O Come, O Come Emmanuel


Sunday Night Thoughts


Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

It’s been a busy weekend for us.  Yesterday, we prepped most of the morning for our annual Christmas Cookie Swap.  We had a great time.  One of the things that we did was play Madlibs.  That’s always entertaining.  We exchanged Christmas cookies and had a fun time of fellowship.

Last week our church bought us a new laptop and I spent most of Saturday evening making sure everything would work.  I had a couple issues getting PowerPoint to work with EasyWorship, but after a few tweaks, I had everything running smoothly.  Everything worked great this morning.

We had a good service this morning.  One of the men came over after church to help me move our hope chest so we could start putting up the tree.  We ran into a snag however.  The tree went up flawlessly although it is starting to show its age.  We bought it before James was born.  Once the tree was up, it’s my job to put on the lights – hmmm!  I have three strings of a 100 lights that are colored blue, purple, and green.  (Blue represents the night that Jesus was born, purple represents Jesus’ royalty, and green represents the everlasting life we have from Jesus’ birth.) One half of one of those strings isn’t working and as I tried to fix it, less and lights worked.  I think what I am going to do is pick up a basic string of white lights and replace the string, I should have plenty of lights to make it work.

The rest of the afternoon has been watching football. First we watched the Lake Effect Bowl in Buffalo and now we are watching the Eagles play the Rams.  All in all it’s been a good day.  We had a good worship service this morning and I preached “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” about the second coming of Jesus.  Pam will be preaching next week. Her message will be “While Shepherds Watched their Flocks.”

On Friday night, we were at Emmaus Road and it was just Pam and I leading worship.  We also spent this week getting ready for some of our upcoming events – the Blue Christmas Service and Christmas Eve.

I really can’t think of much more. Have a great week!

Prayer for the Week

candle-2874562_640Second Sunday of Advent

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

candle-2874562_640Second Sunday of Advent (December 10, 2017)

  • First reading
    • Isaiah 40:1-11
  • Psalm
    • Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
  • Second reading
    • 2 Peter 3:8-15a
  • Gospel
    • Mark 1:1-8

2 Peter 3:8-15 | New Living Translation (NLT)

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

11 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. 

I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again?…”

These probably aren’t the words you were expecting to hear on the Second Sunday of Advent.  After all, where are all the stories of the characters in the Christmas story?  Instead, you are talking about the second return of Jesus…yes…in fact, the title of today’s post is also the title of my sermon on Sunday, except I will be using a different text.

I really don’t think things are much different for us than they were for First Century Israel. Their world was a dark place and they were looking for a light.  The people of Israel had endured one occupation after another. They were looking for a person to free them from the tyranny. The current king – Herod – was an interesting character – king, yet a puppet ruler – brilliant engineer and builder, yet partially mad – AND very jealous.  Herod had renovated the Jewish Temple, but also brought in priests that weren’t Jewish – in an attempt to appease all the people.  This is the political climate in to which Jesus came the first time.

I think most of us are quite aware of the political climate of today. In my own mind, I want to think that our generation is unique – that this is the worst it has ever been.  Peter quotes what the people were saying, “From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created…” They were mocking the fact that the early Christians said that Jesus was returning.

I think that there would be those, even today, who would mock and scoff at the idea that Jesus is ever coming back. But I believe as have believers for over two thousand years that Jesus will return.  The early Christians had a word: “Maranatha” meaning Come O Lord. Peter was writing the believers to remind them to live upright lives and lives pleasing to the Lord.  He was encouraging them in days that seemed dark. The early church was enduring great persecution. Peter also reminds them that Jesus is coming again.  Just like Israel was anticipating the coming of the Messiah, so too should we anticipate the coming of Jesus as the King of Kings.

As he reminds the believers that Jesus is coming again…he also reminds the believers that our time is not God’s time and God’s time is not our time.  We here the phrase, “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” Since God is infinite, his sense of time is much different than ours.  We cry, “How long O Lord?” God answers, “Just a moment…”  Think about that – pause for what you think is a moment.  Sometimes a moment can seem like a long, long, long time.

Why is God waiting?  Where is the promise of his coming?  Why doesn’t he come?

The answer is that God is being patient…God is being merciful…God is show us His grace.  Peter writes about the coming judgement and that everything will be burnt up and that those who aren’t in Christ will be destroyed.

Think about this for a moment.  The very God who created it all…including us…will bring it to an end.  He loves us so very much.  God wants the best for us.  He would prefer that all the people that he created be saved. God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed…God is being patient.

BUT…sooner or later, Christ will return.  Peter tells us it will be like a thief in the night – very unexpectedly.  Peter is really quoting the words of Jesus.  So where does that leave us?  Peter tells us that since everything is going to be destroyed, those waiting for his coming should live holy and godly lives, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.  We should be living our lives prepared for his coming and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus.  We should be preparing the way of Jesus much the way that John the Baptist prepared the way of Jesus.  Listen to what Mark writes in his gospel:

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
    and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!’”

This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.

John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

While we are waiting for this new heaven and new earth that God has promised – a world filled with God’s righteousness – we make sure that people hear the Good News.  Let us prepare the way of the Lord.

Listen to how Peter finishes up this section:

14 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

I want to encourage you to think about what that means, especially in light of the coming season of Christmas.  What is Christmas all about really?  Jesus came into the world as a baby – he was God incarnate – God with flesh on and he came to save us.

As a side note:  Peter writes about living peaceful lives.  As you are shopping during this season, be kind to those behind the counter.  They are people too.  They have the same difficulties, the same joys, the same financial problems…they are not robots…but people…treat them with the love of Jesus.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus…born to set your people free!

On the Road, Again

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Today, Pam and I were on the road again.  Over the last few weeks, we have visited three different Pennsylvania cities.  Several weeks ago we were in Pittsburgh. While there we visited Essie’s Original Hot Dog Shop.  If you are in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, it is worth the visit.  We were also in Erie several weeks ago, and today we went to Dubois.  The address for the doctor’s office seemed familar – and now I know why.  Located next to the doctor’s office was the Western Pennsylvania Wesleyan District office.  That was interesting.

We decided to go home a different way and just past Penfield, PA we came across the above historical marker.  Philip P. Bliss was a gospel song writer who was born in Penfield.  Later his family moved to Rome, PA.  Bliss wrote the words and music to many gospel songs, including Hallelujah, What a Savior. While he didn’t write the lyrics, he did pen the tune to It Is Well With My Soul, which we sang this last Sunday.  As I mentioned he usually wrote by the lyrics and the music to his songs.

On December 29, 1876, Bliss and his wife were traveling by train when there was a terrible accident – near Ashtabula, OH.  The train crashed into a ravine. Many passengers were not killed by the fall, but by the fire that erupted after the crash.  Bliss was killed trying to go back into the fiery crash to rescue his wife.

Following his death, an unpublished poem was found in his trunk.  It contained the words found in the hymn I Will Sing of My Redeemer. It was set to a tune specially written for it by James McGranahan, which is one of the settings that it is often sung to.  It also goes very well with the hymn tune Hyfrodol. You would know that as the tune to Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus.

It was a great find as we drove the scenic byways of Pennsylvania during our tour of Pennsylvania doctors.