first things first

A blog about whatever crosses my mind, ordered by importance.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everybody!

I love Christmas time, spending time with family, listening to the Advent messages at church, and especially the Christmas hymns. My favorite is ‘O Holy Night’. It’s my favorite because it speaks of the hope that came into the world when Jesus Christ was born. Hope is an elusive thing. Lots of people lose hope when what they desire becomes impossible, or even worse, when they get exactly what they wanted.

Most young professionals in Albania are without hope. They can’t find good jobs, could never save enough to buy a house and support a family. They want to leave to find jobs in Western Europe or the USA. Their hope is that someday they’ll be able to get out of Albania. Those of us who live outside Albania know better, that even if they get their dream of coming to work in America, it still won’t satisfy them. Or at least we say we know better- when we’re hoping for an end of year bonus or a raise next quarter or that promotion that we know we deserve.

One of the four virtues of the Advent calendar is Hope. Along with Love, Joy, and Peace, Hope is one of the things that Jesus brings into this world. His is the only hope that won’t disappoint us, because it’s not of this world. It’s rooted in the glory of God, brought into our world from outside. The miracle of Christmas is when that hope was born.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-5

We had an encouragement and prayer meeting with the professionals about 2 weeks ago, and we talked about their prayers for Albania. We talked about what a “harvest” would look like. I shared the story about the “Layman’s Prayer Revival”, which was the start of the third Great Awakening in America back in the 1850s. When I asked whether they thought the same thing could happen in Albania, the first response I got was, “it’s very difficult for that to happen here”.

My prayer for the Albanian professionals this year is that they would have hope enough to pray for God to do big things in Albania, things that look impossible to us. Please join me in praying for that this Christmas. And I pray that God will remind each of you of the hope that we all have through faith.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth. Long lay the world in sin and error pining, Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born; O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming, With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming, Here come the wise men from the Orient land.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger; In all our trials born to be our friend. He knows our need, to our weaknesses no stranger, Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend! Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease. Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever, His power and glory evermore proclaim. His power and glory evermore proclaim.

Love you all, and Merry Christmas!