The beauty of the new songs written through the lives of the people at the very first Christmas are is the same beauty of the new songs the Lord longs to write in our lives today - this Christmas.
This is great, to be back with my cornerstone family. And while we’re not all in one place together at the same time, we are gathered together on this special weekend of the year being that this is December 26th, a Sunday, the day after Christmas, we get to celebrate Christmas together, Merry Christmas, and also mark this as the last Sunday of 2021.
But before we jump into the message that I’ve prepared for today, I thought I’d take an opportunity to do something that we haven’t done with our online services. Since we started them in March of 2020, March of 2020. Well, actually that’s not right. We had online services before, but they were basically three cameras sort of picking up what was happening at one of the Mission Campus services.
And then we would stream them out on the website and we’d stream them over to the Riordan campus. But when everything changed in March of 2020, The team here at Cornerstone came up with a new way of bringing us our Sunday services with specially created and produced content to be delivered on the church website on Facebook, on YouTube and other places.
I’m thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic when we were all under that term shelter in place. And if you were like me going a little stir crazy, I mean just how many jigsaw puzzles could one person do. And if I could only have back all of those hours in front of Netflix watching and wasting time looking at things like the Tiger King, the one thing, the one thing that I could really look forward to weekly was having Pastor Terry and the Cornerstone band come into our living room and be with us there for church.
My wife, Patty has told so many people that PT and Cornerstone, they were the highlight of the week. They were our only visitors. It was like having them over on a Sunday morning. I’m putting actually up the picture of my wife, Patty and me celebrating Easter 20 20 together. Just the two of us, dressed up for church, online church.
I don’t want to tell you, but that was just about as most dressed up that I’ve been in church in years and it was so fun. Thank you Cornerstone for giving us those services. It felt so great to have church on that morning, albeit online, together, and here we are these nearly two years later and we’re still doing it.
And what a gift this technology has been to, which we should be thankful as the series has been teaching us. But I digress a little bit. What I want to do is actually is to share a bit of this gift of the online service with you by showing you where and how all of this happened. Now, if you remember back, Pastor Terry would record the weekend messages from his house.
Sometimes in the little hallway, sometimes in that little study, he changed the pictures. It was really cool. It was fun to see. And then the band each recorded from their own homes, which they still do sometimes. And then everything was engineered and synced and voila, we got our weekend service. Later, PT shifted to a built set like this and began, the, originating the message from here.
And the creative team comes up with these really awesome sets and he changed and they changed them with each series. But where are we? I mean, where are we, really? Well, let’s go take a look. So I’m going to give us a little tour where we are really, if you can see there’s the set we are on the third floor of the mission campus.
Yes. Those of you who have children will remember this as the tree house, my wife and I most served in the children’s ministry. I spent decades up in this room every Sunday morning with your kids who were probably some of them in college. Some of them have kids they’re aging, but not me, but this right now, if you have children, you see that’s the set where we have the children’s ministry.
So creative, and you might even actually recognize this set from a few series ago. This is all really amazing. And I’m going to actually show you the best view in San Francisco. This view right outside the window is our garage door on the third floor. What an amazing place this is. So I thought I’d just give you that little tour, little gift there, um, so that you could see where all of this is happening.
And I will go back over here. You know, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to put all this content together. It’s complicated. It’s a complicated compilation of video, audio, editing, formatting, and then posting on all of those different distribution sites. I know I am personally thankful for the team who does all of this, and I hope you are, too.
As this technology allows us to reach people all over the world, all over the world, as well as right here at home in the Bay Area. You know, none of us know what is coming in this next year. We don’t know what it’s going to bring, but it’s great that our Cornerstone team is committed to keeping our online services and our online content, not only the weekend service, but during the week, all of these great offerings that are exciting and filling for all of us.
I hope you enjoyed that little tour. And I would like to now jump into our message, but before I do that, let’s, let’s pray together. Lord. I just thank you for our time this morning. And I thank you for wherever anyone is at this moment, whether here in the bay area or someplace out in the outside in the United States, or even someone somewhere else around the world, we thank you for the just wonderful time that we’ve had as we celebrate your birth.
