Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes for the Message for the Second Sunday Of Advent; Based on Genesis 9:8-17; Rom 12:1-2; John 1:1-5, 8:12

These are the readings: Genesis 9:8-17; Rom 12:1-2; John 1:1-5, 8:12

You can read them here: NIV2010

Liturgical Color: PURPLE

 

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Most of us have skeletons in our closets. Some of us have done things that we don’t like to talk, or even think, about. Because of that past, because of what we have done or are still doing, many of us have a hard time imagining a tomorrow that is different from today. Do you wonder what kind of legacy you will leave to your grandchildren and their grandchildren? Do you wonder what kind of values you teach your children and grandchildren? Do you wonder what your friends and neighbors will remember you for after you are gone? Do you wonder how your life will affect the lives of your descendants who will be born in sixty or even one hundred years?

The truth is that every one of us is in part a product of the decisions made by our ancestors in the distant past, and from that perspective their lives matter. The truth is that the decisions that we make or refuse to make today will affect countless generations following us.

Today I want to continue looking at all the people who happen to be earthly ancestors of Jesus. We know that Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and that he was a direct descendant of King David (Matthew 1:1; also see Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:5, 9).

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King David was courageous and strong in war, as well as an intelligent statesman. He was a faithful friend and an inspiring leader. He was skillful at playing musical instruments and gifted in his ability to write songs of praise to God; many psalms in our Bible are attributed to him. Because of his rapid rise to power and the political climate of the era in which he lived and ruled, David made many mistakes. Most of us know the story of David and Bathsheba, and David’s role in killing Bathsheba’s first husband. Few of us know that David was involved in intrigues and power struggles that would make Saddam Hussein’s escapades pale by comparison. Under his rule, the country of ancient Israel was involved in two bloody civil wars that could easily have been avoided, his sons fought and killed each other, one of his son’s raped his half-sister (they shared the same father but had different mothers), one of his sons usurped his father’s throne and committed incest with King David’s concubines. Later King David was involved in the murder of that son.

King David lived a messy life, but he also had a heart for God. He sinned many times and he was quick to recognize errors of his ways and take responsibility for them. His confessions were from the heart and his repentance was genuine. David never took God’s forgiveness lightly or his blessing for granted. That is why David experienced the joy of God’s forgiveness even when he had to suffer the consequences of his sins. Because of that he is considered to be one of the greatest Kings of Israel.

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Another ancestor of Jesus I want to talk about today is King Hezekiah of Judah. Hezekiah was keenly aware of God’s acts in the past and he was keenly aware of what was happening around him. The Bible describes him as a king who had a close relationship with God.

As a reformer, Hezekiah was most concerned with the present obedience. He took the throne while the country was filled with the visual reminders of the people’s lack of trust in God; Hezekiah stepped up to the plate and went about cleaning house. Altars, idols and pagan temples were destroyed. Even the bronze snake that Moses had made in the desert was destroyed because it had ceased to point the people to God and had itself became an idol (2 Kings 18:4). Prior to Hezekiah, Passover was not celebrated as a national holiday; there were no pilgrimages to the Temple, there were no festivities, there was no remembrance of what God had done to free the Hebrews from slavery. Hezekiah reinstated Passover as a national holiday and there was a revival in the land of Judah under his reign.

Although Hezekiah was very effective in doing what needed to be done at the time, he lacked a vision for the future. He took few actions to preserve his reforms and revival. To make things worse, his successes made him proud. His reign became about Hezekiah, and not about God.

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The next two kings to rule, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh and grand-son Amon, were profoundly affected by Hezekiah’s lack of vision. The country fell away from God and the Bible records that both Manasseh and Amon “did evil” in the eyes of the Lord. Baals were reinstituted, pagan temples rebuilt and the people of Judah again turned away from God.

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That brings us to next person I want to talk about: that person is King Josiah, the great-grand-son of Hezekiah. Just like Hezekiah, Josiah had a close personal relationship with God. Just like Hezekiah, Josiah was a passionate reformer.

Very early in his reign, Josiah understood that there was a spiritual sickness in his land. And then something wonderful happened: a “book of the law” was found in the Temple. Some scholars believe that what was found was an early version of what became the Book of Deuteronomy. Other scholars believe that Josiah commissioned the Temple Priests to compile a book containing all the laws of Moses. Either way, God used Josiah to disseminate God’s revelation to his chosen people and there was a new revival in the land of Israel.

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David, Hezekiah, Mannaseh, Amon, and Josiah are all ancestors of Jesus.. We want to think that Jesus’ earthly family was of noble origin, pious and God fearing but the Bible is explicit: just like you and I, they had their share of skeletons in their closets, some suffered from hubris, some did not care about the future, and all of them made their share of mistakes.

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And that brings me to the final point. In the flood, God made a decision to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. After the flood, our humanness got in the way; sin found its way back into our lives and we found ways to turn away from God. Not only that, we found ways to turn away from God and justify those ways as God ordained.

That is why God had to find a new way to interact with God’s Creation. That is why God came as one of us, born to an ordinary family of sinners and saints so that God could understand our humanity and so that we could relate to God’s humanness.

In the end of the day, when all is said and done and when we are facing our maker, all of us want to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” It is that simple and it is also that complicated.

Two thousand years ago, God came as one of us not so that God could start a new beginning. It is naïve and simplistic to think that the only reason Jesus came to dwell among us was so that in the end we could go to Heaven instead of Hell. Jesus was born because God wanted to start again and make a new ending. Jesus came to live among us and to give us an example of what our world could be and what we could make it to be. Jesus came, lived and died among us so that God could live, not only in heaven, but also in us.

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We think that the story of Christmas is a done deal. We think that it began with Zechariah and Elizabeth and ended with the Magi visiting Jesus. But the reality is that the story of Christmas began with Adam and it continues with all of us. Every one of us, with our skeletons, hubris, lack of vision, raw ambition and myriad of other flaws (or “features”) of character play a part in that unfolding story.

What is your part in God’s story?

How do you tell the ongoing story of Christmas?

How do you spread the Good News?

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