Year A – Advent 2 – Psalm 72

Solomon’s Reign is a Type of the Universal Reign of Jesus

Give the king your judgments, O God, And your righteousness to the king’s Son.  He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness.  He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor.  They shall fear you as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.  He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth.  In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, Until the moon is no more. . . . Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things!  And blessed be His glorious name forever!  And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.  Amen and Amen.

Summary – This messianic Psalm, Psalm 72,  looks to Solomon in the near future as a type of the Ultimate “King’s Son” (vs 1).  This Son will judge people righteously, and we recall the story of Solomon and the two women arguing over the child (1 Kings 3:16ff).  This Son will have dominion “from sea to sea” (vs 8), and Solomon indeed ruled all the land from the “River” to the sea (1 Kings 4:20ff), the allotted portion of Israel.  This Son would receive gifts from the “Kings of Sheba” (vs 10), and the “gold of Sheba will be given to him” (vs 15).  We remember the Queen of Sheba’s visit of course, in which she gave Solomon 120 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:10).  Solomon was however, as a typological shadow of Christ who was to come, an imperfect fulfillment of this Psalm.  Only Christ could be feared “as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations” (vs 5).  Only Christ’s Kingdom can encompass the whole earth (vs. 8) and have “all kings” bow before Him (vs 11).  Only Christ could save “souls” (vs 13).  The final refrain of the Psalm in vss. 18-19 indeed points to the Lord alone as the doer of “wondrous things.”  Solomon was the second step in the line of David’s throne and kingship.  But we see here again, like we saw in Psalm 122 last week, that David’s throne came with an inherent aspect of longevity and eternality.  Christ the true Son of David is the ultimate fulfillment of that great line.

Insight – Do you ever feel like the world is ignoring God?  People try to take the meaning of Christmas away, and ignore Jesus’ coming, but King David tells us about the “king’s Son” who is expected.  This son of the King will become king and will be followed forever.  He was promised to be like rain that waters the earth, and would bring righteousness and peace.  As we look forward to Christmas, this promise about Jesus’ coming should give us great hope!  Jesus is “living water” (John 4:10) who “waters” those who have faith in Him, and the night of His birth, angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14).  Though many people ignore the true King Jesus, His kingdom is everlasting and will finally submit all nations to it.

Child Catechism – How long will Jesus’ kingdom last?  Forever.

Discussion – How does Jesus “bring justice to the poor of the people”?  How does He “save the children of the needy”?

Prayer – O God of Israel, who only does wondrous things, blessed be your glorious name forever.  This Advent season we earnestly pray that the whole earth be filled with your glory.  Amen.

Year A – Advent 2 – Isaiah 11:1-10

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – New Covenant Fulfillment (Isaiah 11:1-10)
Isaiah 11:1–10 – A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3 His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5 Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins.   6 The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9 They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. 10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Isaiah’s Messiah will Fulfill the Davidic Covenant (vv 1-3) – In the previous verses the Lord brings judgment, “He shakes his fist at the mountain of the daughter Zion” and will “cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe.” Then something happens in fulfillment of God’s promise to David, “a shoot will spring” from Jesse (David’s father). God has kept his promise to put David’s heir on the throne, Messiah Jesus.

Overview – Isaiah weaves together both the judgment due to Israel and the nations as well as the promises of God’s covenant faithfulness to bring about deliverance for His people. This passage follows from an indictment in ch. 10, culminating in this image: Isaiah 10:34 – “He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax, and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.” But “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse” (11:1). This Davidic Messiah will fulfill God’s covenant promises:  1) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the Mosaic Covenant (vv 4-5) – The Messiah of Isaiah will embody the very justice of the Torah [law] of Moses. What fleshly judges and corrupt kings could not do will be done by Messiah. He will see the heart and judge righteously and with “fairness” for the afflicted. His Word is the very instrument of bringing justice. He is clothed with righteousness and faithfulness. 2) Isaiah’s Messiah will fulfill the New Covenant (vv 6-10) – The rule of this Messiah will result in universal peace as predicted in many new covenant prophecies (Is. 9:7, Ez. 34:25, 37:26). Isaiah pictures this by reference to natural predators vs their prey, wolf/lamb; leopard/goat; calf/lion; cow/bear; lion/ox. These images may refer to the aggressive nations threatening lamb-like Israel. He finishes the image with children playing with snakes. Because, “They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD . . .”

