VINDICATE ME, O GOD … SEND FORTH YOUR LIGHT AND YOUR TRUTH, LET THEM GUIDE ME, LET THEM BRING ME TO YOUR HOLY MOUNTAIN … WHY ARE YOU DOWNCAST, O MY SOUL? WHY SO DISTURBED WITHIN ME? PUT YOUR HOPE IN GOD, FOR I WILL YET PRAISE HIM, MY SAVIOUR AND MY GOD. (Psalm 43)
WELCOME TO OUR THIRD ADVENT SUNDAY WORSHIP!
OPENING HYMN (CH-162) 1. BEFORE ALL TIME THE WORD EXISTED; before all time He was with God; with God in fellowship eternal, in essence one with all God was. Through Him all things received their birth; no thins without Him came to be.
- The Word was life in all creation – that life the Light of all mankind. Through countless ages in the darkness The Light shone out, and still it shines. No matter how the dark might strive, its force could not the Light subdue.
- To these, to all in Him believing, who put their faith in His great Name, He gave authority and warrant – the power God’s children to become. No human blood or seed or will gave them this birth, but God alone!
- The Word became a human being, and made His dwelling in our midst. We saw His majesty and splendour – His glory, full of grace and truth: such as to One alone belongs who is the Father’s only Son.
LET US PRAY:
ADVENT GOD, as we prepare once more to celebrate Your coming into the world, help us to reflect more fully on what it means and what it cost You. Teach us to rejoice in the Light You have shone into the world – the Light of Your Word, Your truth, Your love, Your life – and to walk in it each day. Help us also to recognise that You endured the darkness of hatred and evil, of suffering and death to ensure that this Light would not be extinguished but will continue to shine forever. Remind us that Advent speaks not only of Your birth in a stable, but also of Your death on a cross, and it is that, which has made possible new birth for all. Gracious Lord, make us ready, this and every day, to greet You when You come, and to live each moment now rejoicing in the Light of Your Love. Give us Your Word and bless our worship. AMEN.
OLD TESTAMENT READING: – GENESIS 1: 1 – 5
IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH. NOW THE EARTH WAS FORMLESS AND EMPTY, DARKNESS WAS OVER THE SURFACE OF THE DEEP, AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD WAS HOVERING OVER THE WATERS. AND GOD SAID, “LET THERE BE LIGHT,” AND THERE WAS LIGHT. GOD SAW THAT THE LIGHT WAS GOOD, AND HE SEPARATED THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS. GOD CALLED THE LIGHT “DAY,” AND THE DARKNESS HE CALLED “NIGHT.” AND THERE WAS EVENING, AND THERE WAS MORNING – THE FIRST DAY.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: – JOHN 8: 12
HE (JESUS) SAID, “I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. WHOEVER FOLLOWS ME WILL NEVER WALK IN DARKNESS, BUT WILL HAVE THE LIGHT OF LIFE.”
LIGHT is the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible. The main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. This is the definition given by Dictionary.com.
A number of years ago, National Geographic had an amazing article on the POWER OF LIGHT: – “Light reveals the world to us. Body and soul crave it. Light sets our biological clocks. It triggers in our brains the sensations of colour. Light feeds us, supplying the energy of plants to grow. It inspires us with special effects like rainbows and sunsets. Light gives us life-changing tools, from incandescent bulbs to lasers and fibre optics. Scientists don’t fully understand what light is or what it can do. They just know that it will illuminate our future… No one is exactly sure how to describe it. A wave? A particle? Yes, the scientists say. Both. It is a measure of light’s importance in our daily lives that we hardly pay any attention to it. Light is almost like air. It’s a given. A human would no more linger over the concept of light than a fish would ponder the notion of water… The more you look at the topic, the more you realize that our lives are built around light, that our daily existence is continuously shaped – and made vivid – by that ambiguous thing that dates from the beginning of time. From our technology to our spirituality, we are creatures of light.”
- – IN THE BEGINNING God said, Let there be light. And there was light. God said that on the first day of Creation, and if we read Genesis further, we find that the Sun was not created until the fourth day. There was light available on earth three days before the Sun was made. The Bible tells us that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness at all, and therefore light became one of the most expressive metaphors found in the Bible. Among all the symbols used in the Bible, none carries more meaning than the word LIGHT. Nothing else helps us seeing the reality more clearly than the light. In the beginning, the redemptive purposes of the Coming One were seen only in faint outlines. But, as God always meets people where they are, He moved His redeeming love to a messianic promise and then to prophetic visions to prepare Jesus’ coming into the world. When God’s Old Testament people looked at the LIGHT, they always remembered GLORY. The Glory of God’s presence when He appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai – to the people it looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. After meeting with God, Moses’ face shone so brightly from the glory of God that it had to be covered. Also, when God descended in order to bless and fill the Tent of Meeting, Moses could not enter the Tent because of the glorious cloud of God. Both in the Psalms and the Prophets the glory of God always imposed fear, because the Israelites believed that the way to God’s acceptance and forgiveness was only through keeping the Law of Moses. They were missing the acceptable righteousness, which is God’s unconditional gift through faith in Jesus Christ. There was a tragic misreading of God’s plan of redemption. This was the darkness into which the LIGHT came, giving the true interpretation and understanding of who God really is.
In the first creative act God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. Light always involves the removal of darkness in the unfolding of biblical history and theology. Light is Good. The importance of light and darkness is dramatically presented in the opening sentences of the Bible. In response to the darkness that was over the surface of the deep, God spoke, and light came into being. While light is not in itself divine, it is often used metaphorically for life, salvation, commandments, and the divine presence of God. God is LIGHT. If light represents goodness in antithesis to the evil associated with darkness, it is natural that the Bible understands God as the ultimate HOLINESS, signifying God’s presence and favour for His entire creation. God is the LIGHT, who dispels the darkness of the world and offers salvation to LIFE.
