Announcements were many including the following.
Next Sunday there will be an open house at Shannon's from noon to 3:00 p.m. as a way of giving back, of thanking us for having them
Dec. 10: Christina DeLoach Ministries is putting on a Christmas concert which will include songs from her recently released CD "Father's Heart." Program starts at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday Dec. 13 is our own Christmas Program, starting at 4:00 p.m. with a meal served after. See Paula if you can help, setup on Saturday or finishing prep Sunday.
Pam shared that we have received the name of the family our church can help for Christmas dinner and gifts. For more information contact Pam Johnson in the church directory.
Since last week's service the church got a Christmas makeover and looked quite ready for the season. The ladies who made all the ornaments for the trees, upstairs and down, and helped decorate were all thanked heartily. Darlene's introit then ushered us into a worship time that included the lighting of the first Advent candle.
The children collected our soup cans filled with change for Covenant World Relief. A short video showed the various ways our contributions are used to help needy people, including health, education, women's empowerment, food and micro enterprise. With the children all gathered at the front, Brad took the opportunity to share four lessons we all need to learn about money: how to earn it, how to spend it responsibly, how to save it, and how to give so that we can help the marginalized and oppressed.
After the offering, Brad read to us from Luke 21:25-36, led us in a time of prayer and turned the pulpit over to Leonard Armstrong for the sermon.
Leonard, who has grown up in this church and stated he will no doubt die her, began by sharing how when the family was together over Thanksgiving his older brother, who had been at seminary when Len was young, began giving advice on how to do a sermon. Len was 13 or 14 when his brother graduated seminary and apparently had taken his share of ribbing at being the "little brother." Leonard grabbed his older brother and held him up to the ceiling, noting that his brother may be the older brother but was no longer the bigger brother.
With some amusement and his winsome self-deprecating style, Leonard established his authority as an amateur, as opposed to his seminary trained older sibling. (Note: As all of us know intimately, Leonard is well versed in his knowledge of the Scriptures.)
The theme of the message was based on lessons from the life of Jeremiah. His starting point was Jeremiah 33:14-16.
14 " 'The days are coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.
15 " 'In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
16 In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it [a] will be called:
The LORD Our Righteousness.'
Jeremiah was famously honest with God, sharing quite openly his complaints and frustrations. He also spoke out against his enemies, to the extent that the the word "jeremiad" originated with him, which means "a prolonged lamentation or mournful complaint."
Jeremiah did not want to be a prophet. These were very dark times in Israel's history. Advent means looking toward the light. Jeremiah did that.
Leonard shared a Civil War anecdote. When Savannah had surrendered to Sherman after the Union army's march to the sea, Lincoln wrote in a letter that "Now the people have seen a great light." The war was not over, but there was evidence here that an end was in sight to the suffering which tore apart the young nation.
Though Jeremiah lived in dark times, he saw the light that was coming. One who would promote justice and do what was right was coming.
Jeremiah didn't only speak out, he also did things. On one occasion he smashed a vase to make a point, and on another he was instructed to go out a buy a belt, which led to another anecdote from the days of Pastor Hartmark because the King James Version called it a girdle. Pastor Hartmark had 15 children. Mrs. Hartmark was home watching the young 'uns one Sunday and when the kids came home from church she asked what their father preached on that morning. They said he'd preached about girdles.
Leonard noted that the Lord had instructed Jeremiah not to marry, nor to go to feasts. There were hard days ahead for Israel. The days of Israel's exile had already begun. For these reasons Jeremiah has been referred to as "the weeping prophet." He was a man who knew loneliness.
During this period of Israel's history there were very few good kings, most were bad. Unfortunately, one of these good kings did not listen to the Lord or His prophet. Josiah was told not to attack Pharaoh Neco and the Egyptians who were on their way to attack the Babylonians. Neco requested permission from King Josiah who evidently accepted bad counsel and refused it. As a result Josiah went to fight the Egyptians where they clashed in the plains of Megiddo. Josiah was killed.
Josiah's passing left Jeremiah disheartened and resulted in his writing of his laments, which became the book of Lamentations. After Josiah's death bad kings took the throne, persecuting Jeremiah. On one occasion Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern.
Leonard noted that God was fed up with Israel at this point, but Jeremiah was concerned and continued to pray for them even when God had had it with them. Here's a typical passage from that period, Jeremiah 22:13-17...
13 "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
his upper rooms by injustice,
making his countrymen work for nothing,
not paying them for their labor.
14 He says, 'I will build myself a great palace
with spacious upper rooms.'
So he makes large windows in it,
panels it with cedar
and decorates it in red.
15 "Does it make you a king
to have more and more cedar?
Did not your father have food and drink?
He did what was right and just,
so all went well with him.
16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
and so all went well.
Is that not what it means to know me?"
declares the LORD.
17 "But your eyes and your heart
are set only on dishonest gain,
on shedding innocent blood
and on oppression and extortion."
Kingdoms are not intended to be about power and back-stabbing. Love is God's way.
In dark times we look forward to light. God, Leonard reminded us, is not looking for greatness but rather childlikeness. As Paul writes in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians, there is a day coming when "at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
That is the light we see in the future.