Insight  – Many people can’t see how this prophecy will be fulfilled before the coming of Christ. But it is important to see that this glorious, yet incremental fulfillment hinges upon one point, “in that day the nations will resort to the root of Jesse.” As soon as nations and men come to their own desolation (stumps), and resort the budding plant, the root of Jesse, then the peace shall avail. This is to be fulfilled in the gospel victory of salvation to all the nations (as is promised in Rev. 5:7-9), when all the “families of the earth shall worship Jesus” (Ps. 22).

Child Catechism – When will we get to play with poisonous snakes and not get hurt? When all the nations turn to Christ.

Discussion – When do you think “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” and how will that happen?

Prayer – Almighty Father, you have promised peace on earth through Christ, grant that we may be faithful to express the gospel in our lives and words so that the knowledge of the LORD may be full in the earth. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Romans 13:11-14

Casting Away the Works of Darkness (Rom. 13)

Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  Romans 13:11–14

Overview – In ch. 12, Paul explains how the body “faces” inward. We are “living sacrifices” and are part of the “body” (new man/’adam). A body member is “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (12:3). We are prone to exalt certain gifts and to be a “respecter of persons” in the worst sense and to think much more highly of our kinds of Christians than others, we demean serving gifts and exalt knowledge/leadership gifts. The body example refutes this. Which part of your body would you like chopped off? Jesus said “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant” (Mark 10:44).  In ch. 13, Paul explains how the body “faces” outward toward Roman society. Paul is a Roman citizen and knows history of Israel relating to pagan society. Remember Joseph (in Egypt), Daniel (Babylon), and Nehemiah (Persia). They submitted themselves to pagan rulers under God and served their world emperor (like the eagle face of the cherubim). Paul is able to say “submit” with straight face to those in even Caesar Nero’s household (Phil. 4:22).  Submit to the exousia – “powers that be” in general and trust in God’s sovereign power (1 Tim. 2). Thus Christians should be better citizens than most pagans. The “powers” exercise the sword (mache) to punish evil doers – not to rehabilitate them, but to deter them with death if need be. Christians should not be trouble makers nor seek methodological revolution to bring about change which was exactly why the Jews were banished from Rome under Claudius (49 A.D. cf Acts 18:2). Rom. 13 does not contemplate righteous and necessary occasions for civil disobedience (such as in the case of Shadrack et al, 3:12), it only shows one bowing gesture of the outward facing body. There are exceptions and desperate times call for desperate self-sacrificial measures (“for such a time is this” Esther). Thus, Romans 13 should not be used to prop up Nazi-ism or Stalinism or a future totalitarianism instituted by an American President or U.N. Czar. We can do our duties by rendering what is due (tax, custom, fear or honor). Love is right motivation in fulfilling law. And in acting out of love, we remember the “the time.” There is a temporal aspect of this. In the original setting judgment was near (70 AD) and the upheavals of the Roman world are coming (68 AD). “We know the time, that it is already the hour…” (13:11). Therefore don’t “eat, drink and be merry” but get ready and be alert. Make no provision for the flesh. Keeping with the theme of Advent 1: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”

Discussion and Insight – What are some ways in your life to “make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts”? Are there temptations you could overcome if you did not “provide” for those opportunities?

Prayer – [As you pray this the Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, be mindful of the connections to Romans 13 in this prayer written by Thomas Cranmer in the 1500s.] Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents.  Of David.  I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD!”  Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!  Jerusalem–built as a city that is bound firmly together, to which the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, as was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the LORD.  There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David.  Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  “May they be secure who love you!  Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”  For my brothers and companions’ sake I will say, “Peace be within you!”  For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your good.

