Thumbs Up and Thanks to all the Volunteers at the BLCF Café in the heart of Toronto!

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Thumbs Up and Thanks to all the Volunteers

at the BLCF Café Community Dinner,

in the heart of Toronto! 

 

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Thanks to all the volunteers who helped serve meals at the BLCF Café on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve 2014, both happened to fall on a Wednesday. With the help of these and other dedicated volunteers, our Community Dinner has not missed serving meals to the homeless and marginalized since opening day in January 2008.

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BLCF Café needs volunteers to help feed the homeless and marginalized in the heart of Toronto. If you or your group is interested in helping at the BLCF Café Community Dinner, contact Sophie at blcfcafe@yahoo.ca or 416-535-9578. Here is a link to our info brochure: BLCF Cafe Info Brochure

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Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ

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 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Epiphany: Celebrating the Manifestation of Christ’

© December 28, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 28, 2014

Revised Sermon Originally Shared at BLCF on December 29, 2013

BLCF Bulletin December 29, 2013 

BLCF: Epiphany-of-the-Lord

 

Call to Worship and Prayer: Responsive Reading #667                                                  (Humility and Exaltation – Philippians 2; Matthew 23); Prayer             

Opening Hymn #109: Once in Royal David’s City; Choruses

Today’s Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-12; Isaiah 60:1-3; John 2:1-12; Matthew 3:13-17

Let us pray…

Today is the final Sunday of 2014, and since it is the first Sunday following Christmas Day, marks the first Sunday of the Church’s Calendar year and for many churches the approach of the Epiphany or the manifestation of the Christ or Messiah, who is our Lord Jesus.

Our lesson today will focus on Epiphany, not to be confused with the secular use of epiphany, such as the ‘Eureka!’ moment experienced by the ancient Greek scholar Archimedes, when he stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose and he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged, known today as the Archimedes’ principle.

 

 BLCF: Archimedes

The Epiphany which is the object of  today’s lesson is spelt with a capitol “E”, a Christians use to describe when the supernatural powers of Jesus, the Son of God, became manifested or expressed to all.

A few weeks ago, when we lit the Bethlehem Advent Candle, we talked about how Epiphany marks one or all three events in the earthy walk of our Lord, Jesus Christ: the arrival of the Wise Men or Magi to visit the newborn Jesus at Bethlehem; the Miracle performed by Jesus to convert water into wine at a wedding in Cana; and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John.

We have a little more background from the Web site sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances

BLCF: Epiphany

Observed on January 6th, the Epiphany celebration remembers the three miracles that manifest the divinity of Christ. The name “Epiphany” comes from the Greek word Epiphania, and means “to show, make known, or reveal.” The celebration originated in the Eastern Church in AD 361, beginning as a commemoration of the birth of Christ. Later, additional meanings were added – the visit of the three Magi, Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River, and his first miracle at the wedding in Cana. These three events are central to the definition of Epiphany, and its meaning is drawn from these occurrences.

For many Christians, the definition of Epiphany is a reminder of God the Father’s unlimited love and mercy, which He has extended to all of mankind through the revelation of His Son, and of the hope of salvation that is now manifest for all who come to him in faith.                                                       

http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/Christian-Holidays/definition-of-epiphany.html

Johann Roten authored the following about Epiphany in the East and West, posted on the University of Dayton Web site:

Epiphany

BLCF: Epiphany

The feast of the Epiphany, as we presently understand it—the adoration of the Magi—is found very early in Gaul, where it probably predates Christmas.  The Council of Saragossa in 380 decreed a three-week fast before Epiphany.  The feast existed in North Africa in the time of Augustine.  Several of Leo the Great’s sermons witness to the feast’s observance in Rome.  The principal object in the Roman liturgy is the adoration of the Magi.

However, the feast of the Epiphany most certainly originated in the East, where it is mentioned by Clement of Alexandria.  It may have been assigned its date in reference to a pagan feast.  In the Egyptian calendar, the winter solstice and the feast of the Sun-god were observed on January 6.  On the previous night, pagans of Alexandria commemorated the birth of their god Aeon, supposedly born of a virgin.  It was also believed that the waters of rivers, especially the Nile, acquired miraculous powers and even turned into wine on this night.

This may be a partial explanation, why it is difficult to circumscribe the original object of this feast in the East.  By the fourth century Epiphany could embrace the birth of Christ, His baptism, the adoration of the Magi, and the miracle at Cana.  According to some liturgists (cf. C. Mohrmann), Epiphany was an idea feast (as opposed to an event feast) from the beginning and admitted any manifestation of the divine power of Christ. As a matter of fact, in classical Greek epiphany and theophany designate the manifestation of a divinity and, later, important events in the life of a king.  Epiphany is first used in a Christian sense by St. Paul for both the first and the final comings of Christ (Titus 2:11-13).  The word epiphany was soon used to describe the miracles of Christ as manifestations of divine power.

St. John Chrysostom explains the eastern meaning of Epiphany with these words: “We give the name Epiphany to the Lord’s baptism because he was not made manifest to all when he was born, but only when he was baptized, for until that time he was unknown to the people at large.”  In similar fashion, St. Jerome, drawing upon his Palestine experience, declares that the idea of showing forth (Epiphany) belonged not to the birth in the flesh, for then he was hidden and not revealed, but rather to the baptism in the Jordan, when the heavens were opened upon Christ.

According to oriental ideas it was through the divine pronouncement “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” that the Savior was first manifested to the great world of unbelievers.  The western tradition of this feast lies more along the line of what we are used to call fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding).  There is no overwhelming Epiphany or divine manifestation on the path of the Magi.  The Magi were wise men who saw the star and its unusual brightness.  Steadfast in the resolution of following the divine call and fearless of danger, they traveled, inquired, explored, and let themselves be conducted by the star to the place where they were to see and worship their Savior.  But again, no divine pronouncement thundering from open skies, only a poor babe in a manger.  As St. Leo the Great put it, “When a star had conducted them to worship Jesus, they did not find him commanding devils or raising the dead or restoring sight to the blind or speech to the dumb, or employed in any divine action; but a silent babe, dependent upon a mother’s care, giving no sign of power but exhibiting a miracle of humility.”

