Third Sunday of Advent – Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 146:5-10 (or St Luke 1:47-55); James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of holiness.

What blessings are given to those who draw near to God – ‘Your God… will come and save you’ (Isaiah 35:4).

The Good News of Christ comes to us as a call to faith – ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ (Acts 16:31).

We have been saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot remain the same. We are called to live a new life. We must travel on the Lord’s ‘highway’- ‘the Way of Holiness’ (Isaiah 35:8). This is ‘the Way’ which leads to ‘everlasting joy’ (Isaiah 35:10).

This ‘Way’ is so different from the world’s way. The world has no time for those who seek to live a holy life. This is what Jesus says about the world’s way of life: ‘the gate is wide and the way is wide that leads to destruction’ (Matthew 7:13).

Whatever the world may say, we must never forget this: ‘Without holiness, no-one will see the Lord’ (Hebrews 12:14).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of worship.
‘I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live’ (Psalm 146:2).

Praising the Lord our God: This is a lifelong commitment. We cannot maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.

We need the Lord’s help. We must never forget this: ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain’ (Psalm 127:1). We are not expected to maintain this lifelong commitment in our own strength.

We have the Lord’s help. We must always remember this: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth’ (Psalm 124:8).

‘Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them, the Lord who remains faithful for ever’(Psalm 146:5-6).

Let us join with Mary in saying, ‘My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour’ (Luke 1:46-47).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of listening to God’s Word.
Much is said about John the Baptist here, yet the whole purpose is to draw attention to Jesus the Saviour. Jesus is superior to John. He is the One to whom John pointed. There are two responses to Jesus.

– We can take offence at Him: ‘Blessed is he who takes no offence at Me’(Matthew 11:6).

– We can hear what He says, receiving Him with faith: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear’ (Matthew 11:15).

In His time, Jesus asked the question, ‘To whom shall I compare this generation?’, giving the answer, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn’ (Matthew 11:16-17).

The promise of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not rejoice. The warning of the Gospel is preached, yet many will not repent. This is the story of our generation.

May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (Matthew 11:19).

Do we have faith? – Let us commit ourselves to a life of obeying God’s Word.
Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (James 4:14-15).

We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’(James 5:11).

We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (James 5:7-8).

We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? – He is warning us: Be careful how you live – Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’(James 5:1-3, 9).

The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word – the warning as well as the promise – , always praying that sinners will be saved (James 5:16, 19-20).

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Second Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19; Romans 15:4-13; Matthew 3:1-12

Christ calls all nations to come to Him.

The family tree of ‘Jesse, the father of King David’ has a very special ‘Branch’- Jesus Christ (Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 1:1, 6, 16).

Jesus Christ has raised ‘a banner for the nations’. He is ‘the Saviour of the world’. He has died ‘for the sins of the whole world’. The ‘Good News’ is to be preached to ‘all the world’.

Christ calls ‘all nations’ to ‘turn to Him’. He calls ‘all nations’ to receive the ‘forgiveness of sins’. He calls ‘all nations’ to become His ‘disciples’ (Isaiah 11:12; John 4:42; 1 John 2:2; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Matthew 28:19).

May our personal faith – ‘I will praise You, O Lord… God is my Salvation… The Lord is my Strength and my Song…’- become our public testimony – making Christ ‘known among the nations’, telling ‘all the world’ what the Lord has done for us (Isaiah 12:1-2, 4-5).

From all over the world Christ gathers His people.
Read the words – ‘His Name’ shall ‘endure for ever’ (Psalm 72:17) – and think of Christ. His Name is ‘the Name above all other names’. He is ‘the King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16).

Read the words – ‘all nations call Him blessed’ (Psalm 72:17) – , and think of Christ. ‘From every tribe and language and people and nation’, God’s people have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9).

Read the words -‘May His glory fill the whole earth!’(Psalm 72:19) – and think of Christ. In the ‘new heaven and new earth’, ‘the holy city’ will shine with ‘the glory of God’. ‘Its radiance’, ‘like a very precious jewel’, will be shining from this ‘lamp’: Jesus Christ, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (Revelation 21:1-2, 10-11, 23; John 1:29).

The Good News of Christ is for all the world.
With Christ’s example, ‘the encouragement of the Scriptures’ and the enabling power of God, let us love one another,‘with one heart and one voice’(Romans 15:1-6). This is the way of glorifying God.

Trusting in Christ, ‘the root of Jesse’, we are blessed by ‘the God of hope’, filled with ‘the power of the Holy Spirit’- so that we may ‘abound in hope’. This hope comes to us through ‘the Scriptures’(Romans 15:12-13, 4).

