By Pastor Bryan Niebanck

“I will put my trust in him.”

Hebrews 2:13

What does it take to trust?  Do you think that Mary and Joseph had a hard time learning how to trust God?  What would it be like to walk with them to Bethlehem, or to walk with them to Egypt, chatting with them about the things they were struggling with along the way?  I think a lot could be learned from that journey.  They were able to trust God through the words that were revealed to them, even though it went against what the world expected of them.  They trusted God wherever they went.  They were not prepared to flee to Egypt after heading to Bethlehem.  But they trusted that God knew the best way for them.

When I looked up the definition of trust, it told me that it is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.  When my cat jumps onto a surface, it trusts that it will be reliable to hold him.  One time Jasper jumped onto a box that had a paper bag over the top of it, and he was surprised that it did not hold him.  When my group wanted to see a dog show in Fairbanks, Alaska, we noticed a dog jump off a very high platform to jump over a fence with someone waiting to catch them on the other side.  The dogs trusted that they would be caught, and thus were willing to perform the stunt.  When is the last time you gave someone or something your trust?  Do you keep it to yourself?  In this world today, perhaps the greatest thing we need to share with one another is our love.  Frederick Buechner was quoted with this: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  The world’s deep hunger right now is love.  Many people keep love to themselves, and are quicker to criticize than to love.  We can work on changing that.  I am fairly certain that my deep gladness is also found in love.  I am glad when I have the opportunity to love my neighbor, to lead someone to God, and to simply show someone that people care.  The world’s hunger and my deep gladness meet in love.  That is why it is my calling.  I love my neighbor by showing that I can trust them, because I know that they care about me too.  Perhaps we need to trust someone until they prove otherwise, instead of keeping our trust captive until they prove to us that they earned it.  It’s very hard to earn trust if you are given no opportunity to show that you can be trusted.  A potential leader will not rise up if no one trusts them with any tasks to complete.

As we celebrate Christmas, we may remember how so many placed their faith in Jesus.  Shepherds left their sheep to see Jesus born in a stable.  Joseph trusted Mary and the vision that he received from the angel.  A husband left his family to go find Jesus to ask him to come heal his daughter.  Jesus has proven to us that he has earned our trust.  The people gave him the opportunity to prove his love and they decided to trust him.  Where have you given him the opportunity to prove his love to you?

This is a story about someone who decided to give Jesus the opportunity to be trusted: “I once heard about a woman who had, in spite of a hard life and virtually no resources except her stamina and the strength of her faith, raised six fine children and sent them all to college.  Asked how she did it, she replied, “I saw a new world coming.” Let us hold on to the vision and live in love until the Lord comes again” (A.1.67, Joanna M. Adams).  She was able to trust in this vision of a new world, just as Mary and Joseph trusted, and so many of us still today trust in a new world to come.  Even when we do not see the new world with us now, we believe in a new world to come.  Is it hard to want to raise children in a world which we pretty much know will chew them apart?  Do we not want to see our children go through that pain?  We probably do not.  But then why do we still raise children?  We truly believe that our future generations can do better, that they can keep following God, that they can learn from those who have gone before and not make the same mistakes twice.  We believe in a new world, and most of all, we believe in the world that Jesus offers to us to partake in.

Part of trusting and believing is knowing that Jesus is for real.  When John the Baptist heard of Jesus, he sent a messenger to ask him, “Are you really the one we have been waiting for?  Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (Mt. 11:3)  John has been waiting for some alternative, for something to hope for and to hope in.  Could that be Jesus?  This is the answer from Jesus, in effect: “I cannot answer for you.  You have to decide on your own whether I am for real.  Look at the evidence.  What do you see?” (Mt. 7-11)  His answer will be the same for us today.  What do you see?  What is the evidence?  Is Jesus the one who has come for real, who you can trust in?  Or are you to wait for another?  Look at the evidence we have seen, and answer for yourselves.  Look at the magical moments with family at Christmas.  Jesus is with us as we begin this new year, and there is nothing better to start our new year with than Jesus.  Jesus is our life, our salvation, and the one in whom we can trust to make things new, if not now, then in the days to come.  John, in fact, did not live to see the day of Resurrection.  But he believed that the good things were to come; He trusted in what was promised to come.  Jesus has been born.  Jesus promises us that there are good things to come.  God is among us.

