Advent: welcome and secure

Preached on: Sunday 20th December 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-12-20 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Matthew 1:18-25
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Matthew 1v18-25 (NIV)
Sunday 19th December 2020
Brightons Parish Church

Message
Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be true and pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls – adults even: what makes you feel secure? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think about that, talk about it at home, or even put it up in the Live Chat.
(PAUSE)

I wonder what came to mind for you. Maybe it was family – the security of loved ones being close and able to listen or help. Maybe it is our homes – we might have a chair, or a room, where we feel especially safe. It could be…
holding our favourite teddy or being wrapped up in a blanket you’ve had for years. Maybe we feel secure because of the things in our homes or the plans that we have. We all find safety and security in a range of places and ways, and some will be common to us, whilst others are unique because they hold a special place in our lives.

Do you remember boys and girls who we read about in our story today? We didn’t read about the story of the stable, like in this nativity scene, but we did read about some of the people we see here. We heard the names…Mary, Joseph and Jesus. And who else was in the story? Who else came and visited Joseph? Can you remember? Joseph was visited by…an angel. I don’t have wooden one of those yet for my nativity scene, but here’s one from my Christmas tree.
Our Bible story today reminded us of the beginning, the genesis, of the story about Jesus the Messiah. Mary was engaged to Joseph – they were going to get married. In that culture, as soon as you were engaged you were seen as married, even though for a whole year Mary and Joseph still lived with their parents, rather than together.

But during that time, Mary became pregnant, she was expecting a little baby. We know from other stories in the Bible that Mary had went to visit her cousin Elizabeth for about 3 months, so it’s possible that the story we read today is when Mary is about 4 months pregnant, and she’s maybe starting to show a little – not enough for everyone to notice, but enough that Joseph, and maybe some close family or friends are aware as well.

So, Joseph thinks that Mary is expecting someone else’s baby, not his baby, and wonders if he should call off the marriage, rather than going ahead. But then, the angel appears, and that angel says: ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’ (v20-21)

What Joseph experiences and hears is enough to convince him, and so he does what the angel says to do, even though Jesus is actually the son of Mary and the son of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit. Even though this is the case, Joseph chooses to take Mary home as his wife and Joseph chooses to name Jesus. These were two very public actions and they made Jesus the son of Joseph…
These actions meant that Jesus was adopted by Joseph.

And that’s important because when Joseph adopted Jesus as his son, that made Jesus heir to the promises God made to King David – Jesus became part of the legal family line, that traced his way from David, to Solomon, all the way down to Joseph and then to Jesus. To adopt Jesus, was a big step for Joseph – he was making a choice that would be for the rest of his life, because when we adopt someone, we are saying that they are welcome into our family forever, and there’s no going back, there’s no changing our minds – it’s irreversible, it’s forever, they are secure in our family.

Boys and girls, we often talk about church being like a family, and that’s been very important this past year…
because we’ve needed extra help, and at times we’ve felt alone, and other times we’ve maybe even felt a little bit scared.

But, why is the church like a family? Who’s family are we? I’m going to put up three pictures on screen and I wonder if you can guess which family, we’re a part of, OK? So, are we a part of the royal family? Or, are we part of the Peter Rabbit family? Or, are we part of God’s family? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about this. The correct answer is…we’re part of God’s family, that’s right, well done! We are part of God’s family and it was made possible because Jesus came as a baby at Christmas.

The story of Jesus, and what He sought to achieve, is a story of family, of adoption – Joseph chooses to…
adopt Jesus; Jesus chooses to adopt human form, God took on human flesh; and this was all done so that Jesus could extend the family of God. From all eternity there was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and in love for this world they wanted to include others, they wanted you and me to be part of their family.

But because of sin, that doesn’t happen straight away. We each need to make a choice, the choice to allow Father God to adopt us into His family. Joseph made a choice to adopt Jesus; Jesus made a choice to adopt human form; and we need to make a choice as well, the choice to allow Father God to adopt us into His family.

I wonder friends, have we each made that choice? Have we come to God and said “yes, I want to be part…
of Your family!” – have we said that, or something like it? Because if we haven’t, and if we do not have an identity as adopted children of God, then we may feel even more adrift, overwhelmed or alone; we may feel that it all rests on us – on our plans, on the stuff we can get, the money we can make. But if we know ourselves as adopted children of God, if being part of God’s family is more than turning up to church or being “religious”, then with that identity can come a security because then we can become confident of God’s welcome, His rescue and presence, and the value we have to Him.

Friends, this Advent season, may we each make the choice to allow Father God to welcome us into His family, because when He adopts us, there’s no going back, He won’t change His mind – it’s irreversible, it’s forever…
and so as the Apostle Paul once said:

‘…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
(Romans 9:38-39)

I pray that we may remember the babe who came that we might be adopted into His family line and so be secure in Him forever. May it be so. Amen.

The Possibilities of Robots (Wonder Zone wk.5)

Preached on: Sunday 26th July 2020
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 20-07-26-Message-PPT-slides.
Bible references: Luke 15:11-24
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Text: Luke 15:11-24 (NIV)
Sunday 26th July 2020
Brightons Parish ChurchLet us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s Word.

May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Boys and girls, do any of you have robotic toys? That’s a toy which is electronic and programmed to do something. My daughter Hope has this robotic horse. It’s programmed to make noises or move on these wheels or shake and turn its head if you brush it with this comb or try and feed it some of its toy food.

