Archive for November, 2016

Matthew 24:36-44 The Unexpected Gifts

“Reclaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake, therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [MT 24.26-44]

A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas and why

This Advent will be a series of messages that can help you reclaim Christmas

Q: What is there to reclaim?

A: More than “Merry Christmas” instead of Happy Holidays, More than traditions and decoration.

Q: Why celebrate Jesus’s birth now, when for the first 1000 years the church didn’t celebrate Christmas. What are we celebrating anyway?

Christmas has become something that we DO know the day and the hour. All the angels of heaven and every believer and non-Christian alike, knows when Christmas is going to happen, December 25th. We have seen the decorations at Walmart. We have marked Black Friday. Tomorrow is CyberMonday, and that will mark 30 days until Christmas.

[statista.com] Overview of US Christmas Season, 750K people employed, e-commerce holiday season sales of $95B, Average on gifts $830B, $30 on cards, $127B on Cyber Monday [Last Projections might double this year], Number of gifts per person on average: 14, % who by gifts online 50%, Christmas tree retail value in US. 1.32B.

We need cards, foods, gifts, a tree, lights, decorations, songs, and a quick reading of the beginning of Luke’s Gospel or watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” No matter if someone knows about Santa Claus or Jesus, Christmas has little to do with what is unexpected.

The First step in reclaiming Christmas is to prepare for God’s unexpected.

From the text: In Noah’s time the flood surprised the world, except for Noah.

@ The reality that God is not planning for the Christmas, we are planning, is a most likely reality.

(Some who have heard me say this for years call me an old Scrooge.)

In our Christmas list making: What are we expecting to happen at Christmas?

The first year Ebay became popular, a staff member couple at the church I was serving ordered ALL of their Christmas gifts online and NONE of the items were delivered in time for Christmas morning. The gifts arrived like a gentle snowfall over several days, but that morning when the three children came down the stairs they found only a stocking and promissory notes of things to come.

Our tendency is to have a backup plan. Random cards and gift cards, bonus gifts or a gift vault of hospitality. Maybe the unexpected gives us reason to prepare differently than we have before.

What if, instead, we began to name why we give gifts in the first place.

Some suggestions:

  • Tradition
  • Expression of love
  • Fun and Celebration
  • Duty or Social Graces
  • Guilt or Fear of Embracement
  • Longing to be Loved
  • Fear of Rejection
  • Appeasement or
  • Justification or
  • Control

If we give and receive gifts that are weighted with lavage, then they are not gifts at all.

So, we hope, we give and receive gifts that are offerings of love, expressions of joy, tokens of affection.

Here is the TWIST: Why are we giving and receiving gives at Christmas?

Reclaiming Christ at Christmas begins with remembering whose birthday we celebrate. Jesus.

Your birthdate might fall one December 25, [the fewest of any date of the year, 6,574 on avg. Thedailyviz.com] Which if the unexpected visit by the angel left Mary in the usual condition of expectation, of the visit, must have happened in early April.

Even if you share the 25th, Christmas is not YOUR birthday.

  • Christmas is the celebration of God’s moving in with us, in a human form, as child, born just as each of us was born.
  • Christmas is the recalling that saw how confused and twisted people had made religion, faith, life and relationships that he chose to become one of us, for our sake, and not God’s own.
  • Christmas is the retelling of the story that God so loves us, that God gives God’s self to us, still today.

 

The second part of answering why we celebrate Christmas is:

How do the things we do, plans we make, the gifts we give, reflect one another, ourselves and the world anything about God’s love for us?

If Christmas is to be about Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit, and scripture or the church, we need to own up to the reality that, sometimes, we call Christmas something that is not glorifying God. [I’m not saying everything has been thrown out with the bath, but this season of Advent is the time to making a spirited Christmas list.]

Think of it this way: if the whole world were preparing to remember, honor and celebrate your birthday would you want your celebration to look, sound, feel and mean what Christmas is to the world.

