Count the “Alleluias!”

Count the “Alleluias!”

Since the beginning of the Lenten Season we have been on a “alleluia fast” by not singing or saying any alleluias in public worship. The fast will be broken big time on Easter/Resurrection morning. I dare the children of Grace and Peace to count all the times we sing or say alleluia. I will give a reward to any child who demonstrates that he or she tries to count them. Celebrate Jesus’ being raised up from death! Alleluia! Amen.

Grow UP!!!!

When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity

We’re all adolescents now.
Thomas E. Bergler
[ posted 6/8/2012 12:33PM ]
When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity

ILLUSTRATION BY PAUL KISSELEV

The house lights go down. Spinning, multicolored lights sweep the auditorium. A rock band launches into a rousing opening song. “Ignore everyone else, this time is just about you and Jesus,” proclaims the lead singer. The music changes to a slow dance tune, and the people sing about falling in love with Jesus. A guitarist sporting skinny jeans and a soul patch closes the worship set with a prayer, beginning, “Hey God …” The spotlight then falls on the speaker, who tells entertaining stories, cracks a few jokes, and assures everyone that “God is not mad at you. He loves you unconditionally.”

After worship, some members of the church sign up for the next mission trip, while others decide to join a small group where they can receive support on their faith journey. If you ask the people here why they go to church or what they value about their faith, they’ll say something like, “Having faith helps me deal with my problems.”

Fifty or sixty years ago, these now-commonplace elements of American church life were regularly found in youth groups but rarely in worship services and adult activities. What happened? Beginning in the 1930s and ’40s, Christian teenagers and youth leaders staged a quiet revolution in American church life that led to what can properly be called the juvenilization of American Christianity. Juvenilization is the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults. It began with the praiseworthy goal of adapting the faith to appeal to the young, which in fact revitalized American Christianity. But it has sometimes ended with both youth and adults embracing immature versions of the faith. In any case, white evangelicals led the way.

Saving the World

Juvenilization happened when no one was looking. In the first stage, Christian youth leaders created youth-friendly versions of the faith in a desperate attempt to save the world. Some hoped to reform their churches by influencing the next generation. Others expected any questionable innovations to stay comfortably quarantined in youth rallies and church basements. Both groups were less concerned about long-term consequences than about immediate appeals to youth.

In the second stage, a new American adulthood emerged that looked a lot like the old adolescence. Fewer and fewer people outgrew the adolescent Christian spiritualities they had learned in youth groups; instead, churches began to cater to them.

Between 1930 and 1950, Americans got blasted by the Great Depression, World War II, and the cold war. Youth pastors, politicians, and parents all wondered if America and its “way of life” would survive. In the public mind, young people held the key to national survival. After all, millions of young people were unemployed, and Hitler and Stalin were riding to power on the backs of easily manipulated youth. Torrey Johnson, the first president of Youth for Christ (YFC), spoke for many when he said, “If we have another lost generation … America is sunk.” In a world of impending doom, who could argue against doing whatever it took to Christianize and mobilize the young saviors of the world?

The 1940s also saw the birth of the “teenager.” Unlike the more diverse youth of previous eras, teenagers all went to high school and participated in a national youth culture increasingly dominated by the same music, movies, products, and cultural beliefs. Although it may seem that the teenagers of the 21st century bear little resemblance to those of the 1950s, crucial similarities remain in the structure of adolescent life and its relationship to the church. And one of the most important traits is the aversion to growing up.


FROM ISSUE:

June 2012, Vol. 56, No. 6, Pg 18, “When Are We Going to Grow Up?”

Marks of a True Church: Pure Administration of the Sacraments

from Daniel Hyde Jan 30,

The second of the three marks of a true church is the pure administration of the sacraments.

The two sacraments that Christ Himself instituted are baptism (Matt. 28:18–20) and the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26–29). Because of our continuing struggle with sin, the visible Word of the sacraments supplements the audible Word of the gospel preached, for God “hath joined [the sacraments] to the word of the gospel, the better to present to our senses, both that which he signifies to us by his Word, and that which he works inwardly in our hearts” (Belgic Confession, Art. 33). As the preaching of the gospel creates faith, the sacraments confirm that faith within us (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 65), just as circumcision did for Abraham, being “a seal (confirmation) of the righteousness that he had by faith” (Rom. 4:11).

To purely administer the sacraments, a church must do so “as instituted by Christ” (Belgic Confession, Art. 29). This means, first, that it recognizes that there are only the two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—and that it therefore rejects the five other sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church as false sacraments (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 68). Second, this means that it administers the sacraments without the unbiblical ceremonies and elements that have been added to them over the course of history, such as we find in the Roman Catholic Church.