Eastern theology has always been eschatological in thrust, eager and anxious to show the unabridged Godhead in all its splendor and majesty, beyond and in spite of its manifestation in human condition and according to human categories.  Western theology in turn develops according to a different religious sensitivity: it is more incarnational, amazed by and preoccupied with the miracle of humility, God’s being in the flesh and becoming one of us.  The spirituality of the East is a spirituality of vision, based on “ta phota” (what is visible) or illumination, the Jordan experience; the spirituality of the West is the spirituality of journey, originating in God’s call and transformative power, it is the “Magi-experience.”

Yet, both traditions are but two different and complementary facets of the same reality, just as ear and eye are dependent on and complement each other.  In a similar way, the Feast of the Epiphany manifests the comprehensive reality of God’s encounter with humanity: it shows not only God’s self-giving presence in the miracle of humility, but also his authoritative self-disclosure at the baptism of Christ. Epiphany manifests not only God’s gratuitous and hidden presence to us, it also reminds us of our personal and active role in this encounter with God, made explicit through the acts and gestures of the Magi.

The Magi offer to Jesus as a token of homage the richest products their countries afforded – gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Gold, as an acknowledgment of Christ’s regal power; incense, as a confession of his Godhead; and myrrh, as a testimony that he has become man for the redemption of the world.  But even more important than gold, frankincense and myrrh were the dispositions the Magi cherished in their souls: their fervent charity, signified by gold; their devotion, figured by frankincense; and their unreserved sacrifice of themselves, represented by myrrh.      

In the Middle Ages it was customary on this day (January 6) to bless homes with the newly-blessed water, and with incense.  Later the initials of the names of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) were written with blessed chalk on or above the doors of homes.  CMB stands also for Christus, Manisionem, Benedocal (May Christ bless this home).  May these initials be carved on the doors to our spiritual homes, too, as a reminder, that each one of us is called upon by God’s Epiphany to the world to assume a threefold role: that of the child, the disciple and the steward. 

As a child we receive and cherish God’s Epiphany to us; As a disciple we follow God’s call to crib and cross; and As steward we are accountable to God and the world of what we did to his Epiphany, understood as vision and journey.

 Johann Roten    

http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/meditations/epiphany.html

 

BLCF: 3 Wisemen

The first of today’s Scripture verses gives the only account of the visit of the Magi or Wise Men who came from the east, beyond the borders of the Roman Empire, as unlike Joseph and Mary, they came to Bethlehem to worship and bear gifts to the newborn king as foretold by prophecy and guided by a star, and not in response the Census mandated by the Edict of Caesar.

The fact that the Magi were unaware that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, indicates that the three were Gentiles, being ignorant of the prophecy known to the scribes and chief priests, only that a star will mark the location of the birth of Christ Child as we see in Matthew 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Visit of the Wise Men

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2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

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The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, in the town of Bethlehem is an event that marks the fulfillment of God’s promise, an event foretold by the prophets, through visits by angelic messengers, and marked by a heavenly star, Isaiah 60:1-3 (ESV):                                                                                            

The Future Glory of Israel

BLCF: Epiphania

60 Arise, shine, for your light has come,     

and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,    

 and thick darkness the peoples;

but the Lord will arise upon you,     

and his glory will be seen upon you.

And nations shall come to your light,     

and kings to the brightness of your rising.

 

BLCF: Cana

The next manifestation of the Lord, takes place at a wedding considered to be either the first or second miracle performed by Jesus. If you consider the birth of the son of God to the Mary, a virgin, a miracle, then this wedding would be the second performed by the Lord which we find in John 2:1-12 (ESV):

The Wedding at Cana

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2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

12 After this he went down to Capernaum, with his mother and his brothers[b] and his disciples, and they stayed there for a few days.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters b. John 2:12 Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters

 

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The changing of water to wine by our Lord is considered by many Biblical scholars to be symbolic how faith in Jesus Christ transforms the believer into a new creature.

Our third Scripture verse for today describes how the spirit of God came upon our Lord, after he was baptized in the River, Jordan, which is found in Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV):

The Baptism of Jesus

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13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

 

BLCF: Epiphanies

Epiphany  marks three events and aspects of the walk on earth by Jesus: his birth as prophesized in scripture, supported by the visitation by the Magi; the power of the Lord being manifest by his transformation of water to wine; and alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus after His baptism supported by words spoken to John by God.

All three Epiphany scripture verses demonstrate how our Lord manifests or expresses his Devine power and presence: by his birth, his miracles and by way of the Holy Spirit. All three accounts take place between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, while he walked on the earth as a man who the angels called the son of God, but who chose to refer to himself, more modestly, as the son of man.

The birth of Christ in such humble circumstances, as in a stable, with a manger as a crib, first announced by angels to shepherds, reveals that Jesus came as child to serve all men and women, not to rule from a palace, as he Magi had mistakenly expected. This child, Jesus, grew to become the Saviour and Lord, not by power and conquest of battle and destruction, but by an act of love and surrender on the cross at Calvary.

Before he died, Jesus lived and experienced the world as a man, died a human death, but was resurrected from the tomb, and then ascended into heaven in order to bring Devine forgiveness and sanctification by taking upon himself our judgment for our sins. And Jesus continued to assure that we would have Emmanuel or the presence of God with us by way of the Holy Spirit.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #105: What Child Is This, Who, Laid to Rest

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all

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Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and the Glory of Christ

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 21, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Message First Shared at BLCF on December 22, 2013

BLCF Bulletin December 21, 2014

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BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #627 (The Savior’s Advent – Luke 2); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #113: Angels We Have Heard on High

Today’s Scriptures: Scriptures: Ezekiel 34:23, Luke 2:15-20 and John 10:11

 

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Let us pray…

Let us begin today’s lesson by lighting the fourth and final Candle of Advent before Christmas, now as the Candle of Joy or Angel’s Candle. Let us reflect upon the verse John 1:5 (ESV):

Walking in the Light

Light over darkness

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

The fourth candle, lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent, is called the Angel’s Candle or the Candle of Joy. As we light this flame, we are reminded of the heavenly hosts that proclaimed Christ’s arrival with “Behold, I bring unto you good tiding of great joy!” The Angel candle is also purple, reminding us that it was a King’s birth that the angels proclaimed.

