Worship Helps for Advent 1

Artwork: Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares
Artist: A sculpture by Evgeniy Vuchetich United Nations Building, New York City

Worship Theme: Keep watch for the unexpected coming of Christ! Its unexpectedness, however, does not change its certainty or our prayer. Rather, the coming of Christ defines our present time because we know that he comes with unexpected judgment on the unbelieving world and unexpected grace for his people. We are filled with hope, with love, and with light. With anticipation in our hearts, we long for the fulfillment, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Old Testament: Isaiah 2:1-5 This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

1. What is the “mountain of the Lord’s temple”?

2. How do we know that the peace referred to in verse 4 is a spiritual peace, not an earthly peace?

Epistle: Romans 13:11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

3. In what way is our salvation “nearer now than when we first believed”? (See verse 11.)

4. How do you “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ”? (See verse 14.)

Gospel: Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

5. What point did Jesus make by saying that not even the Son knows the day of his coming?

6. In what way is the great Flood similar to Jesus’ return on Judgment Day?

7. Why do you think Jesus didn’t reveal to us the exact time of his second coming?


Answers:
1. The “mountain of the Lord’s temple” was an expression also used by Micah in his book (4:1). It refers to us, to God’s New Testament church. Isaiah is prophesying the coming Savior whose work would bring the most important time in the history of Israel or Jerusalem. That means, do not focus on the mountain on which the temple was built. Focus on God’s undeserved love for sinners, which will draw people to him, just like the Israelites were drawn to the temple in Jerusalem.

2. Since the fall into sin, there has been no promise from God of peace on earth. Through the coming Savior’s forgiveness, we have peace with God. (See also Luke 1:77-79 and Romans 5:1.)

3. Each day of our life brings us that much closer to the goal of our faith, eternity with our God.

4. You clothe yourself with Christ through faith in him. While an unbeliever has no natural ability to believe in Jesus or come to him, a believer in Christ, a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), chooses to read Scripture, attend worship, study the Bible with others, and apply the Bible to his or her life. To “clothe yourself with Christ” practically means to immerse yourself in God’s Word.

5. The second coming of Christ will be totally unexpected. No one will predict it; everyone must be ready for it to come at any time.

6. Just as Noah warned the people of his day, our God has warned his world about Jesus’ second coming. Yet, it will take many by surprise; then, as in the days of Noah, it will be too late.

7. Certainly Jesus knows what we are like. He knows that we procrastinate, that we are often spiritually lazy, that we can succumb to false security. If we knew the date of his return, no doubt many would succumb to these. In his love he doesn’t tell us when he will return.


Putting your faith into action
Now is the day of salvation; it may soon be over! Purchased by the blood of Christ, salvation is available for all. Do you have a sense of urgency in bringing people to Jesus? Too often we just go through our lives as if we have all the time in the world. We might think of family or friends—they’ll come around eventually. Time is running short. The world’s time is running out. They might not have the time that “eventually” requires. Get the Word out! Proclaim peace through Jesus!


A reading from the Book of Concord for the First Sunday in Advent
It is God’s will that believers should walk in good works.  Truly good works are not those that everyone does from a good intention, or are done according to human traditions, but those that God Himself has commanded in His Word.  Also, truly good works are done not by our own natural powers, but in this way: when a person is reconciled with God and renewed by the Holy Spirit.  Paul says, a person is “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

The good works of believers are pleasing and acceptable to God (although in this flesh they are impure and incomplete).  They are acceptable for the sake of the Lord Christ, through faith, because the person is acceptable to God.  There are works that apply to maintaining of external discipline and required of the unbelieving and unconverted.  These works are commendable before the world and rewarded by God in this world with temporal blessings.  Nevertheless, they are regarded by God as impure because of the corrupt nature and because the person is not reconciled with God.  “A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.”  It is also written, “for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). A person must be accepted by God, for the sake of Christ, if that person’s works are to please Him.  This is why St. Paul calls them true fruit of the Spirit. – Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV, Good Works (paragraph 7-9)

Hymns: 2; 9; 22; 704


1  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.

2  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.

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

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

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

Text: Ambrose, 340–97, abr.; German version, Martin Luther, 1483–1546, abr.;
tr. William M. Reynolds, 1812–76, alt.


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