As Christians, we will face many hardships and crises. The good thing is that we are not alone. We have Jesus with us. We know how the story will end. We know that Jesus will be ruler over all, and we will live for eternity with Him where there will be no more pain or sickness, no more tears or sadness, no fear or worry. We will have perfect love and peace. It should give each of us hope.

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Click this link to get a printable version: Getting Ready For Christmas – Hope


Good morning and welcome to Brewster Baptist Church.  My name is David Pranga.  I am one the pastors here at the church.  Pastor Doug and Jill are away this weekend with family.

Can you believe today marks the first day of Advent?  It does not even seem like Christmas is in only 25 days.  Today, we are talking about “Getting Ready for Christmas.”

As I think back to my childhood days, one of the ways my parents would have us get ready for Christmas was by setting out an Advent Calendar that looked like a Christmas tree.  This Advent Calendar was simply a countdown until Christmas day.

My siblings and I would take turns hanging up felt ornaments onto the Christmas tree.  Some of these ornaments were an angel, star, candy cane, teddy bear, and a rocking horse to name a few.  Since my birthday was December 13, I often got to hang two of them up—a football and a bible.  Each day was a countdown to the most important day.  We all knew that on December 25, the most important items would be hung up.  It was baby Jesus laying in a manager.  This was one way my family got ready to celebrate Christmas.

Do remember how you got ready to celebrate Christmas as a child?  I think we all have different memories about getting ready for Christmas.

This morning marks the first Sunday of Advent.  A few weeks ago, Pastor Doug came to me about preaching on Advent, and I thought it was no big deal.  I had heard many sermons concerning advent and the topic of hope.

When I started looking at the history and meaning of advent, and how the early church looked at advent, I began to realize that there were some interesting facts I never knew.

Since I am a pastor and my knowledge of advent was not so grand, it made me think and wonder how much you really knew about advent and the reasons why we celebrate advent.  I decided this morning to start with a 5-question quiz concerning advent.  The good news is that all the questions are multiple choice.

Are you ready for the 5-question quiz?  You can play along to see how much you know about advent?

ADVENT QUIZ

  1. What does “advent” mean?
    • Going
    • Coming
    • Buying Presents
    • Time to make pies for Christmas
  2. Advent reminds us to anticipate the coming of
    • The Birth of Jesus
    • The Second Coming of Jesus marking the End of Times
    • Both A & B
    • Christmas Time Bonuses
  3. The first two weeks of advent was to focus on:
    • Looking back to The Birth of Christ
    • Looking forward to The Second Coming of Christ
    • Gifts I should buy for my family
    • Gifts I should buy for myself
  4. How did early Christians get ready for Christmas?
    • They watched football on Thanksgiving and went shopping on Black Friday.
    • They bought presents for their household, friends and themselves.
    • They decorated the house and put up a Christmas tree.
    • 40 Days of penance, prayer, fasting—very similar to Lent at Easter time.
  5. The Key Theme of Advent?
    • Shopping, Christmas Movies, Church, and Presents
    • Santa, Reindeer, Cookies, and Presents
    • Hope, Faith, Joy, and Peace

How did everyone do on the advent quiz?  I hope you had some fun taking this quiz.

As I mentioned earlier, we are starting a new four-week series dealing with Advent.  Today, I want us to look at Advent.  I have a series of questions concerning Advent.  Then I will move on to today’s theme which is HOPE.

Let me start with the opening questions:

What is Advent?  Why do we celebrate Advent?

Advent comes from the Latin word which literally means “coming.”  Who is coming and why is this important?  During these four weeks of Advent, our focus is really on the coming of the King.  Who is this king that we are focused on?  His name is Jesus.

This morning, we read two Scripture passages from the Book of Isaiah.  Isaiah lived over 700 years before Jesus was born.  Isaiah was a prophet who would share with the Israelites how they should live but would also share with them what the future would hold.  He was a messenger from God.