As we light the Fourth Advent Candle: Candle of Joy or Angel’s Candle, may we read from Psalm 126:2-3 (ESV):

BLCF: great joy in the light

  2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

This is the fourth and final Sunday of the Advent Season, where we observe the events foretold in Scripture of the birth of the Christ child, Jesus, the Messiah or Christ anticipated and promised by God. Over the last three Sundays, we studied in Scripture how God revealed to the prophets, the Magi, Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds the birth of Jesus. God revealed the event by way of Devine Prophecy, dreams, visitation of angelic messengers, and a star. Each Advent Sunday, we lit a candle and read appropriate verses.

Though worshipers may vary the order of the designation or name of the four Advent Candles, which is really not as important as acknowledging that, after the four Sundays of Advent, that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem to complete God’s covenant. The Advent and Christ Candles, all remind us that Christ came to bring light into a dark world, filled with sin. Let us review the order of Advent candles lit here at BLCF over the last month, what they represent and one of the verses that we read for each respective Sunday:

BLCF: Advent Candles

The 1st Advent Candle: Hope/Prophecy (Luke 1:30-35)

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[a]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[b] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man b. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

The 2nd Advent Candle: Bethlehem/Peace (Isaiah 9:2-6)     

2 [a] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[b] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[c] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:2 Ch 9:1 in Hebrew b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon c. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

The 3rd Advent Candle: Shepherds’ Candle/ Candle of Love  (Isaiah 52:7)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Cross references: 1. Isaiah  ed oil could be processed. at her breathed life into his creation.  52:7 : Nah. 1:15; Cited Rom. 10:15 2. Isaiah 52:7 : ch. 40:9

The 4th Advent Candle: Candle of Joy/Angel’s Candle              (Psalm 126:2-3)

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.

The 5th Candle: Christ Candle (John 8:12)

And this Wednesday, on Christmas Day, we will light the Christ Candle and among other verses, read John 8:12 (ESV):

   I Am the Light of the World

BLCF: Light Of The World

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Mary Fairchild in Christianity.about.dot com gives a further explanation of what the light, represented today by a lit candle, signifies:

Christianity Symbols Illustrated Glossary: Light in the Bible

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Light represents the presence of God. God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and to the Israelites in the pillar of flame.

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The eternal flame of God’s presence was to be lit in the Temple in Jerusalem at all times. In fact, in the Jewish Feast of Dedication or “Festival of Lights” we remember the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Temple after being desecrated under Greco-Syrian captivity. Even though they only had enough sacred oil for one day, God miraculously causes the eternal flame of his presence to burn for eight days, until more purified oil could be processed.

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Light also represents the direction and guidance of God. Psalm 119:105 says God’s Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to our path. 2 Samuel 22 says the Lord is a lamp, turning darkness into light.

http://christianity.about.com/od/symbolspictures/ig/Christian-Symbols-Glossary/Light-of-the-World.htm

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But today, the forth Advent Sunday, we will light what is called the ‘Angel’s Candle’ or the ‘Candle of Joy’.

 

BLCF: Joy Angel

I think that we all can easily understand the feeling of joy and the message of joy delivered by the angels to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

Angel means messenger and God often had His angels deliver important news to people, ensuring that the message was understood.

It is worthwhile noting that after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the disciples were no longer the Lord’s disciples or students, but having been appointed, by way of Jesus’ Great Commission, to be the Lord’s apostles or messengers of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus. All believers in Christ are the Lord’s apostles or messengers. In that regard, as God’s appointed messengers, we have something in common with God’s other messengers, the angels, which is to deliver His Word unto the ends of the earth.

And as believers in the Resurrected Christ, we are vessels of God’s Holy Spirit. No longer is the Ark Covenant the sole vessel of God’s presence revealed only to prophets and high priests. For after Pentecost, the Lord sent the Holy Spirit of God to dwell inside each and every believer, to empower in to sharing of the Gospel, discerning God’s direction through the Scriptures and in their own lives.

Let us return to the Christmas Story and the significance of lighting candles to represent the light of Christ. Earlier, when recalling the Second Advent Sunday, I read from Isaiah 9:2-6, where people who walk in darkness have found a great light. We continue that thought in two of today’s Scripture verse from, the 3rd and 8th Chapter of John’s Gospel:

I believe that touched upon the fact that God uses His angels to deliver messages of great importance and significance to the recipients of the messages. For additional information on the heavenly hosts, I found that Michael K. Jones authored a brief summary found on the back page of today’s bulletin, entitled ‘Angels in Scriptures’:      

 Angels in Scriptures – by Michael K. Jones

BLCF: Apparition-to-the-Shepherds

Angels are pure spirits created by God. Their apparitions and missions by God are constantly mentioned in the Bible. The original meaning of the word “Angel” is messenger; and in general it can be said that although the word is sometimes used of other persons acting as messengers (e.g., human persons, Isaiah 18:2 ; 33:7) normally its use is restricted to the pure spirits who act as divine messengers. Thus God send angels to announce His will, to correct, punish, teach, rebuke, and console (Psalm 102:20; Matthew 4:11; 13:49; 26:53).

 

BLCF: Revelation

 

Angels were created by God probably at the same time as creation. They were not created all equal (Daniel 10:13) they are commonly grouped into three hierarchies with three choirs each, the name of which are mentioned in the Bible: seraphim (Isaiah6:2,6), cherubim (Genesis 3:24 ; Ezekiel 10:1-22) and Thrones (Colossians1:16) dominations (Colossians 1:16), virtues (1 Peter 3:22), powers (Colossians 1:16 ; 1 Pet. 3:22), principalities (Colossians 1:16), archangels (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and angels. But they were all destined for the glorious vision of God depending on the outcome of a trial to which God subjected them. In this trial some rebelled against God and were consequently cast into hell (2 Peter 2:4).

