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

 

Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord

BLCF_Nativity2

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 22, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 22, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

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

BLCf -3Mahi

Let us pray…

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.

BLCF-Advnt4tSundays

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:

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

 Luke 1:30-35 (ESV)

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)

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 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)

Isaiah 52:7 (ESV)

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      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)

Psalm 126:2-3 (ESV)

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)

BLCF_Advent5thCandle

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

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.”

BLCF_Saviors_Birth

 

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

Light in the Bible                                          

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

BLCF_ChristCandle

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

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. 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’:

                BLCF+Angels+Nativity

 Angels in Scriptures -by Michael K. Jones

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).

 

 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).

 

BLCF_Christmas_Angel_3

 

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 Gedeon (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).

angel_0

So we have a good idea of 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  Chapters of John’s Gospel:

  John 3:19-21 (ESV)

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

 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)                                                    

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.

So, at this time, we light the fourth and final Candle of Advent before Christmas, now as the Candle of Joy or Angel’s Candle. May we reflect upon the verse, John 1:5 (ESV):

BLCF+4_advent-0001

Walking in the Light

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 Angel’s candle. 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.

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

  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.

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

         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+Merry_Xmas_New_Year

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+xmas_New_Yeaar_2014

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

Advent Love Candle

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Thirdh Sunday of Advent

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

©December 15, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 15, 2013 

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

 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.

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.

Christmas Angel

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

Art%20Advent%204B

If you look at the back of 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

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]

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

BLCF Angel visits Jospeh

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

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

BLCF Josehs Dream

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 A Branch 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

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.

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

Advent

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 think it is fair to conclude that the Heavenly Host broke into song at the birth of the Christ child, because through Jesus would come, by his act of love, 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

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 by lighting this third Advent Candle.

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.”

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #106: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Rejoice

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

Advent

Advent: Guided by a Star to a King Born in Bethlehem

3WiseMen

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Guided by a Star to a King Born in Bethlehem’ 

©December 8, 2013, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 8, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #615 (Adoration of the Magi – Matthew 2r of Prayer); Prayer

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

 Today’s Scriptures: Scriptures: Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7; Matthew 2:1-15

Let us pray…

Today we celebrate the Second Advent Sunday prior to Christmas Day.

On this day we light candle commonly called the Peace Candle, also known as the Bethlehem Candle. Bethlehem is the birthplace 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

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 have 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. And in Canada, most of today’s census form surveys were the short form, but roughly one in seven, including me, were 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 why Joseph obediently brought Mary who was due to deliver her firstborn to Bethlehem so close to her delivery date. And unlike today, Imperial Rome had no Charter of Rights to protect its population.

In Luke 2:1-7, we see that due to a decree from Caesar Augustus, everyone in the known world 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

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

So 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. And speaking of the prophecy, we have the account of the visit of the Magi, or the Wise Me, as we see in today’s second Scripture verse, Matthew 2:1-15 (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.”                                                                                                                       

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

3-wise-men

So what conclusions can we draw of inferring from the Scripture’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 newborn 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. But the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but instead, go home by another route.

And though only in Matthew’s Gospel, do we find the story of the Wise Men, which does not diminish its significance to Christianity. For many Christians, the Matthew 2 account is included in their respective Epiphany Observances. Epiphany is a church holiday that ranks third importance on the Christian calendar, ranking behind below Easter and Christmas, respectively. So what is meant by Epiphany? For an explanation of Epiphany, and particularly how it relates to the story of the Wise Men, let us look at a posting on the subject, courtesy of the web site, sharefaith.com:

Epiphany Observances


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.

While some Greek Orthodox Churches still observe the Epiphany celebration as the Nativity of Jesus, the majority of the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican Churches focus on the visit of the Magi and Jesus’ baptism. The significance behind the visit of the Magi is the revelation of Christ as “Lord and King.” The Wise Men were the first Gentiles to publicly recognize the divinity of Jesus, by way of their offerings of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River revealed his divinity as the Son of God. John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:16-17, testifies of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Several Russian, Coptic, and Greek Churches also focus on the Cana wedding miracle as part of the Epiphany celebration observance.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River revealed his divinity as the Son of God. John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:16-17, testifies of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus like a dove, and a voice from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Several Russian, Coptic, and Greek Churches also focus on the Cana wedding miracle as part of the Epiphany celebration observance.

For the Church, the Epiphany represents a responsibility to reveal Jesus as the Divine Son and Savior sent by God the Father to atone for the sins of mankind. It is a time of healing and fellowship, where the Church comes together in the covenant of brotherhood to love one another as Christ commanded.

