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Sermon Illustrations for Advent 1 (2018)

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Expectations are wonderful, but challenging. The days are surely coming, says the Lord. But how far away are those days? Ask any woman who has been pregnant about expectations and she can define them for you. The expectation that a child will be born, the expectation that her back will stop hurting and her legs will stop swelling and her stomach will settle down and her energy will return. Waiting is hard, even for nine months.

Imagine waiting for hundreds of years. How do we remain hopeful when our expectations don’t seem to be any closer to being met? How do we trust in the promise? Any woman who has had a miscarriage or a still birth can comment on that one as well. How do we maintain hope in the times of grief and tragedy? How do we cling to the promises?

Sometimes it is purely faith and choice to cling to a promise. Jeremiah prophesies that the days are coming when the promises of God will be fulfilled. We need to have faith in that, to trust in that, even in moments of sorrow or grief, even in times of pain and loss, even when the way ahead seems dark and unclear. God promises and God fulfills!
Bonnie B.

* * *

Jeremiah 33:14-16
This is a message of hope for the future, such an appropriate word for the first Sunday of the new church year. Being hopeful is certainly a word America needs. A recent report on “The Decline of Intergenerational Mobility After 1980” by economists Jonathan Davis and Bhashkasr Mazumder found that children whose income exceeds their parents fell by 3% after 1980. American upward social mobility is no longer guaranteeing a better future than our past. And yet this text does what Jesse Jackson has repeatedly urged us to do: “Keep hope alive!”         

Neurobiologists have discerned that hopefulness contributes significantly to happiness and emotional health. In such instances it has been noted that muscles relax, the heart beats more slowly, and the brain releases chemicals (especially the amphetamine dopamine) which make the body feel good (Daniel Amen, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, especially p.58). Similar studies have demonstrated that optimism enhances brain function and the ability to learn from mistakes (Tali Sharot, The Optimism Bias).
Mark E.

* * *

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Is this a passage of patience? Think how long it took for Jesus to come after David. I assume “The Lord Our Righteousness” refers to Jesus coming. It took a long time for God to fulfill that promise. That should give us a hint of the possible long wait for solutions to our problems today. How long before North Korea’s nuclear problem is solved? Are we patient enough?

We should not miss the point. If Jesus is the solution to Israel’s problems, then instead of just building military strength, we should concentrate on winning Israel and north Korea for Jesus without weapons.

In other words, we should concentrate on winning the world to Jesus instead of just negotiating or learning to get along with those of different faiths to keep from having to fight them some day.

Do we show honor and praise only for those soldiers who volunteered to risk their lives for their county?

I don’t even see churches having weekly prayers for our missionaries, though missionaries are risking their lives sometimes daily for our Lord. I have not only read about many who died for their faith, but I knew some in Nepal, where I served, who were tortured or killed for their faith. We should all still be faithful out of love for our heavenly father.

The center of our church worship should be “the Lord of Righteousness” which God has sent.
Bob O.

* * *

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Dwight L. Moody shared this story years ago and I think it’s worth noting as we consider this passage for today. He said, “Show me a church where there is love, and I will show you a church that is a power in the community. In Chicago a few years ago, a little boy attended a Sunday school I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home.

‘They may be as good for others, but not for me,’ was his reply.

‘Why not?’ she asked.

‘Because they love a fellow over there,’” he replied.

Moody’s story is one that’s been told many times. If only we could make the world understand that we loved them, there would be fewer empty churches, and a smaller number of people who never darken a church door. Let love replace duty in how we interact with others and the world will soon be evangelized.
Bill T.

* * *

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. (1 Thessalonians 3:10)

In order to pray at night you have to be up at night. Perhaps Paul is just throwing away a line the way a lot of us do -- night and day. Do any of us really pray twenty-four straight hours?

Or perhaps Paul’s night is not one of uninterrupted sleep. Perhaps he awakes anguished, and uses the time when he can’t sleep to pray.

Sleep is crucial to our well-being. There was a time when people went to sleep when the sun went down and got up when the sun rose, but true night is banished from our world, and many of us work odd hours anyway. According to an article “The Secrets of Sleep: Why do we need it, and are we getting enough?” (October 23, 2017 The New Yorker) by Jerome Groopman, forty-seven million adults in the United States don’t get a decent night’s sleep. The cost to our economy is high -- eighteen billion dollars by a National Sleep Foundation estimate. Perhaps one in five automobile accidents, as many of 1.2 million, can be blamed on drivers with lack of sleep, and that translates into an appalling number of injuries and deaths.