And Lord, we just ask you to come in together into this message. Let our hearts be open and our hearts be tender. Whether we’re listening to this on the Sunday after Christmas or later in the week, or maybe even years later, Lord, we just ask your words to fill our heart. Lord, thank you for this technology that allows us to have such reach.
We bless you. We love you and your precious name we pray the name of Jesus. Amen. Okay. As I mentioned at the onset, this is our last message of the year and also the last message in Pastor Terry’s Thankful series. We’ve explored many reasons to be thankful and also learned how we can express our gratitude to God and others.
And I want to continue that, with this last message, message that I have titled Thankful for the Next Chapter. During this year, it would have been hard to have missed what has become known as the great resignation. It seems that wherever we turn, we hear of companies and organizations not being able to hire and more and more people deciding just to opt out of the workplace, leaving us with more open jobs than people who are seeking to work.
Everyone’s trying to understand why this is happening and why now the economist and the analysts, they give us all the numbers of early retirees and those who’ve chosen to be stay at home parents versus returning to work, or those, the numbers who have ventured out on their own to become entrepreneurs, are artisans.
But without any doubt we have had maybe catalyzed by the time we had to reevaluate how we have spent and want to spend our time. We have been rethinking our relationship to work and making different choices. You know, it’s happening not only here to us here in the U S but it’s also happening all around the world.
Maybe even some of us watching or listening right now are part of the great resignation you’ve made a change, and you’ve rethought the way you’re going to spend your relationship with work and spend your time, you know, close to home here in the bay area, we had a longtime Congresswoman decide just a few weeks ago that after 14 years in office, that she won’t stand for reelection this year.
And in that same week, a sports giant Buster Posey. I mean, a real San Francisco giant decided to end his career at 34 way early to focus more time on his family. In both of these cases, I listened and I read their resignation announcements and they both said to some extent, they use the same words. It’s time for the next chapter in our lives.
The next chapter, the next chapter. What does that mean? And what might we learn about our own next chapter? You know, since 2009, when Amazon released the, what was then their new digital reading device, the Kindle, I still have my first one. I tried so hard to find it. It must be packed away someplace. I’m going to show it to you.
It, it, uh, it looks very old and antiquated, but since I got my first one, I’ve, I’ve read more and more on the Kindle and less and less in paper versions. And at first I didn’t really like it. I didn’t like the digital experience, but with time the Kindle got better and I got more used to it. I found that I actually read more often because I can plan for how long it will take me to read or finish a chapter.
You see this little bit of information in the bottom left-hand corner. That information freed me up to plan 9, 26, 38 minutes, whatever it is, and know that I could move forward in a planful and productive way. And I always feel good about completing a chapter. And then I’m excited to start a new one. And maybe that would be a great metaphor for life.
We can know that the, the chapters of our lives and what they’re going to be, how long they will last, we can plan for them. We can feel good when we complete them and be excited to start the next one. That would be great. Well, along this Sunday, after Christmas, I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But it doesn’t work that way.
Does it? We can’t always predict when a chapter of life will open or close or how long it will be. However, we can learn from those we have experienced from, and we can learn from their life experiences. So what better person to learn from, and what can we learn from the chapters of Jesus’s time on the earth. Being that this is Christmas and the season that we get really intentional and excited and jazzed to celebrate the first chapter of Jesus’s life, his birth, it’s the most important opening chapter in the history of the world.
And we see it right here in Luke chapter two, verse six and seven. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. Her being Mary. She gave her birth to her firstborn son being Jesus. And she wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger because there was no lodging available for them.
And it wasn’t just Jesus and Joseph and Mary there, others came too, to be a part of Jesus’s opening chapter. We pick it back up in verse eight, that night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared among them and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them.
They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. Don’t be afraid. He said, I bring you good news, that will bring great joy to all people. The savior. Yes. The Messiah. The Lord has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David. And you will recognize him by this sign. You will find a baby. Wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.
