A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

© November 25, 2018, by Steve Mickelson

 BLCF Bulletin November 25, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer 

Opening Hymn #263: Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door; Choruses                           

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

Responsive Reading #610: Christ in Prophecy (- from Isaiah 11 and 42, Jeremiah 23, and Malachi 4)                                                                                                  

Message by Steve Mickelson: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church’s Sunday Morning Praise and Worship Service for the last Sunday in November, also the last Sunday before the first Sunday of Advent. So, it would not surprise you that today’s lesson is entitled: A Preamble to Advent: Ignore the Cicadas.For the record, here is the definition of a preamble:

Preamble – pre·am·ble /ˈprēˌambəl/ noun

Definition: preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction.

 E.g. “what she said was by way of a preamble”

Then you may ask about the Cicada. This is the little insect which lays dormant in the pupa stage for a period of thirteen or seventeen years, (depending on the variety), only to emerge as an adult which generates a loud buzzing noise (up to 106 dB)  as a mating call.

Amazing Cicada Life Cycle | Sir David Attenborough | BBC – Youtube

Both Christmas and Easter are holy days to Christians, preceded by Advent and Lent, respectively. And it seems during both Advent and lent, we see the emergence of bashers of the faith and of Christ Jesus, emerging out of dormancy like noisy Cicadas. Like the Cicada, the Christian bashers make a lot of noise, expending much effort, challenging our faith, often using arguments which make sense only to themselves and fellow Christian bashers. When Christmas and Easter have passed, the cacophony ends, as these bashers seem, like the Cicadas, go dormant. Sadly, unlike the Cicada, Christian bashers do not go dormant for 13-17 years, but only as long as the advent next Christian holy day. My apologies to the Cicadas as at least their irritating noise serves a purpose, as a mating call to other Cicadas.

So let us endeavor to ignore the Christian bashers and focus on dispelling some of the myths perpetuated by those who do not have faith in believing the Gospel of Christ, Jesus. Both the devil and these opponents to the Christian faith, work hard at trying to create doubt in both seekers and believers in Jesus.

This is not surprising, as you may recall from last week’s lesson, that Jesus’ disciples had doubts about the identity of who is their Lord. You may recall that after Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, the disciples had questioned who was this man who could command the stormy sea and winds to stop. It was only after witnessing Jesus walking on the water, leading Peter to do the same, and again commanding a second storm to calm, that the disciples recognized Jesus as the Son of God. Considering the initial doubts of his disciples regarding his identity, it is not surprising that the neighbours and relatives who had not witnessed the Lord’s miracles had expressed the same doubts with respect to the identity of Jesus, as we read in the gospel of Mark 6:1-6 (ESV):

 Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

 6 He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

Modern day Christian bashers try to cast doubt on the identity of Jesus, by claiming that the Genealogy of Jesus recorded in the gospel of Matthew 1:1-17 seem that recorded in the gospel of Luke 3:23-38. Rather than post the two genealogies of Jesus in today’s BLCF Bulletin, I have included a chart showing the same information (below):

Two Genealogies of Jesus: 

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Joseph)                             Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mary)

 Luke 3:23-38 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,[a]the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim, 31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor, 35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah,36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 3:27 Greek Salathiel

Matthew 1:1-17 (ESV): The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon,and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah,and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah,11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:3 Greek Aram; also verse 4 b. Matthew 1:7 Asaph is probably an alternate spelling of Asa; some manuscripts Asa; also verse 8 c. Matthew 1:10 Amos is probably an alternate spelling of Amon; some manuscripts Amon; twice in this verse d. Matthew 1:12 Greek Salathiel; twice in this verse

In one of the genealogy trees, from Matthew’s gospel, indicates that Joseph as a descendant of David. The other genealogy, from Luke’s gospel, has been attributed by many scholars as showing the lineage of Mary, as being trace from David.

It should be noted that through her marriage to Joseph, Mary enters her husband’s family and therefore both she and her son Jesus legally become members of the House of David. You may recall that the skeptics of the identity of Jesus in Mark 6:1-6 were apparently unaware that while Jesus and his siblings shared Mary as their mother, the siblings father was Joseph, while Jesus’ was the Son of God, as we see in the gospel of Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV):

The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

Our faith in Jesus’ identity as the Son of God and the Lord’s Gospel account of why he died, on the cross, his resurrection from the grave, his ascension to heaven, and his gifting of the Holy Spirit to those who believe appear as foolishness to those who are without the Spirit. Who knows why they seem so motivated to challenge the Christian faith by selectively choosing Scriptures used out of context, twisting the Bible to make an argument, not unlike the scribes and Pharisees in the time Jesus walked on the earth. These skeptics demonstrate their ignorance, by demanding that Christians put the Lord to the test. The birth of the Christ or Messiah has already been ordained by God’s miracle or sign described in Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV):