The Church observes a variety of Epiphany rituals and traditions. In places throughout Europe and Latin America, Christians commemorate Three Kings’ Day by offering prayers, burning herbs that have been dried and blessed, sprinkling entryways with holy water, and inscribing the initials of the Magi (Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar) on structures in order to receive a blessing.

Many Protestant Churches observe an Epiphany celebration that extends to Ash Wednesday, with the last Sunday of the season honored as Transfiguration Sunday. The tradition of Twelfth Night, which marks the end of the Christmas season, occurs the night before Epiphany. On this night, Kings’ Cakes are baked in preparation for the coming winter season.

Many Protestants mark Epiphany by taking down Christmas trees and burning them in bonfires. The related tradition of children “raiding” the tree of candy canes and other sweets before it leaves the home is popular throughout Europe and the United States. A favored custom in Central Europe involves “star singers”. Children dress as the three kings and go caroling from door to door carrying a large star. In reward, they receive money or sweets, which often go to church charities and relief organizations.

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

Now sharefaith.com does take some liberties in the explanation of the Magi. Matthew’s gospel does not give the names of the Wise Men or directly say how many Magi visited Bethlehem, though three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh imply the number to be three. And Old Testament prophecy tells of a visitation by Kings, which is why they are also called the ‘three kings’.  But what other information is available about the Magi? And our friendly Wikipedia gives the following anecdotal accounts of the Wise Men:

Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known as:

  • Melchior (also Melichior), a Persian scholar;
  • Caspar (also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa, and other variations), an      Indian scholar;
  • Balthazar (also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea), an Arabian scholar.

Encyclopædia Britannica states: “according to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.” These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500, and which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari. Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details.

Martyrdom traditions

Christian Scriptures record nothing about the Biblical Magi after reporting their going back to their own country. Two separate traditions have surfaced claiming that they were so moved by their encounter with Jesus that they either became Christians on their own or were quick to convert fully upon later encountering an Apostle of Jesus. The traditions claim that they were so strong in their beliefs that they willingly embraced martyrdom.                               

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

Lighting the Second Advent Candle: Bethlehem/Peace:                                                                                                              

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 paragraph, which reads as follows:

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.

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

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 the start of Christ.

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.

imagesCAPIZ0J1 

Advent: Filled with the Joy and Peace in Believing

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Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

©December 1, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 1, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #632 (God’s Redeeming Lover 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; Romans 15:12-13

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

Romans 15:12-13 (ESV)

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. 

Let us pray…

December 1, 2013 marks a day of two observances. The first being first Sunday of Advent, where the Christian Church observe the first of the four Sundays before Christmas Day, or the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace and the author of our salvation. The second observance comes because today is also the first Sunday of the month, where the BLCF congregation will partake in the elements of Communion, an observance mandated by the Lord until the Second Advent, which will occur on the day he returns to the world.

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.

But Isaiah had predicted that into the darkness, there will come a great light. You may remember a message I shared a few months ago, where light and fire indicate the power and presence of God. And 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.

Even the people of Israel, who were delivered from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to God’s “Promised Land” which was not 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 look at Isaiah 11:1-5 (ESV):

The Righteous Reign of the Branch

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.   

And 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 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?

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 fro 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:

  1.         Mary is first to find out how God fulfills His New Covenant as mother of Jesus. Mary is present at the birth of the Son of God. 
  2.         Mary is the first person to ask Jesus to perform a miracle, which is turning the water into wine for a wedding as described in John 2,  verses 1 to 11:

John 2:1-11  (ESV) The Wedding at Cana

2 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.[a] 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 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.

Footnotes: a. John 2:6 Greek two or three measures (metrētas); a metrētēs was about 10 gallons or 35 liters

            3.     Mary was present at the crucifixion and death of Jesus, as we read in John 18, verses 26 to 27:

 John 19:26-27 (ESV)

26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

          4.    Mary was also present in the Upper Room at the day of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit, the comforter Jesus sent after his resurrection, read in Acts 1, verse 14:

Acts 1:14 (ESV)

14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[a]

Footnotes: a. Acts 1:14 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 men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 15

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

Let us pray…

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Lighting the First Advent Candle: Prophecy and Peace

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:

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.

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.

