Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday 2018: Peace

BLCF: Advent-web-bannerhope,peace,love,joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ

 – Second Advent Sunday 2018: Peace’

© December 9, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 9, 2018

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on December 6, 2015

Bulletin December 6, 2015

BLCF: Isaiah 9_6

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

   Lighting Second Advent Candle (Peace) – 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-23 (ESV):

BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free

13b  Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Or disorderly, or undisciplined

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus                                                     

Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                   

Hymn #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!                                                                  

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers  

Responsive Reading #614: Peace and Renewal (Micah 4 and 7)

Let us pray…

A few weeks ago, our Sunday lesson, included the Scripture’s account of the “Tower of Babel”, where a group of misguided people embarked on building a great tower towards heaven, so that they might raise themselves to the same level as the Lord, as well as to elevate their own personal status among other people throughout both the world and in history. The offense of embarking upon building an edifice to their own glory instead of to their Father in heaven was so misguided and offensive to Him, that they were stricken by God with a multitude of languages, for their multitude of sins. The language barrier was so great, that the people discontinued their work on the tower and the communication differences caused the people to disperse and be scattered into obscurity.

In Secondary school, I had a Latin teacher, who often used a favorite line “non-sensibus” to comment upon a student’s error in translating a paragraph to English from Latin or Vice-Versa. We are told that Scripture is both Divinely inspired and Spiritually discerned.

Still, we find throughout the Bible numerous examples of individuals and groups performing foolish actions based upon a poor understanding of the meaning of prophecies, Commandments, parables, and/or Covenants. Examples of such actions include: consuming forbidden fruit, building tower to access heaven, as well as many other examples of actions based upon a twisted understanding of God’s Word.

We see in today’s first Scripture verse, Micah 5:1-5 (ESV), we see, that contrary to common belief at the time, Christ Child, the newborn Messiah, shall arise from the humble town of Bethlehem, to bring an end to armies, sieges, wars, and violence, which are all sins and grievously offend God. Jesus will bring God’s Peace, justice and harmony to all the factions in and around Israel In a manner that will establish the security of peace by way of the power of the Lord. Let us review that Scripture:

       The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

BLCF: Micah_5_1-5

[a] Now muster your troops, O daughter[b] of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 [c] 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.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:1 Ch 4:14 in Hebrew b. Micah 5:1 That is, city . Micah 5:2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

There are many groups today who appear to have the misguided idea that the Father in heaven is somehow subject to the whims of extreme groups and that He can be manipulated into bringing the Final Judgement if they initiate a mighty conflict. This did not happen in either of the great World wars and will not happen in any of the pseudo-religious conflicts around the globe today. It did not work, either, in the Crusades of the middle ages.

What we do know is that Christ came humbly to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, not a mighty steed on in a chariot of conflict. Before his birth in a humble stable, his mother traveled to a census upon the back of a donkey and that the King of Kings was born in the stable with a cattle’s hay crib as a bed. Before dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in order to show that battles will only be won when God’s Word is taught with love and humility.

We see God promises to fulfill His New Covenant again to another generation’s prophet in our second Scripture verse, Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV):

The Coming Glory of the Temple

BLCF: Glory and Peace - Haggai_2_1-9

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

BLCF: Book-of-Haggai_2_1-9

 

For those of you who may have forgotten the New Covenant that the Lord promised, let us look at the third of today’s Scriptures, which pre-dates the other two, Isaiah 9:6 (ESV):

BLCF: Holy Trinity

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

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

This verse refers to the Godhead or Holy Trinity of our mighty God, Who as the Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Counselor; Who is the Maker, the Everlasting Father; and as Jesus our Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Let celebrate the first Advent of the Lord, which is marked by Jesus’ birth, where he came to fulfill the prophecy by his birth, his death, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and by his sending of the Holy Spirit to those who believe and accept him as Lord and Saviour.

Traditionally on Advent Sunday, we light candles, read scriptures, sing hymns, say prayers and praises to commemorate God’s gifts through His Son, Jesus.

We should also observe a second Advent or coming of the Lord, which has yet to take place, by partaking in Communion as a single Church or Body of Believers, as we do on the first Sunday of the month. In that spirit of His peace, I would like to read from Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV), which is found inside today’s bulletin, opposite the Order of Service:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem                                                         

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7): 

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

BLCF: Come Lord Jesus Come

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The Good Friday Story

Message Shared with Toronto Vineyard and

 Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:

‘The Good Friday Story’

© March 30, 2018 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin Good Friday March 30, 2018

 

Announcements & Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Hymn #130: Tell Me the Story of Jesus                                                                           

Choruses: Toronto Vineyard                                                                                    

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

Message by Stephen Mickelson: ‘The Good Friday Story’

Let us pray…

Welcome to the annual Good Friday Worship Service, with the combined congregations of Toronto Vineyard and BLCF Church. Our lesson today is entitled: ‘The Good Friday Story’ we will examine the Crucifixion of Jesus on that Friday following Passover nearly 2,000 years ago from the perspective of several key people, who either witnessed or were involved in the events of the day.

