Tag: Advent 2A

Away in a Manger – Wide Eyed and All Ears

Sermon, Sunday December 8, 2019Away in a manger

Advent 2A

 Matthew 3:1-12 

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘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.”’[a]

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them

: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptise you with[bwater for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with[cthe Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

The young boy standing in that stable is wide-eyed and all ears. He stands with wide eyes and open ears just taking in the scene and listening to the words. He takes in words of the Mother of this baby as she reflects on the magnitude of what God has given to her for the world.

Wide-eyed and all ears. That is the advent call. Wide-eyed and all ears.

The problem is that we long term Christians are often bleary-eyed and plugged ears when it comes to taking in the scene and listening to the Word speak. Like a shop owner so used to her shop and so focused on sweeping the floor that she does not even notice the cheers of the crowd as the Queen’s cavalcade drives past her shop!

But every year the Spirit sends out a breaking news bulletin across the bottom of our screens. The ABC radio fire announcement siren goes off for a moment in time. We may or may not be wide eyed and all ears…..

He comes in from the wild. He is trying to get us to be wide-eyed and all ears to the things of the Spirit again. His name is John. He is that wild man with a wild heart trying to arrest out attention back to this wild gift of God named Jesus.

If you choose to ignore this call to notice and receive this Gift; if you choose to lessen this gift by claiming yourself or your past or your family name or your nationality or your money or achievements in life a better thing; a gift you have earned or achieved for yourself, then he cuts you down to size.

John is sent to cut us down to size to make sure we are wide-eyed and all ears to the truth that we are not as good as we believe ourselves to be; I am not God’s gift to the world by myself, but this boy is God’s gift to me and only he makes us truly God’s gift to the world.

Some around John choose to dismiss this gift or be their own gift. They say; “We have Abraham as our father.”

Out comes the axe!

“I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.”  (Matthew 3: 9-10)

Why? To get you back to being that young kid, wide-eyed and all ears taking in the scene and hearing the words spoken; receiving him in the heart.

John knows that this gift brings life after his axe. There is hope from despair, forgiveness for a wayward heart in this baby boy.

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him –

    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

    the Spirit of counsel and of might,

    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord –

and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,

    or decide by what he hears with his ears;

but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
 with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.  (Isaiah 11: 1-3)

This boy will see beyond our human eyes and listen beyond our ears into the heart. He goes deeper, into the heart and does his work there in us.

But the way we receive him and his great gifts are by our eyes and ears. They are the windows to our very souls.

Just like Mary wants this wide-eyed boy with listening ears to hear the true magnitude of the gift Jesus is, so John is the same. John wants us to be wide-eyed and all ears to receive him in the heart because only there will we be transformed by all his gifts into who he has created us to be. From the inside out with his deeper seeing and hearing he will revolutionise who we are and how we live for the better – quite a promise! What a gift!

Is it working? Are your eyes wide open and ears attentive yet? Are you open to receive him, know him, hear him again despite all the distraction and self-focus and personal bubble of busyness or illness or pain or pride or fear?

Mary asked, “Will they come?”. She hopes you do and they too. Why so?

Mary tells the young boy not to be put off by the lack of power or wealth or royal show. She impresses upon the boy taking in this scene: it is all for love.

“Whatever you tell them about this shed, this humble place and my humble offering to this scene, tell them this boy is above all, a gift of love. Be sure to tell them that above all he is a gift of love”.

Love. To know love. To know this is all for love. This is divine love beyond all loves to rule over our wayward loves. This is the power of love displayed in humanness; in things not powerful or emotionally attractive or intellectually satisfying or visually amazing or politically correct. This is pure self-giving love given in a way any of us can really get – a everyday human way.

This is costly love; risky love. He has no guarantee that you will open your eyes and your ears to his words of love in action, but he does them anyway. You might even drive in a nail or two at times, but he still ‘does love’ for you. You might withhold love from him out of anger or doubt or distraction or unbelief. You might simply love other things, other people and your cherished dreams and visions for your life way more than his dream and vision for your life, but he still ‘does love’ for you.

His baptism of you still counts. His word of love still speaks. His community of loved people still exist and still live out his love in their everyday weaknesses.

