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Genesis 1:26-31 1
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.

Background

This lesson is created for the first Sunday of the ADVENT season. Advent is the beginning of the Church Year leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays. It is the New Year’s Day for the Christian Church. The definition of the word “advent” means  the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event. Of the many synonyms for advent, we have: arrival · appearance · emergence · materialization · surfacing · occurrence · dawn · origin · birth · rise · development · approach · coming · looming · nearing · advance. In Christian theology, it also means the coming or second coming of Christ.

When God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden, it was not the end of creation but the beginning.  Creation, God’s creation, is a process that continues today. From the very beginning, God implies the expansion of His own community. He says, “Let Us,” indicating a community already exists. Man was also made, physically, in God’s image, and our own creation begins with characteristics of shape and form in common with God. The remainder of the Bible fills in the details of how mankind is being brought forward from having not only form and shape that is common with God, but also with God’s own character, so that we fit perfectly into the community that God has created and is expanding.

When the Jesus came, He came with a message from “His Father.” Jesus brought, “the good news of the Kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14-15). There should be no doubt in our minds that God is forming a community. There also should be no doubt that Jesus Christ will rule this community, first, and afterward, forever.  The important thing for us with advent is what ramifications this good news of the Kingdom of God has on the way we live our lives. In the course of the story of Christ’s ministry, and the apostles’ who came afterward, we find some interesting things that have a direct impact on the way we live our lives. This is why we start each season with advent, as a constant reminder of where Jesus came from and why He came.

First, Christ was the Son of God. This is a family relationship. “Son” is used in the Bible in at least two different ways. One means “a direct descendant of.” The other is used in the sense of “characteristics of, but not necessarily direct descendant of.” The Bible says plainly that Jesus was the Son of God, a direct relationship. Since He was of the same Family, there is a family relationship. He was not only the literal Son born of Mary of the Holy Spirit, but He also showed the characteristics of God. He was God.

We have already seen that the community that He is creating is a kingdom.  The kingdom exists today and we exist in it. This kingdom is also a Family. Everybody is related, all being sons of our Creator, God. Everybody has the same characteristics. Just like human descendants of parents look like their parents, we too have characteristics of God. Everything fits together beautifully, and logically. God is reproducing Himself.

Items for Discussion

  • What characteristics of God do you see in ourselves?
  • Why should we draw comfort from the fact that we are created in God’s image?
  • Why is it important to the Christian Church to renew its calendar each year and relive the story of Christ’s coming and death?
  • If God and Jesus are perfect (which they are), why are humans so flawed?
  • We are told to have hope, not despair for the future? Why?
  • Do you have any advent traditions?

 

Luke 1: 5-24
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” 18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion.

Background

The father and mother of John the Baptist were like all of us, imperfect in God’s eyes. They too were saved in the same way as all others are saved by God. Their sadness was that they had no children, and it could not be expected that Elizabeth should have any in her old age. While Zachariah was burning incense in the temple, their were a multitude of the people praying with him. All the prayers we offer up to God, are acceptable and successful because of Christ’s intercession with God. While Zachariah prayed earnestly, he still needed Christ. We should not expect any fruitful blessings if we do not pray earnestly.  We cannot expect that the best of our prayers are ever acceptable or will be answered without Christ’s intercession. It is His purpose, to bridge the gap between our God and our soul that our sinful nature has created and make us blameless before God.

The prayers Zachariah often made, received an answer that would bring him joy. Prayers of faith are filed in heaven, and are not forgotten. Prayers made when we were young and entering into the world, may be answered when we are old and going out of the world. God’s mercies are doubly sweet when they come as an answer to prayer. Zachariah would have a son in his old age. This son would be instrumental in the conversion of many souls to God, and in preparing them to receive the gospel of Christ. Zachariah’s son would be John the Baptist.

Zachariah heard all that the angel said, but because he did not believe, had no faith, he could not speak afterwords. God dealt justly with him, because he had objected to God’s own words. Here you have to admire the patience of God towards Zachariah. God would deal kindly with him because he was prevented from speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith. It is oftn by the rebukes of God for our sins, we are brought to give more credit to the word of God. God, in essence, is removing our reason to complain. Even real believers are apt to dishonor God by unbelief; and their mouths are stopped in silence and confusion, when otherwise they should have been praising God with joy and gratitude. In God’s gracious dealings with us we ought to observe His gracious regards for us. God, therefore, looks on us with compassion and favor. God loves us.

Items for Discussion

  • Where in today’s society do we find the “foretellers” of the coming of Jesus?
  • Why do you think people remove Jesus from Christmas?
  • In what ways do you maintain the spirit of a foreteller for advent?

Discussion Challenge

  • Christmas services will bring the largest turnouts for a church. What should be done between the start of Advent and Christmas to create a momentum that keeps people coming to church?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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