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{December 22, 2019}






Heartland Community Church


December 22 – 27, 2019

 

Let There Be Light: The Whisper of Christmas

By Rhonda Stock

I gave birth to my first child over 35 years ago. It was not an easy birth. Big baby, small mother, an epidural that was a little too effective and left me incapable of any movement below the waist. I’ll spare you the gory details (and, trust me, they were gory), but eventually my son was born, and the world celebrated. Well, our little corner of the world celebrated.

Giving birth gave me a whole new perspective on the Christmas Story. I suddenly realized what it meant for Mary to “bring forth” a baby in a barn. I could vividly imagine the sheer physical endurance required for the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem—what was possibly a week-long walk through rough terrain plagued by bandits in the Judean wilderness (the quaint paintings of Joseph leading a donkey laden with a heavily pregnant Mary are somewhat less than accurate). They might have been able to travel 10 miles a day, but probably less since Mary was so obviously with child. If her feet were as swollen as mine were in my last month of pregnancy, waddling through the desert would have been extraordinarily difficult.

But she did it.

Having been raised in a Jewish home, Mary was almost certainly aware of the prophecies regarding the promised Messiah. And if she hadn’t been taught the promises, I’d guess that she looked them up after Gabriel’s visit where he told her she would give birth as a virgin to a Son, and that Son would save all of humanity from sin. She knew that the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem. Traveling to Bethlehem in her condition at that time of year was not a smart thing to do. Everyone probably advised against it.

But she did it.

She had enough faith in God to believe that His promises were true and that He would take care of her and her miracle Child. None of it made sense—a virgin giving birth? a Messiah being born in a stable of all places? —but that didn’t matter. She knew the promises and she believed.

Do you have something you are struggling to trust God for? You know the promises, you stand on His Word, but you still have doubts? Pause during this Christmas season to focus on Him. Ask Him to bring peace to your troubled heart. Then believe. You may not “feel” like you believe, but you can proclaim, “I choose to believe His Word is true. I choose to live in belief and not in doubt.” It’s not a magic incantation that will suddenly bring God’s promises to fruition. It’s a simple declaration, one that is not based on fear or “feelings.” Choose to believe. Then wait on the promises of God.

 

{sunday 12.22.19}

Read Luke 1:26-38, Luke 2:1-21

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Mary walked 90 miles through rugged Judean countryside while she was pregnant. What wilderness are you facing today? Remember the old joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” That’s how Mary walked through the wilderness, one step at a time. If you are facing a wilderness today, just take one step. Maybe it’s praying for strength to take the next step. Maybe it’s making a long overdue phone call. Maybe it’s pressing “Submit” on that online job application. Trust God and take one tiny step.

Why do you think Jesus was born in a stable? What significance does the stable have in the Christmas Story? What is its significance in your life? Jesus could have come to earth any way He wanted. And yet He chose to make His first appearance in a stable. Why? What difference does it make? Ponder these questions this coming week. Ask God to show you why the stable is such a big deal.

Traditionally, Mary is portrayed as a gentle, meek girl. Do you think this is accurate? Mary endured tremendous spiritual, emotional, and physical turmoil in a relatively short amount of time. She had an encounter with a real, live angel; she almost lost her fiancé because she was pregnant with a baby that wasn’t his; she faced the censure of her community and perhaps her family; she trekked 90 miles in a desert while pregnant; and, finally, she gave birth in a barn. To me, Mary sounds like a warrior. What do you think?

 

{advent bible reading plan: making space}

By Rhonda Stock

This week your daily Journey readings begin our reflections on advent. In this series, we will focus on verses that draw us to make space for Jesus in our lives.

Our Journey writers are working on daily mini-reflections and questions to help us process this week and throughout December as we make space together.

As you read the verses each day, make notes of questions you have about what you’re reading as well as answering the reflection questions below. Grab a friend or two to discuss what you are learning and what God is doing in your lives.

During this season, Seth Davidson’s Vlog, The Journey Online, will be offline, making space for what is coming in 2020! We offer these daily reflections in that space.

 

{monday 12.23.19}

Read Psalm 46:10-11

Observe, Reflect, Apply: It’s hard to find time for stillness during the Christmas season. As I write this, I have cookies to bake, and I have not yet wrapped a single present. I badly need a visit to my hairdresser (yes, this is my hair color—I paid for it, didn’t I?). So much to do in so little time. But that’s not the point of this blessed season. For this single moment, I will choose to “be still”. I will focus—just for this moment—on knowing God. I will think about how “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us”. I will be still. For this single moment.

