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The center of the Traditional Anglican Communion; adhering to the Holy Bible (KJV) in all matters of Faith and Doctrine, a strict reliance on the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, The two Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, the Two Creeds, and the Homilies and formularies of the Reformation Church of England.

Verse of the Day

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sermon Notes - Third Sunday in Advent - Saint Andrew’s Anglican Orthodox Church - 17 December 2017, Anno Domini


The Third Sunday in Advent
The Collect.


O
 LORD Jesus Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.


The propers for the First Sunday in Advent can be found on Page 90-92:

The First Sunday in Advent
The Collect.

A
LMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be repeated every day, after the other Collects in Advent, until Christmas Day.

N
ow when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? 8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses.9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.15 He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, 17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. 19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children(Matt 11:2-19)

John the Baptist has been imprisoned for a terrible crime – that of proclaiming the truth. He told King Herod to live in concupiscence and adultery by marrying his brother, Philip’s wife – Herodias. Can you imagine? Today, John would be accused of that disarming act of being “too judgmental” yet John simply proclaimed God’s judgment from His Word! We walk daily among many Herods and Herodiases who would, if they could, cast us into prison for revealing their sinful lives to them. For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.  (Mark 6:17-20) If you cannot abide the message, then by all means kill the messenger. The messenger is killed today by accusations of being too judgmental; thus the church has become sterile and impotent in dealing with sin. Instead of being salt and light to the world, the church has heard the world and agreed not to judge against the sins of the world. 

What is the first characteristic of John the Baptist that comes to mind when his name is mentioned? For me, I think of a Voice Crying in the Wilderness – For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. (Matt 3:3) What is this Wilderness?

Wilderness - a wild or uncultivated state. (Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary) The greatest and most desponding of wildernesses is not geographic, but spiritual. Bread and water are in short supply in a geographic wilderness, but so, too, in a spiritual one – there is lacking the Bread of Heaven and the Water of Life on the neon-lit streets of most American cities. As one walks those streets, he sees a wanton decadence and lust in the vacant faces of those he meets. There is no one with which he can fellowship concerning the riches of Christ for all are spiritually penniless. On those streets, the only mention of Christ is as a Voice Crying in the Wilderness

The text today falls into two sections. The first: reveals a faltering faith of the great witness (John) and Christ’s gentle response to this man of faith. (Verses 2-6) The second: Christ provides a witness to John of the truth of His ministry. We are not to consider John weak in faith for that is clearly not the case. John has been imprisoned and treated with dishonor. His life is in peril daily, yet he continues to believe under harsh conditions that exceed our ability to comprehend. But any of us have moments when we need a reassuring word, and this is the moment when John sends for confirmation.

Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? This is not for the benefit for John’s disciples, but for his own comfort and reassurance. He is giving his very life on preparing the way for Christ’s ministry, so a reassuring word under these circumstances is reasonable. John is in prison in the gloomy fortress of Machaerus Herod built to serve as a sinful pleasure house and an impregnable fortress in the savage hills of Moab. The halls of pleasure and impregnable walls have collapsed, but the dungeon area is still discernible with the holes in the masonry to serve as witness of the chains of its victims (John included).

Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.  Christ gently gives counsel to John’s disciples to go and give testimony of all that has been prophesied and fulfilled in the ministry of Christ. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. (Isaiah 35:5-6)  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. (Isaiah 61:1) These are prophecies written seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, so we are emboldened in our faith to see their complete fulfillment – so was John. I love that phrase from Isaiah regarding the proclamation of Liberty to the captives. As a nation, God has favored our founding and our place as a nation among the nations of the world; but He has also made available to every man and woman of every land this Liberty from the captivity of sin if they will but come to Him. Jesus tells these things to John’s disciples so that John will have his faith confirmed, but to us, too!

And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. These are all questions whose import is every whit as directed to us today as to the disciples around Jesus. When we go to prayer service, do we go to see some amazing performance of a man preacher? These services are seldom called prayer services today, but more often ‘Celebrations” or “Festivals.” Such terms describe experiences intended to uplift man, prayers and worship uplift Christ! Do we expect our clergy to wear the latest fashion in clothing? My father told me that any man given to frequent changes of fashion in attire is also likely to be blown about by every wind of doctrine. We have evangelists today clothed in $2,000.00 suits, wearing great diamond rings, and sporting gold, Rolex watches appealing for “seed money” from widows and elderly who barely can supply their pantries with bread. I can almost smell the scorched fires of their punishment to come. John is no mere prophet, but the chosen messenger of God to herald the coming of His only Begotten Son!

