Yep.. it is that time of year again. Our tree is up, and my wife has already been playing lots of Christmas music around the house. We made it through Thanksgiving, and are looking forward to Christmas, and the new year.
MOST of our holiday time is happy, but SOME of it is definitely stressful. Can you relate? How do you find hope in the holidays?
Have you made your plans for Christmas Eve? We are having four services to be as accessible to everyone as possible. All four services are the same, so all you have to do is pick one.CHRISTMAS EVE
Message Discussion Questions
As we are wrapping up the Year of the Bible, we will be changing our Lifegroup discussion format back to message discussion, rather than reading discussion on this blog. IF YOU PREFER to discuss your reading, please do so.
We’re in the holiday season now. How did everybody’s Thanksgiving go?
What (if anything) about the holidays stress you out?
Do you have a crazy/funny/bad/awesome holiday story?
Joseph had a Christmas story to tell, didn’t he? He had a lot to stress about right before the very first Christmas.
Think about Joseph’s life up to this point. He was likely a young man, a carpenter, that had recently become engaged. What do you think Joseph’s life goals were? What was he wanting in his life?
But then, something happened…
Matthew 1:18 (NLT)
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is so easy for us to take this story for granted… But you have to remember that this was pre-New Testament. Pre-church. Pre-Christianity. This was no familiar story. How do you think any engaged man would typically react to the news that his fiancee had just become pregnant?
What did this situation threaten in Joseph’s life? How might this news affect his personal life?
Joseph’s culture was very strict about these things. How do you think this situation could threaten his status in his community? His business?
Overall, do you think that this situation could have caused stress for Joseph?
Matthew 1:20–21 (NLT)
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
So, Joseph has a decision to make. He has to decide to do what would seem to be the obvious, logical thing… Or to trust God in this situation. How difficult of a decision would this be for you? Why?
In essence, God is saying, “work with me on this, Joseph. I have a plan here. I know it doesn’t seem like it makes sense right now. You’re just going to have to trust me.”
As you think about the holiday season, and the things that will typically stress you out, what do you need to trust God with?
This year of the Bible has presented us story after story of people who trusted God despite obvious, logical reasons NOT to trust him. The writer of Hebrews gives us a brief recap of some of them. See how many of these you remember from early in this year’s reading:
Parts of Hebrews 11 (NLT)
It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.
It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God. And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.
It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.
It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.
It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.
It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.
It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.
It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.
It was by faith that the people of Israel went right through the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground. But when the Egyptians tried to follow, they were all drowned.
It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
It was by faith that Rahab the prostitute was not destroyed with the people in her city who refused to obey God. For she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.
How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.
If these can trust God for His plan, how much more can we trust Him?
Like Joseph, and like each of these listed in Hebrews 11, we have no idea what is on the other side of our decision to trust God. Who knows what could happen when we choose Him?
Hebrews 12:1–2 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
How can I begin to trust God for the difficulties and stress of this holiday season?