The Faith that Restored the World (23 Dec 2007)

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

Thor Ramsey

Special Music

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Good Christians All Rejoice
O Holy Night

Michele Pillar - Hark the Herald Angels Sin

The Message

Message by: Robert A. Schuller

Well I know that this is a tough time for many people. I just had a gentlemen hand me a note and it says his grandfather is going to be very, very missed. Passed away just recently. And that’s a tough time for people is a family holiday and a season and all of a sudden they’re not there. They’re gone. Friday night my wife and I were here in the Cathedral and there was a huge section here filled with families and there was another huge section there filled with families and both the balconies were filled with families and one thing I noticed if you looked at those areas, that was quite apparent. There weren’t a lot of men. And the reason there weren’t a lot of men is because we had the snowball express here. Some of you remember we interviewed a gentlemen here who organized the Snowball Express and what Snowball Express is is they invited family members and children of the family members who have lost a loved one in Afghanistan and Iraq and they flew them here from all over the nation. They arrived here Friday. We fed them in the Arboretum, then we brought them in here to share with them the Glory of Christmas. And so my wife and I got here early and we greeted these families and we talked to the children and a lot of them had been traveling all day and so they’re falling asleep in the seats and every few children I’d pick up and just hold them and look them in the face and they’re happy as can be. They have no idea what’s happened, but then I see their mother and their mothers all have badges they’re wearing with a picture of their husband and it’s a tough time for them. And today this Christmas I want to invite you to pray for all of the families who have lost a loved one. And if you want to go to our website, we’ve got a prayer community there. You can go there and you can pray for them this Christmas. And there are many people who are going through tough times at Christmas.

Christmas can be a very, very tough time for people and what we have to remember is that Christmas is a time of faith. It’s a time where we exemplify our faith in a living God and His love for us, His grace and His mercy and His peace. St. Paul wrote a letter to the Hebrew Christians, you can find it in the New Testament of the Bible. And in there he writes these words, he says, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Well, that’s what faith is, it is that assurance of things we hope for and the conviction of things not seen.

Well when I think about the faith that took place on Christmas, I’m amazed. Of all of the Christmas characters, I think the one that seems to get the least amount of credit but probably had the greatest amount of faith is Joseph. You have to realize, here’s a man who is told that his wife was with child and he knew he had nothing to do with it. That he knew for sure. He was told that his wife had conceived by the Holy Spirit and in faith he believed the angels and he embraced Mary. And he did what the angels said. That’s faith. The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. He believed in the impossible. We could go on down the list. Mary had the faith to conceive the child. The shepherds had the faith to believe in the angels and they came to the manger. The wise men, man the faith of the wise men to travel thousands of miles on a camel no less. Following what? A star. I don’t know too many people alive today who would travel on a smelly camel for thousands of miles following a star because they heard there was a king that they wanted to admire. That’s faith.

The story of Christmas is a story of faith. It’s a story which comes and tells us about the reality of the love that God wants to use to embrace us. The mercy that God wants to use to redeem us and the faith that God wants to give to every single one of us to restore us and on Christmas, many of us need restoration. For faith truly is the assurance of things hoped for.

What are our hopes today? I know on Christmas morning, the children could give you a list of hopes. I remember my kids would always give me a long list. I mean that thing would just go on forever. And their hopes were always the toys. And I remember as child couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought me, and all my hopes of getting the new shiny bicycle and all the other cheesy toys that the kids talk about today because we didn’t have any of the game boys and all of the high tech gadgets that we have today. But they’re fabulous. I couldn’t wait to get them. And I think a lot of us still have those hopes as adults. That child within us doesn’t really die, it just gets bigger toys. Instead of a bicycle, the hope is for a new car, or a plasma screen or you know something really cool. I have a good friend of mine, boy he got his Christmas wish this year. He traded in the old dining room table; get this, for a pool table! No lie. I don’t know how he convinced his wife of that, but I’ll tell you, two stars for him. A pool table. And that’s his Christmas gift to himself. There’s that child within us that still resides where our hopes are for things. But the truth is as we grow and mature, our hope isn’t really for things because we know that things are there and they make life maybe a little more comfortable and they have their fleeting moments. But the true hopes are for things that are dear, things that really mean something to us. Our families, our dear friends, our church, our nation.

