The Crew: Susanna: Fellowship, Stanford, Genetic Biology, Palo Alto, CA Luke: Student, USAFA, AFIT, Dayton, OH Frances Brantley: Student, Baylor School, Chattanooga, TN; Daughter and Sister Wendy Williams Brantley: Hook Marketing, CEO; Mom and Wife John Brantley: Clergy, UMC Elder at Rock Spring UMC, oikos:itsahouseholdword, CIO of Hook Marketing. King of Kotimme.com [Clergy, Author, Writer, Seeker and Poet]
Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. [NRSV]
Give light to the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Shining light OUT of darkness
The power of Darkness is real
• There is darkness in the oppression of the people of North Korea.
• There is darkness in the cycles of human trafficking
• There is darkness in the evil of terrorism
• There is darkness in the homes of those abused and batters
• There is darkness in the rollercoaster of addictions
• There is darkness that divides us into opposing camps
• There is darkness in the face of cancer and other diseases
• There is darkness in the loneliness and grief of loss
• There is darkness in broad daylight
• There is darkness in middle of some crowded places
• There is darkness in churches, homes and hearts among us.
And when we stand alone and even if we stand together, we are over whelmed as the ocean waves crash upon the best castle of our design and labors.
It seems like retreat and apathy rule the day and the hour and the years..
But that is when we look at darkness without the light of Christ
God is the Power Company
God so loved this broken work that he sent the only light strong and bright enough to overcome the darkness.
Our task is not to stop evil,
Our task it is cling to Christ upon the stormy sea, and from THAT place of strength and assurance: that Jesus Christ has been unveiled and revealed through us!
We step into the raging seas because
1. That is the reality of where we are
2. This is where we might best see Christ
3. This is when we and the world need hope and salvation more nearly.
We clothe, feed, comfort, and befriend because it is Christ at work in us..
We pray for healing and wholeness in Jesus’s name because God is the source
We stand with Christ because these bodies we carry suffer, and eventuality die.
We ride the rollercoaster of struggle because life fluid and always testing
We trust Christ when to step in to stop others from harm
We trust Christ when to step back and no longer remain oppressed and abused
We trust that we are powerless over evil, fear, terror, and all sin without Christ
Jesus Christ came to save sinners..
We are those who have seen light light
Jake and Elwood Blues go to James Brown’s ole Landmark Church and after hearing the good news Jake proclaims that he has seen the light of how to save the soon to be closed orphanage that was his childhood home… I can’t say that what follows is Gods work but they end up saving the children’s home even though they go back to jail.
This cult classic movie tells two truths
1. God can work through every situation for God purpose
2. When we put our name on God’s home work we are going to fail.
3. Our mission is to tell of God’s work.
Encourage one another in shining the light of Christ
What are you going to say when politics fuel start to burn you up?
Say this: “Instead of debating, fighting or disagreeing with you, I need you to pray for me to love my enemies”
• If someone is hurting, struggling, complaining, as them “how long are you going to keep working on that alone when Jesus is ready to be your strength?” E ready to be strong with that person.
• If someone is grieving or afraid, or alone, “ how long do you want to feel lost?” Offer to be Christ’s presence.
• You make ready your own conversations that lead and encourage one another to lean into, trust, stand-with Jesus.
Be the flash light, candle. lantern, headlights, spotlight, laser,… you don’t have to be the light, be the one who directs and reflects the light of Jesus Christ
If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission. What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings. [NRSV]
Learn this phrase: I’m ready to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of God’s love is forever.
We order a sandwich or burger — “All the Way” and the waiter/tress or specialist asks, do want than with cheddar or swiss cheese? What does all mean?
We pay one price and go to the Chinese buffet and have the opportunity to eat “All you can eat”. My favorite is the Shrimp special at Red Lobster. After you eat the first fried shrimp they ask you would like to “put in another order” for more, they bring you six more. That’s all they hope you will eat. The same is true at IHOP on all you can eat pancake days, Here are two and we will bring you two more, again, hoping that is all you order. Somewhere in the formula of ‘value’, we have some magic number of shrimp, pancakes, crab legs or egg rolls that equate to “All”.
The solution is to avoid the buffet in the first place, but we are surrounded and enticed by the invitation to find it all, have it all, and eat it all.
Others are not tempted by food but are well acquainted with completing a collection. All the tools in the set, all the pieces in the puzzle, all the cards, glasses, figures, dishes or designs in the series. There is a driving force to amass ‘all’ things..