For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (see also Malachi 3:1) Christ extols the virtues of John after his disciples depart. He desires that no honor be lost of John’s character in sending his questions to Christ. The character of Christ is quite different from that of men: Christ gives acclaim to the Baptist after his disciples have departed. Man gives flamboyant acclaim to men to their faces, but often critical stabs to their backs. Though John stands high above the mark in the company of men, he is well short in the Kingdom of Heaven to which he aspires – as are all of us.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.  The battle is hot and the mournful cries of the battlefield are full of the painful suffering of the saints. The path to the Kingdom is not a self-willed, demonstration of manly power (as is today in the modern church), but a gentle following of that Great Shepherd of the Flock. The wolves stalk the flock seeking every remunerative opportunity to shed blood and get advantage. This describes the Kingdom of Matthew 13:31-32. Those ‘birds’ lodging in its branches are demons, and they most often win the higher positions of honor in the tree.

            And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. Christ is generous in sharing great mysteries to those whose ears are open in humble faith to hear. Amazingly, the worldly wise can never grasp the simplicity of truth uttered by Christ. But if we have ears (open ears, believing ears, trusting ears, hearing ears) to hear (not just the Words but the Spirit speaking) understand these mysteries. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse. (Mal 4:5-6) Please note the last word of the Old Testament: CURSE. The law is a curse to those who do not believe. Note the last word of the New Testament: AMEN (hearty approval). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. (Rev 22:20-21) There is a glorious difference in our prospects from the Old to the New Testament. Jesus Christ makes ALL the difference!

But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows, And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented. Donald Frasier wrote in Metaphors of the Gospel that Jesus “pictured a group of little children playing at make-believe marriages and funerals. First, they acted a marriage procession; some of them piping on instruments of music, while the rest were expected to leap and dance. In a perverse mood, however, these refused to respond, but stood still and looked discontented. So, the little pipers changed their game, and proposed a funeral. They began to imitate the loud wailing of Eastern mourners. But again, they were thwarted, for their companions refused to chime in with the mournful cry and to beat their breasts.” These non-participating children are non players. They never like the tune or the narrative, but stand jeering on the sidelines. Have our churches become such dead events of observation?


For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children. The world will always find cause to condemn the people of God and to kill the prophets. Either they are too pious, or they lack piety; either they are too hot, or they are too cold; either they are too bold, or not bold enough; either they are too spiritual, or not spiritual enough. If we are the Children of Wisdom, we shall have ears that hear and know. We dare not stand on the sidelines jeering, but become active responders to the pipe. The Lord GOD hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. (Isaiah 50:4-5) Are we rebellious children jeering those who labor, or are we those who, taking to the plow, never cast an eye right, left, or back, but plow a straight row for Christ? (Luke 9:62) 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Secularization and Ultimate Denunciation of Christmas – 14 December 2017, Anno Domini

If you prefer, there is an easy to read and print READER version RIGHT HERE!

A
nd God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  (Exodus 20:1-3)

            Unless you have been in a coma for the past few decades, you will know that there has been an all-out attack against both the meaning and celebration of Christmas. Even if the exact date were proven to be uncertain (and I do not believe it to be uncertain), it would still be appropriate to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ on any given date. The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was considered so important to the early church that they began to date all historical events on the BEFORE (B.C.) and AFTER (A.D.) of that Holy event. Though atheistic science and geologist may deny the reality of the Birth of Christ, they cannot escape recognizing that date in the calendar year, even if they opt to call it B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) or C.E. (Common Era). That troublesome event that determines that calendar date keeps haunting them. 

           The hostility towards celebrating the Birth of Our Lord may have begun in the more innocent years of our history, but, today, it has grown to an outward hostility so intense that any mention of the word ‘CHRISTMAS’ draws the ire of those who consider themselves to be the Politically Correct Police whose job is to squelch any sign of faith or religion – but especially that of the Christian religion. While prayers to Dark Prince, Allah, are even being taught to students in many American public schools, even the mention of the Christian God is forbidden and cause for suspension. How did we arrive at this dilemma of faith and freedom FROM religion?

            I have read many well-meaning Christians (including even some clergy) who have attempted to defend the legend of Santa Claus and have even ascribed divine powers to him – such as the claim that he once walked on water. However, the real St. Nicolas was not such fellow. He was a good, kind, and generous bishop of Asia Minor who defended the poor and weak against exploitation. I have visited churches in the area that are named in his honor, but never have I heard or read, in the chronicles of those churches, the fads and fiction which the world lauds over this partly mythical character. I believe the real St. Nicolas would vigorously disclaim these stories that have come to be believed by millions of children.