Baptism is to be administered simply with water, in the name of the triune God, and by an ordained minister (Matt. 28:18–20). Whether one is baptized in a church building or at the beach; whether the baptism is done from a font or in a pool; whether it is performed by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion; and whether the minister sprinkles, pours, or immerses once or three times is all indifferent. The Lord’s Supper is purely administered when bread (whether leavened or unleavened) and wine are given to those who profess faith and are members of Christ’s church, whether kneeling, sitting, or standing. This is to be done with the recitation of the words of institution (as the example of Paul testifies in 1 Cor. 11:23–26), the breaking of the bread (“… he took bread… he broke it… “), and prayer over the bread and wine (“… when he had given thanks… ”).

In the future we will conclude by considering the third mark of a true church, the exercise of church discipline.

The Marcions have landed. A warning for evangelicals

By Carl Trueman
http://www.e-n.org.uk/p-2105-The-Marcions-have-landed.htm
February 20, 2013

When one asks the most influential thinkers in the modern evangelical church are, one might find names such as Jim Packer, John Stott, and Don Carson.

I would like to suggest, however, that there is one whose influence is perhaps much greater than we are aware of, yet whose thinking all but pervades the modern evangelical church: Marcion.

He’s the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits.

He’s the man who gets my vote for most profound influence on evangelicalism, from canon to theology to worship practices. You never see his books on the shelves in your high street Christian bookshop; you never see him advertised as preaching in your local church; but, rest assured, his spirit stalks those bookshops and pulpits.

Marcion is – or, rather, was – a somewhat shadowy figure, with most of what we know about him coming from the hostile pen of Tertullian. Apparently, he was a native of Pontus (in modern times, the area by the Black Sea), who flourished in the middle of the second century, dying circa 160. His major distinctive was his insistence on the Christian gospel as exclusively one of love to the extent that he came to a complete rejection of the Old Testament and only a qualified acceptance of those parts of the New Testament which he considered to be consistent with his central thesis (i.e. ten letters of Paul and a recension of the Gospel of Luke).

So how does Marcion influence modern evangelicalism? Well, I think evangelicalism has become practically Marcionite at a number of levels.

Exclusively love

First, the emphasis upon God’s love to the utter exclusion of everything else has become something of a commonplace. We see this in the collapse of the notion of penal substitution as an evangelical doctrine. Now, maybe I’m missing something, but of all the things taught in the Bible, the terrifying wrath of God would seem to be among the most self-evident of all.

Thus, when I hear statements from evangelical theologians such as ‘God’s wrath is always restorative’, my mind goes straight to countless OT passages, the Bible’s teaching about Satan, and NT characters such as Ananias and Sapphira. There was not much restoration for any of these folk – or are being swallowed alive by the earth, consumed by holy fire and being struck dead for cheating the church actually therapeutic techniques intended to restore the individuals concerned?

And when leading evangelicals tell me that penal substitution is tantamount to cosmic child abuse (don’t laugh – this is seriously argued by some leading evangelical theologians), I’m left wondering whether I should sit down and explain the doctrine to them, or whether I should merely tell them to go away and grow up. Do they really expect the church to take such claims as serious theological reflection?

Out with the Old

Then, there is the constant tendency to neglect the Old Testament, in particular in our theological reflections, and our devotional lives also need to take full account of the Old Testament. We need to read the Bible as a whole, to understand each passage, each verse, within the theological and narrative structure of the canon as a whole.

As evangelicals we can often err by focusing purely on the straight doctrinal teaching of the letters in the NT and the great passages in John’s Gospel. An NT scholar and friend once said to me that he thought the average evangelical’s life would be pretty much unaffected if the whole Bible, except for the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Romans, simply disappeared. Hyperbole maybe, but probably not by much. We need a solid biblical theology – not one which downgrades everything to the level of economy at the expense of ontology but one which takes full account of the central narrative of the Bible and seeks to do justice even to those bits of the Bible we don’t like.

God’s songs

Then, in our church practice, we need to take the Old Testament more seriously. It astounds me, given the overwhelming use of psalms as central to gathered worship in the first four centuries, the absolute importance given to psalmody for the first two centuries of the post-Reformation Reformed churches, and the fact that the Book of Psalms is the only hymn book which can claim to be universal in its acceptance by the whole of Christendom and utterly inspired in all of its statements – it astounds me, I say, that so few psalms are sung in our worship services today.

