We elebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th.
Remember the Christmas Eve Candlelight/Communion Service at 6:00 p.m. at Art and at 7:00 p.m. at Castell.
If you are willing to help Pastor Cliff serve communion next year, there is a sign up list. This is a different servant opportunity, to help the Pastor serve communion during worship. Check with Pastor Cliff.
You can see members of the living body of Christ in the pictures on the Christmas tree. But some pictures are missing or if you want a retake, see Pastor Cliff right after worship to have a new picture taken.
Pastor Cliff continues to relate Advent to the readings in Isaiah. He continues to ask the question: are we ‘Living in the Kingdom – ‘already, not yet’?
God’s people were saved from exile in 536 BC, and returned to Jerusalem. You may recall that God had also spoken these promises of the coming Messiah through the “last” Old Testament prophet Malachi: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. (Malachi 3:1)
Then there were 400 years of prophetic silence. God’s people continued to worship and keep the faith, hoping for the promised Messiah through these 400 years. Alexander the Great was conquering the known world at the time. When he arrived at Jerusalem, the High Priest read Daniel Chapter 11 to him, and he decided to leave Jerusalem alone. That 400 years of silence was broken when John the Baptist said, in Matthew 3: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way for the LORD’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ (Matthew 3:2-3)
So, the waiting through 8 centuries was over. The new Messiah had drawn near. However, things were not going according to their plan. The new Messiah was not meeting their expectations. John the Baptist, had been thrown in prison by Herod. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”
I remind you that just last week, John was so very confident that the Messiah had arrived. When Jesus went to John to be baptized, John tried to talk Jesus out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. We also must carry out all that God requires.
What did Jesus mean, when He said “all that God requires”? After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and John saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Jesus. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Let me ask you this: if Jesus asked you to baptize him, and then you saw the Holy Spirit descend onto Jesus, and then you heard God say: This is my dearly beloved son, would that “do it” for you? Would you be “faithful” from that point on? Is it “seeing is believing” for you? Would that be enough for you to “do all that God requires”? After John heard God speak, and after John saw the Holy Spirit descend onto Jesus, he ran into some trouble. He got thrown in prison by Herod because Herod thought he was a threat. When John sent those folks to Jesus to ask him if he was really the one, the Messiah, they asked : “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” This is how Jesus answered. “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen-- the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’ Do you suppose Jesus knew, right then, that this was going to cause some suffering among His believers? Did Jesus know some would quit Him at the first sign of trouble?
Bringing in the Kingdom of God on earth is going require some pain, some suffering, some compromise, and working with folks who poke you in the eye with a sharp stick. Some will take advantage of your generosity. Some won’t repent. Guess what: This is God’s doing: For He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for Him as well. Amen (Philippians 1:28-29)
Working in the Kingdom is planting seeds of hope. Advent is about responding to God’s love. Advent is remembering that God is faithful and keeps His promises. There are neighbors around us that need to hear it, and see it, and receive it. This is especially true for those neighbors that have had some troubles. Those neighbors who have trouble believing that God could be real really need to hear about the love of God.
Advent is about living in a way that shows others we believe in God’s promises. It is going take some sacrifice, and suffering, and there are going to be troubles along the way. How we respond to those troubles shines a big light on our faith. Merry Christmas. Enjoy some suffering this week. Look for Jesus. You might find Him there.
The Advent Promise: Those that have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:10)
Waiting during Advent: This is God’s doing; For He has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for Him as well. Amen. Philippians 1:28-29
What does God require? Is it: respond to the altar call, accept Jesus as your savior, get baptized and go to Sunday School and church. Is that it? What does God require?