Still, Groopman asks, “... But what is ‘natural’ when it comes to sleep?” Some experts think that in many parts of the world people don’t expect to get eight uninterrupted hours of sleep. When their first sleep period ends they often rise to read, work, or pray, after which a second sleep period follows. There are mixed results when it comes to confirming these experiences. Some groups of people, who are uninfluenced by Western ways of thinking, seem to show that without electricity it’s normal to have different periods of sleep, but others don’t. Some cultures depend on regular naps. Others don’t.
Frank R.

* * *

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13
Doxologies are found in almost every book of the New Testament. These were doxologies that were used in worship in the first century church. Now, hearing the doxology read in a letter, congregations would understand why the author of the letter wanted to give glory to God. They could sing a doxology of praise when they learned of the letter’s message of forgiveness, of the message of salvation, of the message of a personal God. It is for these reasons that we today sing doxologies in worship.

The use of hymns and doxologies for emotional expression was always a part of the liturgy of the early church. The Fourth Ecumenical Council, also known as the Council of Chalcedon, was a church council held from October to November in the year 451. Chalcedon was an ancient maritime town in a region of the Roman Empire in northwest Asia Minor. At this council we were afforded the Latin hymn of praise called Te Deum, with the English translation being “A Song of the Church.” The hymn begins with this stanza:

Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ,
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father

“A Song of the Church” is a hymn of praise and adoration. It is a hymn that expresses our devotion and submission to God. “A Song of the Church” is most certainly a hymn we could sing in our worship service today.
Ron L.

* * *

Luke 21:25-36
It’s always struck me as difficult that advent begins with what seems to be an apocalyptic gospel passage. Jesus is coming on a cloud, as shared in the Book of Revelation. There are signs of the earth’s distress and the wars and battles of the earth. How does our expectation connect with that? Well, revelation, the apocalypse is about expectation.

The coming birth of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, is about expectation. When we are anticipating a momentous happening, the feelings are similar. For children, Christmas is coming and there is great joy. For adults, Christmas is coming and there is so much to do. This Sunday though, rest in the knowledge that Jesus is coming, into the world and once again into our hearts. The expectation of joy can abound -- if we focus on the coming, not the chores of readiness for our family and worldly celebrations, but the chores of opening our hearts and minds, our spirits to the revelation of Jesus, the advent of renewal, the incarnation of the living God in our lives. May it be so for each and every one of us this Advent season.
Bonnie B.

* * *

Luke 21:25-36
Some have predicted that the Lord would return in the year 2000, there were enough threats in the world back then and even today, that we might look for the Lord’s coming soon, but part of the problem is that we see the solution to our problems in the world today as something we must work out by military strength if diplomacy fails to work.

This text sounds like only our God can work the miracles it takes to save the world.

One passage we don’t like in our Bible comes from Jesus. He says we should love our enemies. If we did that we might be called traitors in our country. Aren’t we supposed to hate Putin?  That doesn’t mean we should use all our energy in cooperating with each other.

Our church is the tree that should bear some fruit. We can read about them in church letters and hear them in the sermons.

If we are going to survive until they do, we had better build our faith and patience. That is one reason we need our church. Our Lord speaks through his word and his church.
Bob O.

* * *

Luke 21:25-36
Jesus’ words offer a prophecy about the future gives hope. He wants us to be future oriented. And that changes how we live, how we prepare for the upcoming holiday. Nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said it well: “The future influences the present.” Famed Theologian of Hope Jűrgen Moltmann further elaborates on how this orientation to what is coming at the end changes our attitudes toward the present. He wrote:

As a result of this hope in God’s future, this present world becomes free in believing eyes from all attempts at self-redemption or self-production through labour, and it becomes open for loving, ministering self-expenditure in the interests of a humanizing of conditions and in the interests of the realization of justice... (Theology of Hope, p.338)

Famed twentieth-century New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann makes a similar point:

Eschatological preaching views the present time in light of the future and its says to men this present world, the world of nature and history, the world in which we live our lives and make our plans is not the only world; that this world is temporal and transitory, yet, ultimately empty and unreal in the face of eternity.  (Jesus Christ and Mythology, p.23) In faith man understands himself ever anew. (Ibid., p.76)
Mark E.
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Second Sunday In Advent

For Luke 1:68-79

(Distribute this sheet to the readers.)

Reader A:
Reader B:

(As the introit is being sung, Readers A and B come forward and stand by the Advent wreath until the music is finished.)

Reader A:
Please turn to the Advent litany in your bulletins.
(Pause as they do so.)
If we keep our minds steadfast and trust in God,
we will be kept in perfect peace.

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