Bulletin for December 26, 2010

Jesus said he is the Comforter, the Consolation, the Advocate, and he would send another Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will comfort, help, intercede and guide us while we wait for the return of our Consolation.

This service is modeled after Rev. Danny Hyde’s article, “What Child is This?” in Reformed Worship magazine Issue 93.

Entering into Worship

• Call to Worship Psalm 98:1-9
• Invocation Psalm 124:8
• Salutation Revelation 1:4-6
• Opening Prayer
• Song of Praise Sing a New Song to Jehovah #190:1-3

Confession of Sin

Reading of the Law Matthew 22:34-40

General Confession: Lord God, eternal and almighty Father: We acknowledge before your holy majesty that we are poor sinners, conceived and born in guilt and in corruption, prone to do evil, unable of our own power to do good. Because of our sin, we endlessly violate your holy commandments. But, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and turn away from all our offenses. We condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with true sorrow asking that your grace will relieve our distress. Have compassion on us, most gracious God, Father of mercies, for the sake of your son Jesus Christ our Lord. And in removing our guilt, also grant us daily increase of the grace of your Holy Spirit, and produce in us the fruits of holiness and of righteousness pleasing in your sight: Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (from 1543 Geneva liturgy)

Assurance of Pardon Isaiah 40:1-5

Response of Gratitude

Offerings

Congregational Prayer

Service of Scriptures and Songs

The Old Testament Prophecies of the Coming of Christ

After the dawn of human history, in the Garden of Eden, God created the man Adam, his wife Eve and all their posterity in his image, with true holiness and righteousness, “that [they] might rightly know God [their] Creator, heartily love him, and live with him in eternal blessedness” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 6).

Beginning with Adam and Eve, God always established his relationship with man through covenants. But the very first human parents broke this covenant relationship with God they willfully disobeyed the covenant of works when the ancient serpent deceived them into eating of the forbidden tree. Thus the Lord God came to judge Adam and Eve and cursed the serpent for plunging the whole human race into slavery to sin and death.

Yet in the midst of this dark and ominous event in Paradise, we hear the first news of Christmas: from the woman would come a Seed whose heel would be bruised by the serpent, but in turn would crush the serpent’s head. What did God mean by “bruise his heel”?

First Lesson Man’s Fall, God’s Grace Genesis 3:8-15; 17:3-12
Song “The Lord Our God in Mercy Spoke”

Throughout the ages, God unfolded his plan for redeeming man from sin and death. The promised Seed of the woman, cut off with Abel’s death, continued through Seth, was saved from the flood by Noah’s ark, and multiplied again through Shem, one of Noah’s three sons. Centuries later, God was pleased to covenant with Abram, one of Shem’s descendants, to bring the promised Seed of the woman,who would bless not only Abram’s family for generations to come, but all the families of the earth.

After receiving God’s steadfast love for generation after generation, Abraham’s descendants—God’s chosen family—rebelled like their first father Adam. Jacob’s sons sold their brother into slavery, yet the Lord used Joseph to preserve Israel from famine in Egypt. For 400 years, Jacob’s descendants were slaves in Egypt, before God called Moses to display signs and wonders to lead the people out of Egypt. Stuck between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s chariots, they again forgot the Lord’s mighty arm, yet in power and grace God caused the sea to part, enabling Israel to pass through on dry ground while destroying Pharaoh’s armies in the sea.

After covenanting with his chosen nation Israel at Mount Sinai, the people started their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. But in the wilderness, the people repeatedly rebelled against their covenant Lord. They built a golden calf to worship it, yet the Lord forgave their sin. They repeatedly grumbled about not having bread, water, or meat, yet the Lord sent them manna from heaven, water from a rock, and more quail than they could eat. The spies did not believe the Lord’s promise that he would give the land to them in spite of its powerful inhabitants and well-fortified cities, yet he later led them in, through Joshua, to destroy their ungodly enemies and settle in the land.

After God settled them in the land, generation after generation again rebelled against God’s covenant resulting in oppression by their enemies, yet the Lord’s mercy was so great that he always delivered them. Finally, in the 7th and 6th centuries B.C., the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom by the Babylonians, resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and in slavish exile in foreign lands. Again the Lord promised that he would save them again—this time by coming to his people as a child born of a virgin.

