The First Sunday in Advent

November 29, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.  Protect us by your strength and save us from the threatening dangers of our sins; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1-8 (Sermon Text)

The prophet pleads for the LORD’s mercy in dealing with His people.  Even though they have sinned, and endured God’s anger; as a Father, God would care for them.

You, O LORD are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.  Why, O LORD do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?  Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.  Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!  For when you did awesome things that we did not expect you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.  You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.  But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.   How then can we be saved?  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.  No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and made us waste away because of our sins.  Yet, O LORD, you are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 24

The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

for He founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?

Who may stand in His holy place?

He who has clean hands and a pure heart,

he will receive blessing from God his Savior.

Lift up your heads, O you gates;

be lifted up, you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory?

The LORD strong and mighty,

the LORD mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up you ancient doors,

that the King of glory may come in.

Who is He, this King of glory?

The LORD Almighty, He is the King of glory.

            Glory be to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Every Christian can be thankful for the love of God given to us.

 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.  For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you.  Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.  (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.   Alleluia. (Rev 22:20)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Mark 13:32-37

Only God knows when the time of judgment will come.  We are encouraged to be attentive to our lives and actions.

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  Be on guard!  Be alert!  You do not know when that time will come.  It’s like a man going away:  He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.    Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.  If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.  What I say to you, I say to everyone:  ‘Watch!’”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Father— We Need You!

Dear sons and daughters of the Almighty,

When I was in college, I had a roommate whose father was a doctor.  My roommate told me that when he was young, his mother had a set way of dealing with him every time he got in trouble.  She would say to him, “Wait until your father gets home!”  Since his father was a physician, he did not get home at a set time each day.  So, my roommate had to wait— however long it was— until his father got home.  When his father got home, he had to explain to his father exactly what he had done.  After he had explained to his father how he got in trouble and after Mom had an opportunity to fill in any details which he may have skimmed over, then his father would let him know what consequences he would have to endure for getting into trouble.  No matter what the consequences might have been, my roommate told me that what he dreaded the most was having to sit and wait for his father to come home and then having to explain to him what he had done.

While most children eventually learn that a father’s discipline can be unpleasant, hopefully, most children also learn that their father, or the father-figure in their life— is also someone that they can turn to when they find themselves in a situation where they need help.

That is the scenario that the prophet Isaiah was in when God the Holy Spirit led him to write the words of our text for today.  The Lord God had revealed to Isaiah that because of the rebelliousness of God’s children, because of the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel, God was going to punish them— first at the hands of the Assyrians and then at the hands of the Babylonians.  While Isaiah understood that God’s perfect justice led Him to allow the enemies of God’s children to destroy both Jerusalem and the Temple, Isaiah also trusted that the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Lord who had made wonderful promises to His children, is the God of grace and mercy and forgiveness.  Since our text begins and ends with Isaiah speaking the words, “You, O LORD, are our Father,” let’s stand alongside Isaiah and listen closely as he prays:  Father— We Need You!  Why do we need our heavenly Father?  Isaiah gives us two reasons.  First, we need our heavenly Father because He alone has the power to save us from our enemies.  Second, we need our heavenly Father because He alone has the power to save us from ourselves.

Isaiah begins our text with a confession.  He says, “You, O LORD, are our Father, our redeemer from of old is your name.  Why, O LORD, do you make us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?  Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.”  Note how Isaiah’s confession begins with an acknowledgement of who the Lord their God is.  He is Israel’s “Father.”  He is Israel’s “Redeemer.”  In His power and in His grace the Lord is the One who established the nation of Israel.  Out of all the nations in the world God chose the descendants of Abraham to be His Chosen People, to be His “treasured possession.” (See Deuteronomy 7:6-8)  As their Father the Lord had served as Israel’s “Redeemer” over and over again.  Here we might think of the exodus of God’s children from slavery in the land of Egypt, or all of the times that the Lord rescued His children from their enemies during the days of the Judges.

Isaiah’s confession also includes an acknowledgement that because of how God’s children responded to His grace, the heavenly Father “left” them for a while.  Once the Lord withdrew from His people, they “wandered” even more from His ways and “hardened” their hearts.  Those two aspects of Isaiah’s confession led him to plead to the heavenly Father, “Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes that are your inheritance.”

