Did you miss out on our Christmas Sunday Service? We’ve tried to recapture this service in blog form. to listen to the service in it’s “entirity” CLICK HERE and listen on Spotify.
Sing along, read along and reflect on “What God has Done!“
Prelude: “ Come Thou Long-expected Jesus”
Reading 158 “Our God Comes”
“Level Playing Field”
As we talked about in our first week of advent, Christmas is all about celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We set this time aside to observe and rejoice specifically. But his coming was prophesied. And when he would come, creation would need to be shaped and changed and molded. Why? So everyone can be on the same “playing field.”
“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”Isaiah 40:4 NIV
We are blessed with some wonderfully beautifully hilly areas in Vernon County and really, across the state of Wisconsin. Have you ever lived somewhere or traveled through somewhere that was REALLY Flat? You don’t have hills or mini-mountains blocking your view of the horizon. You see as far as you can possibly see. Isaiah is talking about this leveled playing field. God has come and nothing will or should stand in his way. Jesus the Christ certainly came and broke down some societal norms.
- With no documented training, he was considered a rabbi and called disciples to himself
- He was born into a family who worked with their hands, in comparison to his cousin John’s upbringing – son of a priest.
- As an adult, he ate with sinners. All kinds. Religious sinners and irreligious sinners. This upset the religious folk in most cases.
Jesus leveled the playing field. Immanuel – God truly was and IS with us. All of us.
Song: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Reading 159 “Messiah Brings Peace”
“Peaceful Future. Peaceful Now.”
Peace. What does that word mean to you? Is the absence of fighting? Agreements made between two hostile countries to cease killing and harming each other? In our reading from Isaiah 11, the prophet spoke of Jesus having the greatest characteristic anyone could want from a King. And yes, Jesus’ kingship is implied here. Who else could make peace but the highest ruling authority? In each instance, each characteristic is granted because “The Spirit of the Lord” rested upon him.
- Fear of the Lord
Then Isaiah says this King Jesus will use not his eyes or his ears to judge matters, but rather righteousness and justice. As if those two concepts are his senses.
When Jesus reigns, the picture Isaiah paints comes to pass:
- The wolf will live with the lamb
- The leopard will lie down with the goat.
Predators and prey will neither harm nor destroy when Jesus is in Charge.
You might be surprised by this concept. Perhaps in disbelief this is possible. But if Jesus is truly Lord of your life, you know and have experienced this kind of peace. You fear not what you used to fear. Those predators are not waiting to tear you apart. When the King of Kings is on your side, who could be against you anyway?
Song: Silent Night! Holy Night!
Reading 160 “Messiah Brings Salvation”
God’s plan for salvation in Jesus Christ is illustrated beautifully here in the scriptures we just read. Images of sorrow, mourning, grief, disgrace are replaced with joy, beauty, praise, righteousness.
I am reminded that Christmastime can be a difficult time when we think of our loved ones, our dear friends who have died. We miss them. Part of our heart yearns to see them, to share this festive time with them. And the sadness that comes when we realize we can not.
The sorrow of sin is even deeper and greater and more eternal than that longing for our loved ones. The pain and hurt of sin has but one enemy. The saving grace of Jesus. His sacrifice for us.
In a few moments we will partake of the Lord’s supper, Communion. As we sing “What Child Is This?” If you would like to, come up front and take a piece of bread and a cup of juice. We will eat and drink the elements together after the song ends.
If it were not for the cross, no one would know about a little baby born in a manger. If it were not for the resurrection we’d not know or care much about either.
God so loved the world he sent his son to us.
It was and is for our salvation. And by his salvation we can be healed and clothed in praise rather than despair, gladness instead of mourning. And we stop and look again at the nativity scene and wonder, “What Child is this?”
Song: What Child Is This?
Reading 161 “Messiah Brings the Kingdom”
Mini Sermon: Instant vs. Advent
Developing Patience in a “right-now” world
As we draw our service to a close, I want to take just a few more minutes to reflect on this season and why we celebrate at this time. We’ve read together many scriptures concerning the Messiah – His coming to us, His peace, His plan for salvation, and now we’ve just read about his kingdom. A Kingdom that reigns inside the hearts and lives of each person who would lay down their rights and say, “Jesus is Lord.” This time of Advent in the Christian calendar is not a “blink and you’ll miss it event.” That’s why we take 4 weeks or more to talk about Christmas. It’s preparation for the celebration of our savior’s birth, but also actively celebrating and worshiping him at the same time.
