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CrossPointe Community Church
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Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever. The land of Zebulun and Naphtali will be humbled, but there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles, which lies along the road that runs between the Jordan and the sea, will be filled with glory.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder. For you will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders. You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned. They will be fuel for the fire.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

Isaiah 9:1-7

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, 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. 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.

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 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. 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. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.

I Peter 1:3-9


Letter to a Man in a Fire

Randy K’Meyer

No matter how old we get or bah humbug we may be feeling, shortly after Thanksgiving we begin to sense a song in the air; I’m talking about the Christmas Spirit. We see it in the wide-eyed wonder of children whispering their deepest desires to a jolly old elf with a funny hat, a long white beard, and a fluffy red suit who will traverse the entire globe in a giant sleigh full of toys. We hear it in the ringing of the Salvation Army bell. We see it in those who have little . . . giving what they can. We experience the Spirit of Christmas in every shared joy and in every act of kindness during this most wonderful time of the year.

Yet, even in the midst of the joy of the Christmas season, many are susceptible to losing HOPE in the Christmas Spirit because they are going through the fire.

You received a notification yesterday. Your company is downsizing, you’re 50 and out of a job. You’re going through the fire.

You have a secret battle you wage every day. You struggle with addiction that impacts not only your life but also the quality of life of all those around you. You . . . and they . . . are going through the fire.

Your daughter just gave birth to a child who is experiencing severe renal failure.
Her kidneys are not functioning; the outlook is grim. You’re going through the fire.

You visit the doctor. You fear the worst; she confirms it. You’re going through the fire.

Because of any of the above or some other circumstance that you are enduring it’s possible your hope is giving way to despair, even in the midst of the joy of Christmas.

Several years ago, Reynolds Price, a professor at Duke University received a letter from a medical student who had been diagnosed with cancer. And he wrote to Price for solace since the professor had published a faith-inspiring account of his own recovery from spinal cancer a few years earlier. The young man was seeking a sign:

Dear Dr. Price: I want to believe in a God who cares I think I am at the point where I can accept the existence of a God but I can’t yet believe he cares about us. 1

Price assures this young man that yes, God exists, that He does care, that He allows for human suffering, and that He did not even answer His own Son’s prayer for deliverance in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus cried out, “Father, please take this cup of suffering away from me” (Mark 14:36). 2

Then he gives the young man and all of us a word of hope:

I believe that the resurrection of Jesus is, in however an unfathomable way, a visible palpable reality which holds extreme hope for us all. The Jesus who was unquestionably dead on Friday evening was alive on Sunday morning.” 3

After that student died, Price wrote a short book entitled Letter to a Man in the Fire, in which he summarizes the man’s dilemma this way: “Is there a God, and if so, does He care for us?” These are the questions of everyone going through the fire.”

In the 7th century BC, God’s people, who were going through the fire, were asking themselves, “Is there a God, and if so, does He care for us?”

In the midst of their despair, God sent a man who gave them a sign of hope. His name was Isaiah; Isaiah was close to God, so God was close to Him. And because he was . . . God gave him a word of hope.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel, which means God is with us.

Isaiah 7:14

Seven centuries later, Christians who were feeling the heat of persecution asked the same question: ‘Does God care about us?’ And they too received a sign of hope in the form of a letter written by a man named Peter in which he acknowledges that there will be tough times, but that does not mean that God has abandoned us. He councils that the last thing in-the-fire Christians should do is fall for the lie that God is absent. And he praises those people who stubbornly cling to their hope in God, in the midst of the trouble.

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. (I Peter 1:7b)

When the flames begin to lick at our heels we too seek for signs of hope, signs that God exists and that God cares.

Ken Gaub is a traveling missionary who still speaks all over America. A few years ago, he and his family pulled their vehicle off I-75 near Dayton. While his family ducked into a restaurant, he decided to take a walk. Sometimes even preachers get discouraged and wonder if they should give it up. As he walked he prayed, God, am I doing any good, traveling around like this, telling people about you . . . is this what you want me to do?

Just then, an outside pay phone at a gas station began to ring and ring and ring.
No one was answering it and so Ken walked over and answered the phone. “I have a person-to-person call for Ken Gaub,” came the voice of the operator. Ken began to smooth his hair for the candid camera crew nearby.
I have a person-to-person call for Ken Gaub,’ she repeated.
Operator, I’m Ken Gaub,’ Ken said, still unable to make sense of it.
Then he heard another woman’s voice on the phone, “Yes, that’s him operator, Mr. Gaub, I’m Millie from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you don’t know me, but I’m desperate, please help me.”
What can I do for you?” Ken asked feeling that he was in the Twilight Zone.

Millie told him she was about to kill herself and started to write a suicide note. Then she began to pray, and as she did, she remembered seeing Ken on TV. If she could just talk to that nice, kindly minister. “I knew that it was impossible because I didn’t know how to reach you. Then some numbers came into my mind and I wrote them down. I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had a miracle from God, and He has given me Ken’s phone number. So I just gave the operator the numbers and made it a person-to-person call.”

