Believe, The Mystery of God’s Will

Believe, The Mystery of God’s Will

Jane Shelton, CRE; January 2, 2022

2nd Sunday of Christmas

First Presbyterian Church Valdosta

 

 

Happy New Year!

 

It’s so good to be with you here at the beginning of this New Year!  I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, and had time to sit and reflect; hopefully, time to ponder the new life we are promised as we celebrated the birth of Baby Jesus.

 

Looking back a minute over the Advent Season, we remember the beautiful words of Advent:  Hope, Love, Joy and Peace.  No doubt, words only experienced fully through the grace of God.

Today, I want us to think about another word.  This is also a word we see a lot through the Christmas season, although it is not an Advent word we celebrate.

 

It’s on our shirts and towels, on our mantles and walls.  It’s in the songs we sing and cards we read.  You may have seen it flashing in the window in neon.  This word is often told to children about Santa Claus, or the magic of Christmas.

 

This word, most importantly, however, is found in the Apostle’s Creed that we often recite as our Affirmation of Faith on Sunday.    The word is…..Believe.

 

Believe.  What are we to believe?  The magic of Christmas?

 

Could that magic be the miracle story of the Christ child.  Can we and do we believe in the mystery and joy of a savior born.  Can and do we believe in the love God has for us and a hope of a life eternal….. Believe.

 

Today, let’s BELIEVE a step further.  Let’s go back in history to a time of joy, praise and dancing.  All the way back to Jeremiah when it is told the Lord gathered his people and provided them with his bounty so they might be satisfied and never languish again.  The Lord turned their mourning into joy and replaced their sorrow with comfort so that the people rejoiced and danced and were merry.

 

Be radiant over the goodness of the Lord for your life shall be like a watered garden.  What a beautiful statement.  Be radiant over the goodness of the Lord……

 

Now even if you are not a sophisticated gardener, you all have experienced a wilted plant that looks as if it is going to die, and you make that last ditch effort to save the wilted plant by adding a little water.  Maybe you place the plant in an area to receive more light, or add a little fertilizer for nourishment.  Maybe you talk to it.

And what happens?  The flower springs back to life!  It becomes radiant in the goodness of it’s caretaker.

 

We are those plants in the care of our Lord.  It is from him we receive his goodness so that we shine and become radiant.  Because of his light within us, we languish no more.  However, it is important that we remember when we begin to wilt, when we get beat down, that we must look to the Lord’s goodness to be revived.  We must believe so that we know where to turn in times of sorrow and disappointments.

 

In our New Testament scripture in Ephesians, Paul reminds us to Believe.  Believe in God the Father who sent his son, Jesus Christ, to again save his people.

 

Believe that our Lord chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.

 

Because of the good pleasure of God’s will, he blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.  And note, it’s not one or two spiritual blessings, but EVERY spiritual blessing.

 

So what are spiritual blessings?  According to Ephesians 1, God’s redemptive blessings are “according to” God’s good pleasure, his grace, his purpose, and his will (Eph 1:5,7,9,11).  God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.  It is our inheritance because he loved us and bestowed this blessing upon us through his grace.

 

I picked up a new book this Christmas by Stephen Mitchell, titled “The First Christmas, A Story of New Beginnings.”  In his book, Mitchell takes on the characters of each of those at the Nativity, including the ox and the donkey.  He writes, not only from the Christian perspective, but also for Jews and Muslims, taking the stories back to the time of the birth of Jesus.

 

The chapter, however, that drew my attention and became thought provoking for me, is the story from Joseph’s perspective, or Yosef as he is called in Mitchell’s book.

 

As you would expect, the chapter on Joseph reflects on when Mary comes to tell Joseph of her pregnancy and Joseph’s reaction to this news.  How he struggles with his disbelief, his anger and his doubts about the woman he is in love with and to be married.

 

Then Joseph was visited by the angel telling him to marry Mary.  Being a man of God’s word which he had dedicated his life to living, he realizes that all the agitation and despair of the previous day had come from his lack of trust.  Indeed, his own thinking had created the dreadful barrier between himself and Mary.

 

Once Joseph was able to trust that God was leading both his and Mary’s path in life, he could even rejoice in the news of a great birth that was to come.  He would adopt the child in his heart.

 

Adopt the child in his heart….is not this the same message we have from God?  Just as God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love, he destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.

 

Why?  We are adopted by God according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestows on us.

 

We have redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ because God willed it.  Not because of anything that we have done, but because God desired it be so.

 

Because we have been forgiven and provided an inheritance, and because we believe, we are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  This is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s will of his goodness for us, we are his FOREVER.

 

By the Holy Spirit, we are showered with wisdom and insight, hearts that have been enlightened to know the hope to which we are called.  We have been created for good works, and don’t misunderstand…we do not have salvation by our good works, but God’s purpose for us is that we do good works so that others may see the light as we have seen.  That others may know there is good in the world.  And, boy, do we need a lot of Light to shine these days!

 

Believe, be the Light, so that others believe and we become a community of believers.

God has revealed to us the mystery of his will, all we have to do is Believe.  Believe in the birth of Jesus, God’s only son.  Believe in the goodness of God’s will to have the fullness of time through his son Jesus Christ.  Believe in God’s word of truth and the gospel of your salvation.  Believe you are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.  Believe in your inheritance given you by your Heavenly Father.

 

We have the Light….we just need to remember to let it shine bright!