Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Bethany Bullet Sermon Message - Week of December 13, 2020




Link to Online Worship Video for 12/13/20 – HERE 

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Link to Outdoor Worship (8:00AM service recorded) for 12/13/20 – HERE 

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Link for printing Sunday’s Bulletin for 12/13/20 – HERE 

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Link to Bible Discovery Resources for 12/13/20 – HERE 

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Sermon Message: “Stir Up Your Power Among Us, O Lord, and Fill Us with Rejoicing”
Text: Isaiah 9:2-3 & 6 and John 1:6-8


Winter is here…. almost!  Now I know many of you feel Jack Frost nipping at your nose right now, and might think these days we are experiencing are cold but let’s get some perspective.  This week in Anchorage Alaska, the high will be in the mid-20s.  The sun will rise at 10:08 AM and will set just five and half hours later. The dark days of winter are brutally experienced in the north.  While it might feel like winter out there, it officially begins with the Winter Solstice, which is next week.


Days have felt shorter and shorter since the first day of summer, or the Summer Solstice on June 21 where the sun came up in Anchorage at 4:20AM and set almost 19 and half hours later.  However, in reality, we know that the hours in the days themselves are not shortening or lengthening, but rather the amount of daylight is diminishing each day, being replaced by the dusk and darkness of night.


This limited amount of daylight can affect people in many different ways. Winter can be dim and gloomy, with lack of sunlight and everything just seems gray, all the time.  There are many people who are affected by the lack of Vitamin D, and suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression that is related to changes in the season. In the middle of this season, it sure seems like the light will never come back, that darkness is all there is, that hope is lost, and things will never be right again.


Physical darkness is one thing but spiritual darkness is something even more sinister.  Humanity knows all about living in the dark.  These past months have been filled with darkness, despair, depression, disease, with not much hope or light or expectation. The prophet Isaiah lived in dark times.  Times when the promise of the Messiah seemed to have been lost.  He writes to a people who have no hope, who are lost in the dark, who have given up that the light would come, so he writes, 


The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
(Isaiah 9:2-3)


However, the people of Isaiah’s day missed the message, but God would not give up on his people and in spite of their unbelief, he sent the light to descend into the darkness of this sin-stained world. The day of rejoicing was yet to come.


The apostle John in his gospel takes up the story again.  From our Gospel reading for today he writes, God sent a man named John to be his messenger. John came to declare the truth about the light so that everyone would become believers through his message. John was not the light, but he came to declare the truth about the light.” (John 1:6-8)


This is John the Baptizer who was a man sent by God, as a witness to testify to the light. John was sent to point towards the one who is to come, to prepare the way of the Lord.  It is this light that has been present even before Creation that the people of God were so desperately seeking. They had been conquered, exiled, and made to live under the authority of many kings and nations for what seemed like forever.  There was not much rejoicing.  And in John’s day they were living under Roman rule and they seemed to be a dark place, out in the wilderness, walking through the shadows. Again, not much rejoicing.  But John came to point to the light, the light that would disperse the shadows and illumine their walk in the wilderness and usher in a new age of joy!  And it seems, that we have been stuck in this wilderness as well. It seems that the longest day has come and never left.


We have been living in this perpetual dusk and gloom for the past year. There has not been much rejoicing as we face continued pandemic, political strife, and personal depression.  We grope around in these long grey days collectively and individually as we try to navigate the murkiness and shadows of our own lives.  We have lived this past year with an increase in divisiveness throughout our country and world. We have witnessed the devaluing and dehumanizing of our fellow brothers and sisters. Within these shadows, we fear normalcy will never return.  It sure seems that the darkness will win, that day will be no more. 


It is estimated that the overall mental health of our society is not good.  Depression, anxiety and fear of the future grips many.  People have lost employment, loved ones and security.  But John broke the darkness of this world with a message of hope, a message of rejoicing that light has come!!  This radiance breaks through the shadows of life. This radiance illumines our paths and enlightens our lives. John pointed to the light.  John provided witness, he was compelled, this light couldn’t be contained.


This light is not found in a vaccine or in a change in government.  It is not found in technology or internal fortitude. This light is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the one Isaiah foretold the one whom angels sang and the one who is coming again.


What are those dark places in your life that are in need of the light of Christ to shine?  Where are the shadows that you find yourself in as the days become dark and hope seems to be lost?  Have you fled to the darkness because you feel you have run out of options?  Perhaps you have created a self-imposed prison of darkness by what you have done and by what you have left undone.


Friends, Advent is a time to rejoice because those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light, to you who have dwelt in deep darkness the light has come… to you.  At His first advent, the angels brought good news of great joy, for the light has come and this light brings healing in these words “On Account of Christ, you are forgiven!”  Your personal darkness has been destroyed.


For that light would go to the darkest place for you.  The light of the world would be rejected by the Father because he took upon himself your sin and mine.  And when the devil thought he had won, when it seemed that the darkness was about to consume all the light, Jesus rose to defeat death, darkness and the dominion of the devil!  Therefore, we can join Paul from our New Testament lesson today and “Always be joyful.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16)


Advent is a time of rejoicing knowing that the light has come and will come again. The Lord has multiplied our joy and we rejoice before the nations and like John testify and declare the truth of the light!  In this Advent season we can become light bearers in a dark world, preparing the way, dispersing the darkness, brining joy to the nations.


Jesus is the true light and John points to the truth that is Jesus, who breaks open the cracks in the shadows and illumines our lives and our experiences so that His light might shine through us. 


So, as the days seem to grow shorter, as daylight diminishes, we rejoice, for light has come and is coming again, and when he does there will be no more night and we will not need the light from lamps or the sun because the Lord God will be our light forever!


Let us pray…Good and Gracious God, you have gathered us here from all over. Enlighten our paths, illumine are days, give us strength to witness to your light, that others might be enveloped in the radiance of your love. And we ask all this in your Son’s name Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

-Pr. Seth Moorman



Worship Resources for Sunday, December 20th will be up on Bethany’s website by midday Saturday, December 19th.  


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