Waiting and Watching

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION   

Let us pray for the Holy Spirit of God to guide our thoughts …

God of the covenant, through the prophets of the past and of today you call us to live up to the challenge of the gospel if we want to be your people. As we hear your Holy wisdom, stir us up from our comfortable, self-satisfied ways.  Make us restless to hasten the coming of your Son and your kingdom and fill us with the fire of his Spirit to bring the warmth of his love and integrity into this cold, hurting world.  Give us the lasting peace of Jesus Christ our Lord, as we prepare a way for our Lord to enter our world. Amen

FIRST SCRIPTURE READING    Matthew 1: 18-23      The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

TIME WITH GOD’S CHILDREN #155                                  verse 1                                     Rejoice, the Lord Is King”                    

             Rejoice, the Lord is King!  Your Lord and King adore!   Rejoice, give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore:

     Lift up your heart, lift up your voice!    Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

SECOND SCRIPTURE READING             Malachi 3:1-4            The Coming Messenger

 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight--indeed, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.

THE SERMON                “Waiting and Watching”          

In light of Paris, Mali, and San Bernardino officials call us to be watchful. National Security Agents remain watchful of the internet chatter. University of Chicago cancelled all classes on Monday because of a threat to students. Our own Janesville Mall closed on Saturday, November 28th because of a bomb threat. So we are all asked to be watchful and warn others if we expect suspicious behavior. Of course, that means we need to be aware of normal activity so we can see something different.

I talked with a colleague this week, and Jim seemed surprised when I reminded him that Christmas was only 3 weeks away. We’ve celebrated the first Sunday of Advent; Christmas is just 19 days away from today. Did you notice any changes in the decorations as you came in this morning? We need to be aware of the way things are before we can notice the hand of God moving us. We can only see the hand of God transforming our lives, if we watch attentively to the world around us and watch for God to act.

Joseph assumed everyone in the community would be watching how he would respond to his unmarried, pregnant betrothed. The cultural norm frowned on pre-marital intercourse. Joseph loved Mary but could not explain how she became pregnant. But he knew he could not be the father. In their small town, the old gossips would be talking at the well every day. He loved Mary and did not want to disgrace her, so he decided to dismiss their engagement secretly and quietly.

But God designed other plans. Joseph would need to be watchful for God’s activity, because he’d made up his mind. God’s plan began with an angelic message to Mary, that Joseph remained unaware. Imagine, if Joseph dismissed God’s message to him. If Joseph did not watch carefully for God’s message to him, Jesus would not be raised in a loving home. The Christmas story would be very different.

The Season of Advent prepares us to wait and watch for God’s activity. We become intentional about watching for signs of God and the Lord’s messengers. Malachi reminds us to be prepared. When we live prepared for Christ’s coming we can endure the day. When we wait expectantly and watch vigilantly, the Lord will mold us and shape us into the person, God created us to be.

Malachi describes the refiner’s fire that clarifies and burns up the impurities. Silver and gold become refined through a process of heat that burns up the dross. Then the pure metals can be molded and shaped into useful vessels. These utensils can be simple or elaborate, but always beneficial.

We become purified and precious through forgiveness of sins. Jesus lays down a path of righteousness, one brick at a time. Our faith builds on the foundation of pure divine intervention. Again, Advent invites us to attend and be alert for what God is doing through us, for us, and with us. When Jesus lights our hearts on fire for righteous living for the Lord, we burn away the impurities of sin. Then the Spirit shapes our refined faith to be useful in mission and ministry.

So as you prepare to watch for Jesus’ activity, I invite you to pray that the Lord will open your eyes to see more clearly. It’s not about cataract surgery, but opening our hearts and minds to see God’s hand in our lives. If we expect to see God’s activity will notice some amazing things in our everyday life. Then prepare to tell others where you see God’s hand moving in your life, so they may be more open to what the Lord may be doing in them, through them, and for them.

You may be amazed at how much activity Christians can see each day. Remember coincidence and luck, simple are miracles that God does not get the credit for. If we can watch for God’s activity and see the Lord’s hand moving, then share our observations briefly with others, we will improve everyone’s eye sight or their faith sight.

So, think about the last time you watched and saw the hand of God can you describe what happened, when you realized God’s hand, and how has your faith been strengthened by this experience of God’s grace. Then, how can you use this experience to help others along their faith journey. It may be small and simple, or God’s movement may make profound and life changing appointments.

When my mother-in-law gets called into be a substitute in Cambridge, when we need help getting the boys home. Or the doctor discovers on a CT scan a dark spot below the target area. Or delay in getting to work on 9/11. A person makes a decision to go to dinner instead of the movies when shooter disrupts the peace. God’s hand may be very clear, or we may need to watch very closely for the gentle nudging to move us to a new opportunity.

As we continue through the season of Advent, I encourage you to watch for God’s guiding hand. You may want to write down you experience of the Lord leading you, so that you can remember to share you encounter with others. We wait and watch for the Lord to move in our life and prepare for the future coming of Christ. We watch to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ. TGBTG. Amen.

  May 2017  
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