Summary – The Songs of Ascent (Pss. 120-134) were festal songs used by Israel as they “ascended” to Jerusalem for holidays, sacrifices, etc.  As the third in this set, Ps 122 follows sort of a “local progression.”  In Ps 120, the speaker/singer speaks of sojourning “in Meshech” (a warring tribe) and dwelling among “Kedar” (a pagan Ishmaelite tribe), “among those who hate peace.”  The singer begins singing the Songs of Ascent among warlike peoples, and heads towards Jerusalem (Heb. “Foundation of Peace).  In Ps 121, the singer “lifts up his eyes to the hills.”  Jerusalem is among the hills (Ps 125:2), and so the singer is looking towards his destination.  In our Psalm, 122, the singer has arrived in Jerusalem.  He was “glad” at the prospect of going up (vs 1), and is now standing within the walls (vs 2).  Prayer for the peace of that central city is a large part of the Psalm as well, with the purpose being maintaining the glorious state of the “house of the LORD” (vs 9) which resided in Jerusalem.

Insight – If you have read the Lord of the Rings, you know that Minas Tirith expected the return of their true King, the heir of Isildur.  Their kings were all descendants of their first king in Middle Earth, Elendil, though their power was less by the time of their last king, Earnur.  Finally, Aragorn, the heir arrived and began his kingdom.  As Advent season begins, our sights are set on the coming of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.  In this Psalm, we read about the capitol of His Kingdom, Jerusalem, where “thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David” (vs 5).  Though there was a great span of time between the last King of Israel and Christ, Christ is the Heir of David who arrived and began His kingdom by disarming the previous rulers.  This week, be thankful for Christ’s throne, from which He shall reign forever and ever.

Child Catechism – Which king was Jesus descended from?  King David.

Discussion – What does the peace of Jerusalem mean in the New Covenant?  How can you seek the peace of Jerusalem?

Prayer – Our Lord and King, we give thanks to your name for bringing us within your gates and adopting us as your children.  We pray for peace among your people as we consider the coming of the Prince of Peace, for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ and also for the sake of the whole house of the Lord.  Help us to strive for the peace of our heavenly city, that the nations would see its light and come to it.  Through Christ, Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Isaiah 2:1-5

Isaiah’s Messianic Vision – The Last Days Mountain (Isaiah 2:1-5)
Now it will come about that In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. 2:3 And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 2:4 And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. 2:5 Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the LORD.

Overview –  The Last Days. Isaiah’s vision of the Messianic time is that “in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD” will be raised up. This refers to the “last days” of the Old Covenant ( Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2). The NT was written during the transition of the two covenant ages, after the reign of Messiah had begun (1Cor. 15:22-25). The Apostles made clear that the “heavenly city of Jerusalem” (Zion) had been raised up through the ascension of Christ (Heb. 12:22, Gal. 4:26).

The Last Mountain. The “last” or the “chief” mountain is Jerusalem above (Heb. 12:22) where Christ sits at God’s right hand and is manifest in Resurrection Day worship. The result of Zion’s exaltation is that “all the nations stream to it”  to go the “house of the God of Jacob” (2:2-3) to worship. Converted peoples from all nations come to learn to “walk in His paths.” He will send His word forth from this place, which is the Church of Jesus Christ, manifest in diverse congregations through all the world.

Insight – The Last Battle. The result of the Word going forth from Zion (the new covenant Church which is the meeting of heaven and earth) is that justice is rendered (2:4), peace is cultivated and the nations walk in the light of Christ (2:4-5). The well-known poetry of this passage is beautiful: “swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Implements of war will become productive tools, rather than destructive weapons. This is our hope for the gospel victory through the spiritual warfare of Isaiah’s Messiah, ruling in our midst.

Child Catechism – What is the “mountain of the house of the Lord”? The Church of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Lord, as we rest in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, grant that His gospel would transform the nations in peace and bring about the change poetically pictured in Isaiah that nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war again, but rather walk in Your light. In Christ’s name and for His cause we pray, Amen.

Year A – Advent 1 – Matthew 24:36-44

Advent According to Matthew (01) – The Advent of Judgment

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 “Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 “Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 “But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 “For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 45 “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 “Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Matthew 24:35–46

Summary –  Most ancient literature used devices of structure embedded in the content, such as repeated patterns, allusions, recapitulations, parallels, etc. Therefore it should not be surprising as a Gospel written to primarily Jewish readers by a Jew, Matthew contains deeper structure. Ireneaus said that the life of Jesus recapitulates the history of Israel. James B. Jordan provides an elaborate parallelism of the structure (the chiasm).

