Sunday, December 4, 2011

Consolation and Hope

During Advent there have been special services during the Sunday School hour. The turnout was strong downstairs preceding the service, and fun. Once we were assembled in the sanctuary, Brad greeted us with his traditional "Good morning!" and reminded us that it was the second week in Advent, the season of anticipation for the coming of light.

Two important announcements
If you are planning to make cookies for people in jail, we'll need your cookies by the 15th. Contact Ruth Anne for details.

Also, next Sunday will be out Christmas program with dinner, starting at 4:00 p.m. Children who are to be in the program should come to the church next Saturday morning to practice from 10 a.m. till noon.

Darlene helped us transition into worship with another nice introit. Brad and Elsa led us in three hymns after the lighting of the second Advent candle. The offering was followed by Leonard's reading of Isaiah 40:1-11. Then Brad took the pulpit and shared from the Scriptures.

Consolation and Hope

Pastor Brad began by reading to us from Hebrews 1:1-4.

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

"When people speak about something with extraordinary importance," he said, "they give us cues." For example, when a teachers says, "This will be on the final," the students takes notes. And when watching TV, when a flashing red bar goes across the bottom of the screen declaring, "Weather Alert" you know it is a message to pay attention to.

This passage underscores that the birth of Jesus into this world was something important. In the past, God spoke through prophets, but here now is a new thing. God speaks to us through his son. Not only is the son the radiance of God's glory, but He is "the exact representation of His being." Jesus is God's ultimate declaration to the world: "If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus."

So what do we see when we look at Jesus. God's entrance into human history was not in a palace, rather it was in a stable, and the infant --God of very God -- was laid in a feeding trough for cattle.

There's much misunderstanding about Jesus, Brad said. But it doesn't have to be. We need to slow down, be still. God doesn't slam a gavel to get our attention. He speaks in a quiet way and we have to listen. Take time to be still and read your Bible. Study the Gospels, what Jesus says and does. Jesus, who was God in human form, lived among us.

Brad then asked us to imagine that God was in the room. He said to imagine the person next to us being God in bodily form. Then he asked us to imagine what must have gone through the minds of Mary and Joseph and those who knew who He was.

Why would God come to a family in a remote part of an obscure country who were an oppressed people? Why not come in a more glorious manner?

In an attempt to answer this question, Kierkegaard once shared a parable about a very great king who fell in love with a common woman who was not royalty. She was a peasant girl, dressed in rags. If he attempted to bring her to the palace to show all his wealth and power, she'd be scared and run away. So he thought and thought, and finally it occurred to him that if he left his throne, removed his crown and set aside his robes, he could approach her as a peasant and perhaps win her heart by declaring his love for her.

To some extent this is the story of Jesus, who thought about these ragged creatures whom he'd made. "How do I tell them that God loves them? How can I keep them from being overwhelmed?" And there was a way. The Bible puts it like this:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

God traded a palace for a hovel.

Who Jesus really was and is goes far beyond these stories alone. Isaiah writes,

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

God speaks in quiet nudgings. And He speaks to us through His Word when we still ourselves.

Here we see Jesus is not just a wise person, but a Wonderful Counselor. A Prince of Peace... and an Everlasting Father who will always be there for us.

"We need to quiet ourselves and listen."

After the message we celebrated the Lord's Supper by singing and sharing "A Carol Setting for Holy Communion."

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