The Coming of Christ

By Kristi Sullins

On that night so long ago the angels were charged with proclaiming the miracle of Christ’s birth. He had finally come, the Messiah sent for all mankind. It was the end of the wait, but for everything else, it was just the beginning.

Christ is the beginning of hope, bringing the possibility of a life more abundant than anything we can think. He is the promise of security in the middle of chaos, and strength to journey through any season of life.

He is the beginning of peace. For those who belong to Christ, we have been promised a peace that passes all understanding. That peace finds its beginning and ending with Jesus.

Christ is the beginning of joy for all those who believe. True joy is found in Him, and cannot be shaken by the things of this world. It is His joy that is our strength and our song. It is a joy that survives the changes and struggles of life because it is founded in the One who loves us.

He is the beginning of love, sent from the Father Himself. Love comes from God. His love for us is unwavering, indescribable and undeserved, and the proof of this love was first found in the manger.

The beginning of hope, peace, joy and love is life changing. For the followers of Christ in the Bible, it was compelling enough for them to change the way they worshiped and believed. They changed tradition, which caused many to be rejected by family and friends. Persecution was real for followers of Christ, but what He brought them was worth any struggle.

Christ and His love were too life changing to ignore.

We have that same new beginning. Christ offers us the same hope, peace, joy and love, based on who He is and not on what we deserve. The promises of Advent don’t have to be packed away with the rest of the Christmas decorations but are meant to encompass our current days. Those who are followers of Christ are called to face the future without fear, and the celebration of Advent is meant to remind us that there is no need to fear because the good news proclaimed by the angel in the book of Luke is still the same.

Are you looking towards the coming year with the anticipation of a fresh start and new beginnings or do you feel anchored in the past with its poor choices and scars?  No matter where you find yourself, it is important to remember that the news of the angel, on that holy night, was a message of good news for all people. Christ, our Messiah, has come to set us free, and to give us a hope and future, our new beginning.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men.

The Coming of Love

By Kristi Sullins

With a week to go until Christmas Day, many of us are on the hunt. On the hunt for the perfect gift, or the one that is always out of stock. On the hunt for a parking spot, a dog sitter, a pair of pants that still fit or maybe just one silent night to actually enjoy the thought of Christmas. If you find yourself on the hunt this Christmas, then you will appreciate this. God’s gift of love required no search.

On the night of Christ’s birth, God filled the heavens with His angels to proclaim to the shepherds that the Messiah had come. The shepherds told the people in town about all they saw. The coming of Christ was not kept in secret, hidden for only the knowledge of a select few.

It was not for the sake of prophecy that the message was shared, or to boast at the execution of the impossible. God shared with mankind the coming of His Son because the evidence of His love had come. We know that Christ is the very proof of God’s love because He tells us in His Word. 1 John 4:9 tells us that God’s sending His Son among us was proof of His love. John 3:16 reminds us that His love was so great that He gave us His only Son so that whoever would choose to believe would have eternal life. Romans 5:8 is His anthem of love to all those who feel like they are the exception to His gift because we are reminded that He loved us at our worst and still sent His Son.

There is no doubt the Christ in the manger was God’s physical evidence of love. This fact is important when you remember He came to a group of people who had been waiting for centuries. God had been quiet. Holding on to hope had been a struggle. All the Israelites knew was that life was hard, and not turning out how they thought. What had happened to the covenant given to Abraham?  Where was the land flowing with milk and honey?  It was hard to look at life and see proof that God did love them.

Can you identify with that?

When things don’t go the way we had planned or the struggle feels like it is too much we can question God’s love. When tragedy strikes we struggle to reason how God can let it happen and still say He loves us. We want proof of His love.

Maybe that is why He opened the heavens that night. So proof could be seen; the evidence shared.

The coming of Christ was God’s visible evidence for all generations that He loves us, and that His love is so great He withheld nothing, sending a very piece of the Godhead to us.

Don’t look for evidence of God’s love in your circumstance or current reality. Hold tightly to the manger and cross as proof that the love God has for us is greater than our realities, failures or fears. It is His free gift to us. A gift of redemption, belonging, security and eternity for all who would choose to believe.

