Short Cross Methodist Church

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Advent 2021


The Advent Cradle for the Messiah: 

Aim:

1. In the context of equality, this Advent course unfolds how the Creator God chooses ordinary and helpless women to fulfil his extraordinary plan of preparing for the birth of Messiah.

2. It also explores how women of various backgrounds and differing ages are considered to be very humble and ordinary, yet empowered to be extraordinary. God’s eternal purpose accomplishes his own Advent prophecy in the Garden of Eden, by enabling such ordinary women to be cradles for the Messiah who brings salvation for all.

Introduction:

It has taken a long time for the civilised world to treat and value women as we now see them in modern society, although scientific advancement and economic progress have not made much difference to millions of women living in different parts of the world. 

In Eastern cultures, women are still considered inferior to men. The male dominated society hesitates to see that women can also become extraordinary. 

This is especially so in India where Hinduism (Manusmriti) teaches that women have no identity of their own: after she is born, a woman is known as a daughter, when she marries, she is known as a wife and when she becomes a widow, she is known as a mother. 

Most of the time, women are exploited behind the scenes as domestic slaves and have to accept that they are nothing but ordinary. Thus, there is a celebration when a son is born and not when a daughter is born.

The question is, whether ordinary women can take a challenge to accomplish extraordinary things? Can they take a risk in order to prove that they can make a difference? Are they willing to pay the price to fulfil their destiny?

Biblical history shows how time and again God has called ordinary people to accomplish his extraordinary purposes, to show his amazing love towards humanity. Whenever he called them he knew their limitations and hesitations, yet there was the possibility for his grace to flow and his peace to abide in a dying world. 

So it looks like a challenge for God to demonstrate who he is. As he called people, he also took a risk in trusting them for the mission to be accomplished in order to restore humanity to himself.

This study unfolds how God in his greatness selects a few ordinary women for his extraordinary purpose of bringing salvation to humankind. Without a doubt, God loved the world, poured out his never-ending mercy and brought great hope and joy. 

Here we examine how God prepared Eve to be the cradle of humankind, Sarah the cradle of hope, Elizabeth the cradle of the forerunner, so that Mary would become the cradle for the Messiah. This enables us to explore how God fulfilled his word from the Garden of Eden to the Manger.

This study allows people to see how each woman fulfils a specific role in order to prepare the world to welcome Christ the Saviour. These studies encourage us to examine how such ordinary women faced different challenges and risks, were prepared to pay the price, became a channel of Hope and delivered Joy to the world. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29). So let us prayerfully take time to read, meditate and prepare our ordinary lives, which by God’s amazing grace can become a cradle for His extraordinary purposes.

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Each Week, this study will encourage us to read the Biblical passages in order to understand the significance of each context in which God chooses an ordinary woman to play her particular role in seeing the Advent cradle fulfilled in Mary.

Method: The purpose of this Advent study is to search the scriptures in order to understand God’s purpose, fulfilled through ordinary women. 

In light of this study, we analyse what challenges we may face, how we prepare to take risks, our willingness to pay the cost, our trust in the hope and our acceptance of the joy gracefully. 

In this way we may offer our ordinary lives to God and ask for His extraordinary grace, peace and mercy to work in our lives and in the lives of others during this Advent season.

The Advent Cradle for the Messiah/four Bible studies/20221

Rev Dr Joseph B Suray 

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The Advent Cradle for the Messiah:

Ordinary Women for God’s Extraordinary Purpose

magnificat

“Adam could not find a companion in the animal world, So God created another human out of Adam to be his equal.

Adam looked at the new-comer; a stranger who reflected his own self, 

So God reminded him of the only name that was not yet given to any animal; 

So Adam called her Eve “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh”.

Since the Fall, God was waiting to re-connect with humanity.

God could not find a better way than taking human form and promised them the hope of salvation in the Garden of Eden.

So He enabled Eve to be the cradle of humanity.

As time passed by, God could not find a better way than to wait for Sarah in her hopelessness to become a cradle of hope for the world to fulfil his covenant with Abraham.

