November 26, 2023, Christmas Past: Yearning, Advent 1

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

CALL TO WORSHIP:
The Centering Prayer:
Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help.
I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life.
Guide me to all that is good, cleanse me from all that is not.
Teach me Your ways and form in me Your nature.
Help me to serve you in flow as I am gifted.
Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood.
I am a sinner; please be my Shepherd, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.

HYMN Victory In Jesus
“Victory in Jesus [Live]” feat. Cynthia Clawson, Steve Amerison, Sue Dodge, Guy Penrod
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8ajtJtNXF4

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer −
O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN O Come. O Come, Emmanuel
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Veni, Veni, Emmanuel) | MIDTOWN (vocal quartet, a capella)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGpkQlN0tuc

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: Christmas Past: Yearning
Text: Isaiah 9:1-7, Luke 2:10-11, John 4:25-26
Series: Christmas Past, Present & Future

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Wesley Sermon Audio

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SERMON NOTES

Isaiah 9:1 But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zeb’ulun and the land of Naph’tali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2 The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Mid’ian. 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 will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

(See also Matthew 4:12-17)

Luke 2:10 And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; 11 for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

John 4:25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

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HYMN O Come. O Come, Emmanuel
Chris Tomlin – O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Lyric Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UH7asSGxAxA

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!

TRANSCRIPT

This year, it seemed to me to make sense to talk about Christmas in the three tenses – Christmas past, Christmas present, and Christmas future. And there’s Christmas Past, all those centuries where the nation of Israel was waiting and waiting and waiting. They were in slavery in Egypt, and they were waiting. They were in captivity in Babylon, and they were waiting. They were under oppression and conquered by the Greeks and then the Romans and they were waiting. So Christmas past is all those centuries of waiting. We are seeking a better life, and in some ways, we are still waiting. But for those who will inquire within, in the Church, we have an answer about waiting.

In every world culture– I read this once and I find that hard to believe, because … every culture? But if not every culture, in almost every culture, there is an understanding that at one time, everything in the world was perfect, paradise here on earth. And then a human being did something that caused everything to go wrong.

In the Greek story, it’s Pandora who opens a box because she’s curious. She’s told, “Don’t ever open that box.” And in that box are all of the evils and illnesses and diseases, and they come flying out and now all the problems are here. Now, each story in each culture, by the way, has its own little subtle differences. When Pandora looks in the box, there’s only one feeble, little creature left. They’re described like birds because they fly. What’s left in the box is hope. And people in this world that has gone wrong begin to hope for a better world, a better life, a better day, for things to return to the way they were before. And that sense of that’s the way the world is, there’s a version of it in every human culture.

In our culture, we have the version that comes to us out of the Bible where Eve was told to not eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil. And for some reason, our culture always calls it an apple. It’s never called an apple in the Bible. And so all the troubles of the world came to human beings. Everything was once perfect and wonderful, and then someone did something wrong. They were warned not to do it.

The interesting thing about the Bible version is what makes the world a place of suffering is a change in human beings, where we cause it. We bring it on ourselves. We were not meant to have the knowledge of good and of evil because what we use it for is to judge other people and criticize other people and be in conflict with other people.

But yet, also in the biblical story is something else that is beautiful. There is a promise that one day God will step in and change things. The picture at the right of the screen is entitled Mary Consoles Eve. And you’ll see that Mary is pregnant, and her foot rests on the head of the serpent, because in the story of the Garden of Eden is the promise that one day God is going to make this right. God is going to make it right. And so we have hope that looks toward the future, because in the future, there’s going to be a savior, a messiah who’s going to come and make things right.

And as I shared with you last week, and it’s still true this week, and it’ll be true next week, hope empowers us. Psychiatrist David D. Burns literally says that hope is the most powerful antidepressant and can be harnessed by ordinary people to help them in this life. And so human beings have hope.

