Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Advent and Hope - Waiting For The Savior

Volume 2 No. 108 November 15, 2012

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Earthen lamp lights
Candle Light
Advent - It is the season when we await the arrival of the Light
Table of Contents
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News Update From Jazirah Archdiocese, Syria by Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham

There is a great fear among families of different communities about their future. People are so much afraid of a real war, which might happen at any time between Turkey and Syria, because of the Turkish clear interference in the Syrian crises. This war could lead other counties into regional war. People are so much worried about their children, women and properties. Many of them are getting themselves ready to immigrate to Europe and to other safe neighboring countries. It is very difficult to say what could happen tomorrow. All we need now is your prayers for peace, and your support to end this evil fighting.

Bible Readings for This Sunday (Nov 18)

Annunciation to Zachariah

Sermons for This Sunday (Nov 18)

Sermons for the Annunciation to Zachariah

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_annun_Zachariah.htm

Inspiration for Today

Featured: Zechariah and Elizabeth: Facing Dead Hopes

From Zechariah and Elizabeth we can learn what God's faithfulness means when our hopes die. ...In the Christian year, Advent is the start of the year. It lays the foundation for everything else that is going to happen in the year. So all the promises of God, all the mighty acts of God are still in the future. It's the start of our hopes. And so since that is the real meaning of what we should be doing in Advent, I would like to challenge you to face some of these hopes, some of these struggles that are in your life. Take some time and think about if all the stops were off, if God could do whatever you want in your life, whatever kind of growth or development, if all the stops were pulled out, what would it be? ...

Advent: Hope of a Savior

God is your father,
And his promise is the same yesterday today and forever.

Do not fear what the world can do to you.
Do not listen to the financial naysayer
For in the midst of it,
God will bring to you.
A new depth of Glory and Understanding.
Every prayer is heard.
Every tear is registered in heaven,
In the best of times and in the worst of times,
God will answer in his most effective way. ...

Hymn - The Great Forerunner of the Morn

Redefining the Virtue of Hope

Real hope - biblical hope - isn't hope for; it's hope in: Hope in Christ - what He did for us on the Cross; and what He will do for us when He comes again and sets up His kingdom. A hope for is never better than wishful thinking. Hope in Christ is an expectation based on the certainty of who Jesus is and what He accomplished. ...

The Fulfillment of God's Promise

What are you doing with the conditional promises of God? Are you refusing to keep the condition of the promise? Or have you simply just given up? ..

Trust His Timing

One thing I've learned is that God doesn't always work on our time table. In fact, He rarely does. But, in a single moment, God can change your life! All throughout scripture, we see examples of how God was working behind the scenes and instantly turned things around for His people. ...

Health: Physician Touts 5 Hidden Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is not just for weight control anymore. It has a far reaching effects on your system from clearer skin to stronger immune system. ...

Recipe: Left-Over Turkey Recipes

Here are some delicious dishes you can make with the left over Turkey from Thanksgiving. ...

Family: Marriage - Don't Hope…Decide

Michael Hargrove tells about a scene at an airport that literally changed his life. ...

Hope Turkey Does Not Mean to Go Into a Real Direct War With Syria by Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham

About Malankara World

News Update From Jazirah Archdiocese, Syria

by Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham

[Editor's Note: As we know, Christians in Syria are suffering in the civil war raging there. Most of the people have left their homes and relocated to safer locations. The human suffering is unbelievable. As we have indicated last week, Archbishop Mor Eustathius Matta Roham, Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates Diocese, had to relocate to Hassake. His Eminence is saddened by the fact that he lost most of the monastery, church and school His Eminence and fellow Christians toiled nearly a decade to build. Please pray for them. When our church in India was going through persecution, Syrian fathers came to help us to maintain our faith. Now it is our turn to help them. Please pray.

Here is an update from HE about what is going on in HE's diocese. Please pass along this information to others.]

Dear brother in Christ, Dr. Jacob Mathew:

I greet you in the Name of Christ our Lord and Savior.

I would like to express to you my sincere thanks for your kind email. You have given us a great comfort during this difficult time. Thank you very much for your concern and care.

I am grateful to God that the Internet is still functioning in Hassake. I am delighted to update you about the latest news from Jazirah Archdiocese.

Ras Al-Ayn

This morning, it was arranged for Father Touma Qas Ibrahim, our priest of St. Thomas Church in Ras Al-Ayn, to go into the town in order to bring our prayer Books, especially the old hand written books. We are grateful to God that Father Touma went in and out the church peacefully. Father Touma told me that the town is now under the control of the opposition, and there was shooting heard in some places. He was able to bring with him one family (Hannawi Family), who could not flee on last Thursday when the town was occupied at about 2:00 a.m. in by the opposition. People left behind them their properties and valuable things, and now it is very risky for them to go into the town. It seems that the current fighting in the town will bring destruction to it. The destiny of our Christian community and churches as well as other communities in Ras Al-Ayn is not going to be better than the destiny of other towns, like Dair Al-Zor and Homs.

