Worship Helps for Advent 4

The Annunciation
Henry Ossawa Tanner

Worship Theme: What’s the best way to prepare for his coming? It’s not with frantic doing. It’s not with a focus on what we have done or promise to do. It’s not with how we will pay back what he comes to bring. The best preparation for Christmas is a readiness to receive.

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7:8-16
"Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. "'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"

1. What does God promise for David?

2. What house would the Lord establish for David?

Epistle: Romans 16:25-27
Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

3. How does God establish us in faith?

4. Who gets the praise for our stability in faith?

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

5. How was it that Mary found favor with God?

6. What simple phrase answered Mary’s puzzled inquiry about having a child while she is still a virgin? 

1. David had wanted to build a permanent house (temple) for his God.  The Lord told him someone else would build the house of the Lord.  Yet God was going to make David’s name great and make the conditions ideal for his people.  He accomplished that in Jesus, a “son” of David.

2. But this prophecy goes far beyond Solomon to the one who would establish an eternal kingdom.  Jesus (Luke 1:29-33) would be the cornerstone of a spiritual house- a people in which God dwells with his Spirit – the people of God (Eph 2:19-22) who will rule eternally with Christ.

3. God uses the simple gospel message, the proclamation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to create faith and obedience in people.  Do you keep the connection strong by continual growth in that word?

4. So often the emphasis is placed on a person’s wise choice to follow Jesus.  But that leaks some of the praise away from the one to whom all credit is due.  It is the only wise God who gets the glory for setting up our salvation through Jesus and changing hearts to faith through the gospel.   That will be the main theme of the singing in heaven.

5. Often people place the focus on virtues of Mary, but God’s favor starts with his own loving plans and his unmerited choice. His favor focused on this one individual through whom the Holy Spirit would provide this miraculous birth.  This happened so God’s favor could in turn rest on everyone because of that child.

6. The angel helped her put aside simple, experiential logic and replace it with faith in the promise:  “For nothing is impossible with God.”  How important for us to realize this in the season that challenges the world with things too hard and awesome to explain – the birth of Jesus.

Putting your faith into action

A reading from the Book of Concord for the Fourth Sunday in Advent
We believe, teach, and confess that God’s Son from eternity has been a particular, distinct, entire, divine person.  Yet He is true, essential, perfect God with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  In the fullness of time He received also the human nature into the unity of His person.  He did not do this in such a way that there are now two persons or two Christs.  Christ Jesus is now in one person at the same time true, eternal God, born of the Father from eternity, and a true man, born of the most blessed Virgin Mary.  This is written in Romans 9:5, “from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.”

Now, in this one undivided person of Christ, there are two distinct natures: the divine, which is from eternity, and the human, which in time was received into the unity of the person of God’s Son.  These two natures in the person of Christ are never either separated from or mingled with each other.  Nor are they changed into each other.  Each one abides in its nature and essence in the person of Christ to all eternity.  Both natures mentioned remain unmingled and undestroyed in their nature and essence. Each keeps its natural, essential properties to all eternity and does not lay them aside.  Neither do the essential properties of the one nature ever become the essential properties of the other nature. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article VIII, The Person of Christ (paragraphs 6-8)

Text of the Hymn of the Day: Oh, Come, Oh, Come, Emmanuel
Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Root of Jesse, free
Your own from Satan's tyranny;
From depths of hell your people save,
And bring them vict'ry o'er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav'nly home.
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!


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