198. Christmas Communion

[Christmas 2020]

What would you choose as a gift this Christmas?  Do you feel that Christmas has been stolen from you or cancelled just because you cannot make merry in the same way you always do?  The tiring old story of the virus just does not go away.  It rages on into “my” December.  I like December – always.  My birthday is in the first week and usually a time for reflection and the beginning of celebration.  Just this week new regulations are announced to ban all gatherings.  The hospitals are fuller, people die – it is not over.

One of the Scriptures that always encourages me through hard times is Hebrews 10:36 and 39.  The words raise your spirit to embolden your confidence in God and his Word. 

 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

Endurance and patience are often used as interchangeable in the Bible.  It denotes constancy, perseverance,  continuance, steadfastness and bearing up.  The Greek for endurance is hupomone.  It is a combination of hupo = under and mone = to remain.  It describes the capacity to bear up under difficult circumstances not with a passive complacency but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resist weariness and defeat. [Spirit-Filled Life Bible]

The reward for this kind of trust in God in difficult circumstances is to receive the promise. We do not live for defeat or in defeat.  We live for victory and in victory, even while bearing up.  We actively resist weariness.  

Bad news has a way to make us physically tired.  It is only the Word of God that can energize us to look forward into the future with the vitality that can only come from the One who said I am the Resurrection and the Life…

We have to choose LIFE.  We cannot draw back to perdition and death.  The solutions to all hardship are available in this life through God.

The promise that we will receive is a vast subject for continuing study.  Ask God for specific promises for your life.  He promised that nothing will separate us from his Love (Romans 8).

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  (John 10:28,29)

Know this Word,  think this Word, memorize this Word – it must flow off your tongue in any and every circumstance.

The church is active and alive and able to bring resolution to the world only when it operates in revival mode.  This is first and foremost our prayer for 2021.  Revival is seen as the restoration of the church itself to a vital and fervent relationship with God after a period of moral decline. Mass conversions of non-believers have positive moral effects. 

When the Spirit of God brings bona fide spiritual revival to the Church, it is often not only an astounding but also an overwhelming experience for those who are part of it.  During times of spiritual awakening God’s Spirit works so powerfully in people’s lives that previously-careless non-Christians become intensely convicted of their sins and cry out to God for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Christians, too, earnestly repent of their sins and are tremendously quickened in every area of their spiritual lives—worship, prayer, study of Scripture, holy living, evangelism, service and more.

Such periods of revival have sometimes been so overwhelming that they have not always been neat and orderly. Revival is sometimes called the Great Disruption. But, because genuine revival is the work of God’s Spirit, it always produces truly spiritual results that are in keeping with God’s will as revealed in His Word.  The guideline is always the written Word of God in your hand.

The Scripture for REVIVAL and prayer this year.

“Rain down, you heavens, from above,
And let the skies pour down righteousness;
Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation,
And let righteousness spring up together.
I, the Lord, have created it.
   (Isaiah 45:8)

This is the content of our prayers for this decade.  Let us read it in a few other translations.

“Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. (ESV)

I will send victory from the sky like rain; the earth will open to receive it and will blossom with freedom and justice. I, the LORD, will make this happen.” 

(Good News Version)

“Open up, heavens, and rain.
    Clouds, pour out buckets of my goodness!
Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation;
    sprout right living.
    I, God, generate all this.
  (The Message)

Revival is a setting right, a re-calibration of the entire church of Jesus to be equipped and invigorated for the demands of brokenness and the destruction and defeat that evil works.

Let us then carefully consider the words of Advent for our Christmas Communion.  When we take the bread and the wine, we declare that Jesus came to BE the content and meaning of these amazing words: 

Hope, love, joy and peace

HOPE

The way we conceive the future sculpts the present. It gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day. If our sense of future is weak we live listlessly.

Hope is a response to the future, which has its foundations in the promises of God. It looks at the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety into the future, but instead believes that God’s promise gives the proper content to it.

But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present; it is a stance in the present, which deals with the future. As such it is misunderstood if it is valued only for the comfort it brings; as if it should say, everything is going to be all right in the future because God is in control of it, therefore relax and be comforted.

Hope operates differently. Christian hope alerts us to the possibilities of the future as a field of action, and as a consequence fills the present with energy.

 Eugene Peterson: Living the Message.

LOVE

Love is a word to which Christianity gave new meaning.  Outside the New Testament it rarely occurs in existing Greek manuscripts of the period.  

Agapé denotes an undefeatable benevolence and unconquerable goodwill that always seeks the highest good of the other person, no matter what he does.

It is the self-giving love that freely gives without asking anything in return and does not consider the worth of the object.

Agapé is more love by choice than love by chance (philos).

Agapé describes the unconditional love of God for this world. It does not need a chemistry, affinity or a feeling.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

FOUR LOVES:  CS Lewis

JOY

Joy describes the jubilation and joyful shouting when wickedness is eliminated. Can you imagine a dancing and singing God?  Get your mind around it.  God is not a bearded old man sitting in judgment.  He is a rejoicing dancing being – the Source of love, joy, peace and hope.  He is fully alive and active.

God dances over his beloved, with singing and a shout of joy.   He jumps up and spins around, leaping for joy. (Zephaniah 3:17)  

This is what a commentary writes:

What a wonderful rush of exuberant gladness there is in these words! The swift, short clauses, the triple invocation in the former verse, the triple promise in the latter, the heaped together synonyms, all help the impression. The very words seem to dance with joy.

We are often told, too, that the Jehovah of the Old Testament is a stern and repellent God, and the religion of the Old Testament is gloomy and servile. But such a misconception is hard to maintain in the face of such words as these. 

 [MacLaren’s Expositions]

Joy is not just a quiet, inner sense of well-being, but it can be that too. (Habakkuk 3:18)

The expression of joy could be a loud noise with instruments and dancing, completely independent of circumstances.  It is looking up into the face of the KING, when nothing else matters than the shekinah glory of God himself.

IMAGINE – God singing and God dancing.  Pause for a while and absorb the image.

Joy indicates feasting.  The feasts of the Old Testament whereby the Israelites had to celebrate God and all his wondrous works, were joyful occasions full of music, singing and dancing.  

Starting from the day you put the sickle to the ripe grain, count out seven weeks. Celebrate the Feast-of-Weeks to God, your God, by bringing your Freewill-Offering—give as generously as God, your God, has blessed you. Rejoice in the Presence of God, your God: you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite who lives in your neighborhood, the foreigner, the orphan and widow among you; rejoice at the place God, your God, will set aside to be worshiped(Deuteronomy 16: 9-11, The Message)

PEACE

SHALOM (Nahum 1:15) and EIRENE (Luke 1:79) are the Hebrew and Greek words for peace.

The words denote completeness, wholeness, health, welfare, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation and discord.

When we pray for peace we lift the limits of our lives, in other words all the hindrances and stumbling blocks.  To be complete perfect and full, filled up with God himself so that no sin can limit our existence.

The angels understood that the birth of the Messiah would be the great peace-bringer as they called out: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.

Absolute perfect well-being is what peace works in us.   EIRENE includes harmonious relationships between God and men, in families and between nations.

The source is Jesus.  Jesus gives PEACE.  It is part of salvation.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  (John 14:27)

Peace drives out all anger and fear.

This is what Christmas is all about.  Evil does not stand a chance when we walk in the Advent-principles. 

Jump up and dance.  Sit down and pray.  Think upon these words when you eat the bread and drink the wine of your communion.

Be greatly blessed this Christmas.

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