Paul is again offering his example as direction for us all. But this model of “All things” is a slippery slope.
- All things fits with our culture and lifestyle
- All things fits with the Walmart, Lowes, Bass Pro, model
- All things fits with Amazon and the internet of all things.
Paul offers his example of reaching out to all people in ways that relate and are meaningful to them, and in that place of connection, he finds ways to share the life and power of Jesus Christ. But in this hermeneutical junctions, it is easy to lose our way.
- Have all things
- Be all things
- Do all things
Instead of “All things..for Christ” (Stay in on the good path of all things / all means that lead us to Christ.
- Vs use all I have for Christ
- Vs be available to all persons for Christ
- Vs do not let things keep me from sharing Christ
- Social pressures
- Scientific pressures
- Selfish pressures
So be warned that we don’t go so far out the door that we forget the way that leads back to Christ, but we go far enough to meet people where they are.
Jew or Greek, slave or free, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, tall or short, young or old, deserving and undeserving — Jesus Christ died for sinners like us all.
The challenge is to answer this:
With whom am I being called to share Jesus Christ today?
How far will I go to share Christ with them in a way that is meaningful and genuine to THEM?
- If I am playing it safe,
- saving for a raining day,
- relying on the faithful and successful hard work I’ve done in the past.
Who will reach this person/s if not me, who and if today, when?
The power of Paul’s model is that every day, everywhere I look or go, is a day to share Christ with someone.
So with whom and how will I do this at home? at work? at school? in travels? in my recreation? in my hobbies? in my sufferings? in my study? in my service?
Be prepared to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of forever.
tell that to your neighbor:
I’m ready to Share Christ wherever, with whomever, however, because of God’s love is forever.
if you don’t mean it, Paul is calling us to cease the opportunities around us.
if you do, then your words are liturgy of praise and celebration.
Posted in #2017 on January 20, 2018
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. [NRSV]
This is always a tricky time to balance safety and closing the church for programs, activities and especially for worship. One of the challenges of our UMC slogan since the 1990s has been closing for weather conditions when we claim we have “open hearts, open minds, open doors.” No matter the common sense of being safe and off icy roads, we communicate a conflicting message: We Urgently want you to comes join us, just Not today when the weather is bad.
It is not only in inclement weather but in many conversations and situations that we “think” with our minds, welcome, friendly, open and inviting and yet the words and actions/or in-actions we witness closed, divided, judged and not welcomed.
It is vital to hear Mark’s account of Jesus beginning his ministry with words and witness of invitation and urgency.
The Urgency of believing the Good News
- We believe the opportunity to help others believe is imminently limited.
- We believe any amount of time not believing the Good News is time lost or wasted.
- We might believe it’s important but not urgent or that if it were an urgent situation we might help in a pinch.
- We believe there is plenty of time to share the Good News, and if we don’t help others then someone else will or they will figure it for themselves.
Urgency: importance requiring swift action.
Jesus begins his ministry with a call for people to find God was near, make a spiritual change in their lives and believe God is working to love, transform and fulfil our lives.
Two Usual Tracks
Urgency through repetition:
Were you aware that it takes viewing the same commercial 16 times for us to become motivated to consider buying or using a product or service were previously not interested or aware existed? That doesn’t mean after watching the same commercial 16 times we automatically buy the product, but after that much repetition, we begin to make an internal action toward a new product. We are 50% likely to try, talk about, take some action to learn more about a product or service. Advertising creates a sense of urgency or importance.
Urgency transformed through repentance
Before and After stories. This is my life before Jesus, and this is my life after. For those who grow up in in the faith and in the church, we have the repetition model. For those who come to the church later have a more clear before and after witness.
EITHER MODEL, Jesus is the one describing the Good News as something IMPORTANT and something REQUIRING SWIFT ACTION.
BUT… It is hard to look back 2000 plus years and say, you need to be in a hurry to give your life to Jesus. A God who works in billions of years starts with a message of urgency..Mark 1:14-20
..NOW is the time,
The cooling of the sun and the increase of earthquakes, volcanoes and colder winters will be the new norm for the next thirty years. Some would say these are signs of the end times/others would say we are in a long cooling cycle of the sun.
The “Now is the time” perspective is that whether our time is long or short, the weather is not going to be pleasant. (Now is the time to invest in a heavier coat!)
