The waiting is over (Christmas message)

Preached on: Sunday 25th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:22-32
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– A long wait
– Wait for salvation, revelation, hope
– Recognise and celebrate that the wait is over

I wonder what you’ve been waiting for today. I wonder if your waiting has come true and I wonder if there’s anything you’ve ever waited a really long time for. You might have been thinking ‘Oh, Christmas is a really long wait!’ I wonder if there’s anything else you’ve waited a really long time for. Why don’t I give you 20 or 30 seconds just in a moment to turn to your neighbor and say what is the longest you’ve waited for something and what was that something the longest you’re waiting for something and what was that thing you waited for. Over to you just now.

Well, sounds like there’s some interesting stories to share there. And so, what was the longest someone waited for something and what was that something. Anybody willing to share. Fiona? Having Alexanthemos, and what a gift to wait for. Yeah, well great to wait for and good to have him here. What else people? Harris? What was the ….. your birthday every year. Having to wait a whole other year till we get to that point. Anyone else? What’s the longest you’ve waited for something? Rachel? 12 years and still waiting for sleep, definitely! Can anybody beat that? Cara? 10 years to get a dog oh you’re getting pretty close there. But yeah, no definitely. Hope? Waiting for Christmas each year. Leonie? Another dog, as well. Yeah, yeah. six years of asking you eventually wore down your dad. He caved to last. Us softies, we give in eventually.

Well, I’ve been waiting four years to be at a Christmas Day service in person. Yes! I’m here! And I bet some of you were waging ‘Is he gonna make it this year?’ Particularly if you heard the Manse family had to dodge a vomiting bug during the week. it was this close. But, basically we ostracized Hope for a day. She is the best little girl in looking out for her dad and little brother. So, she is a star, So, well done little one, you put up with a lot to help us as a family. But we’re here.

But none of our waiting is really quite as long as Simeon’s waiting. We don’t exactly sure how long he waited but it was probably quite a while, boys and girls, and certainly that’s the idea we get in the passage. And if you read on in the passage you come to Anna and she’s 84 at this point, and she’s been waiting a really long time. But for Simeon we read that he had been waiting for the ‘consolation of Israel’ and I think there’s a lot in that phrase. I think probably it’s he’s looking for freedom for his country because they’re oppressed but I think he’s also waiting for God’s Kingdom to come and to bring the good that God had promised in the Old Testament. And God had painted many pictures in the Old Testament of what it would be like when His Kingdom came and he was waiting for that consolation but maybe waiting also to be proven true that this God, this revelation of God, this faith that they were clinging to, was true. This was the true God and they wanted that to be known. So, now it comes true because he goes on to say ‘Sovereign Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace for my eyes have you seen your salvation which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. A light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel.’ Jesus was the promise Simeon had been waiting for and He would be the way of salvation, He would be light to see God more clearly so that we could see God’s heart and His ways, and Jesus would prove that the faith and promises of the Old Testament were true and that any who had faith in Him would share in God’s future Kingdom.

Boys and girls, I know that we’ve all been waiting for a really big day today. Waiting for presents and now we begin to wait for that lovely food that I’m sure is coming later today. Waiting to spend time with family and I bet there’s a few of us in the room and at home that are waiting for a rest. But let’s remember what we have in Jesus. Salvation, a revelation of God, and a very sure hope that the waiting is over and the real celebration can begin.

But let’s notice something else from our passage, that no one around Jesus and the family, other than Simeon or Anna, knew what was going on. No one else was expecting God to show up in that way, as a baby, and so, I’m not going to ask you to share but I wonder what was your least glamorous present this year, the one that you’re like ‘Oh, that’s lovely.’ secretly thinking ‘Hmm.’