The good angels can see God (Matthew 18:10), are called sons of God (Job 1:6 ; 38:7), aid those who fear God (Psalm 33:8 ; 90:11), are guardians of countries (Daniel 4:10,20 ; 10:10 ,13, 20, 21 ; Acts 16:6) and of individuals (Matthew 18:10) The thought that God appoints an angel to guard every soul from the moment of its birth is a common theological teaching. These so called guardian angels are referenced in the Scriptures (Psalm 90:11; Matthew 18:10).

Angels who did not preserve grace but fell from their high state together with Satan (2 Peter 2:4 ; Jude 1:6) are called fallen angels, angels of the devil, or angels of the dragon (Matthew 25:41).

Having driven man out of the Garden of Eden, God placed the Cherubim at its gates as guards (Genesis 3:24).Angels were sent to assist Agar (Genesis 16:27; 21:17), Abraham (Genesis 18; 22:11), Lot (Genesis 19), Jacob (Genesis 28:12-22) Elias (3 Kings 19:5) the three children (Daniel 3:49) , and Daniel (Daniel 6:22).  The Law was given through angels (Hebrews 2:2).

An angel guided the people of Israel (Hebrews 12: 22); (Numbers 20:16). God promised to send an angel to His people (Exodus 23:20 ; 33-2), sent to prevent Balaam from cursing His people (Numbers 22:22), and sent another to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-14) And angel rebuked the people (Judges 2:1-4), directed Gideon (Judges 6:11-40), appeared to Samson’s mother (Judges 13:4-21), punished David (2 Kings 24:16), directed Elias (3 Kings 19:5 ; 4 Kings 1:3-15), and defeated the Assyrians (4 Kings 19:35). Angles also explained visions (Daniel 8:16; 9:21; 10:5 10, 16).

An angel appeared to  Joseph (Matthew 1:20 ; 2:13-19) to Zachary (Luke 1:11, 19-20), to the Mary (Luke 1:26-38), to the shepherds (Luke 2:8,15) to our Lord in His agony (Luke 22:43), to the disciples after the Resurrection (Matthew 28:2) and after the Ascension (Acts 1:10), and to Paul (Acts 27:23).

God sent an angel to assist Peter (Acts 10:19; 12:7-11), Cornelius (Acts 10:3; 11:13) the eunuch of Queen Candace (Acts 8:2639): to aid the sick (John 5:4), and to bear the just to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).

Angels desire to know the mystery of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:12). They will summon men to judgment (Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:16) although they know not the day (Mark 13:32), and will come with Christ to judge mankind (Matthew 16:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:7).

 

BLCF: Annunciation_to_the_Shepherds

We have a good idea how angels fit into Scriptures. But, let us focus on the Christmas Story and the significance of lighting candles to represent the light of Christ. Earlier, when recalling the Second Advent Sunday, I read from Isaiah 9:2-6, where people who walk in darkness have found a great light. We continue that thought in two of today’s Scripture verse from, the 3rd and 8th Chapter of John’s Gospel:

  John 3:19-21 (ESV)

BLCF: God-speaks-to-Elijah

19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

 John 8:12 (ESV) I Am the Light of the World

BLCF; I Am The Light Of The World

 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Though we Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, having ascended into heaven is unseen by us, we celebrate through faith in the gift of salvation and sanctification he gave us, by taking upon himself the judgment of the sins of all humanity and we have Emmanuel, which means God with us. For a short time God was with humanity in the form of Jesus Christ, who referred to himself as the ‘Son of Man’. But upon his death, and after his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, so that all believers may experience Emmanuel or presence of God through the Holy Spirit, as expressed so succinctly in today’s third Scripture verse from 1 Peter:

 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ESV) 

God_reveals_Himself

                                                  

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

On Christmas Eve, we will light the Fifth Candle or Christ Candle and reflect upon the following significant aspects of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ Candle

BLCF: Christ Candle

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus and rejoice in His coming to us, we light the Christ candle.

Jesus Christ is our hope. He is our peace.

Jesus Christ is our joy. He is love– pure, holy, undying love.

Whoever believes in Him will never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD! (Psalm 4:6b)

BLCF: Blessed-Christmas

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #120: Joy To The World

Benediction – (Romans 15:13)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: Good News of Great Joy

Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and the Glory of Christ

BLCF: Jesus_and_mary_manger_by_bnw2040

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News

of Peace, Salvation and the Glory of Christ’

© December 14, 2014 by Steve Mickelson 

Revised Message Shared at BLCF on December 15, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

Bulletin December 14, 2014

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #610 (Christ in Prophecy – Isaiah 11 and 42; Jeremiah 23; Malachi 4); Prayer

Opening Hymn #104: It Came upon the Midnight Clear  

Today’s Scriptures: Luke 1:26-35; Matthew 1:18-25; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Luke 2:8-20

BLCF: 3rd Advent Candle

Let us pray…

Welcome to the BLCF’s observance of the third Sunday of Advent.  Sunday, two weeks ago, we lit the First Advent Candle, which is commonly called The Candle of Hope or The Prophecy Candle. Last Sunday, we lit the Second Advent Candle, also called The Candle of Peace or Bethlehem Candle.

Today we celebrate the Third Advent Sunday prior to Christmas Day, where we will light the Third Advent Candle, which is referred to as The Shepherd’s Candle, or the Candle of Love.

BLCF: advent-candle-animated

Lighting of the Third Advent Candle, ‘The Shepherd’s Candle’, which is also called ‘The Candle of Love’. Based on the Scripture verses we read this morning, we may like to view this candle, also, as ‘The Angels’ Candle’. And as the candle is lit, let us read from Isaiah 52:7 (ESV), which is found on the inside of today’s bulletin:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

Before we begin with this morning’s lesson, I would like to reflect upon two verses from today’s fourth Scripture passage, which describes the angels, who were known to express themselves in song, singing praises to God, celebrating the Savior’s birth as described Luke 2: 13-14:

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

BLCF: Heavenly Hosts and Shepherds

This passage made me recall an incident that occurred several years ago, at the annual Christmas Cantata presented at the last church Sophie and I had attended. The choir, of which Sophie was a member, gave a professional performance that attracted many visitors from the community, and grew the congregation to more than double the average number.

