by John Armstrong
I usually like to start things at the beginning. When it comes to preaching a new major series, I usually either begin in September with the start of the new school year, or I begin in January. That has been my custom, however, this time as we come to the beginning of a series through the Gospel of Matthew, I’m beginning in December so the text matches the time frame that we traditionally celebrate these events. We are of course talking about the birth of Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is of course such a wonderful time for us because the atonement that earns our salvation begins with the promised incarnation. Therefore, I’m excited to begin a new series in Matthew. This will probably take us a couple of years to get through, but I’m praying that we will be edified in the process. I’m praying God will grow us in grace as we follow the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Much of Matthew is the record of our Lord’s discourses and that in itself is something to get excited about. It is time for us to sit at our Master’s feet and learn from Him as He teaches us in the Scriptures. That is of course what we should do any week, with any text, because the Word preached is God’s Word. Every single Word is breathed out by God and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. When we get a good perspective on the whole concept of preaching God’s Word, it should change the way we approach it as those who preach and as those who listen to preaching. It is not my intent here to preach about preaching. I do want to think about the context in which the preaching will occur, particularly in this Advent Season. In many ways, this is my favorite time of year. It is a time for devotion and family. People seem to be in a happier mood than usual. Sometimes they are simply putting on a good front, living behind their façade. How do you know? How do you know if they are truly happy or if they are struggling with the pressures of the season? Maybe, they are incredibly lonely and are embarrassed to let anyone else know how they feel. That is more common than you think. Maybe you know that is true, because it is true of you. Maybe you haven’t even noticed, because you are surrounded by family and friends and are caught up in the busyness of the season. I would challenge you to spend some time this Advent as we begin in Matthew to talk to others about the Gospel that we are studying. Talk to them about their lives and how this Word of God applies to them and also, after you have listened to them, then share about yourself. One of the greatest, if not the greatest gift you can give this year is to spend time listening to people, getting to know them and understand them. That is an act of love. The One of whom the Gospel of Matthew speaks, Jesus the Christ, would certainly approve.