But, you know, maybe, maybe what is overlooked more often than not, what we think is not that needed, is more needed than we ever knew. It’s more important than we’ve ever realized. That the flashy stuff is here today and then put in a cupboard and gone tomorrow. And so, when I say the waiting is over, Jesus is the salvation and revelation that we need, it can be tempting to go ‘Okay.’ it can be tempting to put on a nice smile, ‘Lovely lovely. Yes good service Scott.’ and we kind of just gloss over this because it’s old news. It’s old news to many of us. We’ve heard it for years upon years. But let’s not be a people who do that to Jesus. Let’s not be a people who just gloss over Him. Let’s be a people who are joyful, who are delighted that this is Jesus. That He is our salvation, He is a revelation of God’s heart for you and for this world, and He is very truly God come in human form. And let’s take that into the new year, to be a people who don’t gloss over Jesus and celebrate what we have in Him and through Him. I hope you have a really excellent day together with whoever you spend it with and enjoy the rest of the Christmas break as well.

Worth the wait (Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Inconvenient faith
– Waiting for it to pass
– worth the wait

Let us take a moment to pray before we think about God’s word:

Our Holy God, we come before you this Holy Night as our hymn has just said, we come with awe and joy, with faith and love. But Father, we likely also come with our doubts and even our sorrows. Maybe sorrows that are very raw, maybe very new and so we would ask, our God, to meet with You this night, to meet with You and to hear from You. For we ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

I was trying to switch off from work and so decided to watch a little TV on one of the various apps that I can turn to on my phone and in the adverts, and before and during, there was a comedian popped up and he said this line which probably made me chuckle; I probably shouldn’t ‘I love Christmas but by the end of it I hate everyone near me.’

And, I don’t know if you can sympathize with that at all. I’m not saying that I do, but, just in case my wife’s watching from home, but there are bits of Christmas that seem, at times, a little inconvenient. I wonder if you find any parts of Christmas inconvenient. Because something can be inconvenient if it’s bothersome. Maybe you find the stress of buying presents a little bothersome and thinking ‘Oh, what did I get them this year?’ Maybe the stress of preparing this special meal with all the anticipation and how many courses or parts of potatoes should there be, is it mashed and roast and boiled or croquettes, or all four. Some thinking can be inconvenient if it’s disruptive, it’s Christmas, disrupts our routine. Maybe you really like your job and the idea of taking a holiday just feels disruptive or maybe the prospect of being woken before seven o’clock tomorrow morning. And I’ve already warned my daughter, if the clock says anything beyond or before zero six, she’s not to come to through. Something can be inconvenient if it’s vexing some of us. Haven’t seen our family or friends in maybe a wee while and maybe there’s good reason for that because some of those family and friends can be somewhat vexing. In all these ways, and more besides, it may be possible to see Christmas as somewhat inconvenient.

And I have to wonder that very first Christmas did Mary find some of Christmas inconvenient just a little. After all, here’s a girl, a young girl ridiculed, likely ostracized for being pregnant before the wedding day, and everyone’s a little bit unsure if it’s really Joseph’s or not. Here’s a young girl then at eight months pregnant because of the whim of an emperor thousands of miles away, she has to travel three to four days on the back of a donkey, to cover about 90 miles, all just so that she can have her name, and probably not even her name, written on a bit of paper. This young girl then arriving in said town of Bethlehem and finding nowhere to stay, forced to give birth in a stable as a measure of last resort.

With all these very, very clear inconveniences I have to wonder was Mary just waiting for Christmas to pass to get it done, get to the other side?

Well, knowing a little of Mary’s character I’m not sure she was that kind of individual. You see, nine months earlier in a passage that we’ve looked at earlier in our Advent series she said, in response to the angel ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’ I think those words marked out Mary’s path because they marked out her character as well. Here is a woman of faith whose maturity of faith, even at such a young age, let’s remember she would be in her somewhere in her teens, her maturity of faith knew that faith had to be combined with action and with actions, that at times, can be very inconvenient. If that’s her character then why did she do it and why did she persevere all the way? Why was she not simply waiting for Christmas to pass?

Well, I think Mary knew that this inconvenient faith was worth it. It was worth it because she also knew whom she carried in her body. God. Who’d taken on human form and come very, very close.

