Today, we begin our Advent series and celebration.
For some of us, this may not seem too strange, but for others it might seem very different.
Ernie and I were at the Lakeside Area minister’s meeting last month, and there was discussion about a community Lenten service for next year.
During the discussion, I interjected that in the AG (that is, the Assemblies of God), we don’t have much liturgy.
But then I chuckled,
“I’m the most liturgical of any of my AG friends.” J I like the Advent Season, because Christmas is too secular and too commercial. It is too busy, too frantic, and too stressful.
And because of this, many in our community don’t EVEN know the CHRIST of Christmas.
If we celebrate Christmas only one Sunday a year, then what about those who miss that Sunday due to travel or illness?
Therefore, today and the next three Sundays are
Advent Sundays…think of them as Christmas Sundays!
Here are a few vocabulary terms to help us with the season:
Advent= (Latin) coming; particularly an important arrival
Incarnation=(Latin) God taking on Flesh in Jesus
Immanuel=(Hebrew) “God with us”
Messiah=(Hebrew) Anointed One
Christ=(Greek) Anointed One
Christmas=(Latin) The Mass of Christ, thus Christ+mass
Prophet=(Greek) To speak before, to speak for God (interpreting the past or present or pointing to the future).
Today, in our Advent reading, we considered the testimony of John the Baptist.
This is found in the Gospel of the Apostle John.
It may be confusing that there are two Johns, but not as confusing as when we see that there are at least 5 Davids among us J
John the Baptist came from God, and he was a prophet. His purpose was to speak God’s Words to others.
He enjoyed an immense following, and in fact, in Ephesus, there had been disciples of John the Baptist who seemed to be Christians.
John’s influence was great. Even today, in Iran and Iraq, there are still those who follow John the Baptist.
They are called the Madaeans, and some have emigrated to the US.
They get baptized many times in their tradition. Clearly, they see the act of baptism as an actual cleansing, whereas we see it as a statement to illustrate the cleansing of Christ.
John prepared people for Christ and he testified that he was NOT the Christ.
People asked him, who are you?
John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
Lord, we, too, want to be a voice calling in the desert.
First, help us to be able to hear the voice in the desert.
Help us to answer the voice, and to welcome the Lord.
Let us accompany Your voice as it makes a way and a path for the Lord.
Please empower us, again, with Your Spirit and for Your glory.
In Jesus’ Name,
- Calling in the Desert
John said he was calling in the desert.
Can you picture that?
What is a desert? It is a place without civilization, … without convenience.
Deserts can be beautiful, but they are harsh, and deadly, too.
When John quoted Isaiah, the people were familiar with the quote, so let us look at the quote in its context:
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
When we wonder, what is God doing in the world, we need to remember Isaiah’s words.
- God is building a highway
- He is raising up the valleys and
- leveling out the hills and mountains
- He is doing this so that the Glory of God can be unobstructed.
Today, in the news, we see many men are being leveled.
Matt Lauer & Charlie Rose are two news anchors who’ve recently lost their jobs.
John Conyers and Al Franken are two congressmen under scrutiny.
And Michael Flynn, too.
In the last several decades, others have been leveled:
Pastors & Presidential candidates; Dictators and Teachers;
Innovators and Movie Directors.
The mighty are falling, and someone will have to take their places.
In the case of leaders in our society, mountains are being leveled and valleys are raised up.
God is calling us to look at our own situations, too, and to repent of our sins.
We need to turn away from what separates us from God and turn toward Him.
Bring down the mountains in our lives, and in humility we need to let our valleys be raised up.
For many of us we feel that we live in a spiritual desert, and we are afraid to speak out.
Who am I to speak for God?
I need God to Speak to me.
Who will listen to me, anyway?
What if I say it incorrectly?
What if ________? (fill in the blank)
Let us be people who are able to call out into the desert and help God make straight paths.
But you ask, “how can we?”
The simplest way is to seriously live out our repentance.
Don’t just say you will, but will that you will.
Ask God for the help to strengthen our wills.
So that we will Delight in the Law of the Lord…letting God’s Word fill our wills.
