Sunday, December 8, 2013

Closing the Gap

The weather since last Sunday has been decidedly harsh, reminding us that winter is seriously upon us. Despite 2-3 feet of snow (depending on where you live) and then a fierce cold front dropping temps to minus 30 or so (depending what part of the area you live) ... we are gathered once more to celebrate the Advent season. It is another Sunday at New Life Covenant.

Church members paid for 300 loads of clothes and help fold clothes.

Tracy and Chuck
"Good morning!" Brad exclaimed, welcoming us to this second week of Advent.  He began by thanking Chuck and all who helped rent the Washbucket Laundromat to offer free laundry to homeless and poor. Over 170 people were served, and a very special time was had. People were asking, "What's the catch?" There is no catch. That's the Gospel... a wonderful ministry.

Christmas program coming next Sunday, December 15 at 4:00 p.m.  This Wednesday, the Youth will be going to Bentleyville and then Sammy's Pizza after. Bring $10.

Our new "traditional greeting" goes like this...
Pastor Brad: "God is good."
Response: "All the time."
Brad: "All the time..."
Response: "God is good."

Darlene then ushered us into worship with a Christmas medley... Then Drake and Megan led us as we sang a pair of Christmas hymns and a beautiful "We Exalt Thee." The service seems to have an especially sweet spirit today.

There were many prayer needs shared and praise for having Dwayne back after the four month hiatus. Cindy is home at last, and grateful for re-dscovering the things that matter: health, family and friends.

Closing the Gap

Have you ever noticed that around Christmastime there are some people who are so excited they can't keep a secret? Brad shared a story of how he blurted out to his mom what his dad was giving his mom for Christmas.

Brad used this to lead into God's excitement about bringing his Son into the world that He told the shepherds about that amazing birth... "To you has been born a Savior."

Before Brad would continue, Darlene accompanied a women's chorus in the song Christmas Is a Time to Love.

At its core The Christmas Story is essentially that a young woman was told she was pregnant with child, though she had never been with a man. For two thousand years this fact has been a central affirmation of the Christian faith. Do you believe that the virgin birth really happened?

Thomas Jefferson and others have a problem accepting this miracle. One modern denominational leader stated that there is a diversity of opinion on this....

The virgin birth is not an opinion. It is a historical claim, not a legend. And something unlike any story ever contrived to explain things in other cultures. Greek and Roman gods were nothing like this.

Brad then cited Luke 1:1-4 noting that Luke wrote explicitly as a historian. As regards Jesus' birth there are geographical details and historical details deliberately gathered and shared, facts that could be questioned or countered since people who were there were still living.

People in Jesus' day did and said things that were clearly understood in His day. "Before Abraham was I am." The meaning of this was not lost on people who heard it.

What God claimed, Jesus claimed. What God said, Jesus said. And He said, "My Word will not pass away."

The virgin birth is not a myth. It is not a fable. And it matters, which is Brad's aim in this sermon.

In Islam God sends prophets into the world because He (Allah) is so high and holy that He must be kept holy and above it all. God cannot touch this unclean, messy world. So Jesus was sent, as a prophet, to point to God.

Citing the series British television series Upstairs Downstairs Brad noted how the upper crust were not friends with the downstairs class. Upstairs is where the "gentleman class" lived. There was a clear gap or chasm established between the upstairs and downstairs people.

So it is in the Islamic picture of how things are, and an infinite distance between God and humanity. This is why Muslims cannot grasp how God could become a man, how Jesus could possibly be God because there is this fixed impression that God is way up there and would not, cannot, cross this divide without being Himself defiled.

But here is the Good News, that God has come downstairs, has come into our messy world and stayed with us. Jesus, born of a virgin, took on humanity an dwelt among us.

Jesus bridged that infiinite gap, so we can all be together. "No longer do I call you My servants," Jesus said. "I call you My friends."

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