Derbasieh

Yesterday afternoon, 9 November, Father Michael Yacoub of St. Osyo Church in Derbasieh left the town with his family and arrived in Hassake, where the headquarters of the Archdiocese is. On the road to Hassaka, He called me from his cell phone and said that he had to rush out with his family for their safety, without thinking to bring any valuable Church books. When he arrived in Hassake, I learnt from him that there was a call upon people to leave their homes, and it was said that the opposition is on the Turkish border, and is ready to occupy the town. He said that there was shooting in the air when he left Derbasieh. In the evening, Father Michael made contacts with his friends from the Kurdish community, and they told him that the town is in peace, and the opposition did not cross the border. He said that there was a deal made between the opposition and the Kurdish community in town. The opposition told the Kurdish people in Derbasieh, who count the majority in town, to ask the government officials to leave the town; otherwise the opposition will cross the border and move them out. The government officials accepted the offer to move out without fighting. When I asked Father Michael about the shouting, he said: it was a kind of a game to give people the impression that the situation is a very delicate one. Also, he said that they told him later the shooting was an expression of joy to reach a successful deal by saving the lives of many people.

This morning, 10 November, Father Michael went back to Derbasieh and he called me from there that the town is in peace.

General Situation:

I receive many calls from different churches, especially from Kamishly. They need to know what has happened and what could happen to large towns like Kamishly and Hassake in my Archdiocese. There is a great fear among families of different communities about their future. People are so much afraid of a real war, which might happen at any time between Turkey and Syria, because of the Turkish clear interference in the Syrian crises. This war could lead other counties into regional war. People are so much worried about their children, women and properties. Many of them are getting themselves ready to immigrate to Europe and to other safe neighboring countries. It is very difficult to say what could happen tomorrow.

All we need now is your prayers for peace, and your support to end this evil fighting.

With Christ’s love and blessings,

Your brother in Christ,

Mor Eustathius Matta Roham
Archbishop of Jazirah and Euphrates,
Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Nov 18)

Annunciation to Zachariah

This Sunday is commemorated as the day when John the Baptist's birth was announced to Zachariah by Angel Gabriel.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (Nov 18)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you,

"You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off";

fear not, for I am with you;

be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded;

those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish.

You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them;

those who war against you shall be as nothing at all.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you."

Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Isa 41:8-14

Featured: Zechariah and Elizabeth: Facing Dead Hopes

by Rev. John Schmidt, Central Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD

From Zechariah and Elizabeth we can learn
what God's faithfulness means when our hopes die.

Sermon Text: Luke 1:5-25

"In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time."

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." - Luke 1:5-25

Today's theme is facing dead hopes. There are a lot of people who struggle this time of the year. This is a time of incredible hope, incredible joy, promises, and yet, at a time like this, we are kind of reminded in a fresh and painful way at the many things that aren't moving in our lives, things in our personal lives, things in families, families that are separated because of war or because of tensions within the family, problems with our job. In a time like that we have to think about what does it mean to hope in God when we are facing these struggles and difficulties.

"But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John." Luke 1:13

I am always amazed at how God uses regular people. With the exception of a few people like Moses or David who had some social standing and might have been noticed anyway, with the exception of people like that, most of the people that we read about in scripture are people who are otherwise unremarkable folks. Farmers, fishermen, housewives and Zechariah fits in this sort of category of people.

Zechariah was a priest and often when we think about priests, we think about people who are particularly well educated in the Israel society; people who had all the answers and were looked up to. But, you know it wasn't like that at that time. Certainly, there were those urban priests who were very well trained and they were called scholars of the law and looked up to. But there was a whole group of priests who were members of the priestly family, but because they lived out in the country or otherwise, they weren't as well educated. And in fact, in that period of history there were words used by the urbane and urban folks to describe these people and roughly translated it would be the idiot priests. The country bumpkin priests. And Zechariah, if he fits in any category at all, he fits in the category of the country priests. The only reason why he is doing something special right now is that these responsibilities to carry, to light incense inside of the priestly part of the sanctuary, these responsibilities rotated from division to division within the priestly families and when his division came up, they all drew lots and Zechariah's lot was the one that was chosen.

And so Zechariah is having a once in a lifetime experience here. Even though it happened regularly in the life of the temple, for Zechariah, this is his 15 minutes of glory. But he didn't expect it to quite be the way it turned out, because angels arriving during this responsibility wasn't typical.

And so this angel comes up and says, Zechariah your prayer has been heard.