Here comes the King of love with the true love, the right love, the largest and highest and widest perfect gracious love in real action (not just theory or idea or angelic distance); here comes human love divine in human action – God in the straw, bloodied arms spread on the wood, body risen with wounds, “Peace be with you, friend”.

Are you wide-eyed and all ears yet? Is John’s call working? Are Mary’s words speaking?

No need to come to this gift of a real love in a baby boy claiming your own goodness or rightness; your family privilege or place, your own deeds of grace.

John says, “just come”. “Repent and believe. Just come. Receive the one who gives a whole lot more than me”.

Why? Because he’s loved you the most when you have not loved him first. He loves you to make you a person of real love for your spouse, your kids, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours and even strangers.

Mary says, John says, just come. Come with eyes wide open and all ears taking in the Christmas scene of life-changing love.

Come in faith to this boy this Advent. He is full love for your empty soul, complete forgiveness for your uncompleted faith, pure gift of grace for your impure self-reliance on your own graces; inclusive truth for your indifference.

O come all you faithful,

Joyful and triumphant

O come all you citizens of heaven above

Come and adore

Come let us adore him.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”. (Romans 4:13)

 

ADVENT 2016 Week 2 Fiery Freedom

advent-2016-wk-2

Sermon, Advent 2A

Sunday December 4, 2016, St Petri

 Isaiah 2:1-5, Psalm 122, Romans 13:11-14

 

Matthew 3:1-12 The kingdom of heaven is at hand!

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘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.”’[a]

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptise you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

I don’t like snakes. Never have. I know some people quite like them. I visited a couple one who, unbeknown to me, had a huge white snake in a glass cabinet that I did not see when I first walked into the kitchen as we were chatting. Trying to be relaxed with these new people, I just stood and rested my arm on the nearest piece of furniture. In the conversation they kept talking about their pet “Ernie”. I thought they were talking about a cat or a dog outside. When they pointed to large while scaly “Ernie” resting right underneath my arm on that glass cabinet (thankfully)! I had to muster all the cool I could to not jump about 6ft across the room!

Yet I do feel for snakes. In that account of how not trusting God became our besetting problem through our first parents, that snake in the garden really copped it from God.

“You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all of your days. “, says the Lord to the troublesome reptile (Genesis 1).

Ever since, snakes have got a bad rap!

Surely this wild man of the bush, John the Baptiser, would have known a snake or two out there in the Desert.

  • He was known for eating bugs and bush honey.
  • Maybe John killed a camel or two to keep his wardrobe in order.
  • Maybe he was one of those bush experts who knew how to handle snakes with ease – a regular Bear Grilles!

When John ‘appeared’ near the Jordan, he saw a snake. It was of a kind harder to see than an actual reptile, but more deadly. He named this snake a viper; a killer snake, and he saw this viper within us.

The snake he sees in some is the manufacturing of our own glory out of self-interest. It was especially targeted by John in people who were doing this deceptively under the disguise of outward religious behaviour.

Religious pride is the Viper that kills.

There was no room in his prophetic heart for pretending that we are ourselves, God or pretending that we can earn God’s acceptance in any way, especially by hiding behind mere outward observance or behind being nice to people to earn praise for ourselves.

John saw through all of this self-deception and named it in strong terms. He named it trickery – the trick of looking good with a whole lot of religious pride by which we get the thanks and praise for how holy or good or upright we appear to be. God misses out because we are the centre of the world and the life of the show.

John saw this self-focus attached to family pride. The Viper of self-glory was in those who held up their family heritage as a rock solid basis for their place in God’s acceptance.

In the tradition of all the prophets, John railed against the trust in family tradition, local connections and church heritage as that which earns us a sure place out of God’s righteous judgement of our lives. He says God’s piercing truth is that we are all sinners before a holy God and all humans beings fall short of God’s glory.

John says that God could make 6th generation Lutherans out of a rock on the ground at the quarry or in your driveway if he wanted. So much for having a German name or family history as a ticket into God’s good books!

Why is John so fiery and so direct? Why does he have this cause to name the viper within people? Is he just nasty? Is he just a cranky man who can’t see any good in people? Is he just being negative? Should he be more positive, more congenial; more friendly?

