Worship Helps for Advent 1

Art: Noah's Building of the Ark
Artist: Edward Hicks, 1846

Worship Theme: This Sunday we begin a new Church Year with the season of Advent. In Advent the Word of God bids us prepare for the coming of Christ. The readings for Advent have this urgency to them: Since he is surely coming again in judgment, we desperately need for him to come to us first in grace. For without that coming in grace we will perish at his coming in judgment.

Old Testament: Genesis 6:1-3,5-14,17-22
When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." 5 The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth-- men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air-- for I am grieved that I have made them." 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark-- you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them." 22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

1. What was God thinking during this time in human history?

2. What was God’s plan?

3. Why did Noah find favor with God?

4. What was Noah to take into the ark?


Epistle: 1 Peter 3:18-22
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

5. When and why did Jesus descend into hell?

6. What does baptism do for us, just as the flood did for Noah?


7. Peter makes a rather unusual connection in verse 21. He connects our baptisms and Jesus’ resurrection. See Romans 6:3,4. What is the connection?


Gospel: Mark 13:32-37
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. 35 "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back-- whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

8. Who can predict the day when “heaven and earth will pass away?”

9. Since we know the end of the world will come out of the blue, unexpectedly, what should our lives be like?


Answers:
1. His Spirit had been contending with mankind, trying to lead them to give up their wickedness and turn to him. But he could no longer do that. He saw how wicked people had become. He was grieved over what he saw, and his heart was filled with pain.

2. He would give people 120 years, and then he would destroy mankind. Some might see God as vindictive in his destruction of the world. But when you understand his righteousness and then see the terrible depths to which his creation had sunk, you have to be impressed that he would wait another merciful 120 years before taking action.

3. Noah found favor with God because God had given Noah his grace and mercy, and he led Noah to believe in him. Noah’s life reflected God’s love.

4. He was to take his wife, three sons, and their wives. Later we learn that in addition to the two of each kind of unclean animal (an animal not used for eating), Noah was to also take with him seven of every kind of clean animal (to then be used for eating and sacrificing). He was also to take food provisions into the ark. (At this time God had not yet given people permission to eat animals.)

5. Jesus descended into hell after he came back alive, Peter says. We understand this to mean that he did so early Easter Sunday morning. Jesus went, body and soul, to the only place in the universe where spirits are in prison―hell. He went there to preach to them. We gather he preached to the spirits in hell his victory over death: If he had won, they had lost forever. How Jesus went to hell, we do not know, but since he proved that he had taken all the devil's might from him, we know that neither hell nor the devil can take captive or injure us.

6. The water of the flood drowned everyone else in the world, but it floated the ark, so it saved Noah and his family. In the same way, God's Word and the water of baptism save us. They wash away all our sin, so they give us a clean conscience before God. They plug us into the power of Jesus' resurrection. They comfort us when we suffer for our faith in Jesus.

The waters of the flood destroyed everything on earth. At the same time, it raised the ark up above this destruction. The water of Baptism has raised us above God’s condemnation of the world, and it will also raise us up above the destruction coming on the world on the Last Day. In our Baptism liturgy, it mentions that in our Baptism we are placed in the Ark of the Christian Church, rising up to the Lord while fire destroys the world below you.

7. Through Baptism we are linked with Jesus’ death, and so we are linked with his resurrection. Because Jesus rose, free from our sins, we live to serve our Lord in purity right now. This link with Jesus’ death and resurrection is the reason why our Paschal Candle which sits by the font is lit only for Baptisms, funerals and the season of Easter.

8. No one knows. As part of his humility, not even Jesus knew the time for Judgment Day. God has the specific time set for Judgment Day. No one can discover that with his or her logical calculations.

9. Instead of being caught up in the busyness of our world, we should be watchful and on our guard against falling away. We should be busy with the assigned tasks he has given us so we can impact the world with the gospel in whatever scheduled time is left.


Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the First Sunday in Advent
Christians should regard and recognize the actual transgression of God’s commandments as sin; but sin is also that horrible, dreadful hereditary sickness by which the entire human nature is corrupted.  This should above all things be regarded and recognized as sin indeed.  Yes, it is the chief sin, which is a root and fountainhead of all actual sins.  Dr. Luther called it “nature sin” or “person sin.”  He says this to show that, even if a person would not think, speak, or do anything evil (which, however, is impossible in this life, since the fall of our first parents), his nature and person are nevertheless sinful.  Before God they are thoroughly and utterly infected and corrupted by original sin, as by a spiritual leprosy.  Because of this corruption and because of the fall of the first man, the human nature or person is accused or condemned by God’s Law.  So we are by nature the children of wrath, death, and damnation, unless we are delivered from them by Christ’s merit.

Article XIX of the Augsburg Confession teaches: God is not a creator, author, or cause of sin.  By the instigation of the devil through one man, sin (which is the devil’s work) has entered the world.  Even today, in this corruption, God does not create and make sin in us.  Original sin is multiplied from sinful seed, through fleshly conception and birth from father and mother. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article I, Original Sin (paragraphs 5-7)



Text of the Hymn of the Day: Savior Of The Nations, Come
Savior of the nations, come; Virgin's Son, make here your home.
Marvel now, O heav'n and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh, Woman's offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child Of the virgin undefiled,
Though by all the world disowned, Yet to be in heav'n enthroned!

From the Father's throne he came And ascended to the same,
Captive leading death and hell -- High the song of triumph swell!

Praise to God the Father sing, Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be Ever and eternally.


Text and Tune: public domain. *Setting: c 1993  Kermit G. Moldenhauer. 

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