           Santa Claus is simply a corruption of the name, St. Nicolas. When pronounced rapidly by Europeans and Americans, St. Nicolas evolved into Santa Claus.

            When I was very young, I remember my parents warning me about being good so that Santa Claus would bring me good presents. Santa Claus, like our Lord, seemed to know everything about me. He knew when I was good or bad. He knew my name and age. He knew where I lived, and even where I was on Christmas Eve even if not at home. He was able to fly in his sled just as an angel across the heavens. He was OMNISCIENT. He was also OMNIPRESENT since he was able to deliver gifts around the world, and to every child, in a short 12 hour travel. I never felt completely comfortable with the Santa Claus legend. I always preferred the classical Christmas story with its carols and wonderment to that of the false figure of Santa Claus. 

            When I grew to know for certain that there was no Santa Claus, I wondered what other things my parents had lied to me about. If I had been less informed on Holy Scripture, I may have even thought that they had lied to me about the baby Jesus, God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost. Thankfully, the truth of the meaning of Christmas was too powerful to be dismissed as legend. 

            The character of Santa Claus gradually began to take the place of Jesus Christ in much of our Christmas lore. If anyone denounces Santa Claus as a fraud, he is labeled a hateful killjoy. 

            The myth of Santa began to really gain prominence in 1823 with the publishing of Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” I am sure that Moore did not intend to usurp the place of Christ in Christmas, but that is certainly the result that came about. Drawings of our Lord do not elicit much commercial fanfare, but a red suited old bishop with a bag full of gifts certainly does. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas, yet He has been omitted by the commercial and social world. How sad! How much more beautiful (and TRUE) is the story of the first Christmas recorded in the Gospels, and particularly, the Gospel of St. Luke, Chapter 2. 

            Many pop songs have been recorded concerning the ‘season’ of Christmas without mentioning the name of the Lord whose day it is; songs such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, All I want for Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, White Christmas, Blue Christmas, etc. Jingle Bells was originally written as a Thanksgiving song, but was quickly adopted as a Christmas song without mention of Christ. Ironically, the song was written and first sung at a church in Savannah, Georgia where Pierpont relocated in the last years of his life. His nephew was J.P. (Pierpont) Morgan, the celebrated financier. Aren’t the true songs of Christmas far more appealing and beautiful – Joy to the World, Angels from the Realms of Glory, Noel, Silent Night, O Come all Ye Faithful, We Three Kings, Away in a MangerO Little Town of Bethlehem, etc.

            In the process of time, the secularizers of Christmas grew weary of the mere mention of the name Christmas even if Santa had become the central figure. Even though the central figure of Christmas (Jesus Christ) had been supplanted by Santa Claus and with musical works unrelated to the Christ of Christmas, this did not satisfy those who are offended at the mention of the Lord’s name. If they admit to their being a God in Heaven, and a Lord who must be followed, they would be forced to abandon their gay (old meaning) lifestyles. So, what could they do to eliminate even that allusion of Christ in the word Christmas?

            They concluded, “Let us change greetings cards from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays” was one approach. Eliminate any scripture references in such cards. Commercialize the season to the point that everyone’s mind would be on glitter and not the Baby Christ-Child born at Bethlehem. Replace solemn Christmas worship services with drinking parties and banquets of gorging and feasting. Belittle anyone who even hints at “Merry Christmas.” Expunge any acknowledgement of the meaning of the season from all public proclamations. No longer would Washington, DC have a Christmas Tree, but rather a Holiday Tree. Thankfully, we have just rid ourselves of a man in the office of President who promoted that disavowal of Christmas. Our present President is very bold in proclaiming Christmas for what it truly is.

            When we celebrate Christmas, I hope we will teach our children whose birthday it is that we celebrate. I hope we will not lie about some mythical figure with powers very similar to those of God as one whom they must please. The beauty and wonder of the real Christmas story is far more compelling than a comic figure in a bishop’s suit with a bag on his shoulders delivering handouts. Tell them the truth! The child can accept truth far better than the seasoned adults whose lives are tainted with sin. If we are found to be liars in one matter so great, our testimony in every other arena will be subject to question. TELL THE CHILDREN THE TRUTH!


            Merry Christmas! May this Christmas be centered on the humble manger, a young and blessed virgin, the beasts of the field who were witness, and the lowly Joseph.