Why is John so fiery and so direct? Two reasons;

  1. He is brutal on us to shake us up and make us squirm bit like a snake so we can see the snake for what it is; self-trust, self-focus, self-glory that is killing us.
  2.  He names the viper to introduce the Saviour. He calls out the disease within to point to the cure freely available in wounded healer, Jesus, by whose wounds we are made whole.

And how does it change? What vehicle shifts us from self to salvation, from lack of truth and pretending to genuine peace and hope for living?

One way in one word….”Repent!” calls the wild man. “Repent!”.

Repentance is something deeper than merely listing all the bad things we have done and said. Repentance actually means coming to the conviction that I have been basing my whole life on a lie – on a crooked view of what is true and of lasting value;

  • the lie that I can save myself by being good or bad or indifferent toward God
  • the lie that I don’t need any help from God,
  • that I can claim my church heritage as the thing that keeps me in Gods grace,
  • the lie that repentance is just being sorry for bad behavior and that sin is just what I do or say and not a deep rooted ongoing disease for which there is no relief or cure outside of Jesus’ forgiveness.

For example; Racism.

  • Confessing or admitting that I have shown prejudice toward others or told jokes at the expense of another race needs more if this racism is going to turn to forgiveness and peace.
  • It means admitting that the entire framework of with which I approach others is faulty.
  • It is admitting that the view that another race is somehow inferior of basically flawed is wrong and evil in God’s truth.
  • Repentance here is turning away from that worldview and the seeds of hate in my heart toward God vision of all people created in his image and therefore equally valid, loved and gifted.

This kind of admitting is real. It acknowledges that we all have a heart problem that needs someone Divine to fix. This repentance finds the heart of the crucified Jesus, the man of love, waiting to respond in unearned forgiveness and love of you.

John is a neon flashing sign today. He simply points you to look to the One has struck the killer blow to the snakes head (Genesis 3), as promised in the beginning.

Whether you think you have got it made in terms of religion, or you are yearning for a relationship of grace you know you can’t manufacture yourself, hear the fiery man. He is pointing you to the real Christ this Advent.

Because of him and his word working in us we have no need to make distinctions between who is truly “one of us” and who isn’t. We are all one in him.

No need to settle for a bit of human praise. We have the affirmation and love of the Creator in our souls.

No need to rely on self, others or things for what we yearn for – that peace in the souls, that heavenly sleep when we can’t sleep, that joy when we are in sorrow, that faith and freedom that replaces our fears and worries.

We are free in him.

So, go ahead and continue to produce the good fruit of repentance”, as John names it.

From a deep relationship of peace with God in Jesus;

Stick your hand into a nest of killer snakes within others knowing that you will survive As Isaiah saw before all this.

Settle for nothing less than his praise of you more than anyone else’s praise.

Don’t hold up membership here or Lutheran or family heritage as the ground on which you stand. Give them all second place under the cross of Jesus – the only Saviour and the deliberate and stunning grace of God for us and with us – Immanuel.

Take a look see this Advent. Go to the Jordan where you were baptised and receive the truth of it again this Advent. It will make you fruitful and free.

Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERSadvent-2016-wk-2

In Advent we will be using Martin Luther’s way of reflecting on Scripture and praying.

Let’s look at the Gospel readings and use this four part way of seeking deeper insight as we listen to God in Advent.

Luther pictures this way on engaging in Scripture as a string with little knots in it or a four stranded rope.

Slowly read out loud, noting words that stand out to you or questions that the word raises…..

Matthew 3:1-12 The kingdom of heaven is at hand!

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘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.”’[a]

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the River Jordan.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 ‘I baptise you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

Instruction

As a result of hearing this word, what is God teaching me about himself, myself and his kingdom? (Reflect/share these)

Confession

As a result of hearing this word, what is God calling me to repent of, turn away from, confess to him and receive his forgiveness? (Pray these)

Thanksgiving

As a result of hearing this word, what is am wanting to thank God for? (Reflect/share and pray these)

Supplication

As a result of hearing this word, what is God inspiring me to ask him for? (Pray these)

Jesus’ Prayer

Pray the Lord’s Prayer to end….