The Coming of Joy

By Kristi Sullins

Christmas is one of the most joyful times of the year. People decorate their homes with bright lights and beautiful trees. There is special time spent baking fun treats, and wrapping packages. School lets out, time is spent with family and new memories are made. It’s just easier to feel joy at Christmas.

On the night of Christ’s birth so long ago none of those things were there. The stable was not adorned with festive colors, or filled with beautiful trees. There were no special treat or gifts. Family was far away in Nazareth. What was there, on that silent night, was joy.

The shepherds, tending their flocks in the field that night, were not concerned about joy. That all changed when an angel came to proclaim the good news. The Messiah had come as promised. Luke 2:10 tells us that proclamation was one of great joy and for all people. The shepherds rushed to find the one God had sent to be the Savior of the world. After seeing Him in the manger they were so full of joy, they told all they saw what had happened.

The wise men, in a land far away, saw the star in the sky. This star matched the prophecies they had studied for so long. Their journey to follow the star was long. It kept them from family and friends. They dealt with a deceptive king, and still they searched. When they came to the home marked by the star they found joy. It was joy in the Messiah, the promised one who had finally come. Their joy led to worship because He who had been sought for so long was now with them.

Strangely, the heavens, themselves, declared the joy of God as the angels filled the sky in worship. Why would God rejoice? In His omniscience, He knew what Christ would face. God knew that the celebration of Christ’s birth would be brief. A mad ruler would hunt him, forcing the family to flee into Egypt. He would live a very modest life. His brothers and sisters would not believe in Him. The ministry time on earth would be full of struggle, opposition and doubters. He would have a close group of disciples, but even those men would deny, doubt and deceive. Ultimately, the one who lay in that manger would hang on a cross, choosing to die for all. Our human understanding would tell us that heaven should have mourned, but for God, the time to rejoice had come. It was time to rejoice because soon He would no longer be separated from His people because of their sin. Soon there would no longer be a need for the sacrifice of animals because His Son had come to be the ultimate sacrifice. Soon the high priest would no longer be needed to stand between man and God. The Great High Priest had come, and He would bridge the gap between God and Man.

Christ, the Lord, had chosen to willingly come so that all who believed would be saved. His advent brought great joy!

Thanks be to God that the reason for joy did not end on that night because the promise of advent did not end. Isaac Watts penned a powerful reminder of advent in 1719. He was a student of the Word, and was drawn to the promise given to all believers of the coming of the King. Joy to the World was published as a hymn, an anthem for the church to claim the promise of advent, but it was never meant to be a Christmas carol. Watts pulled his inspiration from Psalm 98, and the promise of the King that would return for His people. He was not proclaiming the birth of Christ, but the return of the Messiah. Watts was calling for all to prepare their hearts for the return of the one who had already been. He proclaimed Joy to all the World because our King is yet to come. Our advent is not over. We, who choose to believe, wait and watch like the wise men, full of joy and hope because the return of the Messiah has been promised. Our joy does not rest in a miracle of the past, but in the certain promise of our future. We wait with joy, watch with joy and prepare our hearts with joy for the King WILL come.

Joy to the world, the Lord IS come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room

The Coming of Peace

By Kristi Sullins

Have you set up your nativity set yet?  For many of us, the pieces of the story of the Messiah are part of our Christmas decorations. You may have one with plastic pieces, perfect for little hands or an heirloom set high on a shelf to be seen but not touched.

The sight of the nativity is peaceful. Everyone looks serene. Mary is clean with hair brushed and clothes just right. Joseph stands proudly to the side as shepherds and wise men adore the quiet Christ child lying in the orderly hay bed. Even the animals of the stable are quiet and reverent.

It is perfectly peaceful, yet it does not clearly reflect the reality of those involved. The truth behind those figures is something all of us can connect with.

Look at Mary, the young pregnant mom. We all know the angel came and explained the blessing bestowed upon her. He told her to fear not, but then she was on her own, explaining the unexplainable. On her own to face her betrothed, her parents and her neighbors. She had followed the rules, been a good girl, and was doing the right thing. Suddenly, the plan changed.

