ALL THIS TOOK PLACE TO FULFIL WHAT THE LORD HAD SAID THROUGH THE PROPHET (Matthew 1: 22-23): “THE VIRGIN WILL BE WITH CHILD AND WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, AND WILL CALL HIM IMMANUEL” – WHICH MEANS, “GOD WITH US.” (Isaiah 7: 14)
WELCOME TO OUR SECOND ADVENT SUNDAY WORSHIP!
OPENING HYMN (CH-25) ONLY ON GOD DO THOU, MY SOUL, still patiently attend; my expectation and my hope on Him alone depend.
He only my salvation is, and my strong rock is He; He only is my sure defence: I shall not movèd be.
In God my glory placèd is, and my salvation sure; in God the rock is of my strength, my refuge most secure.
Ye people, place your confidence in Him continually; before Him pour ye out your heart; God is our refuge high.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom we adore, be glory, as it was, and is, and shall be evermore. Amen.
LET US PRAY:
LORD OUR GOD, we remember today how You prepared the way for Your coming: You promised a Child who would be called Emmanuel, God with us, born to save His people from their sin. Help us to receive Your Word with new insight, and to offer You our living worship. Help us to focus on what is central to Advent and not on the things with which we surround it. Bless us with opened hearts and minds to the work of Your Spirit, and help us to follow in the way of Christ, loving Him and each other as He loved us. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – ISAIAH 61: 1 – 3
THE SPIRIT OF THE SOVEREIGN LORD IS ON ME, BECAUSE THE LORD HAS ANOINTED ME TO PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO BIND UP THE BROKEN-HEARTED, TO PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE CAPTIVES AND RELEASE FROM DARKNESS FOR THE PRISIONERS, TO PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOUR AND THE DAY OF VENGEANCE OF OUR GOD, TO COMFORT ALL WHO MOURN, AND PROVIDE FOR THOSE WHO GRIEVE IN ZION – TO BESTOW ON THEM A CROWN OF BEAUTY INSTEAD OF ASHES, THE OIL OF GLADNESS INSTEAD OF MOURNING, AND A GARMENT OF PRAISE INSTEAD OF A SPIRIT OF DESPAIR. THEY WILL BE CALLED OAKS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, A PLANTING OF THE LORD FOR THE DISPLAY OF HIS SPLEDOUR.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – LUKE 4: 17 – 21
THE SCROLL OF THE PROPHET ISAIAH WAS HANDED TO HIM (JESUS). UNROLLING IT, HE FOUND THE PLACE WHERE IT IS WRITTEN: “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS ON ME, BECAUSE HE HAS APPOINTED ME TO PREACH GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR. HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM FREEDOM FOR THE PRISONERS AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT FOR THE BLIND, TO RELEASE THE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE YEAR OF THE LORD’S FAVOUR.” THEN HE ROLLED UP THE SCROLL, GAVE IT BACK TO THE ATTENDANT AND SAT DOWN. THE EYES OF EVERYONE IN THE SYNAGOGUE WERE FASTENED ON HIM, AND HE BEGAN BY SAYING TO THEM, “TODAY THIS SCRIPTURE IS FULFILLED IN YOUR HEARING.”
Those of us in the ministry are not immune to the world’s condition. In my wife’s, and in my case, the impossibility of meeting with our children and grandchildren during this global pandemic intensifies our frustration that neither WhatsApp nor Viber can alleviate. For instance Liza – our youngest granddaughter – was one year old when I’ve baptized her here in our church, and that happened almost three years ago. I haven’t seen her since, and I doubt to be ever able to hold her in my arms as she already looks like a grown-up lady. My joyful compensation remains speaking to her about Jesus and Christmas, and being truly emotional when she asks me the very practical question, – When can I really see you, Grandpa? Expectations. . . in Advent . . .waiting for a Saviour… for the very significant impact Jesus has on all the aspects of our human life…
In Advent we wait for the coming of the Son of God, to proclaim the year of God’s favour for all the poor, the broken-hearted, the captives and prisoners of our highly tested humanity.