Let’s look at some examples between the expectancy that we ought to have and the impatience we so frequently portray.
- Hurry up! And Wait.
- Perhaps you’ve been on a vacation before. There is a lot of preparation that goes into that. Get all your things together. Plan to make sure you have fuel, working vehicle, food or money to eat out, a planned destination and lodging once you arrive. This past summer/early fall we had made plans to go to Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone. Multiple things occurred and we changed our plans, but something we considered as deterrence to this trip at this time were the lengthy drive and high gas prices. We would spend so much time on the road, it would be a challenge to enjoy our trip once we arrived! We would spend so much money on fuel that we wouldn’t be able to do many things (that cost money) at our destinations. We ultimately chose a closer trip, camping at Peninsula State Park.
- We have a “Hurry up and wait” syndrome in society today. We drive fast to our destination either because we want to be early, or because we are running late or we just don’t care about speed limits. Then when we do arrive, we don’t relax. We anticipate the next thing, the time we need to leave.
I know of no better tangible example of the difference between being impatient and being expectant than…
- Microwave vs. Stovetop
- Have you EVER made something delicious in the microwave? I’m not dogging on microwaves. I think they are a helpful invention that most people have in their homes. But who gets a cooking show on Food Network and specializes in Microwave cooking?
- Here I have 2 Macaroni and cheese products. This one is a microwave single serve and takes only 2 minutes to make. This takes at least 8 minutes. Depending on how long it takes for your water to boil, cook the pasta, drain the pasta, melt the butter and mix in the milk and cheese sauce…it usually takes longer than 8 minutes for me. I’m sure the folks who made this single serve mac and cheese did their best to capture the taste of stove top, but it is not my kid’s first choice of mac and cheese.
- Good things take time. But in the meantime, we are not just twiddling our thumbs and waiting for the mac to be done. We are anticipating it. It’s cooking, we’re hungry, we smell the aroma and know that it’s not done yet. Our mouths may begin to water, our imaginations might travel into the future where our lunch is right in front of us and we are enjoying it. THAT is what anticipating is all about.
- There is a difference between anticipation and impatience.
- Anticipation – You have no control over when the thing will be ready. So you have to wait. You look forward to receiving or enjoying whatever it is.
- Impatience is the attitude that says, “There’s something I can do to make this go faster!”
- You may believe (perhaps subconsciously) that you can affect the speed at which certain things happen. In the Movie “The Santa Clause, Tim Allen plays Scott Calvin, divorce single dad who is trying to make a Christmas eve dinner for he and his son with ZERO experience on how to prepare. He looks at the directions for cooking the turkey and shouts “4 hours!” He tries to cook it quicker by turning up the oven, but ends up using his fire extinguisher on the flames. Having nothing edible for dinner because of his impatience, he takes his son to Denny’s. Comically, he’s not the only single dad to make this mistake and wind up at the 24 hour diner on Christmas eve.
- For comparison, if you were a kid riding in your parent’s car on a trip to your aunts, nothing you do can make the trip go faster. No “Are we there yet” will make you mom or dad put the pedal to the metal. Anticipation is the expectant waiting for something to happen. Impatience says “I want it and I want it NOW!”
- But consider this: even “instant” microwavable food isn’t truly instant.
- There is a difference between anticipation and impatience.
I hope these examples put things a bit more into perspective.
The scriptures we read during this worship service come not from the New Testament, but rather the Old Testament. Mainly The Prophet Isaiah with some Malachi sprinkled in.
The people of Israel had been waiting and waiting for their Savior. Over time, some people attempted to fill that role as the people waited. You may have heard of the Maccabees. This is where the legend of Hanukkah comes from. But for our purposes today all you need to know is the Maccabees revolted against the rulers of their time. Other zealots did so as well, trying to overcome the secular world and establish God’s kingdom through violence and war. If we waited patiently, we would know that Jesus came at exactly the right time. Nothing the people did would make him come any faster.
No Microwave Messiah. More like a slow cooker.
We don’t celebrate advent out of religious obligation. We experience the Season of Advent, taking these weeks to anticipate Christmas. To celebrate it, enjoy it, even before it is here. But not in a way where we make Christmas come any sooner!
Before you know it, it will be Monday, Dec 26. Tomorrow, will you carry the anticipation of his second coming in your heart? In your day-to-day life? How about the way you go about sharing the good news with others? Praying for others? Being compassionate? Only you can answer that. Just know that nothing you or I can do will make him come any faster. We can, however, live a life in the Kingdom of God, here and now…even as we anticipate its fullness in the future.