Now you know what I would have thought of if I was Zechariah at that point? Which prayer? He's an old man. He has prayed all kinds of things that haven't been answered and this prayer for a child, this was something that was probably up front in their lives everyday when they were a young couple, but as the years went by and they get closer and closer to the age where no one is bearing children anymore, I am not sure that that prayer would have continued.

So when the angel says, your prayer has been answered, it might even be a prayer that they are no longer praying, but had prayed faithfully for years. Because this was a faithful couple. They described them in verse six as being, both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all of the Lords commandments and regulations blamelessly.

These were good folks, but the natural course of events is that, as time goes by and the answer doesn't come, our expectations start to drop. And so, when the angel says, your wife will have a son, Zechariah isn't even a model of faith at that point because he says, how can I be sure? How can I be sure of this? He doesn't even rise to the occasion like we would like a Biblical hero to do.

But before we get hard on Zechariah, I think we need to realize that all of us would probably be in that sort of category. Our faith is unprepared. Our minds are unprepared. Our expectations have gone down. God takes this lack of faith seriously because Zechariah is then not able to speak, and this is important not only for Zechariah, but for the whole nation because as he finished his responsibilities in this priestly part of the sanctuary he is supposed to come out and speak a benediction upon all of Israel. And he is unable to do it. This naturally causes some concern I am sure. And so now Zechariah is silent.

I want to read to you now the first words that he says publicly after this time of silence. It's in Luke 1 and I am going to begin at verse 68:

"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up the horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. (as he said to his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us-- to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all of our days.

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace."

Nine months go by and you can even see, maybe in those nine months, that they are still struggling with their faith because it says a few verses earlier that for five months, Elizabeth remains in seclusion. Why? Maybe because they were worried that this baby wouldn't come to term. We don't know. But they struggle during that time and then the time comes that the baby is born and Elizabeth says that his name shall be John and everybody says, wait a minute. There is nobody in your family named John, and you are trying to pull something over us and since Zechariah can't speak, let's get his opinion on the matter. And he writes it out; his name shall be called John. And at that point, he can speak again and he praises God. And then speaks these public words to Israel.

Now, these words are prophetic, spirit filled benediction upon Israel. Good words. Breaks down roughly into two parts. Verse 68-75 focuses in on the deliverance of Israel as a nation, that God will raise up a leader particularly this person from the house of David, this horn of salvation which talks about might and power. But it's very much a political statement. The words that are in this first half are words that are very similar to words that were used in prayers constantly in Israel at this time. Everybody would have recognized this because this was the sort of benediction and blessing you expected. The day is coming that God will take the foot of these Gentiles off of you, and you will be a powerful people and will be able to live in peace. Now, this is something that is a little less familiar to us because this part of what he said still hasn't happened. We are still waiting, even as we look back upon the first coming of Jesus Christ. The things that are described in the first half of Zechariah words are things that we are still waiting for when Jesus comes again.

Now, the second part contains the words that are more like the words that we would expect as Christians. The words that we use in Advent. The things that talk about going before the Lord to prepare the way for him.

Prepare the way for the Lord. We are used to words like this. But this was the part that was less familiar to the Jews, because they are no longer talking about the national hopes of Israel, but talking about this thing of the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of God. That the one who is coming is going to make all of that happen, and this was something they really didn't have a category for clear in their minds, and yet for us this is the part that makes sense, because we are looking back on it, because this has already happened.

So Zechariah speaks these words to Israel. Some of it they understood better than others. Some parts they understood better than others.

Now, I said that these were the first words that Zechariah said in nine months, but what's also significant is that these are the first words of public prophetic witness to Israel in more than 450 years of silence. The last prophet that they had, that shows up in the Old Testament is Malachi. And so, for 450 years there has been silence. They have been used to having some kind of prophet living within the community, people to rebuke you, people to encourage you, people to give you the sense that God was still speaking to your situation, but for 450 years there was silence and during that time their nation was overrun by the power of Gentile countries.

Where is God? Has God forgotten us? And so you can imagine each generation of people having lower and lower expectations of what God would do. Maybe they could imagine God doing something major in the future, but certainly not in our generation.

Israel had been laboring under this silence wondering had God forgotten and here's the first set of words in 450 years and praise God, it's not a rebuke. It's a promise. Verse 68. "Praise be to the Lord God of Israel because he has come and has redeemed his people."

God has not forgotten. Incredible words to a people who felt that God had pulled himself out of the picture. Now we are coming into a time that focuses in on hope, but we've got to admit that most of us come struggling with the fact that we have dead hopes in our lives. Where are those dead hopes? Where is hope dying? Is it in your personal life where you were hoping to have some changes happen in your walk with God and year after year it doesn't seem to change and you struggle and you've got to admit it, you don't even expect a change anymore.

You've stopped expecting God to work in your life. It might be in your family. You've hoped for peace and harmony in your family, but now you have gotten to the point that you are just willing to live with discord because you have hope for nothing more.