- – JESUS, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. In revealing His love for sinners, God had to become like us in order to overcome our human limitations. By saying that He is the Light of the World, Jesus meant that He is the embodiment of God’s revealed truth, as the Bible explains it: God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5: 21). The context of Jesus’ revelation about Himself as the Light of the World is significant. Jesus declared this during the celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This great Old Testament festival recalled the wandering of Israel in the desert before their occupation of the Promised Land. According to oral tradition, at the beginning of the celebrations two large Menorah were placed in the women’s court of the Temple, standing about seventy-three feet tall and its light could be seen throughout Jerusalem. According to the Bible, Menorah was a seven-lamp (six branches) ancient Hebrew lampstand made of pure gold and used in the Tabernacle set up by Moses, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. Fresh olive oil was burned to light its lamps, symbolizing God and His Word. More than likely, Jesus pointed to that great light radiating from the Temple Mount when He said, – I am the light of the world.
In the context of John’s Gospel, the idea of LIGHT can be understood in three areas of our human life, as things always look one way from outside and different from inside. It is important not to forget that: – Intellectually – Light is the symbol of TRUTH, and Darkness is ERROR,
Morally – Light is the symbol of HOLINESS and PURITY, meanwhile
Darkness is seen as WICKEDNESS or SINFUL LIFESTYLE.
Spiritually – Light is LIFE and Darkness is death.
During one of my missionary trips to the Far-East, I asked a man I had met in the jungle, if he had ever heard of Jesus. No, – he replied, – but I have seen Him. I know a man who was the terror of our whole area. He was like a tiger in attacking and killing innocent people, and he was also an opium smoker and smuggler. When he accepted Jesus’ religion, he became totally changed. Now he is meek, and is no longer wicked, and has given up his involvement with opium as well. I can see by that, that Jesus is good, for his service makes people good. I just hope and pray that many more changes like that will happen both there and… here. Throughout the history of mankind, there have always been battles between darkness and light. We learn in Advent that darkness was overcome by the light, ever shinning from Jesus even into today’s dark concerns of the Coronavirus Pandemic.
It is a simple fact that there was no real understanding of what God was like until Jesus came. The Greeks thought of a passionless God, beyond all joy and sorrow, looking on humanity in calm, unmoved detachment – no help there. Jews thought of a demanding God, whose name was Law and whose function was to judge – nothing but fear there. Then Jesus came to tell that GOD IS LOVE! One of the functions of Jesus’ incarnation was to show to this dark world that there is HOPE as long as God’ love is available to everyone, and He is the LIGHT that reveals and makes personal the Love of God whenever He asked, – What do you want me to do? God’s will is that we choose light and not darkness. God’s will is that we do the deeds of light and not the deeds of darkness. God’s will is that we may live as daytime people. Jesus described His disciples as light-bearers (Matthew 5: 14 – 16). Paul told believers in the Province of Asia and Macedonia that their lives are to be a shining light of witness to the world around them (Ephesians 3: 8 and Philippians 2: 15). Jesus’ promise today is,-Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the LIGHT OF LIFE. AMEN.
LET US PRAY:
ALMIGHTY LORD GOD, You came in Jesus Christ, the Word-Made-Flesh, identifying Yourself with our humanity, sharing our joy and sorrow, experiencing our life and death. You came in fulfilment of Your promises of old, revealing the extent of Your love through everything Jesus did and said, demonstrating Your gracious purpose for all. For the light of hope You have given us in Christ we praise and thank You. Loving God, may the Light of Your Word reach out into the darkest places of the world so terribly affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic, so that there may be hope rather than despair, and joy rather than sorrow. Come now to our world through Jesus Christ, and bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, recovery to all those who are infected by the virus, and let all the oppressed free. We remember with gladness how You brought hope throughout Your ministry, a sense of purpose to those for whom life seemed pointless; new beginnings in what had seemed like the end. Hear our prayer for those caught today in the grip of despair – reach out to them in love and may light shine into their darkness. Hear our prayer for those whose goals in life have been lost, who have grown weary, cynical and disillusioned by the present economical outlook. Rekindle their faith in the future. We pray for all who wrestle with illness, for those who watch loved ones suffer, and comfort those who mourn. Grant them faith, hope, and strength. Lord, we remember Your promise to come again in glory. May that conviction bring new faith, new vision wherever life seems hopeless in this Advent. We bring before You Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches. Be with our Church of Scotland, with all its Presbyteries and congregations. Bless our Church here in this place, all its members and adherents. Loving God, come to us in Christ, open our hearts to welcome Him and to reflect on our response to His call. May this Advent season teach us to rejoice in His LIGHT not just at Christmas but always, no matter what life may bring. Lord of all, the Word-Made-Flesh, bring Your light of hope to our world today. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN: – (CH-133) – BREAK FORTH, O LIVING LIGHT OF GOD, upon the world’s dark hour! Show us the way the Master trod; reveal His saving power.
Remove the veil of ancient words, their message long obscure; restore to us Thy truth, O God, and make its meaning sure.
O let Thy Word be light anew to every nation’s life; unite us in Thy will, O Lord, and end all sinful strife.
O may one Lord, one Faith, one Word, one Spirit lead us still; and one great Church go forth in might to work God’s perfect will.
IN HIS GREAT MERCY GOD HAS GIVEN US NEW BIRTH INTO A LIVING HOPE THROUGH THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST (1 Peter 1: 3). 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).