15 December 2019
Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 293 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”
Confession of Sin
Almighty God, Who are rich in mercy to all those who call upon You; Hear us as we humbly come to You confessing our sins; And imploring Your mercy and forgiveness. We have broken Your holy laws by our deeds and by our words; And by the sinful affections of our hearts. We confess before You our disobedience and ingratitude, our pride and willfulness; And all our failures and shortcomings toward You and toward fellow men. Have mercy upon us, Most merciful Father; And of Your great goodness grant that we may hereafter serve and please You in newness of life; Through the merit and mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 4:14-16
Hymn of Preparation: 292 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”
Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 7:1-14
New Covenant Reading: Luke 1:39-55
Sermon: God My Savior
Hymn of Response: 301 “Song of Mary”
Confession of Faith: Nicene Creed (p. 852)
Doxology (Hymn 568)
Closing Hymn: Psalm 98C “Sing a New Song to Jehovah”
OT: Micah 5:1-5a
NT: Matthew 2:1-12
He is Our Peace
Shorter Catechism Q/A # 14
Q. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.
Monday (12/9) Read and discuss Luke 1:39-55. In his sermon on this passage Calvin said:
We must regard ourselves as poor, helpless souls until we are comforted and made glad by the gospel. We should not look for peace anywhere else. Woe to us if we do! For if complacency were to lull us into a false sense of security, the devil would at once overwhelm us, entangling us in his snares and nets. We would be his prisoners, enslaved to him. Here, then, is a word worth remembering: We can never really rejoice until we are sure God loves us and is favourable to us, undeserving though we are. On that foundation we must build. Otherwise all our joys will turn to tears and to the gnashing of teeth.
The angel, however, announces not merely news of joy, but of great joy which will be for all the people. We should weigh these last words carefully. For if they were not there, we might think that what Luke records was only for the shepherds’ benefit. Instead, joy is something which will be poured out on all the people. The angel means of course the Jews, the chosen people. Now, however, as Paul says, the partition has been broken down, and Christ through the preaching of the gospel proclaims peace to those who were once far off, and peace to those who were near. the Jews were linked by covenant to God, who adopted them in the person of Abraham and who confirmed their adoption by giving them the Law. But now God has drawn near to us who were once far from him, and has determined to make the message of reconciliation universal.
Since the angel invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not in any ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be our example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel’s word and had witnessed the birth of God’s Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing form the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God’s favor. That is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found.
Read or sing Hymn 293 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” Prayer: Ask the LORD to grant you greater joy in your salvation this Christmas season.
Tuesday (12/10) Read and discuss Romans 16:21-27. In verses 3 through 16, Paul greeted a large number of people who were in Rome. In verses 21 through 23, eight people who were with Paul in Corinth also send their greetings to the tiny church in the capitol city of the Empire. What do we do with all of these greetings? I want to remind you of something that most of you have confessed for many years … “I believe in the communion of the saints.” What is a “communion”? The Greek word behind “communion” means “shared life.” Christians share a common life, a common mission, and a common destiny. Think for a moment about just how short the Apostles Creed actually is. It contains only a handful of the most important biblical truths that the Church around the world has believed and confessed for more than sixteen centuries – and one of those truths – is that “I believe in the communion of the saints.” Here is the simple, but rather pointed question: “Is that just something that we say, or is this a truth that we live out within this church family, with our brothers and sisters in Manchester, Jaffrey, and Cape Cod, and even with our fellow believers in Beijing, Eritrea, and MBale, Uganda? As in all things, we are not yet fully what the LORD has called us to become. So, let us, by His grace, press on to lay hold of the high calling that is ours in Jesus Christ our Lord. Read or Sing Hymn 292 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” Prayer: Give thanks that the LORD has made you a member of His family and ask that He would make you more open to be embraced by your brothers and sisters in Christ even as you seek to invest your life in them.
Wednesday (12/11) Read and discuss Isaiah 7:1-14. One time, C.S. Lewis was talking with a colleague in his study at Oxford when a group of students began singing Christmas carols outside his window. His colleague condescendingly said something like, “These are Oxford University students. Don’t they realize that virgins don’t give birth?” To which Lewis dryly replied, “Don’t you think they already know that?” Odd, isn’t it, that, having heard the Christmas story so often, people sometimes forget what a spectacular miracle the virgin conception was? Indeed, it was nothing less than a new creation of the Second Adam. Over the past two centuries many have attempted to strip the miraculous from Scripture. One place where such “scholars” seem to have gained traction is with respect to Isaiah 7:14. At first this may seem odd. Since Matthew and Luke clearly and repeatedly declare that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb, what is the point of arguing that Isaiah 7:14 merely speaks of a young woman giving birth and not a virgin? The answer is that it is extremely embarrassing to liberals that God would promise the virgin concept seven centuries before it happened. Oddly, many conservatives have tended to take the liberals at their word and have become very tentative at suggesting that Isaiah 7:14 speaks of the virgin conception of Christ. Nevertheless, there are really strong (even compelling) reasons for holding to the traditional understanding:
- Although liberals have repeatedly asserted that the Hebrew word ‘alma simply means “young woman” no one has ever produced a single example in either biblical or extra-biblical Hebrew where the person referred to was not a virgin. As the Old Testament scholar J. Alec Motyer observes: “Wherever the context allows a judgment, ‘alma is not a general term meaning ‘young woman’ but a specific one meaning ‘virgin’.”
- The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament into Greek (done in the two centuries prior to Christ) translates ‘alma with the Greek term parthenon which everyone recognizes means virgin. This is the same term used by Matthew and Luke in the New Testament to record Christ’s virgin conception.
- Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as being about the birth of Jesus.