Moreover, often nothing seems to earn the scorn and derision of others more than the suggestion that more psalms should be sung in worship. Indeed, the last few years have seen a number of writers strike out against exclusive psalmody. Given that life is too short to engage in pointless polemics, I am left wondering which parallel universe these guys come from, where the most pressing and dangerous worship issue is clearly that people sing too much of the Bible in their services. How terrifying a prospect that would be.

Imagine: people actually singing songs that express the full range of human emotion in their worship using words of which God has explicitly said, ‘These are mine.’ Back here on Planet Earth, however, there is generally precious little chance of overloading on sound theology in song in most evangelical churches as the Marcion invasion is pretty much total and unopposed in the sphere of worship. Yet I for one prefer Athanasius to Marcion as a patristic thinker and, in his letter to Marcellinus, he gives one of the most beautiful and moving arguments for psalms in worship ever penned (available at www.athanasius.com/psalms/ aletterm.htm). It is a pity more have not taken his words to heart

Making God unknowable

So what will be the long-term consequences of this Marcionite approach to the Bible? Ultimately, I think it will push ‘the God who is there’ back into the realm of the unknowable and make our god a mere projection of our own psychology and our worship simply into group therapy sessions where we all come together to pretend we are feeling great. God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – take that identity away and what do we have left? As the OT is the context for the NT, so the neglect of OT leaves the NT as more or less meaningless. As our reading, our sermons, and our times of corporate worship neglect and, sometimes, simply ignore the OT, we can expect a general impoverishment of church life and, finally, a total collapse of evangelical Christendom.

Indeed, there are mornings when I wake up and think it’s already all over, and that the church in the West survives more by sheer force of personality, by hype and by marketing ploys rather than by any higher power. We need to grasp once again who God is in his fullness; we need to grasp who we are in relation to him; and we need teaching and worship which gives full-orbed expression to these things – and this will only come when we in the West grow up, ditch the designer gods we build from our pick-n-mix Bible where consumer, not Creator, is king, and give the whole Bible its proper place in our lives, thinking and worship.

Think truncated thoughts about God and you’ll get a truncated God; read an expurgated Bible and you get an expurgated theology; sing mindless, superficial rubbish instead of deep, truly emotional praise and you will eventually become what you sing.

Carl Trueman is Professor of Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, USA. This article is adapted from Carl’s editorial in Themelios Vol. 28 No. 1 from last autumn and is used with permission

Notes (near transcript) of Sermon 1/27/13

The Now and Future Kingdom

Intro:

Do you have an over-realized eschatology?

Do you have an under-realized eschatology?

Eschatology– a theological word. Simple explanation: eschaton “last” -completion, final blessings.

An over-realized eschatology would be one where a believer thinks that all the powers and promises and blessings of heaven are here NOW. It is only a matter that the believer “claim” these promises by faith and they will be received. If they are not received it is due to the lack of faith of the believer. i.e. healing and health, financial supply, victory over sinful habits are ours for the taking “by faith”

This viewpoint is characteristic of some Pentecostal/charismatic churches.

A rather odd outlier cult that believes something like this is the so-called “Christian Science Church” which teaches that sickness is an illusion. Chr.Sci. practitioners teach followers that if they will believe they are well, they will be well.

An under-realized eschatology focuses on the darkness and sinfulness of the world and expects and experiences very little of the blessings promised to believers.

  • At best it provides the promise of heaven.
  • At worst it provides an excuse for a Christian life that is defeated by sin and its effects with no hope of deliverance except in heaven.

Years ago I heard a preacher in a Presbyterian Church in Chicago tell a story about a woman who came a rather staid and formal church service. She sat in the service soaking in every word and song about Jesus. She got excited a few times and said out-loud “praise the Lord,” “halleluiah,” “glory to God.” After a few of these outbursts of joy an usher came to where she was sitting and told her to be quiet. She apologized and answered exuberantly, “Oh, I’ve met Jesus and I just can’t get over it.” The usher answered, ‘that may be madam, but you did not meet him here’

That is the sort of church characterized by an under-realized eschatology.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:11-27?

Remember the situation: Jesus is on a Journey to Jerusalem.

He is doing amazing things, such as healing, deliverance, teaching about a revolution where God’s kingdom raises the faithful poor and casts down the rich despots.

He is teaching and pronouncing blessing on those who were considered unimportant: Children, women, poor, Gentiles….and lately a chief tax gatherer named Zacchaeus. In fact he has just announced “Salvation” to Zacchaeus’ house with a wonderful transforming response on the part of Zacchaeus!

It is more than likely that some of those watching and hearing are thinking that the Kingdom is ready to appear in all its eschatological fullness…. as soon as Jesus reaches Jerusalem.

