Advent at the Chapel: No Room for Him!

by Steve Joostens

there was no room available for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7c  and 
Luke 4:16-32, & 9:51ff

We approach the story with the eye of faith and see what the carnal eye cannot see once again. The GREATEST of all wonders set in very few words. So marvelous! We too will see the signs as the shepherds and rejoice when we return home!

Several details are told us and some are not regarding the scene. There was no room for Him in the inn. The inns were square structures with a center courtyard. Two stories with the 1st story reserved for the servants who took care of the animals in the courtyard. And they found themselves in the 1st story with servants and animals. There was no room for them in the inn, but only in the courtyard. Why no room? We literally read here “no place for them in the inn.” This is not happen stance, but God who guides the circumstances of history as HE controls ALL things! His mighty hand was right there and the scene set in place by the Almighty God Himself! It was brought about by His good pleasure.

What does all this mean? Our Lord had a RIGHT to a place in the very world He created! Of the house and lineage of David mind you…and He should have a place! And yet, the heir of Abraham finds no place! His birth however was only indicative of His entire life…even though even the birds have a nest! Christ never owns or owned a house. There was no place down below and there is no place with God as we see it in the cross…suspending Him between heaven and earth with no place! A curse of God with no place for Him is the heart of the matter. Despised and rejected of men and none desired Him!

The cruelty of the Roman empire and just the times in those days and it would be different today in the age of enlightenment would it not? The moment you tell them about Christ and take them to the prophesies and to His very words there is no one that would put that baby in their manger scene and bed! Everything to do with the carnal mind that stands in hatred against God and His Christ in its sin and corruption. And we too would have no place for Him in our lives! They want a manger scene, but do not want the Lord of Glory!

Wonder of all wonders. The Almighty God makes place for God who makes place for Him and sets Him in His history among a world that writes Him out of “their” history! Almighty God instills Himself in the heart of such a sinner to give them appreciation for such! Not us….but because God gives Him place with Him in our heart.

No place. No place for Him in order that we may have a place with Him eternally! No place so that we may have a PREPARED PLACE FOREVERMORE!

The wonder of God’s grace!

 

For Advent devotions this year, we are using Pastor Tim Keller’s themes in his new book  Hidden Christmas

 

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Anticipating Advent: God Exceeds Our Expectations

So much of the advent season is built upon anticipation…

In a very practical way, we look forward to annual traditions. I always anticipate the breakfast casserole that my mom makes. I anticipate the lights, the smells, the sounds, and the family. Many of us are full of expectations (or others of us full of dread) about the songs, the presents, and the decorations. Often times these expectations are not all met in any given year… but we are full of them.

From the perspective of the church calendar, advent is a season of Anticipation for celebrating Christ’s incarnation and second coming. Throughout advent, there is a constant looking both backward and forward toward the coming of Christ. The Scripture readings from week to week build in a crescendo toward the moment of declaration: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” We wait for this moment… at Wiser Lake Chapel, we frequently do this through the holy chaos that is the Hallelujah Chorus. After our season of patient anticipation we join with the angels, singing with all our earthly gusto “…and He shall reign forever and ever.”

But, the message throughout Scripture is not just of a God who meets our expectations… the message of Scripture is of a God who exceeds expectations. Even in our best Christmas seasons, the perfect twinkling of a light, the most anticipated of presents, the most fulfilling of family times are only small tastes of the plans that God has for us. The fact is that God is not simply in the business of meeting our expectations… through a baby birthed among farm animals, God disrupts and exceeds our expectations. The invitation of the Advent season is not only an invitation to anticipate, it is an invitation to have our expectations upended for the rest of the year… for the rest of our lives. The baby becomes a man who teaches and heals… and the man who teaches and heals, dies… and the man who dies has risen again. In Advent, we anticipate, but we also bring ourselves back to a place where we can be shocked and amazed…reminded that our expectations are too small for a God who is too good. Our earthbound, yet heavenward, hallelujahs are not geared simply toward a God who meets expectations, but to the glory of a God who exceeds them.
~Ben Gibson

 

Christmas 2015: Jesus as Zeal

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness, from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this”
Isaiah 9: 6-7, NASB

Zeal, a noun, is defined as intense, high-wrought emotion that compels to action.

