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The Fourth Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIThe fourth and last Sunday of Advent is for the celebration and representation of Peace. Let’s read our scripture passages, the first being from the first letter to the church of Corinth. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (NASB)

Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.
But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself.
For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.
Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Our second passage of scripture comes from the gospel according to Luke Chapter 3, verses 1-6 (NASB) . . . .

3 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
2 in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
3 And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;
4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,Advent week 4 wreath - BVC
Make His paths straight.

5‘Every ravine will be filled,
And every mountain and hill will be brought low;
The crooked will become straight,
And the rough roads smooth;

6And all flesh will see the salvation of God.’”

Today we light four candles, the “Prophecy Candle” (purple), the “Bethlehem Candle” (purple), the “Shepherd’s Candle” (rose) and the fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the “Angels Candle,” represents peace.

Let us pray, Father we thank You for bringing us through this time of preparation to receive Your Son, our Lord and Savior. What a magnificent gift You have given and are giving us when He returns to gather His brothers and sisters, Your children, Home to glory. Keep us ever mindful of the price You paid when He came to earth in human form, totally human, yet totally divine, in His precious name we pray, Amen.

The Third Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIOn the third Sunday of Advent we concentrate on joy. Lets look at our scripture passages. The first one in from the letter to the church at Philippi, Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB) . . .

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Our second scripture passage is from the gospel of John 1:19-28 (NASB)

19 This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”
20 And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
21 They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” And he *said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”
23 He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.
They asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them saying, “I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know.
It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.Advent wreath

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy. Today we light three candles, the “Prophecy Candle” (purple); the “Bethlehem Candle” (purple) and todays is the pink or rose candle know as the “Shepherd’s Candle.”

Let us Pray . . . Father thank You for giving us time to prepare for the coming of Your Son.  As we look forward to His birth, we also look forward to His coming again and thank You for our redemption through Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Second Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIOn the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the “Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger. As we begin our Celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent, let’s join together and read from the letter to the Romans, chapter 15, verses 4-13 (NASB) . . .

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,
6 so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
8 For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers,
9 and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written,

“Therefore I will give praise to You among the Gentiles,
And I will sing to Your name.”

10 Again he says,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people.”

11 And again,

“Praise the Lord all you Gentiles,
And let all the peoples praise Him.”

12 Again Isaiah says,

“There shall come the root of Jesse,
And He who arises to rule over the Gentiles,
In Him shall the Gentiles hope.”

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

Lets now read together from the gospel of Matthew. Matthew 11:2-10 (NASB)

Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples
and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see:
the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the gospel preached to them.
And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.”
As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
Advent-wreath-wk2-m8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.
  This is the one about whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger Who will prepare Your way before You.’

Now let’s light the “Prophecy Candle” from week one and now the “Bethlehem Candle” for this week.Advent-wreath-wk2-m

Let’s pray, Father we thank You for Who You are and for all the ways You show us Your love. Through the Prophets of old You gave us a promise and we see You have fulfilled it. We can therefore learn from this that Your word is tried and true. You will always keep Your promises. Thank You for showing us Your love as we prepare for the birth of our Lord, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The First Sunday of Advent

th377WQ8QIAs we begin our Celebration of Advent, let us begin with a reading from the Epistle (Letter) to the Roman (church) . . . Romans 13:11-14 (NASB)

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Our second reading is from the book of the gospel of Luke, chapter 21:25-33 (NASB) . . .

25 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

29 Then He told them a parable: Behold the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.Advent - First Sunday

Let us light the first candle of Advent. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah. (Light the first Purple Candle)

Father we thank You that You love us enough to send us Your son for our redemption and new life. Prepare us for the day of Your coming again. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Advent – What It Is, When It Is, and How It Is Celebrated

th377WQ8QICelebrating Advent involves spending time in spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In Western Christianity, the season of Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. In 2014 it begins on Sunday 30 November and is celebrated each Sunday after that until it climaxes on 24 December.

What is Advent?

Advent is a period of spiritual preparation in which many Christians make themselves ready for the coming, or birth of the Lord, Jesus Christ. Celebrating Advent typically involves a season of prayer, fasting and repentance, followed by anticipation, hope and joy.