This particular performance was of the oratorio, Handle’s Messiah. I sat in my usual pew located in the church’s right alcove, which provided a view of Sophie in the choir. In the pew in front of me sat another member of the congregation, a young lady with her month old son, whose husband sang in the choir. I’ll call the baby’s mother Mary, which is not her real name. but it is close to her real name. A well-dressed man, whom I had never seen at the church before, sat in the pew located in front of the mother and child.

BLCF: candlelit_cantata

It was during the first movement of the Messiah, which celebrates the birth of Jesus, the young baby in the pew in front of me began to cry. Being a father of four, a crying baby did not phase my enjoyment of the performance, as I had experienced a similar situation on more than one occasion when our children were babies. I thought it interesting that Handle was describing in song Luke 2, the birth of the baby Jesus, and the crying child added a sense of realism to the musical narrative.

BLCF: Mother and child

I was shocked and dismayed, when I observed the well-dressed man two pews ahead turned around in a loud, angry voice told the mother, “Can’t you shut that baby up! It is spoiling the mood for me.”

This points out how, unfortunately, some view Christmas, selfishly, as a time of personal self-gratification, not as a celebration of God’s love and compassion towards all of humanity, including little children. Imagine the shepherds or Magi, walking away from the stable, if the baby Jesus had been a little fussy.

(see link below – a composite of the visits by the shepherds and Wise Men)

BLCF: Navity

http://youtu.be/SWHeWUzXkeY

To her credit, the young mother did not leave her pew, and gently rocked her child back to sleep for the remainder of the concert. Meanwhile, our well -dressed moody critic, left at the conclusion of the concert, not bothering to stay for any of the refreshments served after the performance.

At the refreshment table, everyone had an opportunity to fuss over the baby and really, and demonstrate the true mood of Christmas.

BLCF: children

Now back to today’s lesson.

According to Scripture, the year of the birth of Jesus, the Christ child, was a busy tine for Angels, God’s Heavenly Hosts, particularly the angel known as Gabriel. The angel, Gabriel’s name appears numerous times in the Bible, as we find in our Wiki bits:

In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel (Hebrew: גַּבְרִיאֵל, Modern Gavri’el Tiberian Gaḇrîʼēl, God is my strength; Arabic: جبريل, Jibrīl or جبرائيل Jibrāʾīl) is an angel who typically serves as a messenger sent from God to certain people.

BLCF: Angel Gabriel

In the Bible, Gabriel is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, he appeared to the prophet Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel’s visions (Daniel 8:15–26, 9:21–27). In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel appeared to Zecharias, and to the virgin Mary foretelling the births of John the Baptist and Jesus, respectively (Luke 1:11–38). In the Book of Daniel, he is referred to as “the man Gabriel”, while in the Book of Luke, Gabriel is referred to as “an angel of the Lord” (Luke 1:11). Gabriel is not called an archangel in the Bible, but is so called in Intertestamental period sources like the Book of Enoch. In the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, the archangels Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel are also referred to as saints.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel

If you look at today’s bulletin, you will see the first of several Biblical accounts of angels bringing word of the birth of Jesus.  Our first scripture passage, an angel visits Mary, delivering an important message from God, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV), having the sub-heading:

Birth of Jesus Foretold

 Gabriel and Mary

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

BLCF: Angel and Mary

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Our second Scripture account of an angel bringing word from God, this time to Joseph, is also listed on the back of today’s bulletin, comes from, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) with the title:

 The Birth of Jesus Christ

BLCF: Joseph's Dream

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

The birth of Jesus was foretold in several verses of the Old Testament, including the first of today’s Scripture verses found on the inside of our bulletin, Jeremiah 23:5-6 (ESV):

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

BLCF: Shoot from the root of Jesse

Though the birth of Christ child is prophesized in numerous verses of the Old Testament, God would sent one of His angels to ensure that the individual or individuals understood the purpose of an event, typically a Supernatural miracle, as part of His Devine plan for the persons visited as well as the rest of humanity. Which brings us to today’s second Scripture, also found inside today’s bulletin, Luke 2:8-20 (ESV), entitled:

The Shepherds and the Angels

BLCF: shepherds and the angel

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

BLCF: Annunciation_to_the_Shepherds

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

I find it interesting that all of heaven, including God’s angels celebrate, when a sinner accepts the gift of Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord the Lord explained at the conclusion of his ‘Parable of the Lost Sheep’, as we read in Luke 15:7 (ESV):

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

I believe it is fair to conclude that the heavenly host broke into song at the birth of the Christ child, because the angels understood that Jesus had come to demonstrate by an act of self-sacrifice: God’s love for us; the reconciliation between God and all people of their sins; and the promise of a New Covenant for all who have faith and trust in His Devine plan. Thus, sinners who repent receive His forgiveness, because He loves us, John 3:16 (ESV), entitled:

 For God So Loved the World

BLCF: heart-of-Jesus

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Footnotes: a. John 3:16 Or For this is how God loved the world

And with the birth of Jesus, let us reflect upon the message and joy of the angels witnessed by the shepherds, as well as the love of God, who gave us through His only son Jesus, a path to reconciliation and salvation as demonstrated by the third Advent Candle.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #106: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 4:6):

 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

“May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ Child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever.”                             – John Armstrong

BLCF: Christmas Nativity WS

Advent: God’s Prophecy Fulfilled, Marked by a Star over Bethlehem

BLCF: wisemen_and_star

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Advent: God’s Prophecy Fulfilled, Marked by a Star over Bethlehem’ 

© December 7, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon from © December 8, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin December 7, 2014

BLCF: o-come-emmanuel

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #615 (Adoration of the Magi – from Matthew); Prayer                 

Opening Hymn #100: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel 

Choruses                                          

Scripture Verses: Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 2:1-15

Let us pray…

Before I begin today’s lesson, let me briefly share with those in the congregation who missed last Friday’s BLCF Café Volunteer Appreciation Potluck Supper. We had just shy of 40 volunteers at the supper. Brother Rawle James was our Master of Ceremonies, and as MC asked each volunteer to share the name of place of birth and how Christmas is celebrated back home.