A. Genealogy (past), 1:1-17
B. First Mary and Jesus’ birth, 1:18-25
C. Gifts of wealth at birth, 2:1-12
            D. Descent into Egypt; murder of children, 2:13-21
E. Judea avoided, 2:22-23
F. Baptism of Jesus, 3:1–8:23
G. Crossing the sea, 8:24–11:1
H. John’s ministry, 11:2-19
I. Rejection of Jesus, 11:20-24
J. Gifts for the new children, 11:25-30
K. Attack of Pharisees, 12:1-13
L. Pharisees plot to kill the Servant, 12:14-21
K’ Condemnation of Pharisees, 12:22-45
J’ Gifts for the new children, 13:1-52
I’ Rejection of Jesus, 13:53-58
H’ John’s death, 14:1-12
G’ Crossing the sea, 14:13–16:12
F’ Transfiguration of Jesus, 16:13–18:35
E’ Judean ministry, 19:1–20:34
            D’ Ascent into Jerusalem; judgment on Jews, 21:1–27:56
C’ Gift of wealth at death, 27:57-66
B’ Last Marys and Jesus’ resurrection, 28:1-15
A’ Commission (future), 28:16-20 –  from James B. Jordan

Christ’s descent into Egypt (ch. 2) parallels His ascent into Jerusalem (chs. 21-25). Very early in Matthew, there are allusions to judgment (2:15, 18, Herod; 3:1ff John, ). It is clear that the coming of Jesus was not a Hallmark affair with red bows and finery.  Christ came to offer salvation/deliverance, but as had been the case with Israel before, this would include judgment. Our text (Year A of the Revised Common Lectionary) is part of the Olivet or the Apocalyptic Discourse, the climactic passage of judgment in Matthew. Jesus speaks of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and his coming in judgment (24:1ff). The time-frame is stated, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (24:34). This a very clear first century indication of the fulfillment, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Josephus’s Jewish Wars (written by an eyewitness to the events) gives seven cosmic signs (of sun, moon and stars) which happened as this destruction approached. This judgment was like the flood of Noah. While the prophetic word had been spoken, those unbelieving were going about their lives “normally” (24:38), then judgment happens when it is not expected. Those “taken away” were not Raptured. They were taken in judgment (e.g., like the flood, 24:40). Therefore, the main exhortation is to “be on the alert” (24:42), “be ready” (24:44), and to be found as a faithful servant when He comes (24:46).

Insight – If this passage is about 70 A.D., does it apply to us? Yes, for two reasons: 1) The destruction of Jerusalem is a “type” of the end of the world (Matthew Henry, Wesley, Jamison Faucett Brown, et al). Wesley says “the great day, which was typified by the destruction of Jerusalem.” 2) The emphasis here is on the calamity and judgment that will befall those who are not “on the alert” (24:42), or “ready” (24:44), or not being faithful servants when He comes (24:46). While we may not now face an historical judgment: say, the fall of USA – yet being ready and alert spiritually always applies. We need to confess our sins and walk in love. We need to put away bitterness and love others. We always need to get our house in order spiritually and relationally so that we can joyfully meet our Lord Jesus at any time. Jesus may not be coming soon, but you may soon go to him.

Child Catechism – How does the first century judgment of Jerusalem affect the way that we live? We are must live and always be “ready” and faithful since we do not know when Christ will come for us or when we will go to Him.

Discussion – How did Jesus demonstrate to those who killed Him that He was the Anointed King? [He predicted His coming in judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Jesus said in His trial: “hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Matthew 26:64]

Prayer – Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Year C – Fourth Sunday of Advent – Heb 10:5-10

Consequently, when Christ[a] came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:5-10 ESV)

Summary—In our text today, the author of the Hebrews quotes from the words of David in Psalm 40 to explain why there is a Christmas. and why Christ came into this world.  “I have come to do your will, O God.”  When Jesus came into the world he changed everything.  Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in Christ.  The Old Covenant sacrificial system was replaced with a better sacrifice once for all.  The author explains this by saying, “He sets aside the first to establish the second.”  By offering Himself as sacrifice, Christ marked the end of the sacrifices of the Old Testament and ushered in the accomplishing something that no one else in the whole world to do.  He came to show the way to salvation through His perfect sacrifice.

