WHAT IS ADVENT?

The King is coming! Jesus has come...and he will come again. This is the hope of the Church - all of us who have come to love him and his amazing gift of grace. His return is the eager expectation and desire of his people, and it is our joy because he is our treasure and greatest good. This is the theme of “Advent.” The word Advent comes from a Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival.” It’s the traditional yearly celebration of the first advent (or coming) of Jesus in humility and the anxious awaiting of his second coming in glory. This season is a time for remembering and rejoicing, watching and waiting.

During the Christmas season it is easy to get lost in overwhelming busyness and the promises of our culture—promises that "stuff" will fill our needs. It's easy to focus on the shadow rather than the substance—Jesus himself. As a church we need perspective, and Advent is a gift to help us refocus on what matters most. God promised to send the Saviour, and he faithfully fulfilled that promise. Amid the fleeting things that fail to save us and fill us, God comes through on His promises...every time!

This year we want to offer you the opportunity to focus on four words that remind us of Jesus and his promises. Those words are Peace, Hope, Joy, and Love. We hope you take some time to dig in to the truth of God's word through some short videos from The Bible Project, as well as some verses from God's Word that point us to our Saviour.

May you be blessed by the tangible and intangible goodness of our gift-giving Father during this Advent Season.

Merry Christmas from the NCC Team!

WEEK 1: PEACE

NOVEMBER 27 - DECEMBER 3
Bible Project PEACE Reference Sheet:

WEEK 1 SCRIPTURE: PROMISES OF THE COMING MESSIAH 

Isaiah 9:2–7 (ESV)

[2] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. [3] You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. [4] For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. [5] For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. [6] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [7] Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.


Philippians 4:4–7 (ESV)

[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. [5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; [6] do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

QUESTIONS:
What do these verses tell us about Jesus?

The video says, "In the Bible the word peace can refer to the absence of conflict, but it also points to the presence of something better in its place...it refers to wholeness." What does peace mean to you in this Advent season? What peace do you need in your life now?

Philippians 4 tells us that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. What do the verses tell us will bring us to that place of peace?

ACTIVITY:
Take some time to think about what you can rejoice about. Then rejoice! Throw a mini party to celebrate what God has done, is doing, and what he will do. Make it fun. Make a cake, dress up, put on some music, maybe even invite some friends...and rejoice! It turns out, this can be a first step towards the kind of peace that passes understanding!

WEEK 2

WEEK 2: HOPE

DECEMBER 4 - 10
Bible Project HOPE Reference Sheet:

WEEK 2 SCRIPTURE: A WONDERFUL PROMISE FULFILLED 

Luke 1:26-32, 2:1-21 (ESV)

[26] In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, [27] to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. [28] And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” [29] But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. [30] And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. [31] And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. [32] He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, [33] and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

[34] And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

[35] And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. [36] And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. [37] For nothing will be impossible with God.” [38] And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

(Fast-forward about 9 months and a few dozen verses that focus on John the Baptist's birth story...)

[1] In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. [2] This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. [3] And all went to be registered, each to his own town. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, [5] to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. [6] And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. [7] And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

[8] And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. [9] And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. [10] And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. [11] For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. [12] And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

[14] “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

[15] When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” [16] And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. [17] And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. [18] And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. [19] But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

[21] And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

QUESTIONS:
What do these verses tell us about God's plan for his son Jesus?

The video tells us that the Hebrew words for "hope" speak of both WAITING and TENSE EXPECTATION.  The hope of God's people - who had waited hundreds and hundreds of years - was growing in Mary's womb. What would he be like? How would she raise him? Why her? What do you think the nine months of expectation was like for Mary? What hopes do you think she had in regards to the arrival of her little boy?

The video also says that biblical hope does not rest on circumstances but on a Person: God himself. The Bible encourages us to look backward at God's faithfulness to allow us to look forward in hope. What are some stories of God's faithfulness in your life or others around you that can give you hope now?

ACTIVITY:
The Psalms are full of the word "wait." Waiting can be like a swear word in our culture of Instacart, Instagram, and instant answers on Google. Yet, it's a command in God's word, so it is good. Take a few minutes to wait with God. Read Isaiah 40:27-31 a few times in quiet and stillness. Allow God to speak this truth: waiting is the beginning of renewed strength. Waiting is an act of surrender to a Good Father as we lay down our expectations and trust in his love. Remember. Hope does not rest on circumstances, but on a Person.


WEEK 3

WEEK 3: JOY

DECEMBER 11 - 17
Bible Project JOY Reference Sheet:

WEEK 3 SCRIPTURE: ANGELIC ANNOUNCEMENTS & GIFTS FIT FOR A KING  

Matthew 1:18 - 2:12 (ESV)

[18] Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

[23] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, [25] but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

(Note: Most scholars believe approximately two years elapses here.)

[1] Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, [2] saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” [3] When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; [4] and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. [5] They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

[6] “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

[7] Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. [8] And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” [9] After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. [10] When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [11] And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. [12] And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

QUESTIONS:
What do these verses tell us about God's ability to speak people?

We know that when God speaks to his people it will always align with the truth of his written word in the Bible. What are some things God has spoken to you or about you?

The video says, "Joy is  an attitude God’s people adopt, not because of happy circumstances but because of their hope in God’s love and promise." How is that different from what our culture says about happiness?

The story of Jesus' birth includes both happy circumstances and much difficulty (born in a manger, fleeing the country, Joseph almost divorces Mary to spare her from shame), yet at one point the angel of the Lord says to a group of shepherds, "I bring you good news of great joy that shall be for all the people." (Luke 2:10) How does the birth of Jesus teach us how to still have joy when things are hard?

ACTIVITY:
Since biblical joy is not dependent upon happy circumstances, what are some things that you find joy in? Take some time to do one or more of those things during this week.


WEEK 4

WEEK 4: LOVE

DECEMBER 18-24
Bible Project LOVE Reference Sheet:

WEEK 4 SCRIPTURE: GLORY AS OF THE ONLY SON OF THE FATHER 

John 1:1-18 (ESV)

[1] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

[6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

[9] The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. [11] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. [12] But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, [13] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

[14] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. [15] (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) [16] For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [17] For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. [18] No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

QUESTIONS:
"The Word" is a description Jesus in these verses. That said, what do these verses teach us about him?

The video tells us that Jesus' followers didn't learn the  meaning of love by looking it up in ancient dictionaries. Rather, they looked to the teachings of Jesus and the story of his life to redefine their very concept of love. From what you know about Jesus, what are some teachings or actions from him that would help you know what love is?

Jesus said loving God and loving people are two sides of the same coin. He also showed that love is not just a feeling that happens to us, but instead it is an action - a choice to do what's best for someone else. How did Jesus do that for you? How can you practically to that for someone else this week?


ACTIVITY:
Do something kind for someone without them knowing you did it. Or at least try not to let them know you did it. It doesn't have to be something huge, unless you want it to be... Do a friend or siblings chore. Put an anonymous gift card on someone's desk at work. Put some money in a parking meter on Pac Ave. Show a small kindness out of love for the One who showed you the greatest kindness.

MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM NCC!

We'll see you Christmas Eve at 4pm or 6pm at the NCC building and remember, Christmas Day our gatherings will be online only.