Sunday, December 07, 2008

Worship--A Word That Can Change Christmas



• Advent is the season where we look forward to Jesus coming at Christmas, and at his second coming at the end of time. This year, I am asking us all to join together in what we are calling the Advent Conspiracy.
• Conspire = 2: to act in harmony toward a common end. The end this year is transforming the consumer Christmas back into the real Christmas gift.
• In traditional Advent services, each Sunday of Advent focuses on a different theme—hope, peace, joy, and love.
• I think God’s Spirit fills the air with the presence of these blessings each December in America because we are still a nation where many, if not a majority, are Christians.
• As we begin the new Christian year today, our Advent celebration will combine the traditional Advent themes with 4 important words that can change our Christmas.
• Every year, I think most of us ask the question, “How can I recalibrate my heart and soul to capture the real spirit of Christmas? That’s where we want to begin of preparation for Xmas this year.
• Each week, I want to share just one important word to think about.

READ LUKE 2:22-38

• What we notice here in Luke’s Gospel is the Old Jewish ritual of a woman who had a baby was to present herself in the Temple for ritual cleansing, and on the eighth day after birth, the male child was to be circumcised which was the sign of being in covenant with God.
• One thing to make note of was the offering of turtledoves was that of a poor family who could not afford the more elaborate offerings.
• In v. 25, we meet Simeon. A faithful believer who had it revealed to him by Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ come.
• He waited all of his life for the coming of the Lord on the scene to make all things right—to ransom captive Israel.
• So this older faithful believer is led by the Holy Spirit to go hang out in the Temple courts at the same time Joseph and Mary have come with Jesus to present him to God.
• To make a long story short, Simeon ends up meeting the Holy Family. He who had held the promise in his heart, now holds the realization of the promise in his arms.
• Now, here is the one word for this week that I am going to ask you to hold on to through the Advent and Christmas seasons—WORSHIP. Notice Luke 2:28

28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,

• The word used by Luke for praised here is eulegeo—we get the word eulogy from it. To eulogize is not only something you can do when someone dies, but when some one lives.
• In Greek, eulogy meant to bless and celebrate with praises. This is what Simeon did when he caught on to what the birth of Jesus really meant for him and the whole world.
• WORSHIP is a word we want to cultivate in our lives the next 3 weeks. We will talk about it, read about it, learn about it, and do it.
• Now don’t be afraid of this word. For some early in your spiritual journey worship might seem strange. I remember being real self-conscious about singing in church… Let me share more…
1. Worship is the reason God made us.

• We all sense deep in our soul that we live for a reason bigger than paying bills.
• Worship means we were all meant to look for wonder, and awe in our lives. We have a longing to find that something that seems to be missing in our lives.
• Worship happens when we find what we were missing. It happens when like Simeon, we find that dream we have been hoping for. This is what happens when Jesus comes into our lives.
• Let’s lay a foundation for understanding worship from Leviticus 23:

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

• Back when God was first guiding the spiritual leaders of his people in how to lead worship, God had Moses put in place a series of feasts and festivals. We get our word festive from feast and festival—it means a time of joy!
• What God built into the calendar of worship 3450 years ago, was a time for his people to relax, celebrate, and focus on who God is. This would be a time of joy—a party! Weekly, seasonally, and annually. That’s what holy days were—days set apart from all others for God.
• God was saying to them and to us today, that holidays are times where God wants us to realize life is not just about GO, GO, GO and wearing ourselves out.
• Life will find focus when worship is in the center of it. Festive joyful celebration of who God is.
• If you want to have a new kind of Christmas filled with hope, here are some reasons to celebrate:


• In my life, I remember one time at Christmas, in the midst of our kids excitement on Christmas, in all the noise, paper, empty boxes, and playing, I looked at them and said God—thank you for my kids. Now they are all grown up and Kathie and I have hearts that ache for that…
• Then, for married people—have you ever looked at that person God gave you as a spouse, and thank God for them? I was watching a movie “Family Man” and in the midst of problems and her husband’s apparent mid-life crisis, she says “No matter what happens, I choose us.”

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY ABOUT WORSHIP. Pastor Gene Appel. Most recently a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Church, and recently back on his own as senior pastor of a local church.

• Church in Vegas growing, new building, dedication >>> Wife leaves him that night a guy at work.
• Decision made by leaders that he should stay as pastor. First Christmas> After Xmas Eve service
• Alone in a mostly empty casino lounge eating the blue plate special while other lonely people pull slots.
• Goes home to empty house, did laundry, packed for next day, and went to his empty bed.
• Heart aching, sings Jesus love me this I know to fall asleep.
• What Gene Appel teaches us is sometimes we worship not because we feel like it, because we have to. All he had at that most empty moment on Xmas eve was the love of Jesus.
• The only thing that makes sense sometimes when the world and life is spinning out of control is to worship.

Walter Brueggemann: Worship is a bold refusal to let the trouble that surrounds us be bigger than the God who comes to meet us there.

• Sometimes a song is what helps us put words on what our heart is trying to say to God in worship.
• This is why music and poets are so powerful. They tap into releasing the emotion of our hearts.
• This song is by Chris Tomlin and we sing it here. I know it helps me worship…

The splendor of a King, Clothed in majesty Let all the earth rejoice, All the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, And darkness tries to hide And trembles at his voice, And trembles at his voice
CHORUS(1): How great is our God, sing with me How great is our God, and all will see How great, How great Is our God

• And this is one of those Christmas hymns that taps into my heart and helps me express something I might not otherwise be articulate:
1-What Child is this who, laid to rest On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?
Ch: This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing; Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.
3-Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
4- So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
• Advent and Christmas mean that just as Jesus once appeared in this world, he is about to appear in your life this Christmas.
• Jesus appears when the magic fills the air—people treat each other differently, a spirit of giving fills the land, festivities and parties start.
• I wonder what would happen if all of us started reacting to Jesus like Simeon. What if we looked for Jesus in the sea of people that we meet during the holidays?
• What if we reacted like the shepherds who were working the midnight shift when Jesus appeared in this world.
• Today is the Advent Sunday of Hope. Hope has a name—JESUS.
• This year, HOPE and WORSHIP mean that God intends to appear to you like he did to Simeon. The Spirit says “You will not die till you the Lord’s Christ appear in your life.”
• What would happen this year if you found the real joy and the source of all the festivities and holy-days we are experiencing once again in the month of December.
• Remember, God commanded his people to set apart special days as feasts, festivals, and holy days.
• Since Jesus came the first time, the Church has set apart the weekly day of the Lord, as well as seasonal days like Advent and annual holy days like Christmas.
• Worship are the appointments God has written into your Outlook or Daytimer for you to rest, celebrate, and rediscover that God made us to experience the awe of his presence, and praise him and thank him for his goodness.
• So as we begin this awe filled season of Advent, let us conspire together. Let us act in harmony toward the common goal of transforming the consumer Christmas.
• Look for Jesus in the children; in the people you meet; in the love you realize God has given you in your family; and see him in the needs of the poor.
Come next week and I will give you another word that can change your Christmas.

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