Sunday, December 30, 2012

Highly Favored

"Welcome… I love being here. It’s still the season of Christmas. I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas season," Pastor Shannon declared as he opened the service. "As we enter the new year do we recognize and embrace what it means to be highly favored by God."

Announcements include:
1. Brad will be starting a new members class sometime by the end of January. Let us know if this interests you.
2. Sunday school begins again next week Women’s Group January 19th. Bring a treat to share. More information in the weeks ahead.

Worship began with Chuck, Darlene and Ken singing a medley combining Gentle Shepherd and Freely, Freely. Brad committed the service to God and the trio then sang For Those Tears I Died, then led us in worship.

Offering taken, followed by a Scripture reading: Luke 1:46-56

Einstein once said, "There are two ways to live: you can either live as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is a miracle."  

Before our time of prayer Brad gave the congregation an opportunity to share things they are grateful for, and numerous people shared very personally from the heart.

Highly Favored

The focus here today is on one word: Favor. It’s a beautiful word, appropriately reflecting the beauty of the season. The pastor described three scenes to help illustrate the meaning of this word and its application to us today.

The first: a young woman is sitting in a small village. She’s from a poor family. And the angel Gabriel comes to her and greets her as one who is favored.

Favor means, “Kindness beyond what is due or usual.”

The angel explains what this favored status means."The Lord is with you... you will give birth to a son... he will be great and will be called Son of the Most High... He will reign... and his kingdom will never end."

In Mary's case, being favored mean that God's son, wholly God and very God, was inside her. But what does this mean for me?

Brad's answer was clear. To be a Christian means that the life of Jesus is within you. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes, "I am crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” And in Gal 4:19 Paul speaks of his pains, as if in childbirth himself, “till Christ be formed in you."

In other words, the Christ formed in Mary in flesh is formed in believers by His spirit.

Second word picture… In Roman times the shepherds were such an underclass population that their testimony would not hold up in court. How strange and amazing that these were the first people to whom the angels declared that God’s son was born in Bethlehem.

A lot of people see God as someone with a big angry expression and accusing finger. Do you see harshness or kindness?

A third scene… found in Luke 4. Jesus at age 30, at a Sabbath day in Nazareth where He has been handed a scroll in the synagogue

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

What an incredible statement.  Every in that room would have understood what Jesus was referring to when He said, "the year of the Lord's favor." It was the Year of Jubilee.

The Year of Jubilee was a truly wonderful break for the poor, a once in a lifetime deal in which debts were cancelled, slaves were set free and family land would be returned. The Year of Jubilee was commanded by God, but it ended up a practice that never happened. The haves, the ones with power, always had an excuse to not fulfill this.

But Jesus comes along and says, “I am here to blow the trumpet…. To fulfill this Year of Jubilee.”

I am glad Jesus came to fulfill the day of the Lord's favor and not the day of justice. We need kindness. We need to see our debts cancelled and freedom from enslavement.

Debts always have a price and someone has to pay. Every time a debt is written off, a loss is incurred. God absorbs the debt for our sin. He takes the loss for our gain.

How should we respond? Christmas is about the favor of God… Mary embraced this truth, this reality.

If you're a Christian, you live in the favor of God. I hope you see how rich you are in Christ. You have been set free. Your sins are forgiven. The life of God is within you.You are privileged. You are loved. You are surrounded by the kindness of God that is beyond what is usual and what is due.

The other side is this… how great a loss it is for those who have rejected or never found Him.

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