At the start of this year, I challenge you to these tasks: First, spread love.  The world needs love.  In order to trust in a God that is good and promises good things, the world needs to be able to believe that love still exists.  When we spread love to our neighbor, we help promote the goodness of God.  And in turn, we will help others trust in the goodness of God a bit more.  This leads us into our second task: Trust God.  As Christians, we need to trust God.  Trusting God is how we find hope in good things to come.  Without trust in God, we may start placing our trust in other things, and we are journeying away from God.  Give God more opportunity to earn your trust, or better yet, trust in God anyway from the start.  And even when God seems to break your trust by not doing what you wanted or prayed, know that God cannot control everything and sometimes is already working out something better for you that you just have to wait for and have faith for.  I know it is easier said than done, which is why we are going to work this year on our theme word of “trust.”  Last year was our year of prayer.  This year is our year of trusting.  Your third challenge is to believe in love and trust.  To spread love and to trust God, we need to believe that they still exist.  We need to believe that there are still people who love each other and place faith in one another.  We also need to believe that we can still trust one another and God, and not assume that everyone out there is just going to break it.  The world seems to want to take love and trust from us; it is our responsibility to counteract that and put a little bit of it back.

Paul (or whoever wrote Hebrews) also spoke to trusting Jesus to help those who are suffering.  In Hebrews 2:18, he affirms, “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.”  We can trust Jesus with whatever we have wherever we are at.  When we are discouraged, we can take it to the Lord in prayer.  When we are worried, we can hand those worries over to God for God to hold.  Jesus IS able to help those who are being tested.  We need to challenge ourselves to trust God with our concerns when they arise; and we all know that they WILL arise.  God knows how we feel.  And God knows us, and loves us, and wants to make things better.  God wants to give us a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11).  Can you believe in that this year?  If not, what is preventing you from believing?  Can you nix that at its center, so it doesn’t prevent you anymore?  Can you stop it from holding you back from trusting God with your concerns?  Can you stop it from holding you back from trusting and loving your neighbor when that is probably what your neighbor needs most right now?

I want to thank our consistory members.  They engaged in a step of trusting God’s call on their lives.  They trust that God has been calling them to give to the church in a specific way.  Whatever you do for the church, lighting candles, ringing the bell, taking up or counting the offering, or taking care of the church building, we trust you with these tasks and we thank you.  The congregation trusts these members to represent the people well and to get the tasks done that need to be done.  We engage in trust well when we trust one another to these tasks, and when we trust God to say yes to these tasks.  Even when things do not go our way, like when we do not have Christmas Eve services two times in the past three years, we still trust God.  Going into a new year, we trust God.  As we spread love to our neighbor and to the world, and trust God to hold us in God’s care, we celebrate God among us, Emmanuel, and share God’s promise with those around us.  May all glory and honor be to God.  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Scripture Readings:

Isaiah 63:7-9
63:7 I will recount the gracious deeds of the LORD, the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, because of all that the LORD has done for us, and the great favor to the house of Israel that he has shown them according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
63:8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely”; and he became their savior
63:9 in all their distress. It was no messenger or angel but his presence that saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Hebrews 2:10-18
2:10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
2:11 For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters,
2:12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
2:13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again, “Here am I and the children whom God has given me.”
2:14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,
2:15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.
2:16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham.
2:17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.
2:18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Matthew 2:13-23
2:13 Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”
2:14 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt,
2:15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.”
2:16 When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.
2:17 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
2:18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.”
2:19 When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,
2:20 “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.”
2:21 Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.
2:23 There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.”

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