We begin our story with Simon Peter, from Matthew 16:13-19 (ESV):

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 16:18 The Greek words for Peter and rock sound similar b. Matthew 16:18 Greek the gates of Hades

While one disciple receives a blessing for correctly identifying Jesus as the Son of God, another is cursed for betraying the Lord, Matthew 27:3-5 (ESV):

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Footnotes:a.Matthew 27:3 Greek he

While Jesus indicated that the perception and faith of the Peter had earned the disciple the promised appointment as the foundational rock of his church, with an entitlement to the keys to the kingdom of heaven, the Lord had also predicted that the Galilean would betray his master three times in the on the night of his betrayal, Mark 14:66-72 (ESV):

Peter Denies Jesus

66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[a] and the rooster crowed.[b] 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.[c]

Footnotes: a. Mark 14:68 Or forecourt b. Mark 14:68 Some manuscripts omit and the rooster crowed c. Mark 14:72 Or And when he had thought about it, he wept

The feeling of guilt had driven one disciple to tears of remorse and another to suicide.

The Son of God would receive a crown of thorns in a sadistic coronation, crucified upon the cross bearing a sign written by Pilate signifying Jesus as King of the Jews,  John 19:16-30 (ESV):

16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 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.

The Death of Jesus

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Footnotes: a. John 19:23 Greek chiton, a long garment worn under the cloak next to the skin

As Jesus had both his life and blood drained on that wooden tree of death and just before committing his spirit to the Father in heaven, he committed his mother and his disciple John to care for each other. Later, Mary and the other women would go to a tomb provided by a wealthy disciple, Joseph of Arimathea, for the lifeless body of Christ, and John cloistered himself with the other disciples fearful of the same fate as their Lord, Matthew 27:51-66 (ESV):    

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[a] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[b] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:54 Or a son b. Matthew 27:65 Or Take a guard

As Jesus had surrendered his life and spirit on the lonely cross of death, the earth shuddered and trembled. Pilate fearing the removal of the body of Christ from the tomb had the entrance cover stone secured with a seal and placed guards at the entrance.

Jesus was perceived to pose such a great threat to the chief priests, elders, and other members of the mob, they conspired with the assistance of Pilate to accomplish what King Herod I of Judea’s soldiers could not do: put baby to death, when the king ordered his soldiers to kill all the male babies, in what was described as the Massacre of the Innocents. With the death of Jesus on the cross, they felt the Prince of Peace was now dead to the world and was no longer a threat to their hypocrisy and their business of running the temple. The self-righteous expected that they would no longer have to deal with his biting remarks, regardless of how accurate or truthful.

It seemed now to be the end of an era for this gifted teacher who preached a new faith in God and promised a New Covenant, where the sinner and righteous would be treated the same way if they demonstrated faith and trust in the Lord.

To those involved, it seemed all that remained after the death of Jesus would be the grieving. Passover or Pesach had come, and neither bitter herbs nor marked door posts or lintels could stop the cloud of death from taking the life of Mary’s first-born son.

On that day, it was as if all the disciples had forgotten the message of hope announced by the host of angels, when a heavenly star had pointed to the humble birthplace of the long-awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of lords, the only Son of God, who also was God the Son.

The disciples were thrust into a world of lost hopes, of grief and fear, of unfulfilled promises that were devoid of joy. It seemed that all miracles and lessons from their Lord were forgotten and made hollow by the death of their teacher. I wonder if at this time the disciples remembered Jesus’ lesson of the Breaking of the Bread and the meaning Sharing of Chalice of the Wine taught at the Passover Meal before his death? Did the disciples share these elements of Communion in an act of faith, awaiting their Lord’s promise to return? Or were the disciples so fearful and introspective in absence of the Holy Spirit, that they remained barricaded in that Upper Chamber fearing the same fate of Jesus would befall them?

From the Scriptures, it appeared none of the disciples would go outside that Upper Chamber, save for the women who ventured to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Christ. Perhaps Mary still had in her possession some of the myrrh, an oil used to embalm the dead, brought by one of the Magi as a tribute to the baby Jesus?

