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Merry Christmas!  We are now through Thanksgiving and the race toward Christmas has begun!  Our Christmas series is: Don’t Get Run Over by the Reindeer!  Between the events, crowds, shopping (even online), and planning for extended family gatherings, this time of year can become overwhelming.  The holidays create their own level of stress and even fear.  The fear of uncertainty, the fear of being alone, and the fear of past experiences are some of the things with which people struggle.  It is easy to forget that this season was intended to give us greater peace, more hope, eternal joy, and an unconditional love.  Our first sermon in this series is a warning: Watch Out!  Our scripture is from Isaiah 7:4-14.  King Ahaz was the king of Judah, or what is often called the “southern kingdom”. In this historical moment he received word that the northern kingdom, also called “Israel” or “Ephraim”, had made an alliance with Aram (or present-day Syria) to take over Jerusalem.  If they were successful, Ahaz would be removed as the king or even killed.  He and the people of Jerusalem were terrified!  Into this moment came God’s living Word through the prophet Isaiah.  God was not going to allow this evil plan to succeed, but Ahaz struggled to believe!  The Lord told this fearful king: “If your faith is not strong, you will not have strength enough to last.” Isaiah 7:9 (NCV).  This question is just as important today. The strength of faith enables our lives to find a marvelous strength even in the face of great obstacles! As you read Isaiah 7:4-14, believe that God will care for you as God did during the time of King Ahaz. Let these words strengthen your faith in our Savoir who was born of a virgin to fulfill this Word from Isaiah.  Isaiah 7:4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood– because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  (NIV)