 

Letting Life In

Sermon, Advent 2A. Sunday December 8, 2013. Divine Interruption: “Letting Life In”: God makes life in barren places      Advent -Christmas Title Pic 2013

Romans 15:4-13          

15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
15:5 May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus,
15:6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
15:7 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
15:8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,
15:9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”;
15:10 and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”;
15:11 and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”;
15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”
15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“God is making life out of the barren places”

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isaiah 11:1

God, I’m watching the news and sometimes I wonder if you have left us to our own devices.

God, it’s not the arguing I can’t stand any more its the silence.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my children look at me like I am an idiot.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my parents don’t have a clue who I really am.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God I am getting older and more unwell

God, I am aimless and unsure of what I am meant to be doing

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, isn’t Christmas supposed to bring us together?

God is making life out of the barren places.

Is he? Is he for you? Is he in your circle of people? Is he in your life journey?

BARREN

Elizabeth: a woman of age without children. In her day called a cutting, dead word, “barren”. A barren person: In a time when a woman’s worth was measured in how many children she had, in a time when, if you had many children it was seen as God being happy with you. If you had no children, it was because God was angry at you…that you were sinful…that you were being punished for something….”barren”.

 A barren job. In a time unlike any other when men and women are defined by their job – by what they do – the first question people ask you at parties – “What do you do?”…Barren.

A barren marriage, a barren bank account, a barren purpose to my life….- “barren”. It just sits there like a oversized wet weather jacket on you – just hanging off you and weighing you down…”Barren”

A “barren” woman who wanted children; A woman who needed children in her society and yet, never given the desire of her heart.

God, I am barren and I did not ask for this and I have prayed that you would “un-barren” me….but I am still barren…

God is making life out of the barren places

Is he? Can he? Will he…for me?

That is the Advent question for you and me as we sense our barren places and feel the weight of that – Will God bring life in me, my family, my future, my whole life….?

LONGING

And then there is the longing; Longing for newness; longing for a break in the weather, a change of fortune, a word of hope, a new relationship of fun and friendship, a new person to recognise me, want to ask me how I am going, a word of super-encouragement from someone….please!

Elizabeth: What was it like for her? What is it like to have to constantly deal with being disappointed and feel incomplete – longing for something you just can’t seem to find or are never given?

Imagine longing for a thing and being quite certain now that after years of that hoping and dreaming for this thing, then eventually admitting that it will never come to be – saying you are OK with that now; you have dealt with that now….only to be rudely interrupted by divine intervention late in the game! The barrenness and the longing just cease – in one instant; by one word from The One!

LETTING GO

The impossible thing longed for but acknowledged as being out of reach is received.

Now that is a Divine interruption! And that would take some readjustment!

That would mean letting go of anger about never being given the gift you longed for. That would mean letting the constant disappointment and feelings of frustration go, lest you not enjoy this great thing that has been given to you.

So, what are you barren in? And, what are you longing for? What have you relegated to the “too hard” “impossible basket but if it ever were to be given, all the disappointment and anger and regret would just vanish in the cloud of thankfulness and joy?

  • New faith for the kids?
  • New faith and life in the grace of God for you?
  • New job away from what has been for the last 2 or 3 decades or 2 or 3 weeks?
  • New involvement in some very needy and worthwhile cause that you know would fill your heart with pride and thanks because you were now not just “working for the weekend” – but truly working for the world – for people, for making a difference?

DIVINE INTERRUPTION:DIVINE GIFT

Friend, the Gift is here. The new man, the new word, the new power, the new love, the new growth from what seemed barren and out of reach is here.

A great gift is given to you now in these weeks – new belief in God’s presence in this troubling world, and your needy life. New hope that what you thought was certain – your guilt, your self-pride, your never ending pain, your being a victim of others behaviour is now at an end. 

God says there is life in that pain. There is an end to sorrow, an end to your weaknesses. There are signs of new hope and life and you are it. You are the sign for those around you. You are the light. You are the salt that preserves the new life growing out of what was barren.

There is an end to your lack of understanding, and end to the hurt you have experienced, and end to that ill-health, an end to the mountain of a challenge you are trying to climb at the moment and he is not only the end of it but with you moving toward the end of it. That’s the miracle of God becoming one of us.

But will you see this and trust him?

