Wondering with Joy

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION    Let us pray for the Holy Spirit of God to guide our thoughts …

Lord, grant your Spirit to come this morning as we listen to your divine wisdom from Scripture and wonder at your grace. Remind us of the joy of our salvation and turn us in faith to thanksgiving and proclamation of the glorious works you have done.   Help us sing for joy for you have promised us that you will be in our midst as we have gathered here this morning to hear from you.   We ask these things in the name of your Son, our Savior and Sovereign King, Jesus Christ.  Amen & Amen.                               

 

FIRST SCRIPTURE READING             Luke 1: 26-31               The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.

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   Zephaniah 3:14-20        Wonder in God’s Faithfulness

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD.

THE SERMON                “Wondering with Joy”

 

It’s called the most wonderful time of the year. As Christians, we trust the wonder of God every day. Although, there are times, we forget to live in the wonder of God’s glorious creation. We also tend to get complacent and overlook the wonder we once experienced in the Lord’s amazing grace. We can ignore the wonder of the spiritual power available to us through Christ Jesus our Lord. So as we travel through life this Advent Season, I want us to wonder again about God’s activity.

Again this week, the news around the world smears our ability to experience divine joy. Scammers using copied credit cards to purchase Christmas gifts. ISIS cells printing fake passports to extend their reach of terror. Authorities discover the San Bernardino terrorists planned and aborted a previous plot, so this is not a work party retaliation. More plants closing in our region eliminating good paying jobs. It’s easy to dwell on the negative.

The introduction in my Life Application Bible explains the context the Prophet Zephaniah pens his oracle of hope.

“Overwhelming grief, prolonged distress, incessant abuse, continual persecution, and immanent punishment breed hopelessness and despair. “If only,” we cry, as we search our mind for a way out and look to the skies for rescue. With just a glimmer of hope, we would take courage and carry on, enduring until the end.”

Zephaniah tells the Hebrews to “Fear Not,” even as the Israelites King have failed to trust God for guidance and be faithful. But a new day is coming. King Josiah found God’s Holy Word in the ruins of the temple and orders Scripture to be read and followed. The Prophet and the King urge a faithful response in a tumultuous time. The real King of Israel, God Almighty, remains true and faithful, even as the nation abandoned their special relationship with the Lord. They are entering a time of renewal and joy. When the Lord walks with you, there is nothing to fear. Even in the darkest times, those who trust in the Lord can hold onto hope.

The promise of God gives hope. It may only be a slim glimmer of light shining in the darkness. The little blue light of the dishwasher cuts through the darkness of our house and I can easily walk through the living room and the kitchen without turning on any other light. Christ is a light to the world. Seek to follow that little light that cuts through the darkness and draws the faithful into the full presence of God.

The Lord is in our midst. God guided the Israelites back into the Promised Land. They returned and rebuilt the temple. They returned to faithful worship. They returned serving the Lord their God with their heart, mind, soul, and strength. They flourished as God’s chosen people again. They experienced days of prosperity. As the Lord dwelt in their midst, they knew the joy of God.

Unfortunately, they did not maintain this relationship. Other matters took the premier location in their life. They fell away from God. They trusted themselves instead of the Lord. The Romans became God’s divine punishment. They cried out to the Lord for the Messiah to arrive and dwell with them.

Jesus came into the world not to make life easy but to give us hope. Jesus came to see us through difficult times. Jesus brings light when life events discourage us. We may not be able to see clearly into the future, but if we trust the Lord we can experience the joy of knowing we are never alone. God will see us through this time of trial and someday, sometime, somewhere we will feel the full presence God again.

As we near the end of Advent let’s take some time this week to wonder where God can bring joy to our lives. We wait patiently for the Lord as we watch for signs of God, and wonder at the marvelous love of God for each one of us. Wonder with Joy that the Lord, Jesus Christ is always with us, even in the darkness. We wonder with joy at the goodness of our God. TGBTG. Amen.

  July 2017  
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