It’s a startling thought to think that the God of all creation would become human, would humble himself so incredibly.

But that is what we remember and celebrate this night and although the joy is not maybe as effusive as we had at the family service, it’s a joy marked with a measure of awe, with awestruckness, and maybe that was what Mary also carried a little off, because, I think, more than her having a blind or a duty bound faith, I think Mary had faith in a God who had come close, who is part of humanity now, and who had come to change the world.

For Mary could also recall these words of the Angel before she had replied the angel had said to her ‘He (this child) will be great and the son of the most high, His kingdom will never end.’ Mary knew that God had come to change things. He’d come to bring hope and, in giving herself through inconvenient faith, Mary got to partner with God and His purposes and it transformed our life.

So, what about us, friends, on the cusp of this new Christmas Day? What’s God’s word for us tonight?

Well, what if friends, the invitation of God at this Watchnight Service is not simply to go through the motions of tradition or duty-bound faith, where we turn up and tick the box? What if the invitation is to see the inconvenient faith leads to life and it leads to great opportunities? What if the greatest inconvenience actually might lead to the greatest opportunity, to let God into your life tonight and in the years to come? That, if you allow Him, the King and the manger to be King in your heart, King over your life, then who knows where inconvenient faith might lead you. Who knows how inconvenient faith might transform your life beyond your imagining.

Earlier today I was on Facebook very briefly because one of my friends whom I follow and it popped up a little notification, and Marion, I met Marion well four years ago this Autumn just leading into Christmas, and four years ago Marion came to faith and she came to faith because someone said to her ‘Marion, it’s not about being a good person, it’s not about this Christianity lark, it’s about a relationship with Jesus,’

and so, bold as brass, Marion, four years later, puts on Facebook about her friendship, her relationship with Jesus and how it has transformed her life. How she has transformed from this woman who was who was struggling and doubting and in a place of real darkness at times, to a place of joy a place of confidence and wanting others to know this very same Jesus.

Friends, you can know this Jesus this year too and we’d love to help you. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by coming to church and getting involved. We all like to have Sunday to ourselves but, if you don’t turn up, you miss out. You don’t get to hear from God through His Word preached and through gathering with His people. You can put inconvenient faith into to practice by reading His Word, the Bible, and praying, giving Him some time and space amongst all the busyness. You can put inconvenient faith into practice by learning His ways and learning to walk in Him and, let’s admit, it’s all horribly inconvenient, it requires a measure of sacrifice but, maybe if like Mary, we’ll respond in faith and entrust to the one who came at Christmas then maybe, we too will find a new and fuller life through Jesus.

Now, you may be someone who’s been following Jesus for a little while you wonder ‘What’s the word to me tonight, Scott?’ Well, I was reminded this past week of Eugene Peterson who said that a mark of being a faithful disciple is someone who lives out a long obedience in the same direction, a long obedience in the same direction. So, maybe tonight, rather than on Hogmanay, maybe tonight, on the cusp of a new Christmas Day, may we make that commitment to Jesus, to keep on keeping on, to keep following, to keep a long obedience in the same direction, to keep on the journey, long though it may be, heavy though the loads may feel at times, because both our journey and the journey of Mary, well they’re just an echo, a pale reflection really of a much greater and more sacrificial journey, that of Jesus who journeyed from the glories of Heaven to earth and took up human form, and became a servant rather than being served, and he kept journeying, journeying faithful all the way to the cross that you and I might know life in all its fullness.

