Call to Worship: Psalm 96:1-3
Opening Hymn: 319 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Confession of Sin
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against Your Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly Your wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter serve and please You in newness of life, To the honor and glory of Your name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Hebrews 10:19-22
Hymn of Preparation: 308 “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”
Old Covenant Reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
New Covenant Reading: Luke 1:39-56
Sermon: Rejoicing in God Your Savior!
Hymn of Response: 311 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Closing Hymn: 299 “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”
Opening Hymn: 313 “Angels from the Realms of Glory”
Old Covenant Reading: Leviticus 19:1-18
New Covenant Reading: Colossians 3:18-4:1
Sermon: Pleasing the Lord in Everything
Psalm 121A “I Lift My Eyes”
Hymn 317 “What Child is This”
Monday (12/21) Read and discuss Luke 1:39-56. 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 319 “O Come, All Ye Faithful”
Tuesday (12/22) Read and discuss Matthew 1:18-25. One of the most moving contemporary songs about Christmas is called “Joseph’s Song” by Michael Card. This song looks at the extraordinary reality of Jesus growing up as a little boy through the eyes of his adoptive father. At one point the song has Joseph sing:
Father show me where I fit
into this plan of yours
How can a man be father
to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I’ve
been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How
can I raise a king
As overwhelming as this may have seemed to Joseph, it pales in comparison to the decision he had to make when he received the astonishing news: Mary was pregnant! Legally, Joseph and Mary were already married. Normally marriages were arranged so that the man would be between 18 and 20 and the woman in her early teens. Joseph was in the process of trying to establish himself financially for his soon to be family. He would almost certainly have been in the process of physically building the home (perhaps a room on his parents’ house) for where he could take Mary and start their life together. As he fitted the stones together and erected the beams, he must have constantly been dreaming about what their new life as a couple would be like. Now it was over before it ever really began. Mary was pregnant and not by him. This crisis dramatically reveals what sort of man Joseph was in three key decisions:
1. First, Joseph, because he was a righteous man sought to divorce Mary quietly. Whatever plans and dreams Joseph had needed to put aside in order for him to live consistently with the law of God. Please notice that Scripture does not pit being righteous against being compassionate. Joseph did not seek to torment Mary for her supposed sin by making her a public disgrace. He chose to do the right thing in a compassionate way.
2. Second, God chose to override Joseph’s decision. The Angel of the LORD appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that, in spite of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was to marry her anyway. We will look at what the Angel of the LORD told Joseph on Saturday.
3. Third, Joseph chose to obey God’s word. There is a beautiful touch in how Joseph does this. In verse 25 we are told that “he called his name Jesus.” In naming Jesus, Joseph claimed him as his own son. We are prone to pass over this fact too easily, but we shouldn’t forget that the Angel of the LORD appeared only to Joseph in a dream. He did not appear to the whole town. Taking Mary to be his wife would open Joseph up to the scorn of all his neighbors. Undoubtedly, most of them would think that Jesus was Joseph’s son born under illicit circumstances. But Joseph chose to suffer the contempt of man for a time because he was committed to seeking His praise not from man but from God. Joseph was a righteous man. “Mary’s obedience in Luke 1 is the same, so we see what kind of pious, God-fearing parents Jesus had, who are models for us all (Grant Osborne).”
Sing or Read Hymn 308 “Good Christian Men, Rejoice”
Wednesday (12/23) Read and discuss Isaiah 9:1-7. Who is Jesus? This passage is one of the Old Testament prophesies that also points forward to the doctrine of the Trinity. While we are blessed with a far fuller picture of the Triune God in the New Covenant, this prophesy should have caused faithful Jews to ask questions for which only the doctrine of the Trinity is the answer. We are told in verse 6 that “unto us a Son is given” and we are also told that He will be called “mighty God”. While the first expression distinguishes the Messiah from God the Father, the second expression identifies Him as God. This distinction of persons and unity of being within God are the essence of the doctrine of the Trinity. Yet, we also read something that can be puzzling to us today. Since Jesus was eternally the Son of God – how can Isaiah call Him the Everlasting Father? It is helpful for us to realize that fatherhood has three primary defining characteristics: (1) headship, (2) generation, and (3) care. Let us consider the first of these characteristics of fatherhood – headship. When an earthly father makes decisions, those choices impact his entire family. If one man works hard and is faithful to God while another is an adulterous, drunken, gambler – there respective families will enjoy blessings or cursings based on the actions of the family’s covenant head. Our culture tends to treat such consequences as accidental or even unfair – but they are the way God designed humanity. Unlike angels, we live in a network of relationships where we represent each other and make decisions on each other’s behalf. This is revealed even in our language. The biblical term for man/mankind is Adam. As the first man, Adam represented all mankind so when he rebelled against God – we all fell into sin and depravity with him. Western culture over the past 40 years has begun to rebel against this representative principle. For example, it is becoming increasingly common for women to not take their husband’s names (in some countries the governments have actually put impediments up that hinder a woman from taking her husband’s name at the time of marriage). A far better choice would be to tell women, “If you don’t like the idea of this man representing you – don’t marry him!” Nevertheless, being sinners we all like to shift the blame away from ourselves – as though we would have perfectly fulfilled all righteousness if we had been in Adam’s place. But before you start to protest about how unfair representative headship is, remember that this principle of representation (sometimes called “federal theology”) is the only basis for your salvation (See Romans 5:12-21)! As your federal head, on the cross God treated Jesus as though he had lived your life so that through all eternity he could treat you as though you had lived His life. It is not surprising then that Christ would be described as the head of the Church (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). Sing or Read Hymn 311 “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
Thursday (12/24) Read and discuss Leviticus 19:1-18. John Currid writes:
Holiness is a way of life, and every area of life is subject to holiness. That is clear in this chapter, in which so many different aspects of the life of the Hebrew are to be conducted in a holy, distinct way. We see the following spheres treated in the chapter: the area of family (19:3), the sacrificial system (5-8), the economy (9-10), the social dimension (11-14, 17-18), the judicial setting (15-16) and worship (4). No area of life is unaffected by the concept of holiness: from vocation to vacation, all of life is to be brought under the lordship of God and to be lived according to His statutes.
This teaching is no less true today than it was for the Hebrews so many thousands of years ago. Peter, when speaking to the church throughout the world, made the following statement: ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’ (1 Peter 1:14-16).
Friday (12/25) Read and discuss Colossians 3:18-4:1.
On a football team, the running back may be the best athlete on the field, but he still runs the plays that the coach or quarterback calls. In order for the team to be successful every player must play his role as well as he can. The same thing is true in the relationships throughout our lives. Question: What’s worse than working for a boss who makes bad decisions? Answer: A boss who refuses to make any decisions at all. There is a responsibility on those in leadership roles to lead and there is also a responsibility upon those in subordinate roles to follow. Of course, being a good follower doesn’t mean that we are simply to act like stupid sheep who all go over the cliff together. Yet, it does mean that instead of setting ourselves up as self-appointed judges over those whom God has put in positions of leadership, we seek to make their leadership successful. To switch analogies, the LORD has called us to function like a symphony orchestra – but an orchestra can only play beautiful music if everyone plays their own part as the conductor directs. Musicians who play louder to draw attention to themselves, or who refuse to follow the score, ruin the music for everyone.
Read or sing Hymn 299 “Joy to the World! The Lord is Come”
Saturday (12/26) Read and discuss Luke 1:39-56. 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.