WE MUST, ASK HIM TO COME AND BE THE CENTER OF OUR ADVENT
AND SO WE SING, O COME O COME EMMANUEL
EACH VERSE RESONATES WITH OUR GREAT NEED FOR CHRIST,
FOR SATAN STILL PROWLS,
OUR HEARTS ARE STILL DARK,
AND THIS WORLD IS STILL FILLED WITH PAIN.
BUT AT THE CLOSE OF EACH VERSE IS THE BRIDGE
TO THE GREAT HOPE AND JOY OF CHRISTMAS!
ONE OF THE HARDEST THINGS FOR A WOMAN TO DO AT ADVENT IS TO BE STILL —
BUT THIS IS HOW WE MUST BEGIN. LISTEN AND WATCH AND LET IT LEAD YOU INTO PRAYER:
UNLESS EMMANUEL COMES TO OUR HEARTS EACH DAY, THERE CAN BE NO SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS
UNLESS THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH RISES IN OUR HEARTS,
THERE CAN BE NO TRUE JOY
WE MUST MAKE OUR SOULS “HAPPY IN THE LORD” BY
MEDITATING ON HIS WORD UNTIL IT CATCHES FIRE
CLINGING TO HIS PROMISES IN THE MIDST OF LOSS,
AND REPENTING AND RECONCILING WITH ANYONE WHO HAS ANYTHING AGAINST US
SO INSTEAD OF BEGINNING ADVENT BY DECKING THE HALLS, LET US BEGIN MORE SIMPLY: BY ASKING EMMANUEL TO COME, ASKING HIM TO DISPEL THE DOUBT, THE GLOOM, AND TO LET HIS LIGHT SHINE ON THE PROMISES WE HAVE FORGOTTEN OR THE SIN WE ARE TOO BLIND AND STUBBORN TO SEE
I HAVE LEARNED, FOR I HAVE HAD SO MUCH PRACTICE, HOW TO GIVE A GOOD AND EFFECTIVE APOLOGY, ONE THAT USUALLY LEADS TO HUMBLING MY HEART AND TO RECONCILIATION.
I WANT TO TAKE YOU THROUGH THE STEPS OF A GOOD APOLOGY, AND TELL YOU HOW IT HELPED ME LAST WEEK, FOR ALREADY, MY ADVENT IS EXPERIENCING THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH WHICH ZECHARIAH SANG ABOUT. IT IS ZECHARIAH WHO DOUBTED GOD, BUT THEN DURING HIS TIME OF DISCIPLINE, REPENTED. WHEN GOD LOOSED HIS TONGUE HE SANG OF “THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH,” OR “THE DAYSPRING,” THE WORDS WHICH FIND THEIR WAY INTO
O COME O COME EMMANUEL.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
My prayer is that “the Sunrise from on high” will visit you this week. As you watch this rising sun, please pray the same for yourself, asking Him to dispel the clouds of doubt and to shine His light on your hidden sins and help you to respond in genuine repentance.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1ST. ICE-BREAKER
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
2. Was there a way you experienced “Emmanuel” this last Thanksgiving week? If so, share a snapshot in words.
3. Watch Ann Voskamp’s video for the first Sunday in Advent at http://www.aholyexperience.com/ and comment:
Monday-Tuesday: Zechariah’s Repentance
(Sing O Come O Come Emmanuel each morning, contemplating the words, and using it as a springboard for prayer before you begin.)
4. Read Luke 1:5-25
A. What do you learn about Zechariah in Luke 1:6?
B. How did Zechariah respond to Gabriel’s announcement?
C. If you are facing grief, what promises of God can you speak to your soul to dispel the clouds of gloom?
D. How did God discipline Zechariah? Why, do you think?
5. Read Luke 1:67-79
A. When God loosed Zechariah’s tongue after the birth of John the Baptist, what was the state of his heart? Why, do you think?
B. What does Zechariah call Jesus in verse 78? How is this a fitting name for Him? How has He been this in your life?
C. In Luke 1:79 find three things Jesus, the Sunrise from on High, will do.
Wednesday-Friday: RESPONDING TO THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH WHO LEADS US IN THE PATH OF PEACE
Listen to Trevor Wax on O Come O Come Emmanuel:
There are many ways The Sunrise from on high reveals our doubt, our sin. Last week He showed me that I needed to do what I could to be at peace with someone who was very angry with me. After stupidly entering into a political discussion on Facebook where emotions were running high, I angered a relative so much that he wrote me a long letter listing things he didn’t like about me and my family. I blistered. I built my defense. I tried to defend myself in an e-mail — asked if we could meet. He wasn’t interested. In my mind, the sin was primarily on his part, until the Sunrise from on high came to me. He worked through a brother’s testimony at church, through contemplating the Word, and through His Spirit.
6. What does Jesus say in Matthew 5:23-24?
This passage helps me understand why Tim Keller says “When there is a breech — it is always your move.” All it says is that if your brother has something against you, you should go and be reconciled. It doesn’t say how much of it has to be his fault, and it says to go in person and be reconciled. We may think our part if only 2%, but it is probably more, for our hearts are deceitful. But even if that is true, our part is to genuinely apologize for our part.
I knew I had to do it. I had to come out of the cleft and do what was right.
This time, instead of asking him if he would like to meet, I asked him if we could meet so I could apologize. Then he was willing. Honestly, I still thought he was primarily to blame, but I absolutely know that in an effective apology, you are to apologize and not defend yourself or accuse the other. We are not to fix other people (how how my control idol rises!) but to leave them to God. How can we possibly do that? If we have learned anything from our last study on The Song of Songs, it is that God is for us, that His banner over us is love. So allow God to be in control of your brother, of your reputation, and of justice. He asks you to come out of the cleft and do what is right. When James tells us to confess our sins to one another that we might be healed, I think that means it may lead to not only physical, but also spiritual and emotional healing. So as I asked God to shed His light on my dark heart, and He did. Before I went, I prayed through Psalm 51 multiple times and asked the Spirit to help me not defend myself or attack my brother. No sideways comments. No guilt trips. Just my honest confession.
I began, when we met, by my confessing my sin, my stupidity, and how it hurt him. I also spoke the truth, saying, “There was some truth in everything you wrote to me, but if you could really see the darkness in my heart, you would know you have only scratched the surface of my sin. And I am so sorry and I am asking for your forgiveness.” As I confessed, I broke, for I felt the weight of my sin, weight I had not really felt before. I knew that was the Lord. Then I was able to tell him things I appreciated about him, things he had done in love in the past. When we left, I sensed we were reconciled. Oh! The negative thoughts were gone, the energy the enemy was stealing was returned, and Emmanuel had come.
7. Based on the above, why should you go in person to apologize? Why not e-mail or Facebook?
8. Based on James 5:16, why should we confess our sins to one another — and perhaps especially the one who has something against us?
9. Why is an apology unraveled if you either defend yourself or attack the person to whom you are confessing?
10. Is there a way God is speaking to you?
11. What is your take-a-way and why?