Let us follow the example of Jesus who declared,
“Not my will but Yours be done (as He prayed to Our Heavenly Father).”
And call upon your church to help you to hold on, tightly, to God’s Word and His Will.
In John 1, we know that Jesus is referred to as “The Word.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
This is referring to Jesus.
He is from the beginning, and through Him all was created.
The Scripture continues…
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14
The awesome Word of God, became flesh and lived on earth.
John writes that we’ve seen his glory.
He saw this, literally, in Jesus, but we see it, too, as Jesus reveals Himself to us.
We can see glimpses of His glory in many ways:
- When someone asks forgiveness in a sincere manner.
- When someone forgives and lives in the benefits of that forgiveness.
- When someone gives sacrificially to help others.
- When we hear God’s voice in our hearts
- When we see God act on behalf of us and our situations
- When people choose to live morally according to the Scripture, even though we live in a world that is really a desert with crooked paths.
- When we begin to move debris from the pathways that block people from Jesus.
- Make Straight Paths
Often, we have a great view of someone else’s path, and we can see that they are on a difficult trajectory. They will most likely fall, unless they listen to our wisdom.
Honestly, we ain’t that wise.
God knows the way to help us to straighten a path, and while we need to participate in straightening the paths of others, YES,
we need to look at our own paths, too, and straighten them out.
As we took communion, today, we were saying that we believe.
As we sang today, we declared our faith.
As we prayed, today, we affirmed that we trust only in God through Jesus.
Now, as we conclude this time of worship and focusing upon the Word of God, let us ask God to straighten our paths.
Let us ask Him to make us more like Jesus.
Jesus is the Word Made Flesh.
He wants us to take the Word of God into our flesh, and make Him known to those around us.
- Why in the flesh?
- Why not by Twitter?
- Why not by a letter?
- Why not just by giving money into the offering so that someone else can tell about Jesus?
- Isn’t it enough for us to just let Kendal and Camryn serve and tell others, and we can send them our pocket change each month?
- Why does He want us to take His Word into our Flesh?
Because our flesh will destroy us.
Flesh is destroying the careers and lives of people who have been bigger than life to us, and think of the victims whose flesh, also, had been injured and destroyed.
We need a Savior, Who can ACTUALLY SAVE.
We need a LORD, Who is ACTUALLY GREATER than all other lords in the earth.
We need the Word Made Flesh to Live among us…as God With Us.
The Word to Refresh
God’s Word came in flesh because our flesh needed to be refreshed.
We needed a transformation, and sin constantly battles against God’s will for our flesh and our lives.
Our feelings get hurt, even when our flesh gets hurt.
Our flesh affects our feelings and our feelings affect our flesh.
Stress causes us to grow fat, wrinkled and gray (like me J), and so I cannot save my flesh, nor can I save the soul that is connected to my flesh.
God came in the flesh so that He could show us that the human body is not inherently evil, but it IS corrupted. And through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed that the corruptible can be made incorruptible.
The stale, the destroyed, the diseased can become REFRESHED…
….by the Living, Breathing Word of God, Jesus, the Messiah.
He came because we need a Savior, and without Him, we have no hope.
This Christmas, let us wrap His Word in our Flesh, and let it make a difference for us.
Clover and I just watched the movie, “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” which is about Charles Dickens.
By “Inventing Christmas,” the movie means that Christmas had previously been one day a year, and not so big a holiday.
Dickens, who himself had known poverty first-hand as a child, wrote “A Christmas Carol” as a result of his own understanding of how sad his times were, and people were reluctant to give to the poor.
But after his story of Ebenezer Scrooge, who changed from being a miser to becoming generous, charitable giving significantly rose.
His story is about change.
It is about repentance.
So was the ministry of John the Baptist.
So is the purpose of Christ coming to earth in the flesh, that he would know the pain of the impoverished and would put to death the power of sin over our own flesh.
Let our story be about change…A life that is DIFFERENT from one without Christ…a Life that Honors Him.
Let us, take some time to pray, and ask God to straighten our paths.