Suddenly the angel was joined by a vast host of others. Now we have more, the armies of heaven, praising God and saying glory to God in highest heaven and peace on earth with whom God is pleased. When the angel had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, I’m glad they did. Let’s go to Bethlehem.
Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. And then even others. They came from further, in Matthew, two, nine, and 10, and the star they had seen in the east, guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was when they saw the star, they were filled with joy.
They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worship him. Then they opened their treasure chest and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know these men as the mag -i or the wise men each Christmas. I like to imagine. I can imagine what it must have been like to be the shepherds or the wise men to have personally seen and been among the first to welcome baby Jesus into our world.
I like to imagine the conversations that they had with others when they went home and they talked among their friends and their family, and the Bible actually tells us what happened. They tell us in Luke that those that they told were astonished, astonished just a great word as it means to be greatly surprised or impressed or amazed.
Those who witnessed and heard about for the first time, the first chapter of Jesus’s life were astonished. They were amazed. It was a glorious opening chapter chapter, two of Jesus’s life that we become aware of came 12 years later, it happened in Jerusalem and we read about it in Luke 2 41 through 47 every year, Jesus, his parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover festival when Jesus was 12 years old, they attended the festival.
As usual after the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends.
When they couldn’t find them, they went back to Jerusalem to search for him. Three days later, they finally discovered him in the temple sitting among the religious leaders, listening to them and asking questions. And the Bible tells us all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.
There’s that word? Amazed. We get a glimpse of Jesus as a child, and even then we can see the impact he was having on others. I’ve tried to think back long time ago when I was 12 years old, what was I doing? I know it was, I was reading a lot of Marvel comic books. I was making some model cars. I was playing a lot of basketball, thinking that I could be better than I was.
I was being taught how to play the piano, which I was not very good at. But I know this at 12 years old, I can’t imagine doing anything for three straight days. I mean, much less sitting still for one thing for one hour or two hours. No wonder the other teachers were amazed with Jesus, but they weren’t the only ones amazed with him at that age.
I think back again, to being 12 years old, how we might have treated someone who was our peer at 12, when that person was smarter, kinder, better behaved, always doing good. We might have teased that person. Mighten we, we might’ve called them goody two-shoes or teacher’s pet or something, but not Jesus. Luke 2: 52 says, so Jesus grew both in height and wisdom, and he was loved by God and all who knew him, by all who knew him.
That means even his same aged friends, his peer group, at 12 years old, all who knew him, he was loved that. I find amazing Jesus had an amazing chapter, one, amazing chapter two and was being ready to set up for his next chapter, which came 18 years later. We know from Luke 3: 21 through 23, how chapter three started one day when the crowds were being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized as he was praying, the heavens opened and the holy spirit, in bodily form to send it on him like a.
dove and a voice from heaven said, you are my dearly loved son and you bring me great joy. Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his public ministry. And from there, we have many accounts of his ministry and all the people who followed him, who sought to see and hear him, those who were healed by him and those that were even threatened by him and ultimately did all they could to have input to his death.
This chapter of Jesus, his time on earth went from the high of the highs, being received by thousands, honored in a procession, declared a king, as he rode into the streets of Jerusalem only to find himself days later, sentenced to death and dying on a wooden cross in the act of crucifixion Jesus’ chapter three lasted three years.
Ending with a three-day human death. His chapter three started at his baptism with the voice of God, declaring him his beloved son and concluded with Luke 24: 46. By this time it was about noon and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone and suddenly the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple was torn the middle.
And then Jesus shouted, Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands. And with those words, he breathed his last, the end of chapter three. If the story of the life of Jesus ended right there with no further pages to be turned or chapters to be written, then the story would be a tragedy and we wouldn’t be here now.
There wouldn’t be any reason because the man who came to earth and performed all the miracles and taught so eloquently and left such great instructions on how to live, he wouldn’t stand out. He would be thought of as one of many, many who have come and gone, who claimed to be one thing, but turned out to be another.
But chapter three was not the end of the story. There was a chapter four that started three days after his death. The chapter starts here in Matthew 28, 1 through seven, early on Sunday morning as the new day was dawning Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake for an angel of the Lord, came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone and sat on it.
