MISSION WOODS CHURCH
Worship, Sunday, Dec 4, 2022
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  • Candles Glowing, Promise Showing
  • O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
  • Away In A Manger
  • Isn't He?
      • Matthew 3.1-3ESV

      • Matthew 3.4-6ESV

      • Matthew 3.7-8ESV

      • Matthew 3.9-10ESV

      • Matthew 3.11-12ESV

  • Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare for the coming of Jesus. And we can think about that as a very distant thing. We read our Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, reading from Isaiah, the Apostle Paul, and one of the Gospels, typically Matthew or Luke since they cover the birth narratives, and we read them every year.
    We talk reflect on how unprepared people seemed to have been for Jesus showing up in the neighborhood. How he wasn’t what they expected in a Messiah: how even though he fulfilled the prophecies that had been made about Him, people still were slow to come around; How his teaching upset the religious people of the day; How he taught us to love one another and to love God.
    And what difference does it make? How does knowing that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to earth, lived on earth, was arrested, tried, tortured, crucified, died, buried, and rose again make any difference for you and I some 2000 years later?
    Sadly, there are many in the church today - including pastors and leaders in the greater church - that would say it doesn’t. We’ve progressed so far from where the world was 2000 years ago. We understand better today who we are as people, and have fought hard to love our neighbor as ourself.
    There are many today that simply see Jesus as a good teacher. There are many who would see Jesus as Son of God or even God, but simply one among many.
    This is the culture that we live in. In reality though, this is also the culture that Jesus came into. We often forget that the world and time that Jesus as a man entered into was a polytheistic world. It was a time when the leaders of the nation would openly require that they be worshiped as gods themselves. They were to be seen as the ones who could bring about peace.
    The Preacher’s Notebook: The Collected Quotes, Illustrations, and Prayers of John Stott The Emperor Cannot Bring Peace to the Heart

    The “Pax Romana” was being enjoyed at [the] time of Christ’s birth. But, as Epictetus, the distinguished first-century Stoic philosopher, said: “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief and envy. He cannot give peace of heart, for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

    SOURCE: Norval Geldenhuys, The Gospel of Luke (Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1950), 112 (on Luke 2:14).

    This past week I came across a sermon written by an abbot Bernard of Clavius, an Abbott in present day France around the end of the first millenium:
    The Liturgy of the Hours, Volumes I–IV and Supplement Office of Readings

    We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

    Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.

    Our rest and consolation…in that third advent.
    In this season of Advent, perhaps there is no better time for us to do a simple inventory of where we’re at in the midst of this intermediate advent. If we were to seriously take a hard look at our life this past year, does it reflect the reality of what Abbot Bernard calls the intermediate advent?
    When you and I look back at the past year, how have our lives reflected our faith?
    Abbot Bernard continued in his sermon:
    The Liturgy of the Hours, Volumes I–IV and Supplement Office of Readings

    In case someone should think that what we say about this middle coming is sheer invention, listen to what our Lord himself says: If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him. There is another passage of Scripture which reads: He who fears God will do good, but something further has been said about the one who loves, that is, that he will keep God’s word. Where is God’s word to be kept? Obviously in the heart, as the prophet says: I have hidden your words in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

    Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

    In our NT reading this morning from Romans we read:
    Romans 15:4 ESV
    For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
    And what was the purpose of this hope? Well, ultimately it is the glory of God.
    Romans 15:6–7 ESV
    that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
    But we must remember any ability you and I have to follow God’s Word, to follow Jesus, to do good is granted to us from God himself.
    Romans 15:5 ESV
    May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,
    In our Gospel reading this morning we read of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. John called out the people not only for their religiosity, “Because we are children of Abraham...”
    They were proclaiming that because they were “children of Israel” because they were Jewish they were free from the wrath of God. Is that any different than what people do today saying that because they profess to be Christian, or a follower of Jesus they are okay.
    John the Baptist says to this group of Jewish men, not just Jewish, but leaders Judaism. John says to the Pharisees and Sadducees who are now coming to him for baptism:
    Matthew 3:7–8 (ESV)
    “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
    Think about the power of that statement. Here is John, clearly a prophet, but he calls out the very leaders of religion in his culture. That is precisely the issue - they were religious leaders, not necessarily men of faith. They kept the status and power of the religious structure of the time.
    And yet, they are coming to him for baptism. Baptism for what?
    Matthew 3:11 ESV
    “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
    This is the Jesus we profess to follow, baptizing us with the Holy Spirit and fire!
    Wait, fire?
    We read in Zechariah 13:9
    Zechariah 13:9 ESV
    And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ”
    In this season of Advent, as we prepare for the birth of our Savior (the first advent); the return of our Savior (the last advent); and perhaps more importantly for us as Christians our current intermediate advent - consider a recommitment to following Jesus, to keeping the word of God. Jesus said, according to the Gospel of John:
    John 14:21 NIV
    Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
    Imagine Jesus revealing himself to you directly. That is the promise.
    Abbot Bernard continues:
    The Liturgy of the Hours, Volumes I–IV and Supplement Office of Readings

    If you keep the word of God in this way, it will also keep you. The Son with the Father will come to you. The great Prophet who will build the new Jerusalem will come, the one who makes all things new. This coming will fulfill what is written: As we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, we shall also bear the likeness of the heavenly man. Just as Adam’s sin spread through all mankind and took hold of all, so Christ, who created and redeemed all, will glorify all, once he takes possession of all.

    And so we press on to make our own that which Christ Jesus has already made His own. You’ve heard me quote it often:
    Philippians 3:12 NIV
    Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.
    Or as the ESV puts it:
    Philippians 3:12 ESV
    Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
    As you and I are on the journey through Advent, we must recognize that Jesus has claimed us as His own. Knowing that we must also take some time as Bernard implores us to do a reflection and take time to do a spiritual inventory on ourselves. Are we in this intermediate advent journey truly seeking to follow Jesus personally, to make Him our own as He has made us his? Are we allowing the Word to change us?
    Jesus lived in the past, He will come again in the future, and He is with us in the present. What difference is that making in us today? How are we keeping His Word today?
    We hear it all the time, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It is true. As we have lit the candle of peace this morning, you and I can have that inner peace in the knowledge of Christ for the purpose of glorifying God.
    In our world today we hear much talk about peace, the peace of God, the peace of the season, inner peace.
    My Favorite Illustrations Whence Come Wars

    In 1930 a movie was made about World War I called “All Quiet on the Western Front.” In one scene some American “doughboys” were talking. A comic character asked, “Where do wars come from anyway?” Another replied, “Well, one country gets mad at another country, and they start fighting.” The first soldier asked, “Do you mean that one piece of land gets mad at another piece of land?” “No,” the other replied. “The people of one country get mad at the people of the other.” The first soldier picked up his rifle and started walking away. When asked where he was going, he said, “I’m going home. I’m not mad at anybody.”

    Peace is more than not being mad at anybody, or just being “nice.” The point made here is helpful in that it reminds us how easily it is for us to get pulled into battles that are not our own.
    In this season of Advent as we anticipate the celebration of our Savior’s birth, the return of our Savior, and have the time to reflect on the Savior’s presence within us - let us live out Christ within us. Let us demonstrate the sacrificial love living and working in us by the Power of the Holy Spirit.
    May the peace of the season fill you all.

    Knowing Peace

      • Romans 15:4ESV

      • Romans 15:6–7ESV

      • Romans 15:5ESV

      • Matthew 3:11ESV

      • Zechariah 13:9ESV

      • John 14:21ESV

      • Philippians 3:12ESV

      • Philippians 3:12ESV

  • A Communion Hymn For Christmas
  • What Can I Give Him
  • Good Christian Men Rejoice (In Dulci Jubilo)
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