- Consider how dramatic a sign the LORD promises to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” As Homer Hailey put it, what is in view is “a sign so momentous that only Jehovah could give it.” Then ask yourself this question: “How dramatic a sign is it that a young woman would bear a son?” The fact is, not only would a young woman bearing a son not be a particularly dramatic sign – it wouldn’t be a sign at all. Young woman have children the natural way all the time.
- If we keep reading from Isaiah 7 through chapter 9 we can trace some interesting details about the child that will be born to this woman: (1) He will be called Immanuel – meaning “God with us” (7:14); (2) In 8:8 he is called Immanuel again and the Land is described as His (3) It is impossible to separate this child from the description in Isaiah 9:6-7 where the child is also described Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. There simply is no way that an ordinary child in Isaiah’s time could have fulfilled all of this – even as a type of the Christ who was to come.
“Following these pointers, we have a sign that lives up to its promise. Heaven and earth will be truly moved. Isaiah foresaw the birth of the divine son of David and also laid the foundation for understanding the unique nature of his birth (Motyer).” Prayer: Give thanks for the amazing gift of Immanuel – God with us!
Thursday (12/12) Read and discuss Matthew 2:1-12. How excited these religious experts must have been to hear the news! They couldn’t be sure that the Magi were right that the Messiah had been born, but they knew where He would be born – in Bethlehem. Thankfully, Bethlehem was just six miles south of Jerusalem. Because Jerusalem is elevated, you can actually see Bethlehem from there. The religious leaders could walk to Bethlehem in less than 90 minutes … and if the story the Magi told were false … they could be home by dinner. And what if the Magi were right? Four centuries of silence from God would end with the Messiah coming into the world right in their own back yard. Surely, everyone there who could still walk would walk, or better run, all the way to Bethlehem to see if the Messiah had come. Well, at least some of the religious leaders would go and check it out – wouldn’t they? Not at all! It turns out that not a single one of the religious leaders made this six mile trip. The Magi who had already traveled nearly 900 miles to worship the new born king would travel the last six miles alone. When Herod asked the religious leaders where the Messiah would be born they knew the right answer. It rolled right off of their tongues. They were experts in the law. But they were more concerned about being right than about being righteous. Regretfully, religious leaders are frequently like that. What about you? The question we need to answer this isn’t “What about them?” It is “What about us?” Almighty God is moving heaven and earth so that Jesus Christ will be worshipped among every tribe, tongue, and people; yet some of those with the greatest spiritual privilege are failing to do so. Will you respond with anger like Herod, with indifference like the religious leaders, or will you by faith come and worship Him? Read or Sing Hymn 301 “Song of Mary” Prayer: Please pray for the world-wide-mission of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church as we seek to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Friday (12/13) Read and discuss Micah 5:1-5a. Micah is a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah. “Both Isaiah and Micah lived through the traumatic days of the devastation of the northern kingdom and its exile at the brutal hands of the king of Assyria in 722 BC.” Although God had graciously protected Judah from Assyria, both Isaiah and Micah focus on the judgment God will bring through Babylon because His people are not returning to Him in faith. Quite simply they are promising that God will fulfill His promises by giving the people of Judah what they deserve. But then a remarkable thing happens. God promises to take the initiative to deliver His chosen people even though they have forsaken Him and gone after idols. This deliverance unfolds in two stages. First God promises to deliver His people physically from Babylon. We have been looking at the fulfillment of this in the post-exilic book of Zechariah on Sunday evenings. Second He promises to fully deliver His people by sending the Messiah. It is therefore not surprising that God would choose the incredibly insignificant town of Bethlehem. The LORD is drawing attention to the fact that this deliverance would be entirely of His grace. There is, perhaps, another reason why God orchestrated the birth of both David and Jesus in Bethlehem. The name Bethlehem literally means house of bread – or house of food. Therefore, there is a remarkable appropriateness that the Bread from Heaven, our true provision, would become man in Bethlehem. Verse 5a tells us something of great importance: Jesus will not only give His people peace – He will be our peace. May you find complete peace in Him today. Read or sing Hymn Psalm 98C “Sing a New Song to Jehovah” Prayer: Ask the LORD to bring visitors to our congregation who would be blessed by uniting with our church family.
Saturday (12/14) Read and discuss Luke 1:39-55. David Garland writes:
The sentimental Christmas may be popular as a religious holiday for some because it can come off as celebrating the birth of a helpless baby. Jesus lies in a manger to be gazed upon and adored, but not to be heard and heeded. A speechless babe wrapped tightly in swaddling cloths seems more obliging in allowing people to tailor their religious beliefs however they see fit. …
True, many hear only the Christmas bells of cash registers ringing, accompanied by mawkish seasonal, secular music. Churches do not always help by competing for the entertainment spotlight. One church I know of boasts of their Christmas program’s “pageantry, marvel, magic, and awe,” and emphasizes that they have been “entertaining and inspiring audiences … for more than 25 years.”
The story of Christmas celebrates the fulfillment of God’s promises and the incarnation of God in human flesh. That meaning is memorably captured by John 3:16. God loves, and God gives in order to save. Luke’s birth narrative portrays the nature of divine power that gives itself to save. God does not appear as an all-powerful despot but as a vulnerable child. Paul blazons this profound paradox in Phil 2:6-8. For Christ, equality with God meant emptying himself, taking the form of a slave, who had no rights and owed obedience, humbling himself and dying a slave’s death on the cross. It meant giving rather than getting, and Christ gave until he was empty; but his obedience led to an empty tomb and ultimate vindication that will culminate when throngs in heaven and on earth and under the earth, not just a host of angels, will bow down and sing glory in the highest to the One whose name is above every name.
Prayer: Please lift up tomorrow’s morning and evening worship services.