Archive for December, 2014
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. [NRSV]
The Season of Christmas, 12 Days of Gifts
I have no idea why retail industry has not fully adopted the 12 days of gift giving. Christmas Day is but the first day of a 12 day season. I think we need to help extend the celebration. Don’t You?
When you think of Christmas, part of our celebration is gifts, trees with lights, decorations and music, are all part, but the one thing that sets a holiday apart is food. Food implies sharing at a common table the fellowship of those we share all holidays: Valentine chocolates, Easter eggs, 4th of July grilling, Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey all are essential elements of the holiday. If you had to pick a flavor of pie for Christmas what would you pick?
Apple, Pumpkin, Cherry, Sweet potato, pecan, chocolate custard, Key Lime, Peach, minced meat, (who said minced meat, take them out of the room right now and feed them some rhubarb pie and send them by to New England.) Here is a one reported list: http://www.livescience.com/33111-favorite-pie-america.html
Apple 47% 16%
pumpkin 37% 12%
Chocolate Creme 32% 11%
Cherry 27% 9%
Apple Crumb 25% 8%
Pecan 24% 8%
Lemon Meringue 24% 8%
Blueberry 21% 7%
Key Lime 18% 6%
Peach 16% 5%
All others 10%
What ever flavor you choose. You in good company if you choose some type of pie for Christmas.
In a way, the Christmas Story is God’s way of inviting us to be part of God’s heart and family.
God asks us “Do you wanna a piece of pie?”
What does a baby born so long ago have anything to do the pie we eat today?
Because of that baby, you and I have a piece of pie for Christmas.
I date myself remembering the sitcom, The Jeffersons, who’s theme song celebrated a successful black/African-American business man and his family and their their upward social and economic mobility in the city.
- Well we’re movin on up, to the east side. to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin on up, To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie.
- Fish don’t fry in the kitchen; Beans don’t burn on the grill. Took a whole lotta tryin’ Just to get up that hill. Now we’re up in the big leagues, Gettin’ our turn at bat. As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, There ain’t nothin wrong with that.
We have a piece of the pie because of that baby born in Bethlehem.
We are no longer servants and slaves; we are children of God. Jesus is our brother.
And if Jesus is our brother then we have a sharing in the inheritance from the Father.
Because of Jesus We have moved up..
How are we related? Adoption
While It does explain why we don’t look like Mary or Joseph sides of the family.
I don’t remember any interviews or paper work about adoption into Jesus family.
God Chooses Us..
God Sends us a brother that will show us the way home.
God chooses us before we were born. This is the good news of Christmas!
This is the gift. This is the Christmas Gift, Paul shares with the church in Galatia, and with us all.
Gal 3.25-29 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise [covenant]. [NRSV]
As we draw close the end of the year, we do beginning to reaffirm that we are part of God’s family.
Tell you neighbors, (pref not your bio family members) you are my brother/sister.
This is how we celebrate the brother that makes us one heart, one family, one people.
Not based on our faithfulness, rather because God is faithful
Not based on our love nor loveliness, rather because God first loves us.
Not based on holidays and traditions but is celebrated because God’s desire is that we are part of God’s tradition.
- Merry Christmas.
- Merry Christ is our Brother
- Merry Christ connects us.
This is who we are and who we invite others to believe.
Christmas is one of our greatest evangelistic stories: God loves us so much, God wants us to be family.
Mary’s news is to be shared at home and throughout the hill side with leaps of Joy.
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 leaped 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 leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” [NRSV]
Preparing for God With Us:
- The Big Things God Does through Individual people
- Exploring What God See in Our Faithfulness
- Sharing the Joy with Family and Friends
The Bible is a collection of stories about God working through individuals. The individuals may end up leading tribes, bands and nations, but the conversation starts one-on-one.
One like you and me.
One who have been faithful and even those not as faithful.. Mary the faithful and Joseph the doubting, fixer of problems.
Part of understanding, discerning and responding to God’s work in us, is revealed through conversation and relationship with others. Elizabeth and Mary.. not just two women talking about babies, but talking about God at work in all their lives and witnesses.
Small Groups, Bible Studies, Classes, and conversations at home all give us a place and opportunity to question, reflect and experience God at work in each others’ lives.
Barna Group: Friends and family sharing faith is still top evangelism relationship: They have observed Fewer people are sharing with one another.
Q: How many have talked about God’s work in your lives in the past two weeks?