Now, that doesn’t mean that hope always works out well. Sometimes hope leads us human beings into problems because we yearn for a savior who will fix everything. But there is a desire for things to get better, not someday, but now, and so there’s a temptation to put our hopes in a shortcut to save all that time waiting. Friends, the most dangerous words you will ever hear is, “Hey, guess what? I know a shortcut.”

For example, over all these centuries people have confused political leaders with the Savior. I find it really ironic how Chairman Mao, the leader of communist China, on the screen there with the heads of the four other founders of communism, supposedly an atheist government that wants you to treat their leaders like God. Human beings have been misled by thinking that maybe a political solution will fix all the world’s problems. Friends, no politician– some of them are good, some of them are not — no politician can be the Savior. No politician can be the Savior.

In addition to that, and I say this in church, a church is not the Savior, because one of the other things that human beings do with their hope is they say, “I know, let’s create an institution that will save the world.” Unfortunately, institutions aren’t that powerful. In addition to that, they sometimes tend to shift around and take care of themselves instead of taking care of the problems of the world.

We’ve been a big fan in our culture of creating institutions that are going to fix everything and change everything. One of those is the public school, to where now we have people hoping that the public schools will be able to fix their children – that the public schools will be able to be parents when parents are not able to be good parents. And so all kinds of pressure is put on public schools to do more than what really a school can do. Education, a college, a public school, a kindergarten class, a church, a charity can do a lot of good, but they cannot fulfill what the Savior does for us.

Now, here’s my own particular weakness. Knowledge is not the Savior. I have a great tendency, especially if I’m upset, especially if I’m worried, to want to go to a bookstore. And this is back in the days when Barnes & Noble– you remember? They had easy chairs and couches to sit on. And I would go to the bookstore and I would look and I would look and I would look. And I would look for a book. And the title of the book would be something like, “How To Fix Everything That’s Wrong In Your Life.”

I still go through Amazon online all the time looking for that book. And I have a whole lot of books that I thought would be that book. But you know something? They’re not good enough. And I finally realized that what I was looking for in the bookstore, what I was looking for on amazon.com, what I was looking for on the internet, was a savior who would help me with my life, who would help me deal with the problems in my life. And I kept looking and looking and looking for the savior in the pages of a book. Now, that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to have books to read.

But I began to realize, being a preacher, I did not need to look for Jesus to tell me things in a book because I could talk to Him directly, and I could pay attention to what He was teaching me directly. But nonetheless, we tend to assume that the one who could solve all our problems is somebody with book knowledge. And certainly, sometimes that knowledge helps us greatly. I was so thankful that medical scientists have found the antibiotic that cured the problem that I was struggling with this week. But nonetheless, nothing you and I can find in a book can be the savior that we need so let’s talk about what a Savior is.

In Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them, light has shined.” That’s the difference that a Savior makes. “For to us,” Isaiah goes on to say, “A child is born. To us, the son is given. And the government will be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace, there will be no end upon the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of the hosts will do this.

And then that day came, and suddenly we had a Savior. Luke 2:10, “And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy, which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

There’s no Christmas story in the Gospel of John, but you’ll find it in the third chapter. God so loved the world that he sent his son ... God so loved the world that he did not send a committee. God so loved the world that he did not send an institution. God so loved the world that he did not send a politician. God so loved the world that he did not send a book. God so loved the world that he sent his Son, that whosoever believeth on him will have everlasting life. For to you is born this day, this Christmas day, so long ago, Christmas in the past in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

In the next chapter of John, John chapter 4, the Samaritan woman at the well is arguing with Jesus. There were a whole lot of people who wanted to argue with Jesus. And she’s beginning to sense that she’s losing that argument. And so she says that phrase to him that, as far as she’s concerned, it’s just going to shut everything down. She looks at Jesus and she says, “Well, I know that the Messiah is coming. He who is called Christ when He comes, He will show us all things.” So in other words, who do you think you are?

And Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

You see, friends, there is now a Savior in this world, and life can begin to change. But we need to keep this in mind: you cannot replace the true Savior with the words of a book. Accept no substitutes. Let Jesus Christ bring you the knowledge that you need to have. No human institution is going to be sufficient to do the work of the Savior. But the Savior wants to work in each of our lives. So don’t be distracted by institutions, but let the Savior guide your life. And friends, don’t settle for a politician pretending to be the Savior. In fact, I’ll be honest with you. Don’t settle for any human being and put them in the place in your life where Jesus Christ SHould be … because they aren’t good enough. And please keep in mind there are people who put preachers in the place where Jesus Christ should be and we aren’t good enough, either. Only Jesus can do the work of the Savior that you and I need.

Now, I think most of us who go to church understand that. But there’s one more thing that the world still has not understood and that’s materialism. Nothing material can replace the Savior, yet I’m still looking for that combine that will run itself. I’m still wanting to buy a Roomba that washes dishes, I can’t wait till they make a Roomba that mows the lawn. The big problem I have at age 68 is I scroll through the advertisements and I can’t find anything I need that I don’t already have. But nonetheless, there’s this hope that something material that we can buy that will be the thing that can change our lives.

My brother-in-law, who is an expert on cars, used to work for one of the largest Chevrolet GMC dealers in the state of Missouri. And every now and then, he goes online and goes to look at what they have in stock because he’s curious. And he told us on Thanksgiving Day that he had priced a brand new Chevy Suburban, fully loaded with all the features … suggested retail price: $103,000. I’ve heard that Ford trucks are getting pretty close to that. One of the quickest ways for all of us to instantly become poor is for all of them to raise their prices.

Let’s not put our hope in material things. And in fact, the reason for the season is not these boxes that will begin to appear on our doorstep. The reason for the season is the change and the life that Jesus Christ can bring to us through a relationship with Jesus Christ … because, remember, the Savior is not someone you vote for. The Savior is not an institution. The Savior is not information you learn about in a book. There is designed, in what God wants to do, a relationship between you and I and the Savior.

The Reformation in the history of church and theology was this: you don’t have your relationship with Christ through the church, you directly have a relationship with Christ. You don’t have your relationship with Christ through the priest, you directly have your relationship with Christ. So I want to ask you a question. How is your relationship with the Christ? I can tell you over the 68 years of my life, I learned a lot about Jesus by being involved in the church. I learned a lot about Jesus by letting him be the leader in my life. I learned a lot about Jesus through what I read.

But as the years went by and as I struggled with all kinds of things in this life, I learned the most about Jesus by having my own growing relationship with Jesus.

And so somebody might say, “Pastor Dave, I know how to pick up a book and read it. I know how to drive to church and sit in the sanctuary and listen to a sermon. But how do I have this relationship you speak of?”

And I have this suggestion for you. The words of this prayer, if you pray them and God answers it, you will have a relationship with Jesus Christ. In other words, in all honesty, it’s not something you can do, but you can ask God to do it within you. And God will answer that prayer. This prayer is in your bulletin. It’s a prayer you can read and pray out loud before you go to bed at night. It’s a prayer you can read first thing in the morning. I actually have it on the back of my business card so that if I hand one to somebody, they’ll have it with them if they need it. If you would like to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I invite you to read this prayer with me. You may already have a relationship. You can still pray this prayer because it describes the relationship, as I understand it, that Jesus wants to have with us. So I invite you to pray with me out loud if you wish, silently if you wish, in whatever way you wish.

Please pray with me: Lord Jesus, help me to have a relationship with you that you have designed and shaped not only to meet my needs, but to be the sort of relationship that we can have with you. And so, Lord, I pray this prayer that I pray so often, asking for that relationship. Lord Jesus, today I am far less than the person I want to be or can be with your help. I ask today that you would be more and more the center of my life. Guide me to all that is good. Cleanse me from all that is not. Teach me your ways and form in me your nature. Help me to serve you as I am gifted. Help me to notice my neighbor and work through me to redeem my neighborhood. I am a sinner. Please be my shepherd, my Savior, and my Lord. Amen

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )
 

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