 The Sign of Immanuel

The prophecy was written: Between 701-681 BC
The prophecy was fulfilled: About 5 BC – Jesus is born

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your[a] God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he[b] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.[c] 

Footnotes: a. Isaiah 7:11 The Hebrew for you and your is singular in verses 11 b. Isaiah 7:13 That is, Isaiah c. Isaiah 7:14 Immanuel means God is with us

To close our lesson today, I would like to remind you that just as Mary and her son, Jesus became members of the House of David, through her marriage to Joseph, all who are baptized into Christ by faith become part of His Church by faith and are considered offspring of Abraham, entitled as God’s beloved children, as indicated in Galatians 3:27-29 (ESV), which happens to be our Benediction today:

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #208: There’s a Church within Us, O Lord                                                                                                              

Benediction – (Galatians 3:27-29 ): For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

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

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

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

© December 17, 2017 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF Bulletin December 17, 2017

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on December 15, 2013

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Lighting the Third Advent Candle: The Shepherds’ Candle, also called: The Candle of Joy (Luke 2:8-20):

    

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 Joy.

Two weeks ago, we lit the First Advent Candle, commonly called The Candle of Hope or The Prophecy Candle. Last Sunday, the Second Advent Candle know as The Candle of Faith or Bethlehem Candle was lit.

As we Light the Third Advent Candle ‘, let us read from Isaiah 52:7 (ESV), as 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.”

Though the birth of Christ child is prophesized in numerous verses of the Old Testament, God would sent one of His angels to ensure that the individual or individuals understood the purpose of an event, typically a Supernatural miracle, as part of His Devine plan for the persons visited as well as the rest of humanity. Which brings us to today’s second Scripture, also found inside today’s bulletin, Luke 2:8-20 (ESV), entitled:

    The Shepherds and the Angels

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[
a]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

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

Opening Hymn #104: It Came upon the Midnight Clear; Christmas Hymns

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

Responsive Reading #602 (God’s Divine Deliverance – Psalm 33)

Message by Steve Mickelson: ‘Advent: Angels Announcing the Good News of Peace, Salvation and the Glory of Christ’

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service. Before we begin today’s lesson, I would like to invite all of you to join us for an Advent Potluck Lunch here at BLCF, following the Service. It will be an opportunity for all to enjoy a good meal and fellowship.

To begin 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

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 it 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. 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.

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.

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 many 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)

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 and the love of Christ.

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.

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 the back of today’s bulletin, you will see one of several accounts recorded in the Bible, of angels bringing word of the birth of Jesus. One of these Scripture passages tells of how the angel Gabriel visits Mary, to deliver an important message from God, Luke 1:26-35 (ESV),  with the sub-heading:

Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed[a] to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”[b] 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”[c]

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be called holy—the Son of God.

Footnotes: a. Luke 1:27 That is, legally pledged to be married b. Luke 1:28 Some manuscripts add Blessed are you among women! C. Luke 1:34 Greek since I do not know a man e. Luke 1:35 Some manuscripts add of you

Our next Scripture gives an account of an angel bringing word from God, this time to Joseph, is also listed in  of today’s bulletin, comes from, Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) with the title:

   The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

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.’

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 expressed joy at the birth of the Christ child, because the angels understood that Jesus came to sacrifice himself as an expression of his love for us and provide for the reconciliation between God and all people. He would assume humanity judgment for all our sins, and give us the promise of a New Covenant for all who have faith and trust in His Devine plan. Thus, sinners who repent receive His forgiveness, because He loves us, John 3:16 (ESV), entitled:

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world,[a] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

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

Finally, 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

Join us after the service, for a time of fellowship and joy, as we enjoy a special Advent Potluck Meal provided by fellow members of our congregation.

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

Anticipating the Company of Christ

BLCF: Jesus_and_Mary_manger_by_bnw-cross

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Anticipating the Company of Christ 

© December 25, 2016 by Steve Mickelson

BLCF: Bulletin-December-25-2016

BLCF: Wishing-You-A-Blessed-Peaceful-Christmas-animated

Announcements and Call to Worship:

Lighting the Christ Candle – (Galatians 4:1-6): 

                                      BLCF: animation_candle_flame-free                                                                  

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

BLCF; Nativity

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

Opening Hymn #100: O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Carols (Hymnal)                                              

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

Scripture Verses: Isaiah 9:6 and Matthew 1:18-25  

                                                                            

       Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

BLCF: Mary-Nativity

 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

 

 Matthew 1:18-25 (ESV) The Birth of Jesus Christ

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship Christmas 2011

 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed[b] to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.                                  

