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

Approximate Notes for Sunday Message; 2nd Sunday of Advent 2015; Luke 3:1-6; Philippians 1:3-11

December 6, 2015 is the Second Sunday of Advent

Scriptures for this Sunday are: Luke 3:1-6;  Phil 1:3-11

You can read these Scriptures Here: {Click ME}

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John the Baptist was a strange dude. Seemingly, he is out of place in this season of Christmas cheer. His smelly clothes of camel hair, his scruffy appearance and his diet of grasshoppers and wild honey are extreme. John’s lifestyle is too ascetic; John does not sing cheerful Christmas carols; instead, he shouts an unpopular message about the change that is on the way.

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Subconsciously, most of us agree that John the Baptist does not seem to belong in the Christmas story. Have you ever received a Christmas card with John the Baptist on it? Have you ever seen a Christmas ornament depicting John the Baptist? Have you ever seen a figure of John the Baptist on display anywhere? If you look at Christmas decorations in the stores or in people’s front yards you will see Mary and Joseph beside the manger, surrounded by plastic sheep, watched over by plastic shepherds. There are angels and the wise men perched on their camels. You may even see a Santa Claus, with Rudolph and the other reindeer. I am sure that there will be one or two Snowmen. But I doubt very much that any of us will find a decorative John the Baptist. He just does not fit our mold of yuletide cheer, celebrations, and expectations.

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That is because most of us do not understand John the Baptist, his ministry, or his message. In John 1:1-8 we hear:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a WITNESS to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

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Our lives are happening between the first coming of Jesus 2000 years ago and his second coming sometime in the future. Last week we talked about our need for Jesus’ return. We live in an era when international conflicts, terrorism and extremism seem to be widespread and unimpeded, rapid climate change is the reality of our lives, on Wednesday there was a mass shooting in California, on Friday there was a terrorist attack in Egypt. Jesus cannot return soon enough…

The point is that today the words of John the Baptist (“Prepare the way of the Lord”) are as timely as they were 2000 years ago.

As we recall the First Advent and look forward to the Second Advent, we must recognize that there must happen “another advent” of sorts; the “advent” of Jesus in your heart and soul. Each one of us experiences this “advent” differently and at different stages in our lives. I am talking about the event and the ongoing process of recognizing our own need to rely on God’s presence in our lives. Some of our sisters and brothers call it “being born-again,” some Christians call it “growing in grace,” John Wesley called it “walking towards perfection,” others recognize that it is happening but do not have a special name for it.

All of us have certain aspects of our lives that we hope nobody will find out about. I am not talking about certain things that are personal and should be kept private; I am talking about things in our lives that are sometimes referred to as “skeletons in our closets.” More than likely these things are sin because they separate us from God; for whatever reason we do not want to OR are scared to let God into that area of our lives.

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“Prepare the way of the Lord” is a call and a challenge to allow the light of God to shine in even the darkest corners of our soul so that we can do some cleaning/repenting. “Prepare the way of the Lord” is a statement challenging us to invite God into our hearts and souls, recognizing that God cannot live in darkness and filth and neither should we.

The ministry and example of John the Baptist is about shining the light of God into those dark corners of our souls to help us to clean those areas. Let us look at Luke 3:7-14

Luke 3: 7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him,

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  …

10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.

11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”

13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.

14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”

He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

As we are getting ready to close today’s service, I want to leave you with a question, “When the toys break and the wrapping paper is in the recycling bin, how will you be different after this Advent, Christmas and Christmas season?” Today is December 6; Epiphany – the last day of Christmas Season – is one month away. How will you be different one month from today? Will you welcome the light of God and the transformation that it brings into your lives?

It is not an easy question to answer. In order to answer this question we must recognize God’s presence in our lives and in the world that we live in. In order to answer this question we must recognize our brokenness and our ability to change and prepare our own souls, our lives and our community for the coming of the Lord! “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”

When we understand John the Baptist and his ministry, all of a sudden Paul’s prayer for the believers that we’ve heard today acquires a new depth and meaning.

Philippians 1:9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 SO THAT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO DISCERN WHAT IS BEST AND MAY BE PURE AND BLAMELESS FOR THE DAY OF CHRIST, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

{Celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Communion}

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