Summary: How focusing on Christ cheers me up even in the midst of the mess of life.
"I have told you this, so that you might have peace in your hearts because of me. While you are in the world you will have to suffer. But CHEER UP! I have defeated the world! Jesus - John 16:33 (CEV)
The topic today is “How to Cheer Up,” so I thought I would begin by reading some excerpts from some of the “Dear Jesus” letters written by the kids who were here on Wednesday night.
Instead of a “Dear Santa” letter I asked them to write a “Dear Jesus” letter. We talked about the Christmas story and then I asked them to tell Jesus what they wanted for Christmas in a letter.
Kent Richardson, age 11: “Dear Jesus, I would like for the homeless to have clothes and food. I would like to have the game, ’Guitar Hero.’ I would like to get some clothes and for people to stop being selfish. I would like for everyone to have a great Christmas.”
Calvin Bush, age 10: “Dear Jesus, Please help the homeless to have shelter. I would like more arrows for my bow and for everyone to have money.”
Preston Taylor, age 5: (I had to write Taylor’s answers down for him but here are few of the things he asked for) “Dear Jesus, I wish you a Merry Christmas! (That’s priceless!) Here’s what I want for Christmas: a motorcycle, a big toy truck, a stuffed animal, a toy fire truck, and a toy train.”
Brandy Lusk, age 12: “Dear Jesus, Please help my pet bird’s wing to heal. I would like some drums for Christmas, a Game Boy, my mom needs new glasses, ‘to-go’ food, a wiener dog, and for Pastor Brian to have a white Christmas.”
Brittney Lusk, age 12: “Dear Jesus, I wish for Christmas a Game Boy with games, to help the homeless and the needy with food and clothes, and for everyone to have a tree for Christmas.”
Chris Lusk, age 13: “Dear Jesus, I would like to have a Play Station 3, puppies, a snake, a million dollars, for people to stop showing violence in movies and stop taking drugs, for Pastor Brian to have a good Christmas, and for everybody to have a reindeer.
Presley Taylor, age 11: “Dear Jesus, I want everyone in the world to have a good Christmas. Give a miracle to the people who don’t have any money. Help me to become a black belt in karate and become first place in a karate tournament. Last time I got fourth place in the tournament and only got to fight boys.”
I hope those cheer you up. They certainly cheer me up.
We’re also going to look at something in the Word of God today that will cheer you up!
We’re beginning this year’s Christmas series today but we’re not going to be reading the traditional Christmas story. Instead we’re going to be looking at a letter written to Jews who started following Christ in the First Century. It’s called the Book of Hebrews.
The recipients of this letter were living in the midst of chaos. Specifically, their lives were being shaken by persecution and all the heartache and headaches associated with it. They were discouraged and disillusioned. In fact, they had been thinking about turning back, turning back to their old way of living, turning back to their former religious practices.
All of us have entertained ideas of turning back. We’ve all faced the temptation to be dejected, depressed, pessimistic and hopeless. That’s because we all face chaos in our lives. Sometimes life is confusing. Sometimes life seems disorganized. Not always, but sometimes. So our theme verse this month is going to be Hebrews 12:2 (NLT): “Keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”
We’re going to keep our eyes on Jesus all this month of December because that’s the key to finding calm in the chaos. We’re going to lift Jesus up! We’re going to look at how wonderful He is and we’re going to look at all the wonderful things He has done and is doing and is going to do!
If I want to find calm in my chaos I’ve got to consistently focus my faith on Christ. That’s a great theme for the Christmas season and one of the reasons its such a great time of year. One of the reasons the season is so joyous is because it’s all about Jesus and how God became man. When I give more attention to Jesus and concentrate less on the chaos in my life – I have more joy.
The original readers of the Hebrew letter weren’t joyful. They were being persecuted for following Christ. Their old Jewish friends and family didn’t like it because they left their old religion. And the Romans didn’t like Christians because they worshipped only one God. The Romans worshipped scores of gods. So the Jewish Christians were criticized, ostracized, and terrorized by Jews and Gentiles alike. They lived a hard life so they were tempted to turn back. They had been entertaining thoughts of giving up on their Christian faith.