December Nights – Nearness

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December Nights is a Northstar tradition that allows us to de-program from the spirit of the holidays that our culture celebrates with gift giving, food, travel, and materialism. It is an opportunity for us to come before Jesus and prepare our hearts, our families, our children, and even our friends to rejoice in Christ on Christmas day. The first message of December Nights was a reminder that even though we sing “Silent Night,” we do not want to be silent about who God is and what Jesus means to us. The second message was an encouragement to lift our eyes, look beyond our circumstances, find our comfort in Jesus, and trust that God is in control.

In the last message, Jeff taught us that Christmas is a continuous announcement of the nearness of God. We looked at one verse, Hebrews 4:16:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

The beginning of this verse should excite us as we think about the throne of grace. After all, it is where God the Father sits with Jesus Christ at His right hand. In that throne room is the presence of holiness, might, and glory. We might be tempted to wonder who we are to step into the throne room with the perfect, sinless, Sovereign one. Yet, we are invited.

As shocking as it may be, this verse not only invites us in, but it tells us to approach with confidence. So, we basically get to leave our shame and our guilt behind and approach the throne with confidence. So, where does that confidence come from? Our confidence is Christmas. Our confidence is that God loved us so much, He sent his son so that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life, forgiveness, peace with God and may experience the peace of God.

Just like we learned last week, if we only focus on that phrase, we will miss the last part of Hebrews 4:16. Jeff told us that, “Our greatest danger is when we forget that we are in great need before God. If we approach any day of our life and we forget how desperately needy we are, we essentially declare that Jesus Christ is not a factor in our life.” Our culture celebrates and encourages independence, but our Father asks us to live in a state of dependence and live in a state of need. That means we need to condition ourselves to live that way. We have to acknowledge that we are needy and then allow ourselves to fulfill that need by drawing near to God.

When we come into His presence acknowledging our neediness, that is where we will find mercy and grace. And, that is the invitation of Christmas. It is a promise of God’s nearness.

God’s purpose at Christmas is to invite, to reconcile, to restore, and to forgive. God has always invited us into his presence. Even in the garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, God came to walk with them which was an invitation to nearness. At the birth of Jesus, that had been foretold by prophets in the Old Testament, God began issuing invitations. Angels sang to shepherds, inviting them in to be near. The star that shined in the heavens invited the wise men to be near.

God didn’t just come near and demand to be served. God dropped the King of Kings into our midst in the most vulnerable way and he invited us into his presence to communicate to us just how much he loves us. During the message Jeff said, “When the throne was a manager, we were not invited into intimidating power but into innocent presence. God invited us near.  He invited us into intimacy with the Messiah.”

So, doesn’t that make you wonder how God can possibly invite us as sinful and broken people into his presence? Jeff directed us to Jeremiah 31:34 which says:

“For no longer will one teach his neighbor or brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them – this is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.”

Christmas demonstrates God’s purpose and announces peace and forgiveness. Christmas is the time for us to soak in the truth that God did not just forgive us of our sin, but He lavishes his love on us. Because he can see us without our sin, He is free to love us with all of his omnipotence, love, and holiness. All that He asks in return is that we love him with all our heart and that our obedience to Him flows out of our love for him.

Our obedience to God flows out of our love for him because when He lavishes his love on us, it changes us from the inside out. God loves us so recklessly and extravagantly that he elicits our love as a joyful response to his love. It is our love for Him that draws us near to Him so that he can heal us, transform us, refresh us, forgive us, and so that we can experience peace. We can approach Jesus in the confidence of Christmas because God sent Him to invite us into his nearness, to save us, to perfect us, to protect us and to love us.

Maybe this has been a great Christmas season for you and you find it easy to draw near. If that is not the case, you need to know that there is nothing more important in life than being near to Jesus. I urge you to let go of whatever is hindering you from enjoying the tender nearness of God. As you step into nearness, you will be lead to enjoy his love and that will make you want to sing, proclaim, and declare His name. When you find yourself getting distracted or off kilter, remember that He offers us consolation and that you can draw near.

Give yourself the best gift ever this Christmas. . . allow yourself to draw near to Jesus so that you can sing about His faithful love, proclaim his faithfulness to all generations, and declare of His faithfulness established in the heavens!

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