do you hear and do you care?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In your life do you see me
In the ragged men and women
Who search the cold street
Looking for my reflection in your heart?
Do you hear my voice in
Their muttered plea or in their tear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
Do you hear me when your friend turns to you
To ask forgiveness and trust?
Do I not forgive you always?
Do I not give you a merciful ear?
I am not coming soon I am here.
In this season I was born unto you
Fulfilling the promise of God’s care.
Look for me, listen to me…
I am not coming soon I am here.

Relational Evangelism

November 5, 2009 — Leave a comment

Evangelism is still about relationships.  It always has been and always will be.  The good news that rings out is the message of redemption, hope and reconciliation and it is also a message of forgiveness of sins.  I am reading through the Gospel of Luke and I am rediscovering some things and discovering new things.  One of those is an appreciation for Mary.  I believe there is a level of suspicion in Mary while she became pregnant with Jesus.  Consider what Mary had gone through already:  Gabriel visited her and tell hers everything that will happen; She had to deal with the doubt of her soon-to-be husband (Joseph); not to mention the political taxation occurring at the time. 

Gabriel told her how incredible this son would be and (in my opinion) Mary offers a suspicious response: “How could this be, since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  Fair question right?  This is too much, too soon and Mary is not on this band wagon yet because it all does not make sense.  Then, Gabriel throws Mary the curve ball:

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:35-37).   

 Holy Spirit and God will overshadow you (Mary is probably thinking, “Ok whatever that means!?!?!?”) but here is the kicker: “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her six month.”  Why is that significant?  Because that type of stuff did not happen.  Barrenness was looked down upon in Jewish culture and there was no telling how much ridicule Elizabeth had to endure because of this (read Luke 1:5-25 for a preface and also remember Abraham and Sarah). [1] 

This is why I think it is amazing:  someone who was really close to her had a genuine experience with God and the situation was so drastic that she could do nothing but place her full faith and trust in the Lord!!!  This is what led her to say in the next verse: “I am the Lord’s servant” (1:38).  It was miraculous mostly but relationships were a huge part of it.    

So what about you?  The relationships you have with people greatly affect their view about Jesus.  How you live your life is a testimony to whether you are taking up the cross and following Jesus.  It takes a lot on God’s part to work on someone’s heart but they must also see what the Lord has already done to your heart as well!  How do I evangelize?  How do I reach souls?  Just relay what god has done in your life and let god do the rest.  Yes, there must be some teaching but you cannot teach someone who has not invited you into their personal sphere. 

Think about one of your friends who are not a Christian right now and then think about what you could say or do to let them know about what God has done.  Then pray for an opportunity.        

[1].  I believe Luke is intentionally informing the reader at the miraculous nature of Elizabeth’s barrenness.  He mentions it in 1:7 and also in 1:36.  Then when John the Baptist was born the neighbors rejoiced because the Lord had shown mercy to her (1:58).  Which means, in her barrenness and old age God did amazing things which caused the people to rejoice?  A question I have is this: Do you think this was why many people were loyal to John the Baptist instead of Jesus (see Luke 3:15)?  Both situations were miraculous.