- – WE ALL WAIT FOR THE BIRTH OF A CHILD, that signifies something greater than any other human birth in our world. This birth signals the breaking into our broken world of a new configuration of human relationships; it promises a human family living in peace with themselves and with a vast and glorious universe. The birth of Jesus represents the birth of a NEW CREATION. Prophet Isaiah offers the classic vision of what we really wait for in God’s New Creation. There he stands, some twenty-five hundred years ago, finally home in Jerusalem after fifty years spent in an alien land, a hostage to the imperial dreams of a cruel tyrant, a half-century spent in a desert concentration camp. But now, he is back home. That’s the good news. The bad news? Jerusalem is a post-war wreck. What was once a city is now a pile of rubble. Poverty, hostility, thieves and robbers everywhere. And yet – in that hopeless mess – Isaiah had a vision of an incredible promise for that ruined city. Under the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord, he brings good tidings – to comfort all who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Do you hear those promises? Can you imagine them spoken right here in Skye and Portree, in Scotland, the U.K., Hungary, and in all the dark places where life confronts challenge and threat? We can truly find the promise of CHRISTMAS, here, and right now, on our troubled and beautiful planet.
- – JESUS PROCLAIMS THE YEAR OF GOD’S FAVOUR. We recall the young Galilean returning from the desert some five hundred years after Isaiah’s words of hope, reading the prophets vision at a worship in His hometown of Nazareth, and adding to it, – Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. The attendance was shocked and outraged, as many, since. I just pray that you are not, as I strongly believe Him. For ultimately, at that moment in Nazareth, we catch a glimpse of the ONE for whom, and yes, for what we are waiting.
When Jesus came to Nazareth, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath as was His custom. He read the passage from the scroll He was handed. The words that Jesus read provided for His listeners a blueprint of His mission on earth, but at the same time God’s plan for every believer to follow. They provide a sketch of ministry that every Christian should render in today’s world. We need to understand the life and ministry of Jesus as well as properly relating ourselves to His death for us on the Cross. He is the Redeemer who came to save the world from sin by dying on the cross. He is the Teacher who came from heaven to instruct His followers on the way that they should think, act, and serve. He is the Physician who came to heal the broken-hearted and to minister to all who suffer. In Jesus’ life and ministry we have a model for holy living and for effective service to God and one another. Our Lord’s ministry was determined by His knowledge of the will of God and His awareness of the need of the people. He came announcing that His mission was to proclaim the Lord’s favour. He came into the world, not to relate facts about an absentee God who dwelt in the past, but rather to announce the glad tidings that God is at work in the present doing wonderful things for those who will trust Him. It is dangerous to think of God as being at work in the past or in the future without recognizing that He is also concerned about the present. During these pandemic-times we continue to live in the year of the Lord’s favour. It is vital to believe that God is very much interested in today’s world, and He wants His people to cooperate with Him in a ministry to those in life today.
- – JESUS INITIATES THE LORD’S FAVOUR. Jesus took the initiative with the multitudes. He always went where people needed Him: into homes, onto the streets, into synagogues, by the seaside, on the mountaintop or to open fields. He developed a threefold ministry. To the soul He was the Preacher with the message from God. To the mind he was the Teacher who came from God. To the body He was the great Physician who brought relief from suffering. Jesus’ life on earth was a positive, aggressive ministry of Mercy to install God’s Grace. (Just to remind you: MERCY is to not get what we deserve, meanwhile GRACE is to get what we don’t deserve).
When Jesus saw the people, He was always moved with compassion for them. He suffered with them and for them. He saw behind the mask that people wore, and His heart was moved by their deep inward need. He is still moved with the same compassion for those in any need in the world today. He knows how many of us are: afraid, insecure, uncertain, pessimistic, short-sighted, materialistic, frustrated, anxious, disappointed, and so very often desperate. Through His Son, the Anointed Saviour – Christ Jesus – God wants to encourage us to trust in His Goodness and in His Grace.
