What a sweet Sunday of worship together last weekend. After the opening hymn, the Yoon family brought all our focus together on a special moment as little E. led us saying, “let us pray”, and “amen”. The reading, “and a little child shall lead them…” (Isaiah 11) speaks of the promised baby Jesus. This week, the song “This is our God” helped us enter into the theme of the candle of Peace. He brings peace to our madness, and comfort to our sadness. This is the one we are waiting for! May that be our prayer this Advent season.
The story of Zechariah in Luke 1:5-25 and Luke 1:57-79 is compelling on so many levels. Despite his skepticism regarding the promise of a child for him and his wife Elizabeth in their old age, the purposes of God still come to pass. John, their son was in fact born. John himself is the sign that the Messiah is coming after Him. So, while Zechariah’s unbelief didn’t affect the outcome, he sure did miss out of a lot of the fun (Luke 1:20): he couldn’t speak from that moment on until a few days after the birth of John. And the muteness becomes a sign in and of itself (Isaiah 35:5-6). Once Zechariah believes and writes down the name of John on a tablet, he is “filled with the Spirit” (the clear signal in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts that we are now in a new covenant and not in the old one anymore, cf. Acts 2) and prophesies about forgiveness of sins and how his son, John, will prepare the way for Jesus.
The big question for us from the ‘sign of Zechariah’ is, does our own skepticism about God prevent us from being fully involved in what He is doing? Do you dream about what God can accomplish in our lives, in the lives of others, and in the life of our Metro-west community? Or is your skepticism causing you to miss out on being fully involved in God’s kingdom breaking in? Elizabeth was “filled with the Spirit” during her pregnancy (Luke 1:41), baby John himself, “leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:41). It’s only when his tongue is released to speak that Zechariah is “filled with the Spirit” and starts singing the praises of God. Zechariah learned the lesson and it’s recorded for our own sake as well. Don’t let your skepticism get in the way of the fun of embracing what God is doing! To be taciturn* is not a good quality in this particular context!
P.S. For those who listen to the sermon here or were in attendance on Sunday, as much as I would like to announce the opening illustration was a real prophecy, we do know the note was written very recently as a fun introduction to the history of our church. What is not in question, however, are God’s promises of faithfulness and fruitfulness for TCC, going back all the way to its founding in the 1820’s as “Evangelical Trinitarian Church” and prior to that, from the first puritan settlement in the 1600’s preceding the unitarian controversy of the early 19th century.
*there are many definitions of “taciturn” available: “untalkative,” “uncommunicative,” “unforthcoming,” “quiet,” “tight-lipped,” “habitually silent” and none of these apply to us when it comes the proclamation of the Gospel!
‘Signs’ that Christmas is coming are hard to miss: caroling, Salvation Army bell ringers, external illuminations everywhere. Those of us who are in touch with our inner Grinch lament the fact that these signs appear earlier and earlier each year. Halloween candy is still being consumed when everything has already turned red and green.
This early-start approach to signs is also God’s strategy. Isaiah the prophet gave a 700-year period of preparation for the first Christmas. The sign of the Savior, “Immanuel” (=God with Us, Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14) is also accompanied by other signs: the deaf shall hear and the eyes of the blind shall see (Isaiah 29:18; see also Isaiah 35:1-10// Matthew 11:5-6)
Are we blinded by the lights of Christmas so that we can’t see the Savior?
But all this advance prep time offers no guarantee we will recognize the Signs of the Savior. Are we blinded by the lights of Christmas so that we can’t see the Savior? Are we hearing the Christmas music and not listening to His Voice? Are we busy walking about checking off our lists yet missing to walk with Him? Advent season is also God’s personal invitation to you and me to prepare our hearts for His coming and to receive Him. If we open our eyes, the signs of the savior are all around us. This season, let’s bring our family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to the services. God is still opening eyes that are blind and loosening mute tongues to praise His name.
Signs of the Savior
Readings from Isaiah 9, 35, Numbers 24, Matthew 1, and John 1
Our annual Lessons & Carols service tells the story of our Savior with carols and readings from all ages in our church family. Our choir, worship teams, and student bands lead us in song as we all remember and re-tell the story of the whole world anticipating the coming of the King! As is our rhythm, this is a First Sunday Together, so adults, students, and children begin the service together. Children are dismissed at 9:50 am but the students remain throughout the morning for this special service.