Examples: What is God doing in my life? What is God expecting in my life right now? Where do you touch God’s presence this week ahead.
What we have been journeyiing toward is an incarnational, experiential presence with God, THIS is what CHRISTMAS is for us now.. the story began in Bethlehem, but the story for our time now is where is the living CHRIST revealed now?
Ask you family, neighbors, a stranger.. because it is into relationship that God is revealed.. not just my mind our your mind..
The church is the present body..Are we actually expecting to share God With Us or just familiar stories, songs and comforts?
Jesus came to unwed parents, homeless in a strange place of in laws connections, in the dark of the night, revealed to servants and kings. Revealed in leaps of joy in the womb and praising shepherds and rejoicing magi.
What about you? What is God revealing to you this season? THIS IS WHAT WE ALL WANT AND NEED TO HEAR AND SHARE.
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]
What should I bring?
If we knew Jesus were coming to our house for Christmas this year. Everyone would be gathering around a beautifully decorated treat what we wrap under the tree for Jesus?
<story of Sam Bangura spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with our family> The welcomed stranger brings Christmas Joy for lifetime of “Christmas Gift”
In this third week of Advent, our preparing has lead us to be 1) Alert and On Guard, 2) Making room and paving a Way, and today 3) we talk about Gifts and Presents:
Asking: What does Jesus want for Christmas this year? Know the answer will be “what Jesus wants every day.”
John the Witness, John the Baptizer, John the Spiritual Road Pave-er tells us:
Bear fruits of repentance:
- If we have asked for forgiveness, live as though we have been forgiven.
- If we have forgiving some one treat that person or relationship with grace like we have forgiven.
- If we have not forgive then we have some work to do.
- As long as you have two coats and there is someone who has no coat, we have work to do.
- As long as we have food enough to eat and there is someone hungry, we are not done.
How to Bear Fruit when we have things working against us?
It’s one thing when the ground is fertile and serving is easy. It’s hard NOT to bear fruit on a mission trip. People will complain many times about the cost of going on mission trips when there is so much to be done right here at home. But let me ask this: How many mission trips have you heard about that were fruitless? Oh there will be roadblocks, illnesses, and set backs, but have you ever heard of a mission team coming home saying. We did nothing good, we got nothing out of it. It was a total waste of time, money and energy. I’ve never heard it… We invest in having a fruitful, productive, meaningful and powerful experience from the outside expectation.
(We don’t always do this when we are near home. So close to home, we are more likely to say: We will get to it soon and when we get around to it.) Advent is a Round-to-it time of year.
An uncommon audience
The tax collector and soldier are two who have come to hear John’s teachings and ‘good news’ and as how do I do my job that seems be so hated or feared… how to I do my job and serve God?
These two folks the Tax Collector and the Soldier were feared and hated, most because they were the first line of OFFENSE from the government. Interesting advise from the prophet helps us all:
Do you job: Collect what is due. BUT don’t take advantage of folks. (Don’t run a title pawn that keeps folks in poverty.)
You work for the government. Do your job, don’t use your position to take advantage of folks.
It’s ok to make a profit don’t extort, don’t take advantage of folks.
It’s fine to make money: John Wesley’s advise on money: Make All you Can, to Give all you can, to Do all the Good you can. But use money as tool and instrument of Goodness, blessing and grace rather than power, abuse or oppression.
Back to the Gifts: What gifts do we bring to Jesus for HIS birthday?
Side Note: John the Baptizer were speaking with authority and connecting with people helping the to find their way closer to God and so they thought he might be the Messiah.
“Nope, I’m bringing Water, Jesus is bringing Fire.”
“You think I’m fired up for God, God is about to send his very own Firestorm. Look out, be on guard, get ready and keep asking for a status report.
Jesus wants, what I need.
What I need vs What I want.
I want a gift card from Krispy Kreme, what I need is accountable set of scales.
I want to be blessed and loved, what I need to is to be a blessing and love unconditionally.
I want protection and care, what I need to offer support, counsel and keep a watchful eye on someone.
I want freedom and grace, what I need is to let go of leverage, grudges, guilt and shame and model grace.
The gift I give is the gift I receive.
Jesus wants folks fed, clothed, friend-ed and connected in grace.. the John the Baptist Question:
AM I GIVING THAT GIFT as daily witness?
Do I still need to go shopping?
Have I been looking for the wrong deal?
As long as Im asking for the status report, I’m on the right track… Ask you neighbor: Have you gotten Jesus’s gift yet?
What have you got him today?