Check, check, can you guys hear me? There it is. How are we doing? Happy New Year's Eve to everyone. It's great to be together. I know we have some of the kids here. Kids, where you at? Raise your hand, raise them high. I saw some adults raise your hand too, that's cool.

Well, I know that, you know, we have some of these services throughout the year where we intentionally — this is intentional — have the kids in service, and we love kids. We love having you with us, and I encourage us, all of us, not just the kids but the adults as well, to be engaging, to be listening, and we're going to have a great time here.

We do have a few announcements. I don't think we have any slides, but we want to remind you all next Sunday will be our first worship service of 2024 — that is crazy, 2024. So, we'll meet here on January 7th, 10:00, right here in the auditorium.

We do want to let everybody know, put out the call again, that we have a new children's ministry rotation starting next Sunday. And the way we do children's ministry is if you serve, there are two different teams serving at the same time but on two different tracks, so you serve every other week for six months. And so, we do still need five more teachers for the next rotation. We are very grateful for all those who have served as teachers and as coordinators thus far. We do still need five of you, so if you are interested, please talk to Virginia, my wife, and we can get you all set up there.

Also, for the different ministries that we have in the East, for the midpoint ministry, we will be having our first midpoint DVO on Friday, January 12th. All right, so that includes all of the members of midpoint there that Friday night. And then for East Point, East Point's first midweek of the year is Wednesday, January 10th. All right, so be sure to be checking out your ministry emails there, and we'll get all sorted out.

I was gonna say, I think I have the clicker, huh? So, go ahead and pull out your Bibles here. And the title of our lesson today is 'Story Time, Story, Story Time.' Adults, you're never too old for a good story time, right? You know, stories, if you think about it, stories are incredible things. Really, at their core, they are just letters and words, but they're composed in such a way that they can take us to different places, right? To far away lands and distant galaxies and different time zones and times in history, right? There are tales about falling in love, and battle and victory, and stories that will make you laugh, stories that will make you cry. Right, I was thinking about, for me, some of the meaningful stories that I had growing up. As a little kid, I was all about Power Rangers. I was obsessed with Power Rangers, and this was a time, you know, before you can't just stream one episode after another, right? So I remember, if I was outside playing or at a friend's house or something, I would have my parents come and get me to come back home to watch Power Rangers because I could not miss it. I was so in, you know, in the story. And then as I got older, heard more stories, you know, as an adult, I love the Rocky series. That's like one of my favorite series of movies. Just this local underdog fighting to do what he loves to do, eventually becoming champion. I love Rocky — most of the Rocky's, not all the Rocky's, but most of them.

But, you know, some stories we know they're on a screen or they're in a book, right? But some stories are real life, and that's why they're meaningful to us. This is my grandma and grandpa, this is Jack and Rose Weekley. We call them Ma and Papa. But, you know, I remember growing up, my grandma especially would tell the story of how they fell in love. They got connected by kind of mutual family friends, and my grandma grew up in an abusive home situation. She left when she was pretty young, eventually ended up in nursing school as a teenager. My grandpa was in the US Navy, and so they heard about each other and started writing letters back and forth, and they fell in love by writing letters. And one of the first times they actually met together to go on a date, he proposed, and they were married for over 60 years.

And so, I remember too, my grandpa was a sonar tech in the Navy, and so he would be on subs, submarines, and destroyers and carriers, and doing all this crazy stuff. But he would often tell the story that his destroyer, the ship he was on, was sunk by a submarine, and so they had to abandon ship. And you talk about the sirens and all these stories that are just kind of ingrained in us, right?

But stories are interesting. They're not just powerful in themselves; they help us connect, connect to one another, right? What do you do when you get to know someone? You sit down and tell stories, right? Because through stories, we get to know one another. Sometimes we try to one-up one another with our stories, but we learn kind of what makes people tick and how I can love this person and what it looks like to be a part of their life.

I saw this quote, and I love this quote, just about the nature of storytelling. Erin Morgenstren, an American author, she says, 'Someone needs to tell these tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast, there's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear, it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict, from the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and their self and their purpose. That tale will move them and drive them, and who knows what they might do because of it, right? Stories are powerful.