In the first passage that Barbara read, Isaiah prophecies about the Birth of Christ.  Isaiah shared that a baby would be born of a virgin, and he was the coming Messiah, the Promised One.  He was the Savior.  His name would be Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  We know him as God’s son, Jesus.

The second passage we read from the Book of Isaiah deals with the Second Coming of Jesus.  The Second Coming is the moment when Jesus returns one day to earth to restore perfection and rightness to our broken world.  Every nation will see him as King.  Jesus will be ruler and judge over all things.

What is advent about today?  Advent is the anticipation of two important things: simply put, Advent is about the Birth of Christ that happened 2,000 years ago and The Second Coming of Christ which will happen in the future.  These are both important events!

When did Christians begin to celebrate advent?

It was during the 6th century that the early church and early Christians started celebrating advent.  What I found most interesting is that the early church’s entire focus was not on the Birth of Christ.  The entire focus on Advent and Christmas was on the Second Coming of Christ.  The early Christians could not wait for Jesus to come back again and rescue them from the problems and struggles that the Christians were going through.  The heartache that the Christians were going through would end.  The anticipation of Jesus coming again and reigning over all nations was very appealing.  They knew that Jesus would bring peace to the Christians.  It was not until the Middle Ages that the church started to focus on the Birth of Jesus and how important that was to our Christian faith.  Then the church councils decided what we still follow today.

The first two weeks of Advent are focused upon The Second Coming of Christ, and we read passages from Old Testament books like Isaiah.  Then week three and four, the church focuses upon The Birth of Jesus, and passages are taken from New Testament books.

In my growing up years, the focus was always on the Birth of Jesus.  The Birth of Jesus was always the center point of Christmas.  What I did not realize until recently, was the importance of the Second Coming.  This is just something I found cool and interesting.

How do most people get ready for Christmas and Advent?

This past Thursday, we celebrated a special holiday—Thanksgiving.  For most people the official turn to Christmas happens sometime on Thanksgiving Day.  For some it is opening the paper and seeing all the Black Friday ads from all the different stores.  For others, Christmas starts after Thanksgiving dinner is all done.

I believe many people get ready for Christmas by shopping.  We have the two biggest shopping days of the year.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where millions of people go shopping for their families, friends and of course themselves.  People love to give the perfect gifts for Christmas.  Besides shopping, most people get ready for Christmas doing a variety of activities.  They may include getting a Christmas tree and decorating their homes, making Christmas cookies, listening and singing Christmas songs, sending out Christmas Cards, and of course the many Christmas parties.  I believe there are some that even find time in their schedule to go to church on Christmas Eve.  These are all ways in which people get ready for Christmas.

I believe if you ask most people what their focus is on Christmas, it deals primarily with presents, family, food, and parties.  I am not saying these things are bad.  But let me compare it to how the early Church and early Christians got ready for Christmas.  It was very different.  For centuries, Advent and Christmas was a time of preparation and anticipation of Jesus.  It was a time of preparing one’s heart spiritually for God.  They wanted to make sure their focus was on Jesus Christ above everything else.

Advent was marked by “40 days of Penance.”  It was very similar to Lent which is practiced before Easter.  These 40 days were marked by a time of prayer and fasting.  The early Christians wanted to prepare their hearts for the anticipation of Jesus Coming Again.  They wanted to remember the Birth of Christ, too.  The early church wanted their hearts to be spiritually ready.

Why did Christians look forward to the day when Jesus would come back?  Jesus would rescue them from the heartache of living here on earth; the struggles that the Christians endured and how hard life was.  Jesus provided the Christians with Hope.

***It is amazing today to see the contrast of the way we get ready for Christmas versus how Christians for centuries got ready for Christmas.***

I believe Advent is a time for each of us to focus on Jesus more.  To take some time every day and spend time thinking about Jesus.  It is a time for us to think not of ourselves, but on God.  We, like the Christians before us should take time to think more on the Birth of Christ and the Second Coming.  That is really the reason we celebrate Christmas.