It might be in your career, where you were hoping things would be better or that you would be at a different place and it's just not working out that way.

It could be that you are praying for children or you have children and you are praying for those children because they haven't responded yet to the grace of God and you worry about their lives, and after a period of years sometimes you find that you don't really expect it to change. There is all kinds of ways that hope dies in our lives.

The good news we see in this passage is that God has not forgotten us either.

Now, we've got to think about that carefully though. It doesn't mean that we get everything we want, the way we want it, because some things that we want actually are selfish and God needs to work in our lives to change those desires. But even if those desires are pure, even if we know they are right, it doesn't mean that God will answer necessarily the way we want him to.

For example, in Elizabeth and Zechariah's case, it came very late in life, but basically they got the answer that they wanted. They had the child. Not only that, a special child. But in the case of Israel, they get this message that God is going to do something in their midst that they did not expect, and the things that they were looking forward to still haven't happened. And so they get a different message, that God hasn't forgotten. God has come to redeem, but redemption is something bigger than they ever imagined.

Our hopes fall into those sorts of categories. There are ones that need to change. There are other ones that will come, but are delayed and there are others where God has to replace what we desire with something that is bigger and closer to his heart. But the word that we have here is that God hasn't forgotten.

You know the thing about Advent is that it lasts for four weeks. Four weeks of all of this flurry, all of these decorations, all of this music and then right after Christmas, just like turning off the Christmas lights, it goes out, it's over and you hardly think about it anymore.

But in the Christian year, Advent is the start of the year. It lays the foundation for everything else that is going to happen in the year. So all the promises of God, all the mighty acts of God are still in the future. It's the start of our hopes. And so since that is the real meaning of what we should be doing in Advent, I would like to challenge you to face some of these hopes, some of these struggles that are in your life.

Take some time and think about if all the stops were off, if God could do whatever you want in your life, whatever kind of growth or development, if all the stops were pulled out, what would it be? What would it be in your personal life? What would be in your family? What would it be in this church? What would it be in your job? Think about these things.

Pray about these things and ask God, what's the first step to begin again with this journey with him. Because Advent is a time to rekindle hopes. Advent is a time for us to dust off our faith and get it in working order again, to trust God again because God isn't finished with us yet. The best is yet to come. And he can do it.

Let's pray. Gracious God, as we prepare our hearts even now in this worship service to respond to you, we pray that you will bring our minds and hearts once again to faith and hope and trust in you. Lord, it's so hard. There are so many disappointments. Lord we don't know what to do entirely with that, but we pray now that we will have grace to bring them to you. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen.

© 2003, Rev. John Schmidt

Advent: Hope of a Savior

by Pastor Eldon Reich

Scripture: Luke 1:5-25

On this first Sunday in Advent, it is appropriate that our first word is HOPE.

In 1929 there was a group of ministers at Boston School of Theology, who gathered to discuss how they should conduct Thanksgiving services.

Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief.

The bread lines were depressingly long,
the stock market had plummeted,
the term Great Depression which
described the mood of the country
was just coming into being.

The pastors thought in deference to the human misery all about them, they would only lightly mention the subject Thanksgiving. Dr. William L. Stiger, said: "This is not the time to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving and hope, just the opposite.

This is the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for blessings that are always present, but sometimes overlooked due to intense hardship."

I think the word HOPE has taken a bum rap in secular society.
It has more to do with "wishing" than "expecting."

In the face of setbacks, unemployment, bankruptcy, divorce, sickness, even death, how many times has a pastor said: "Don't give up, it will work, out God provides."

And the people reply: "I HOPE so!" almost with a sarcastic "Sure it will!"

You remember Lucy's encouragement to Charlie Brown in one of the Peanuts cartoons.

"Look at it this way, Charlie Brown," she consoles. "These are your bitter days. These are the days of your hardship and struggle but if you just hold your head up high and keep on fighting, you'll triumph!"

Charlie says: "Gee, do you really think so, Lucy?"

As he walks away Lucy says: "Frankly, no!" 1

The New Testament's understanding of the word HOPE was a strong powerful protective word.

To the Thessalonians Paul writes about hope: Put on the "HOPE of salvation as a helmet".

To the Colossians he writes of the "HOPE laid up in heaven," the "HOPE of glory."

Apostle Peter, in his first letter writes: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3-5 NAS

A living hope is one that is not static,
But is renewed every day

Like his mercy and like his grace,
Through the Resurrection of the Living Christ.

Don't give up, friends.
No matter how tough it gets
How dark it seems.
We all go thru the valleys,
But this promises that we don't go alone.

Look at Romans 5:

We have a hope in God that does not disappoint us.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces HOPE, and HOPE does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us. (Romans 5:2-5).