What is your first thought when you hear the word zeal? Is it these verses written by Isaiah, God-breathed by the Holy Spirit? Or, perhaps, it is the fact that our Lord is a zealous God, as well as a jealous God. (Exodus 20: 1 – 6)? Or do you think, “My zeal for my Lord is exactly what I want it to be?”

Although “Zeal,” is not a name, per se, that is ascribed to Jesus, it is an inherent characteristic, that is vigorously expressed on certain occasions. A similar reference is found in Isaiah 37: 32, concerning God’s destruction of 185,000 Assyrians, in protecting Jerusalem, as he had spoken to Isaiah: “The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this.”

God spoke through Ezekiel, explaining His planned judgment against Jerusalem, “Thus My anger will be spent, and I will satisfy My wrath on them, and I shall be appeased. Then they will know that I, the Lord, have spoken in My zeal, when I have spent My wrath on them” (Ezekiel 5: 13, NASB).

Certainly Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, was a demonstration of zeal (Luke 19: 45 – 46).

But His greatest zeal was demonstrated in obedience to His Father on Calvary’s cross, where He paid with His life the cost of atonement for our sins (Philippians 2: 5 – 8).

The Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 9: 6 – 7, is yet future. In His first Advent, Jesus came as the “Suffering Servant” described in Isaiah 52: 13 – 53: 12. When He said, from the cross, “It is finished,” He had completed His Father’s will for the redemption of sinful mankind. Then He stepped from the tomb, having conquered death. Returning to the Father, Jesus established the way into the eternal presence of God.

Jesus’ promised return (Acts 1: 9 – 11) still holds mystery, but will take place as explained in Matthew 24: 1 – 51; Revelation 19 – 22, and other passages. I believe the Isaiah 9: 6 – 7 prophecy pertains to the kingdom which Christ shall finally establish, and over which He will reign for all eternity as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace –
Jesus, on David’s throne, there’ll be no end to His government’s increase.
He will establish and uphold it, with justice and righteousness forever assured.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this, as promised by God’s word.

– Pastor Neil G. Thompson

Advent 2015: Jesus as Yes and Amen!

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 1:20
When our children were young we would have them choose one gift they would like to have for Christmas. With six children we had very limited funds for Christmas presents but we wanted each child to receive something they really wanted as long as it wasn’t to expensive.
Our youngest daughter Barbara was a rather precocious child, very active and loud. She was always down on her knees by the tree trying to catch a glimpse of her gift. I would wrap them so they could not guess what was in the package. When Barbara received her gift she ripped off the wrappings and quickly opened the box as she looked in she hollered as loud as she could YES! Jumping up she threw her arms in the air shouting Yes, Yes!
I like to think that the yes in this passage is quite like my daughters exuberant Yes.
There were a number of people in the Corinthian church who had a problem with the Apostle Paul. They accused him of being a yes and no man, they questioned his Apostleship. Paul’s response was, he made his decisions not in a worldly manner but in dependence on God’s grace.  But when it came to his message concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God there was no yes or no, it was a resounding YES.
God’s gift of his Son as Savior of the world was God’s shout of Yes to all the promises given since Eden concerning the coming savior. You see in the fullness of time God’s yes is personified in Jesus Christ as in him all the promises are fulfilled. It is the Father’s Christmas gift to you and me.
We then as God’s children can declare by faith “Amen” to God’s “Yes.” In the original that Amen is a very strong affirmation to God’s yes in Christ Jesus, God’s gift to us which we remember and celebrate at Christmas time, joyfully with thanksgiving.
~Pastor Jack Matheis

Advent 2015: Jesus as “X” for Christ

In December 1963, it was considered questionable taste to use styrofoam letters toothpicked together to spell out “Merry Xmas” in a family Christmas picture for our family Christmas cards.  Why the X?   Because we couldn’t get the whole word “Christmas” to hold together without collapsing into a mess of vowels and consonants.  We certainly tried.  So my dad made a special run back to the crafts store to buy an X so we could get this picture done while his three children were still spit combed, and polished clean.

