Let me lead us in prayer:
Father God, holy, holy, holy is your name!
We come before you this morning Lord, in awe and wonder of your goodness.
We are here Lord because you have brought us safely here, from many destinations.
Just as the wise men of old, we have come to worship you.
And the most wonderful part of our coming here together this morning Lord is that you yourself, through the Holy Spirit, have filled our hearts with a yearning to adore you, to gather here.
You give us faith, Lord – to God be the glory.
You give us Love Lord, your love, and we find we have love to spare for our fellow beings.
Above all, you give us hope, Heavenly Father, and because we have hope, we are ready to go forward.
We want to go forward, Lord, serving you – please let that be our deepest desire!
See us here Lord, your servants!
Let it be to us as you will have it be for us.
All to the glory of your name,
Let us praise God anew in our singing this morning. Lets sing BoW 252: 1,2,6,7.
(O Come Emanuel…)
Please turn with me to the book of forms, page 75 and join me as we read the answers to the questions of Lord’s day 14…
Our Father who is in heaven
When we come before you, when we take a moment to reflect on our lives, we stand before you in deep humility.
Your love has enfolded us from before time began.
Even though Lord, we do not deserve it.
We do not deserve life, lord, let alone the many blessings you bestow on us.
Our lives are often live in sacrifice to the worldly gods,
To selfishness, and lust, and laziness,
And we serve ourselves first and then, if we have time, or energy, or means to spare, we consider serving our brothers and sisters that we have in you.
And then Lord, if we have a spare moment here and there, only then do we serve you,
Only after the parties, after the business has been taken care of, after the footy or the cricket has been won – all, lord, as if anything happens to us by our own strength.
We do not deserve to live Lord, and yet you give us abundant life.
And on this day Lord, we are reminded that because of the birth of our Saviour Jesus, we indeed have ever-lasting life.
Let a song burst forth from our lips, Lord, in gratitude for all that you do,
And may we live our lives from now on for the purpose you have made us
- to serve and glorify you in all that we do and say and think.
In Jesus name we pray – Amen.
Please turn with me to 1 John 1: 1-4; and 2: 3-8
1 John 1:2-4:
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.
1 John 2: 3-8:
3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. 8 Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.
Let’s sing in response. BoW 285 (Lord Jesus Come…)
Just before we ask to lead us in the congregational prayer and a prayer of thanksgiving, let us consider our collection this morning. The collection is for
Reading. Luke 1-39-56
B&S, if you were to be get a message later this morning, that you have been chosen to host the King of kings in your house from tomorrow onwards - or an unspecified time – what would you think.
Let’s say you are a young woman, soon to be married, and as you go about your daily chores, no doubt day dreaming about your coming wedding day, and your handsome husband …
–an angel appears and says to you that the Saviour of the world wants to come and stay at your place for a while
from where He has the most important work to do.
What do you say?
Or perhaps you are an older man, or woman, retired perhaps,
and the angel appears and asks…
would you happen to have a spare room for the Lord?
He will be here in a little while and He has chosen your house to be His base from where He will launch His final attack against the Evil One – so that all the world might be saved.
What do you do?
Would you think:
Why me, I am an important man, or woman – I have people to meet, places to visit, contracts to sign – I do not have time for this now!
///////Or perhaps… Why me? I am a nobody?
Would you say…
can you ask the King to go to my neighbour instead, my house is not big enough, grand enough, we do not have enough to eat and the wine cellar is empty – I cannot receive such an important guest at this time.
Or perhaps … I am sure the King will provide all that is needed for His stay – He has always been good to me and knows, I do not have much.
What a wonderful privilege that he chooses my house to come and stay for a while. I am rich beyond measure just for the fact that He has chosen me.
Would you do the following
Would you rush of to church, pray on your knees at least this time, read large sections of the Bible in case the King asks you about your knowledge of His laws and decrees;
would you draw a significant part of your small fortune and hand it out that nuisance of a beggar that you see at the entrance to your office every morning…
Or will you burst out in song, go visit a friend and take with you the wonderful good news that soon all that separates us from serving in the Kingdom of the King of kings, He who is able to heal us from our illnesses, to give us life everlasting, to take away our material needs that binds us to this earth, is coming – and he has chosen to stay with you.
What will we think and say and do, when Jesus comes again?
What did Mary do when she was told that she was to the mother of the King, the one we had been hoping for and praying for?
