Unwrapped – Hope Rekindled

What is something that you have been waiting for that your friend got before you?

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Throughout the nations of the world there are holidays. The most widely shared commemoration across the world, involving more people and more nations than any other holiday celebration is Christmas. It transcends national history and it goes everywhere where Christianity has ever been. Though it is the most widely celebrated around the world, in many ways it is the least understood. All the holidays and all the celebrations and all the commemorations of people and events across the globe take note of human events…human beings. Christmas commemorates a divine person and a divine event.

We’re not remembering what a man has done or what men have done, but what God has done. This is not a celebration of human history. This is not a recognition of human achievement. It is a recognition of a marvelous, miraculous, divine accomplishment. Christmas celebrates the most monumental event and the most monumental person in the history of the world. Christmas is all about the eternal, sovereign creator God of the universe coming to earth, coming into the earth of His creation as a human being to live among His creation as one of them.

What if Christmas was more than just a story about a baby, what if Christmas had the potential to have real meaning for us in our lives and in our circumstances. The circumstances around Jesus birth have real potential to impact our lives, careers and families? This December we are looking into some real truths about Jesus are UNWRAPPED.

Last week I began by saying that every single year we start a year with expectations that may or may not be met. WHEN you begin the year you have some expectations…I want four dogs and a cow. I want to get married, to a good looking girl or guy, more money in the bank, to open new frontiers, I want to be able to earn X figures. Every single year, we always start with this is the year of… By the way this is true even if you are not in the church,  everyone wants to make it big and everyone can.

What is something that you have been waiting for that your friend got before you? A boyfriend, a gadget, a job, a piece of land, moving to a neighborhood , a thriving business?   A record deal. A house. A car. Financial breakthrough, going to mombasa for the holidays, and you are on house arrest the holiday. Wife and kids. Wife. One of our pastors prayed for someone to get saved, straight from the pub, in three or four years, the guy had straightened out his life, bought some land, reconciled with his wife and he used to be called. What do we do when others are doing better in life than we are?

            Last week we read from Luke 1:26-38 and what we learned was that Mary received an angelic visit and learned that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah and that even though she recognized the challenges she might experience, nonetheless she accepted the mission and God’s word about her life. Now what you need to note is that what actually encouraged Mary to accept the mission was the angel’s assurance about what God had done in the life of a relative of hers.

….Mary knew Elizabeth. She was her relative. She knew that people called her barren. The news of Elizabeth being visited by God stirs up her own faith, because she says… I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.

Luke 1:36 – 45

To help you understand the gravity of the situation, let me say a little bit about Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a godly woman who endured the pain and shame of barrenness. Barrenness cancelled what was regarded as a woman’s main function in life, bearing of children to her husband. It denied a woman the status and security she could achieve. Barrenness was thought of as a woman’s fault, a punishment for sin or a result of God’s ‘forgetting the woman’ (1 Samuel 1:11)

What is amazing about this story however is Elizabeth’s attitude to Mary. The Bibles says when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting:

Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit,

In a loud voice she blesses Mary and her baby

She reflects on God’s favor on her life in sending Mary to visit her

Now think about this for a moment: Elizabeth could have been filled with bile. She could have confronted Mary and asked her why she came. At the point when Elizabeth is greeting Mary, the situation of her barrenness has been resolved but it would not have been difficult for Elizabeth to feel she was entitled to receive God’s blessing before Mary;

After all she had been married for a long time, and Mary was still engaged. Mary did not plan for this and yet here she was.

She was older and Mary was younger.

Zechariah her husband was a priest for crying out loud and Joseph was just a carpenter.

Not only has Elizabeth waited all this time, but Mary’s baby is better. The child Elizabeth is raising is a curtain raiser for Mary’s child.

Yet we know for a fact, that even before Elizabeth became pregnant that she and her husband  were serving, praying and obeying God. Now this is remarkable. In other words, Elizabeth’s attitude is not just momentary response to God’s miracle in her life. Even before she got pregnant, while she was still waiting on God to come through for her, the Bible tells us in Luke 1: 5-6 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.

More often than not however, we see people blaming God for what he has not done. Many of us when our expectations are not met, we are filled with discouragement, depression and despair. And then when other people are blessed or when they receive their blessing quickly when ours took long to come, we are envious.

How did she keep utter disillusionment from getting the best of her? How did she face the facts and at the same time maintain unwavering determination that she would prevail in the end. How do we keep from letting ourselves shrivel up in doubt, disillusionment and despair? Somehow Elizabeth knew that God was still involved in their life.

At the point when the two women meet, Elizabeth’s problem is resolved, but many of us experience difficulty especially in that space before we receive our miracle and other people being blessed. It is one thing to know that God fulfils his promises and brings joy to his people. It is another to look your circumstances in the eye and remain confident that in your situation, nothing is impossible with God, especially when others around you are receiving their blessing while you are still waiting for yours.

