Hi, this is Bernie Dake. You're listening to the Salvation Army's Words of Life. Welcome to Words of Life and Merry Christmas.
How are you, Cheryl? I love this time of the year. It is a wonderful time of the year, and we are starting our new five-week series today. This series is unique because each of these messages were written by a different Salvation Army officer from around our territory, and we've asked our friend Bethany Farrell to be the voice of Christmas for Words of Life. While you hear a different tone and perspective with each episode, all these writers did such a good job highlighting the real-life experience of the birth of our Savior, specifically through the eyes of Mary and Joseph.
This week's episode was written by Major Rick Ramer. And if you know Major Rick Ramer, you'll know that he is a lover of the Lord. He's a man that is full of joy. There's always a smile on his face, but he lives with incredible pain. He has a debilitating back issue that is unbelievable, but when you see him, there's nothing but the joy of the Lord on his face. And I'm grateful for him, so I am looking forward to hearing this episode myself.
Right. And we know that the episode is all about anticipation, right? Anticipation of, of course, as we read through the Christmas story, Christ's first entrance into the world, but then also the anticipation of His return.
I don't know about you, Bernie. I'm pretty sure I do know, but I'm extremely excited about Christ's return. Of course, we hope for heaven. That's my goal. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to make it to heaven. But I do enjoy family and community here on earth, but we have a purpose while we're here, which in the grand scheme of things, of course, is such a small point, small period of time. Anticipation towards those days are certainly that thing.
I don't know how to explain it. Well, when I think of Rick in particular, who wrote this particular episode, I mean, like you said, he lives with so much pain, but I am sure he has such anticipation of that day when he sees Jesus face to face and that pain is gone. That's the hope we have in Jesus.
I mean, that's part of the hope, right? Even when he just talks about biblical things. He gets so excited. There's something about his relationship with the Lord that is authentic.
That's the anticipation. He wants others to know that and to experience that same feeling of anticipation of what is to come. I'm so blessed by his life and I hope that the listeners really enjoy what the Lord has spoken through them. But let's not forget that Bethany is the woman reading these scripts and honestly, Bethany is salt of the earth. She is someone that I got to work with for years when I was in the music department and she's a creative soul. She's a daughter, a wife, a mother of four beautiful kids and she also has a passion for the Lord.
So I can't wait to see what she does with Rick's words. We hope that you'll be encouraged by this message this week and we pray that as you are, you will know that that is the joy of the Lord speaking from us to you. The morning star is dawning. Heaven and earth rejoicing. Glory in the highest.
Oh, and it's shining. Promise of the Savior. Holding back the night. Bring the light of day. Your eyes to see our King. To deliver us. The light has come.
No more wandering in darkness. Our hope is well among us. The child comes to save us. The child comes to save us.
The child comes to save us. I hate to wait for anything. For example, traffic drives me crazy. Over the years, especially living in Atlanta, I've had to work on my road rage. Sometimes I pray over the other drivers, but most of the time I just pray they'll get out of my way. I hate standing in long lines at the grocery store.
They have like a hundred registers and only two of them are open and their self-service registers are broken. And then there are the more serious things like waiting for the doctor to call about the test results they ordered. Anticipation of the news wells up as the tears come down. Sometimes waiting is awful. However, some things are worth waiting for, like waiting for a fresh baked cookie to come out of the oven or meeting the love of your life.
The countdown to Christmas and the coming of the Messiah. The anticipation is exciting. Someone once said, anticipation is a valuable emotion. It can allow us to gain pleasure from something in the near future before the event even occurs. We can anticipate an exciting new job, a date night with our spouse, and a well-earned vacation after a hectic quarter. Anticipation is delicious and exciting. And unlike happiness or fulfillment, it's quick and easy to generate.
You need do nothing more than just think of something you're looking forward to. So as we look towards Christmas Day and meditate on Jesus's birth, you and I should always be mindful and excited about Jesus's return. In Acts chapter 1, verses 9 through 11, the message version, Jesus had just finished saying his final words on earth to his followers.
Here it is. These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared in white robes. They said, you Galileans, why do you just stand there looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly and mysteriously as he left. His followers must have been expecting something else because they couldn't take their eyes off the sky from where Jesus had just disappeared. Then the two angels appeared and reminded them that he would come again. I believe that was when the anticipation began for his followers.
When I was a kid waiting for Christmas or my birthday to come around again, I was so excited and more so the closer it got. That's how we should be now as it relates to waiting with great anticipation for Christ's return. We hear many people talking about the end of time and even making predictions of when this day will happen. The Jehovah Witnesses have made nine claims that Jesus's return would occur in 1874, 1878, 81, 1910, et cetera, et cetera. In 1988, many Evangelical Christians looked rather foolish when they were seduced by Edgar Weisenand's 88 Reasons Why the Rapture is in 1988. Not to be outdone, New Age advocates cited Mayan calendars and predicted the end would come on December 21, 2012.
They, of course, were wrong too. Jesus addressed issues related to the end times in what is often called the Olivet Discourse, delivered on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. This can be found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke chapter 21. We don't see Jesus encouraging us to set dates or identify the Antichrist, the false prophet, or the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Rather, he admonishes us to be on our guard.
This is what we read in Mark. But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ, or Look, he is there, do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible even the elect. But take heed.
See, I have told you all things beforehand. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray, for you do not know when the time is.
So in other words, stay awake. Only God knows when the end will come. And since the end will come suddenly, we must remain constantly faithful in our service to our Heavenly Father.
Considering those verses, it won't be easy, but it will be worth it all when we see Jesus face to face. We see example after example in the scriptures of this word anticipation, from the Old to the New Testament. In Isaiah 7, Isaiah prophesies, Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah's prophecy is fulfilled in Matthew chapter 1, which begins, This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph.
But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. This Advent season, let's anticipate the promises of God. Jeremiah lays it out for us in the 33rd chapter.
Let's look closely at the three verses. Jeremiah 33, 14 says, Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. That good thing that God promised through Jeremiah was that he would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and that he would be their God and they would be his people. Just as the prophets and old covenant writers predicted and longed for, Jesus was the fulfillment of those predictions and God's promise. Next verse, verse 15, In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a branch of righteousness. He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. This branch is Jesus, the Son of God. And finally verse 16, In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called, the Lord our righteousness. Friends, the whole reason for the Advent season is to prepare our hearts for his coming into the world as a baby, but also to prepare us for the rapture of his church, which none of us knows when it will be.
Therefore, we must stay vigilant and guard our hearts against anything that will take our focus off the fact that we know he is coming again and we are awaiting with great anticipation of his glorious return when we will meet him in the clouds. The Salvation Army's mission, Doing the Most Good, means helping people with material and spiritual needs. You become a part of this mission every time you give to the Salvation Army. Visit salvationarmyusa.org to offer your support. And we'd love to hear from you. Call 1-800-229-9965 or visit salvationarmyradio.org to connect.
Tell us how we can help. Share prayer requests or your testimony. With your permission, we would love to use your story on the show. You can also subscribe to Words of Life on your favorite podcast store or visit salvationarmyradio.org to learn about more programs produced by the Salvation Army. And if you don't have a church home, we invite you to visit your local Salvation Army Worship Center. They'll be glad to see you. Join us next time for the Salvation Army's Defense of Life.
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