Christ always had HOPE for those who came to Him. Hope is an important component of Advent. Jesus’ HOPE was based on His knowledge of the will and purpose of God. He was motivated by the conviction that the Eternal Heavenly Father always was and is concerned about His people, and His divine concern was and is always ready to meet their total needs. Also Christ encouraged His disciples TO PRAY for the needs of others. Prayer is not only the way to tell God what He should do for those we know who are in need, but prayer also means to listen to how God would want us to be involved with meeting the needs of those around us.
What a HOPE! What a PROMISE! Do you see what it means to us? It means that the CHILD’S BIRTH IN BETHLEHEM is not a sentimental matter. This SON OF GOD, OUR SAVIOUR bears HOPE for our lives! Those of us who count ourselves faithful Christians now begin to realize that we embrace a FAITH bearing enormous social and ethical consequences. The Christian Faith seeks not simply to produce new people; it seeks to seed new societies. The Prophet’s vision sustained by Jesus, envisions a new community based on mutual love, having God Himself in their midst, because – God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him … We love because He first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
Martin Luther King Jr. captured the Advent-Christmas public mission and responsibility as well as John in his First Epistle, Ch. 4: 16, 19–21. A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself. This means at bottom, that the Christian Gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed. Any religion that professes to be concerned only with the souls is a dry-as-dust religion. (The words of Martin Luther King, p.66)
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY LORD GOD, we give You thanks for this life and all its blessings, for joys great and simple, for gifts and powers more than we deserve, for love at the heart of Your purpose and surpassing wisdom in all Your works; but above all for the Light in our world brought once in Jesus Christ and shinning ever through His Spirit. We pray, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for that Light to dawn upon us daily, that we may always have a grateful heart and a will to love You and serve You to the end of our days. As Christmas is drawing nearer, we are trying to be prepared for it: to welcome Jesus afresh into our lives and to rejoice in Your Love not just at Christmas. We pray for our world. Move among us by Your Spirit, heal the human family of the Coronavirus and unite our efforts in overcoming it. We pray for our country. Enrich our common life; strengthen the forces of truth and goodness; teach us to share our prosperity, that those whose lives are impoverished may pass from need and despair to dignity and joy. We pray for those who suffer. Surround them with Your love, support them with Your strength, heal them with Your mighty touch, console them with Your comfort, and give them life, hope and courage beyond themselves. We pray for our families, for those whom we love. Protect them wherever they are; support them in these times of difficulty and anxiety, that they may grow together in mutual love and understanding and rest content in one another. We pray for Your Church both in the world and in our local context. Keep her true to the Gospel and responsive to the gifts and needs of all. Make known Your saving power in the coming Christ by the witness of her faith, her worship, and her life. Make us worthy of Your goodness, O Lord, in all this time of Advent. Open our hearts to love and praise You, and inspire us always to live for Your Glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One God, now and for ever and ever. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN – CH-159: – BEHOLD HE COMES! Your leader comes, with might and honour crowned; a witness who shall spread my Name to earth’s remotest bound.
See! Nations hasten to His call from every distant shore; Isles, yet unknown, shall bow to Him, and Israel’s God adore.
Seek ye the Lord while yet His ear is open to your call; while offered mercy still is near, before His footstool fall.
Let sinners quit their evil ways, their evil thoughts forgo: and God, when they to Him return, returning grace will show.
He pardons with o’erflowing love: for, hear the voice divine! My nature is not like to yours, nor like your ways are Mine:
But far as heaven’s resplendent orbs beyond earth’s spot extend, as far My thoughts, as far My ways, your ways and thoughts transcend.
YOU KNOW THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THAT THOUGH HE WAS RICH, YET FOR YOUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR, SO THAT YOU, – THROUGH HIS POVERTY – MIGHT BECOME RICH (2 Corinthians 8: 9). MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14)
Sandor, your Minister.