BLCF_Cafe_Volunteer_Potluck_1

One of our volunteers, a former captain, now working on her post graduate degree shared that she came from China and that she had accepted Jesus as her Saviour, and currently attends a local church. This Christmas she will return home for the first time in two years, as a Christian, bringing a whole new perspective to the meaning of the Holiday.

BLCF_Cafe_Volunteer_Potluck_2

Earlier this week at the café, a former regular guest of the Cafe, dropped by to say hello. This gentleman is only a few years younger than myself, had endured a hard childhood in in Belarus, suffering frequent beatings by his parents. My friend shared with me that he first came to the Café by happenstance, as he was walking by the church saw our invitation sign on the sidewalk and for some unknown reason, (which I believe was the Holy Spirit), decided to come inside.

 

As a new guest, he admitted that he was in a bad place, because of a severe pain in his lower back, causing his mood to be tempered by the nagging ailment. He then shared that on two occasions, volunteers approached him, perceiving that he had a problem. He said in both occasions, the volunteer took several minutes to pray with him for healing, referring to the volunteers as that lady who plays the piano (Margaret) and then pointing to the other volunteer who is in charge and is always rushing around (Sophie). The prayers were answered in three days, where our friend experienced a complete healing, with no pain. Something the doctors could not provide. This guest, like our volunteer, had accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, crediting to the love and compassion that he experienced at the dinner as the catalyst to his faith decision.

BLCF_Cafe_Wide

These two faith testimonials, along with that from a single mother who was a former long term guest, which I shared a few weeks ago, was God’s Holy Spirit giving the volunteers a blessing in appreciation for the ministry of the BLCF Café. God IS good! It is wonderful how God reveals Himself right here in the heart of Toronto.

BLCF: God_reveals_Himself

Now back to today’s lesson.

Today we celebrate the both Second Advent Sunday prior to Christmas Day and Communion Sunday, where we observe Jesus’ sacrifice prior to the advent of his return.

On this day we light candle commonly called the Peace Candle, also known as the Bethlehem Candle. Bethlehem being the birth place of the Christ child was foretold in Micah, chapter 5:

          Micah 5:2 (ESV)

2 [a] But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.                                                                                                                                               

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:2 Chapter 5:1 in Hebrew

BLCF: Nativity scene

You may recall from accounts from the Scriptures, which are also expressed in Christmas Hymns or Carols, and portrayed in both paintings and diorama like the Nativity Scene, several significant events occurred in the early life of our Lord Jesus Christ in the town of Bethlehem.

Having worked as a field supervisor for the last Canadian Census, I observed quite a different way to collect information for the government today than in the time of Jesus. For the census today, instead of returning to our respective place of birth, all we have to do is fill out a government survey/questionnaire either online or submit a hard copy by mail.

Most Canadians were required to complete census survey as a short form. However, roughly one in seven, including me, was given a longer form to complete. In spite of the relative ease and convenience of filling out a modern census form today, there is a greater resistance or reluctance to complete the census than in the time of Joseph and Mary. I think that perhaps the penalties given by the government of Rome at that time for refusing a decree from Caesar were far more severe than those given in Canada, today.

That is the reason why Joseph obediently brought Mary, who was due to deliver her first born, to their birthplace of Bethlehem to complete Caesar’s census, at a time that was close to her delivery date. They did not have the benefit of any legislation, such as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to protect them from being subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

BLCF: marry-on-donkey-and-joseph-travel-to-bethlehem

In Luke 2:1-7, we see that due to a decree from Caesar Augustus, everyone in the known world, living under the rule of Caesar, had to go to the town of their birth to register, Luke 2:1-7 (ESV):

 The Birth of Jesus Christ

the-adoration-of-the-magi-jean-pierre-granger

2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.                                      

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:2 Or This was the registration before b. Luke 2:5 That is, one legally pledged to be married

Mary, being aware that she would give birth to Jesus, the Son of God, was likely was unaware of God’s timing of her pregnancy and delivery of the Christ child in Bethlehem was a fulfillment of the prophecies.

Speaking of the prophecy, we have the account of the visit of the Magi, or the Wise Men, as we see in today’s second Scripture verse, Matthew 2:1-15 (ESV):

 The Visit of the Wise Men

BLCF: Three Kings

2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men[a] from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose[b] and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

BLCF: three_wisemen_star

7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

The Flight to Egypt

BLCF: Mary,Joseph,Jesus

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”                                                                                                                       

Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16  b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9

What conclusions can we draw of infer from the Scripter’s account of the Magi found in Matthew 2?

The Wise men came to Jerusalem from the east, apparently outside the jurisdiction of Rome and were not participating in census registration decreed by Cesar Augustus. Arriving in the city, the Wise Men were granted an audience with the local King Herod, which indicates that the Magi had an elevated status from commoners, who would not likely be able to go into the royal court to talk to even a minor king. It troubled Herod that the Magi had observed the star of Christ and had come to worship the new born king of the Jews so greatly that he consulted the chief priests and scribes of the Jewish people and found  that the prophecy was to be fulfilled in Bethlehem of Judea.

Here Herod conspires to kill the Christ Child, who posed a possible threat to his local rule, by asking the Wise Men to let him know the location of the Christ child under the ruse of worshiping him as well. However, the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, and chose instead to go home by another route.

The account of the Wise Men is only found in Matthew’s Gospel, which does not diminish its significance to Christianity.  We often refer to the number of Magi or Wise Men as three, which we infer from the three gifts given to the Christ child, the Scriptures do not specify their number. For many Christians, the account of the Magi, found in the second chapter of Matthew, is included in their respective Epiphany Observances. Epiphany is a church holiday which ranks third importance on the Christian calendar, ranking behind below Easter and Christmas, respectively. But that is a topic for another lesson.