The reason the word hope has lost it muscle today, Is that we have disconnected hope from God.

God puts the power back in hope. A "HOPE that does not disappoint us"

Again, it's Lucy who has planned a picnic for the next day. She says to Charlie Brown, "I
just HOPE to goodness that it doesn't rain ..."

Walking away, Charlie answers, "Hoping to goodness is not theologically sound." 6

Charlie's right. "Hoping to goodness" is not sound. Fixing our HOPE upon God is.

In our scripture we find:

I. A NATION IN NEED OF HOPE.

The cause of their hopelessness was external.
We see it in the first part of vs 5.

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Luke 1:5

The first eight words of this scripture describe the reason for their despair

There was great depression in the land.
The new king was Herod,
Surnamed the Great, the son of Antipater,
He was an Idumean by birth,

Now Herod had professed himself to be a proselyte to the Jewish religion, But that was simply so he could get appointed and elected to the Jerusalem area. He was an agnostic, He made mockery of the Jewish faith and promoted his secular interests and ambition of society solely for his own political gain.

The despair came because, for the first time, the throne of Judah was filled by a person not of Jewish extraction, forced upon the people by the Roman government.

An anti Jew
An anti Christ we will later learn.
Who was taxing and persecuting them
Soon would be killing them.

But the people of Israel didn't give up.
Because they knew the prophecy,

The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.
Genesis 49:10

That this new governor would come from Bethlehem Who would rule and feed the people of Israel.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2

Out of the smallest clan of Judah comes the Savior.
Out of the most unsuspecting place comes the voice of hope.

So it is the same to us today?
Don't give up,
Because Hope can come for you in a moment,
From places you never dream.
When your hope is in a Living God.

In our scripture we find
I. A NATION IN NEED OF HOPE.

Secondly you see:

II. A PEOPLE IN NEED OF HOPE.

The cause of Zechariah and Elizabeth HOPELESSNESS was personal. They had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Luke 1:7

How many times can we cope with the external failures
Of losing a job,
Having to move,
Hitting a deer and causing one extra financial disasters.
Having a child in rebellion
Flunking a test or missing a interview.
Discovering a skin cancer.

But what gets us is the internal breakdown of hope.
When we get overtired?
And we are overworked?
The Adrenal has done all it can do to keep us going
And we crash.

Nightmares begin,
Sleepless nights,
And drug filled days,
Because we are on edge or over the edge.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were from families of priests.

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Luke 1:5

Both were descendents of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

And just because they were born preacher kids didn't make it any easier on them.

But they were faithful, Scripture says they were upright in the sight of God.

6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. Luke 1:6

They lived what they believed.
Knowing that God was their Maker,
Who watched over all their conduct
and examined all their motives.

But even when we are living right,
When we're walking right,
Things don't go the way we might expect.
Disappointment and broken dreams can be still with us.

And there was a dark cloud over their lives.

But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years. Luke 1:7

Another translation says: They were Stricken in years: ASV

The Golden years can strike us in ways not so blessed.

I was up to the nursing home the other day And I saw the reality of the golden years.

Bone that are brittle and broken,
Minds that are weak and forgetful
Kidney and organs that no longer function
Bodies that can't fight off the infections.

Somehow by the permission of God, sterility and old age both met in the person of Elisabeth, Childbearing was impossible. Do we hear an echo from Sarah and Abraham, Genesis 11:30; 17:17.

But in the economy of God all things can work together for good
To those who have been called according to his purpose: Roman 8:28

God understood that if John the Baptist was to be the forerunner of Christ;
his birth, like that of Isaac, must be miraculous,
as a representative of the birth of Christ that was to come.
But all those years, nobody told Zechariah and Elizabeth.

That's why I say to you "don't despair"
God knows what's coming for you.
So let the living hope
of a living God
Have a living chance in your life.

Zechariah and Elizabeth did what we must do.
They remained faithful to God.
They remained faithful to one another.

Hopelessness, crises, disappointment
Are all words that I hear in divorce and separation.
They could have split up.
But they didn't give up.

Most of our problems come when we leave God out of the equation.

Zechariah went to the temple.
He maintained his righteousness.
He stayed at his job.

10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. Luke 1:10

In the midst of worship.
In the midst of duty.
God sent his angel.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. Luke 1:11-13

It was in the temple
In a place of worship
That God met him.

The Angel appeared
And hope was born into reality.

It is here for us this morning,
In this place of worship
That God will meet you.

And angels will speak
And hope will be born into reality.

Where the people are praying,
The results of our lives are changed forever
Remember that God does not reminisce the past.
He never looks back to the good old days,
He only and ever looks forward to the better days to come.

Angel said:

14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord… Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. Luke 1:14,16

Do you have a living hope in a living God?