Mark account of Jesus’s Marketing Message: is about the second type of URGENCY:
How long do we let someone stand in the cold before we open the door and convince them it is better inside the house than out?
How long do we let folks run around in with fear, emptiness, loneliness, grief, grudge, judgment or any other reason, when we know that in this fellowship, in this word, in this body that God is near, God is here!
We who have found Christ, or We who have known Christ all these years, look out the windows and doors and see a hurting, searching, failing, struggling, divided-world and we are called to invite people to believe in Jesus.
Believe, Now! Not because the end is near, rather because
- you don’t have to be alone
- you don’t have to be afraid
- you don’t have to be divided
- you don’t have to be correct
- you don’t have to be perfect
- you don’t have to be hungry
- you don’t have to be captive
- you don’t have to be a stranger
- you don’t have to be lost
- you don’t have to be cold
..but you do need to come to Jesus
- This is what is urgently needed.
- This is what is Good: God so loves us that he gives us Jesus
- This is what is Good: Jesus died for our sin/brokenness/failures and pride/
- He emptied himself to fill us with a new chance a life with God and all God’s people.
- Don’t stand out in the cold, come inside
- Let the cold weather be your opportunity to invite someone into the fellowship.. into the church, into your spiritual journey- travel together
Posted in #2017 on January 13, 2018
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” [NRSV]
CAN ANYTHING GOOD COME OUR OF ROCK SPRING
- The power of doubt
- Consumption of assumption
- Oh little town of Rock Spring,
- Nathanael, the product of Peter and Andrew
COME AND SEE
- Come see with your own eyes,
- The shepherd saw the angels but said to one another, let us go see for ourselves, what has been told to us
- Thomas who had not yet seen Jesus raised from the dead, told the others, I will not believe until I see with my own eyes
- The invitation is for tag team invitation for people to come see.
- The greatest showman is a wonderful new musical that is a great movie even if you don’t ususally go see movies, it is worth experiencing. Is about PT Barnam’ seeing a dream come to life, loose it, and being reminded that joy can be found through people who love and trust.
YOU WILL SEE HEAVEN OPENED UP
- Peter and Andrew promise Nathaniel that he will see heaven open if he goes to see Jesus,
- That is what it means to find Jesus
- It might. It be coming to church, the music and events, the ministries and activities, but it is through these people and the relationships we share that the Kingdom of God can show up
- Some folks will tell you they don’t like church because all they talk about is money, or the Christian people gossip, lie and stab each other in the back, these are folks who have seen people WITHOUT Jesus
- The challenge is to strive to share Jesus and not ourselves. Or at least not sharing our selves without Jesus opened up and visible.
You hold the keys to heaven, who will you keep out? Who will you let in?
- So this passage holds our model:
- Have an encouragement accountability partner,
- Reach out to the people we know and meet
- Invite them to come see Jesus at work in our lives, in our worship, ministry, fellowship, etc..
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. [NRSV]
The Coach’s Gator-Aid Baptism: Acceptance and Celebration for winning or setting a record, but Christian baptism is not just a public celebration: it is about covenant making and covenant keeping.
Baptized in the Spirit vs Second Birth
Over time some churches and denominations have made more of the verse that is like intended. Some would teach that when you and I repent, acknowledge that we are sinners and believe Jesus to be our “Lord and Savior” that it is somehow a partial baptism that we must have a second baptism in the Spirit, as the sign of some spiritual maturity or marker of spiritual progress. When in fact this passage is about a lack of information, a shortcoming in the teaching and Paul wants all disciples to ha e the full story, the full benefit, and full connection as a disciple, believer and follower of Jesus.
Salvation for Wesley is the process that begins in the Holy Spirit before we are aware of what is happening, We mark our part in the process when we acknowledge Jesus Christ has died for our sins personally (thus justifying us through Grace and the Spirit), what follows in our response of becoming the person Jesus died and rose to save, the Spirit guiding us in the journey of sanctification toward the goal of wholeness in the Spirit, he called perfection.
Bottom line, if someone speaks of not having the Spirit it is actually a matter of perspective, ignorance (being misinformed or uninformed) and/or misinterpretation.
From the beginning of Creation, the Holy Spirit moved through the great chaos and spoke order and purpose. The Spirit moved in creation over the earth and was breathed into humanity giving us that very image, breath and spirit of God in us.
