Pastor Sherry’s Message for December 13, 2020

Scriptures: Isa 61:1-4, 8-11; Ps 126; 1 Thess 5:16-24; Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

At a little less than 2 weeks until Christmas, how many of you have finished your Christmas shopping?  The story is told of a man who, at this point in the Christmas season, has purchased zero gifts. In fact, he has not yet gotten around to purchasing an acceptable gift for his wife for last Christmas. He did give her something last year, but he could tell by her reaction to it that she had not been dreaming of getting a car emergency kit, even though it was the deluxe model with booster cables and an air compressor. Clearly this gift violated an important rule, but the man had no idea what this rule was, and his wife was too upset to tell him.

The poor guy in the story has no clue, does he?  We don’t buy what we would want—or even what we believe the gift receiver needs–but what the gift recipient believes they need or would love to have.  Effective gift giving requires that we observe the other and watch and listen for what’s on their heart.  And there tend to be plenty of hints floating around, if we are tuned in. Our God is certainly very tuned into what we need more than anything else.

Let’s review our Scripture passages today to verify just how tuned in God is to giving us that gift that we need more than anything else:

Our Gospel lesson (John 1:6-8, 19-28) introduces us to John the Baptist.  The Apostle John began his account of Jesus by establishing that He was both present at creation,and spoke it into existence.  He inserts into his account the existence and mission of John the Baptist (vv.6-8)–He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Then John goes on to describe (vv.19-28) a dialogue between John the Baptist and some Priests, Levites, and Pharisees regarding his (JtB’s) identity.  They wondered if he were Elijah, come back to earth.  They surmised he was the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18: 15 & 18…a successor to Moses–though all the prophets from Moses until John the Baptist were successors to Moses.  JtB freely admits he is not the Messiah/the Christ.  He denies he is any of the others they suggest.  Then he quotes Isa 40:3—which we read last week—and admits he is the forerunner to Jesus–The voice of one calling in the desert, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”

This should have clued them in that God’s Greatest Gift was coming soon—but they apparently didn’t believe him.  JtB told them they needed to repent.  They needed to make their hearts ready to receive Jesus as their Savior.

Paul suggests a number of ways we can make our hearts ready to receive Jesus, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24.  Instead of putting up our tree, baking cookies, or wrappingpresents—though there is nothing wrong with doing these things–the Apostle wants us to demonstrate some

Christmassy attitudes:

  1. Can we be joyful?  Search out and name things for which we are thankful.
  2. How about adopting an attitude of prayer?  Remember those from our fellowship who especially need our prayers; and consider that we can pray while driving, walking, working, cooking or cleaning.
  3. Let’s give thanks in all circumstances, even when we feel defeated or despondent.
  4. Paul admonishes us to always do the will of God (not quench the Holy Spirit).
  5. He also urges us not to be indifferent to God’s Word or to prophesy.  We can recognize a true prophet because what he or she says is always consistent with Scripture and it later always comes true.  (It may take us some time to see if the latter happens.)
  6. We are to hold to what is true and genuine and not to be gullible or taken in by frauds or scam artists.
  7. We are to abstain from even the appearance of evil.
  8. And finally, we should trust we can depend upon our God.   

How do we know that Jesus is God’s greatest gift?  Our Old Testament lesson (Isa 61:1-4) reveals the reasons to us.  Jesus came the 1st time to…

  1. Preach Good News to the poor (in spirit and economically)—the Gospel.  He brought comfort.  By paying for our sins, He brought blessed assurance.
  2. He also came to bind up or heal the broken-hearted.
  3. He proclaimed freedom for captives (those who have been captured and harmed by the sins of others);
  4. And release for prisoners (those whose own sins have put them in bondage).

We can also trust with faith that He will accomplish the prophesy about what is yet to be when He returns a 2nd time:  He will judge between the good and the evil-doers.  He will put down rebellion.  He will eradicate evil.  He will provide peace and comfort to all those whomourn or grieve,exchanging their pain and grief for beauty,gladness, and praise.  He will sostrengthen them that they will stand as strong as oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.  They will also rebuild the ancient ruins…and renew the ruined cities….  In other words,He will greatly bless those who love Him,materially, physically, and spiritually.

Our Psalm (126) encourages us to begin to praise Jesus now for what He is going to do.  It is a “Psalm of Ascent,” sung by pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem as they walked up to the hills, then up to the Temple.  They sang, praising God for delivering them from Exile in Babylon.

But we can appropriate it for what Jesus has done and will do for us. Our Lord Jesus is the perfect gift!  He is what we need more than anything else.  He has made us right with God the Father, satisfying the penalty for our sins, and ensuring for us eternal life.

When we get to know Him intimately, He meets the deep desires of our hearts.  He is always “in season,” in good taste, and His one size fits all.  And He is a far better gift than a car emergency kit!

©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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