Not only did Isaiah plead, “Father, we need you because you alone have the power to save us from our enemies!” but Isaiah also “suggested” exactly how the Father might do this.  He prays, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you!  As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!  For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God beside you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”

God’s children, the Lord’s “treasured possession” had seen the heavenly Father use His power to save them from their enemies many times in the past.  Whether it was the ten plagues in Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea, whether it was the Lord God descending on Mt. Sinai amidst fire and smoke or the walls of Jericho crashing to the ground or victory after victory over the seven nations of Canaan that were “larger and stronger” than God’s people (See Deuteronomy 7:1, 2), God’s people knew first-hand what the heavenly Father could and would do for His children.  Isaiah is now begging the heavenly Father to use His power to save His children from their enemies— once again.

Do we ever have that same request run through our minds and perhaps even in our prayers?  As Christians living in a sin-filled world we have no shortage of enemies.  Some of our enemies are in the world around us.  There are anti-Christian forces in every nation and in every government in this world.  Do we ever pray that our heavenly Father would simply use His power to crush them?  There are anti-Christian forces in churches that try to disguise themselves as Christian and yet they deny, distort, and dismiss key parts of the Bible— including the true meaning of Christmas and the true meaning of Easter.  Do we ever pray that our heavenly Father would expose their hypocrisy and cause them to simply fade away?  On more than one occasion I’ve had someone ask me, “If your God is so powerful and so loving, then why doesn’t he do something about all the evil we see in this world?”  My answer is always the same:  He already has— right there on the cross of Calvary’s hill!  Jesus’ death on the cross reveals to us that our heavenly Father has indeed saved us from all of our enemies— including our most powerful enemies:  sin, death, and the devil!  That’s why we stay close to Him (Pointing to the cross) through regular use of His holy Word and His holy Supper!  Through His precious Means of Grace we have the confidence of knowing that our heavenly Father has used and will continue to use His almighty power to save us from our enemies!

Father— we need you!  Not only do we need you to use your power to save us from our enemies, but we also need you to use your power to save us from ourselves.  Isaiah leads us to confess this truth when he says in our text, “You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways.  But when we continued to sin against them, you were angry.  How then can we be saved?  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

Portions of Scripture such as this cause me to shake my head and wonder how anyone could possibly even think that there is something that we can do, something that we need to do, in order to at least help save ourselves!  I don’t know how the Holy Spirit could have made it any more clear than He did here through His servant Isaiah:  All of us have become like one who is unclean…all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags…we all shrivel up like a leaf….”

We cannot save ourselves, my friends.  We can’t even help save ourselves.  We’re like people who don’t know how to swim lost in the middle of an ocean of sin.  That’s why God the Holy Spirit leads us to cry out, “Father— we need you!  We need you because you are the only one who has the power to save us from ourselves!”  That’s why God the Holy Spirit leads us to foot of the cross where we hear the heavenly Father say to us, “I have already saved you!  I sent my only-begotten Son to live and to die and to rise again for you!  Listen to Him!  Trust in Him!” (Pointing to the cross)

That’s one of the main messages of the Season of Advent.  The heavenly Father sent His Son into our world to save us from our foolish desire to save ourselves, to save us from our horrendously mistaken notion that we don’t need a little Baby born in a manger, we don’t need a cross on a hill (Pointing to the cross), we don’t need an empty grave in a garden!  We can do this on our own!  Praise God that from all of eternity our heavenly Father had a Plan to save us!  Praise God that from all of eternity the heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation always focused entirely on what He (Pointing to the cross) would do for us and not on what we have to do to be saved!

My prayer this morning is that whenever we are enduring an attack from our enemies around us and whenever we are enduring an attack from the enemy within us, we will fall to our knees and say with Isaiah, “You, O LORD, are our Father.”  “We need you Father!  We need you because you alone have the power to save us from our enemies.  We need you because you alone have the power to save us from ourselves!”

To God be the glory!

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for preparing the kingdom of heaven for us through Jesus Christ your dear Son, and for making us members of that glorious kingdom through faith in Him.  Oh, what joy, what hope, what peace is ours through Jesus!  We know that for His sake you now rule us with your grace, pardoning all our sins, and that you will give us the gift of everlasting life in heaven.  No longer are we held in the bondage of fear and the power of sin, but trusting in your Son, we are able to live victoriously over sin to the glory of your Name.  All praise to you, dear Father!

Dear Father, richly bless the lives of all who enter your kingdom through faith.  Hear the prayers of your servants as they cry to you when they are buffeted by trouble, sickness, sorrow, want or care; and give them solace and aid according to your will.  Following in the footsteps of your servant Isaiah, we ask dear Father that you would use your power to forgive our sins, strengthen us and give us day-to-day victory over the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.  Enable us to keep the faith so that we may stand before Christ at His second advent to receive the crown of life.

All of this we ask in the Name of Jesus our Lord, who taught us to pray:

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.