Faith Church

Love | Sermon from 12/9/2018

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Last week we were invited to make some time in our busy lives to take a journey.  While we start in places of darkness where we struggle with doubt, fear, failure, and depression, the light that appeared when Jesus was born leads us to places of hope because that light tells us that our lives and our world can get better.  The Wisemen followed that star because it told them that a king had been born in Israel, who was so great, and whose kingdom would be so good, that the heavens proclaimed his arrival.  The Wisemen followed the star with the hope of finding a better life, and a better world, because of the greatness of this new king.

We still follow that light, which is the light and light of Jesus, because we know that the life he offers is better than anything we can or will find in this world.  No matter how dark things seem appear in our lives, and in our community, and in the world around us, the light of Jesus life and love gives us hope that things can get better.  So the Wisemen set out on a journey, but it didn’t take a week, or a month, or even a year, it was a long journey that required patience, perseverance and commitment, but they kept going because they had this light of hope.

I hope this past week we have allowed God’s light to shine into our darkness to bring hope.  With the light of Jesus, with the understanding that God is always with us, our lives can get better – even if our situation doesn’t immediately improve, our lives can get better.  No matter what we are going through, knowing that God is with us can give us strength and peace, which makes things better.  Today, our journey continues, and to see where it leads us we once again need to go back to the star and ask an important question.  Why did God put a new star in the sky on the night Jesus was born?

Did God put the star there just as a message and guide for the Wisemen?  If God did it just for them, what an amazing gift, but maybe the star appeared because this work of God was so great that the heavens simply had to tell the story.  Have you ever been so excited about something that you just had to tell someone?  Have you ever gotten a message that was so good that you just had to share it?The bible says the heavens proclaim the glory of God.  Maybe the coming of the Messiah was so great an event that the heavens simply had to tell this story.  Either way, the work of God was on display for all the world to see, and the reason God shared it was because God loves the world.  John 3:16 says, God so loved the world that He gave his one and only son.  It was God’s love that sent Jesus, so it was God’s love that put the star in the sky to tell the world that the Messiah, the son of God, had come.

This morning we sang that love came down at Christmas, and it did,literally in the person of Jesus, but God’s love has been present in our world from the beginning of creation.The world was created in love.  God didn’t create the heavens and earth because he was bored.  It wasn’t a class assignment, science experiment, or an accident.  The world was created in love and we know that because at the end of each day of creation God stopped and said, this is good.  God created the world in love and then God loved the world.  Every star was created in love, and this special star that leads us to Jesus, also leads us to the knowledge of God’s love for each and every one of us.

But the love of God is not like any other kind of love we experience because God’s love is unconditional, undeserved, and unearned.  The Wisemen didn’t do anything to earn God’s love, they didn’t do anything special to deserve or receive God’s love, and they weren’t required to do anything in response to God’s love.  God’s love is unique in this way and because of its power, God’s love can change our hearts and lives.  Nothing more is needed.  God’s love is enough.

If we keep walking with God and allowing God’s love to shine into our hearts and lives, we will find that God’s love is enough.  It is enough to forgive our sin.  It is enough to ease our pain.  It is enough to fill the void of loss and heal our broken relationships.  It is simply enough, if we will allow it to shine into our hearts and lives, if we will open our hands and hearts to receive it.

Joseph was a man who was in need of God’s love.  He was engaged to Mary and his life looked like it was going in a good direction when out of the blue Mary told him that she was pregnant with God’s son.  I can’t begin to imagine the pain that Joseph must have felt in that moment.  There was the pain of betrayal, because Mary’s story was hard to believe.  There was the pain of loss, because his dreams for the future were now broken and gone.  There was the pain of fear, because this news was going to get around town and Joseph’sown reputation was going to suffer.  The world as Joseph knew it had come crashing down around him and he was afraid, and yet what he found was that God’s love was enough.

In a dream, this is what God said to him,Matthew 1:20b-21.  It was God’s love that reached out to Joseph to calm his fears, assure him of a good future, and show him his own place in God’s plan for the world.  God’s love was enough for Joseph, and it filled his heart and his life.  God’s love allowed Joseph to step out from his fear and into the future God had for him.  God’s love helped move him from darkness to light.  It was enough.

God’s love is always enough to move us from darkness to light.  No matter what we are going through, no matter how dark our present or future seems, the light of God’s love is enough because God’s love for us is deep and wide and high and strong.  God’s love is present today, it was there yesterday, and it will fill our tomorrow.  God’s love for us can never be shaken and it can never be broken.  This is what the Apostle Paul says about the love of Christ.  Romans 8:35-39

Notice that God’s love does not depend on our situation, our response, our worthiness, our faith, or our actions, the love of God simply comes into our lives because God loves, and God loves us.  If we keep walking with God and allowing the light of God to shine into our lives, we will find that God’s love is enough, in fact it is more than enough.

God’s love is more than enough to forgive.  It is more than enough to heal relationships.  It is more than enough to give us hope for the future.  It is more than enough to fill our lives with a sense of meaning and purpose no matter where we are or what we are doing.  It is more than enough, and the reason God gives us an abundance of His love is so that we would have enough to share with others.  God’s love flows into our lives and it is God’s plan that this same love then flows out of us to touch the lives of others.

God created the world because God wanted to share his love.  As children created in the image of God, part of our DNA is to share God’s love with others.  When we allow God to truly love us, we find that slowly God’s love flows through us into world.  John, the disciple whom Jesus loved more than any other, put it this way.