You see, perhaps we can learn what we should do when we consider what Mary did when she was first told that she would be the mother of Jesus – for the sake of all of mankind!
So what did Mary do:
The very first thing she does is that she submits to the Love of God!
When she is first told she would be mother of the Saviour, after she gets over her shock, she says…verse 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,”
“May it be to me as you have said.”
That, clearly is the starting point.
But, what else does she do?
Luke describes it so well…
She rushes of to one close to her heart
and when she gets there, she cannot help herself.
She bursts out in song…
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.” he sings!
This is the response of someone who hears the call of God’s voice. How would we have responded if we were in Mary’s shoes?
How should we respond, even today and tomorrow – for make no mistake, the Lord continues to call our names, and to call us to service.
How will we respond?
To start with - we are to live our lives, we discover from this pasage…
We are to live our lives…
in total dependence and humility before God
We are to live our lives
in joyful hope.
Those are the three main points this morning…
We are to live our lives in praise, and humility and in hope!
And this is the story of the gospel! This is the gospel!
We can live in hope, because once in History, there was indeed an angel with a message that the King of kings is to be born, the child of a humble God-fearing woman, and that because of the birth of Jesus, man will live forevermore in the kingdom of God. And the child was born, and he did fulfill all of his promises, even to death – and he did rise again from the dead and lives for evermore.
All of this is already evident in Mary’s song. She knows – in faith – all of these things. It is Mary’s Song of Praise; Mary’s song of humility; and Mary’s song of hope.
(Mary’s Song of Praise and Adoration)
What one cannot miss in Mary’s song, is where she places the emphasis, the focus in her song:
The focus is not on herself, it is not about Mary.
Not even under the wondrous, super-natural circumstances – the fact that she is a virgin and as such will give birth to Jesus –
that is not what this song of Mary is about.
It is about the power and goodness of God.
(See the text)
It is a song of adoration. It is a song of exaltation; it is a song of praise to the Father.
And it is important to note, B&S, that we do not sing the praises of someone in whom we do not believe wholeheartedly.
It is only when someone has touched our lives personally that we sing our praises to such a person.
Sometimes; sadly, even though someone, or more specifically, God, has touched our lives…anointed us with His goodness, we are slow to sing our praises to Him.
In Mary’s song, her song is born from faith in God almighty!
And here, we may discover the first and foremost reason for singing a song of praise to the Lord – for God Himself gives us our faith.
Certainly, the gift that Mary received, as we see it in her song of praise, is faith!
That, after all, is the reason Mary bursts out in Song,
she has heard the Good News – and she believes it.
We receive faith from God alone.
By His mercy and Love alone do we believe the Gospel.
And that is worth singing about.
This is what Scripture says: “For it is by grace you are saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9
We can not get it by our own doing
– but we can know whether we have it or not!
Have you found yourself wanting to break out in praise and adoration to God?
Do you look forward to worshipping God in Church on Sundays; do you feel the need to find quiet time with God – (When last did you take a walk with God, in the rain, on that quiet beach, in the bush – just the two of you?)
When we sing our praises to god, we do so in the first place because we have faith…
and we do so of course because we are thankful that we have received this faith – and so much more of course.
Hopefully, we are very aware of that at this time when we celebrate the Lord’s birth.
Mary is certainly aware of the Lord’s many blessings.
She knows what it all means all of this when she sings her song of praise, if only by the work of the Holy Spirit when first visits Elizabeth and when she is told what would happen to her.
And so she sings her song in faith; and in humility, presenting her life in service of the Lord!
See verse 38 again “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
B&S, there are three key elements to humility when it comes to standing before the Lord.
The realization that the Lord is more than you are – that we stand small before the Lord.
When we realize this truthfully, not resentfully, we have come to know humility.
When that happens, of course, we also learn trust. We learn we can trust the Lord to be strong where we are weak.
We depend on our heavenly Father.
“Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
Matthew 6:27 (NKJV).
You see by worrying, we think we are in control and we think of ways to solve our problems ourselves.
Not to be confused with diligence and hard work!
But it is about the important things that we cannot do anything about anyhow, but to trust in God for, like our salvation.
"Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? Matthew 6:27 (MSG)
There are some things you can change – there are some things you can’t change – what you can’t change – put in God’s hands. For that to happen, one must realise how small we are before God almighty!
Secondly, you need to present yourself as a servant to others.