We do not know what became of the Thomas in the days following the burial of Jesus, but the Scriptures indicate the disciple was absent from the Upper Room.

Luke 24:13-35 gives the account of two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed companion, who felt that the teachings of Jesus had ended with his death on the cross, as they were departing on the Road to Emmaus. It is likely the two were not the only followers of Christ who felt when Jesus announced, “It is finished” viewed the Lord’s pronouncement to be about his ministry, though he was actually talking about the completing the payment off the debt for the sins of humanity.

Paul Harvey and The Rest of the Story

In the latter half of his career, Paul Harvey was also known for the radio series The Rest of the Story, described as a blend of mystery and history, which premiered on May 10, 1976. The series quickly grew to six broadcasts a week, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009. The Rest of the Story series was written and produced by the broadcaster’s son, Paul Harvey, Jr., from its outset and for its thirty-three year duration. Harvey and his radio network stated that the stories in that series, although entertaining, were completely true.[14] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Harvey

Over the span of 30 years, a journalist named Paul Harvey had a radio broadcast, where he would deliver what at first blush, seemed to be innocuous news stories that my father, a career media journalist, would classify as “puffball news”. A puffball news story named for the puffball, a member of any of several groups of fungi in the division Basidiomycota. The distinguishing feature of all puffballs, which look like a very large mushroom, is the absence of an open cap with spore-bearing gills, as its spores are produced internally. Puffballs grow to a rather large size on the outside, however, when cut open are found to be hollow and empty on the inside, save for some spores which may puff upwards and out from the cap on a hot day.

Back to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story,” the first two minutes of his broadcast sounded like a light-news puffball story typically broadcast on a slow news cycle. A puffball is used as a filler on a slow news day.

The first two or three minutes of the broadcast began as a normal, ordinary news story with a seemingly predictable conclusion until Harvey would pause and announce, “And now for the rest of the story. The next segment of the story would then take an unexpected, often surprising turn in the direction towards its final conclusion. This unexpected turn of events in the story’s narrative was the hook that drew a large audience who followed the Harvey stories to hear this “truth is often stranger than fiction,” conclusions to the Harvey stories.

So it seems that life and promise brought by Jesus may appear initially to the disciples just a predictable account of events, following the Lord’s death on the cross.

At this point of our Good Friday lesson, we say would say: “And now for the rest of the story of Jesus,” which the disciples might have described an ending considered that considered as unexpected, earth-shattering, and life-changing. It seems as if they had forgotten or suppressed much of what Jesus had prophesized about his death and resurrection until they witnessed the events unfolded as Jesus had prophesized.

On this Good, Friday let us not make the same mistake as had  many, if not most, of the Lord’s disciples. Today we need not cover our heads with ashes or wear robes of mourning, instead, we should rejoice in the gift from God through His Son Jesus, who thought he died on the cross for our sins.

Our Lord and Savior overcame death, which is our judgment for sin, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was raised from dead. Jesus not only defeated death, but he also defeated the devil, who had deceived Adam and Eve so they had disobeyed God the Father, and brought this judgment of death for sin upon themselves and upon all their descendants.

When we eat the bread element and drink the juice element of Communion today, we should remember the Lord’s body was broken and of the blood Jesus shed in order to pay for the judgment for humanity’s sins Though neither gift, of salvation or life eternal, is deserved by any of us, we should celebrate and rejoice in the sacrifice and victory of Jesus, because we do know “the rest of the story,” which is the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus! While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as a sign of God’s love for each one of us! He died as the son of man, only to be resurrected as Son of God, or should I say God the Son.

I invite all of you to return here this Easter Sunday to celebrate the “rest of the story” of Christ, Jesus.

Let us pray…

Communion: Toronto Vineyard

Closing Hymn #284: Yesterday, He Died for Me

Video: Yesterday He Died For Me                                          

Benediction – (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday: Peace

BLCF: Advent-web-bannerhope,peace,love,joy

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love in Christ – Second Advent Sunday: Peace’

© December 6, 2015 by Steve Mickelson

Bulletin December 6, 2015

BLCF: Isaiah 9_6

Call to: Responsive Reading #614: Peace and Renewal (Micah 4 and 7); Prayer

Hymn #102: Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus                                                     

 Hymn #106: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing                                                                        

Hymn #117: Silent Night! Holy Night!                                                                  

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                

Today’s Scriptures: Micah 5:1-5, Haggai 2:1-9, Isaiah 9:6

 