Second Sunday of Advent (December 9)
Signs of the Savior: The blind see, the deaf hear and the mute speak (Isaiah 29; Zechariah in Luke 1:57-66)
Third Sunday of Advent (December 16)
Signs of the Savior: The Dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them (John 5:25-29)
Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 23)
Signs of the Savior: Great news of Great Joy (Isaiah 35; Luke 2:10)
An advent tradition that begun last year, Evensong is a 30-minute mid-week worship service centered around worship, scripture, prayer, and a short message. A great way to enter into the Advent season, and a wonderful place to invite a friend!
“…The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:5)
Our 5 pm family service, fondly referred to as “happy chaos,” is a telling of the birth of Christ from the Jesus Storybook Bible. Our narrators tell the story as our children bring it to life complete with sheep costumes costumes, sound effects, lights, and more. This is a short service (45m) so it’s perfect for the whole family!
We celebrate communion on Christmas Eve at 7 pm in the Sanctuary, with carols led by the choir and organ and a Christmas sermon from Pastor Tom.
Our evensong services draw us into the Advent season. These 30-minute services are a practice we began as a community in Advent 2017 as a way to quiet our hearts and make room for Jesus to plant seeds of faith.
Our Family Nativity Drama, at 5pm, is a lively service for all ages featuring Christmas carols lead by our worship team and a unique kid-friendly nativity drama walking us through the story of the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
The 7pm Communion Service is a contemplative Christmas Eve service of lessons and carols accompanied by the organ and remembrance of the Lord’s Supper.
All are welcome to celebrate with us!
What a joyful Sunday! We had our annual Lessons & Carols service to kick off the season of Advent. Many families participated by lighting the advent wreath and doing the many readings (lessons) that show us all the Signs pointing to the Savior – Jesus. Did you hear a scripture with new ears or see something with new eyes this morning? If so, let us know in the comments or reach out to a pastor. Two special songs featured that morning were from Ordinary Time, a folk trio started by Ben Keyes who plays mandolin on our worship team. A special thanks to Lee and Grant Chizek for hosting our coffee hour, and for our flower guild for decorating our church so beautifully every year for the holidays!
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The oracles of Balaam in Numbers 22-24 seem to come right out of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: the plot is measured in centuries rather than years, fantastic events occur (a talking donkey) and, like Saruman, there is even a powerful wizard with the strange name of Balaam, son of Beor.
The story of Balaam contains rich lessons and the one we’re focusing on today is the fact that he is “Balaam son of Beor, whose eyes are opened.” Ironically, in the case of Balaam, whose job is to see signs as a professional diviner, the eyes of his donkey were opened first. Only after that happens, God opens Balaam’s eyes to see! From then on, Balaam, who is commissioned to curse God’s people, can only speak blessing when he opens his mouth. He even sees the future king: “I see him but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come out of Jacob and a scepter from Israel” (Num 24:17). Since God never makes empty promises (Num 23:19-20), this promise rests on God Himself, and it will surely come to pass.
The imagery of the royal scepter is a powerful one. The word for scepter is actually the same word for the staff of the shepherd. The scepter is also the same hook that Pharaoh, king of Egypt holds in his hand. Only his is one symbolizing brute force and opposition to God (see Exodus 1-15). In Ezekiel 29:3, Pharaoh is given the nickname of “great dragon,” which both anticipates and recalls the great and evil serpent/dragon through whom evil entered the world in Genesis 3 (see Isaiah 27:1) and whose head one will be crushed forever (Rom 16:20; Rev 20:2, 10).
The scepter staff of the God-King to come is completely different. Yes it is powerful since it will crush evil, but it’s the hook of the Good Shepherd whose rod/scepter and staff comfort those whom He calls His sheep (Psalm 23:1-6). Christmas is God’s personal invitation to celebrate the birth of the Good Shepherd. As our eyes are opened, we come under divine protection and we receive His blessing.
What’s blinding us to the signs of the Savior?
This Christmas, we too can be blinded by sheer habit of the Christmas traditions. We may put out all the lights in the house and yard like Clark Griswold. We may be easily blinded by the avarice and greed of the season (2 Peter 2:15). There are so many ways we can miss the signs of the savior! But we also take heart, because if God could open the eyes of a guy like Balaam, “son of Beor, whose eyes are opened,” he can do that for anybody, even the most blinded among us! This is why Paul’s prayer for us continues to this day (Ephesians 1:15-23): that we might have the eyes of our hearts enlightened; that we might see the signs of the Savior this season: The Good Shepherd, the King who has come to provide divine protection against the evil one. The one who has come to us to bless us. “Let every heart prepare Him room!”