Elizabeth expresses two things about God’s gift of new life in barren places

  1. people didn’t see the miracle
  2. this is just too much of a gift to be real

Why didn’t they see? Maybe because they were not looking. Maybe because they had given up on God ever being involved, understanding them, actually doing anything in the situation….., not expecting anything from God anyway.

Why couldn’t they receive the gift of new hope and life? Maybe because life’s experiences can make you cynical. “There are no free lunches” in this life. “Nothing good ever happens”. “You can’t trust others, you can only trust yourself”…..

God chooses to simply interrupt hardened people, confused people, non-expectant and untrusting people – not to chastise them but to bring new life and hope to people.

Hear St Paul praying that prayer calling for God’s hope to fill you joy because he knows both – God’s amazing ability to bring good things out of hopelessness and everyday people bound together in God’s holy community needing God’s creative hope.

Paul prays that the Lord would fill people with joy in the hope we have in God’s ability to make new things come from old dead things, make light things come from dark things, make joyful things come from sorrowful things.

Paul is confident in this ability of God. Are you?

Will you let the light of the coming of the Saviour into a dark, old, and troubled world take you by surprise? Will you let God’s new life in? Will you let his hope change your view of that hopeless thing, that hopeless person, that seemingly hopeless situation and trust him more than you trust your own ability to make your own hope?

Elizabeth the now fertile and fulfilled one knew this:

  1. He has not forgotten you.
  2. He will never leave you alone to fend for yourself.

So did Paul.

So do we, his baptised and loved people.

Whatever you are facing, whatever you are longing for and whatever is dying or even dead in your relationships, vocation and faith, there is life in it. There is his life in you. There is life and where there is life there is hope and that hope is the Light of the Lord – Jesus.

God, I’m watching the news and I am trusting that you have not left us and you are actually making new life in even these barren looking placers

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my children look at me like I am an idiot and I responding with calm and quiet persistence trusting that the winds will change in time because you are involved.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, my parents don’t have a clue who I really am but I am trusting that you do and that as I give them room, treat them as human beings and get on with you calling in my life you will get us through this.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God I am getting older and more unwell, but I am aware that you are with me and calling me to keep engaged in other people’s lives for their good, making the most of every opportunity to share Jesus in a humble way until you take me home.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, I am aimless and unsure of what I am meant to be doing, but I commit myself to you and your Word and ask you to give me a hunger and new focus on your Word and your people, trusting that you will guide me into clarity and confidence in my callings in life.

God is making life out of the barren places.

God, isn’t Christmas supposed to bring us together? God, make us the ones who are your living signs – the ones who bring people together and speak of your presence, light and life this Christmas.

God is making life out of the barren places.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Share a high and a low for your week…

We talked about Elizabeth and her experience of being a “barren” woman in her time when it meant that she was considered less than legitimate, not fruitful, not “normal”, even cursed by God for her inability to bear a child. Do you have some experience of this in the group, either in the story of those present their families and friends?

Share you stories for a while about being “barren”.

We talked about longing for a thing or an event or a time or place and then admitting that this thing would never happen, only then to discover that the very thing you had relegated to the “too hard for God” basket actually happens! Elizabeth certainly had to adjust to God’s interruption in her life. Have you ever had to adjust to God’s interruption of something you longed for, wrote off as impossible and then received when it happened?

Share your stories.

Paul shows his unwavering trust in God’s ability to respond to our longing for life and our feeling of being barren or dead or incapable to bring the thing longed for into being in this text in Romans.

Read the test through slowly, even pausing now and again so tat people can jot down a note or word that sticks out to them – especially the words that reveal great trust in the Lord.

Share your jottings/thoughts with the group…

Matthew tells us about the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God to bring new life out of barren places in the person of John the baptist, then Jesus.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “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.’”

John is the announcer of the promise now to be renewed in full in the person, teaching, suffering and death of Jesus. John was the witness. We are too. We are the witness to God’s ongoing promise to bring new life out of any barren/lifeless place. How do you think we can do this among our family and friends this Christmas?

Share your thoughts….

PRAY: O come, O come Immanuel and ransom us captive people so tat we rejoice, rejoice this Advent!

BLESS EACH OTHER

Choose a partner and speak God’s word of blessing to that person (each in turn for each other)  to end…

(Person’s name), Child of God, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13