I vaguely remember my mother being a bit reluctant to use the abbreviation “X” to represent “Christ” in Christmas, as she thought it might offend a relative or two as possibly disrespectful, but we did send a copy of this picture out to the 100+ people on her list, and I don’t recall any fall out.

It turns out there is good reason for the traditional “X” in XMAS, and it is not to make Christmas advertising more compact, using less expensive space.   It represents the first letter Chi of the name Christ in the Greek alphabet (Χριστός) and was used as an abbreviation for Christ (sometimes as below in the symbol known as the labarum, in combination with the “P” that represents the Greek letter “Rho”).  This was sometimes a secret communication device between Christians, and often displayed overtly in worship settings.  So the X is, in fact, a name for Christ, in shorthand.  There is no disrespect meant, but rather a way that religious community members could easily find each other in sometimes oppressive circumstances.

Now, 52 years after this photo was taken, it’s the styrofoam that causes offense, knowing it will never break down in landfills, and simply can’t be destroyed without inflicting environmental damage.  But the X representing Christ is here to stay.   It may offend those who do not acknowledge the reality of God who walked the earth, dying in our place,  broken in body only.  His truth and spirit rose again and cannot and will not ever be destroyed.
~Emily Gibson

Advent 2015: Jesus as Wise Master Builder

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care.
1 Corinthians 3:10

Our family had the privilege of being able to rebuild a 100+ year old cabin in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. As we peeled back layers of outer wall and flooring we were amazed at the hidden craftsmanship. Walls were made by hand-woven meshes of bamboo and twine, each small square perfectly sized and spaced. The floors were built on rough hewn posts floating on rocks, and in areas not damaged by time or this massive earthquake still perfectly straight according to our modern laser level. The bones of the cabin, logs and beams mortised and tenoned together using hand saws and hammers, had flexed as designed under the spectacular stresses of what they call a 1000 year earthquake and remain strong and safe. In fact, most of the damage we repaired was because of modifications made later that undermined part of that masterfully built structure. As much as possible we tried to work with the existing craftsmanship rather than just replace it.

To fully appreciate this verse we have to keep it in the context of the chapter. Jesus is the foundation already laid (11), and we are all builders from that point forward. All of us are part of, and responsible for, the building of the Kingdom. From that firm foundation Paul talks about the materials of building in a way that quickly brings to mind the three little pigs: gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw (12). The craftsmanship will be “revealed with fire and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work”(13). But then we get a glimpse of incredible grace and acceptance when we are told that, even if our efforts are burned up, “the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved…”(15).

I also find great comfort in this chapter’s emphasis that we are not in this by ourselves but “co-workers,” and that we are “God’s building” (9).

If you are a worrier as I am, you might find yourself asking too often: “what have I really accomplished” or “am I up to the task”? The concepts of grace in the face of failure and being part of a larger team and scheme then come as welcome assurance.
~Brian Vander Haak

 

Advent 2015: Jesus as Vine

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:5

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Phil 4:8  
What hath each passage to do with the other?

The Philippians verse, above, is one of my favorite scripture passages anywhere. I love it because I have learned that it isn’t a wag a finger in your face passage, but rather is a passage inviting us via a loving hand stretching out to us; beckoning to us to join Him. It is Jesus asking us to join Him in His grace.

Time after time we are urged by Paul to be “in Christ” and this is one of many, many such passages. The scriptures aren’t a rule book ready to punish us if we fail but is an open door showing us Christ standing outside after he has knocked. He is waiting for us to invite Him in to eat with Him and partake in His fellowship.

He is the Vine, we are the branches. He gives us our food and life-giving water to sustain us. He invites us daily to partake of Him and there is nothing and no one better.

Do we trust Him to prune us? Yes, He says, because then we will bear fruit and some of us at times will bear much fruit. If so, we in our season have more to share with our brother and sister branches that may have had a slim year. Next year it may be reversed, we are the body, He is the Vine.
Trust Him, the Vine will see to it that His branches will all be provided with much fruit.

And what is our goal of being in Him and seeking His face and the wisdom and gift of His Word?

He tells us a few verses later:
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
John 15:11
~Chris Lovegren