Nearer the time, God’s long awaited plan to prepare a way before the birth of Messiah was revealed to Zachariah.

So he chose Elizabeth to be a cradle for the forerunner John the Baptist to turn people to God.

Finally, in the fullness of time God could not find a better way of coming into the world,

So he chose the Virgin Mary who was engaged to Joseph to be the cradle for the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.

Thus the world can sing joyfully”

“At last the saviour, the saviour of the world is here”. (JBS)

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Rev Dr Joseph B Suray 


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Advent Study One:

Eve - The Cradle of humanity (Genesis 2:19-4:26)

“The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel’” (Genesis 3:14-15).

serpent

All world religions have creation stories that tell us how the world was created. There are various theories that show us how human life came into existence. This study, however, is focusing mainly on the Christian teaching from the Holy Bible.

Although we do not know much about Eve, we know that according to the writer of Genesis she was the first woman in the world and therefore became the cradle for all people today and in the years to come. 

In God’s glorious creation, she appears to be both the ultimate part and completion of the masterpiece of God’s creation. As she was made, Adam recognised her as an equal companion in God’s image and offered to share fellowship with her. 

How true, in the midst of all other creatures, Adam found her completely different and so was naturally attracted and developed an intimate relationship with her. 

When God forbade them to eat from one of the fruit trees, Satan initiated a conversation with Eve to shift her heart from all that God had permitted, to think about the one thing he had forbidden. 

Without a second thought Eve accepted Satan’s proposal and ate the forbidden fruit, which brought about the fall that demands a great price: to provide redemption for whole of humankind.

Eve was an ordinary woman reflecting what we all are and by our nature we show that we are her descendants. It is so, because we are born of her and she is the cradle into which humanity was born. 

It is true to say that Eve’s desire manipulated her actions to disobey God that caused the first fall and affected the whole of humanity. God was not the focus of Eve’s attention as she moved towards the fruit of the tree that was forbidden. 

Her disobedience to God’s command and the subsequent Fall were not unknown to God and therefore God, in his great love and goodness, was prepared to offer ultimate redemption to humanity.


For Group Discussion:

1. Talk about the genesis of Eve(2:21-23)

2. Analyse the challenge or temptation Eve faced in the Garden(3:1-5)

3. Examine the risk and consequences of Eve’s actions(3:6-3)

4. Describe God’s response to the chaos(3:14-21)

5. Explore why Eve can be called a cradle of humanity?(3:20;4:1& 5:1-31)

6. Explain the Advent prophecy for humanity(3:14-16)

7. As ordinary people, how do we apply the prophecy to bring hope and joy to the world?


Closing Personal Prayer:

“Dear Heavenly Father, 

Help me to hear your voice. 

Touch me once again.

Give me the courage to be your beloved. 

Give me courage to choose joy.

I need you now this Christmas. 

Be born in me again. Today.

In Jesus' name, Amen.” by Bonnie Gray


Song:


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Advent Study Two:

Sarah - A Cradle of hope (Genesis 11-25)

(11:30; 12; 13:16, 15:1-6; 16:2; 17:4,6,15-17; 18:18)

 

“Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 

So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”…Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh”.


Sarah

             

Although times have changed, let us not forget that the barrenness of a women in many societies is still seen as a disgrace. 

No matter what social, economic and political background they come from, most women aspire to have a child to carry the name forward in the generations to come.

Advent reminds us to wait, which was a crucial challenge for Sarah. We know how difficult it is to wait when we do not know what to anticipate.


The book of Genesis tells us that Sarah was almost 90 years old, which humanly speaking, made it impossible to have a child of her own. 

Like any ordinary person, she had difficulty believing God’s promise to her. Therefore with all her good intentions, she tried her best to solve her problem without seeking God’s will. 

She suggested that her husband should have a son through their maidservant. This worked out very well initially, but caused chaos as time passed by.


When God told her that she would have a child at her advanced age, like any other ordinary woman Sarah laughed and could not understand how that could be. 