God’s saving purpose was not only for the ‘dyed in the wool’ Jew. He saved both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 15:9-12). Thank God that Paul was not as narrow-minded as many people are today! God’s blessing is not only for our type of people! Let us learn from Paul. ‘A minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles’, he was always reaching out to more and more people ‘in the fullness of the blessing of Christ’(Romans 15:16, 29).

Let us take the Good News of Christ to every nation.
Our Gospel passage begins with ‘John the Baptist’(Matthew 3:1). It ends with our Lord Jesus Christ concerning whom the Voice from heaven says, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’(Matthew 3:17).

Once John had served his purpose, once he has pointed away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ, he retreats into the background. This is how it must always be. We point to One who is ‘more powerful’ than ourselves (Matthew 3:11; Romans 1:16). With John, we must learn to say, ‘Christ must increase, I must decrease’(John 3:30).

The contrast between John and Jesus is highlighted in Matthew 3:11 – ‘I baptize with water… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire’. This is still the contrast between the preacher and the Saviour – We preach the Word. He sends the power. Still He says, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses’(Acts 1:8).

First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

Awaiting Christ’s Return , let us worship God and walk in His ways.

God calls us to worship Him – ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord… ’ – and walk in His ways – ‘Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord’ (Isaiah 2:3, 5).

We are moving towards the Day when ‘the pride of men shall be humbled and brought low’, the Day when ‘the Lord alone will be exalted’ (Isaiah 2:11, 12, 17).

How are we to get ready for the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ? God calls us to keep on worshipping Him. We are to encourage one another to keep on walking with God. ‘Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching’(Hebrews 10:25).

Let our pride be humbled and let the Lord be exalted as we await Christ’s Return in ‘faith’, looking to Him alone for our ‘salvation’(1 Peter 1:7-9).

 Worshipping the Lord with joy
‘I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the House of the Lord”’ (Psalm 122:2).

Why do we go to the House of the Lord? We go ‘to give thanks to the Name of the Lord’ (Psalm 122:4).

We seek His mercy for our past sins: ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us!’(Psalm 123:3).

We seek His help for our future temptations: ‘Our help is in the Name of the Lord…’ (Psalm 124:8).

As we receive mercy and help from the Lord, we worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord’ (Psalm 124:6).

In our worship, we ‘look to the Lord our God’, drawing encouragement from His Word: ‘The Lord is on our side’- In Him we have the victory (Psalms 123:2; 124:1-5).

Rejoicing in God’s blessing, we pray for others: ‘May they prosper who love You’ (Psalm 122:6).

Walking with the Lord in love
Awaiting the Return of Christ – our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed – , let us clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:11, 14).

Clothed with the Lord Jesus Christ, let us ‘walk in love’- We must not fall out over matters in which difference of opinion is allowed (Romans 14:5, 15).

There can be a lot of bitterness over ‘the Sabbath’. There can be so much pride. For some, this is the ‘be-all and end-all’ of Christian faith. They say, ‘We are the Sabbath keepers. They are not!’. Others react, ‘We rejoice in our Christian liberty. They are legalists.’ ‘Pharisees’ are preoccupied with ‘the Sabbath’. We must remember that Jesus is ‘the Lord of the Sabbath’.

We must let His love flow (Matthew 12:2, 10, 8, 11-12).

Let faith be real – not just keeping on the right side of narrow-minded people (Romans 14:23; Colossians 2:16; 1 Corinthians 2:15).

Let there be ‘peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’.

Don’t think too highly of yourself. ‘Count others better than yourself’(Romans 14:17; 12:3; Philippians 2:3).

Worshipping with joy and walking in love, we await Christ’s Return.
‘The times they are-a-changing’. There is, however, one thing that remains constant. Jesus says, ‘My words will not pass away’(Matthew 24:35).

In an age of unbelief, our faith is often under threat. We must stand upon this solid Rock: ‘The Word of the Lord stands forever’(1 Peter 1:25).

The scoffers will say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’(2 Peter 3:3-4). We are to believe that ‘He is near’(Matthew 24:33).

Christ has risen. He will return (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’(Matthew 24:44).

We are to be ready at all times (Matthew 25:13) – doing the Lord’s will (Matthew 24:46).

We are to be ‘faithful and wise’(Matthew 24:45).

As ‘the bride of Christ’(Revelation 19:7; 21:2), we await the Return of Christ our Bridegroom: ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him’(Matthew 25:6).