Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ’
© January 3, 2016 by Steve Mickelson
Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616: (Christian Baptism – Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer
Hymn #251: My Song Shall Be of Jesus; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Scriptures: Matthew 2:1-18, John 1:29, John 3:1-8
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church’s Praise and Worship Service, on this, the first Sunday of 2016, which is a Communion Sunday.
Our lesson for today, ‘A New Year, A New Age, A New Life – in Christ,’ we give us an opportunity to reflect upon the events of 2015, while anticipating the hopes and expectations of the New Year, 2016.
Christians today, as in the years past, find the Christmas Season fraught with assaults against God, our faith and our Savior. It is around Christmas and Easter, the naysayers come forth to either deny the existence of Jesus and the truth of the Lord’s Gospel, or to promote a theory that Christ did not exist, or was not Savior.
It seems that no other faith is the subject of so much derision and attacked to the extent that is our faith in Christ. But the gospels are full of warnings that believers in the resurrected Christ may anticipate to see a parade of false prophets and perversions of the truth. We see an example of the agenda of proponents of this anti-Christian theology in the way we mark our calendars, where B.C. and A.D. are being replaced by B.C.E. and C.E., respectively. We find a Wikibits explanation for the meaning and motives for such a change as follows:
B.C. /A.D. versus B.C.E. /C.E.
Our calendar is based on the birth of Christ; all years before Christ’s birth have traditionally been designated B.C. (before Christ) and those after his birth as A.D., an abbreviation for the Latin term Anno Domini which means “in the year of the Lord.”
Some historians have adopted an alternative dating system, referring to B.C. as B.C.E. (Before the Common Era), and to A.D. as C.E. (Common Era). The change was made to mask the Christian basis for the dating system and presumably make it more palatable to non-Christians.
The new designation is unsatisfactory on several levels. In the first place, no “common era” exists. It can’t be found in history books or the dictionary. It was just made up. If there is a common era, it didn’t begin in the year one; it probably began around 1500 A.D. when ocean exploration connected the world in a global trading network.
On a cognitive level, B.C.E. and C.E. repeat the same letters in the same order making the distinction between them harder for the eye and mind to grasp than the traditional system that uses all different letters. To understand the meaning of dates, readers may have to stop and consciously translate the letters.
The politically sensitive thinkers who developed the new terminology were not so bold as to identify a new, logical, non-Christian basis for dating time such as the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago or the beginning of civilization five thousand years ago. Instead, they kept the Christian system but attempted to obscure its historical origin, a curiously anti-historical act.
While some historians have an agenda focused on removing Christ from Christmas and modern calendars by using B.C.E. and C.E., no effort has been undertaken to make our nomenclature for “politically correct” by renaming the months named for Roman gods: January, February, March, April, May and June. Certainly Christians could be “offended” by the use of Roman gods to name the months is the same way non-Christians object to the acknowledge each year including and following Jesus’ birth as an Anno Domini or Year of the Lord and any year preceding his birth as an acknowledgement as well.
Many view the New Year as a time for resolutions for change, improvement, and reconciliation in our lives. So it is not surprising that while many such expectations answered by the birth of Jesus; others perceived his arrival as a threat to their own personal authority, as we see in the first of our Scripture verses, which tells of the arrival of the Magi or Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-18 (ESV):
The Visit of the Wise Men
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.’”
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
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.”
Herod Kills the Children
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Footnotes: a. Matthew 2:1 Greek magi; also verses 7, 16 b. Matthew 2:2 Or in the east; also verse 9
Since the Wise Men brought three different gifts to Christ child, offering him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh, we may infer that there were three Wise Men, with each bringing a gift for the newborn king.
Some try to disparage the Wise Men as astrologers and Wikibits, dictionary.com define as astrology as follows:
astrology – definition
A study of the positions and relationships of the sun, moon, stars, and planets in order to judge their influence on human actions. Astrology, unlike astronomy, is not a scientific study and has been much criticized by scientists.
If the Magi were just interested in studying the Star of Bethlehem, they would have neither acknowledge to star’s arrival as a fulfillment of the Jewish prophecy of the birth of the Christ child, nor would they arrive to worship him with valuable treasures. The fact that an angel had warned the Magi not to return to Herod indicates that there may have been some Divine influence which brought the Magi to Jesus and consequently gifts worthy of a king were brought to the Lord.
No doubt when Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt, these valuable gifts were used by the three refugees while in exile until the time that they returned.
I find it ironic that many who profess to be Christians today have little or no sympathy for the plight of the refugees in the Middle East, fearing the refugees may harbor a threat to their way of life. This perceived threat parallels the motive which prompted Herod to kill all the male infants age two years and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
I feel that God, the Father, knew of the danger from Herod and He provided a way of escape by an angel’s warning to Joseph and the gifts of the Magi.
The date of Christ’s birth is so significant to history that events are observe to have occurred on a date defined as a year preceding or following the year that Jesus was born. While AD or Anno Domini translates as the “Year of the Lord”, Christians mark the date of their re-birth as a child of God some thirty three or so years later, following the Lord’s death, resurrection, ascension, and Day of Pentecost, which collectively mark the birth of the Church, a body of believers, who having demonstrated faith in Christ by confessing their sins, following the Way of the Lord, receiving the Spirit and teaching the Gospel.
That Gospel message being that: Jesus is the spotless Lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins! His birth was for his death; his death was for our re-birth, as was acknowledged by John the Baptist in John 1:29 (ESV):
Behold, the Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Just as Jesus was born to mature to become the Savior from the judgment of the sins of humanity, believers must be willing to be reborn through faith, by God’s Holy Spirit, as indicated in the account of Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 (ESV):
You Must Be Born Again
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus[a] by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[b] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.[c] 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You[d] must be born again.’ 8 The wind[e] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Footnotes: a. John 3:2 Greek him b. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7 c. John 3:6 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit d. John 3:7 The Greek for you is plural here e. John 3:8 The same Greek word means both wind and spirit
Just as our Lord grew from an infant to a child, and then a man, those who are re-born or born again in Christ are expected to grow and mature in the Spirit. And with the maturity of Spiritual growth, Christians are expected to take upon themselves the responsibility of preaching the Word or the truth of Christ’s Gospel to others, 2 Timothy 4:1-8 (ESV):
Preach the Word
4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.
Footnotes: a. 2 Timothy 4:3 Or healthy
For our closing prayer for this New Year 2016, I would like to read to you ‘A Prayer for Peace’ by St. Francis of Assisi, which gives a good outline of how we may best achieve the task of preaching the Gospel in thought, word and deed. What better way to implement a Christians’ desire for resolution for change, improvement, and reconciliation in the New Year of their rebirth and the future.
Let us pray…
Hymn #220: Break Thou the Bread of Life
Communion Scripture Versus: 1 Corinthians 10:16-18, 11:23-26
1 Corinthians 10:16-18 (ESV)
16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 10:18 Greek Consider Israel according to the flesh
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)
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.
Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 11:24 Some manuscripts broken for b.1 Corinthians 11:24 Or as my memorial; also verse 25
Benediction – (Psalm 90:14): Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.