Merry Christmas(ish)! As I write this, I have plunged headfirst into the ocean of Christmas music that is on Spotify and am loving every second of it, even Sir Paul McCartney’s wrongfully maligned “Wonderful Christmas Time.” Frankly, if the synthesizer in that song is wrong, I’m not sure I want to be right.
I apologize for the delayed posting this week. My wife and I were in and out of airports yesterday, coming home from spending Thanksgiving with our relatives in New Orleans, which is a wonderful place to spend a holiday that places a great deal of emphasis on food.
This Sunday, we begin our congregational observation of the Advent season. During this time, we anticipate the second coming of Christ and remember his first coming, which is the basis for the Christmas holiday. Advent has fallen at a great time in the liturgical life of Uptown Church. As we anticipate Christ’s coming in Advent, we are reminded of the sermon series we just finished that covered 2nd Peter, in which we frequently spoke of Christ’ return and its implications on our lives. Similarly, we are beginning our Advent sermon series that explores the meaning of mercy in the Christian life.
As we look forward to Christ’s return and remember his incarnation during Advent, we should not be tempted to think that our faith is primarily concerned only with the past and the future. There have been many groups throughout history that have taken this perspective in excess and have separated themselves from the world so that they can more intensely focus on the past and anticipate the future. Because of this, those outside of our faith may also look at the Advent season and use it as further justification that Christians are completely out of touch with the present. Even those of us who aren’t separatists and non-believer find ourselves confused about how we are to live “between the times.”
One of our answers is found in our new sermon series. Our lives in the here and now are to be lives of mercy. More accurately, they are to be lives that reflect God’s greatest mercy, which is the person and work of Jesus Christ, the eternal King who chose to dwell among, live with, and die for sinners such as us. As we observe Advent, let us be quick to see God’s bountiful mercy that is on display in the past, present, and future.
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35
Sermon: “The Mercy of God”
Song of Preparation: While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks (arr. Craig Courtney)
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THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
“When Reformed theology speaks of baptism as covenantal, the
sacrament is viewed in the context of the unity of the covenant of grace. The
meaning of baptism is not found in the teachings of New Testament alone; it is
also inferred from the manner in which baptism fufills Old Testament patterns of
faith. This reliance on the covenantal unity of the Old and New Testaments is
stated in general terms when The Westminster Confession identifies the
ordinances by which both the Old and New Testaments are administered. In the
Old Testament the covenant of grace was “administered by promises,
prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and
ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews” (7.5). Yet, “when Christ, the
substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are
the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism
and the Lord’s Supper” (7.6). Baptism administers the New Testament
dispensation of the covenant of grace in ways that are analogous to the
administration of the Old Testament dispensation of that same covenant.”