Jesus has tried to make it clear:        And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34 ESV)

But, they are not getting his words: they did not grasp what was said.

Now we may understand the parable:

As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore,

“A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’

BTW: This actually did happen in 4 BC when Archelaeus went to Rome seeking to be made king:

He was the son of Herod the Great, the brother of Herod Antipas, and the half-brother of Herod Philip I.

Archelaus received the Tetrarchy of Judea by the last will of his father, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas. He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Caesar Augustus in Rome. Before setting out, he quelled with the utmost cruelty a sedition of the Pharisees, slaying nearly three thousand of them. In Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, who travelled there to testify against him, who feared his cruelty; but in 4 BCE Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom.

So Jesus is using a past current event to illustrate something: Archelaus had been named king, but went away to get royal authority and then returned to rule.

Jesus was teaching them that although He is king by rights, he must go away to receive the Royal Authority before the kingdom will be fully realized. This is the true eschatology: The kingdom really has come in Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of David the King, but there are aspects of it that are some distance future.

What should Jesus’ faithful disciples do in the interim?

He is going to be rejected, condemned, killed, rise from the dead… and ascend to heaven.

What should his disciples do while they await the full redemption, the fullness of the Kingdom?

v. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’

“Ten” represents the full number of his disciples, and a fullness of gifts to use.

They are to ‘Engage in business until I come.’ That is, do the work of the kingdom!

          And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

This is what Jesus’ disciples are to do NOW! We live in the interim. Christ has ascended and is at the right hand of God. “and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

We are to engage in the business of his Body, the church, the new society of God.

WCF 25 “The visible church….…is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God…”

(1 Corinthians 12:12-26 ESV)

          For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

          For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

          The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.

We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!

We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ’s death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.

We are to preach the gospel and send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!

We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’

What is in view here? What is Jesus telling them?

Answer: He is telling them that they must use the gifts of grace He has given to them for the Kingdom! Spiritual gifts, callings, offices, talents, temperaments, training, time!  It is not that everyone will do the same thing but that everyone will do something appropriate to their endowment.

He is promising to bless them and reward them for their faithful service.

Not salvation by works, but works by salvation!

He is showing them that there are different circumstances and situations in which they will serve with different results:

(1 Corinthians 12:4-11 ESV)

          Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Our missionaries in Karamoja, Uganda have a great and arduous task!

The Karamoja region in northeast Uganda is the most marginalized in the country and one of the least developed in the world. Home to cattle-herding nomads, Karamoja has been trapped in a cycle of conflict and neglect for generations as clans of warriors have battled the government—and each other—for cattle and survival. Meanwhile the region continues to hemorrhage people as they leave to eke out a living begging on the streets of Uganda’s bustling capital, Kampala. Invisible even in their own country, are the lives of ordinary Karamojong, from cattle rustlers to child beggars.

And yet:

The Karimojong have immeasurable pride in their traditional way of life, and many have remained resistant to change no matter the force trying to change them. After all, in a desert-like land, the Karimojong have survived for centuries, and sometimes survival is all that matters.

Our Missionaries: Painfully slow work! Many hours of highway travel from Kampala to Mbale then a 40 mile dirt road trip just to get there. A clinic with doctor and nurse, an evangelist/pastor and family, a missionary deacon and family.

A congregation of Jesus Christ! The kingdom has come and yet it must come as the believers “engage in the King’s business” in remote Karamoja

While I was writing this sermon: My Daughter-in-law, who works with very poor immigrants wrote this on Facebook:
This morning I saw a cruel reality…. a 14 yr old and her mom waiting in the pavilion of a growers nursery to start working at 7 am but got there at 5:30 am because that is the only ride they have. The pavilion has no windows or doors to protect them from the cold weather, no coffee pot… the saddest part of all, this girl will not go to school and get an education, not get a better job. A cycle of poverty will be repeated because it is her duty to help her family by working- not by going to school. What is it that I can do, O Lord?

I do not have the answers to all the problems of this world, but Jesus Christ has given to His 10 (full measure of his Body) a 10 (full measure of his gospel and grace gifts) to us to ‘engage in kingdom works” until he comes.

God has given some of the gifts and answers to you!

Recently, two women in this congregation decided to offer to serve some of our young adults by an act of gracious hospitality! Will this save the world?

It will do something in that direction! Something is much when God is in it! Something is better than NOTHING! Something is an act of love and faith and stewardship of grace gifts.

20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’” (Luke 19:11-27 ESV)

Someday Christ our King will return.

What will he say to us?