  • Why am I spending money in the way I am spending or borrowing?
  • Why am I longing for gifts to give and receive in this season, under the name/umbrella of Christmas?
  • Interruption: But I don’t want to do this. I want Christmas will all the fun and it sounds like a bummer.
  • Why are you messing with Christmas?
  • Because: Christmas is about God’s love for us. What is the difference between giving/receiving gifts that connect each other with God rather than something that pleases me?

Good News: God is all about celebrating, sing, banquets, and gifts.

What if you gave me a pair of blue jeans with a note that state why you wanted me to have that gift. “Every time you wear these comfortable Jesus, I hope you know the God’s comfort holds and protects you.”

  • What if along with a new pair of blue jeans that don’t have a hole and fit just right. I put on my Wish List
  • The widow who gave me five nickels she found on the street, taped them to a repurposed Christmas card from years past and wrote these words: “I want you to know how much I appreciate you. Yours in Christ,” Glenda
  • What if Santa left a letter for a child that places the significance of giving on God’s gift that is given to us in Christ?
  • What if instead of dirty Santa games we played other reindeer games that are only enjoyed by a few at the party and instead we filled health kits, mitten/glove/hat/sock kits for kids and adults with personal notes that example why we, of all people this season, know God calls us to give gifts of love.

I want to make this first step in reclaiming Christmas for God simple and easy:

In everything you do in the name of Christmas, find a sincere way to connect it God for yourself and others.

  • We place this tree in our house to remind us of God’s everlasting love
  • We place these decorations as they remind us of the light of Christ in a dark, sinful world
  • We tie these red ribbons to remind us of the gift of the holy spirit that is with us always.
  • nope{We give this bottle of Old Spice, because it was less than $10 and easy to reach at the drugstore.}
  • I gave you this gift because I know you love it and it is only a fraction of how much God treasure you.
  • I prepare this food and share it with you because Jesus taught whenever we ate to remember the gift of his life and love.
  • Do you get the trend: Intentionally make the link for every celebration, every gift and if you can’t find a link, consider it something other than Christ-mas.

Give them the unexpected Link to Christ this Christmas.

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2016 Advent: 4 weeks Prep 4 Christmas

Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS

“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas, and why.

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [Matthew 24:36-44]

ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards

A Season of Sharing the Story, “The John The Baptist Collection” of Cards: Repent, You Brood of Vipers,

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.“” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’“” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “”You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume 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. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” [Matthew 3:1-12]

ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus

Why Care About the Reasons for the Season

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.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

Will the gifts we share bring hope, life and joy?

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]

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Isaiah 12:1-6 “God Be in Me” 20161113

godbeinmyhead

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. [NRSV]

We have collectively experienced a physical, emotions, spiritual and social wrenching that has come to a crescendo this week.

Some of the most hateful, intolerant and hard-hearted words have been spoken about the election in the past seven days.

  • Some have been riding on a seemingly, unending roller coaster that did not stop where it started.
  • Others are grieving, spiraling, and building a strong case of depression
  • while others have begun acting out of anger, which never leaders to safety, tolerance, and peace.
  • Still others have remained silent and afraid to speak, for fear of ridicule.

It is time for us to HEAR the words of God’s prophet.

  • God is my salvation.
  • I will trust and not be afraid
  • The Lord is my strength
  • With Joy, draw water from the well of salvation.
  • Give Thanks to the Lord, call his name, make his deeds known among the nations.
  • Proclaim and exalt God’s name.
  • Sing Praise to the Lord,
  • Tell the world  how glorious God is,
  • Shout aloud and sing for Joy, God is with us.

It is time for us to SHARE the words of God’s prophet.

  • Salvation is found in God, not our government
  • Trust God and do not be afraid
  • Find your strength in the Lord
  • Draw on God’s joy when yours is missing
  • This is a great time to look for and give witness to God in the world.
  • Sing praises to God to remind us who leads this world
  • Talk of good that God has done for us and the good God will do through us
  • Shout loud and Sing the Good News: God is with us.

It is time for us to LIVE the words of God’s prophet.

