Note to Leaders

The fall semester ends on December 9, and the spring semester will run January 28-April 28.  Consequently, this will be the last sermon discussion guide produced until the spring semester begins. However, if your group has been using them and is meeting during the break, here are a couple of short studies you can use in the interim.

Also, we have opened up group registration for the spring semester, so if you know what your group will be doing or have plans to start a new group, you can go ahead and register it now.


Series Introduction

  • The lights flickering on the tree, the bright wrapping paper beneath it, the festive sweaters that come out once a year: everywhere we look, we see the colors of Christmas. But there’s so much more than lights and ribbons. The coming of Jesus colors Christmas—and life itself—in a whole new way.

Do you have a time when your reality didn’t meet your expectations for Christmas? How did you handle it?


Sermon Introduction

The Bible is an epic love story that chronicles God’s interactions with humankind.

God created us to have a relationship with Him.  We rebelled and damaged that relationship, and so God has been at work throughout history to restore it.  The climax of the Bible narrative is found in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who makes it possible for us to once again have a relationship with God.

The Bible is the story of a God who will go to any length for us, a God whose love chases us down and won’t give up on us.

  • If you’ve been a follower of Jesus for awhile, what is your favorite story from the Bible that demonstrates God’s love for us, and why does that story have such an impact on you?  If you’ve recently decided to follow Jesus or are still trying to figure out what you believe about Jesus, what do you think about this idea of the Bible as the narrative of God’s pursuit of a relationship with people?

Have someone in the group read Ephesians 1:4.

Long before God laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind.  He decided that we would be the focus of His love.

The Old Testament of the Bible is full of foreshadowing.  God comes to a really old guy named Abraham and tells him that he and his wife are going to have a child and that from this child would come offspring as that would outnumber the grains of sand of every beach in the world, and that through his descendants every nation in the world would be blessed. And so Abraham’s wife Sarah gives birth to Isaac, and Isaac and his wife Rebecca have Jacob.  And Jacob has twelve sons who become the nation of Israel.

Jacob’s son Joseph became prime minister of Egypt, so the whole family relocates there during a famine, but after Joseph died, another pharaoh came along who did not know Joseph.  This pharaoh enslaves Joseph’s descendants, the Israelites.

After 400 years of slavery God uses a guy named Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery.  And this deliverance is a shadow of the deliverance that was to come to all people through Jesus.

  • Where is an area of your life that you feel trapped and in need of God’s deliverance?

Have someone in the group read Exodus 20.

During the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness, God gives them a set of commands to live by.  We know them as the Ten Commandments.  And these commands are designed to help us to live life to the full, to live well and get the most out of life by living in the way that God our creator intended.

But they do so much more than that.  The truth is none of us has perfectly kept all of these commandments.  They exist to show us not only what to do but how much we need God’s help.  They set an impossible standard that we can’t meet on our own.

Have someone in the group read Romans 3:21-24.

The Ten Commandments show us that we need grace.

  • When is a time in your life that someone showed you profound grace?  How has that experience shaped your understanding of God’s grace for us?

Later God tells Moses, “Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you” (Exodus 25:8-9).

This tabernacle was this amazingly beautiful tent that they could tear down and take with them on their road trip to the promised land. There were detailed blueprints of how it was to be built, set up, designed, and furnished, and all of it was a shadow of what was to come.

There was all kinds of symbolism contained in the tabernacle. There was a curtain around it, a courtyard, an altar of burnt offering, a lampstand, a wash basin, an altar of incense, the Holy Place, and the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, which signified the very presence of God.

And do you know where God told them to set up the tent? He doesn’t ask them to set up the tabernacle out on the outskirts in his own private estate. God says, “I want to live right smack in the middle of the camp.”  He wants to be right in the middle of their lives, again a shadow of where God wants to be in our lives, right in the middle, the hub around which everything else revolves!   And just as he dwelt in the tabernacle, he wants to dwell inside of each of us.

  • How are you doing at living each day with Jesus as the hub of your life? What are one or two practical things you can do to make sure He is at the center of your life?

Have someone read Exodus 32.

Moses is up on Mount Sinai talking to God for a long time, and the Israelites begin to panic and turn to idol worship. They forgot God, the one who had delivered them and made a way to freedom.

We might be quick to judge them but we forget too.  We are tempted to go back to our old ways of living.  We may not worship physical idols, but we put other things in place of God as the most important thing in our lives.  And it’s not always bad things we center our lives around, good things like work and family can turn into idols when we elevate them above God.

  • What things are you tempted to place at the center of your life instead of God?


Application

Break up into groups of 2-4 and pray for each other.  Ask God for his help in keeping Jesus at the center of your life, and pray specifically about those things just mentioned that distract you from doing so.