Lighting Second Advent Candle (Peace) 1 Thessalonians 5:13b-23 (ESV):

BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free

13b  Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Or disorderly, or undisciplined

A few weeks ago, our Sunday lesson, included the Scripture’s account of the “Tower of Babel”, where a group of misguided people embarked on building a great tower towards heaven, so that they might raise themselves to the same level as the Lord, as well as to elevate their own personal status among other people throughout both the world and in history. The offense of embarking upon building an edifice to their own glory instead of to their Father in heave was so misguided and offensive to Him, that they were stricken by God with a multitude of languages, for their multitude of sins. The language barrier was so great, that the people discontinued their work on the tower and the communication differences caused the people to disperse and be scattered into obscurity.

In Secondary school, I had a Latin teacher, who often used a favorite line “non-sensibus” to comment upon a student’s error in translating a paragraph to English from Latin or Vice-Versa. We are told that Scripture is both Divinely inspired and Spiritually discerned.

Still, we find throughout the Bible numerous examples of individuals and groups performing foolish actions based upon a poor understanding of the meaning of prophecies, Commandments, parables, and/or Covenants. Examples of such actions include: consuming forbidden fruit, building tower to access heaven, as well as many other examples of actions based upon a twisted understanding of God’s Word.

We see in today’s first Scripture verse, Micah 5:1-5 (ESV), we see, that contrary to common belief at the time, Christ Child, the newborn Messiah, shall arise from the humble town of Bethlehem, to bring an end to armies, sieges, wars, and violence, which are all sins and grievously offend God. Jesus will bring God’s Peace, justice and harmony to all the factions in and around Israel In a manner that will establish the security of peace by way of the power of the Lord. Let us review that Scripture:

       The Ruler to Be Born in Bethlehem

BLCF: Micah_5_1-5

[a] Now muster your troops, O daughter[b] of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
2 [c] 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.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.

Footnotes: a. Micah 5:1 Ch 4:14 in Hebrew b. Micah 5:1 That is, city . Micah 5:2 Ch 5:1 in Hebrew

There are many groups today who appear to have the misguided idea that the Father in heaven is somehow subject to the whims of extreme groups and that He can be manipulated into bringing the Final Judgement if they initiate a mighty conflict. This did not happen in either of the great World wars and will not happen in any of the pseudo-religious conflicts around the globe today. It did not work, either, in the Crusades of the middle ages.

What we do know is that Christ came humbly to Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, not a mighty steed on in a chariot of conflict. Before his birth in a humble stable, his mother traveled to a census upon the back of a donkey and that the King of Kings was born in the stable with a cattle’s hay crib as a bed. Before dying on the cross for our sins, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in order to show that battles will only be won when God’s Word is taught with love and humility.

We see God promises to fulfill His New Covenant again to another generation’s prophet in our second Scripture verse, Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV):

The Coming Glory of the Temple

BLCF: Glory and Peace - Haggai_2_1-9

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”

BLCF: Book-of-Haggai_2_1-9

 

For those of you who may have forgotten the New Covenant that the Lord promised, let us look at the third of today’s Scriptures, which pre-dates the other two, Isaiah 9:6 (ESV):

BLCF: Holy Trinity

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

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 9:6 Or is upon b. Isaiah 9:6 Or is called

This verse refers to the Godhead or Holy Trinity of our mighty God, Who as the Holy Spirit is a Wonderful Counselor; Who is the Maker, the Everlasting Father; and as Jesus our Savior, the Prince of Peace.

Let us pray…

Communion: Responsive Reading #626 (Mark 14)

BLCF: Communion_Sunday

This Sunday, being the first of the month, happens to be the occasion where we observe two Advents of the Lord:

The first is Jesus’ birth, where he came to fulfill prophecy by his birth, his death, his resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and by his sending of the Holy Spirit to those who believe and accept him as Lord and Saviour.

We observe the first Advent when we light candles, read scriptures, sing hymns, say prayers and praises to commemorate God’s gifts through His Son, Jesus.

We observe the second Advent or coming of the Lord, which has yet to take place, by observing Communion as a single Church or Body of Believers. Before we take the juice and bread elements of Communion, I would like to first read from Ephesians 2:13-18 (ESV), which is found inside today’s bulletin, opposite the Order of Service:

13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem                                                                

Benediction – (Philippians 4:7):        

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

BLCF: Come Lord Jesus Come

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: 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 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

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 first born 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 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. But the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod, but instead go home by another route.

And though only in the 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 which 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 a 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

Art%20Advent%204B

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