His face it’s shown like lightning and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him and they fell into a dead faint, then the angel spoke to the women. Don’t be afraid. He said, I know you were looking for Jesus who was crucified. He isn’t here. He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.
Come see where his body was lying. And now go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead. And he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you, remember what I have told you? And there it is the start of chapter four of Jesus that is ongoing, that is alive and giving us all the hope for our own tomorrows.
So what can we learn from the chapters, the life chapters of jesus and after I’d offer these three thoughts. In each chapter, Jesus astonishes, and amazes. From the shepherds, to the teachers in Jerusalem, to his followers, even the guards who experienced their experience, the rolling back of the tomb, he astonishes and amazes and is doing so today, for those who seek him to be a part of their lives.
And as we follow him and share the good news of Christ and what he has done in our own lives, he will, again, astonish and amaze. You see, we are to make his story, our story. Secondly, he waited on God’s timing for his chapters to begin and end. Think about it, 12 years before the first interaction with Jesus and then another 18 before his ministry.
This was God’s timing and Jesus was willing to wait on it. You remember? I said, I’d like to think about the shepherds and the wise men. I do. I’ve thought about those men who met Jesus for the first time as a baby. We have no accounts of how old they were or how long they lived, but it’s likely that some of them who were there in the manger or followed the star didn’t live long enough for them to ever see or even hear what happened with that baby named Jesus.
I mean, it’s not like they could keep up with him on Instagram, so they might’ve gone to their graves. Wondering if what they experienced was real, but because Jesus astonishes and amazes, I think they never doubted that they had met them. And that they had gazed upon the face of God. Maybe it was God’s timing to not have them around so that it was Jesus in his chapter three, who didn’t need anyone coming alongside of him saying I saw the star.
I was there. I’ll vouch for this guy. Maybe it was another account on why, when we wait on God’s timing, the best is yet to come. If we can learn to live within God’s timing, accepting and patiently waiting when called to do so. And yes, conversely acting when the timing is now, then the timing and the beginning and the ending of our chapters become his.
And lastly, Jesus has chapters of life, always pointed to hope. Whether it was the baby a- Messiah that created hope and belief or the child who gave hope to the teachers and those who he grew up around, to his followers and to each person who he interacted with and to all of us who now await his next chapter upon his return and our time with him in eternity, we have a hope that go- goes beyond anything humanly possible.
And Jesus is calling us to walk within that hope with him. Some of us have done that, others of us have not yet. And some are just still thinking about it. What I personally know, and I will share with you is that moving into the chapter with Jesus in your life will give you all the hope you need. And even more than you can imagine. You know, we have a prayer team here at Cornerstone and you can reach out in the chat or on our site.
They’re always available, if you were thinking that today, or sometime in the future, you want to turn that page and you want to move forward into your next chapter with Jesus. So in a few days, we turn the page on 2021 and we open up 20 22 It’s too hard for anyone to now predict what the new year will bring. We could be readying for more of the same.
It could get better. I pray it does, or it could get worse. We just don’t know. And because it’s a new year, it doesn’t mean that this is the beginning, the middle or the end of one of our own life chapters. One size fits one. Here we could be in the middle. It might be the end. It might be the beginning. We don’t know, but the new year is always a great time to stop for a moment and reevaluate, maybe write some new pages in our chapter or even tear out
a few and leave them behind. In early 20 20, right after the pandemic began. Um, as one of the co-hosts of the faith-driven entrepreneur podcast, um, were around I think, around 200 episodes now. So if you’d like to check us out and you can find us in all the usual podcast sites, the faith-driven entrepreneur, we interviewed this pastor and entrepreneur and author by the name of Jeff Henderson.
