Advent 2015

Advent 2015Well it is finally here – The Christmas Season! – and with it the hopes of many a person in search of wish fulfillments. We see these hopes highlighted in the movies of the season. One character might hope for a white Christmas so that an old friend can save his ski resort. Another might hope for a Red Ryder BB gun so he can fulfill his dreams of dangerous adventure. Still another might hope for his be-lighted house and decorated lawn to be the envy of all his neighbors and the pride of his not-too-easily-impressed family. Others might hope that a Scrooge, Grinch, or an absentee father finally comes around and shows love to the others in their lives. These hopes, or longings, are not in and of themselves sinful, but if they characterize the limits of one’s hope then they can be. We too might be hoping that the right gift, the holiday decorations, or the perfect family dinner will make the pain and emptiness go away, or will give us some value and purpose, or will bring the estranged father or son home. Unfortunately, the gifts ultimately fall short of filling us, the spectacle of lights and lawn ornaments does not translate into the rise in esteem we intended, and the dinner does not turn out quite how we hoped it would. But, all hope is not lost! There is a better, eternal even, reason for hope in this season.

In the Church, we call this time of year Advent. It is one of my favorite times of the year, as it no doubt is for many, for it too is a season of hope for the people of Christ! The difference is that the hope we celebrate within the Church is not a wishful thinking type of hope, but a sure and certain promise. With the hope of Christ in mind, the sanctuary will be decorated with wreaths, garland, and Chrismon trees. A young person will come forward each week to light candles, helping us to signify various aspects of the birth and Incarnation of Christ. We will have our annual Pageant with Lessons and Carols and then on Christmas Eve a communion service to culminate the season. All of these special services and decorations point us to the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus. They remind us that into the darkness of the here and now, God sent His Son to be the Light of the World. They beckon us to believe anew, or to renew our faith, in the One who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary that He might show Himself to be the long hoped for King and Savior of His people. They call us to receive Him alone as the inexpressible gift of our salvation by His love, and to share that love with others.

This year’s Advent-Epiphany Sermon Series will be following the Biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth as found in the books of Matthew and Luke. Throughout the sermon series we will see how and why it is Christ who is the true hope, not only of this season but of our lives as a whole. So let us all rightly rejoice this season, for Christ the Savior has come!