And somehow she had found Rev. Ken Gaub on a pay phone in Dayton, Ohio. A pastor who had been praying for a sign that God still cared about him.

Ken later wrote, “I walked away from that telephone booth with an electrifying sense of our heavenly Father’s concern for each of His children. What were the astronomical odds of this happening? With all the millions of phones and innumerable combinations of numbers, only an all-knowing God could have caused that woman to call that number in that phone booth at that moment in time. I headed back to my family, wondering if they would believe my story. Maybe I had better not tell this, I thought, but I couldn’t contain it. “Barb, you won’t believe this: God knows where I am!” 2

And God knows where each of us are right now at this very moment. He is Immanuel, God with us.

But what do we say to the countless number of people who wish upon a star asking God for a sign, but who never seem to get what they are looking for?

The writers of the New Testament want us to know that although God is powerful, He is also unpredictable. That He is concerned for our lives, but not likely to protect us from every form of suffering. Being a Christ follower does not mean everything will go smoothly; that the journey will be easy, or that the wind will always be at our backs. But we can have a confident expectation and trust that in the middle of those unwanted circumstances of life God is with us.

In his Christmas story, after the angel encourages Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins,” (Matthew 1:20-21) Matthew doubles down on Isaiah’s sign of hope:

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’

Peter promises his readers to believe that when it seems God is absent, He is really most present. That promise enables us to endure . . . yea, even rise above the most daunting . . . the most desperate circumstances! When impossibilities line up in front of us like a firing squad we simply must quiet our souls enough to hear Him say to us as He did Joshua: ‘Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9).

President Ronald Reagan loved to tell the story of a twelve-year-old farm girl who relentlessly begged her parents for a pony for Christmas. On Christmas morning she ran to the barn, hopeful of seeing one there. She flung open the doors; but alas no pony, only mounds of manure. The eternal optimist, she declared excitedly, “With all this manure around, there must be a pony somewhere!”

When life begins to feel (and smell!) like a barn full of manure, remember this: there IS a pony somewhere!

And His name is Jesus, Immanuel, which means God with us!

God is with us through thick and thin and I say the signs are all around us!

They are the people who do not receive the sign they were hoping for, yet still cling to the promise of the presence of God in Christ! THEY are the signs of hope . . . for their faith shines far brighter than gold.

They love Him even though they have never seen Him. And though they do not see Him now . . . they trust Him and they rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy and their reward will be the salvation of their souls.

I Peter 1:8-9

Why? Because despite the fire, they don’t give up their faith. They are not only heroes in their own right . . . they are signs for the rest of us.

Are you looking for a sign this Christmas that God is with us in the fire; need your faith strengthened so that you can get out of bed and face tomorrow? In addition to opening up your Bibles to these precious Christmas texts that affirm God’s presence with us, take a long look at those who are currently going through the fire and continue to hold their heads up because they know that God is with them.

Deborah Haumesser and her husband Shane are both signs of hope for the rest of us! ‘They love Him even though they have never seen Him. And though they do not see Him now . . . they trust Him and they rejoice with a glorious inexpressible joy and their reward will be the salvation of their souls (I Peter 1:8-9).

The truth of the matter is that we have already received the greatest and most wonderful sign that we could possibly receive: God became one of us! The omnipotent, in one instant, made Himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo. The creator of life being created. Imagine it: God as a baby!

This is what Christmas is all about! “They shall call His name Immanuel . . . which means God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).

So often at Christmas tears are intermingled with joy. But what the Bible tells us is it doesn’t have to be one or the other, tears or joy. Because God is with us, it can and should be, both; tears and joy.

God is with us! This is Christmas love.

A few Christmases ago, a church in Atlanta was honoring one of its pastors who had been retired for many years. He was 92 at that time and after a warm welcome he rose from his high back chair and walked slowly, with great effort to the podium. Without a note, he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself, and then quietly and slowly he began to speak.

When I was asked to come and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson ever learned in my 50-odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heartbreak and pain and sorrow paralyzed me was this: “Jesus loves me this I know. For the Bible tells me so.”

I have always noticed that adults also enjoy singing this song, so I have written an adult version that I hope will inspire you all.

Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.
Yes Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
‘Have no fear, for I am near.’
Yes Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

When my work on earth is done,
And life’s victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I’ll understand His love.
Yes Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

Christmas IS the most wonderful time of the year; there IS a song in the air because we celebrate the birth of the child who brought us His presence; where the compassion we seek is reflected in the eyes of the newborn Jesus, where the healing that we long for rests in those tiny hands, where the forgiveness that we crave rests quietly in the hay, where the love that we long for flows through His veins with every heartbeat, and the peace that we all yearn for is wrapped in those swaddling clothes.

1 Reynolds Price, Letter to a Man in a Fire, [New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, © 1999], Page 25.

2 Ibid., Page 62.

3 Ibid., Pages 72-73.

4 Ken Gaub, God’s Got Your Number, [Berkeley, California: New Leaf Press, © 1998]