  • Our neighbors are divided and God is counting on us to salvation
  • There are people in our workplaces that have lost truth and trust,
  • Don’t ignore fears, but don’t be turned to anger and wrath, Find strength in God, not politics.
  • Make a withdrawal from God’s account when ours is empty or draining.
  • When we are divided is the clearest time to all move toward God.
  • Sing praise to remind ourselves and others the God is speaking through us all.
  • Talk of Good instead of evil. Speak of hope that is to be revealed.
  • Shout, don’t keep quiet, God is with us. God will save us. God will guide us

The Alternative is grim:

  • Continue to hold government higher than God and we will surely fall apart.
  • Count on our political powers to provide for every need and we have no need for God
  • Find our strengths in our efforts, our wealth, our correct thinking, and our feelings and they will all fail
  • Sing praises that are only pleasing and comforting and we will be alone
  • Only talk about our point of view, our goodness, and correct thinking and we will see only ourselves
  • Keep quiet about God and God will speak through someone else who will follow, trust and love.

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

Lord have mercy on our nation and all the nations, for we are all sinners.

God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.
  [Sarum Primer, 1558]

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2 Thessalonians 2.1-17 (11-13) “Hold Fast in Christ” 20161106 RSUMC

holdfast2christ_walkinthespirit

As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned. But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose, he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. [NRSV]

Paul gives the instruction to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, by example, spoken or written. (Scripture through tradition, reason, and experience)

  1. God sends the powerful delusion, (God allows evil, as the consequence of choice)
  2. Sin is when we trust ourselves over trusting God. (Pleasure in unrighteousness)
  3. Salvation: Way Home: God has given us the gift of salvation and a challenge to grow in Sanctification through the spirit.

From the Letter with the church in Thessaloniki:

God calls us to proclaim the good news and stand firm/host fast to the traditions.

Evil, unrighteousness, destruction, lawlessness, lying wonders, wicked deception

(Those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved.)

This is a practical instruction on what to do when faced with evil, crisis and brokenness: on holding fast to the Good News, what we have been taught and experienced in the Spirit.

When we are faced with a crisis:

  • Our first reaction is to be overwhelmed with the circumstances that are crumbling around us.
  • We often look to find someone, something, some entity to blame.
  • We then realize that even if we can blame someone for the crisis, we have two choices give up or trust God.

Money Crisis, Family Crisis, Political Crisis, Personal Crisis: is the place of powerlessness to face brokenness.

Paul reminds us: God has saved us for a reason and this Crisis might be something we can learn and grow from, but God has more for us than to give up. God has given to us grace and Spirit to save us, eternally and currently.

When we are faced with evil:

In the news, in our family, in our community, in our hearts:

  • Our first reaction might be to say we are strong, smart, tough enough, (Don’t let anyone know we are facing evil.) (Prove that we know better)
  • (Do as we please, without regard to God’s call or our relationship with God) We go it alone: Motivated by our weakest assets (shame, guilt, fear, blame, etc)
  • (Prove that we know better)  (Do as we please, without regard to God’s call or our relationship with God)
  • We go it alone: Motivated by our weakest assets (shame, guilt, fear, blame, etc)

We feel we have only two choices: 1) Give up and die or allow some part of us to died or 2) Give in and join the evil.

We have a third choice: Paul reminds us that “our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”

When we are faced with layers of evil and layers of crisis:

  • So many forces working to kill our hope, dim our vision, transform our love to fear, and we give up on God and ourselves.
  • The reason we have so many people struggling with drugs is that we have lost the grasp of God with us.
  • The reasons our global church is in division is that we have lost our hold on the Holy Spirit

The reasons our neighbors look hope is that trust someone else to save and to provide for us., Government, technology, knowledge, self-determination instead of learning and teaching what it means to 1) proclaim Good News and 2) hold onto the Word and 3) be lead by the Holy Spirit.

  1. The starting place is to 1) Learn the Good News (God loves us and desires us to have a personal and collective relationship, (first fruits for the church)
  2. The next step is to 2) Make the Word the foundation of all that we do. God wants us committed to building and fortifying our foundation, our relationship and our living with the word (proclaimed, studied, and understood through the Holy Spirit.)
  3. Third, we live following God’s Spirit, to navigate through the evil. The evil will not be taken away, but God promises to go with us through all things. Sanctification is the process of moving past the written or studied word, to trusting God to lead by the Spirit.

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