  • The church is to proclaim the gospel- the good news of a present and future SALVATION……and we are to demonstrate the same by the way we live in the Body and in the world around.
  • We are to be the kindest, most gracious, most charitable, most loving people because we have been given the undeserved kindness of God!
  • We are to live in the light of the 100% forgiveness of sins purchased for us by Christ death on the cross and received by faith, given and nurtured in the means of grace ordained by Christ in his church.
  • We are to preach the gospel, send the gospel messengers throughout the world which IS Christ’s greater domain!
  • We are to do this in a world rife with sin and its devastating effects, but with sure and certain hope in the future restoration of all things.

We are to “engage in this business” until The King returns.

How is your eschatology? Over-realized or Under-realized?

Amen.

Worship January 20, 2013 Epiphany Season

The Lord’s Day

Epiphany Season

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

The Lord’s Service

Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church

 

We worship one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

*indicates standing for those who are able

Welcome                                                    

Introit:                  The Lord Is In His Holy Temple                         B. Vallandingham

 Apostolic Greeting

Minister: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Call to Worship (Psalm 96)

Minister: Oh sing to the LORD a new song;sing to the LORD, all the earth!

Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,          his marvelous works among all the peoples!

All: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.      

*Hymn  100                               Holy, Holy, Holy                                NICAEA

*Prayer of Adoration

Minister:All honor, glory and praise to you Triune sovereign God for the Manifestation of Christ, your Son to redeemyour people; and we gathered here in your name join with all those who have seen His glory. Receive our praise and hear our prayers we beseech you through Christ our Lord.
All: Amen.

God Purifies Us by His Grace(1 John 2:7-11)

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Unison Prayer of Confession

Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

In these and all our sins we have offended you, grieved the Spirit of adoption and wounded our own conscience.

(Private confession in silence)

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
Through the redeeming work of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us; free us from our sins
that we may delight in your will,  and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Words of Comfort

Minister: Hear these words of comfort found in 1 John 2:1-2

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Declaration of Pardon

Minister: Brothers and Sisters, you have confessed your sins to almighty God. Do you believe that Jesus Christ, by His perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, has atoned for your sins and satisfied the wrath of God toward you? If this is your case, in the name of Christ and by the authority of His Word I declare to you that your sins are forgiven and you are not under condemnation of God. Amen.

*Hymn 76 (Stanza 4 unaccompanied)  Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven        LAUDA ANIMA

God Speaks to Us through His Word

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 49:8-13

Psalm 46 sung                                                                                PETERSHAM

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Gospel Reading: Luke 18:18-30 and 19:1-10

Minister:  The Word of the Lord

People:  Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Illumination

Capture us, O God, with your truth and open our hearts and our minds to your wondrous love.
Speak your word to us; silence in us any voice but your own and be with us now as we turn our attention our minds and our hearts, to you, in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sermon: Zacchaeus and  the other Rich Ruler   The Rev. Dr. Edd Cathey

*Hymn 613      Give Thanks Unto the Lord Jehovah                         RENDEZ A DIEU

Our Confession of Faith

The Nicene Creed p. 846 TH

God Feeds Us at His Table

The invitation

Minister: Listen to the welcoming words our Savior Christ says to all who turn to him:

‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.’ (Matthew 11:28)

‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ (John 3:16)

Minister: Hear the words of Paul, the Lord’s apostle:

‘The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ (1 Timothy 1:15)

All who are baptized, who love and trust in Jesus Christ and live for him in the fellowship of his body, the church are welcome to receive the holy supper. We are taught in Scripture that we must not deny this profession by ongoing and unrepentant sin. As we eat and drink together we must discern that we are one body in Christ, reconciled to him and to one another by his death for us.  If we fail to discern this we incur judgment on ourselves.So let us examine ourselves to see whether such discernment is ours. (1 Corinthians 11:17-34a)

Prayer for Purity

All: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your Holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

*The Great Thanksgiving

Minister:  The Lord be with you.

People:     And also with you.

Minister:  Lift up your hearts.

People:     We lift them up unto the Lord. (Ephesians 2:4, 6 “But God..raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”)

Minister:  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

People:    It is right to give him thanks and praise.

Minister:   It is indeed right, a joyful thing, and our duty, at all times and in all places to give you thanks and praise O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, because you gave Jesus Christ, your only Son, to be made manifest to all nations for us; that he might destroy the works of the devil and deliver us and all the world from Satan’s thralldom.

Therefore with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven we join to praise you forever singing:

Sanctus and Benedictus (sung)                          AFTER NICAEA arr. T. Sills

The Thanksgiving, Institution and Consecration (seated)

Praise and thanks to you, Father in heaven: For on the night on which he was betrayed your Son Jesus Christ took bread and gave you thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples saying:

 “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying,

“This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:20)
Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection, we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit into the midst of your Church. In our gathering before your throne, give to all those who partake of your holy mysteries the fullness of the Holy Spirit, toward the strengthening of faith in truth, that we may praise you and glorify you, through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in your Holy Church, now and throughout the ages of the ages.