When she believed God’s word, she realised that through her baby the world would be blessed. It looks as if God had been waiting to find the right woman who could cradle a child of his promise. In the fullness of time, in the midst of hopelessness, 

God enabled an ordinary woman to be extraordinary for his eternal purpose. Thus trusting God’s promise, she becomes the cradle of hope, to bring salvation for humanity.


We do not have any record of Sarah’s earlier life and her background is not known very well until we read that she was Abraham’s wife. 

As a wife she longed to have a child, but unfortunately she was barren (Genesis 11:30). 

Abraham’s wealth did not comfort her barrenness, which continued to frustrate her. It was a very painful and sad experience.

She was very ordinary, reflecting her weakness that influenced her to take a few wrong and hasty steps, which further caused pain for others (Genesis 16).


When God called Abraham by name and promised that he would make him a father of many nations in the world, it was meant to be a partnership with Sarah, who had a role as well. 

This was understood to be through the promised son. 

They were assured that God would raise many prophets to speak His word to the generations to come. 

Abraham and God knew that it was Sarah who was going to be the cradle of hope for the world by bearing a promised child, Isaac. 

So Sarah as a barren woman was to be extraordinary for God’s great purpose by preparing an ancestry through which the Messiah would be born. 

This was only possible when God promised to transform her, “And I shall bless her and also give a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (17:15-16).

 

 

For Group Discussion or Personal reflection:

 

1.     Talk about Sarah (17:15;11:29-30; 20:12; 17:17)

2.     Analyse the challenge Sarah faced (16:2,3, 4, 5, ,9, 10,6)

3.     Examine the risk and consequences of Sarah’s actions (16:4,5,6 )

4.     Describe God’s response to Abraham and Sarah (17:20-21; 18; 21:1-2)

5.     Explore why Sarah can be called a cradle of hope? ( 17:5,6; 15-16)

6.     Explain the Advent prophecy of hope for humanity (12:2-3; 18:18; 21:12; Gal 3:9-14 ) 

7.     As ordinary people, how do we apply the prophecy to have the hope and joy to the world?

 


 

 

Second song SF 410:




O COME, O COME, IMMANUEL,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.


Rejoice, rejoice! Immanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, O come, Thou Lord of might

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud, and majesty, and awe.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save

And give them victory o’er the grave.


O come, Thou dayspring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here:

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death's dark shadows put to flight.


O come, Thou Key of David, come

And open wide our heavenly home:

Make safe the was that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

 

 





 

 

Closing Prayer:

 

Father of all humankind, teach me to trust your promised Messiah as Immanuel who surrounds me all the time.

As I continue my journey into another Advent, let your Holy Spirit sweep over me and cleanse my life from all that is not acceptable in your holy sight. 

O heavenly Father, remind us to be watchful and hopeful as we anticipate the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Help us to be spiritually awake so that you may not find us lost in our sins.

 

O  Holy Spirit, save me and family from the bondage of the sins so that we are fully liberated from the power of evil.

O Lord, my God, have mercy on me today and fill me with your lasting peace to be a channel of your grace and love for others.

O Lord, come into my heart and fill me with your saving presence of joy and grace.

Bless us to be the cradle of hope for the hopeless in our society today.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.


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Advent Study Three:

Elizabeth - A Cradle for the forerunner (Luke 1: 5-80)

 

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.


When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.


And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’” (Lk. 1:39-45)


Elizabeth


As said earlier, in eastern society particularly, women are respected more when they are able to have their own children, otherwise they may suffer public stigma. Sometimes they are even ignored in public places and treated differently even by their own families. 


Zechariah’s wife Elizabeth struggled socially without children; it was painful for her to grow old and suffer loneliness. As her dream of becoming a mother was fading away, she nevertheless kept her deep commitment and her love for God did not grow dim.


Luke records that both Elizabeth and Zechariah belonged to priestly clans. Accordingly, every year Zechariah went to Jerusalem to fulfil his duties in the temple. 