Waiting in hope (Early Watchnight)

Preached on: Saturday 24th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Luke 2:1-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Why the wait?
– Waiting for hope
– Worth the wait


Waiting and loved

Preached on: Sunday 18th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-18 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references:
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– waiting to be loved
– the message of love


Joy to the world

Preached on: Sunday 11th December 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-11e Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Micah 5:2-4; Luke 1:26–38; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2:1-12; John 1:1-14
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints:
– Seeking joy
– Promised joy
– Joy in knowing the King


Waiting for King and kingdom

Preached on:
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-12-11 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Luke 1:26-38 & 46-56
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoints
– In the waiting you are seen
– Waiting for justice
– Waiting for King and kingdom


Waiting for restoration

Preached on: Sunday 27th November 2022
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above AVAILABLE SOON. Additionally, you can download the PowerPoint PDF by clicking here 22-11-27 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Isaiah 2:1-5 & Matthew 24:36-44
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Sermon keypoint:
– Waiting for restoration
– Waiting with hope
– Waiting with watchfulness


Wonderful Counsellor

Preached on: Sunday 28th November 2021
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 21-11-28 Message PPT slides multi pages.
Bible references: Isaiah 9:2-7
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Let us come to God in prayer. Let us pray:
Holy Spirit, be welcome here and reveal to us the heart of our Father.
Holy Spirit, be welcome here and reveal to us the hope we have through Jesus.
Come now Holy Spirit, we pray, with power and deep conviction, for we ask it in Jesus name. Amen.

So, however your Christmas preparations go, I’m not the best at organizing the Christmas shopping, someone else in my family has been busy with that over the last couple of months, whether prompted by an ensuing pregnancy and coming up in a few weeks’ time or whether it’s because of the news we heard about coronavirus and Brexit having this great clash of impact upon shopping, hopefully you’re making a better progress because time’s ticking, less than four weeks now, and I wonder if you’re beginning to think, like me are, we going to get it like we normally get it or are we going back to last year where we had that one day of freedom and the frustration and the limitation of that. So, I wonder how you’re approaching advent this year? But as I said in the introduction before the reading, maybe there’s other things going on and how you’re approaching Advent this year. That, actually, if you were to take a moment to pause and slow down and be really honest, is there something deeper going on in you or maybe in people you know, are in our wider community, and world? That though we’re going through the motions and we’re doing the usual habits and making the list and getting it sorted out, actually, deep down, there’s deeper emotions on the go here? Maybe emotions of fear, of weariness? Maybe even of pain, pain of what the last year has brought to you in your life? And the temptation is to bury it and to ignore it, but actually, maybe we need to name it and share it. That, although the nights might be drawing in and it’s getting darker earlier, there is too, in us, a darkness, a spiritual, emotional darkness that’s got nothing to do with sin maybe, not our sin at least and it’s the darkness that has been nurtured sadly by the impact of life on you.

In Isaiah’s day, the people there were experiencing a darkness as well. Just before our passage that we read from, at the end of chapter 8 Isaiah says this of the people ‘Then they will look towards the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom and they will be thrust into utter darkness.’ The situation for them is not coronavirus or political tensions of a form, but political tensions with Assyria that they face. The threat of Assyria coming and conquering them and so the people are filled with a fearful gloom and whenever the future they look to, the circumstances around them, it just looks dark, it looks bleak, it is full of gloom for them. And so, what does Isaiah say to the people in their darkness? What does he say to us in our darkness?

Well, as we read ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light on those living in the land of deep darkness. A light has dawned. For to as a child is born. To us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Isaiah sent with a message of hope, a message that light is coming. In fact, in Isaiah, the words are a light has come as a child is born. It’s that certain. It’s spoken of as if it’s already happened, even though it’s still in the future. it’s that certain. God is going to make sure this happens. A light is coming and it will come with the arrival of a child.

Now, maybe, the people would be thinking ‘Well, who is this child? Who is this?’ We know that Isaiah, his ministry stretched over a period of a number of kings and it’s likely that Hezekiah was just born before this particular message. They might be wondering ‘Is it Hezekiah he speaks of? Is this the child that we’re to look to?’ But it can’t be. It can’t be because the words highlighted here point to something that would be startling. ‘Wonderful’ it was only used in the context of the wonders that God had done, like when you and I we look up to the stars on a dark night in these winter months and we are just filled with awe at the magnitude of creation, of something that only God can do. That’s the sense of Wonderful here. And no prince, no king, no human being was ever called Mighty God. In Israel to do so would be blasphemy and clearly no king, prince whoever, had ever been Everlasting, had been eternal, and so all these terms are pointing to someone who would come that seems to be divine somehow. But then Prince? Prince was a term used of human rulers and so it speaks of someone who would have human lineage and so we have this promise of someone who will come who is both divine and human.