Many Christians celebrate Advent not only by thanking God for Christ’s first coming to Earth as a baby, but also for his presence among us today through the Holy Spirit, and in preparation and anticipation of his final coming at the end of time.

Definition of Advent

The word “advent” comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly of something having great importance.

The Time of Advent

For denominations that celebrate Advent, it marks the beginning of the church year.

In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day, or the Sunday which falls closest to November 30, and lasts through Christmas Eve, or December 24. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last or fourth Sunday of Advent.

For Eastern Orthodox churches which use the Julian calendar, Advent begins earlier, on November 15, and lasts 40 days rather than four weeks. Advent is also known as the Nativity Fast in Orthodox Christianity.

What Denominations Celebrate Advent?

Advent is primarily observed in Christian churches that follow an ecclesiastical calendar of liturgical seasons to determine feasts, memorials, fasts and holy days:

Catholic
Orthodox
Anglican / Episcopalian
Lutheran
Methodist
Presbyterian

Today, however, more and more Protestant and Evangelical Christians are recognizing the spiritual significance of Advent, and have begun to revive the spirit of the season through serious reflection, joyful expectation, and even through the observance of some of the traditional Advent customs.

Origins of Advent

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Advent began sometime after the 4th century as a time of preparation for Epiphany, and not in anticipation of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the wise men and, in some traditions, the Baptism of Jesus. At this time new Christians were baptized and received into the faith, and so the early church instituted a 40-day period of fasting and repentance.

Later, in the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first to associate this season of Advent with the coming of Christ. Originally it was not the coming of the Christ-child that was anticipated, but rather, the Second Coming of Christ.

By the Middle Ages, the church had extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through His birth in Bethlehem, his future coming at the end of time, and his presence among us through the promised Holy Spirit. Modern-day Advent services include symbolic customs related to all three of these “advents” of Christ.

Advent Symbols and Customs

Many different variations and interpretations of Advent customs exist today, depending upon the denomination and the type of service being observed. The following symbols and customs provide a general overview only, and do not represent an exhaustive resource for all Christian traditions.

Some Christians choose to incorporate Advent activities into their family holiday traditions, even when their church does not formally recognize a season of Advent. They do this as a way of keeping Christ at the center of their Christmas celebrations.

What Are the Colors of Advent?

Advent Colors and What They Symbolize

Purple has traditionally been the primary color of Advent, symbolizing repentance and fasting. Purple is also the color of royalty, demonstrating the anticipation and reception of the coming King celebrated during Advent. Today, however, many churches have begun to use blue instead of purple, as a means of distinguishing Advent from Lent.

Pink (or rose) is also one of the colors of Advent used during the third Sunday. It represents joy or rejoicing and reveals a shift in the season away from repentance and toward celebration.

White is the color of the center Advent candle, representing purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

What is the Advent Wreath?thF5OUV8GM

Symbols and Customs of the Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath is a circular garland of evergreen branches representing eternity. On that wreath, five candles are typically arranged. During the season of Advent one candle on the wreath is lit each Sunday as a part of the Advent services. Each candle represents an aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

On the first Sunday of Advent, the first purple candle is lit. This candle is typically called the “Prophecy Candle” in remembrance of the prophets, primarily Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.

Each week on Sunday, an additional candle is lit. On the second Sunday of Advent, the second purple candle is lit. This candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the Bethlehem Candle,” symbolizing Christ’s manger.

On the third Sunday of Advent the pink, or rose-colored candle is lit. This pink candle is customarily called the “Shepherds Candle” and it represents joy.

The fourth and last purple candle, oftentimes called the “Angels Candle,” represents peace and is lit on the fourth Sunday of Advent.

On Christmas Eve, the white center candle is traditionally lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. Christ is the sinless, spotless, pure Savior. Also, those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow.

Celebrating with an Advent wreath during the weeks prior to Christmas is a great way for Christian families to keep Christ at the center of Christmas, and for parents to teach their children the true meaning of Christmas.

Hope

hope(4)I sought the Lord, and He answered me, And delivered me from all my fears. (5)They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. (6)This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him And saved him out of all his troubles. (7)The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them. (8)O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:4-8 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
No matter what country, background, or ethnicity we may have, all of us have experienced disappointment in our lives. Whether it is a desire to serve the Lord in ministry, or a plan to expand a business, or the hope of a bride in her new marriage, things don’t always turn out as we had hoped. These are times of “shattered dreams.”