What makes us exceptional is that we each are Spirit-filled people, we all have the Spirit of God to credit for our life, our purpose and our meaning.
When the world denies or runs from God’s Holy Spirit
They do so in fear, misinformation, pride, personal desire to control, or a lack of experience/understanding.
So what? Our personal faith journey is to affirm we are spirit filled people, saved by Christ and living for God’s purpose, in God’s love, uniquely through each one of us.
So what’s the deal with this passage and Paul re-baptizing these folks?
- This passage is about teaching what baptism is about
- This passage s about understanding the work of the Holy Spirit
- It is for us a reminder that to be a Christian is to 1) be aware we are born of the Holy Spirit, 2) we are connected by the Spirit and 3) empowered by the Holy Spirit for Spiritual work and witness.
Part of this verse is about competing traditions:
“We have John the Baptist”… Our baptism is older and more closely connected to the first baptism, John the Baptizer, who baptized Jesus, “If John was Good Enough for Jesus, then John’s baptism is good enough for me. “Ours is the more traditional flavor.”
Paul is teaching that Baptism is the vehicle and not the destination.
It’s not owning/experiencing something, it is becoming something more important.
Paul’s correction is not saying John’s baptism was wrong, only that it conveyed part of the power:
The Two Parts of Baptism
The Jesus Part and the “my” part.
John the Baptist’s baptism was about repenting, acknowledging our sinfulness and our brokenness and that Jesus is the hope and salvation for our sins.
The second part is what difference does the Jesus part make in my life and how will accomplish my response to Jesus’s part.
Too many people settle for the utterance of words instead of the building of a relationship. Are you and I settlers?
Think of the marriage covenant:
Legally a couple is married when they have exchanged vows and pledged themselves to one another and both say the traditional, “I DO.”
But that is not the marriage, that is only the beginning of the covenant. The marriage is the journey of joys and struggles that span the time the couple shares.
Paul reminds us that we are
- Need Christ but also the Spirit
- Therefore help others find a way to grow in the Spirit
Invite someone to a life in Christ
Inquire what Baptism means to someone’s daily life
Back to School Homework
Do you remember your baptism?
Do it make any difference to you on this day?
If so how,
If not, let’s work on it together, is Paul model
Posted in #2017 on December 30, 2017
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 Gifts of Christmas
How unusual it would be to have a grand birthday party where no one brought gifts to the honored guest, rather the one having the celebration had gifts for each of the guests.
The Good News is that Jesus is born bringing Gifts to each of us.
For months we have prepared to share the gift of Jesus Christ: Thankfully we have a season and not just one day to begin sharing the gift of Christ, that is our faith and our hope and salvation
The Prize Closet
I have a dear friend who is the best and most attentive giver and sender of cards. She would carry in her purse no less than a dozen cards for just the right occasion to express love, loss, prayers, compassion or cheer where ever she sent. She was once having surgery and handed her husband her purse i the pre-op waiting room and she told him to give a card to one of the people in the waiting room while she was having her surgery. She was prepared to give the gift.
My grandmother had a special gift drawer where magical gifts materialized when someone needed a last minute gift for a forgotten occasion or a guest revealed it was their birthday or an unexpected guest showed up when others were opening Christmas presents. Tommye would disappear to the secret drawer and retrieve a small treasure for the surprise occasion.
Some folks may have a top shelf, others might have a closet or other special collection of gifts for every occasion. All good things can be taken too far, but it is a great tradition and practice of anticipating the sharing of gifts.
The danger of gifts is that we see and value only the object in place of the relationship expressed in the gift.
The Angel Tree
We have some very generous folks who gave great gifts to young boys who are forgotten by so many but were given not just one, or two, or three but fives gifts: Nice gifts. I affirm that your generosity was shown in the assortment of games, toys, clothes, teddy bears and various gifts that were requested. The director shared the boy’s appreciation of the gifts and that love and thoughtfulness that strangers would be so generous. He reminded them that we may not have met, but were are not strangers because we share the same love and trust in Jesus Christ. (That is the gift given and received!)
Church and Money
We try not to be a church that talks about money too much. But we do need to talk about the spirit of faithful generosity that shares 60 prayer quilts in the last 52 weeks.
We see the generous gifts that have helped retire hundreds of thousands of dollars of building debt in record time.
We see the sack lunches, the pottery – mud for Culebra to share hope and rebuilding of lives,
We have given one another generous gifts that we enjoy and remember that gifts are given and share not out of duty or requirement but given as expressions and extension of love, faith, and hope.