Look at Joseph, the good Jewish man. He was just going along with his normal life. He had developed his carpentry trade, and had a young bride promised to him. His life was mapped out. He would marry Mary, live in Nazareth and work to provide for his family. Then Mary explains how she was carrying the Son of God. His virgin bride is pregnant and giving him a story that is beyond belief. The betrayal is hard, but a visit from an angel stops his plan for ending the engagement. Now he is a man married to a woman who is carrying the Son of God. On top of it all, he has to get his little family to the town of Bethlehem because of a census. Instead of being with family and friends at home they find themselves in a stable with nothing but animals for company. The plan changed.

The shepherds were low on the rung of importance in society, and yet found themselves thrust into God’s plan by a group of angels who scared them to death while they were in the fields. The wise men set aside years of their time to follow an unknown star because they knew it was a sign of the promised Messiah. Maybe you can look at the stable and remember the city full of people forced to follow a government edict no matter the strain or difficulty it caused them.

The nativity is a reminder for all of us that lives were altered forever with the coming of the Prince of Peace. Nothing was easy, and plans were interrupted.What a wonderful lesson on peace. Peace is not positive feelings in the good times or settled feelings when everything is going our way. Peace is a goodness and rest even in the deepest trouble.

The peace of God is anchored to a small manger in Bethlehem and a cross at Calvary. They stand as proof that God willingly gave us His Son, and He freely gives what we need (Romans 8:32). He, God, is our source of peace. He was Mary’s peace facing an unknown future when she willingly said “I am the Lord’s servant”, and He was Joseph’s peace as he chose to submit his feelings of hurt and betrayal to obedience to God ‘s plan. In return for their trust, God remained faithful, giving them all they needed to get through.

God offers all believers that same beautiful opportunity for peace. Through Philippians 4:7 we are promised a peace that will be beyond our understanding. Philippians 4:9 tells us the God of peace will be with us. John 14:27 (NLT) tells us that the peace God gives us is a gift, and it is a gift impossible for the world to give us but one God freely gives.

Peace, true peace, comes from God and can be seen all throughout the Christmas story.

When plans change there can be peace. When we don’t understand what is going on there can be peace. When circumstances are out of our control, emotions are out of control, situations seem less the ideal there can still be peace.

Look at the Nativity again. That small child in the middle is our reminder that the Prince of Peace came, and He left us His peace. In this world, we will have troubles, but take heart, that child in the manger has overcome the world (John 16:33).


The Coming of Hope

By Kristi Sullins

The short time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is typically associated with chaotic schedules, increasing debt and exhaustion. Somewhere into the journey of adulthood we lose the wonder of waiting. The anticipation of parties with friends, school being out, and the unknown of Christmas morning is traded for duty, demands and disappointments.

Enter the need for Advent. Advent comes in this in-between time, and it calls us back to the wonder of waiting. We are reminded of more than just the reason for the season, but the reality of the wait.

The first week of Advent is a time to have a renewed focus on the hope given to those who were waiting for more.

More than just sacrifice; more than just slavery; more than just struggle. Isaiah was one prophet God used to give His people hope in the One who would come to them. He tells us in Isaiah 9:6 that God was sending the One who would be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father and Prince of Peace.

This was God’s promise to His people. It was a promise that would require patience for it would be about 700 years from the time this promise was given to the time it was fulfilled. That time was not filled with peace and joy. It was filled with bondage and the unknown. 400 years of that time was filled with silence from the God who had never left them. Even when they had wandered from Him He had spoken to them through leaders and prophets. Then silence. The silence forced them to hold to the hope given to them through the prophets, and then they waited. Waited through dark years when rulers changed, the law was forgotten, traditions were lost and holding on to hope was a struggle. Still they waited and hoped for the promise of the one who was coming for them. Coming to bring them hope and a future.

What are you hoping for today?  Have you reached a point where you would honestly say you no longer “waste” your time with hope?

I encourage you to start this season of Advent off with a renewed prayer for hope. We no longer have to wait for our Messiah, and His coming offers us hope. Hope in a God who keeps His promises in His own perfect timing. Hope in a God whose plan is perfect. Hope in a God whose love is without measure, and freely offered to all who would seek Him. Hope, not in a world that is constantly shifting, but in a God who sent His Son to be the savior of the world.

Would you take time to reread Isaiah 9:6-7?  What do you hope for?  Are you struggling with the patience it takes to wait for God to fulfill His promises?  Hebrews 6:18-19 reminds us that because of the unfailing character of God we have an anchor for our hope. It is time for Advent, our season of hope.