BLCF Communion

Communion: (Matthew 26:26-29): Institution of the Lord’s Supper

26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the [a] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

  Footnotes: a. Matthew 26:28 Some manuscripts insert new

 

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.

advent-candles 

Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy

Advent Conspiracy header

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy 

©November 24, 2013 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin November 24, 2013

 

BLCF Call to Worship and Prayer:

Responsive Reading #631 (The Incarnate Christ – John 1); Prayer

Opening Hymn #35: Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

Let us pray…

Today’s message is entitled: Walking in the Light of Advent and Avoiding the Conspiracy might beg for an explanation of terms. The first term is rather straight forward.

Next Sunday, we will observe the first Sunday of Advent and on that occasion we shall reflect upon the significance of the approaching birth of Jesus and how the birth of our Lord changed the world. But what is meant by Advent and what does light candle at represent?

advent-candles

Let us check our Wiki bits definition of Advent Sunday:

Advent Sunday (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches. It also marks the start of the season of Advent.[1] In the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist churches the celebrant wears violet-coloured or blue vestments on this day, and the first violet or blue Advent candle is lit at Mass. In the Church of Sweden, however, the Liturgical colour is white: the motivation is that the day is a joyful feast (the colour is changed to blue, the traditional colour for Advent in Scandinavia, or—if the church does not possess blue vestments—violet after 6 p.m.).

Zechariah 9:9–10 and Matthew 21:1–9 are always read in the service, and the symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.

Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King. It can fall on any date between 27 November and 3 December. When Christmas Day is a Monday, Advent Sunday will fall on its latest possible date. Note that it is also possible to compute the date of Advent Sunday by adding three days to the date of the last Thursday of November.

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

Adven+ Conspiracy

But as Christians observe the Advent of Christmas, it is easy to get distracted from the reason for the season, which is the observance of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and instead drawn into what some refer to as the Advent Conspiracy. Having just observed the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, one might think that the Advent Conspiracy is some sort of plot involving the historical event of the Nativity. No so. There is no assassin on a grassy knoll. Though King Herod did plot a conspiracy, using information from the Magi, to locate and kill the baby Jesus, which God foiled. But that is a topic for another Sunday. But we do have a conspiracy in which the world diminishes the significance of the birth of Jesus.

give more

Here is an excerpt from interviews with the three founders of the Advent Conspiracy from foxnews.com:

Advent Conspiracy ( By Lauren Green  Published December 18, 2009 FoxNews.com)

The Advent Conspiracy movement asks Christians to resist the temptation to spend on extravagant gifts and instead redirect their money to helping the needy.

Greg Holder, who pastors a church in St. Louis, Missouri. is one of the group’s three founding ministers. He says Advent Conspiracy is about having Christians — not retailers — tell the story of Christmas.

“We’re not asking you to join this movement out of guilt or distrust or anger,” he said. “We want you to know that this is not about saying no to something. This is about saying yes to something better.

“So for us it’s re-entering the story, it’s rediscovering the story, that’s where the ‘give more’ comes in.”

Using a video posted on YouTube to market the movement, the Advent Conspiracy has spread to 1,700 of churches in at least 17 countries on four continents, and can even be found on the social networking site Facebook, where nearly 45,000 people have signed up to support the movement.

Houston Pastor Chris Seay, another of the movement’s co-founders, says he has no interest in forcing retailers to say “Merry Christmas” to shoppers in place of the non-sectarian “Happy Holidays.”

“I don’t want to invoke the name of Christ at Wal-Mart — it’s not the most sacred place,” he said. “I would rather you say Happy Holidays … especially when we’re running over little old ladies to get a cheaper television” on Black Friday.

Weary shoppers, laden with packages, see his point.

“It would be nice for (people) to learn to do for others, because that is the true spirit of Christmas and that does make you the most happy,” said New Yorker Candice Wylie. “Not receiving, but giving.”

“It’s about being together (with) family and really what’s important instead of just getting caught up in the commercialization of the whole thing and the franticness of Christmas and trying to spend, spend, spend,” added shopper Lorraine Cona.

Holder and Seay say they are not trying to bash retailers. It’s about rethinking Christmas.

Pastor Patrick McKinley, the movement’s third founder, emphasizes that it’s up the churches to exercise their creativity to let Scripture tell the true Christmas story so “we don’t have to sit back to let consumerism tell the story.”