The Galatian Gifts
The Gift of Freedom
The Gift of Family
The Gift of Inheritance
Freedom: Christ comes and gifts us the gift of freedom from slavery to the law. We are not measured by rules instead of by love and grace.
Family: We are not only set free from rules we could never fully keep, to being adopted as family. We are made to be equal to the household/family. We are not junior worker-bees, we are brothers and sisters in the royalty. (We have different jobs, skills, gifts and talents entrust, but we aril equally valued and needed.
Inheritance: Not only are we free from forced faith and made equal partners, we share in the work and have shares in the company.
What does the gift look like?
What we do as the church is living out God’s business in a family owned business as equal partners with equal value and voice.
- God is revealing to the whole world, one person at a time, God’s love, power, mercy, and grace
- and has invested all his business in us
- to do God’s work
- with each other as co-owners and co-workers.
- Paul reminds the church at Galatia and us:
- We are gifted to freely share our faith
- We are gifted with a family to support and be supported
- WE are gifted with a life that is eternal, fulfilling, hopeful and directed by love.
So who do we share our gift of Christ with?
- Someone who is locked in rules, fear, and spiritual blindness
- Someone who my have all the civil right but no joy nor hope
- Someone who complains, judges, hates and cowers
- Someone who knows so much that don’t need Christ
- Someone who is more interested in fairness than grace
- Someone who is alone and finds no only to be family
- Someone who’s family is so dysfunctional they don’t know what family can be
- Someone who wants to look of a perfect family without the sweat equity of honor, respect and trust.
- Someone who hope is in stuff rather than spirit.
(You can buy me a boat and a truck to pull it…)
Buy Me a Boat
I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna be
Working like a dog all day, ain’t working for me
I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket
And that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett
I know everybody says
Money can’t buy happiness
But it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it
It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets
Yeah, and I know what they say
Money can’t buy everything
Well, maybe so,
But it could buy me a boat
They call me redneck, white trash and blue collar
But I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars
I keep hearing that money is the root of all evil
And you can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle
I’m sure that’s probably true,
But it still sounds pretty cool
‘Cause it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it
It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets
Yeah, and I know what they say,
Money can’t buy everything
Well, maybe so,
But it could buy me a boat
To float down on the water with a beer
I hear the Powerball Lotto is a-sitting’ on a hundred mill
Well, that would buy me a brand new rod and reel
And it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it
It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets
Yeah, and I know what they say,
Money can’t buy everything
Well, maybe so,
But it could buy me a boat
Yeah, and I know what they say,
Money can’t buy everything
Well, maybe so,
But it could buy me a boat
It could buy me a boat
Songwriters: Chris Dubois / Chris Janson
Buy Me a Boat lyrics © Spirit Music Group, Ole Media Management Lp
It’s not both/and,
Here is the Heart of Paul’s word for us, the church
it is that we are the Gift the World is freed by, claimed by and saved through
The Christmas Gift: Jesus Gives us the gifts so we will
- Know God loves us
- Know we are of great value to God
- Know that God’s work is our work and witness.
verse 7) So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God
Posted in #2017 on December 24, 2017
A season of Feasts
December 26 is the feast of St. Stephen—a traditional day for giving leftovers to the poor (as described in the carol “Good King Wenceslas”). As one of the first deacons, Stephen was the forerunner of all those who show forth the love of Christ by their generosity to the needy. But more than this, he was the first martyr of the New Covenant, witnessing to Christ by the ultimate gift of his own life.
St. John the Evangelist, commemorated on December 27, is traditionally the only one of the twelve disciples who did not die a martyr. Rather, John witnessed to the Incarnation through his words, turning Greek philosophy on its head with his affirmation, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14, KJV).
On December 28, we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, the children murdered by Herod. These were not martyrs like Stephen, who died heroically in a vision of the glorified Christ. They died unjustly before they had a chance to know or to will—but they died for Christ nonetheless. In them we see the long agony of those who suffer and die through human injustice, never knowing that they have been redeemed.
So it became their custom to celebrate the “Feast of Fools” around January 1, often in conjunction with the feast of Christ’s circumcision on that day (which was also one of the earliest feasts of the Virgin Mary, and is today celebrated as such by Roman Catholics).
