Hope in Our Humble State – Advent 4 – December 4, 2016 – Luke 1

Here are some ideas for worship at home on this 4th Sunday of Advent.

1) Light a candle. On the 4th Sunday of Advent, we light the 4th candle on the wreath which is the Love candle. Read this as you light the candle.

The Candle of Love
L: Jeremiah 31: 1 – 6 – 1 At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. 2 The LORD proclaims: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness. As Israel searched for a place of rest, 3 the LORD appeared to them from a distance: I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. And so with unfailing love, I have drawn you to myself. 4 Again, I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt, virgin Israel. Again, you will play your tambourines and dance with joy. 5 Again, you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; farmers will plant and then enjoy the harvests. 6 The time will come when the watchmen shout from the highlands of Ephraim: “Get ready! We’re going up to Zion to the LORD our God!”

The prophet Jeremiah prophesies the Lord will appear to the people. “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people,” said the Lord.
A: Emerging God, Accept us as your people and reveal yourself to us. Choose us to be built up. Amen.
L: We light the candle called Love to show God’s unfailing love. Play your tambourines and dance with joy as you wait.

2) Read Luke Chapter 1. If you are gathered as a family, try reading this chapter as a play.

Narrator: So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story
of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.
During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.
8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering. Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.
13-15 But the angel reassured him,
Gabriel: “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.
“He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”
Narrator: Zachariah said to the angel,
Zachariah: “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
Narrator: But the angel said,
Gabriel: “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”
Narrator: Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.
23-25 When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. She said,
Elizabeth: “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!”
Narrator: In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a young woman engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the girl was Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
Gabriel: Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you.
Narrator: She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her,
Gabriel: “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Narrator: 34 Mary said to the angel,
Mary: “But how? I am not married.”
Narrator: The angel answered,
Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.
“And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
Narrator: And Mary said,
Mary: Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.
Narrator: Then the angel left her.
39-45 Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
Elizabeth: You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true!
Narrator: And Mary said,
Mary: I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened— I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing men who brag. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Narrator: Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home.
When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.
On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened:
Elizabeth: “No. He is to be called John.”
Narrator: But, the people were confused because no one in the family was named John. They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!
A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondered what would become of the child because, clearly, God has his hand in this.
Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,
Zachariah: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he came and set his people free. He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives, and in the very house of David his servant, Just as he promised long ago through the preaching of his holy prophets: Deliverance from our enemies and every hateful hand; Mercy to our fathers, as he remembers to do what he said he’d do, What he swore to our father Abraham— a clean rescue from the enemy camp, So we can worship him without a care in the world, made holy before him as long as we live. And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,” will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways, Present the offer of salvation to his people, the forgiveness of their sins. Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, Shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death, Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.

3) Sing a few Advent songs. Search for the words online or find the music on YouTube. You might enjoy: O Come O Come Emmanuel, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, or Come Light of Lights. Check out Advent albums of The Brilliance and Young Oceans on a streaming music service.

4) Reflect on this excerpt from my sermon:
Throughout the Fall, I preached about the promises of God, the promises He made to His people throughout history. There was the promise of a helper, a family, reconciliation, deliverance, His presence, to hear our prayers, a kingdom, provision, mercy, revelation and a new covenant. That’s a lot that God has promised His people. Throughout the Old Testament, we see that God is faithful to His promises. The promises God made to His people Israel give us hope that they will be fulfilled for us. As we look toward Christmas, our hope is renewed because we know God fulfilled His promises in the coming of Christ who is the incarnation of God or God in the flesh.

In this 1st chapter of Luke, Mary and Zachariah remind us that Jesus Christ and His herald John the Baptist fulfill ancient promises made to Israel. In Mary’s song, also known as the Magnificat, she tells us what she knows about God that makes her believe that all the Lord has said will be fulfilled in her child. Mary says that God looks at us, shows mercy, shows strength, feeds the poor, embraces the chosen, and blesses. In Zachariah’s prophecy, he says that God saves, delivers, shows mercy, remembers, rescues, forgives sin and guides. Because Mary and Zachariah are faithful servants of God, they trust God and believe that through Mary’s baby God will fulfill all the ancient promises, including the promise to adopt the Gentiles.

To fulfill His promises, God used extraordinary circumstances and humble people. When Gabriel told Zachariah God’s plan, Zachariah said, “but Elizabeth and I are old.” When Gabriel told Mary God’s plan, Mary said, “but I’ve not been with a man.” Gabriel told Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God.” God would work out His plan regardless of Zachariah and Elizabeth’s age and regardless of Mary’s virginity. Nothing will be impossible with God.

5) Close with the words of this poem. “The Words to Say I Love You” by Jennifer Kulp (found at: http://www.prayers-for-special-help.com/christian-love-poems.html#sthash.fqkyytNU.dpuf).

I was there, yet you did not see Me
the times you did cry
I wrapped you in My loving arms
and wiped the tears from your eyes.
Every prayer – I heard, and answered
every cry for help – I came
I cast down all your enemies
and brought them all to shame.
You are My beloved son
whom I have set free
I removed your chains of darkness
because you believed in Me.
I am in you and you in Me
Non can take us apart
Where are the words to express my love?
They are written on your heart.

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