He wrote this book, Know What You’re For. And as part of the interview, Jeff laid out five questions to ask ourselves when we are maybe in a time of crisis or distress. And he was speaking at that time about the pandemic. And like, we have been in the pen- in the pandemic, or like when we feel it’s time to make a change, or even when we’re struggling with how to allocate our time, maybe our energy, maybe our resources, or even when we’re thinking it is, maybe it really is time to start a new chapter in our
lives. I’ve come back to these questions so many times, and I’ve shared them with so many people and the insightful results that come back from the answers of those questions. I thought it would just be a little bit of a belated Christmas gift and an early new year’s offering to just go through those five questions and see if they help us move to a new and better chapter.
Jeff says, after ask yourself these, what have we been doing that now is the time to walk away from, are there things, activities, habits, interactions that we know just, they just aren’t good for us, things that weren’t working before, but we just keep doing that. Weigh us down, that hold us back, that keep us stuck from moving forward.
If so, then now would be the time to walk away from them in head in a new direction. Walk away from, conversely, what should we double down on? Have there been areas in our lives that we got going in the right direction and it’s actually time for more of those. Did we start taking that time to take care of ourselves?
Are we spending more quality time in God’s word or getting back into church or serving again? And we hear that voice down inside of us saying this is good. It’s good for you. It’s probably time to double down. Thirdly, where could we take new ground during the pandemic? Pastor Terry. He’s been so good at this is his little rhymes and alliterations, uh, but he has one.
That one is one of my favorite. If we’re going to go through it, then we might as well grow through it. If we’re going to go through it, then grow through it. And yes, there are areas in our life where we can grow and gain ground and stake ourselves in a new place, in a new attitude and a new mindset with goals and discipline to reach those objectives.
And what better, what better time to take and gain new ground than now. We should also ask ourselves what is essential to do in this moment. I love this question because it reminds me that even in the midst of any craziness or problems, or even good times, we have to take care of business. You know, we have to take care of ourselves, but not just for ourselves.
We have people who depend on us and to use the airline analogy, we have to be capable of putting on that oxygen mask, so then we can turn around and help someone else put on. If we’re not taking care of ourselves, mind, body, and our spirit, then we are ignoring the essentials of life. We’ve all seen the caregivers in so many of them during the pandemic, pandemic who either didn’t make it through who quit their jobs because of stress or depression, or even worse because they forgot to take care of themselves while they were taking care of others.
We should bless them and we should be thankful for them, but we’ve got to know what is essential to take care of in the moment. It might be that this next chapter is about defining what is essential. We may not know. Maybe we just got to start there: getting back to those basics and then sticking with them that new self could be a great start to a new chapter.
And then lastly, let’s ask ourselves this, what is made possible? This seems like such an easy question, right? But I find it to be the hardest of them all because I don’t believe we can answer this question to its most fulfilling answer without turning the question and trusting the answer, the God you see.
I can only in my very human and many times weak mind barely see beyond my worries, my anxieties, my fears, and my cautions in our brokenness. We are limited in our lack of faith, we are limited. So we miss the possible, unless we invite God into what that exploration for us and what less. We allow him to guide our path and show us what is truly possible.
When we lay our future, our next chapters to his authorship, he will show us what is truly possible. If we let him guide and carry us to the next chapter,
Let us be thankful for what we can learn from Jesus and let us be thankful for the next chapter. He has ready for us. We’re going to close out with the amazing Cornerstone band, giving us a song to reflect upon. And then Pastor Terry will come around for a few closing thoughts of his own. But before we go to the song, this is the time that we’re all reminded for the giving of our tithes and offerings.
This giving, I know, I know sometimes we forget, but this giving makes our church possible and as we have seen over the past few weeks, we want to keep this online content and programming going, the things that I showed you earlier. So as we close this year, if it’s on your heart to keep all of this, not only going, but growing, please consider the Forward by Faith Giving Campaign.
God has shown us what is possible, and we want to honor him with what we have been given. And as you consider this and all that we’ve talked about together, let’s remember to be thankful, thankful for the next chapter and especially for the next chapter that he has written for us. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
How do we be thankful when the world is a mess? There is a transcendant peace we can have when we give all of our lives - our desires and disappointments - to Jesus.
Are you looking for love in all the wrong places? What does God's agape love for us look like? What obstacles do we put in our way from receiving His love?