Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’

© December 24, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 24, 2017

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #108: The First Noel, the Angel Did Say;                                     

Christmas Hymns (from the Hymnal)

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings;                 

Prayer Requests

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

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Advent: Rejoicing in Light of the Lord’;           

Lighting of the 4th Advent Candle and the Christ Candle

Let us pray …

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service for December 24, 2017.

Today we will light the fourth Advent Candle, lit on the fourth and final Sunday before Christmas. This candle is commonly called the Candle of Peace.

Advent Season is where we observe on each of the successive Sunday before Christmas, the events foretold in Scripture, including the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. Jesus came to be the world’s Messiah or Christ, who was anticipated by humanity and promised by God. Over the last three Sundays, we studied in Scripture how God revealed to the prophets, the Magi, as well as to Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds the birth of Jesus. God revealed the event by way of Devine Prophecy, dreams, visitations of angelic messengers, and a star in the heavens. Each Advent Sunday, we lit a candle and read appropriate verses.

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

1st Sunday of Advent which represents our Hope in Christ – we lit the Prophets’ Candle and read 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.

 2nd Sunday of Advent which represents our Faith in Christ – we lit the Bethlehem Candle and read Luke 3:4-6 (ESV):

 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,[
a]
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:4 Or crying, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord

 3rd Sunday of Advent which represents our Joy in Christ – we lit the Shepherds’ Candle and read Luke 2:7-15 (ESV):

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.[a]

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!”[b]

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.”

Footnotes: a. Luke 2:7 Or guest room b. Luke 2:14 Some manuscripts peace, good will among men

Lighting of the 4th Candle of Advent

Today we light the 4th Candle of Advent, representing the Candle of Peace or God’s Love. Let us reflect upon the verse John 3:16-17 (ESV):

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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

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

Since today is not only the 4th Sunday of Advent, it happens to also be Christmas Eve, when a 5th candle, called the Christ Candle is traditionally lit.

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

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

Jesus is our light, Son of God and son of man; the King of kings.

Jesus is our hope; he died a man and rose from the grave; the highest Priest of priests.

Jesus is our peace; he brought us our salvation from the judgment of sin; no more worry, pain or fear.

Jesus is our joy; promising us eternal life. He demonstrates God’s 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)

Christ Candle

Celebrating the birth of Jesus and rejoice in His coming to us, we light the Christ candle. Let us read the verse: John 1:5 (ESV):

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.

Light represents an important symbol in the Scriptures, often represented by flame or a candle, as we light the Christ Candle, let us 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.”

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

Christianity Symbols Illustrated Glossary: Light in the Bible

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

Closing Hymn: #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!

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

 

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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