What I want us to do this morning is to look at the Bible with this lens of story, today. All right, now all the kids, where you at? Kids, in just a moment, we're actually, I'm going to invite you up here. Any of the kids that want to come up, I've got my bean bag up here. We're gonna have a little story time on stage for any of the kids that want to come up. In just a moment, I see kids already getting ready. But let me say first to the adults in the room, again, you're never too old for a good story time. But I believe the words of God, the stories of God, are so powerful that they can impact you and impact your life, no matter what way they are told, right? So, I'm gonna spend some time with the kids on the stage, but I trust that all of us will be listening, amen? And I think that if you are listening, I know that if you are listening, the story of God will hold meaning for you today as well, amen.

All right, so kids, whoever wants to come on up, you can come sit on the carpet up here. We're going to read from our little family Bible. Any of the kids can come on up. There's my girl. Here, go take a seat. Take a seat, you guys can come sit down. All right, come on up, come on up.

I'm going to ask you guys some questions, is that cool? What would you guys say is your favorite book? Do you guys have a favorite book? Yeah, what was that? The Bible? That's a great answer. What's that? 'Keeper of the Lost Cities'? I don't know that one. What's yours? Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, yeah. Avery, do you have a favorite book? 'Mermaid Power', all right, that's a lot of what we get in our house. Felicity, what's that? 'Miss Lenas Ballerinas', okay, awesome. All right, last one, 'Chronicles of Narnia'. All those are really good stories, those are really good.

Well, we're gonna look at a couple of Bible stories. Do you guys know the Bible is one massive story, right? It's a book, right, but it's a lot of smaller stories that come together to tell a big story about how God made people so He can love them, so He could be with them, right? Here you go.

But there are so many stories in the Bible. There are stories that will make you laugh, stories that will make you cry, stories you know in a way we still don't understand. There are stories about kings and queens and kingdoms.

Stories about battles and people falling in love, right? There's all sorts of stories in the Bible. What would you say is one of your favorite stories in the Bible?

Yeah, superheroes. There are some spiritual superheroes in the Bible. That's cool.

Alright. Any stories in the Bible that you guys really like?

John the Baptist. Okay, eating bugs, yeah.

David and Goliath.

Yeah, Power Rangers. Alright, maybe the apostles are kind of like, you know, spiritual Power Rangers.

Yeah, the people ate the apple, and it opened their eyes. Yeah, that's, that's yeah, yeah.

Jacob and Esau.

Alright, going old school there. One more? That Jesus died for us.

Absolutely. Well, we're going to read a story. What's your favorite Bible story? Is it this one? Alright, we're going to read the story of Joshua and Jericho right now. And, uh, adults, the words — I'm going to trust the AV team, you guys can advance the slides. The words should be up there. But here we go.

Joshua and Jericho: After Moses was gone, God gave his people a new leader. His name was Joshua, which means 'The Lord saves.' Joshua was going to lead God's people into the land, the special land God had promised to give them. By this time, God's people had been wandering around in a baking hot desert for 40 years, so you can imagine how sick they were of sand, sand, and anything yellow, and tents, and walking, and being hot. Sounds like Phoenix. And how happy they were to reach the edge of the desert and to see their beautiful new home right there in front of them, all cool and green and lovely.

There was only one problem: Jericho. Jericho was a city, but it wasn't just any old city. It was a fortress, and it stopped anyone from getting into the land. The people looked at Jericho, at the big, giant, scary walls all around it. They looked at the tall, towering ramparts, at the heavy iron gates bolted shut, and they looked at each other. What would they do? No one knew, but God knew. And God told Joshua what to do, but Joshua must have looked really surprised because it was a very odd battle plan, indeed.

Then God made his people a promise: 'I will be with you, and I will never ever leave you. If you do what I say, your lives in the new land will be happy, and everything will go well.' So, Joshua gathered his army together. They had their swords and spears and shields. They were ready to fight. But the plan wasn't about fighting; it was about trusting and doing what God said.

Joshua's army went marching and marching and marching around the city, day after day. 'They're too scared to fight,' the people in Jericho said. But they were wrong. God's people weren't scared; they were waiting, waiting for God to tell them what to do next.

On the seventh day, God told his people to march around the city not one but seven times. Then God told everyone to make as much noise as they could. Can you guys do that? If I count to three, can you make as much noise as you can? Alright, one, two, three!

