“There is wonderful joy ahead.”
Candle Lighter: “You love him...”
Response: “…even though you have never seen him.”
Scripture: I Peter 1:3-11
3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.
8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.
Reader: The word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
The Peter writing this book is a very different one from the one who denied the Lord. At Pentecost, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and everything changed. In this short epistle, he is writing to believers who were living in a world where the culture scorned their faith, criticized their morality, and mocked their hope. They were regarded as a strange, superstitious people with an odd religion who refused to go along with the cultural norms of the day. They were often persecuted in economic and hostile ways even to the point of being pulled into court on trumped up charges because they would not adopt the values of the prevailing culture. The truth is, godly values convict manmade worldly values which in turn bring conviction and hatred for those who hold to God’s truth. It is their own heart which brings conviction resulting in lashing out. Does that sound familiar? But the one writing this epistle had seen Jesus and interacted with him. Peter addresses you and me in the above passage. Verses eight and nine are particularly encouraging. “You love him (Jesus) though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him…The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.” Think about it. We are trusting our very lives into the hands of someone we’ve never seen. From an earthly standpoint, that could seem foolhardy. But for a believer in Christ, it makes all the glorious sense in the world. The Holy Spirit attests to the reality of the Savior. This unseen Jesus is coming back. Have you noticed how often Paul, Titus, Timothy, and now Peter all refer to the return of the Lord in their correspondences? They want us to get the picture! Once again the implications of the birth of Jesus fulfilled lead right into the world we live today and …the end is still to come! Come Lord Jesus!
Music: Noel (African Spiritual) Concordia College Choir
We thank Thee, O God, for the return of the wondrous spell of this Christmas season that brings its own sweet joy into our jaded and troubled hearts. Forbid it, Lord, that we should celebrate without understanding what we celebrate, or, like our counterparts so long ago, fail to see the star or to hear the song of glorious promise. As our hearts yield to the spirit of Christmas, may we discover that it is Thy Holy Spirit who comes―not sentiment, but a power―to remind us of the only way by which there may be peace on the earth and good will among men. May we not spend Christmas, but keep it, that we may be kept in its hope, through Him who emptied Himself in coming to us that we might be filled with peace and joy in returning to God. Amen.
― Peter Marshall, US Senate Chaplain, December 19, 1947
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