Or, do any of you have a voice assistant? Maybe you have
Alexa at home, or maybe an adult you know has Google Assistant or Siri on their phone? It’s incredible how many things you can ask a voice assistant, and the ways they can help with everyday life – Alexa, add chocolate to the shopping list!

Robots, computers and artificial intelligences are amazing – they can do many things we can’t do, in places we can’t go yet. For example, just last week a robot was launched to the planet Mars to go explore it, because we’re not ready to send human beings yet. Other times, robots can seem very similar to us and do the same things as we do, like Alexa talking and answering questions.

But today’s robots, computers and artificial intelligences are not able to make emotional choices. They might be good at playing your favourite music for you, but they can’t choose to be someone’s friend, and they don’t make decisions that aren’t good for them. But we can choose to be friends with people and we can make bad choices.

I wonder, if you could design a robot or voice assistant to help with something, what would that be? Would it be to do your homework? Would it be to cut the grass, iron the clothes, make the dinner? I’ll give you 30 seconds to think or talk about that at home.
(PAUSE)

If you like, put up in the Live Chat what your design would help with. Sometimes, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences. Like, if you had a voice assistant do all your homework, then you would miss out on learning important things and that could make life boring or hard when you are older. Or, if you wanted a robot to do all your cooking, then you wouldn’t know how make a delicious meal for your family and you might feel a bit useless. So, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences.

The younger son in our story today made some choices. Can you remember what they were? First, he made the choice to ask his dad for money, but not just a little money, this younger son was asking for the money that he would only get when his dad had died. Basically, he was saying, “Dad, I wish you were dead now, so I can go away and have a good time.” That doesn’t seem like a good choice, to hurt the people around us.

Or, what about his choice to use that money in a bad way – he was selfish with it and wasted the money, in fact he made so many bad choices with his money that he ended up poor, homeless and left with a job that no one would want. More bad choices.

So, the choices we make can have unexpected consequences. Sure, it seemed like a great idea to ask for the money and to go spend in the way he did, but the end result showed that his choices were poor choices.

But why was Jesus telling this story? What choices was He thinking about? Well, before Jesus started telling this story, we read these words: ‘Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”’ (v1-2)

Here was Jesus sitting with a bunch of people who had made some bad choices. Tax collectors had chosen to betray their country and their neighbours, often to get rich. Sinners has chosen to reject God ways and live life the way they wanted. And both groups would have known the bad choices they made; both groups could resonate with the younger son, and might be thinking,
“that’s just like my life, and the bad choices I’ve made.”

Now, everyone knew that tax collectors and sinners were not the best people, everyone knew you shouldn’t hang around them with, yet here was Jesus doing that – and this really bothered the religious leaders of the day, because if Jesus was really the promised messiah then why was he hanging out with them, rather than doing what was expected. And so, Jesus tells a story, He tells a story about choices – about the choices we make, and the choices God makes, and both our choices and God’s choices have consequences.

All of us, at one time or another, have made a choice like the younger son. The Father in the story is a picture of God, and we make choices all the time that tell God to take a hike, we make choices all the time that tell God we don’t care for Him, we make choices all the time that say “I want my life but I don’t want you” – even though God gave us this life.

How do you think that makes God feel? How do you think it feels, when the person you love tells you something like that? I’ll give you another 30 seconds to talk or think about that at home. (PAUSE)

In Jesus’ day, everyone knew that tax collectors and sinners had told God to take a hike, that God and His priorities could die for all they cared. For those choices, the religious leaders expected consequences, dire consequences, a complete rejection by God.

But Jesus’ story took an expected turn – do you remember what happened? The younger son realised his mistakes and so he decided to head home. He made another choice, but this time, a good choice. He chose to turn back and prepared himself to say sorry.
And then what happened? What was the reaction of the Father? Did the Father reject the son? Did he? No! I’m sure that’s what people expected to hear, but Jesus told a different story, He revealed an unexpected choice of God – the Father welcomed home the younger son, he ran to His son, He threw His arms around the son, kissed him, and celebrated the son’s return!

That final choice of the son had an unexpected consequence because he didn’t expect to be welcomed home, but that is what happened, for the Father chose to forgive him and lavish His love upon His son.

I wonder, have you made that choice of the younger son? Have you chosen to return to Father God? Have you asked to be forgiven for your wrong choices and your daily

rejection of God? Maybe today is the day when you’ll finally make that good choice?

But, what if you’ve already made that choice? What if you would already say you are a Christian? Well, I was really struck by the interview with the scientist this morning, because at the end she said, “opportunities to make choices to trust in God or not, are always coming up in life, and so it’s important to keep choosing Him – it’s not just once.” It’s not just once.

So, where are you needing to choose God in your life just now? Is there an area of your life where you need to go God’s way, rather than your own? Is there a decision you need to make, but will you let God in on that decision? Is there a hard situation in your life, and you have a choice
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about whether to trust God in that or not? Where are you needing to choose God today?

It was Jesus, who earlier in the book of Luke said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23) Where do you need to take up your cross? Where do you need to choose to trust God?

I pray that today, each of us, from the youngest upwards, might choose to follow Jesus in very concrete ways by choosing to put our trust, and keep our trust, in Him.

May it be so. Amen.

We close our time together with our final hymn…