Alright, that was good. Just like that, there you go. I tried to cover the mic for all y'all, sorry. As it turned out, the noise was stone-splitting. The huge, strong walls of Jericho just crumbled to the ground as if they were made of sand. Jericho vanished in a great cloud of dust.

So, it was that God's people entered their new home, and they didn't have to fight to get in; they only had to walk. Joshua said, 'God has brought you safely here. Now, will you do what he says?' Everyone said, 'We promise.'

'Only God can make your heart happy,' Joshua said. 'So, don't pray to pretend gods.'

'No,' they said. 'Never.'

I'm afraid they didn't keep their promise. They didn't do what God said, and many years later, just as God warned them, things would go very badly for God's people. They would lose their home; enemies would capture them and take them off as slaves, and God's people would scatter into many different lands.

But God's plan was still working. One day, he would give his people another leader and another home. But this home, no one would ever be able to take from them.

Good story, huh? Yeah. What I love about a story like that is you can look at all of those characters — Joshua, and the soldiers, and God — and we can learn something from all of them, right? When you look at God, we can learn that God is more powerful than even these scary, crazy high walls of Jericho, right?

Do you remember the promise God gave them? You guys remember what he said? He said, 'I will be with you. I will never ever leave you.' Did he keep that promise? Absolutely, right.

And you can learn things from Joshua too, about just trusting God even when it's scary, even when it doesn't make sense, right? That we follow what God says, right?

And then, you can kind of fast forward. We're going to do one more story with the kids, fast forward, and later in the Bible, we find stories about Jesus. You guys have a favorite story about Jesus?

Yeah, that Jesus was teaching, and then Jesus died.

Yeah, yeah. Any favorite stories about Jesus?

He did...

Yeah, what's that?

Jesus's birth.

Yeah, might have just celebrated that, yeah.

When he chose his students, he taught them.

Yeah. Elliana, last one.

When he was resurrected, when he came back to life.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever seen that done? No way, right? He came back to life. That's crazy.

There's one more story we're going to read about Jesus here. It's called 'The Little Girl and a Sick Lady.' Let's read this together. Here:

There was once a little girl who didn't get out of bed one morning, or the next, or the next. In fact, she didn't get out of bed for a whole month. She was very sick, and no one knew how to make her better.

Jairus was her daddy, and he loved her. One day, he was sitting by her bed, holding her hand, wishing there was something. 'I know!' he said. He jumped to his feet, put on his coat, kissed his daughter, ran down the steps, passed the servants, out of the house, through the gates, along the road, into the town, up the steps, and into the temple. He fought his way through all the people until, at last, he found who he was looking for: Jesus.

'He said, falling at Jesus' feet, 'My daughter,' he pleaded.

But he didn't need to beg because, before he'd even finished speaking, Jesus reached out his hand and helped him up. 'I'll come at once,' Jesus said.

Jairus's eyes filled with tears. Jesus was coming. It would be all right.

In those days, of course, they didn't have ambulances, so they had to go on foot. Jesus's helpers knew that he would heal the sick girl, but they have to hurry. If Jesus didn't get there soon, it might be too late.

But everyone was in the way, hustling and bustling, jostling and pressing, pushing and shoving, squishing and squashing. The disciples ran ahead, forcing back the crowd.

Suddenly, Jesus stopped. His friends looked back. What was he doing?

'Who touched me?' Jesus asked because he felt power go out of him.

'Me,' said a frail lady, looking down at the ground because she was ashamed. The poor lady had been sick for 12 years, and she had to get well. She knew if she only touched Jesus's coat, she would be healed. She touched his coat, and instantly, she was well.

'We don't have time,' Jesus's friends said. But Jesus always had time. He reached out his hands and gently lifted her head. He looked into her eyes and smiled. 'You believe,' he said, wiping a tear from her eye. 'And now you are well.'

Just then, Jairus's little girl's daddy's servant rushed up to Jairus. 'It's too late,' he said breathlessly. 'Your daughter is gone.'

Jesus turned to Jairus. 'It's not too late,' he said. 'Trust me.'

At Jairus's house, everyone was crying. But Jesus said, 'I'm going to wake her up.' And everyone laughed at him because they knew she was dead.