Lighting the Second Advent Candle: Bethlehem/Peace:

BLCF: Bethlehem_candle_of_love2

At the beginning of today’s message, we described the second candle, which is lit on the second Sunday of advent along with the first candle, as the Bethlehem or Peace candle, reminding us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and reminding us that it was a King, who was born in the manger, and as we read in Isaiah 9, Christ brings light into a dark world, as the Prince of Peace. Let us read from Isaiah Chapter 9, as we light the Second Advent Candle:

Isaiah 9:2-6 (ESV)

2 [a] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[b] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[c] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.                                                                       

   Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:2 Chapter 9:1 in Hebrew b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon c. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

BLCF: animation_candle_flame free

May we thank God for the Prince of Peace, who gave the promise of salvation, forgiveness and peace in the little town of Bethlehem underneath the guiding light of a start of Christ.

Let us pray…

Communion Observance: 1 Corinthians 11:22-27 (ESV):

BLCF: communion

22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for[a] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[b] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b.1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem

BLCF: blessed-advent

Benediction – (Romans 15:13)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: Isaiah 9_2-6

Advent: Filled with the Joy and Peace in Believing

 BLCF: Root_of_Jesse

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Filled with the Joy and Peace in Believing’  

© November 30, 2014 by Steve Mickelson

Revised Sermon Shared by Steve Mickelson at BLCF on December 1, 2013

BLCF Bulletin November 30, 2014

BLCF: from_darkness_to_light

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Love of Prayer – From John 3 and 1 John 4); Prayer                                                                      

Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I Should Gain

Today’s Scriptures: Isaiah 9:2-6, Luke 1:30-35, Romans 15:12-13

Isaiah 9:2-6 (ESV)

BLCF: Isaiah_9_2

2 [a] The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. 3 You have multiplied the nation; you have increased its joy; they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as they are glad when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian. 5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon[b] his shoulder, and his name shall be called[c] Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:2 Chapter 9:1 in Hebrew b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon c. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

Luke 1:30-35

BLCF: Advent -Mary and Angel

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[a]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[b] will be called holy—the Son of God.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man b. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Romans 15:12-13 (ESV)

BLCF: Romans_15_12

12 And again Isaiah says,                                                                                                    

“The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.”

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

BLCF: advent_root_of_jesse

 

Let us pray…

This is the first Sunday of Advent, where traditionally Christian Church observes the first of the four Sundays before Christmas Day, or the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the author of our salvation.

For our lesson today, let us look at the first Advent observance.  In Isaiah 9, verses 2 to 6, we have an account by Isaiah, a Prophet of God, written some seven centuries before the events took place. The prophecy describes a world not too different from our world today, some twenty seven centuries after Isaiah’s time. In both times, people walk and dwell in darkness. Darkness being both sin and sin’s judgment thanks to the influence of Satan, who after all, is the Prince of Darkness.

It is noteworthy that people have tendency to want to see, hear and read, a long story in short form. That is why such publications as Readers Digest are successful in condensing relatively long articles and books into shorter versions of the original. You may be aware of the frequently used acronym “KISS”, which stands for “Keep It Short Stupid.”

Reading (sic) Digest

Reading (sic) Digest

 

It is not surprising that Christian Churches today frequently represent the advent or coming of the Christ Child as the four Sunday’s or month prior to Christmas Day, when Isaiah’s prophecy was revealed some seven centuries previously. We talk about Mary’s encounter with an angel less than a month before the event, condensed from nine months that a pregnancy requires.

It is understandable that even some Christians assume that there is brevity in the duration of time it took between the prophecy and birth of Christ.  What do I mean about brevity. Time for our wikibits for a quick definition:

 

 BLCF: brevity

brevity /ˈbrɛvɪtɪ/ noun (pl) -ties

  1. conciseness of expression; lack of verbosity
  2. a short duration; brief time

 Word Origin and History for brevity Expand

– noun c.1500, from Latin brevitatem (nominative brevitas) “shortness” in space or time, from brevis “short”.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/brevity

BLCF: bible-and-newspaper

My dad was a career journalist who would often say that the newspapers he worked for expected him to write the first paragraph of an article as a complete synopsis of all the important details of the story.

This was done so that a copy editor could cut paragraphs from the bottom of the article, as needed to make room for other important articles to be inserted, just before press time. We find Wikipedia has an apt description of this technique of “copy editing” used for print publications, as well as other forms of news media:

Article Publishing (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

BLCF: extra_extra

While a good conclusion is an important ingredient for newspaper articles, the immediacy of a deadline environment means that copy editing often takes the form of deleting everything past an arbitrary point in the story corresponding to the dictates of available space on a page. Therefore, newspaper reporters are trained to write in inverted pyramid style, with all the most important information in the first paragraph or two. If the less vital details are pushed towards the end of the story, then the potentially destructive impact of draconian copy editing will be minimized.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Article_(publishing)

Journalism (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

BLCF: brevity1

The role and status of journalism, along with that of the mass media, has undergone profound changes over the last two decades with the advent of digital technology and publication of news on the Internet. This has created a shift in the consumption of print media channels, as people increasingly consume news through e-readers, smartphones, and other electronic devices, challenging news organizations to fully monetize their digital wing, as well as improvise on the context in which they publish news in print. Notably, in the American media landscape, newsrooms have reduced their staff and coverage as traditional media channels, such as television, grapple with declining audiences. For instance, between 2007 and 2012, CNN edited its story packages into nearly half of their original time length.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism

We see today that society has become used to receiving information in a format that is both short and condensed. Even the latest media forms try to convey message in the form of a short sound bite:

Sound bite (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

BLCF: abstract-word-cloud-for-sound-bite-with-related-tags-and-terms

A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music extracted from a longer piece of audio, often used to promote or exemplify the full length piece. In the context of journalism, a sound bite is characterized by a short phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker was trying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or viewer. The term was coined by the U.S. media in the 1970s. Since then, politicians have increasingly employed sound bites to summarize their positions.

