In this worship gathering, we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent with a candle, and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper – and hear a message entitled, “The Certainty of Uncertainty”, inspired by Andy Stanley. It’s based on Mark 14.12-26. You can find just the message alone below the whole service.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US. Today is Black Friday. This Sunday begins the season of Advent, as we count down the days to Christmas.
And we’re still in COVID.
Many people say – reinforced by countless television commercials aimed at selling you something neither you nor your loved ones need – that “The Holidays are about family.”
I’ve been saying for years that this statement misses the mark significantly. And this is the year to find out if that’s true.
I’m astounded – nay, gobsmacked! – at the attitudes I see on social media with respect to the pandemic and family gatherings. These days, I see photos of some of my American friends, gathered in large crowds for Thanksgiving, as if they are unaware of the risk that if even just one person in a gathering is carrying Coronavirus, the whole group could be infected. Why are they taking this risk? Because “the Holidays are about family.”
In other words, maintaining a tradition is more important than preserving life.
We are entering what is usually the most socially-packed month on the calendar. This year, that may need to be handled differently.
This may be the year that you prove that the Holidays are not really all about family.
It is possible to be thankful without having The Whole Gang present in the room.
Christmas parties can take place virtually, or in physically distanced settings.
We can still celebrate the birth of Jesus when it’s just our own household.
I don’t want to pretend I’m anybody’s Medical Officer of Health, and I’m certainly not trying to engender fear in anyone. We serve a God who is bigger than any virus! But as Advent begins, I think this is the year we can demonstrate, once and for all, that the Holidays are not all about family.
In this year of craziness, let’s focus on the One (in the) Stable: let’s remember the Reason for the Season.
Whatever shape your Advent and Christmas celebrations take, be safe. And let Jesus be the Centre of it all.
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1.15a, NLT).
Many people don’t realize it, but there are many English idioms that come from the Bible – most from the King James Version of 1611 (and thereafter), and some from even before that. Because Bible reading used to be much more prevalent in society at large, these phrases became commonplace in English.
I’m going to be talking about one of them on Sunday. It comes from Proverbs 25.22, cited later by the apostle Paul in Romans 12.20. It’s the idea of doing good to your enemies being like heaping burning coals on their heads, in the context of leaving revenge to God. (In the Old Testament, the idea of burning coals is an image for the judgment of God.)
Just for fun, I took to social media the other day to ask people what their favourite English idiom with biblical roots might be. Here’s a sampling of the answers I got:
- “The writing is on the wall” – from the book of Daniel
- “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight” – from Jesus in Matthew
- “Scapegoat” – from Leviticus (this one dates back to the time of William Tyndale’s translation in the 1500s!)
- “Eat, drink and be merry” – from Ecclesiastes
- “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – from Genesis
- “A drop in the bucket” – from Isaiah
- “A fool and his money are soon parted” – from Proverbs
To be sure, there is a move afoot to expunge the Bible from culture. But that’s next to impossible to do; because the Bible has had so much influence on culture, literature, art, and virtually every other aspect of society, it would take far more effort than most people are willing to put forth to remove the Bible from our culture entirely.
It’s one thing, though, to have a Bible-laced vocabulary of idioms; it’s another thing to have the Bible ingrained in us in such a way that we live its principles and follow God’s ways as we live in relationship with him. That has much more potential to change the world!
“I have hidden your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119.11, NLT).
Encouragement From the Word will return on November 27.
As Remembrance Day approaches, the word “sacrifice” looms large. We remember, with gratitude, those who gave their lives in the service of our country’s freedom and sovereignty.
But sacrifice is not limited to those who die in battle.
Yes, often, we think of Jesus’ words to his disciples – a veiled reference to himself – when he said, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13, NLT).
But the notion of sacrifice also relates to our own walk with God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him” (Romans 12.1, NLT).
He calls us to give – once for all, as a victim – our bodies, which contextually refers to our whole selves – as a living sacrifice.
As disciples of Jesus, our worship involves the complete giving of every part of us to God, in his service, for his Kingdom, for his glory.
So, yes, gratefully remember those who sacrificed their lives for Canada’s freedom. And gratefully sacrifice your body, your mind, your soul, for the glory of God, who in Jesus Christ has redeemed you for his good purpose.