Jesus walked into the little girl's bedroom, and there, lying in the corner in the shadows, was a still little figure. Jesus sat on the bed and took her pale hand. 'Honey, it's time to get up,' he said. And he reached down into death and gently brought the little girl back to life.

The little girl woke up, rubbed her eyes as if she just had a good night's sleep, and leapt out of bed. Jesus threw open the shutters, and sunlight flooded the dark room.

'Hungry?' Jesus asked. She nodded.

Jesus called to her family, 'Bring this little girl some breakfast.'

Jesus helped and healed many people like this. He made blind people see. He made deaf people hear. He made lame people walk.

Jesus was making the sad things come untrue. He was mending God's broken world. Love that story, right? If we want to learn from the daddy and from the sick old lady, they had some serious problems, right? They needed healing, and they knew exactly where to go, and they did everything they could do to get to Jesus, to get Jesus. That's right, right?

And if you look at Jesus, we know that we see Jesus had time for everyone. He looked for people's needs, he wanted to help people. And that's just two stories in the entire Bible. You know the crazy thing though? The story of the Bible isn't over, right? The story of the Bible keeps going. And just like God was with Joshua and with the soldiers, God wants to be with you.

And just like Jesus was an example, right? And Jesus was kind. Jesus loved people. Jesus took care of people. He stood up for what was right. He brought people together instead of splitting them apart. God hopes that we now will be like Jesus. And so, not only does God have a story in the Bible, but that story keeps going, and he wants all of you guys to be a part of it. Isn't that awesome? Pretty cool, huh?

Alright, we'll end the story time with that. Let's give the kids a round of applause. Kids, we can head on back to our seats. To turn up the lights? No, no, go ahead and go back.

Baby back, all right. Well, that's fun. I love a little story time, you know. I hope, I really hope that is a point that all of us will hear today — that God's story is not over, amen. That God is still, as we sit here and as we read and listen and contemplate together, God is still moving and convicting and loving and working. God is still sovereign. Jesus is still, and will always be, Lord and Messiah, amen. He is still, and will always be, our example, our Redeemer, our mediator.

And just like I said to the kids, right, God wants you, as a person, as an individual person, and as a community, for all of us to be a part of his story. And there are two just questions, two bigger questions that I want to focus in on here before we take communion together.

First, what is God's story all about? It's crazy to me when you look at the Bible, there are 66 books, written by over 40 authors, written throughout hundreds and hundreds of years. Yet, all of that comes together to make one massive, magnificent story. But what's the point? What is God getting at as all those smaller stories weave into a larger one?

Well, if we look back at the beginning of the story in Genesis, we can see God's original intention. Genesis chapter 1, in verse 27, God created them, male and female he created them. Them, God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'

So, God made humanity and told them to fill the Earth, right? And I'll put this on the screen. God's intention from the beginning was to fill the Earth with the image of its creator. God wanted to fill the world with people, with men and women who looked like him, who loved like him, who lived like him.

Now sadly, it didn't take long, right, for those image bearers of God to promote their own image. Adam and Eve wanted to become like God, and so sin and evil entered the world. And from that point, God's creation was in need of redemption.

Now, I'll ask you, if you consider that part of God's story, the very beginning and Adam and Eve and the fall, what is God to do at that point? Like, what do you think God should do? I know what I would do. I would probably just wipe out everything and everyone and start over. It's kind of like, 'Hey, we just started, might as well just kind of wipe the slate clean with that one and start with a new people or maybe start with a new strategy.' But God showed his grace to humankind from the very beginning. And from that point on, God put in motion a plan, set in motion a scheme that would redeem what he has made and who he had made.

I love that you can see that overarching theme of redemption all throughout the Bible. That's what God is doing as he calls Abraham and his family, as we'll look here in a little bit. That's what he's doing as he's bringing people out of slavery and sending them into a good and spacious and promised home. That's what he's doing when he sends his son to the Earth to love humanity and to live with us and to teach us and to die for us. God is redeeming.

After Jesus' resurrection, he sends the church into the world. That is what God has done through the ages and through generations, and even through rebelliousness and stubbornness, God is redeeming his people.

