December 10, 2023, Christmas Future: Incarnation (Why), Advent 3

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 218 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” — Cumberland United Methodist Church
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3SfVvXfjm0A

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 382 Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Have Thine Own Way – Gospel Music Hymn Sing at Lee University
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8W4ChAKlpo

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 Future: Incarnation (Why)
Text: Luke 10:1-2, 8-9, Colossians 1:26-27, Ephesians 2:8-10
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

Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to come. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you; 9 heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

Colossians 1:26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God– 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

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HYMN Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Paul Baloche – Hark The Herald Angels Sing / King Of Heaven (Official Live Video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLQ2tOnsy8U

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

If you’re familiar with the story of Scrooge, the Christmas Carol, you know that it changes Scrooge’s life because he looks at Christmas past. He looks at Christmas present, and he looks at Christmas future. Today, I’d like to talk about the future of Christmas, and it’s the future from the day Jesus came to Bethlehem right on into our future, today as well.

Last week, we talked about Christmas present, and we’ve also talked about Hallmark Christmas movies, which are a secret weakness of Pastor Dave. Pastor Dave loves movies that have a happy ending. I love movies where people fall in love. I love movies where a dog wags its tail and the girl says, “Yes.”

But I especially love Hallmark Christmas movies because they talk about a small town, where the people care about each other, where the small town is like a family, because to be honest with you, the person who is in that high-stress, high-paying job in New York City, what they really want down in their hearts, I think, is to have a life surrounded by love and people who love them, people who are family, and people who feel like family. And the Hallmark Christmas movie puts that beautiful possibility in front of us over and over and over and over again. And it makes me happy.

So last week, I said to people, “Don’t be surprised that if God put Christmas presents under your tree, the name of the person to receive the present is probably somebody who is one of your neighbors … because you’re the way that God blesses them.” Are you ready to bring presents from God to your neighbors who need them so much?

So let’s talk about the future of Christmas. You have seen this on Christmas cards, and it’s certainly a beautiful, beautiful saying. Let me read it to you.

Let us turn now to the story.
A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is 30. And then for three brief years is an itinerate preacher proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels 200 miles from the place he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him. Another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial. He’s nailed to a cross between two thieves. And when dead, he is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend. These are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead.

And today we look back across 1,900 years and ask what kind of trail has he left across the centuries? What sort of Christmas came about in the future because he lived? And here’s where the Christmas card usually concludes. When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, are absolutely picayune, small, and insignificant in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. There are actually two more paragraphs that most people are not aware of. The author goes on to say: He has changed the moral climate of the world and he is changing it now, today, and will continue to do so until the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. I ask you to pause for a moment and think of this thing which Christians believe. We are talking about great adventures. I remind you that there must be a great adventure in faith before there can be a great adventure in action. No man has ever done a great thing until he has first believed a great thing.

So here’s the question. How did this come about? Jesus lived among us. And for a few short years, he influenced many people. But how is it that in the thousands of years since then, so much of the world has changed? What is the reason for the success? What is the secret? How was this done?

Let me answer that question. Colossians 1:26 reminds us the mystery hidden for ages and generations, but now made manifest to his Saints. To them, God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery. And what is the mystery? Christ in you, which is the hope of glory.

You see, Jesus was born so long ago. And just like the baby in the manger appeared on Christmas Eve and no one noticed, the words are still true today. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given. So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His heaven. No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Friends, Christmas happened in history, and Christ entered into this world. But he then entered into the hearts of Mary and Joseph, and he entered into the hearts of the shepherds, and he entered into the hearts of the disciples, and he entered into the hearts of the people. And he is still entering into hearts today, entering into your heart and my heart, and desiring to live there. This is the Christian concept of incarnation, God with us. And it is God inside of us, Christ being within us, that has brought this beautiful change over all of history into our world. Because it was always the intent of Jesus Christ to work through people, people like you and me.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus sends out 70 people, 70 ordinary people. Jesus sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where Himself was about to come. And you see, that’s the way it still is: Christ sends you and me everywhere He wants to go. And Jesus said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray, therefore, the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” This is the prayer request of Jesus. And in fact, it’s on the back of your bulletin every single week. The Lord wants to send people like you and me out everywhere he wants to come. And he says to those people, he says, “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.” In other words, spend time with people. Heal the sick in it. And how do we heal the sick? We pray for them. And what’s the message you need to give to people? Say to them, Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.” God is ready to act. God is ready to help. God is ready to forgive. God is ready to work through us. “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth.”

We spent a lot of time this past year with this verse from Ephesians. Take a look at verse 10, “We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.” God has a desire to do good through you and I. And not only does He have that desire, God prepares beforehand all the opportunities you and I have to do something for God’s will so that we can walk in them to go from good thing to good thing because Christ wants to live in us and work through us.

Pastor Tim Keller talks in his book about prayer, about how we need to be praying Kingdom prayers for the Lord to change the world that we live in, and he says this in his book on prayer: “What would change in our city if you believed that you had access to the authority of Jesus. Would you use it to bless your neighbors? Would you pray for your schools? Would you have faith that as you prayed, you were ushering in God’s Kingdom? This is the method that Jesus wants to bring the future of Christmas to our world through the prayers of God’s people.

Keller goes on to say that we need to begin to “comprehend the power that our prayers have as we ask in the nature and authority of Jesus. Because if we can truly live in the power of Jesus, we will start to see His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven. And we’ll see the future that God has wanted in Christmas begin to happen all around us.

So there’s a song that John Fogerty wrote, Creedence Clearwater Revival, it’s called Centerfield, but the chorus goes like this, “Put me in, coach. I’m ready to play, today,” and it talks about the joy of being in the game. So much more fun than being in the stands, I would say.

Last week, I talked about the reality that if we have a problem with Christmas in the present time, it’s that everything in the world distracts us from what God is doing right here. And all of a sudden, I realized there’s a perfect example to understand the neighborhood where you and I do God’s work. It’s like the basketball court. It’s like the football field.

If the team is on the floor and they are playing the game, they need to focus on what’s happening inbounds and not be distracted by what’s happening in the stands, not be distracted by what’s happening outside the arena, not be distracted by what’s happening in Washington, DC or anywhere else. When you say to the coach, “Put me in, I’m ready to play,” you’re willing to focus on what’s happening right in front of you, right here in your neighborhood.

So when you ask God to work through you, I thought to myself, “It’s just like that. Put me in, coach. I’m ready to pray today because God answers prayers.” And when the people of God pray, their world begins to change for good because the secret, honestly, is simply this: Jesus Christ wants to live through you, and that starts when Jesus Christ chooses to live in you. And you do those good works, when you pray for God’s will to be done in the lives of the people in the neighborhood, inbounds, right there, right there in front of you. Because if God puts Christmas presents under your tree, some of them are going to be for your neighbors. And you are going to be the means by which God delivers love and joy and peace to the people around you.

Please pray with me. Lord, sometimes we worry about the world that we live in. In fact, sometimes we think everything is going to hell all around us. But help us to understand, Lord, that just as Jesus comes into our heart, just as we have this experience of Christmas, Jesus is wanting to come into our lives and our neighborhood and begin to change the lives of people around us, as well as changing our lives for the better. And so, Lord, we ask: help us to pray for our neighbors. Help us to be aware of the people around us and lift them up to You. And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. 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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