There was a time in several friends’ and my own life where it seemed as if everything kept derailing – no forward momentum but lots of backwards falling. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick . . . ” is the way the Scripture puts it (Proverbs 13:12 NASB). Yet we learned to move forward and not give up, in spite of heartaches and what seemed like failures. We learned that friendship are huge helps in times of trouble, as are our deepening relationship with the Lord. And we learned that what we THINK we see, may not be what God is doing!

And there is good news! The second part of Proverbs 13:12 which we rarely hear says “. . . But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” God is all about life. The reason Jesus went to the cross is to allow us access to life – both here and throughout eternity (John 3:16). When God created the earth and all that is in it, He commanded all of it to prosper and bring forth life. He asks us to be the vessels of His “River of Life,” the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t break “bruised reeds,” people who are sad and hurting. He came to bring us LIFE and that MORE ABUNDANTLY (John 10:10).

When it seems like there is no hope, there is God who creates the dawn. When the dreams appear to be dead, there is the God of resurrection! Tomorrow is a new day for us all. What happens today may be the stepping stone to the breakthrough you have waited for. Faith is built on what we can’t see, but we know God has in store for us. May the fulfilled desires of your heart come quickly, and may all that delays your hope be destroyed by the blessings and love of our Savior!

(This information is taken by permission, from “Whispers of Heaven” written by Rosalie Storment and Faye Higbee, copyrighted 2011.)

 

Praise = Triumph, Restoration, Redemption

thCAHQJPAJ(19)“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.(20)“The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people.(21)“The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise. ——-Isaiah 43:19-21 (NASB)

Why does our God want us to praise Him? Is He an ego-maniac? No, He wants us to praise Him because true praise is an expression of love. Plus, He inhabits our praise (Psalms 22:3)! The more we praise Him, the more we pull down the plans of the enemy.

In a practical sense, praising the Lord brings our minds out of our situation and focuses us on Him. In the spiritual reality, praising the Lord allows His Presence to flow without interference. It creates a place of thankfulness in our hearts. And being thankful is also an expression of love.

Not everyone has positive experiences with their earthly father so at times it is difficult for them to relate to God as Father, the more we know Him, the more we are thankful and filled with praise, the more His Presence will heal all the places we missed from any lack in in our earthly parents. The praises we sing give us refuge under His wings. They give us triumph over circumstances. They bring His restoration and redemption to our lives in a River that flows unrestrained through us.

The Expectancy of Abundance

6127180_s(6) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. —-Hebrews 11:6 (NASB)

Over the last several years, we have heard many prophets and speakers talk about abundance from God. We know that in John 10:10, Jesus Himself proclaimed that He came to give us an abundant life. So why do we have such a difficult time believing it?

The words “more abundantly” in John 10:10 come from the Greek work perissos, which mean exceedingly, more than extraordinary, over and above abundant. Remember the passage that tells us that eye has not seen nor ear heard the wonders God has for us? (1 Corinthians 2:9.) Or the one that promises He will give us more than we can ask or think? (Ephesians 3:20.) He’s trying to tell us that if we will just Know Him, and trust Him, He will grant us the fullness of His Kingdom, and everything we could possibly need on earth. Our cup will overflow (Psalm 23)!

The problem comes when we attach our ideas onto God’s promises. Our idea of abundance often only encompasses being wealthy in the financial sense, or something we may want at the moment of our prayer. God’s mind doesn’t work like our, so we get discouraged easily when things we expect seem to fall through. Our expectancy isn’t in what God has, it’s in what we want.

Your word for today is this: God’s Hand of help is here. He is waiting to pour out abundance upon you. Joy, peace, love, redemption, restoration, hope, destiny . . . all those things He will pour out on you, and more (over and above). His ways may be different than our plan, but His plan will work much better! Get ready to step into the new day prepared for you! It is going to be overflowing with abundance.

(This information was shared with permission from “Whispers of Heaven” by Rosalie Storment and Faye Higbee, copyrighted 2011)