I love this passage. This has meant so much to me over the last couple of years, in all my study and everything. In 2 Corinthians verse or chapter 5:1, 'Though we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, new creation has come, amen. The old is gone, the new is here.' You see the theme of redemption in there, right? Through Jesus, God is making everything new.

Think about what that newness can mean for your life, what that new creation, that redemption, can mean for your character, for your home, for the valley, for the world, right? God wants to redeem his people. He wants to set them free from sin and evil. He wants to heal what is broken, to bring the lonely into families. He wants to unify those who have been divided and separated for so long.

And I love how, you know, the Bible, it's like, well, apart from the Bible, it's like a cardinal sin to just pick up a book and like go to the last chapter, right, to kind of see what happens in the end. We get to do that with the Bible, right? You can turn to Revelation and see that God's work of new creation, it will be accomplished. It will happen. God will redeem his people.

I love this picture in Revelation 21, verse one. John writes, 'Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new.' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'

So, God's intention, going all the way back to Genesis, to fill the Earth with his image, it will be accomplished. The Earth will be filled with the image of its creator. God will be with his people. Creation, humanity, it will be redeemed. And this is the story of God. This is what God is up to. This is what he's doing. And only he is capable of redemption. Only he is capable of redeeming all of this. And so only he is worthy of our praise, amen, and worthy of our devotion.

And I think our second question today follows easily from the first. If this is God's story, where do I fit in? God wants you, every one of us, to be a part of his story. You know, we talked earlier, God's intention was to fill the Earth with the image of its creator. Well, how does that happen?

Let's look back, Genesis 1 verse 27. 'So, God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.' God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number.'

So, humanity, men and women, you and me, were created to bear the image of God. The world would be filled with the image of God not just by miracles, not just by the beauty of creation, but through you, through us, through people. Crazy plan of God, right? As people would live in harmony with God and walk with God and become like God, the world would be filled with his image.

Later in Genesis 12, God made a covenant with Abram, gave him a similar vision, a similar purpose. Says in verse one of that chapter, 'The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people, and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you. I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

See, God gives Abraham this vision. He says, 'I'm going to take you from where you're at, bring you into a special place, make you and your family, build you into a great nation. You will be blessed, and your name will be great.' But notice, Abram and his family are not the only people mentioned in that covenant, right? God's blessings weren't given simply for Abram and his people to be blessed. Their blessings, in a way, would be a means to an end. They would be blessed so that all peoples of the Earth would be blessed through them.

You know, for all who can think for a moment of the blessings that we have in Jesus. Think of, as the scriptures say, the blessings that we share in Christ. Now, as I was praying about this, the thought of hope, the hope we have in Jesus — hope for something good, hope for something maybe different than what we see in our life or what we've always seen or what we see around us. Hope with Jesus, it's peace with Jesus. As I was spending time with the children's ministry teachers this morning, someone brought up that peace that doesn't even make sense, says the Bible, that we can have. And it's even more than that. It's a peace, it's a shalom, it's a healing and bringing together of things that were once divided — us and God and people as well.

We have purpose with Jesus. We have community, real family, real relationship where there's trust and sincerity and love. With Jesus, we have forgiveness and a promise of eternal life. We have a home we can belong with Jesus. And I know a lot of us have experienced these blessings, and those are blessings we hold near and dear to our hearts. But I want us also to realize today, as it was with Abram and his family, so it is with us. All of the incredible things we have in Christ are not given to us just for us to have and for us to hold on to. God does not comfort you just for your comfort. God hasn't simply saved you just for your salvation. God simply doesn't bless you so that you will be blessed. We should be sharing the blessings of Christ so that all peoples of the world will be blessed through us. The blessings you have received are given to you so that you can be a blessing.

If you're a follower of Jesus, I want to ask you, how are you being a blessing to those around you? Are you being a blessing to those around you? I love how this vision, the passage in Genesis 12, is not just for Abram and for his people, but after Jesus, God's ministry of renewal, this new creation, this blessing was also given to us.

After what we read previously in 2 Corinthians 5, now in verse 18, it says, 'All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.' Sounds like Genesis 12 a little bit.

'We implore you on Christ's behalf: be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God.' You, just like Adam and Eve, have been made in the image of God. You, just like Abraham and his descendants, are being gathered and blessed and sent to be a blessing to the world. You, just like the followers of Jesus in the first century, are being gathered and sent as ambassadors, resident representatives of Jesus.