And in the midst of giving that promise, God calls His people to wait, to wait in hope, and in faith, and they had to wait a long time. 800 years from the point of Isaiah, 400 years from the point of Malachi, who we were just looking at in the last couple of weeks. But eventually, finally, a child comes and when He grows, His life, His ministry fulfills every expectation of these verses, every expectation of every other promise given by God, and so the claim of Christianity for 2000 years has been that God fulfilled His promise. That child was born. He, the promised one, the Messiah as he would come to be known, God in human form, bringing light and life into the darkness of our world.

And so, we often read the very familiar passages in the early chapters of Matthew and Luke that tell us the Christmas story and they echo these words of Isaiah like the angel to Mary who says ‘You will conceive and give birth to a son and you are to call him Jesus. 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 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end.’

Do you see the similarities in the two passages of Isaiah and Luke of the reference to the throne of David, that the government will be on His shoulders, as Isaiah said, that His kingdom will never end, as Isaiah was referring to as well. There are these echoes between the passages because God and Jesus fulfilled His promise but you know, for us, it’s old news. Do we want to have a competition of who gets the most Christmases underneath their belt? Because I want you to put your hand up on that one, because it’s for us, it almost just washes over us, that I’ve heard this so often, Jesus is the answer but when we allow it to wash over us, when we lose the wonder of Advent, we lose the hope of Advent as well, the hope and the good news that God would want to give us in this season as we draw to the close of another year. Because, if Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah, and if that God held true to that promise, then He’s also able to fulfill the other promises of Jesus.

There are the promises concerning His titles. There are promises and testimony of scripture that, for example in the New Testament we read that Jesus is alive even now that He reigns at the Father’s side, and that you and I can know Him. Jesus is not just an idea and He’s not just a moral figure to try and emulate. If God fulfilled this promise and this testimony about Jesus then every other promise is true as well, and so that means you can know Him right here now in your life and you can be sharing testimony like Sharon did.

Because Jesus can be an active part of your life and He can bring light into your darkness, the darkness you may be experiencing even today. that is the hope and offer we’re reminded of in our verses today and, if it’s true that Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise made, and if that means that the rest of what we read about Jesus is true, that we can cling to that in faith, then what do the titles of Jesus mean? What does it mean that he’s a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace? What do those mean? Because, again, we just gloss over them, we just skip over them so easily. ‘Oh I’ve heard those before?’ but, actually, there’s so much depth in them, so much life in them, and so, each week, starting today, we’re going to look at one of them, and today’s is Wonderful Counselor.

I’ve already shared about what the meaning of Wonderful means, that it’s something that only God can do, that’s beyond mere human ability, and Counselor has connotations of someone who is an advisor, who gives wise advice and direction, of how to order or govern our lives, both individually and collectively, we might describe it as ‘extraordinary wisdom’ and don’t we see that in the life of Jesus when we read through the gospels? For example, there’s that point when he’s 12 years old and He’s in the temple and He’s engaging with the teachers and He’s asking questions and they’re asking questions, He’s giving answers and then we read that ‘Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.’ Extraordinary wisdom from the youngest of age. But as He grows up and He begins His ministry, one of the things that really struck the people was how He taught, that He taught as someone who had authority, that He spoke with deep knowledge and certainty about the things of God and the things of the kingdom, He spoke with certainty, with authority about how to live life, about how life was structured to be lived the best way, and He could give direction on that. He could give direction that would lead to life and people remarked on that. They noticed that and those that heeded it found that true life, life and all its fullness but you know He’s still offering it even today. He’s still offering that life-giving wisdom even today, to you and I, but we easily, so easily, too easily turn away from them and go our own way.