The twelve days of Christmas saw similar celebrations of the topsy-turvy and the unruly. A “Lord of Misrule” was often elected at Christmas and ruled the festivities until Epiphany. A schoolboy was traditionally chosen as bishop on December 6 (the Feast of St. Nicholas) and filled all the functions of bishop until Holy Innocents’ Day. The Christmas season also sometimes saw the “Feast of the Ass,” commemorating the donkey traditionally present at the manger. On this day, people were supposed to bray like a donkey at the points in the Mass where one would normally say “Amen.”
Christmas as a Season has become the church way of saying that Jesus is to be
- not on one day, but every day.
- through a collection of traditions come opportunities to celebrate how Christ is revealed in a world turned upside down.
Tradition is not to be dismissed by Snopes, rather indicates — that our traditions evolve
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the “Pentateuch,” which gives the history of man’s fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle’s Creed
and Jesus on the Cross is the patridge in the pear tree.
The history of the carol is somewhat murky. The earliest known version first appeared in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth With-out Mischief.
Posted in #2017 on December 17, 2017
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” [NRSV]
From Peterson’s, “The MESSAGE” Lk 1.41-56 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly, You’re so blessed among women, and the babe in your womb, also blessed! And why am I so blessed that the mother of my Lord visits me? The moment the sound of your greeting entered my ears, The babe in my womb skipped like a lamb for sheer joy. Blessed woman, who believed what God said, believed every word would come true! And Mary said, I’m bursting with God-news; I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened – I’m the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It’s exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then went back to her own home. [MES]
Mary Looks at her Self and See God at Work.
It is not every unwed expectant teen mother-to-be who looks at her situation and see’s God’s magnificent working in her life. But is this something we can transfer to ourselves, or is this only an example reserved for the mother of Jesus?
In preparing to share our gift of faith, we too need to be passionate about God’s work in our own lives.
I believe that the greatest hesitation to sharing our faith with another person is related to the doubts, fears, questions, and uncertainties we might have about our own faith, that makes us reluctant to “get all excited” about telling the news to someone else.
So before we sign off this example as something only the mother of Jesus can be “that” excited about, let look at the setting and context.
Mary has gone to be nurtured and protected by a beloved family member, not in her home community, who is going through a similar circumstance.
Separate these three factors:
1. A trusted family or friend who you would feel comfortable showing up at their house to wrestle through a difficult time or experience.
If you have one phone call to make: Who would you call that could be most helpful to you?
2. Mary visits someone out of town, there is the luxury of retreat and respite, in her visit with Elizabeth. She does not reach out to the most convenient person, but the most trusted to receive and give her space and council.
3. She reaches out to share her journey and struggle with someone who is going through the same journey. One of the great strengths of a 12 step ministry is the genuineness of sharing the journey to find encouragement and accountability from those who are also needing encouragement and accountability.
Who to share our gift of faith:
I’m guessing that even though you might have heard even half of the past eight sermons on faith sharing and hear the invitation to identify someone to share your faith with a Christmas gift, I’m guessing the majority have thought about the idea, but not decided or made a concrete choice of who to give you faith story update.
Look at Mary, the mother of Jesus for an example: She goes to a trusted person, who was not in her everyday circle who would welcome, encourage and guide her.
Imagine ourselves in this context and it is easier to answer the question, “How does my soul glorify the Lord?”
I had an opportunity to share my faith with one of my best friends this week.
In this case, he did the traveling to see me, but we could have just as easily talked on the phone, Facetime, or I could have traveled with me. What each of us took the time to share how God has been working in our lives. Where we have failed and fallen short, where God has shone up to bless and save us. My friend Shawn is always a call or message away. We had a real heart to heart sharing where we each needed to confess, encourage and celebrate the passion where God shows up in our lives.
The Good News: we share is not how faithful ‘we’ are, rather how God is.
Mary’s magnificent hymn is not about how great Mary is, it his about how great God is in her life, in her situation, in her problems, in her opportunities, in her struggle.
This is the song we are called to sing and share:
Make your list and check it twice:
- Who are you going to call when you need encouragement, renewal an accountability?
- Where have you needed God to show up most?
- Where have you seen God working
- What is God about to do that is going to shape the next part of your life.
2. What are you struggling with That God can or has transformed that you can be passionate about?
- Talk about where God is working
- Share about what God is unfolding next
Now it’s almost Christmas: Christ-Mas (God with Us – Worship)