Footnotes: a. Matthew 1:18 Some manuscripts of the Christ b. Matthew 1:18 That is, legally pledged to be married

BLCF: Christ-candle

 

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church on this Christmas Sunday, where we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s promise to send His Messiah to become the final sacrifice for the sins of humanity and to bring the Divine light to world as  is symbolized by lighting the Christ Candle today.

While the main focus of Christmas seems to be the birth of our Lord and Savior, there is much more to consider about Jesus’ arrival.

God’s plan was to send His Son, Jesus, to be born of a woman, Mary. So Jesus had a lineage traced back to Jesse, the father of King David and to God, our King in heaven.

Though Jesus was the ‘Son of God’, he would often refer to himself, humbly as the ‘son of man’. And as the son of man, he sought to be baptized before receiving the Holy Spirit and beginning his ministry, which we read in Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV):

Jesus is Baptized

BLCF: Epiphany_Jesus_Baptised

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”    

Footnotes: a. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him b. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or theBeloved

A few days ago, Sophie and I received word that a good friend of ours, who happens to be a brother in Christ, was diagnosed with cancer and the prognosis does not look very promising. Which brings us to the conundrum we face as Christians: ‘Why’?

Sure, we know that our bodies have an expiration date and one day we will be called home by our Maker, but skeptics and those with little faith may ask: ‘Why not ask God to bring a healing and restoration of full health to our friend’?

While we have anointed friends who suffer from afflictions at BLCF Church and even had our faithful petitions answered by God, there are times when healing is not part of God’s plan. We must also be cautious that our requests are not putting God to the test, as was the perception of when the devil tested Jesus after the Lord was baptized in the Spirit, as described in Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV):

 Jesus is Tested

BLCF: even_Jesus_was_tempted

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’  and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

While you may recall that the shepherds and angels joyfully celebrated the birth of Jesus, our Lord faced a grim prognosis for himself, as we see in Matthew 27:45-50 (ESV):

The Death of Jesus

BLCF: Jesus-Picture-On-The-Cross-It-Is-Finished-Crucifixion

 45 Now from the sixth hour[a] there was darkness over all the land[b] until the ninth hour.[c] 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.                                        

Footnotes: a. Matthew 27:45 That is, noon b. Matthew 27:45 Or earth c. Matthew 27:45 That is, 3 p.m.

God could have intervened and prevented the death of His only Son. But this was not part of our Father’s Divine Plan, as Jesus was totally abandoned by his Father, and our Lord met his gruesome, painful death without comfort from his loving Father, which is the only way Christ could assume humanity’s judgment for their sins.

But now we get to the part of Christ’s Gospel which had caused the angels to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Not only did Jesus remove the scourge of sin and the judgement of death, which he took upon himself to die as the son of man, Christ proved that he was the Son of God, by his resurrection from death. Jesus returned not as a proof of his own Divinity, but with an assignment and a promise to his disciples, described in Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV):

 The Great Commission

BLCF: the_great_commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnotes: a. Matthew 28:19 Or into

The proof of the love and commitment of Jesus was first confirmed on the Day of Pentecost, which we find on the Scripture Passage found in Acts 2:1-4  (ESV):

The Coming of the Holy Spirit

BLCF: Pentecost_Dove

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[a] on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.                                                                                                                      

Footnotes: a. Acts 2:3 Or And tongues as of fire appeared to them, distributed among them, and rested

So I would like to conclude our Christmas Lesson today, to remind you that Jesus could not have fulfilled God’s Plan for salvation without being born as the son of a woman and by being the Son of God. Christ defeated the devil, restored humanity’s place as Children of God, which we see in the same passage that I read as we lit the Christ Candle at the beginning of today’s service, Galatians 4:1-6 (ESV):

Sons and Heirs

BLCF: Galatians-4_1-6

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,[a] though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles[b] of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”                        

Footnotes: a. Galatians 4:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface; also verse 7 b. Galatians 4:3 Or elemental spirits; also verse 9

Though Jesus came as an infant, the son of a woman, he raised by a women, he took our place to be arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a judgment of death for sins of which he was innocent.

Though he was convicted, jesus died on the cross, and was buried, the Son of God, he arose from the grave, which demonstrated his Divinity.

In spite of his treatment and sacrifice, Jesus proved his love and Lordship by ascending to sit beside the Father, to be our advocate in heaven and gift us with the Holy Spirit of God. Thus our Lord is granting us the company of His Spirit forever. What a blessing!

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #121: O Little Town of Bethlehem

Benediction – (Romans 15:13): May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

holy-spirit-teaches

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