All: Amen.

Minister: The Peace of the Lord be with you.  Let us eat and drink as God’s reconciled children.

We Partake of the Body and Blood of Christ by Faith through the Holy Spirit

The distribution of the bread (please retain the bread and eat together)

Distribution Hymn 86   The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want            BROTHER JAMES’ AIR

 “The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”(1 Corinthians 10:16)

The distribution of the cup (please retain the cup and drink together)

Hymn 429 or 232 or similar arr.                   

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16)

Minister: Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the spiritual food and drink of the body and blood of your Son Jesus Christ; for he is our life, our hope and our peace.  Through him we offer our souls and bodies as living sacrifices. Send us forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to live and work to your praise and glory.

All: Amen.

We Offer Ourselves, our Gifts and Prayers

Offering God our wealth/Offertory

*Doxology   Hymn 731                                    OLD HUNDREDTH

Prayer of dedication

Items for Prayer

Call to Prayer

Minister:  The Lord be with you

People: And also with you.

Minister: Let us pray.

(Offered in the Minister’s words and concluding together with 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 sins,

As we forgive those who sin 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. 

 

God Sends Us out with His Blessing

*Hymn  642                           Be Thou My Vision                                SLANE

Organ and Piano

*Dismissal and Benediction

Go bearing the name into which you were baptized, the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.  Amen.

*Postlude

The Gospel in Isaiah 59

Dear Congregation of Jesus Christ

On the last Sunday of 2012 I preached from Isaiah 59 emphasizing the sinfulness and failure of humans (Israel) to keep God’s covenant:

Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2 ESV)

I also preached about his sending his Son, “wrapped in zeal as a cloak,” dressed for battle to save us and pointed out that this is parallel to the armor Christ offers to each Christian in Ephesians 6.

The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak. (Isaiah 59:15-17 ESV)

At the end of this beautiful passage I referred to the future blessings which ensue when God’s people follow in his covenant in the gracious covenant-keeping work of Christ for us from the final verse:

v. 21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Burk Parsons continues the same teaching in the Tabletalk article quoted below for January 8, 2013.

Covenant Blessings

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit” (vv. 3–4).

Leviticus 26:1-13

God’s covenants clearly have conditions, as we have seen over the past few days. The question before us now, however, is what happens when these conditions are met and what happens when they are not met? The answer is that meeting the conditions perfectly leads to eternal life, and, in the final analysis, we can only do this by trusting in Christ Jesus alone, who alone has kept the covenant perfectly (2 Cor. 5:21).

Although meeting the covenant conditions leads ultimately to eternal life—via the faith-alone imputation of the merit of Christ, the perfect covenant-keeper—there are also earthly blessings for keeping covenant that anticipate the life of the world to come. This is particularly evident under the Mosaic covenant, which was the foundational covenant for the prophets’ ministry. In fact, the blessings that the prophets announced to ancient Israel were the blessings promised to those who kept the Mosaic law. These blessings are revealed most clearly in Leviticus 26:1–13 and Deuteronomy 28:1–14.

The two lists differ slightly, but the teaching of both texts is the same. God promised the Israelites that if they were to keep the covenant, they would experience food harvests so great that they would be unable to gather everything in before it was time to sow the seed once more (Lev. 26:3–5). Faithful Israel would enjoy peace, victory over her enemies, and fruitfulness in the womb (vv. 6–10). The blessings build to the crescendo of the greatest covenant benefit of all—the presence of God Himself with His people (vv. 11–13).

When the prophets announced blessings to Israelites who persevered in covenant obedience or returned to the Lord after grossly breaking His law, they promised the very blessings we have just listed. Jeremiah 23:1–4, for example, promises the faithful remnant of Israel that it will experience great fruitfulness. Ezekiel 36:22–32 looks forward to the Spirit of God dwelling within the hearts of His children.

Ancient Israel was not to look at keeping God’s covenant as a means to earn their salvation. Thus, for the old covenant people, faithfulness did not mean perfect obedience, which is impossible for sinners. They were to strive to obey, repent when they failed, and look for the Messiah to earn salvation for them by His following the law perfectly (Gen. 3:14–15; Lev. 18:5; Deut. 18:15). But as they conformed, generally speaking, to God’s law, they enjoyed a foretaste of eternal life in the new heaven and earth.