The air terminal was a sea of people, hurrying and pushing. But one night it was especially crowded since a snow storm snarled the schedules of arriving and departing airplanes.

In the midst of the terminal, all by herself, sat a little traveler, a little girl who could not have been more than a first grader in school, six years old, maybe seven. She sat quietly.

One might have expected tears, but her big eyes never closed. Wide-eyed she watched. Now and again she smiled.

A security guard spoke to her softly, asking if he might be of help.

"No," she answered, "I'm waiting for my daddy."

Snow fell in increasing depths
She waited for more than an hour.
Finally there was a huge smile as she recognized
a snow-covered man coming toward her.

"See," she said, "I told you he would come."

There never had been a doubt.
Never did her HOPE falter.
She knew him in whom her HOPE was fixed.
She believed in her fathers love,
Her father integrity,
She knew no storm would keep her Daddy from meeting her.

God is your father,
And his promise is the same yesterday today and forever.

You have no idea
What you being here does to your psyche,
Your state of mind,
Your healing and health,
Your future
Your relationships,
God is a living hope in our ‘midst.

Do not fear what the world can do to you.
Do not listen to the financial naysayer
For in the midst of it,
God will bring to you.
A new depth of Glory and Understanding.

Every prayer is heard.
Every tear is registered in heaven,
In the best of times and in the worst of times,
God will answer in his most effective way.

Because we have a living hope that will not disappoint us.

Hope is not optimism, that something will turn out well,
Hope is the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Will you wait on the lord today?
And trust him and live accordingly?

Hymn - The Great Forerunner of the Morn
The great forerunner of the morn,
The herald of the Word, is born:
And faithful hearts shall never fail
With thanks and praise his light to hail.

With heavenly message Gabriel came,
That John should be that herald’s name,
And with prophetic utterance told
His actions great and manifold.

John, still unborn, yet gave aright
His witness to the coming Light;
And Christ, the Sun of all the earth,
Fulfilled that witness at His birth.

Of woman born shall never be
A greater prophet than was he,
Whose mighty deeds exalt his fame
To greater than a prophet’s name.

But why should mortal accents raise
The hymn of John the Baptist’s praise?
Of whom, or e’er his course was run,
Thus spake the Father to the Son?

"Behold, My herald, who shall go
Before Thy face Thy way to show,
And shine, as with the day-star’s gleam,
Before Thine own eternal beam."

All praise to God the Father be,
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
Whom with the Spirit we adore
Forever and forevermore.

"The Great Forerunner of the Morn" by Choir of First Church Los Angeles; Words: The Venerable Bede (673-735). Music: C. Gall, 1625.

Redefining the Virtue of Hope

by John Stonestreet

We hear a lot about hope these days, from "the audacity of hope" to "hoping against hope." Unfortunately, the word has been redefined - and, I must say, shrunken - by bad definitions.

Hope has been reduced to a kind of naïve optimism that things will get better. We hope for a changed situation, a new job, a better love, hitting the lottery, or LeBron James winning his first championship.

But real hope - biblical hope - isn't hope for; it's hope in: Hope in Christ - what He did for us on the Cross; and what He will do for us when He comes again and sets up His kingdom. A hope for is never better than wishful thinking. Hope in Christ is an expectation based on the certainty of who Jesus is and what He accomplished.

When hope is defined down to a limp, pallid and ultimately useless imitation of the real thing, people and cultures are unable to live above naïve optimism or heartless despair.

But real hope is neither optimistic or despairing, and one of Chuck Colson's closest colleagues, the late Richard John Neuhaus, described why: "Optimism," Neuhaus said, "is not a Christian virtue. Optimism is simply a matter of optics, of seeing what you want to see and opting not to see what you don't want to see."

Hope is different than optimism. But we also can't despair. As Neuhaus added: "We have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ has risen." And that's where biblical hope squarely rests.

This is no "pie in the sky when you die" kind of hope, but a hope that empowers us for effective service in this world right now.

For Neuhaus, hope involved calling the church to embrace the truth and power of the Gospel even in a culture he called "American Babylon." For Chuck, it meant proclaiming the sanctity of human life, marriage and religious liberty.

And for us, true, biblical hope - hope in Christ rather than a hope for an improved situation - empowers us to keep on keeping on in the myriad battles to which the Lord calls us.

Source: Breakpoint Commentary

The Fulfillment of God's Promise

by Dr. Michael Youssef

Immediately following God's incredible, supernatural intervention on Mount Carmel, Elijah told King Ahab, "Go, eat and drink, for there is the sound of a heavy rain" (1 Kings 18:41) Ahab went down to eat and drink. Elijah climbed to the top of Mount Carmel where he knelt on the promise God had given him.

