Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Anticipating the Company of Christ’
© December 25, 2016, by Steve Mickelson
Announcements and Call to Worship:
Lighting the Christ Candle – (Galatians 4:1-6):
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Responsive Reading #627: The Savior’s Advent (Luke 2); Prayer
Opening Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Carols (Hymnal)
Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Scripture Verses: Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:18-25
Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) The Birth of Jesus Christ
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.
Let us pray…
Welcome to BLCF Church on this Christmas Sunday, where we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Messiah to become the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity and to bring the Divine light to the world as is symbolized by lighting the Christ Candle today.
While the main focus of Christmas seems to be the birth of our Lord and Savior, there is much more to consider about Jesus’ arrival.
God’s plan was to send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a woman, Mary. So Jesus had a lineage traced back to Jesse, the father of King David and to God, our King in heaven.
Though Jesus was the ‘Son of God’, he would often refer to himself, humbly as the ‘son of man’. And as the son of man, he sought to be baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit and beginning his ministry, which we read in Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV):
Jesus is Baptized
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.”
A few days ago, Sophie and I received word that a good friend of ours, who happens to be a brother in Christ, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis does not look very promising. Which brings us to the conundrum we face as Christians: ‘Why’?
Sure, we know that our bodies have an expiration date and one day we will be called home by our Maker, but skeptics and those with little faith may ask: ‘Why not ask God to bring healing and restoration of full health to our friend’?
While we have anointed friends who suffer from afflictions at BLCF Church and even had our faithful petitions answered by God, there are times when healing is not part of God’s plan. We must also be cautious that our requests are not putting God to the test, as was the perception of when the devil tested Jesus after the Lord was baptized in the Spirit, as described in Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV):
Jesus is Tested
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and
“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
While you may recall that the shepherds and angels joyfully celebrated the birth of Jesus, our Lord faced a grim prognosis for himself, as we see in Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV):
The Death of Jesus
45 Now from the sixth hour[a] there was darkness over all the land[b] until the ninth hour.[c] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.
God could have intervened and prevented the death of His only Son. But this was not part of our Father’s Divine Plan, as Jesus was totally abandoned by his Father in heaven, and our Lord met his gruesome, painful death without comfort from his loving Father, which is the only way Christ could assume humanity’s judgment for their sins.
But now we get to the part of Christ’s Gospel which had caused the angels to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not only did Jesus remove the scourge of sin and the judgment of death, which he took upon himself to die as the son of man, but Christ also proved that he was the Son of God, by His resurrection from death. Jesus returned not as a proof of his own Divinity, but with an assignment and a promise to his disciples, described in Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):
The Great Commission
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Footnotes: a. Matthew 28:19 Or into
The proof of the love and commitment of Jesus was first confirmed on the Day of Pentecost, which we find on the Scripture Passage found in Acts 2:1-4 (ESV):
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested
So I would like to conclude our Christmas Lesson today, to remind you that Jesus could not have fulfilled God’s Plan for salvation without being born as the son of a woman and by being the Son of God. Christ defeated the devil, restored humanity’s place as Children of God, which we see in the same passage that I read as we lit the Christ Candle at the beginning of today’s service, Galatians 4:1-6 (ESV):
Sons and Heirs
4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Though Jesus came as an infant, the son of a woman, he raised by a woman, he took our place to be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a judgment of death for sins of which he was innocent.
Though he was convicted, Jesus died on the cross and was buried, the Son of God, he arose from the grave, which demonstrated his Divinity.
In spite of his treatment and sacrifice, Jesus proved his love and Lordship by ascending to sit beside the Father, to be our advocate in heaven and gift us with the Holy Spirit of God. Thus our Lord is granting us the company of His Spirit forever. What a blessing!
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem
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.