What For?

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

We so often focus on the story of the birth of Jesus as written in the Gospel of Luke. We read it every Christmas Eve. And I see why we do, it has the most detail of the story. It’s much easier to plan a play for, it has all the characters, it has movement, it has a great plot line. But it’s not the only account of the birth of Jesus. There is a simpler version, like what we find in the Gospel of Matthew this morning. It’s a story with a greater focus on Joseph. It’s not a big surprise, really. The world is male centered at the time. The strong focus on Mary in the Gospel of Luke would probably have been a greater surprise given the time and place of the Gospel of Luke.

It also has something to do with the audience. Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and is leading them to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. He draws them in by following the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, highlighting his Jewish heritage. This is important, because the infant will be identified by the heritage of his father. So by showing Joseph is Jewish, we know that Jesus is a Jew from the family line of David. This is also important, because they audience knows from their teachings in the Old Testament that the Messiah comes from David’s family line.

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Who Is It?

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

Have you ever heard a description of someone, and without hearing the name you just knew who it was? Here’s a few to see if you can picture them for yourself.

Chubby guy with a beard, dresses in red, travels a lot. Can you picture someone like that?

What about: dresses in white, hangs out in people’s front yards, wears a hat, carries a pipe, he’s cold all the time, and has a button nose and two eyes made out of coal.

How about one more: he’s a successful businessman, also seems to not mind being cold, nor does he like spending any money. Doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends. Is known to possibly have hallucinations late at night.

For each of those descriptions, someone came to mind. Maybe you could even form a picture of them. There are some characteristics which point us to picture someone clearly, we don’t even need to know their name. We just know.

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Who Me?

Scripture: Esther 4:1-17

We’ve jumped right into the middle of the action in the book of Esther, so we should take a moment to sort out just what is going on. If you remember last week, I talked about the imminent danger the Jews were facing by surrounding enemies and nations. Well, it happened. The Jews have been taken into exile, and have been there for some time. Esther, the namesake of our book, has been chosen to be part of the king’s harem and has worked her way up to being queen. Yet, no one in the royal family seems to know she is Jewish.

The king is also a man of a simple mind, and has been persuaded to make an decree that all Jews should be killed. Just like at earlier times in the Old Testament, they are growing in population quickly. The dilemma facing Esther is for her to decide if she is going to make her heritage known and make a political statement as queen. She is being urged strongly by her cousin Mordecai to use her influence and her Jewish background to make a stand to save her people. This is where were are today when we catch up to Esther.

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What Are We Looking For?

This sermon is from our annual Light Up Service to kick off Advent.

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:23-28a

This is always such a special night in our church. It’s a wonderful tradition we have carried over from Wilson in Florence when they chose to close and join with us, and certainly is something we treasure here now at Carman. Even if it is a busy weekend for a lot of people and churches.

This is a wonderful time for our church to come together, for a variety of reasons. It’s the start of Advent, so what better way to kick it off than with a special evening service with great music with our wider church family.

Another reason is that it’s also a good time of year to honour loved ones. Whether this is your first Christmas without loved ones, or your 50th, there’s just something about honouring, remembering and cherishing these people this time of year; a time of year we think of them most often.

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Where is hope?

Scripture: Habakkuk 1:1-7; 2:1-4; 3:17-19

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing ever seems to go right? You spill your morning beverage. You somehow manage to burn your breakfast, even if it’s a bowl of cereal. The kids, pets, or your spouse has made a huge mess. The car breaks down. You’re late for work, appointments, or meetings. Every time the phone rings it’s some kind of scam. It’s just not your day.

What if that day became a week? What about a month? What if it was the “worst day ever” for a decade, or even longer?

Wouldn’t that just be a miserable way to live? Day after day, with no end in sight, of unrelenting “bad luck.”

In a sense, this is just what Israel is experiencing when the prophet Habakkuk is writing his book, only worse. The Hebrew people are under constant threat of extreme violence. Not very long before the prophet wrote, the Assyrian army destroyed city after city brutally killing the people who lived in them. read more…