Expect

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Introduction:

I remember as a kid waiting for certain times of the year. I couldn’t wait for my birthday to have cake, get presents, and pick out my favorite meal to have. It seemed like it took forever for a year to go by. I also couldn’t wait for summer. You sit in school for hours on end and all you can think about when you look out and see the snow and cold wind blowing is cruising on your bicycle down to the park to play a game of basketball or football.  And of course, like most kids, I couldn’t wait for Christmas (picture). I would lay in bed listening to every little sound, hoping to hear Santa come but eventually I would fall asleep. My eyes would open and I would shoot out of bed, get dressed, make my bed and then race to the Christmas tree. And there before my eyes were all these presents. Why is it that it seems that time goes by so slow when you are waiting in expectation for something and then when it comes it flies by so quickly?

It is really hard to believe that Christmas is just around the corner. It is even harder to believe that then in a few short months we will have been here at GracePoint for a year. Man, time really goes by quickly when you get older. Now that we have kids, it’s awesome to see the twinkling in their eyes and how, especially for Maisie, she just cannot wait until Christmas comes.  She already has a really long list for Santa – including a skateboard!

(Picture) This Sunday we begin the season of Advent, the 4 weeks leading up to the birth of Christ. As you might have noticed, according to our cultural calendar, Christmas began before Halloween was even here. Every year it seems that stores get decorations up and product on the shelves earlier and earlier. Christmas is here and will be over as soon as we get up and open presents.

However, Christmas is not yet here. In fact, Advent is a period of waiting, of great expectation for the Christ-child. Then we celebrate Christmas and Epiphany (the period when the Magi and Shepherds visited the newborn babe). This tension of waiting is complicated by our cultural calendar and probably how we have grown up. We sing Christmas songs after Thanksgiving all the way up until Christmas and then we are “Christmas songed out”.

Today we begin our new Advent sermon series “Caught In the Undertow”, and we will be exploring these themes of how to live as Christ-followers in a world that is increasingly different than the Kingdom Christ came to declare. These weeks together will be important for us as we journey through this meaningful season with great expectation and strength so we can embrace the countercultural nature of the Gospel.

As it was for me and is for Maisie and many of you, waiting is hard. And waiting in this time of year is especially hard. But it is not something new. A few thousand years ago, people were waiting as well.

 

Movement 1:

Throughout the Old Testament, we find prophecies of a messiah. The nation of Israel was waiting in expectation of this messiah. As they faced many ups and downs, there was the hope of the One who would come and save them.

But as the Old Testament closes, there is silence. There are no more prophetic voices speaking. God is silent.

Now, what do we do?

For 400 years there is silence.

No answers.

Silence can be hard. We are surrounded by noise all the time and to sit in silence can be deafening.

But Advent breaks into the silence and darkness at the beginning of the NT after 400 years of prophetic silence.

And it is with a singular voice of John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:2-3
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”

The prophetic silence has now been broken.

The silence was also broken as an angel of the Lord appeared to Mary and Joseph (picture).

Can you imagine – you are a Jew who knows the prophecies of the Messiah but after 400 years of nothing, what would you think? Your hope might have been waning. But then an angel shows up and declares that you are pregnant and will bear a child, God’s son who you are to name Jesus.

You are not yet married but are pregnant. Interesting way to break the silence and to send the Messiah. Not what Mary and Joseph or any other Jew could have expected.

It seems that its fitting though. Many times the realities of life are not what we expect.

Expect

  • Israel was waiting in silence. Expecting something.
  • Expecting and being disappointed because what we expected did not happen like we thought.
  • High expectations versus realistic expectations
  • God has expectations of us and we have expectations of Him
  • What does it mean to have faith in waiting?
  • We don’t expect suffering or the negatives. We expect the good things.

This past week has been a difficult week in our home. As Angelia and I laid staring up at the ceiling, not being able to sleep, we began to reflect on the past 8 years – many of which have been filled with failed expectations. What do we do with our hurt, our anger, our disappointment, and our expectations? I tell you today that I do not have any answer. In my humanness – and yes, pastors are human – I share my wife’s sentiment. I am numb, I am broken, and I am confused.

