Summary: This is a sermon for the second week of Advent focusing on "Love."
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." 6 A voice says, "Cry out." And I said, "What shall I cry?" "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. 7 The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the LORD blows on them. Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." 9 You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" 10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.
“The Love Candle – Bethlehem”
A little girl was pushing the limits of her mother’s very last nerve. Mom was nearing the end of a hectic season of cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, and church stuff. She was also nearing the breaking point with her little pre-schooler. Finally the little girl was bathed and ready for bed. As she knelt to say her prayers, Mom listened as her sweet three year old theologian "customized" her evening prayer, ...”Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us!”
Do we need to be forgiven our Christmases??? Are we so busy cooking, cleaning, shopping, decorating, inviting, and visiting… that we have missed the point? It’s important not to get so wrapped up in the business of the holiday, that we forget the reason for the season!
Today, we light the “love” candle. God’s love for us was shown in the greatest Christmas gift ever, a small babe given to us at Bethlehem. We need to prepare for the coming of that great gift, or it might just pass us by. Last week’s message for us was to “listen!” This week’s message is “prepare!”
It is a message from long ago, told by the prophet Isaiah, that there would be a “voice of one calling in the desert, PREPARE the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.” It is the message fulfilled by John the Baptist, foretelling the coming of Christ… Prepare!
In a "Peanuts" cartoon strip, good old Charlie Brown says to Linus, "Life is just too much for me. I’ve been confused from the day I was born. I think the whole trouble is that we’re thrown into life too fast. We’re not really prepared." Linus asks, "What did you want . . . a chance to warm up first?" Well folks, the Advent season is exactly that… our chance to warm up… our chance to prepare! With only 18 shopping days left!
In our scripture text this morning, we find a town called Bethlehem… a town that wasn’t quite ready for their arrival. It was a city so unprepared for the events of the census, that Mary and Joseph are forced to stay in a barn! But that should really come as no surprise… you see… Bethlehem was kind of the poster child for procrastination! The city, never quite ready! The city… that was never prepared.
A thousand years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Samuel went to Bethlehem to find the man Jesse… to anoint the next King of Israel! There, he found a lowly shepherd… the youngest of Jesse’s family… the little boy David. Was he kidding? Nobody was prepared for that! And then it was David sent to face the giant… causing the enemy’s army to fall on the ground laughing at the sight of a boy with a sling! Bethlehem was not prepared for what was about to happen! That this small boy, who nobody would ever have chosen, would become a great King! This city… that was not prepared for David’s fantastic rise… would be forever linked to him… Bethlehem, the city of David!