Back in Isaiah’s day the people had done very similarly. We read just at that end verse at the end of chapter 8 where they’re in darkness. Well, just a few verses before that one, we also read this ‘When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, whose whisper and mutter, should not our people inquire of their God, why consult the dead on behalf of the living, consult God’s’ instruction and the testimony of warning the people were turning to other sources of wisdom. And now, we might not be turning to mediums and spiritus, although some in our community do, but we easily turn to other sources of wisdom. We say ‘Well, these are just old words or these words are too difficult?’ or ‘I just want to pursue what I think is right and what I think is wise.’ and our culture just reinforces that message, reinforces ‘Just live your own story. Live your own way. Allow no one or nothing to restrict or confine your life, because that’s not true life, that’s not true freedom. Do not allow yourself to be governed’ Is the message of our culture. But how we just get ourselves into a mess when we do that and actually we need the wisdom of God and so we find repeated encouragements in the scriptures to turn to God’s word, to find life as the one verse here reminds us that His word revives us and we heard that with Sharon’s testimony today of how God spoke through that verse that someone shared with her and brought life brought encouragement, sustained her when she wasn’t sure what the future held and it gave her such confidence and peace. And so, maybe the invitation this Advent is not only to realize that the promise of Jesus is true and fulfilled and that you can know Him but to let Him in by opening up His word again, to get into a habit, our pattern, our rhythm of being in His word. Now, if you need some help with that then we do order regularly printed copies of daily reading notes and we can get you a physical copy of that of Every day with Jesus or Daily Bread and I’m sure they’re probably just about to begin an Advent series and that might be how you just dig in for maybe 10 minutes at the start of your day or maybe the end of your day and you allow God to speak His wisdom into your life, or if you’ve got a smartphone or a tablet or such like, you could get the Bible app and one of the reading plans there or you could get the Lectio 365 app which I’ve gone on about multiple times, but I really do go on about it because I think it weaves together scripture and prayer so well. We need to be a people who allow the wisdom of God, to be nurtured in us, spoken to us, and the only way to receive that is to be in His word because when we’re in that place of being in His word and being in prayer and we set good rhythms, then God is faithful.

And so just a couple of weeks ago I was on retreat and I have a rhythm of trying to go three or four times a year to the Bield up near Perth and go and retreat just to get some time away because, well, no one’s preaching to me, so I just need to make sure that I have some space and time where God meets with me and I receive from Him and that particular week I’d gone feeling a bit bruised. I’d received some harsh criticism and it had bruised me and so I went just needing something from God, to hear from Him, to meet with Him and, as I do at the start of every day of retreat, I take some time in prayer and in journaling and I write down what I need from God that day whether it’s direction or a revelation or a word of encouragement or comfort, whatever it might be, and that’s a practice I’ve picked up from the writings of others and in that day God spoke, so much actually, that I left feeling encouraged and strengthened with light for the next part of the journey and ready to come back and to serve and to minister in His name. God was faithful, He spoke wisdom into that time with Him that when we create space for Him to speak He does and so maybe the invitation this Christmas is to begin to become reacquainted with the Wonderful Counselor by being in His , by being in the place of prayer and allow Him to speak His life-giving wisdom into your life rather than just trying to go at your own and rely on your own wisdom to govern your life as how you think best and, instead, let Him begin to govern your life by His word.