Coram Deo

The book of Job and other portions of Scripture warn us about making a strict one-to-one correlation between the blessings or trials we receive and our obedience to God. Nevertheless, we can expect the Lord to show His favor to us when we keep His covenant and seek to obey His Word. We do this not to earn our redemption but to thank Him for saving us from our sin. Are you striving to obey the Lord and receive His blessing?

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 4:1
Isaiah 55
Matthew 19:26–30
Romans 5:12–21

Lord’s Day Worship January 6th Epiphany- The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles

The Lord’s Day

Epiphany Season

(The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles)

 

O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

“O, wisest love, that flesh and blood which did in Adam fail, should strive afresh against the foe, should strive and should prevail.” –J. H. Newman

 

The Lord’s Service

Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church

 

          The Lord’s Day

January 6, 2013

 

Please program all communication devices to silent mode. Thank you.

 

Gathering to Worship

We worship one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

*indicates standing for those who are able

Welcome                                                                                                                

 Introit: As with Gladness, Men of Old

 Apostolic Greeting and Call to Worship:

Minister: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Call to Worship (Psalm 98)

Minister: Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

All:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.      

*Hymn  43  You Righteous, in the Lord Rejoice             OLD 113TH

* Prayer of Adoration

Minister:  O God, we praise you that you have shown your faithfulness to keep your covenant in the manifestation of your Son to the Gentiles. We adore your majesty and grace in Christ’s coming down to save us poor sinners. Glory to you in the highest!

All: Amen.  

Reconciliation with God (1 John 1:5-10)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Unison Prayer of Confession

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not diligently sought to know and obey the whole counsel of your Word. In these and all our sins we have offended you, grieved the Spirit of adoption and wounded our own conscience.

(Private confession in silence)
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. Through the redeeming work of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; free us from our sins that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Words of Comfort

Minister: Hear these words of comfortfound in John3:16

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

Declaration of Pardon

Minister:Brothers and Sisters, you have confessed your sins to almighty God. Do you believe that Jesus Christ, by His perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, has atoned for your sins and satisfied the wrath of God toward you? If this is your case, in the name of Christ and by the authority of His Word I declare to you that your sins are forgiven and you are not under condemnation of God. Amen.

*Hymn                   We Three Kings of Orient Are                THREE KINGS OF ORIENT

God Speaks to Us through His Word

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 31:15-20

*Hymn 240            The King of Glory Comes (Psalm 24)              PROMISED ONE

New Testament Reading: Acts 14:1-23 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-18

Minister:  The Word of the Lord

People:  Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Illumination

Illumine our hearts and minds by your Spirit Lord, that we may understand your word, laying it in our hearts and practicing in it in our lives. Amen.

Sermon:                    Troubled by a Baby                       The Rev. Dr. Edd Cathey

*Hymn                   Unto Us a Boy Is Born                         PUER NOBIS NACITUR

The Apostles’ Creed

We Offer our Gifts and Prayers

Offering God our wealth/Offertory

But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace (giving) also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-9)

*Hymn 733         Doxology                   LASST UNS ERFREUEN

Prayer of dedication

Items for Prayer

Call to Prayer

Minister:  The Lord be with you

People: And also with you.

Minister: Let us pray.

(Offered in the Minister’s words and concluding together with 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 sins,

As we forgive those who sin 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. 

 

God Sends Us out to Serve

 *Hymn 213                 What Child Is This           GREENSLEEVES

*Dismissal and Benediction

Go bearing the name into which you were baptized, the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.  Amen.

*Postlude

Worship December 30, 2012

The Lord’s Day

Christmas Season

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

“O, wisest love, that flesh and blood which did in Adam fail, should strive afresh against the foe, should strive and should prevail.” –J. H. Newman

 

The Lord’s Service

Grace and Peace Presbyterian Church

 

          The Lord’s Day

December 30, 2012

 

Please program all communication devices to silent mode. Thank you.

 

Gathering to Worship

We worship one God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

*indicates standing for those who are able

 Welcome                                                                                                                

 Opening Sentence 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. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

 Apostolic Greeting and Call to Worship:

Minister: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit. Amen.

*Call to Worship (Psalm 98)

Minister: Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.

All:Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.      

*Hymn  214                        Angels We Have Heard on High       GLORIA

*Prayer of Adoration

Minister:We are praising you for the great gift of Jesus our Savior who is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made,

of one Being with the Father.Through whom all things were made.

Who for us and for our salvationcame down from heaven:

by the power of the Holy Spiritand became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.Glory be to you, now and forever.

All:Amen.