The Advent Sermons

Advent Meditations

  • Angels Worship December 28, 2015 Angels worship – and every creature in heaven and earth responds: “Amen!”
  • Angels Unaware December 27, 2015 We never know as we go about our daily rounds when an angel – actual or symbolic – will spread his “glimmering wings” over us, gracing our lives with its unexpected presence. Let us keep our hearts and homes open to the unexpected “angel” – be it a family member, a neighbor, a child – ...
  • Angels Proclaim December 26, 2015 Even as the angels proclaimed the Advent of Christ to earth, an angel will likewise announce the second advent – Christ’s return to earth to claim His own: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, and with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, ...
  • Our Door to the Nativity December 25, 2015 Today, of all days seek Christ. Find him in his Word. Search him out through prayer. Go after him in the fellowship of the Spirit you share with family and friends. Be like the shepherds who left their flocks in the hills to find the babe in a manger. Seek him out, knowing he has ...
  • The Christ Candle December 24, 2015 On Christmas Eve many churches celebrate the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This visible act of worship helps us to remember that Jesus took on flesh. It helps to remind us that the helpless babe grew up to become the Savior of the world. May this sacrament and this season be a reminder to us ...
  • Angels Minister December 23, 2015 What a wonderfully comforting thought: that ministering spirits surround me at the ready to respond to God’s command concerning me!
  • Angels Praise December 22, 2015 Let us proclaim our praise in the manner which truly pleases God: bringing glory to Him through our lives.
  • Angels Prepare December 21, 2015 However miraculous, however spectacular the angels’ preparatory role in this great on-going drama spanning centuries never did they act as independents, taking it upon themselves to meddle in the affairs of fickle, faithless and fearful mankind. Always they acted as agents of the Divine and Holy God, carrying out His orders to implement the details ...
  • The Angel Candle December 20, 2015 As tension builds and action accelerates in the crowded days before Christmas, let us remain attuned to the many touches and glimpses of grace this season. May we not miss the protecting, proclaiming, praising angels who shimmer about us mortals, so often preoccupied and unaware of God’s matchless grace.
  • Our Response December 19, 2015 The Apostle John, in a pastoral letter, speaks to the basis for our life response: “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Our life response should be first to love God, because He first loved us, and then to love others as we have been loved. Read More…
  • Shepherds’ Life Response December 18, 2015 It is the most natural thing in the world to rave about any product, person, or experience that has especially satisfied or thrilled us. Indeed it is, likewise, the most natural thing to fall down and worship that which transcends the common, ordinary and earthbound. Read More…
  • Shepherd’s Faith Response December 17, 2015 The shepherds spontaneous response to the angel’s astonishing message was “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened.” What if they had postponed the journey? After all there were the sheep, you know – arrangements to be made… details to work out… But no, their faith response was immediate and trusting. Read ...
  • Paradox: Shepherd and Sheep December 16, 2015 Could the Old Testament believers begin to decipher Isaiah’s message? And what about the New Testament followers of Christ? Could they associate the “Good Shepherd” with the “slaughtered lamb”? Read More…
  • Christ the Shepherd December 15, 2015 We jump ahead in the Advent narrative to Jesus’ own words concerning His identity: “I am the good shepherd” – and to His mission: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Read More…
  • Birth Announcement December 14, 2015 A baby – The Baby – was born in a simple manger stable in an obscure part of town . He was alone but for the mother, and Joseph – and lowly barn animals. Who should receive the birth announcement? Kings? Governors? Religious leaders? People of high rank with “contacts” who could spread the word ...
  • The Shepherd’s Candle December 13, 2015 Up until now, everything has been in the future tense: anticipation; promises by the prophets; preparation by angels of the principle characters – Mary, Joseph, Zechariah. Now the “future” becomes present tense in the form of an announcement: “Today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you.”
  • Christ’s Humility: Our Example December 12, 2015 How do I respond when my rights are at stake? How do I react when the menial or lesser tasks are assigned to me? And what about the issue of obedience. Am I willing to comply with God’s law and His will in life much less death?
  • Word Became Flesh December 11, 2015 The Incarnation – God become flesh – is impossible to comprehend with our finite minds. John clearly states that Christ, “The Word” was present at creation, fully participated with God in creating all things – indeed, was God. John the Baptist likewise attested to Christ’s pre-existence in his testimony concerning Him: “He who comes after ...
  • Joseph’s Story December 10, 2015 Joseph’s role surely was the most awkward in the unfolding drama. To begin with, his bafflement must have been overwhelming. His normally sane, sincere betrothed was declaring herself pregnant – but not with his child. Many a story has been contrived throughout the generations to explain an unexpected pregnancy. But Mary’s story – conceived by ...
  • Mary’s Song December 9, 2015 We can only speculate the thoughts of Mary after the angel’s departure. Did she worry “what people might think”? Did she ever doubt her perception of an angel visitation? Did she puzzle, Why me? Why was I singled out from all women for this singular honor?
  • The Visitation December 8, 2015 Try to imagine the three months Mary and Elizabeth spent together leading up to the birth of Elizabeth’s baby John. They must have compared notes of their pregnancies, the older woman instructing and encouraging the younger.
  • The Annunciation December 7, 2015 Is it possible for us to imagine the improbabilities of this dramatic narrative? An angel visitation at start, was not a common occurrence. But consider the news the angel brought: Mary, a virgin, will be with child! As if this phenomenon was not staggering enough – consider the description of the child – the baby ...
  • The Bethlehem Candle December 6, 2015 This week the action narrows down to a place – Bethlehem; to a habitat – a stable outside an inn; to a crib – a hay-filled manger; to a baby – the long awaited Christ. In preparation for the great Event, the principle characters – Mary and Joseph – are given a special light.
  • Prepare for His Coming December 5, 2015 As God anticipated man’s clouded vision, He not only offered prophetic clues to clarify His intention, but He promised a “messenger” to prepare the way for the Lord, the long-awaited Messiah.
  • Details Revealed December 4, 2015 Isaiah provides a yet more astonishing sign – the baby would be born of a virgin! Did they really hear the prophet? What did they think? And could they even begin to fathom the significance of the name chosen for this royal son? Immanuel: God with us.
  • The Plan Unfolds December 3, 2015 Many years after God’s promise to the Patriarchs, He revealed more “clues” through His prophet Jeremiah. “I will raise up to David a righteous Branch a King who will rule wisely.” Isaiah proceeded to elaborate on the nature of His reign, describing a creation at peace within the scope of His rule.
  • The Promise December 2, 2015 After testing Abraham with the sacrifice of his son for his obedience, God promised to bless all nations through his offspring. God reaffirmed that promise to the Patriarchs Isaac and Jacob, keeping the light of hope alive in their hearts.
  • Paradise Lost December 1, 2015 Darkness. Paradise Lost. Creature fallen… and the rest of creation follows – Eve, Adam – right on down to each of us, today. “All have sinned.” (Romans 3:23) Or, as the Book of Common Prayer reads: “There is no health in us.”
  • The Plan November 30, 2015 Genesis starts at the very beginning of the history of man: the crown of God’s creation. The Plan – God’s intention – was Paradise: Man governing the created order; all relating in harmony with each other. “It was very good.” Perfection.
  • The Light of the Hope of the Prophets November 29, 2015 As we light the first candle, we see the first flicker of hope – light in a dark world. At first, the prophets – even the angels – were mystified by the exact nature of that “hope”.