Second Lesson Immanuel: Son of Abraham, Son of David Isaiah 7:14; 9:2, 6-7; 42:6
Hymn “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” #331:1-3, 5

Immanuel, God with us, was to be the name of the virgin’s Son. A virgin shall conceive: what sign did God have in mind? How would this Immanuel fulfill God’s covenant promise of blessing Israel and giving light to all the nations in a darkened world?

Eve’s offspring was also prophesied to be a King—the Prince of Peace—over an eternal kingdom to finally end the serpent’s reign over God’s people. Yet when would this sign come? With many previous disappointments over 400 years, how would they know if the true Messiah had come? And where was he to be born? Would it be in a royal, aristocratic palace in the holy city of Jerusalem?

Third Lesson Born in the Fullness of Time Micah 5:2-5 a; Luke 1:26-38; Galatians 4:4-5
• Hymn “My Soul Does Magnify the Lord” #332:1-5

Over many millennia, God kept repeating his promise of the coming of the Seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. Did God forget his promise? Where was Abraham’s offspring who would bless the nations? Where was the virgin’s Son, the Son of David who was to be a king forever? Where was this Consolation of whom Israel sang?

You see, after the preaching of Isaiah and Micah, God’s people waited for more than seven hundred years without these prophecies coming to pass! Yet now the strife is ended! Now God is no longer silent! Why so downcast, O Israel of God? Lift up your hearts and heads and hear the long-expected words of fulfillment.

In the first century A.D., God prepared the Roman world for the birth of the long-promised Messiah and the preaching of the gospel. Greek was spoken by all. Rome built roads and bridges for easy travel. Roman peace prevailed in the whole empire. Many devout Jews longed for their Consolation’s arrival. In the providence of God, Caesar Augustus called for taxation of the land, so together with everyone else, Joseph and Mary traveled to his hometown, Bethlehem, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. In the fullness of time, the promised Savior, the Son of the Most High God, was born of a virgin, born under the Law.

Fourth Lesson Humble King of Jews and Gentiles Luke 2:1-16; Matthew 2:1-12
Hymn “Brightest and Best of the Sons” #343:1-3

After this stupendous wonder of God, we see the true nature of Christ’s kingdom revealed in those who first beheld him after his birth. He was not acclaimed by multitudes, by the powerful, the influential, the important, but by a few lowly shepherds who happened to be in a nearby field. This king was not to be found in a palace, but “enthroned” in a feeding trough for cows and sheep, wrapped in ordinary swaddling cloths! Truly, he who was rich became poor for our sake, so that we by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor 8:9).

After Jesus was born, he was visited by Magi, who were princely men of wisdom from the East. Surprisingly, these pagan Gentiles came to worship the very Holy of Holies in the person of Jesus, in whom the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). The age-old strife between the two seeds, the woman and the serpent, Christ and Satan, the godly and the ungodly, still continues. Thus we see the reason Jesus came: to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).

Fifth Lesson Isaiah 42:5-7; Luke 2:22-35; 2:29-32 (text)
• Hymn “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” #335:1-4
Sermon The Benefits of Waiting for the Comforter
Sixth Lesson Believe in the Son of God Incarnate to Receive Sonship John 1:1-14
• Hymn “Joy to the World” #337:1-3

What an amazing wonder God has done in sending his eternal Son to become human, yet remain God: the birth of God in the flesh. For here we see that the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Son of the virgin, the Son given unto us, the one who was to be a Ruler from David’s hometown of Bethlehem, was in truth, God in the flesh. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see! Hail the Incarnate Deity!”

This “grace [that] came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17)—grace that forgives the sins of a wayward past, the struggles of the present, and the sins of the future—is offered to all who by faith unite themselves to the humiliation, lowliness, suffering, and shame of the One who came from heaven to earth, that we too might rise from earth to heaven. Amen. Thanks be to God!

Let us pray together: “Our Father who art in heaven…”

Leaving to Serve

• Doxology Angels from the Realms of Glory #340:5

Saints and angels join in praising
Thee, the Father, Spirit, Son,
Evermore their voices raising
To th’Eternal Three in One.
Come and worship! Come and worship!
Worship Christ, the newborn King!

• Amen! Three-fold Amen
• Benediction Jude 24-25
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