I think the challenge for each of us today is how do we slow down and begin to focus more on God during this Christmas and Advent season?  I know it is hard to do.  I really think if we spend time every day, we will see our hearts grow in love towards God.  We only have 25 days until Christmas.

Which leads me to the next questions:

How can we get ready for Christmas?

What can we do to put more focus on Jesus during Advent?

There are many ways in which we can get ready for Christmas and focus on Jesus more.  I think it starts with spending time with God daily.  This can be done by praying, reading the Christmas Story, or having a devotion.  If you spend just five minutes every day, I believe your heart will grow closer to God.  You will have more joy in your life.  Your focus will be on Him more and less on yourself.

A second thing you can do is have your own wreath and light a candle each Sunday.  As a family, we take time each Sunday and read a scripture from the Bible, light a candle and then close in prayer.  It may take you 10 minutes each Sunday to do.  You can have different members of your family take part.  I believe it is another way to slow down and focus on Jesus more.

A third way you can focus on Jesus more is setting up an Advent Calendar.  As I mentioned earlier in my sermon, growing up as a family, we took turns putting things up on our advent calendar.  As a child, it was a constant reminder of the importance of the Birth of Jesus.  It is really fun for all ages of children.

A fourth way you can focus more on Jesus is simply by setting up a Christmas tree and decorations.  Many of us do this already.  I want you think about adding a manger scene to your Christmas decorations.  I say this because this is really what Christmas is all about.

Practices associated with Advent

  1. Spending time reading the Christmas Story, Devotion and Prayer
  2. Lightening Candles around a wreath
  3. Advent Calendar
  4. Setting up Christmas Tree, Decorations and Manger

These are just some of the ways you can focus more on Jesus during this Christmas season.  I would invite you to think of one thing you can do or as a family you can do to celebrate Jesus during this time.

ADVENT — HOPE

I am going to switch gears from talking about Advent and now move on to the theme of today which is HOPE.  If you can remember back, we lit the candle of HOPE at the beginning of the service.

As Christians, we have hope in our lives that cannot be matched.  We already know a few things that the world is still trying to figure out.  First, we know that Jesus was born.  There were many prophecies talking about exactly how Jesus would be born, and they all came true.

Second, we know how the world will end.  We know that Jesus will come back one day.  We call this the Second Coming of Christ.  Jesus will one day be worshipped by all people and all countries.  We know that Jesus is the final Judge at the end of times.

As Christians, we know how the story starts with Jesus and we know how the story will end.  If you remember back to Isaiah 2:5, we see that Isaiah is trying to encourage the Israelites in how to live their life.

“Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”  Isaiah 2:5

Why should we walk in the light of the Lord?  As Christians we have an understanding of what Jesus has done for each of us.  Some of you may be asking the question:  What has Jesus done for us?

Jesus Christ came into this world as God’s Son.  Jesus lived a sinless life.  He was perfect in all he did.  Jesus came so that we can have life.  The only way we could have life was for Him to die on the cross for our sin.

Every one of us are sinful.  Every one of us have done things that are wrong in the eyes of God.

God is perfect and holy in all things, yet God loves us.  But our sinfulness separates us from God.  But in God’s great love for mankind, He sent his Son, Jesus on this earth.  Jesus had to die on the cross for our sins.  Someone had to pay the price for our sins.  Jesus was atonement for our sins.  We are forgiven because of what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus was not done.  Jesus resurrected three days later and became alive again.  Jesus walked with people and was visible to more than 500 people.  As Christians, we know how the story will end.  Jesus will come back for us in what we refer to as the Second Coming, where He will rule and judge the world.

I tell you this because this should give each of us hope.  As Christians our HOPE is with Jesus.  We know the future and how things will end, that Jesus will be Lord over everything.  Unfortunately, many people put their hope in many different things.  Each of these things will not come close to what Jesus has to offer.