The promise God gave Elijah was a conditional promise. While Elijah was still in Zarephath with the widow, "the word of the LORD came to Elijah: ‘Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.' So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab" (1 Kings 18:1-2). The Lord said He would send rain if Elijah presented himself to Ahab. At this point, it had not rained in three and a half years. There was a great famine and people were desperate. Elijah's obedience was the condition of the fulfillment of God's promise.

Some people today love to claim the promises of God while trying to escape the conditions. God must be true to His Word. If a promise comes with a condition, the condition must be completed so the promise can be fulfilled. God set these conditions, and He is not going to change them. An example is sowing and reaping. Paul wrote to the Galatians, "A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8). It takes time for a crop to yield its harvest, but you will always reap what you sow. A man who sows corn does not reap cotton.

The promise God gave Elijah was a personal promise. It was given to Elijah for that time and place. Do not try to make a personal promise in Scripture a universal promise.

Elijah had a personal, conditional promise from God. He had fulfilled the conditions of the promise and was praying for its fulfillment-for rain. Elijah knew He was going to see the answer to His prayer. He knew God's character-God always tells the truth and He always keeps His promises. Still, he prayed persistently.

He sent his servant out seven times to check for rain. On his seventh trip, he saw a small cloud in the distance. Expectantly, Elijah alerted Ahab to take cover because rain was coming. Humbly, Elijah ran before the King all the way home-refusing to steal the glory of this victory from the Lord.

What are you doing with the conditional promises of God? Are you refusing to keep the condition of the promise? Or have you simply just given up?

Please examine your heart and ask the Lord to take away any hindrance to fulfilling the conditions of His promises or in persisting in prayer for the fulfillment of His promises. May the Lord empower you to never give up!

"The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."--2 Peter 3:9

Source: Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef

Trust His Timing

by Joel Osteen

"My times are in Your hand..." (Psalm 31:15, NASB)

One thing I've learned is that God doesn't always work on our time table. In fact, He rarely does. But, in a single moment, God can change your life! All throughout scripture, we see examples of how God was working behind the scenes and instantly turned things around for His people. Scripture tells us He is the same yesterday, today and forever which means if He did it for them, He can instantly turn things around for you, too!

You may be going through some difficulty today, but be encouraged because your times are in God's hands. Trust that He has your best interest at heart. He wants to pour out His favor. He wants to take you further than you dreamed possible and work in your life in ways beyond what you have ever imagined.

Let this truth sink down into your heart today. Resist discouragement by speaking His Word over your future. Keep standing, keep hoping and keep believing because He is working behind the scenes. Have faith because your times are in His hands, and He will lead you in the life of victory He has for you!

Prayer

Father, today I humbly come before You giving You all that I am. I trust that my times are in Your hands. I trust that You are working things out in my favor. I set my focus on You knowing that You are working things out for my good in Jesus' name. Amen.

Health Tip: Physician Touts 5 Hidden Benefits of Exercise

From Clearer Skin to a Stronger Immune System

With more than a third of Americans classified as obese, everyone from first lady Michelle Obama to TV news anchor Katie Couric is advocating exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

That's great, says Dr. Eudene Harry, author of "Live Younger in 8 Simple Steps," (www.LivingHealthyLookingYounger.com), but the benefits of exercise go far beyond fitting into those skinny jeans.

For one, it will give you younger looking, more blemish-free skin.

"The increase in circulation and perspiration that occurs with exercise delivers more nutrients to your skin while allowing impurities and waste to be removed," says Harry, who combines years of emergency-room experience with holistic medicine in her private practice. "The result? A healthier complexion!"

She adds four more hidden benefits of a good workout:

Natural "feel-good" chemicals: Exercise releases endorphins, the brain chemicals that boost your mood and make you feel happy, as well as relieve stress, and enhance your self-esteem and self-confidence. Exercise has also been shown to increase neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, which gives us a natural high and allows us to sleep better.

Constipation prevention: Exercise increases the contractions of the wall of the intestine, helping to move things along through the intestinal tract more easily, and decreasing the time it takes to pass through the large intestine. But wait an hour or two after eating before exerting yourself: Exercising too soon after a meal can divert blood flow away from the gut and toward the muscles, weakening peristaltic contractions (and slowing down the digestion process).

Prevents brittle bones: Walking, jogging, dancing, weight training and yoga are all weight-bearing exercises that help strengthen bones. Swimming and bicycling are exercises that are considered non-weight bearing. During weight-bearing exercises, bones adapt to the impact of the weight and the pull of muscles by building more bone cells, increasing strength and density and decreasing the risk of fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis.

Enhanced immunity: Physical exertion increases the rate at which antibodies flow through the blood stream, resulting in better immunity against sickness. The increased temperature generated during moderate exercise makes it difficult for certain infectious organisms to survive.

Don 't overdo your exercise, or you won 't see all of these benefits, Harry says.