Insight—When you look under the Christmas tree, what do you see?  Why were they put there?  To some, these presents are nothing more than presents, wrapped with sheets of paper and secured with sticky tape.  They are just material objects, purchased as an offering for the enjoyment of their families.  We get so wrapped up (pun intended) in getting the perfect gift that we lose sight of why they are put their in the first place.  During the time of Christ, Jews lost track of why they offered their presents to God.  Day after day, they brought animals to the alter as sacrifices so that they would make God happy and receive his favor and reward.  They thought the sacrifice alone would earn God’s salvation. They were wrong.  Although God told Israel to offer sacrifices, he took no pleasure in these offerings.  Listen to the words of I Samuel 15:22, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice the the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”  God is not satisfied only with sacrifices.  They are just substitutes.  They are shadows pointing to the reality of something better.  If you put presents under the tree to earn favor with loved ones, than you are missing the point of the gifts.  We aren’t earning anything that way.  Christians give gifts because we have already received the best gift of all.  Only Christians can give presents in the right way.  We know, by faith that God gave Christ to His people once and for all to make us holy.  That means he gave us Christ out of love.  Those gifts under the tree represent that perfect gift.  So give with a cheerful heart, with the right attitude of giving, with the love that Christ already showed us in His present to us.

Child Catechism—Q: Why did Christ come into the World? A: To do God’s will.

Discussion—What is the difference between giving and grabbing presents during Christmas?  Why can Christians alone give presents in the right way?

Prayer—Father God in heaven, we rejoice in your present to us this Christmas season.  We humbly thank you for sending your Son as a sacrifice offered for our salvation.  You have made us a people who can rejoice in your gifts.  Help us to reflect that joy to others in our giving by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Use our gifts and joyful obedience to bring the nations into glad service of our Lord Jesus.  We ask this in name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

Year C – Third Sunday of Advent – Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:4-7 ESV)

Summary—It is important for us to remember that the whole history of the early Church, and indeed all the New Testament epistles, can only be understood in the light of the Spirit of God pouring forth upon that infant Church in Jerusalem.  Hold Pentacost firmly in your mind as you read this exhortation by Paul.  Only by the power of the Spirit was the early church able to joyfully respond to their lowly situation.  Only by the same Spirit are we able today to follow Paul’s command in this week’s text.  He commands us to live a life filled with joy in all situations.  The Christian life is a celebration where rejoicing is not only experienced, it is commanded.   In our text today, Paul corrects wrong-headed views of the Christian walk.  Rather than worry, stress or bicker between fellow believers, Paul tells the church to rejoice for the Lord is at hand.  Because of this, we can have peace with the Triune God of the universe.  Paul’s reason for writing this letter was to teach the Philippian Church how to rejoice in every circumstance that they faced.

Insight—Is your life filled with joy?  Are you continually rejoicing in all things, even that less-than-perfect geometry grade that you received last week?  What about that time you lost your favorite ear ring, did you feeling full of joy at that point?  Paul tells us in this section of his letter to the Philippians that we are to rejoice even when your brother won’t get out of the bathroom.  We are commanded to rejoice even when you lose your homework, or your job.  We are told to continally thank God for every situation that we face, even the bad ones.   And yet, we find this command hard to do.  Why?  It may be because we don’t understand the reason for our joy.  

Do you take for granted how bad off you would have been if Jesus had not come down from heaven and been born of a woman?  Do you not see that without Christ, you would be an enemy of God, and without hope?  But Christ did come down.  He was born of a woman and did live a sinless life.  He was nailed to a cross for you and for me.  You have been freed from sin and wrath of God, from eternal damnation and from the sting of death through the blood of Christ.   With this in mind, take heed to Paul’s command, REJOICE!  Rejoice in the Lord for he alone can give you peace.  He alone is worthy of our joy.  You may lose everything in this world, but not your soul or your eternal destiny, nor the glory that awaits you in Christ’s second coming.  These things are above your circumstances.  Rejoice in the lord always, in life, in death, in sins or failure, whatever may be happening to you, whatever your circumstances, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.”    

Child Catechism—Q: Why must we rejoice? A: Because Christ saved us from our sins.

Discussion—When you begin to worry about this life, what are some ways to reflect on what Jesus has saved you from?

