That doesn’t sound very nice, now does it? Didn’t you play that game with each other when you were kids? You’d prank your brother or sister or friend on the playground… an unsuspected trip, or push, or shove. It was great fun, was it not, to pull the chair away from your buddy right before he sat down and cause him to stumble? Or am I the only childhood hoodlum reading this email? As we mature, we learn that pranks intended to be funny can hurt people, so we stop the shenanigans and act more civilized. So, when it was said that Jesus would trip you on purpose…um… what???
Oh, you didn’t read that in the Gospels? Well…let me show you… in Deeper Thoughts below.
· Next Up: Christmas Eve!! Invite your family and friends to join us on Sunday, December 24th for a wonderful day of Christmas celebration:
o 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning – a simple and laid-back experience as we worship and share together as a church family.
o 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening – two identical candlelight Christmas Eve services to usher in the Advent of Jesus, complete with a worship choir, special music, relevant teaching, and beautiful candlelight worship.
o IMPORTANT: Have you noticed that we’re getting pretty full these days around Mt. Hope? Based on historic patterns, we are expecting the 5:00 p.m. service to run out of space. We’ll have a small video overflow room set up, but if you have any ability to make your plans to attend the 6:30 p.m. service, it would be helpful to balance the building’s capacity.
· Don’t forget to spend some time with our weekly Mt. Hope Prayer Experience videos. Click here to see Sandra Cravens share her journey with prayer!
OK, it’s pretty simple today for you email skimmers and you who have never pulled a prank. Ever. BUT…
Some Deeper Thoughts…
I can’t even begin to explain myself or defend it. It made absolutely no sense, nor do I have any idea what I was thinking.
It was move-in day, freshman year of college. I was rooming with a high school buddy of mine and one other fellow we’d never met. We had all three settled our belongings into the dormitory room that was just a tad smaller than my current closet at home. And now it was time to go to dinner. I guess we were all nervous, being college freshmen and never out on our own before. My buddy was sitting on the edge of the bed tying his shoes, and for a split second, I thought it would be funny to kick him in the side of the head. My teenage impulses proved stronger than my humanity, so I fulfilled the idea. Hard.
He did not think it was funny.
(Nor do I, now. “Boys will be boys,” as the saying goes, surely has its roots in such ill-conceived tomfoolery!)
You probably missed where Jesus engaged in similar mischief in the Gospels. You’d be correct—I can’t think of anywhere where Jesus is said to have kicked his buddy in the side of the head just for kicks and giggles (did you see what I just did with that?).
But there are a few places where it was said of Jesus that he would trip people up.
And it wasn’t a prank.
It had to have been an overwhelming and magnificent day. Jesus was just five weeks old. Mary and Joseph took him to the temple to dedicate him to God as the Law of Moses prescribed. Just seeing the grandeur of the temple alone would have been a bewildering sight for this simple backwoods couple from the hill country some ninety miles to the north. Add to it all the big-city sights, smells, and sounds. Then in the temple, the choirs and incense and pomp and circumstance. Oh, what an experience!
An old, saintly man approached them. You’ve probably met a man like this before—you can just tell he knows God. The sweetness of his spirit. His gentleness. Yet his eyes fierce with passion and clarity. His name was Simeon, and the scriptures record that “the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25).
As he took the baby Jesus in his arms, he declared that his eyes were seeing the salvation of all mankind, that peoples from all over the world would see a great light, and that Israel would once again be glorified.
“The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him,” Luke records. (Luke 2:33).
And then he told them that Jesus would intentionally trip people.
“Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother: ‘This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that is spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” And just in case those words weren’t troublesome enough, he capped them off with a direct word for Mary: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).
These are the parts we leave out of the Christmas story because they don’t match the warmth, beauty, comfort, and peace with which we associate this season. In the words of one commentator, the story of a precious baby in a manger “has in it an unexampled loveliness” that we “revel in…with a kind of pleasant satisfaction.” Babies are innocent, precious, lovely. Even more so a baby born with such joyful announcement that drew the attention of angels, shepherds, Magi, and aged saints.
But the reality of what Jesus had come to do was anything but warm and peaceful.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth,” the adult Jesus would later say. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Say what?? The angels had proclaimed the night of his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men…” (Luke 2:14). So, which is it? Peace or a sword?
Or is it both?
This Sunday, we’re continuing our Advent teaching series called, “Would You Like a Savior?” We are looking at what a savior really is, and from what we need to be saved. Simeon prophesied that Jesus would cause people to trip and fall (read Luke 2:25-35). So did the prophet Isaiah (read Isaiah 8:13-17). The Apostle Peter echoed the sentiments after he had known and lived with Jesus for several years (read 1 Peter 2:4-8).
In the course of saving us, Jesus intends to trip us up. It is not to be a prank. It is not to hurt us. It is to ultimately bring us the peace and joy of his salvation. But it requires that we bump into--and sometimes trip over—some very important truths.
Shall we meet on Sunday and explore them together?
He loves you far more than you can ever imagine. Sherri and I are following Him in loving you too…for you are so greatly worth it….
Mt. Hope Pastor