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2009/12/18/advent-conspiracy-seeks-to-bring-back-meaning-christmas/

So what are we to do to avoid becoming a co-conspirator of the Advent Conspiracy? The answer may be found on the Advent Conspiracy Web Page, as posted in the introduction to the movement:

Advent Conspiracy Brochure 20113

“Worship More, Spend Less, Give Presence, Love All Are you tired of how consumerism has stolen the soul of Christmas? This year, take a stand! Join the groundswell of Christ-followers who are choosing to make Christmas what it should be—a joyous celebration of Jesus’ birth that enriches our hearts and the world around us, not a retail circus that depletes our pocketbooks and defeats our spirits. Advent Conspiracy shows you how to substitute consumption with compassion by practicing four simple but powerful, countercultural concepts: Worship Fully—because Christmas begins and ends with Jesus! Spend Less—and free your resources for things that truly matter. Give More—of your presence: your hands, your words, your time, your heart. Love All—the poor, the forgotten, the marginalized, and the sick in ways that make a difference. Find out how to have a Christmas worth remembering, not dreading. Christmas can still change the world when you, like Jesus, give what matters most—your presence.

worship

The Advent Conspiracy is an international movement centered on bringing a deeper meaning to Christmas during the Christian season of advent that immediately precedes it. The movement is characterized by its four founding principles: Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. The movement’s message is to avoid getting caught up in the consumerism surrounding the holiday in order to celebrate Christmas more fully.

In 2006, Pastors Greg Holder, Chris Seay, Rick McKinley and others founded the organization to rebel against the hyperconsumerism to which they found many Christians fall victim. They proposed to spend less on gifts and give more to the poor. Today, Advent Conspiracy consists of approximately 1500 member churches and organizations around the globe.”

http://worldrelief.org/advent

Spend Less

I first heard about the Advent Conspiracy in a graphic attachment to an email sent to me by Pastor Don Boyd several years ago. We see a good graphic summary of the movement on the back page of today’s bulletin:

Advent Conspiracy Summarized:

     Worship Fully Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise   was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that   deserves our full attention and praise—a celebration!
     Spend Less By spending wisely on gifts we free ourselves   from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a   full heart.
Give More The most powerful, memorable gift you can give   to someone is yourself. And nobody models this better than Jesus.
Love All By spending just a little less on gifts we free   up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who are in need.

http://worldrelief.org/advent

love all

If they had lived today, the Pharisees might be viewed as participants of the Advent Conspiracy, based upon their view of our Lord and the Scriptures which was both worldly and judgmental in nature, leaving them figuratively and spiritually in the dark, as we read in John’s gospel, John 8:12-20 (ESV):

                           I Am the Light of the World

8 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.” 13 So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16 Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father[a] who sent me. 17 In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. 18 I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” 19 They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” 20 These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

Footnotes:  a. John 8:16 Some manuscripts he

The Transfiguration of Jesus

But those who reside in the darkness are not just the Pharisees, all who live a life of sin, wickedness and evil, as we read in John 3:19-21 (ESV):

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.”

Our path from darkness is illuminated by Jesus Christ who died for all the evil, wicked, sinful actions and thoughts. Christ’s path brings us from the darkness of condemnation and judgment to the illumination of His light and truth, by way of faith in the Lord.

Doing what Jesus would do!

This makes us a member of God’s elect as we read in 1 Peter 2:9-10 (ESV):

 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

light_salt

But as Christians, we celebrate the approaching light by lighting candles for each of the Sunday’s prior to Christmas, as well a candle on Christmas Day. The colour of these candles may vary, but if you look on the back of the bulletin, you may see what these candles represent:

                       Why We Light Candles At Advent:

The candles are lit in the order of: Purple, purple, pink, purple, and finally, white. This is what each of the candles mean:

1 – Purple –The Candle of Hope – This candle reminds us that God keeps His promises. He promised a Savior, and He sent one.

2 – Purple – The Candle of Preparation – This candle reminds us to be prepared to receive the Lord.

3 – Pink – The Candle of Joy – This candle remembers the multitudes of angels that joyfully announced the birth of Christ.

4 – Purple – The Candle of Love– This candle represents the love of God. It was out of His incredible love that God sent His only Son Jesus.

5 – White – The Christ Candle – When this candle is lit on Christmas Eve, it symbolizes Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

 advent_candles2

But each candle reminds us of the different aspects of our Lord and how we may become free of the condemnation of sin by walking in the light, which is the path set before us by him:

1 John 1:5-7 (ESV) Walking in the Light

5 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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

By lighting candles, and by prayer and thanksgiving, we remind ourselves of the great commission assigned to us until the time of the second advent, when the Lord will return:

 City on a Hill

    Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 5:16 Or house. 16Let your light so shine before others that

 

Let us pray…

Advent Conspiracy manger 

Closing Hymn #484: It Only Takes a Spark

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

Advent_Conspiracy_4