Scriptural Readings and Sermon for Sunday December 27, 2020
Pastor Andry - Dimbiniaina Havanjanahary Randrianasolo
Old Testament Reading Isaiah 61:10 – 62:3
10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.
62: 1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,
and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her righteousness goes forth as brightness,
and her salvation as a burning torch.
2 The nations shall see your righteousness,
and all the kings your glory,
and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.
3 You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,
and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
Epistle Reading Galatians 4:4 – 7
4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
The Gospel Reading Luke 2:22 – 40
22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 that you have prepared in the presence of
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.
Sermon: God’s Love for Us is Immeasurable
God’s love for us is immeasurable. God’s Word beginning in Genesis expresses this great and unconditional love that God has for us. First, God’s Word in Genesis 1: 26 – 27, says God created humankind in his image and likeness. God created them as man and woman. Second, God’s Word in Genesis 2: 18 – 24, says, “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him; Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man; That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Through this marriage as husband and wife, God’s Word in Genesis 1: 28, highlights that God “blessed them to be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.” Finally, God’s Word in Genesis 1: 28 – 30, stresses that God appointed humankind to be his stewards and have authority and dominion over all creation. That means to take good care of all of God’s creation whether if these are in the depths of the rivers and oceans, on land, or in the air above. These gifts given to humankind which are life, children, and the stewardship of all of God’s creation are expressions of God’s unconditional love for humankind.
God’s love for us is immeasurable. Immediately after Adam and Eve sinned against God which doomed all of humanity and God’s creation in the Garden of Eden, God immediately gave the promise of redemption, the mending of the broken relationship between humankind and God, and salvation according to Genesis 3: 14 – 15. But to fulfill this promise, God called and elected Abraham in his old age and created a new people, a nation for God. However, Abraham and his wife Sarah did not have any children. Moreover, Sarah was passed the age of childbearing. But the Word of God in Genesis 18: 1 – 15 defies the logic of the law of nature. The Word of God says, “Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” The manifestation of God’s uncontestable might and power is demonstrated in Genesis 21: 1 – 5 through the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah. God’s Word says, “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him; Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.” Abraham demonstrated his faith in God through hope and patience while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise by giving him a son, even in his old age, and becoming the father of God’s chosen and elected nation.
The Word of God in Genesis 15: 6 says, that because Abraham believed in God, God credited it to him as righteousness. It is through this faith that Abraham displayed that it was credited to him as righteousness, it is the same faith that was passed down from generation to generation, and in which God created a nation of people whom he calls holy for himself. The Word of God in Romans 4: 13, explains, “It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.” And again in verses 16 – 17, “Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. [Abraham] is the father of us all. As it is written [God said to Abraham]: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being the things that were not.” It is the same faith that Abraham had in God is the faith that we have in God today, as God’s holy people.
But the highpoint of the fulfillment of the promise given by God was the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, on Christmas. According to the history of humankind which is testified in the Gospel of Matthew 1: 18 – 2: 23; the Gospel of Luke 2: 1 – 20; and the Gospel of John 1: 1 - 18, that on that Christmas Day, the Word of God that became flesh in Jesus Christ was made a realization through the birth of Jesus into the world.
This event was witnessed by the people of the world. The first witness is testified in the Gospel of Luke 2: 8 – 10 in which this event was witnessed by the shepherds who were waiting for their sheep in the field when the angel of the Lord announced Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem to them. The second witness is testified by the Gospel of Matthew 2: 1 – 12, which says that three Magi, who were wisemen, traveled from faraway lands from the east to the town of Bethlehem to witness the fulfillment of God’s promise. The third witness is testified by the Gospel of Luke 2: 22 – 40, which describes how Simeon and the prophetess Anna who were waiting by faith and in hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise through the birth of Jesus. This was fulfilled when both Simeon and Ann saw with their own eyes when the child Jesus was brought to the temple for purification as required by the Law of the Lord for the first born.
Simeon and the prophetess Anna displayed faith which was accounted as their righteousness because they believed in God and trusted in God’s promise in which they showed through their patience and in living hope. To that end, they were given the opportunity to see the child Jesus. This is the same faith that Abraham displayed by trusting in God’s promise. As a result, it was credited to be his righteousness. Likewise for Simeon and the prophetess Anna, as a result they saw the fulfillment of God’s promise when they saw the child Jesus, who is the Son of the living God, with their own eyes. Jesus was given by God to save humankind from the power of sin, the powers of Satan and of darkness, and the power of death. Moreover, Jesus was given to humankind by God to redeem and mend the broken relationship between humankind and God.
In that understanding, God’s plan for redeeming and saving sinners involves Jesus. That means, without Jesus there is no faith and no salvation. Without Jesus there is no forgiveness of sins. Without Jesus there is no reconciliation for mending our broken relationship with God. Without Jesus there is no life because Jesus is the true source of the everlasting life. Without Jesus there is no path that leads to God. As sinners, we cannot reach God or connect with God without Jesus. The Word of God in the Gospel of John 14: 6, Jesus says, “ I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And without Jesus we do not have a place to arrive in heaven. The Word of God in the Gospel of John 14: 1 – 4, emphasizes that Jesus is the one who prepares a place for us in God’s house in heaven. A place in which we can call our forever home. But without Jesus this is not possible. For all of these reasons, God’s precious gift to us by having given us Jesus expresses God’s immeasurable and powerful love for us.
How does this Gospel message relate to us as we celebrate the Christmas event as God’s redeemed and holy people? We celebrate Christmas because it is a highpoint event that is marked in human history of how God fulfilled his promise when God gave his Son Jesus Christ to us. God’s Word in John 3: 16, says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In that context, Jesus is the greatest gift of all and we, as God’s redeemed and holy people, are grateful.
What does this Gospel message say to us today? We celebrate Christmas for the following reasons. The first reason is for the remembrance of when God fulfilled his promise by had given us his Son Jesus Christ, the Word of God that became flesh, through his birth. The second reason is that through this precious gift by God, we have a Jesus who is not only our Lord but also our Savior. Moreover, a Jesus who provides for us, protects us, and keeps us safe from all evils and harms not just one time but during our whole life. The third reason why we celebrate Christmas relates to our waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus’ second return. In this context, as God’s holy people, we wait for the arrival of this glorious day with an immovable and sustainable faith and also with a living hope. Similar to Abraham’s display of faith and also to that of Simeon and the prophetess Anna, God counts us as righteous because of our faith in him through Jesus Christ.
In that understanding, all of those mentioned points expresses God’s immeasurable and powerful love for us. We celebrate Christmas with joy and praise because God has adopted us as his sons and daughters because of what God accomplished through the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross and through his resurrection to life on the third day. Through this adoption, God has made us his treasured possession and his holy people. It is for all of these mentioned reasons that we celebrate Christmas year after year until the fulfillment of the promise which is Jesus’ second return.
Glory be to God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit from the beginning, now and forever. May the grace of Jesus Christ our Lord and the unconditional love of God our Father and unity in the Holy Spirit be with you. Amen.
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