Prayer—Father God in Heaven, you are worthy of our praise.  Let all your creation praise you, let all the earth shout forth praises worthy of your honor and glory. We rejoice in the salvation brought to us by your son.  We fall down in wonder, with unspeakable happiness that you came to save us.  We pray that you would kindle Godly joy in us through every season of our lives.  We ask this in name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Contributed by Mike Fenimore

Year C – Second Sunday of Advent – Luke 3:1–6

Luke 3:1–6 NKJV – “1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ””

Summary – The theme playing in the symphony of Advent 2 readings  is the Preparation of John the Baptizer for Christ’s ministry, which still call to mind the theme of the final (escatological) purification. For example – Mal. 3:2: “But who can endure the day of his coming.” Phil. 1:6-11: “[He] who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ . . .the harvest of righteousness” Luke 3:6: “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” All of this is due to God’s covenant faithfulness (“messenger of the covenant,” “the oath that he swore” Luke 1:73). Therefore, because of God’s covenant faithfulness, He prepares His people for His salvation in Christ.

The Lord Prepared the World Historically – It happened in history, “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea.” Tiberius was Roman emperor from 14-37  (A.D., anno Domini) which makes this about 28 A.D.

The Lord Prepared Israel Prophetically – Isaiah and many prophets had promised both the judgment of Israel (in the flesh) and the salvation of remnant Israel. Israel was to cling to the promises that the place would be “leveled” and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The Lord Prepared His People Spiritually – The Word came to John in the wilderness (outside of the temple). For those who were spiritually prepared, he preached “a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.”

Insight – Have you ever awaited the arrival of someone special to you, perhaps a family member or old family friend? Sometimes doing this we prepare what we will say, how we will respond, questions to ask . . . In the time of John the Baptist, the people needed to recognize the corruption of their temple and place their hope in Messiah through repentance. We must also Prepare. Repentance is often picture as a complete change, a 180 degree turn. But in our lives as believers it is more like a midcourse correction of a ship or a space ship. You will not land on the moon without little shifts. What “repentances” would change in your course to know Christ’s full salvation to keep your life from being flattened?

Year C – Second Sunday of Advent – Philippians 1:3-11

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:3-11)

Summary—As he wrote this letter, Paul sat in a prison cell, awaiting his fate from the Roman emperor. This tyrant would either show Paul mercy and free him, or he would convict him of treason against Rome and have him killed.  From this cell, we get today’s text.  Paul, in this section, thanks God with a heart filled to the brim with joy for his Philippian brothers and sisters in Christ.  Here we get a great example from the apostle on how to pray in any situation.

Insight—What would you do if you were locked away in a smelly prison with no hope of escape and little hope of freedom?  Would you fall on your knees and ask God for help?  Would you cry out to Him for rescue?  That’s not what Paul did.  He didn’t care what the emperor was going to do with him.  Rather, he cared what the King of Glory had already done for him and how God was building up the believers in Philippi more and more in faith.  Paul’s prayer teaches us that we are to come to God with more than urgent calls for help with our immediate needs.  Notice two reasons why Paul prayed like he did.  For one thing, he understood that his calling was more important than his circumstance.  Paul was called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the gentiles.  The Philippian church was his first stop on his missionary journey to Europe.  As they prayed for Paul, as they gave what they could to keep his ministry going, Paul could thank God with joy for their participation in this mission.  He knew that no prison cell could stop what God was doing in his church.  When you pray, do you look to your own struggles first, or do you see how God is using your church to extend his kingdom to the nations? 

There is a another reason why Paul prayed like this.  He trusted God to come through on His promises.  God started a good work in the Philippian Church and He will complete it to the end.  Jesus Christ is working a good work in you and is making you more and more like himself.  He promises you that he will finish what he started.  This is our hope in the advent season.  He promises that he will come back a second time to get us and finish what he started.  Let your prayer life reflect this hope.   Pray in all things with thanksgiving and joy.    

Child Catechism—Q: How did Paul teach us to pray? A: With thanksgiving and joy.

Discussion—What situation do you think would be too horrible that would cause you to pray without thanksgiving and joy? 

Prayer— Father in heaven, teach us how to pray with glad hearts and thankful minds.  Let us see more clearly how you are extending your kingdom and give us willing hearts to rejoice at all times.  We rejoice in your Goodness.  We rejoice in your faithfulness.  We ask all these things in the name of your glorious son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Contributed by Mike Fenimore