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Leader's Guide December 2-8, 2012

Leader’s Guide: Week of Dec 2, 2012

[Note to leaders: You may not have time to get to all the questions. Feel free to pick and choose what is most important for your group. The icebreaker should provide a fun way for your group to start thinking about the topic of peace.]

Looking Back: PEACE… in the midst of chaos (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Icebreaker Activity: It may be "the most wonderful time of year," but for many of us, the Christmas season is also "the most busy time of year." As an icebreaker activity, go around the room and total up the following numbers: (For each question, add each individual’s numbers together to get a total for the group)

a. How many total Christmas parties, concerts, or pageants do members of the group plan to attend?

b. How many miles will members of the group travel (roundtrip) to visit family members this season? (google maps might help with this)

c. How many gift bags and feet of wrapping paper will group members use to wrap gifts? (Just take your best guess! The average roll of wrapping paper is about 13 feet long)

Discussion:

1. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means "wholeness, flourishing, right relationships." How does this compare to the way you usually think about peace?

2. Ask someone to read Isaiah 9:1-7 (beforehand, tell group members to be looking out for the blessings God promises to Israel in this passage.) After reading, ask members of the group to call out the specific blessings they saw in this passage.

3. Many of these promises are still to come at Jesus’ second coming, but in what ways did peace come to Earth with His first coming?

4. The sermon described two reasons we lack peace: (1) We mistakenly link it to our circumstances (i.e. if our life is going well we have peace, if it’s not we don’t have peace); and (2) We try to get it by trusting in the wrong things (examples might be easing our anxiety through shopping, comfort food, entertainment, etc.). Why do these things keep us away from true peace? Which one is particularly relevant to you? Can you think of other reasons we tend to lack peace?

5. Think about the difficult circumstances in your life right now (some of these the group might know about, others they may not). How might God be "working all things together for good" to develop shalom in your life long-term through these circumstances? (Ask for several who are willing to share)

Looking Ahead: JOY… in the midst of disappointment (Matthew 1:18-25)

If time permits, read Matthew 1:18-25 and consider the following questions:

1. What emotions do you think Joseph experienced when he initially found out about Mary’s pregnancy?

2. What emotions do you think he experienced when he heard the angel’s message?

3. Joseph believed what the angel told him was true. What is the connection, then, between Joseph’s faith and his emotional state?

Bulletin Outline

PEACE…in the midst of chaos Isaiah 9:6-7aiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7

12.2.12 Rob Sweet, Teaching Pastor

Peace is not the absence of ____________________, but rather the Hebrew concept of ____________________.

It is… ______________________, ______________________, __________________ __________________________.

God’s provision for peace in His creation is ____________________.

We lack peace because we…

...mistakenly _____________ it to our _______________________.

...try to get it by ____________________ in the __________________ ____________________.

We experience peace by ______________________ in the __________________ __________ _____________________.

Trust that He is your ____________________ for peace.

Trust that He is working ___________ ____________________ together for ____________________.

LOOKING BACK

PEACE...in the midst of chaos

Isaiah 9:6-7

This Christmas season is an opportunity for us to turn our attention toward the Prince of Peace who came to bring "peace on earth, goodwill toward men." But how do we experience this peace in a world that often seems to be spinning out of control? We need to receive it - and that means changing the way we think about peace, and changing the things we grab onto to try and get it.

THINKING IT THROUGH

(Contemplate/consider/discuss/agree/disagree)

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.

~C.S. Lewis

There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.

~John Wooden

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

~Frederick Buechner

WORKING IT OUT

Make time this week to list out all the things in your life that seem to be disrupting peace. Keep going until you can’t think of another single one! Then, reflect on Philippians 4:4-7 and present these requests to God one by one. Ask Him to change your perspective on these circumstances and fully trust in Jesus as your provision for peace.

What things do you tend to unconsciously look to for a sense of peace and wholeness in your life? Food? Entertainment? Shopping? Relationships? Work? Begin to pray that Jesus would become your Prince of Peace in place of all else.

LOOKING AHEAD

JOY...in the midst of disappointment

Matthew 1:18-24

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come…" We know the words well, but how much joy do we experience in our lives day-in and day-out? The reality is we live in a broken world where disappointment is unavoidable, and at times, almost suffocating. And yet Christmas

reminds us that God did not stay above it all, but rather entered neck-deep into the disappointment of real life as a human being. The baby we sing about is Immanuel, "God-with-us." This fact carries some profound implications for our lives, and very much affects our ability to honestly experience JOY...even in the midst of disappointment.

LOOKING IT UP

Read Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25. Why might Matthew have primarily used the perspective of Joseph to tell the story?

We know Joseph was an upright Jew (see v. 19), experiencing the exciting season of engagement. Imagine how the news of Mary’s pregnancy must have affected him. What kind of emotions might he have experienced as his dreams came crashing down? How would you have felt in similar circumstances?

Reread verses 20-23 and make a list of main points of information the angel communicated to him. How difficult might these things have been to believe? Why do you think Joseph believed them? Imagine his next conversation with Mary; what might their emotions have been?

What is the significance for us of Jesus being called "God-with-us"? (Consider both the theological significance and the emotional significance. For help, consider John 1:14, 18 and Hebrews 4:14-16)

Read Luke 2:8-11, which is an account of the first public announcement of Jesus’ birth. Why is it "good news of great joy"?

Jesus’ life played out differently than many would have imagined, especially considering his arrest and crucifixion. Read Luke’s account of Christ’s return to heaven in Luke 24:50-53. Since Jesus was now gone, why did His followers have "great joy"? (For a hint, see v. 49, along with Matthew 28:20b and John 16:5-11)