Advent Activities

  • The Effects of Christmas January 2, 2017 The Effects of Christmas Luke 2:21-38 Simeon and Anna are somewhat mysterious figures. They only appear in Luke’s Gospel and for just a brief encounter with the infant Jesus and his parents. That being said, there is much to mine from this passage that shows us some of the effects of Christmas. First, Jesus is the consolation ...
  • The Witnesses of Christmas December 25, 2016 The Witnesses of Christmas Matthew 1:18-25   Christmas Day 2016
  • The Son of Christmas December 24, 2016 The Son of Christmas-Matthew 1:18-25   Christmas Eve 2016
  • The Fathers of Christmas December 19, 2016 The Fathers of Christmas Matthew 1:1-17 We looked at this same passage last week, focusing in on the four women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy and how their inclusion in His family history shows that the grace of God is on full display in Jesus who is the hope for sinners and the hope for men and women ...
  • A Season for Singing – Week 4 December 15, 2016 One of the hymns that we will sing on Sunday, Dec. 18 will be “Once in Royal David’s City,” written by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1848) in 1848. Mrs. Alexander’s goal was to write hymns for children to illustrate the catechism and other Biblical doctrines, but not to “dumb them down” simply because they were for ...
  • The Mothers of Christmas December 12, 2016 The Mothers of Christmas Matthew 1:1-17 Have you ever embellished something, or perhaps failed to mention something that was less than flattering, on your resume? Maybe your uncle, a small business owner, hired you as his only other employee to work part time as his website manager and to fix his computer when it crashes. Did you ...
  • The Need for Christmas December 5, 2016 The Need for Christmas Genesis 3:1-15 “Why do we need Christmas? I do not mean the trees, the lights, the snowmen, the presents, the tinsel, and so on. I mean, why do we need Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary? We needed Jesus to be our Second Adam. ...
  • A Season for Singing – Week 3 December 5, 2016 One of the Christmas hymns we will be singing this Sunday (December 11) is “Angel’s We Have Heard on High.” The text is from a French carol, believed to date back to the eighteenth century. The English translation was by James Chadwick, and adapted for use by Henri Hemy in Crown of Jesus Music in ...
  • A Season for Singing – Week 2 November 27, 2016 Advent and Christmas are together a wonderful season of worship in the Church. The singing of Advent hymns and Christmas carols is a particularly enjoyable tradition. This year, Vince and I thought it would be good to highlight one hymn or carol each week to point out some of the deeper meanings of the words ...
  • The Dawn of Christmas November 27, 2016 The Dawn of Christmas Genesis 1:1-3, 26-31; 2:4-7, 18-23 and John 1:1-4 “In the beginning…” So begins the book of Genesis as well as the Gospel of John. It may seem a little out of place to begin an Advent sermon series with a message on Creation, but that is exactly where the apostle John points us. ...
  • A Season for Singing – Week 1 November 23, 2016 Advent and Christmas are together a wonderful season of worship in the Church. The singing of Advent hymns and Christmas carols is a particularly enjoyable tradition. This year, Vince and I thought it would be good to highlight one hymn or carol each week to point out some of the deeper meanings of the words ...
  • Christmas 2016 November 23, 2016 Well they are finally here – The Advent and Christmas Seasons! – and with them the hopes of many a person in search of wish fulfillments. We see these hopes highlighted in the movies of the season. One character might hope for a white Christmas so that an old friend can save his ski resort. ...
  • Concert Series: Christmas Pageant and Lessons and Carols November 6, 2016 The second concert of our Concert Series will be our annual Christmas Pageant and Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 11 at 4:00 p.m. This concert will feature all of the musical ensembles of First Presbyterian Church as well as the Christmas story told from Scripture and acted out by our youth and adults. We ...
  • Family Activities for Advent – Week 4 December 20, 2015 This week’s focus is on the wonderful role of the angels who anticipate and proclaim both Advents of Christ to earth. As busy as we will be as the pressure increase while time decreases, let’s keep our hearts open to the pure joy and gladness of this wonderful event so gloriously expressed by the angels. Inspired ...
  • Family Activities for Advent – Week 3 December 13, 2015 The focus this week is on the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks and how their routine duties were interrupted by the wonderful news of the angels. Many splendid carols, legends, and stories have been inspired by this biblical narrative of the shepherds. Select picture books or stories related to the shepherd theme to read ...
  • Family Activities for Advent – Week 2 December 6, 2015 The focus this week is on the manger at Bethlehem. Setting up a crèche (or making a simple one from a craft book) encourages a visualization of this important event in history.
  • Family Activities for Advent – Week 1 November 29, 2015 The thrust of this week’s activities is to prepare the house as we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. As we anticipate the “hope of the prophets” we ready our hearts and home by calling attention to the spiritual parallels to our material preparations.