Day 5:  Hope in Grace

Scripture- Isaiah 53:4-6, Isaiah 43:25

4 Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Isaiah 53:4-6

But I wipe away your sins because of who I am. And so, I will forget the wrongs you have done. Isaiah 43:25

This scripture is from the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament. A prophet is someone who brings a message from God.  Isaiah foretold that one day the Messiah (our rescuer) would suffer for our sins and by his wounds we would be healed.  That Messiah was Jesus, our hope at Christmas and always!

This is an important message for the hurting and lost in our world.  The scripture says that the Messiah was rejected, do we know people who feel that way?  People who are hopeless because they have problems that they think are too big for God; or who believe that they have messed up so badly that God doesn’t hear their prayers. Have you ever heard someone say they feel that they are being judged by everyone around them? Maybe you feel that way too sometimes. That is not the kind of hopeless life Jesus wants his Children to live. Jesus didn’t die on the cross because we are perfect, he died because we need forgiveness. To have eternal life and the promise of heaven, we simply must believe in Jesus as the Son of God, that he died on the cross to forgive us of our sins and on the third day he arose from the grave. Then we admit that we are sinners by asking Jesus to take away our sins and be our savior.

Jesus’ forgiveness is not something we could ever prove ourselves worthy to deserve, it is a gift. The same should be true of our forgiveness of others in our homes, families and communities.

When we think about Christmas it should be with great gratitude because Jesus did not reject us because of our sin.  If we want to live more like Jesus, then we should have hearts open and full forgiveness for others.  This is certainly not easy, but when we compare it with the gift Jesus gave us on the cross, our hurts are small in comparison.

We like sheep have gone astray.  Sheep tend to wander away from their shepherd. They might see something that looks good in another part of the pasture and walk away without thinking that their choice could put them in danger. All of us at some point in time have wandered away from God and treated our lives and money as our own rather than a gift from God. This is a spiritually selfish and dangerous way to live. Everything we have reflects God’s goodness and love for us.  If our blessings reflect God’s goodness, then we should reflect that same light of Christ to others through, our thoughts, words, actions, and our giving. Jesus showed no favoritism in his giving, and neither should we.

Prayer- Jesus please forgive us when we wander away from you.  Help us to realize that every good thing in our lives is a gift from God, including forgiveness.  Help us to be loving enough to forgive others because you showed no favoritism in whom you forgave on the cross.  Amen

Activity- Are you ready to get a little gross?  Go get the trash can from your kitchen.  Take a sniff of the yumminess going on in that thing.  Would you want to carry that with you everywhere you went?  When we don’t’ trust God with our sins, worries and even grudges, it is toxic in our relationships and in our communities.  We can’t bring hope to people if we are carrying all of that around. Holding onto hate and anger is like walking around with a bag of garbage and wondering why life stinks.

Challenge- We can bring such hope to others when they experience our forgiveness and when we bring the message of Jesus forgiveness of our sins.  This week, if there is someone in your community that you need to forgive, start by praying for them. After a couple of days of sincere prayer for them, ask God to help you forgive them.  Finally, when you are ready, forgive them in your heart as God to help you forgive them.