Do you want to stand out? Then step down. Be a servant.
Matthew 23:11 puts it this way: 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Mary says…let me be your servant. Let all that you want from me happen to me just as you ask. What can I do for You , Lord?
And thirdly, submit completely to God, plotting your life to His will.
James 4: 4-7 says: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.”
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Humility is not thinking less of yourself – it is thinking of yourself less.
And trusting God, like Mary did at that moment when she hears the good news.
This, of course, in the world we live in, is not always easy.
It wasn’t easy for Mary, either:
Mary knew that she would now live her whole life under a cloud of suspicion from her family and neighbors. Embedded in her decision to be fully submissive to God’s call was the willingness to suffer possible ridicule, loneliness and contempt.
I wonder if that is the reason she goes at once to Elizabeth?
We’re not sure, but we do know that when God chose Mary, she submitted to His will completely.
But Mary does so in honest and overwhelming hope!
Mary put her hope in the promises of God.
She undoubtedly knew scripture.
She had heard the stories passed down through the family about a God who had promised a savior – a messiah.
She knew that God was faithful. Notice what she said in verse 55:
He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever."
That one would be born of the seed of Abraham who would save people from their sins.”
She realized that she had been chosen – of all the women who had ever lived – to be the mother of that child.
And because of the hope given to Mary by God, in the birth of Jesus, we too may have hope.
The first coming of Christ brought hope to the world.
B&S, so too, will His second coming.
God promised Jesus would come….and He did.
Jesus has promised that one day He will return. And He will.
Like Mary then, you and I today, too, can have hope for an eternal future.
Because Jesus is born, we may look forward to a new birth, a birth made possible by the birth of Christ Jesus.
When Christ is born a child, we as children share in His birth.
When Jesus is baptized, we are baptized with Him, sealed into his goodness and mercy;
When Jesus is crucified, our old self is crucified with Him; when Jesus rises from the dead, we too arise with Him, even now!
And when He comes again to this earth, to make all things new, we too will share in His Kingdom – all of course to the glory of God – that is the whole purpose of everything.
That, by the way, B&S is the answer to the secret of this world that so many people are seeking in all the wrong places.
We search for the answer to the purpose of life in our wealth, in our hedonistic happiness, in our health and long life – and all the time it is to be found in our hope of a certain future so that we may be what we were intended to be – subjects in God’s Kingdom!
Christmas is all about hope!
On Christmas day, Christ was born to give us hope – hope for all of God’s people.
How will we celebrate this hope?
I read with wonder - and sadness, I must admit - and thankfulness, the letter of Kevin and Machi Rietveld this past week as they sent their Christmas greetings to our Church members. In it we got a glimpse of how they will be celebrating Christmas.
“At the time of year when we think of Christ's birth in poverty and humble conditions, we are reminded of the contrast in our own lives. We live in luxury by comparison. In Solomon Islands, this is not the case for most people, and many will pass the day still struggling for a square meal, or decent clothes to wear.
Even so, the joy of Christmas will be as real for them as it is for us, because this joy is not found in fancy food or fine clothes, but in knowing Christ.
We have invited some poor people and some people with disabilities to come and share the day with us for fellowship, food and a small service.
As we share with them, we also want to share with the people in our churches the joy of knowing Christ and serving Christ. May you all have a very blessed celebration of the birth of the Saviour, and may the Lord grant you a New Year that provides opportunities of service and sharing the hope of Christ that is ours.
With love in Jesus
Kevin & Machi Rietveld”
Yes, God looks after us so well. Apart from giving us faith; apart from giving us salvation…He has given us the sense of taste – so that you can enjoy the food He provides. Praise God for this.
He has given us the sense of smell so we can enjoy the smell of a summer’s rain sprinkling; or bread baking in the oven – praise God for this.
He has given us the sense of humor so you can enjoy laughter, and fellowship – praise God for this. Praise God for so much!
But above all, He has given us Hope!
May the hope of our Lord and Saviour fill our lives this Christmas;
and may we share it gracefully, lovingly, thankfully.
That is my prayer for you…and for me, this Christmas. Amen
Lets sing. Lets stand now as we sing BoW 253 (Oh Lord, How shall I meet You…)
Lets remain standing for the benediction, and then we will sing BoW 256 (A great and mighty wonder…)
The Lord Bless you and keep you
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you
The Lord turn His face toward you, and give you peace,