One day he came home filled with joy, but was not able to speak. When asked, he was only able to communicate by writing. 


His wife could not believe it when he wrote about his experience in the temple and the message from the angel: that Elizabeth would become pregnant. 


It was so however, and so Elizabeth became a Cradle for a child, as a gift from God, one who would be a long expected forerunner for the Messiah.


Such gossip spread fast across the borders in the villages. It is amazing that after the angel Gabriel told Mary that she also would became pregnant and be a cradle for the Messiah, out of excitement Mary visited Elizabeth and informed her of the news. 


We read that they quickly both realised the intimate relationship between Elizabeth’s child John, and Mary’s son, the Messiah.


When the baby was born, Elizabeth insisted on his God-given name: John.  Zechariah’s written agreement freed his tongue and everyone in town wondered what would become of this obviously special child.


Elizabeth whispered her praise as she cared for God’s gift. Knowing about Mary must have made her marvel at God’s timing. Things had worked out even better than she could have planned. 


We too need to remember that God is in control of every situation. When did you last pause to recognise God’s timing in the events of your life?


It is encouraging to know that Elizabeth was conscious of God’s presence and continued to trust that God is almighty, and was able to fulfil his promise of accomplishing his great purpose. 


It seems that she was the first woman to experience the joy of the good news about the future birth of the Messiah. (1:41-43)

 

 

For Personal Study:

 

1.     Talk about Elizabeth (Luke 1:1-7 )

2.     Analyse the challenge Elizabeth faced (Luke 1:18, 23-25)

3.     Examine the risk and consequences of Elizabeth’s actions (Luke 1:18-25)

4.     Unfold God’s mighty deed in Zachariah’s song (Luke 1: 6879 )

5.     Describe why Elizabeth can be called a cradle of forerunner? (Luke 1: 13-17, 66, 80)

6.     Explain how the Advent of hope in John the Baptist is fulfilled? (Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3)

7.     As ordinary people, how do we become the forerunners for the Saviour who brings the hope and joy to the world?

 

Song HP 84:

 

1 On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry
announces that the Lord is nigh.
Awake and harken, for he brings
glad tidings of the King of kings!

 

2 Then cleansed be every life from sin:
make straight the way for God within,
and let us all our hearts prepare
for Christ to come and enter there.

 

3. For Thou art our Salvation, Lord,
Our Refuge, and our great Reward.
Without Thy grace we waste away,
Like flowers that wither and decay.

4. To heal the sick stretch out Thine hand,
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth, and let Thy light restore
Earth's own true loveliness once more.

 

5 All praise to you, eternal Son,
whose advent has our freedom won,
whom with the Father we adore,
and Holy Spirit, evermore.

 


Closing Prayer:

 

God, when the time was ripe and the hour had come, you sent your servant John into the wilderness to proclaim the coming of the one true Messiah: Make way! Repent and be baptized!

 For the salvation of God is at hand.

John came to bear witness to the true light, the Messiah, the Son of God. And he told them, wake up! Watch and wait, for the hour is near when the Son of God will arise.

God, We have heard the call to repentance and restoration, and we want to respond.

We have heard that you are offering forgiveness of sins, and we want to hear your mercy spoken over us. 

We have heard that you are baptizing with water,

and with the Holy Spirit and with fire: cleanse us and make us new. 

We have heard that you are ushering in a reign of peace, and we want to see your kingdom when it comes.

God, our sins are many, but your mercy is great.
Our vision is dim, but your coming is at hand.
Our hope is feeble, but your promises stand forever.

God, your world stands in need of you. Everywhere we look we see need of you: for your coming, your restoration, your peace, your transformation.

We pray for the nations to know your truth and your light. We pray for the poor, the hungry, and the needy. We pray for those who are spiritually hungry and poor in spirit: may they come to know the living water,

and to drink deeply from your well.

We pray for those who face Christmas alone, or sick, or homeless, or destitute:

Jesus Christ, Light from true Light, be a light in the darkness.

Amen


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