Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon,Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy— wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
And we, those who have available to us and have lived in abundant reconciled life, wish to whine often about how hard it is to stay faith-filled?
What surely the cry, “O come, O come Emanuel” must have meant to those who waited for him, truly waited for him. What that cry must have meant to their very depths of their being.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Singing the carol of the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
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.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.
O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
For when we sing the carol, we sing not for ourselves for we have the King, we dwell with Emanuel, our life is abundant. We sing instead to remember, remember when those who did not yet have a life reconciled lived for the promise to come. Then we sing only for ourselves that we ought to remember the admonition from Hebrews 12:1 to live rightly, to live as those reconciled ought, remembering those who lived so with only the promise. For we have the fulfillment of the Promise.
And we sing for those who have yet to come to Him who has come. For those who don’t yet understand the vacuum in their soul and their true need.
The passages used today come from Hebrews 11 and 12.
And now a word from our sponsor…..
Like, nay, love, the gift you are given! It is a gift! You didn’t pay for it, it was freely given to you. The giver thought of you, purchased, made, or withdrew from the bank, your gift as they thought of you. Thought of you! And they did so during this particular season because He first loved us and gave Himself to us. What would you think, truly think of the person who stood in the ethereal return line and dared to say as they approached the counter, “uh, yeah, I don’t really like this Gift. I’d like to get mySelf something better.”
If it doesn’t fit, the only reason to not keep and cherish a gift meant for you, if it truly doesn’t fit, find someone who has bigger needs than you, and wrap one of their needs that you provide inside this gift that someone gave freely to you that accidentally does not fit you. And then say nothing to the original giver, save that you loved the gift and put it to great use! But mostly… Get over yourself and your shallow needs, to be cool, swank, hip, classic, color-coordinated, up-to-date. Stay out of the return lines! Seriously!