1 John 4:7-12

Joseph allowed the love of God to flow into his life.  Joseph followed God’s word and allowed God’s love to flow into Mary’s life, he took her as his wife.  Joseph loved her and loved the child she carried.  Joseph cared for Mary, led her on a journey to Bethlehem because she was now part of his family, and then he protected her during a dangerous time that followed.  Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt in order to escape the persecution of King Herod, and then Joseph led Mary and Jesus back to Nazareth, where he provided for them a good home.  God’s love was more than enough for Joseph, it spilled over to Mary and Jesus.

God’s love is more than enough for us as well.  There is more than what we need for the forgiveness of our sin, so we are able to forgive others.  There is more than enough for the healing of our broken hearts, so we can reach out and offer healing in our relationships with others.  There is more than enough to fill our lives with hope and purpose, so we can share that hope with others.  God’s love is not just enough, it is more than enough, which means we can share it with others.  So we need to ask ourselves:

Who needs the love of God that only we have to offer?

In all of our lives there are people that God wants to love and he wants to love them through us.  Who has God brought into our lives that needs to know that God loves them?  Who needs to know that God’s love can give them hope for a better life?  I want to invite you to think of a friend, neighbor, coworker, or even a family member that may need an invitation to experience the love of Jesus.  Can we allow God’s love to flow through us and simply invite them to attend Christmas Eve worship with us?  Don’t simply ask them to attend, invite them to come and sit with you so that the love of God can flow from your life into theirs.  Maybe this invitation card can help heal relationships and bring families together.  By sharing this card we are sharing the love and light of Jesus.

Studies show that most people will attend worship if they are simply asked by someone they know and love.  Can we allow the love of God to flow from our lives into the lives of others?  Can we allow God’s love to flow through us to those people in need in other places of the world, like Venezuela?

You may have read in the bulletin this morning that our Christmas Eve Offering this year is going to a church and community in Venezuela.  The reason we chose this mission is simply because of the overflow of God’s love.

A few years ago, God’s love some ballplayers from the State College Spikes moved through some members of our church.  They reached out to these players to offer love and support and in the process, they began to find out just how difficult life was at home for these players’ families.  Many of them came from Venezuela where life was, and still is, very difficult.  When we see pictures of Venezuela, it doesn’t look like the poverty and hopelessness we see in other parts of the world, but as we listened to these players talk, our hearts were moved.  This is what we heard and learned.

The world health organization has declared Venezuela to be in a food and medical care crisis, which means there is not enough food or medical care for the people.  Over the past few years, the food shortages have been so widespread and severe that the average person in Venezuela has lost 24 pounds due to hunger.  The inflation rate is in the millions which means that people are not able to buy some of the basic necessities of life.  For example, it is more economical for people to use their money as toilet paper than to use it to buy toilet paper.  For us, this would be like having 2 squares of toilet paper cost more than $1, so it would be cheaper to use the dollar bill as toilet paper.  This is the effect of hyper-inflation.

The economic breakdown of the country means there is often no electricity, which means there is not always clean or running water.  There wasn’t an earthquake or typhoon that destroyed communities and drew the attention of the world to the needs of these people, this has been a very slow economic, social and political breakdown of a nation that has left millions of people hungry, hurting and hopeless.  But God’s love started to flow into these Venezuelan ballplayers, and then God’s love developed deeper friendships, and then God’s love developed a process for us to securely send food, water filtration systems, daily hygiene supplies, and even medicine to those in need.  This year we want to support this work and as a congregation reach out to the people in Maracay, Venezuela, and provide them with what we can so God’s love to flow into their community.

All of the money we give as a church on Christmas Eve, and all the money directed to this offering, is going to be used to buy and ship resources that the people of this community have told us they need.  Literally, the pastor and the people of this church gave us a list of what they need.  This is truly an opportunity for us to share God’s love from person to person, family to family, and church to church.  This is our opportunity to give to a community who is struggling to stay at home and to stay together.  This is an opportunity for us to say to God and the world that God’s love is MORE than enough for us – which is why we are giving what we have and what we can to those in need.

This week, I invite you to keep going on this Advent journey.  Allow the love of God to fill you with light and hope.  Allow the love of God to be more than enough for whatever it is you need.  Allow the love of God to flow from you to those who need the love of God around you.  Allow the love of God to move you to give out of the abundance of what you have to those who are in need.  We can do this because truly, the love of God is more than enough.    

 

Next Steps

The Star – LOVE

 1. Take time each day to read one of these passages about the love of God.

  • Romans 8:31-39
  • 1 John 4:7-21
  • Isaiah 43:1-5
  • Zephaniah 3:14-17
  • Ephesians 2:4-10
  • Matthew 1:18-25 (God’s love for Joseph)
  • Luke 1:39-56 (God’s love for Mary)

 2.  Where do you need the love of God to fill your life with light and hope?  Ask God to fill you with His love.

3.  Who can you share God’s love with by inviting them to join you in worship on Christmas Eve?  Pray for this person/family and then share today’s invitation card with them.

4. In what ways can you share the love of God with those in need in our community?  How can you and your family share God’s love as part of this year’s Community Christmas Dinner?  Sign up in the lobby or online at bellefontefaith.com.  Help is still needed in the kitchen and dining room!

5. Set aside money each week to help share the love of God with those in need in Venezuela.  Offerings can be given on Christmas Eve, or anytime by marking your gift Christmas Eve Offering.  You can also give online at bellefontefaith.com/give.

 Come hear about God’s Amazing Grace and Love

at this afternoon’s Christmas Concert at 3:00 PM.

Sunday Morning

8:15 am: Traditional Worship Service with Nursery
10:45 am: Contemporary Worship Service with Nursery and Children’s Church

512 Hughes Street Bellefonte, PA 16823

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