Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bethany Bullet - December 16, 2009

‘Tis the season of parties…

If your social calendar is like mine, the next few weeks will have at least one, if not a few parties to attend. Office parties, family get-togethers, classroom celebrations, and community events are all vying for a coveted spot on the calendar. Perhaps, you may have to make some choices on which to attend and decline? Perhaps, it depends on the party favors that are available? Whether it is candy or cookies, frames or flowers, the favors of the party might drive your desire to attend. More than likely the party favors are not anything of great value.

At some point this season, you may attend a party where the favor is hanging from a doorway or the ceiling – yep, mistletoe. For some mistletoe is a welcome holiday tradition, for others it is something to be avoided at all costs. It may not be a standard party favor, but it seems to be found at many parties this holiday season.

Living under the mistletoe brings hope, anticipation, and the possibility of love…or at least a kiss and the favor of another.

When we talk about favors, it may mean a few different things: party favors, personal favors, or one who is looked upon with favor.

Our text from Sunday talks about favor. In the 85th Psalm, the psalmist remembers the favor shown by God to those in the past, asks for favor in the present, and waits for the favor of God to come in the near future; a good Psalm for Advent.

Now the word favor is only found once in the NIV translation of this Psalm, but the idea of God’s favor is an overarching theme.

This Psalm calls us to:

  • Acknowledge the Past
  • Question the Present
  • Anticipate the Future

The first three verses of the Psalm remember the favor God showed in the past, favor shown to the people of Israel. Forgiveness and atonement provided by a God who rescued the people from slavery in Egypt, who redeemed the people from disobedience and returned a remnant to the land after exile.

We too have seen the favor of God poured out in the past:

  • As we remember our baptism, our personal day of favor, the day we were rescued from sin, claimed as a child of God and covered by Jesus.
  • As we remember the wonderful words of redemption, “your sins are forgiven”.
  • And as we remember these words, “broken and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

The next four verses of the Psalm focus on the present. We still find ourselves in need of favor, for, as Pastor K talked about last week, we tend to go our own way. We desire to be a favored child of God.

  1. Have you ever asked God for restoration, restoration of health or a broken relationship?
  2. Have you ever questioned whether God will be angry with you forever?
  3. Have you ever questioned why things are so bad in your life right now?

Often times in scripture, it is God questioning us. God says, “Show me your righteousness.” And we struggle to answer His call.

We pray with the Psalmist “Show us your unfailing love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.”

As the psalmist encourages us to anticipate the future we can’t help but remember the promises of God. From verse 8, “I will listen to what God the Lord will say; he promises peace to his people, his saints.”

In the season of Advent we not only remember the Prince of Peace that was born in a stable, we look forward to true and lasting peace that will come when Jesus returns and calls His saints to heaven with Him.

To answer the question, “Show me your righteousness,” we must go back to the favor of God. When God asks, “Show me your righteousness,” we point to Jesus, for He is the favor of God. He is God’s own Son. Only in Jesus do we find favor with God. He is more than just a worthless or cheap party favor; He is the unfailing love of God who brings steadfast love and favor for all His children. He is the best party favor anyone could ever imagine.

I think we catch a glimpse of Jesus, the favor of God in verse 10. “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other.”

Favor is found where love and faithfulness meet, where righteousness and peace kiss, in the babe of Bethlehem. It is not found under a sprig of mistletoe or in our own actions. God’s favor is Jesus! God was not simply doing us a favor by sending Jesus; He was keeping a promise, a promise fulfilled in the story of the birth of Jesus.

From the first chapter of Luke: In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Favor is found in the baby growing in Mary’s womb. And then nine months later in the backwater town of Bethlehem the angels announced to the Shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

The favor of God comes to you and to me today for in Jesus’ love and faithfulness—meet, righteousness and peace—kiss. The favor of God comes in standing under the cross, not under the mistletoe.

The kiss of peace takes place under the cross and what Jesus accomplished there. In the cross we see the favor of God. In the cross Jesus restores our fortunes, He forgives our iniquity, and He covers our sins. God’s wrath has been set aside and we have been restored.

God’s unfailing love and salvation were secured for us through the open tomb where Jesus gives us His righteousness. Living under the cross brings hope, anticipation, and the certainty of love, the kiss of peace and favor with God.

We are called to live under the cross all the days of our lives. Feel free to give the kiss of peace, or a hug, or a handshake to those you love and are loved by Christ, then take some time this week to share that love with someone else either in words or in actions. That is what Advent is all about.

We have seen love and faithfulness meet. We have experienced righteousness and peace kiss, in Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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