Some people put their hope in their:

  • Job – Unfortunately people lose their jobs all the time.
  • Family – Marriages are broken, and families are filled with difficulty.
  • Friends – People come and go, they break up with you, you have sickness and death.
  • Wealth – You cannot take money with you.  It has to stay here on earth.
  • Things – Things grow old, wear out, and become outdated.

All these things will not provide the HOPE that only Jesus can provide us.

As Christians, we will face many hardships and crises.  The good thing is that we are not alone.  We have Jesus with us.  We know how the story will end.  We know that Jesus will be ruler over all, and we will live for eternity with Him where there will be no more pain or sickness, no more tears or sadness, no fear or worry.  We will have perfect love and peace.  It should give each of us hope.

One day we will join Jesus for eternity in heaven!!!

Let us pray.

 

Confession & Communion, First Day of Advent

Reverend Patti Ricotta, Brewster Baptist Church

It is very special that the first day of Advent 2019 is on a Sunday. And it is an honor to serve and partake of Communion with all of you on this important occasion. But before we come to God’s table, we need to ask God to cleanse our hearts from all the sin that separates us from him. Let’s read a Unison Prayer of Confession to that end.

Unison Prayer of Confession

Wonderful Counselor, God of hope, today is the day we begin to anticipate the Advent of the Prince of Peace, and we confess we are not yet ready.

We admit that, in our place in history, between your first Advent and your Second Coming, our hearts too easily drift into a half-hearted worship and disinterested anticipation of your coming.

Because you are not tangibly here—you are not on the nightly news, filling bookstores with your latest book; you are not coming to a town near us, swelling arenas with thousands of our neighbors—we too often save our adoration, devotion and awe for those who tingle our five senses.

Please forgive our lack of spiritual depth.

Deepen our sorrow for living only in the shallows—craving to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the things that can only be perceived in the heart, soul and mind of a seeker through the silence of prayer.

Forgive us, and enlarge our hearts through intensified communion with you, and willing self-sacrifice for others.

May we become the living expression of your Advent’s hope in our world. Amen.

Communion

As Pastor Dave said, it is important to look back to the birth of Christ, and forward to his second coming with a spiritual heart, soul and mind.

Jesus wanted to prepare his disciples to carry on without him until his second coming. He knew that when they could no longer see him every day and hear his voice moment by moment; when they were no longer surrounded by the swarming crowds, and couldn’t literally taste his miracles (think of the feeding of the five thousand); when they could no longer feel his touch—they would need other ways to experience him on a daily basis.

What we now call Communion is one of those ways.

The stark symbolism of eating his flesh and drinking his blood every time they had a meal, would become a reminder to constantly nourish themselves on all that Jesus is; all that he had ever taught, done or said while they were together.

That is true nourishment!

As we begin this Advent season, nourishing ourselves on the meaning of Jesus’ birth, let’s remember that he gave his flesh, and spilt his blood so that you and I can be forgiven and have perfect communion with God.

THE BREAD:

“On the night when he was betrayed, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:23b-24)

AFTER PASSING THE BREAD:

The body of our Lord.

THE CUP:

“In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This is the cup of the New Covenant in my blood; whenever you drink it, do it in remembrance of me.’” (1 Corinthians 11:25)

AFTER PASSING THE CUP:

The cup of the New Covenant in his blood.

LET’S PRAY:

Lord Jesus,

We have begun this very first day of Advent in a way we know pleases you.

Together we have confessed our sin and remembered you by nourishing ourselves on the bread and wine of the New Covenant.

During this Advent season, as we eat and drink (and we will likely do a lot of that), help us remember you.

From the first sip of morning coffee to the last morsel of a midnight snack, let our eating and drinking remind us that your flesh and blood were poured out for our forgiveness. In your name we pray, Amen

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