In my life, I can recognize my penchant for unfavorable reactions to circumstances. But here I stand with only one thing to do. Cling to God, even by tattered and thinning threads.

The book of Isaiah declares –

Isaiah 61:1-3 NIV
61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.

Movement 2:

When we walk on a beach, you will often see a sign (picture), warning you to be cautious of the undertow or a rip current. As some have found out, these warnings are important to heed. The undertow is the current of water that is going against the wave. Water is coming in towards the shore and water is flowing against it. When strong enough, a person can get caught and dragged out into the ocean through the undertow.

All around us we sense pressure and are pulled in the undertow of our world. This is so prevalent during the Christmas season.

Last night I had to run to Costco for a few things and Maisie saw a random Hachimal sitting on a box. Last year at Christmas, this toy was sold out and was going to a thousand dollars online. Maisie immediately began hugging and even kissing the top of the egg. I had never seen one before and I looked around the store but didn’t find anymore. I asked an employee about it and he was shocked to see it because he thought they were all sold out. He radioed it in and they even said they had none on hand so it must have been a fluke. He then went on to tell me that it was $46.99.

Parents receive a lot of pressure to buy their kids’ certain presents, no matter the cost. Even families face pressure to give and receive a certain level of gifts at Christmas time. We see the products and think we have to have this or that and then we see that they are having a great sale.  Well now there is no excuse! So we get in line for the sales and then this happens – well in America it happens.

Video: Difference In Black Friday Around the World

(picture) We get caught in the sweeping waters of consumerism and miss out on what Advent and Christmas really is all about.

Conclusion:

Brent Peterson comments: “Advent offers the church an invitation to engage not in exuberant party, but similar to Lent, a season of fasting and expectation. The goal of Advent is to help the people remember the need for not only Christ’s first coming, but also his coming again. This longing is not escapist, looking to get out of here; rather, it is an awareness of the dangers of other ‘gods’ that can often distract us (or sweep us away in the undertow) away from the true God, “Immanuel.”  The season of Advent is about longing, waiting, and hoping. While many engage is such waiting and longing, often the imaginations are focused on what is under a tree and not what is coming in a manger. Advent asks the question what is shaping your imagination? What do you desire to be and become? Do you recognize the need of a Savior? Do you recognize the import of God’s kingdom and not my own? The season of Advent reminds us that as we desire and imagine well, the gifts can then be always received as gifts and used for love and not for personal kingdoms.”

Response:

Do you find yourself caught up in the chaos of Christmas? Rest in the presence of Christ and wait in great expectation for the coming of the Christ child. Enjoy space and silence and focus your attention of the preparation of your soul to encounter the babe, lying in a manger.

Communion:

As we respond this morning, we respond by engaging in the sacrament of communion. Receiving the gifts of the body and blood of Christ celebrate his for coming and anticipate his second coming – the very thing that we celebrate and wait for during this season of Advent.

The Communion Supper, instituted by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a sacrament, which proclaims His life, His sufferings, His sacrificial death and resurrection, and the hope of His coming again. It shows forth the Lord’s death until His return.

The Supper is a means of grace in which Christ is present by the Spirit. It is to be received in reverent appreciation and gratefulness for the work of Christ. All those who are truly repentant, forsaking their sins, and believing in Christ for salvation are invited to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ.

We come to the table that we may be renewed in life and salvation and be made one by the Spirit. In unity with the Church, we confess our faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

And so we pray:

Holy God, We gather at this, your table, in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who by your Spirit was anointed to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, set at liberty those who are oppressed. Christ healed the sick, fed the hungry, ate with sinners, and established the new covenant for the forgiveness of sins. We live in the hope of His coming again………….

Words of Institution:

On the night in which He was betrayed, He took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said: “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Likewise, when the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks, gave it to His disciples, and said: “Drink from this, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.”

 

Epiclesis:

And so, we gather as the Body of Christ to offer ourselves to you in praise and thanksgiving. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us and on these your gifts. Make them by the power of your Spirit to be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by His blood. By your Spirit make us one in Christ, one with each other, and one in the ministry of Christ to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

And now, as our Savior Christ has taught us, let us all pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.

Let’s gather at the Table of the Lord.

Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

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Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

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Caught In The Undertow Comfort And Joy In High Tide Or Low

Expect