BLCF: jonathan-leavey-quote-there-is-not-a-good-30-second-sound-bite-there

 

Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and can be misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcasts or documentaries is open to manipulation, leading to conflict over journalistic ethics.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_bite

BLCF: Shakespeare ala twitter
Shakespeare ala twitter

The danger in the brief sound bite is passing on misleading or inaccurate information. Can you imagine The Sermon on the Mount being recorded as a twitter, with a limit of only 140 characters, or the having to condense Paul’s Letters of the Romans down to a single paragraph? Imagine what would be lost. The apostles could ill-afford to cut the Gospel as a matter of convenience to its readers or by restrictions dictated by the publishers of the medium. We need to be mindful how of long it took for the promise of a Messiah bringing to reach its completion.

 

BLCF: SoundBite_Issue

Isaiah had predicted that into the darkness, a great light will come. Often the Scriptures refer to the presence of light and fire as indicative the power and presence of God. We see that the light that comes will be a child, called Wonderful Counselor, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace and Mighty God. Isaiah describes the advent of Jesus Christ some 700 years in his future.

Between the time of Isaiah and the birth of Christ, there were centuries of darkness: sin, suffering and death. Like today, where people of faith wait for Christ’s return, generations have waited with anticipation for the fulfillment of a prophet’s vision from God.

BLCF: Gods_Word

 

Even the people of Israel, who were delivered from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to God’s “Promised Land,” which was not just a land of milk and honey, but a land where the people would see Promise of a new Covenant, through Jesus Christ come to past.

In our second Scripture Verse for today, Roman’s 15, verses 12-13, the Apostle Paul quotes Isaiah, pointing out that root of Jesse a ruler will come, who gives hope to the Gentiles. You may recall that Jesse was the father of David and only after 600 years does a king arise among the descendants of David.  And how will this new king rule? For the answer to this question, let us review Isaiah 11:1-5 (ESV):

The Righteous Reign of the Branch

BLCF: O-Root-of-Jesse

11 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. 2 And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.

Both of today’s Scripture verses offer the promise of peace. Isaiah 9:6 states:

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   

The Apostle Paul echoes this message of peace in Romans 15:13 where we read:

 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. 

But what is meant by the “root of Jesse.” We know that Jesse was the father of King David, but our wikibits, from biblestudytools.com, provide us with a better, more comprehensive understanding of this Scripture prophecy from the book of Isaiah:

In Isaiah 11:10: there shall be a root of Jesse.

This prophecy is applied to the Messiah by the Jews, who say,                                  

“that when the King Messiah is revealed, there shall be gathered to him all the nations of the world, so that that Scripture shall be fulfilled which is written, “there shall be a root of Jesse””

This character, “the root of Jesse”, may be understood of Christ with respect to his divine nature, who, as God, was before Jesse, and the author of his being, as of all creatures; just in such sense as he is called “the root and offspring of David”, ( Revelation 5:5 ) ( 22:16 ) ; the root of David, as he is God, and the offspring of David, as he is man; unless both are to be interpreted of his human nature, as the phrase here also may be, and denote his descent from Jesse as man; and so the Jewish writers interpret it as well as some Christian ones.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/romans-15-12.html

Who is the first to witness the fulfilment of a 700 year old prophecy that describes the advent of a new king who is also God? It was Mary.

The Bible tells us that for important messages, God often relied upon one of His angels to inform Mary of God’s plan, particularly when the message may bring worry or fear to the recipient. We find an example of this in Luke 1, verses 30-35, which is found on the back page of your bulletin:

Luke 1:30-35

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[a]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[b] will be called holy—the Son of God.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man b. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Mary is informed by God’s angel that she has been chosen to be mother of the Son of the Most High or the Son of God, who will be a descendant of King David, who you recall, was the son of Jesse. And this be King shall reign forever.

The angel’s message to Mary causes her to ask the angel how she can have a child, since she is a virgin. The angel then explains to Mary that by power of God she will become pregnant to the Son of God.

Just as God had breathed life into a lump of clay to make Adam, and use a rib from Adam to form Eve, God will bring forth His only begotten son through Mary. Mary was the only person to witness all of these important events in the Life of our Lord:

She was first to know the Advent of Jesus’ birth, at the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle, witnessing his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his gift of the Holy Spirit.

Our study today gives a perspective of an event from three different people, in three different time frames. Isaiah tells of the birth of Jesus as a prophetic vision some 700 years in the prophet’s future.

Next, Luke tells the same story as a visitation by an angel to Mary in her present time.

Then, in the verse from Romans, Paul gives a perspective of Isaiah’s vision and Mary’s angelic message reaching fruition as an event in Paul’s historical past that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to bring hope to humanity, salvation to all people and light into the darkness of the world.

And finally, we see that the Prophet Isaiah, Jesus’ mother Mary and the Apostle Paul are people of great faith. Their faith is a product of the revelation and understanding of God’s purpose by way of the Holy Spirit.

As apostles of the Lord, we are commissioned to open the eyes of others to the truth of the Scriptures, which records the Gospel of Christ Jesus, the Word made flesh.

BLCF: hope eyes

Let us pray…

Lighting the First Advent Candle: Prophecy and Peace

BLCF: animation_candle_flame free

Inside today’s bulletin is a few paragraphs from Wikipedia giving a synopsis of the Christian practice of lighting candles on the four Advent Sundays just prior to Christmas Day. I would like to direct you to the second paragraph, which reads as follows:

Advent Candles (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

advent-wreath

In Protestant churches it is more common to use four red candles (reflecting their traditional use in Christmas decorations) because rose vestments and decorations are not commonly used in Protestant churches. Blue is also a popular alternative color for both Advent vestments and Advent candles, especially in some Anglican and Lutheran churches. This is in keeping with the liturgical seasons; blue means hope and waiting, which aligns with the seasonal meaning of Advent. Other variations of the Advent wreath add a white candle in the center to symbolize Christmas, sometimes known as the “Christ candle.” It can be lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. White is the traditional festal color in the Western church. Four red candles with one white one is probably the most common arrangement in Protestant churches in Britain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent_wreath

So in anticipation of the advent Isaiah’s prophecy, and Mary’s revelation of the birth of the Messiah, we light the first Candle of Advent, which is called the candle of prophecy and peace.

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Benediction – (Romans 15:13)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

BLCF: Isaiah 9_2-6