In Sharon’s testimony as well this morning the council of friends was really helpful and often when we think of who do you go to for advice we probably end up thinking well I’ll speak to my friends you might also say you’d speak to a spouse or a partner or maybe a parent but again you’d probably do that because they’re your friend. How many of a spouse would say ‘Well, they’re my best friend’ so even if it is a spouse, a partner or a parent it’s often because you’ve developed a degree of friendship with them and so I’ve been thinking in my preparation can we understand the counsel of Jesus in terms of His friendship and actually I think we can because the word Counselor also has connotations of someone who gives comfort of someone, who draws alongside us, who journeys with us and we see that in the gospels of Jesus that He was often called a friend of tax collectors and sinners, He welcomed them, He spent time with them, He counseled them about how to live but He was , He journeyed with them, with people whose lives were messy, broken, maybe dark, and I was reading around the same time a chapter from a book that I’ve referred to you before Gentle and Lowly and if you’ve not got a copy I do encourage you to get one because it’s such a wonderful book just sot brings out the heart of Jesus to us and in that particular chapter on the friendship of Jesus. The author builds his case over the chapter speaking of how Jesus is our companion and friend and he reaches this conclusion near the end he says ‘Christ’s heart for us means that He will know, He will be our never-failing friend, He offers us a friendship that gets underneath the pain’ He offers us a friendship that gets underneath the pain – can you imagine a friend like that? Do you need a friend like that? Who knows the depths of your soul? Who knows the heart and the pain, the doubt and the dismay, that’s there and who is present there with you as you face that? Because that is the heart of Jesus for us. He proved it two thousand years ago that rather than stay in the glory of heaven He came in human form, born into squalor and experienced the hardest of lives, experienced everything that we might be able to experience, He held nothing back but entered into the pain and brokenness of our world and maybe what you need to know is that is who Jesus is and He’s there with you this Advent season. He is the Wonderful Counselor who offers life-giving wisdom and companionship because sometimes the best counsel is not a whole lot of words but just someone’s presence and maybe you just need to know the presence of Jesus with you this Advent. That His presence can be that light that sees you through the dark times and into a new day, a new day of hope and of joy and of peace, but in the time between now and then that He journeys with you. He’s that faithful companion. He will never leave you nor forsake you and He offers you light for your path.

If you’re experiencing darkness, it is real and there’s no need to deny it, but it doesn’t have to be the only reality in your life. Jesus can also be there. He can be that companion, that Wonderful Counselor, and so He can then reshape life and reshape your reality.

So, why not this Advent let Jesus in. Get into His word. Spend time with Him in prayer, for He is the Wonderful Counselor. May it be so Amen

We close our service as we sing together our final hymn another traditional advent hymn calling upon Jesus to come into our lives to come into our world afresh as we journey towards Christmas we sing together ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’.

Introduction to Advent 2021 teaching series

Preached on: Sunday 28th November 2021
The sermon text is given below or can be download by clicking on the “PDF” button above. There is no PowerPoint PDF accompanying this message.
Bible references: Isaiah 9
Location: Brightons Parish Church

Well today we begin a new teaching series, as we begin a new season in Advent. And I wonder how you’re approaching the Advent season this year?

I was talking with my Spiritual Director who’s someone who accompanies me to just listen out to what God’s saying in my life. Because, who pastors the pastor? And so I meet with her every couple of months and we got talking, because not only does she do spiritual direction, she’s a counsellor and does various different things, and we were reflecting upon how maybe, others are approaching this Advent season. That maybe people are feeling really worn-thin weary, I’m struggling, that we’ve maybe lost a bit of confidence and we’re still yearning for that real return to normal? And, even now, we see the news and what’s happening in another variant and we might not be approaching this season with a feeling of hope and joy and peace. And so, it got me thinking. What, where might we turn in the Advent passages? Where might we turn to be renewed in that? To be renewed in faith and in our hearts too? To be uplifted again.

And so, today, and for the next three weeks, we’re gonna keep coming back to Isaiah chapter 9. We’ll dip into some other passages as you’d expect me to do, but in Isaiah 9 we find four titles of Jesus and we’re going to dig into those titles and see why they are good news for us today. And so, we hear our passage now read for us by Liz.

Family Watchnight Service

Preached on: Thursday 24th December 2020
There are no text of Powerpoint pdfs accompanying this sermon
Bible references: Luke 2:8-20
Location: Brightons Parish Church