Why? Just to play church? Just to make this country more religious? No, so that we might be a blessing to the world, right? God doesn't want — I love this — that God doesn't want you to just be a part of his story; he wants to partner with you to write the rest of his story.

And I think all these things we're talking about, all these things we're discussing, it begs the question of every one of us: Will you be a part of God's story? Will you bear His image? Will you become like him, caring about what he cares about, loving like he loved, prioritizing what he puts first, having the hands and the heart and the mind of Christ?

You know, if this is news to you, maybe you're visiting with us, and if this is the first time you're hearing this invitation, I want to encourage you, study the Bible, study the words of God, study the story of God. Because I believe with all my heart that you will find it is the only story worth your time, the only story truly worth your life, and your hearts, and your devotion.

And I know some will hear this and they will go in the other direction. But if you choose to go in the other direction, you are either choosing to write your own story or choosing to be a part of someone else's story. And both of those come up painfully short when you compare it to the story and the glory that God has set before us, amen.

For those of us who are disciples of Jesus, I hope this reminds us of God's story. This is what we are all about, amen. This is what we're doing. This is why we worship. This is why we gather. This is why we invite. This is why we study the Bible. This is why we do what we do, right? We are not just here to play church. We're not just here to come into the same auditorium Sunday after Sunday, singing the same song, seeing the same faces, right? We are here to be with Jesus and become like Jesus, amen. We are here so that we could be gathered and blessed and sent to be a blessing to the world through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And I've asked this before, but if we are doing what we're doing as a church, and we are not filling the Earth with the image of God, then what are we doing, right? If we are doing what we're doing, if we have like the best Sunday worship service ever, and we have the best speakers, and the best worship team, and the best children's ministry, and the best, you know, structures and strategies and plans that a church could have, if we do all of that, and we're not being a blessing to the world, what are we doing?

Church, this is why we do what we do, and it is so vital for us to stay connected to this story. If we forget about God and forget about his story and our place in it, we become disconnected from the why behind what we do. Now know, as we head into a new year, I want to encourage us to consider these questions here as we reflect on God's story.

First, how has God's story impacted you? What has God, and who he is, and what he's done, what has that meant for you, maybe for your life, for your family, for your future? Second, are there any stories you've been writing that are not of God? Any ways in which you've been trying to author your own story apart from he and his plan?

And then finally, how does God want to use you to write his story in the days to come, in the days, the weeks, the year? We have a whole year ahead of us, right, starting at midnight. In the days to come, you know, as we move into our time of communion here, as we take the bread and the cup together, we remember the body and the blood of Jesus. And as we do so, I want to implore you, remember what God has been doing from the beginning. That God loves humanity, you, so much, and to a degree that we will never fully grasp, right? He wants to be with you. He wants to be close to you. He wants to convict you and move you and transform you, transform you to become like him, right? And his story is all about redemption, all about renewal, which is only possible because of Jesus.

And in Jesus, God continued his work of making all things new. And even though you don't deserve it, and I don't deserve it, and that you or I will never deserve it, God hopes to continue to write his story in you and with you and through you, amen.

Let's pray as we take communion here. Father, You are holy, you are majestic, you are worthy of all of our praise. God, as we consider your story, I'm just in awe of who you are and how you've put things together. God, how you have been working to redeem your people from the beginning. God, through Abram, through Moses and the Israelites, through the prophets, through Jesus, through your church. God, so many ways you have been bringing your people to a new place, to be like you.

And God, I thank you that because of Jesus, we can be a part of that story and write that story with you. Father, I pray that you will convict us. Father, if there are any stories we are writing without you or that are in direct contradiction to you or your story, God, I pray that we will be moved to put those aside, to cast those aside, to put those to the cross, Father, to follow you and your son.

God, thank you for Jesus. Thank you for his sacrifice. Thank you that we can partner with he and you in writing this future of redemption. God, and I pray for our church that in everything we do, and everything we are, and everything we plan going into the new year, Father, that we will be a blessing. God, that you will move in us and work through us, Father, so that all people of the world will be blessed and be gathered to you.

We pray all these things in Jesus' powerful name, amen.