 

{tuesday 12.24.19}

Read Ephesians 2:8-10

Observe, Reflect, Apply: It boggles my mind how much God loves me. I mean, totally and completely confounds me. Like most of us, I usually take His gift of love for granted, but when I take time to focus on His love—to focus on Him—I am blown away. His love is not based on anything I have done or could ever do (verse 9). I haven’t earned it. I don’t deserve it. And yet, He loves me. I am His masterpiece (verse 10a). He loves us so much that He planned “good things” for us “long ago” (verse 10b). I cannot understand such love, but I am so grateful for it.

 

{wednesday 12.25.19}

Read Luke 2:4-7

Observe, Reflect, Apply: When Mary left Galilee with Joseph, she had to know she was nearly full term, and the baby would most likely be born in Bethlehem. But she also was a good Jewish girl (unplanned pregnancy aside) who probably knew the prophecies regarding Israel’s promised Messiah. She knew Who was in her womb. She knew the promises. So, she submitted to the grueling 4-7-day journey over rough terrain, probably walking the whole way (if that doesn’t send you into labor, I don’t know what would). She sacrificed comfort and security to follow God’s plan, not just for her life but for all humanity. May we be as obedient to God’s call as this brave teenage girl.

 

{thursday 12.26.19}

Read Luke 2:8-16

Observe, Reflect, Apply: We all know the story of how an angel appeared to the shepherds to proclaim the Good News that Jesus, the promised Messiah, had been born. Luke 2:13 tells us that the angel was then joined by “the armies of heaven” who filled the sky praising God. In a sense, this was the literal fulfillment of Psalms 46:7 from Monday’s reading: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us”. The One Who commanded this vast host of angels, the One Whom these powerful beings served and worshiped, was here. The Creator had taken on the form of the created, in order to bring humanity to Himself. Then the shepherds said, “Let’s go” (Luke 2:15). That should be our response to this awesome News: He is here! He is with us! Let’s go and find Him!

 

{friday 12.27.19}

Read Isaiah 9:6-7

Observe, Reflect, Apply: Christmas is a time of reflection, a time of looking back at how Jesus came to earth to save all of humanity. But Christmas should also be a time of looking ahead, to ponder the revelation of Jesus’ return to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The Old Testament promised the Messiah would come—and He did. Both Old and New Testaments promise He will return—and He will. If we believe the first promise, we must also accept the second. And if we accept that Christ will return to “rule with fairness and justice…for all eternity” (Isaiah 9: 7), we must live accordingly. As we turn our hearts toward the new year, we must commit ourselves to live as though Christ’s second coming could happen at any moment. Are we ready?

 

{community discussion questions}

We weren’t meant to experience the life of Jesus alone, so we encourage you to rally a few others to discuss what you are hearing, reading, and reflecting on together. Whether you are meeting as a Journey Community group, talking with a few friends throughout the week, or bringing up spiritual conversations around your table at home, feel free to use some of these questions as conversation starters on your journey.

  • Can you name a takeaway or challenge from the Sunday message?
  • How has that been relevant, challenging, or meaningful to your life this week?
  • What have you observed about God, Jesus, yourself, others, or God’s plan for you from these readings?
  • Where do you need a breakthrough from God this week?
  • Who do you need to share what you’re learning about God with?

 

{extra journey resources}

CLICK HERE to visit The Bible Project site and explore their super simple, super informative Bible videos (and other resources).

CLICK HERE to get the Read Scripture App, from our friends at The Bible Project.

CLICK HERE for more on how to use the observe-reflect-apply approach to getting the most out of your Bible reading.

The Bible App Get a free Bible for your phone, tablet, and computer. Experience the Bible anywhere, with options to highlight, save notes, and share what you are reading with others.

Bible Gateway Provides advanced Bible searching capabilities, which allow readers to find passages in scripture based on keywords, phrases, or scripture reference.

 

Please visit us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and share what you are learning, questioning or experiencing. We love conversations!

 

© 2019 Heartland Community Church

12175 S Strang Line Road, Olathe, KS 66062

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