I get Christmas cards, a lot of Christmas cards and I have a lot of friends and I got a Christmas card this year that was different than any Christmas card I’ve ever had. I think you’ll find a picture of it on the Jumbotron. It’s from James and Marybeth. And Marybeth included a letter with her Christmas card that said, “On August 1st, James was called to active duty and reported to Camp Pendleton for pre deployment training and then left October 11th for Kuwait.” Now James has a very successful law practice in Washington DC. And he was in the reserves, obviously, and was called up. “And after a few days there, and a week in Fallujah, he settled in Ramadi Iraq, which unfortunately is the worst of the insurgent strongholds. He plans to be there until next spring. The entire Alan bar province, which is the western third of Iraq and mainly Sunni has never had any type of 9/11 emergency services or disaster relief coordination. James is heading up a team that is putting all of that in place, restoring dilapidated buildings, and making them secure, grading roads, setting up satellite and computer equipment, training his men and then eventually the Iraqi’s to handle the system for themselves. James meets regularly with Governor Al-Awani, the man that you see in the rust colored suede jacket in the photo. Fortunately he has a security detail of 12 to 20 guys who protect him when he is out and about. I know that James is off doing what he does best: for America’s sake, that is far more important than one Christmas season with me.”

You know that we have hopes that our troops will all come home safely. We have troops that our families will; you know, will weather the storms and get to our homes safely. We have hopes that the love that we have for our children and our parents, our aunts and our uncles will truly be felt and understood. And we have hopes for our family gatherings that they’re not going to be as stressful as they were last year. But you know they will be. That uncle Harry isn’t going to have too much to drink on Christmas Day but he probably will because he isn’t in AA yet. And we have these hopes about our families that may or may not be realized. But we know that the hopes exist and the hopes are real. We have hopes for new jobs and a better work environment. We have hopes for possibly a raise. You know, it is the new year. Maybe I’m going to get a raise or a year end bonus. And we have hopes that we’re going to be able to provide a little better life for our family and for ourselves. They’re hopes.

And all these hopes are really good positive things because it is a stepping stone to faith. And faith is a step beyond hope because it is that assurance of those things hoped for. The conviction of those things we cannot see yet, but we know they’re going to be around the next corner. Faith is not, it is not that things will go the way we want them to. That’s a misnomer about faith. We seem to think that faith is believing that things are going to turn out the way we hope them to. And the fact is that faith is not, that things will go the way we want them to but the faith is assurance that God knows what we want. Actually, faith that believes in things are always going to go the way we want to is really arrogance. Because it says that I know what’s best for me. And if I know what’s best for me, I know I need these certain things and I need these things to happen and if these happen, then God loves me and if they don’t God doesn’t love me. And that’s not faith at all. Faith is realizing that God knows the best for me, knows what’s best for me and will make the best happen for me. And as a result of that, I hold onto my hopes because what my hopes do is they give me a vision and a guidance and a motivation to move in a way where God can direct and guide and move me. So that He can give me what’s best for me.

Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And as we continue to move in the direction that God guides, as we continue to move towards those things we hope for, those things that we are confident and are sure that will take place in our lives, God will begin to unfold. We’ll feel His touch of care when we feel that pain of loss. We’ll feel His arms of embrace and love, when we feel our pain. We will feel the redemption of His mercy when we fail yet again. But in it all, God takes the mistakes that we make and in His miraculous beauty He touches it with His hands. And with His touch He restores within us an awareness and a reality that Christ is born again and again and again and that Christmas takes place every day in every moment of our lives as we reach out in faith and believe in the words of God. We believe His words of grace. We believe His words of mercy. And we realize that we can say to that mountain of fear and we can say to that mountain of distrust, we can say to that mountain of grief and sorrow, we can say to those mountains MOVE! And they will move. For nothing is impossible with God.

And that’s Christmas. Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ in the hearts and minds and lives of people today, tomorrow and forever, as He comes and He plants a seed of hope. And the hope grows into faith and the faith restores the minds and the souls of His people. I thank God everyday that I can worship a God who died for me. And that I don’t worship a God who requires me to die for Him. God is a God who loves and cares for His people. And today on Christmas, express your love and your faith in Him and say yes Jesus, whatever You tell me I’ll believe and I’ll follow You and as You follow Him, He’ll guide you and He’ll lead you and He’ll bring you to a life full of goodness and happiness and blessings.

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