"Check with a physician who can advise you on the right activities and intensity level for your individual needs," she says.

"For all the benefits of exercise, there are down sides if you go at it too vigorously for your physical condition. For instance, you can actually increase stress hormones, which can make you more vulnerable to illness, rather than building your immunity."

About Eudene Harry, M.D.

Dr. Eudene Harry holds a bachelor 's in biology from New York University and completed both her medical degree and residency training at Thomas Jefferson University. Currently the medical director for the integrative and holistic Oasis Wellness and Rejuvenation Center, she has practiced medicine for nearly 20 years, is board certified in both emergency and holistic medicine, and for more than a decade practiced emergency medicine as an attending physician in Level II trauma centers.

Recipe: Left-Over Turkey Recipes
Next Thursday being Thanksgiving Day, most of you will have plenty of Turkey leftover on Friday. Here are some delicious dishes you can make with the left over Turkey.

Asian Turkey Spring Rolls

Put cooked chopped turkey, veggies, stuffing in moistened rice paper wrappers....then wrap like egg rolls. No cooking required.

Dip the Rolls in Asian Cranberry Sauce: cranberry sauce thinned with hot sauce, maple syrup.....add a bit of sesame oil, some chopped gingerroot, maybe a dash of soy sauce.

Turkey Spicy Nachos:

Ingredients: (Use your own judgement on amt. of ea. ingredient.)

Shredded Turkey
Onion
Chili Powder
Beans
Sour Cream and Cheese
Nachos

Directions:

Cook the Shredded Turkey, Onions, Chili Powder, Cheese and Beans in skillet. Pour over Nachos and top with Sour Cream.

Compact Turkey Dinner

Cut up leftover turkey meat, mix with leftover dressing and mashed potatoes. Roll into meatball-sized balls, dip in beer batter, and deep fry until golden brown. Serve with leftover gravy.

Leftover Turkey Casserole

Spread 2 cups mashed potatoes in a greased casserole dish. Heat 2 cups chopped turkey in 1 1/2 cups gravy. Add 1 cup stuffing. Mix thoroughly and spread over mashed potatoes. Bake covered 30 minutes until heated through. Serves about 4.

The beauty of this one is you can substitute potato flakes, canned gravy or stove top dressing if you are short of any ingredient other than the turkey, it is still good.

Family: Marriage - Don't Hope…Decide
Michael Hargrove tells about a scene at an airport that literally changed his life. He was picking up a friend. He noticed a man coming toward him carrying two light bags. The man stopped right next to Hargrove to greet his family. The man motioned to his youngest son (maybe six years old) as he laid down his bags. They hugged and Hargrove heard the father say, "It's so good to see you, son. I missed you so much!" "Me, too, Dad!" said the son. The oldest son (maybe nine or ten) was next. "You're already quite the young man. I love you very much, Zach!" Then he turned to their little girl (perhaps one or one-and-a-half). He kissed her and held her close. He handed his daughter to his oldest son and declared, "I've saved the best for last!" and preceded to give his wife a long, passionate kiss. "I love you so much!" He said to his wife softly.

Hargrove interrupted this idyllic scene to ask, "Wow! How long have you two been married?"

"Been together fourteen years total, married twelve of those," the man replied, as he gazed into his wife's face.

"Well then, how long have you been away?"

The man turned around and said, "Two whole days!" Hargrove was stunned. "I hope my marriage is still that passionate after twelve years!"

The man stopped smiling and said, "Don't hope, friend . . . decide!"

And that's it, isn't it? For most of us it comes down to a decision. "Till death us do part." It doesn't happen in every relationship, but that is still the ideal that Jesus gives us.

Michael Hargrove, quoted by King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

Hope Turkey Does Not Mean to Go Into a Real Direct War With Syria
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Peace of Christ be with you all.

I have just received a call from Father Michael Yacoub, our Syrian Orthodox priest of St. Osyo Church in Derbassieh, that the armed opposition crossed now the Turkish border and occupied the town. The families all the sudden moved out. He said to me that he is on his way to Hassake, where the headquarters of the Archdiocese is. Deabasieh is about one hour far from Hassake. It is 60 km far fro Kamichly, and another 60 km far from Ras Al-Ayn.

This is exactly what happened in Ras Al-Ayn, and repeated now in Daerbasieh. I think the same scenario will be repeated all along the border with Turkey.

The most dangerous part in this game is the direct interference of Turkey in the Syrian affairs. I think, if Turkey will continue behaving like this, Turkey will very soon lead the whole region into a real war.

I hope Turkey does not mean to go into a real direct war with Syria.

I will keep in touch as long as we have internet communications

Please pray for peace in the region and the safety of our families.

Yours in Christ,

Mor Eustathius Matta Roham,
Archbishop of Jazirah & Euphrates

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