The one point in this message is Believe that God is still involved in your life.    

All around us we see people struggling with the issue of barrenness or stagnation or a lack of fruitfulness. Many of us we are under pressure to make it work, to look like we are achieving and accomplishing great things.  Particularly between the ages of 26-40 a sense of frustration and stagnation can set in, because we have a place where we wanted to be but we are not there. We are living in an age where we all expect to be millionaires by a certain age. As a result, we are constantly assessing our lives and asking, where is the result? Stagnation is a big fear.  And when we find that we are not where we would like to be and others are progressing faster it creates a serious sense of dissatisfaction.

We have very little tolerance for failure and less for patience. We don’t live in a culture that in any way understands waiting. Resentment builds up because we have a timeline against which we are constantly measuring ourselves. We have a three year, five year and even  ten year plan. Of course from a personal planning perspective this is good, but from the perspective of a God who laughs at our plans we need to understand that we serve .

What is amazing is that by godly standards Elizabeth is successful but if we were to measure by current standards, for many of us, Herod would be our measure of success. For many of us success is hustling and doing all those things. Waiting on God seems like failure.

It goes back to that whole question of what defines you? Because what defines you is what would allow you to respond appropriately.  Particularly as we move into the new year the real question is what defines your success? What if all these things don’t happen in the timelines you have planned for yourself?  And what if others achieve their goals before you do?

Above all else we must believe that God is still involved. He is still there. God has not moved out of your space. You have to guard your heart against discouragement. You have to jealously guard your heart against bitterness when you see others progressing faster than you.

Particularly in the workplace in can be a bitter pill to be passed over for a promotion. Some of us left our place of work to go to school. We went with the expectation that once we get our qualification jobs will be easy to come by. And perhaps someone who did not even sacrifice and make a similar investment in their education has a similar or better position.

Perhaps in business, there are some people whom you incubated them and introduced to the big players in the industry. Maybe in terms of experience, relative to you the person has no experience and yet their start up has gotten a big account, while you are still struggling to pay salaries. Perhaps you began business at the same time and someone else’s business has taken off. Maybe you gave out the contracts that you could not fulfill.

Perhaps it is about social status… you want to be living somewhere but you are not. How can you be peaceful in where you are at as opposed to your pals who are driving big cars and living in big houses. Perhaps you go out with your friends and they can afford to eat in places that you cannot.

Of course the biggest one is being single and being contented. We constantly face pressure because at this age you should be… Society tells us all sorts of lies that make the pressure that much more.

For guys it is seeing others moving faster than you. Perhaps you have got this business and it is not moving. You are throwing everything at it and it is not going anywhere, you had plans to be making a certain amount of money by 35 and you are not. where you are in your career.

So how do we keep our focus when others are doing better than us in life?  Elizabeth says something powerful to Mary in their conversation. Luke 1:45 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. 

Our brief is to believe God and not look at the circumstances of others around us. Regardless of what God is doing for others your job, your brief is to believe him. Whether you see or you don’t see his hand. His  relationship is with you and his concern is for you. Run your race and God will be faithful to see you through in your race.

To conclude this message here is a call to two action points:

First, recognize that God’s standards of success are different from the world’s standards. By godly standards Elizabeth was successful: Her story  is a miracle enough that it triggers Mary to take on the kingdom. God is working in your life but the evidence should not be society’s prescription of where you should be. Perhaps you are a little resentful that others have received their blessing without as much struggle. There are so many societal norms we are trying to live up to. Being the wealthiest in the pack, the swiftest. Perhaps this year you have experienced a barrenness or stagnation in your life. Secondly ….

Rekindle your faith: Nothing is impossible with God. In preparing for the birth of Christ both Elizabeth’s barrenness and advanced age are obstacles that God overcomes. They were a righteous childless couple who prayed for a child. God visited them and heard their prayer of pain. The answer took time, but God honored their request. God’s is involved in the lives of believers. Perhaps you have waited long, you have not yet received the answer you were hoping for. Rekindle your faith. Nothing is impossible with God. How do we rekindle our faith? Abraham believed and hoped, even when there was no reason for hoping. 

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2 Responses to “Unwrapped – Hope Rekindled”

  1. My younger sister is getting married. I am happy for her, and sad for myself.

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  2. I really enjoyed the sermon, it was funny and real!!The angle of this Christmas sermon is different and very unique .YET practical in our day to day living, where friendships are hurt by competition and underlying jealousy. Life has become a chase of who is better than the other. Thank you for the message that it doesn’t matter which waiting bay am at…waiting for Touareg..future hubby…great career…WHATEVER IT IS… God standards are not the world standards. In the end its about God glory at HIS TIME.

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