Reconciliation with God (1 John 1:5-10)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Unison Prayer of Confession

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not diligently sought to know and obey the whole counsel of your Word. In these and all our sins we have offended you, grieved the Spirit of adoption and wounded our own conscience.

(Private confession in silence)

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. Through the redeeming work of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; free us from our sins that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Words of Comfort

Minister: Hear these words of comfortfound in John3:16

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

Declaration of Pardon

Minister:Brothers and Sisters, you have confessed your sins to almighty God. Do you believe that Jesus Christ, by His perfect life, sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, has atoned for your sins and satisfied the wrath of God toward you? If this is your case, in the name of Christ and by the authority of His Word I declare to you that your sins are forgiven and you are not under condemnation of God. Amen.

*Hymn 215             While By My Sheep I Watched          JUNGST

 God Speaks to Us through His Word

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 59:1-21

  Psalm 66 (sung)                      WIE SCHON LEUCHTET

 Gospel Reading: Luke 1:26-38

Minister:  The Word of the Lord

People:  Thanks be to God!

Prayer for Illumination

Illumine our hearts and minds by your Spirit Lord, that we may understand your word, laying it in our hearts and practicing in it in our lives. Amen.

Sermon: The Incarnation of God in Isaiah 59 The Rev. Dr. Edd Cathey

*Hymn 219              All Praise to Thee, Eternal Lord               CANONBURY

The Nicene Creed

We Offer our Gifts and Prayers

Offering God our wealth/Offertory

But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace (giving) also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:7-9)

Hymn 731  Doxology                   OLD HUNDREDTH

Prayer of dedication

Items for Prayer

Call to Prayer

Minister:  The Lord be with you

People:And also with you.

Minister: Let us pray.

(Offered in the Minister’s words and concluding together with 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 sins,

As we forgive those who sin 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. 

 

God Sends Us out to Serve

 *Hymn 230   Thou Who Wast Rich beyond All Splendor     QUELLE EST CETTE ODEUR AGREABLE

*Dismissal and Benediction

Go bearing the name into which you were baptized, the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father, and the Communion of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.  Amen.

*Postlude

Sermon at Lessons and Carols

Christmas Eve 2012

Angels are very prominent in the Readings of this Service. These are very high ranking Angels too! Whether The Angel of the LORD or Gabriel, these are Cherubim which guard God’s very throne. These High ranking Angels appear in six of the Lessons read this evening.

Years ago I took a course about angels. We learned that angels are always active in God’s work in the world, but that they are particularly active and the highest ranking ones are active, when God is doing a BIG NEW thing in his plan to save the world.

*Think back with me.

The first reading tonight was the account of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. Then and there, God promised to save them by sending a Son, His Son, through the woman! Right after that, the Lord drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden and He placed cherubim in the garden to guard the way to the tree of life. By guarding the way to the tree of life, these angels function as messengers of God’s punishment, but also of His grace. They barricade the way to the tree of life because eternal life is no longer found in an earthly paradise. Adam and Eve must look to the promised seed of the woman, the Messiah, who will open the way to the paradise of God. The angels turn the attention of man to the need for a Savior. They kept Adam and Eve away from the tree and out of the immediate presence of God. If they had not done so, Adam and Eve would have been consumed by the wrath of the LORD.

Years later, in the second Lesson, when God renewed his promises to save, he made a covenant with Abraham promising salvation. This was announced by The Angel of the Lord, and it was the Angel of The Lord who commanded the sacrifice of Abraham’s only Son and then rescued Isaac from the knife saying: “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

The Third and Fourth lessons tell what God’s salvation through his Son, will mean for the world and where he will be born.

The Fifth lesson tells about the Arch-angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is the woman who will give Birth to the Savior. Mary then rejoices greatly and accepts the mission of God.

This was going to be a big problem for Mary’s betrothed husband Joseph, so in our Sixth Lesson the same Arch-angel eased removed his doubt and concern by announcing that this is God’s doing for the Salvation of the world.

Finally, in the Seventh Lesson, the angel of the Lord together with a whole army of angels announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds near Bethlehem and they sang: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

These are intensely frequent appearances and messages of God’s angels because God’s long ago promised salvation has come!

And that is what Saint John tells us in the Ninth Lesson. The Creator of the universe has come down from heaven, has become a human, born of a woman, to make a way for us all to come into God’s presence in Paradise. He has come to destroy our darkness by dying in our place in sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins, the darkness of sin and hell and to make a way for us to be saved, a way back to God’s fellowship in Paradise.

This salvation, this Christmas message of the angels is for you.  You are included in the word “all.”

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

This is the message of the Angels…and it is for you!

Blessed, merry Christmas!