Archive for category Advent B
But you, O [Rock Spring] of [Walker County], who are one of the little [communities] of [Georgia], from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in [My People], whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace. [Micah 5:2-5a modified for RSUMC]
What if this were the word given to us, instead of the little town of Bethlehem? Prophetic words I have heard in 34 years of ministry:
There are about to build a second regional airport in Northwest Georgia and it will transform the state and every little town around it. (First DS shared the news: Still no airport, for good or bad).
Stand, Refine, Do, Now, Welcome: on the edge and eve of Arrived!
Our Advent Adventure has started by with the first steps of
- taking a stand, responding to the call to get up and get moving.
- We have refined our faith and tools and claimed God’s call upon us to continue the momentum and DO what is good and right,
- We have been encouraged with hope and called to share hope and
- Today we remember to welcome those we meet to help them find Christ through together.
One of the annual tradition that I grew up with at Christmas was my mother’s annual open house party. I believe that it is for this reason that I have struggled to see the joy in the parties because I know all the work and preparation that goes on before, during and after a big event.
Mom started with the decoration over Thanksgiving and by mid-December, the menus and Christmas card/Invitations would be sent out. The ten to fourteen days before Christmas would include a long checklist of grocery shopping, baking and cleaning around the house. The Sunday afternoon before Christmas was the target party date. I preferred the years where Christmas Day fell on Saturday or Sunday as the party would be far behind come Christmas morning.
A dozen varieties of cookies would need to be baked, iced and decorated. Cakes, pies and hor doves would be prepared and ready for baking and heating. Serving plates and cups would be washed and dried. We had little time for playing in anticipation of the open house!
My brother, being younger, had the job of playing with all the children who came to the party so they would not be “trampled under foot” momma would say. But the truth was she didn’t want them to play with the two hundred nativity / manger scenes that decorated every shelf, side table and flat service in the house. My job was to make sure the table was full of food and that the dirty dishes and cups would get washed and returned to the big table. (I didn’t mind the chocolate covered peanut butter balls and the cheese biscuits, but I didn’t want to be washing dishes when the others were playing in the yard) I made a promise that year, “I would not make my future children wash dishes at any open house parties I might have down the road. Christmas was a time to welcome not wash.”
The work made it hard for me to see the joy. I know my mother’s intention was that the collective labors we give to neighbors, friends, members, and strangers in an effort to welcome in Jesus’s name.
What does it take to welcome someone in Christ?
One year while we were living in Eatonton, Georgia, mom had decorated the hall bathroom downstairs with fancy soaps and special towels and hermetically sealed the door closed with a large note on the outside of the door, which read: “Keep your nasty hands off the towels!!”
We were afraid to go in and she forgot to take the sign down. I don’t think anyone at the party went inside. But the did go upstairs to our bathrooms!
How will you and I continue to welcome others in Christ?
It is a life lesson that making others feel welcome is a self-less gift at times. Some people are difficult to include. Some people share little in common. Some people work as hard to avoid as we do to invite.
The world is hungry and doesn’t think it is for dinners and snacks.
The world is hungering for three things:
Being on the Correct side of things: Greatness in the sense of truth
Meaning – Strength and Majesty
Peace – Security and Peace
These are actually the things that are promised by the prophet Micah that the Messiah would be God’s People.
The prophetic call to look for Greatness even when it comes through a small town, God is working GREATNESS in small ways, not larger than life folks, but ordinary folks like us are where the GREATNESS is where we are to look for God to show up.
The Messiah we share is one who welcomes in strength and majesty. Jesus is the very one who welcomes us while we are yet sinners. Jesus is stronger than any of us. And he greats us as sons and daughters, co-heirs
Micah foretells that God is Great, Majestic and Strong, brings security and, offers peace.
The three things that world longs for can be found in the Messiah, in Jesus.
The trillion dollar question is: How do people find what they are looking for in the Christ we are sharing?
.. We need to be taking that STAND for Christ ourselves
.. We need to be refined our understanding and trust to in Christ
.. We need to be doing the things of Christ that reveal his strength, majesty, peace, and greatness.
So what does that look like for us?
The passage from Micah serves as a preview of the nativity story. Bethlehem and Mary are the recipients of coming Lord, and as the people of Israel and Elizabeth, we are to open the door and welcome the God who has decided to set up tent in the midst of our neighborhood and who is more fascinated with each one of us than with a throne surrounded with angels and archangels (Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8), facing all the risks and passions of all human beings.
Most likely a Judean prophet during the eighth-century before Christ, Micah was responsible for delivering the divine oracle to God’s covenant people. We are told that “the prophecy about a new ruler to come from the town of Bethlehem (5:2), and the response to the question of what the Lord requires of them, signal Micah’s importance.”
By December 23, our nation will have experienced midterm elections. Hopefully, the people newly elected or reelected will have the integrity to follow through on their promises. Hopefully, their promises will be in harmony with God’s concern for the “least of these.” The sermon for this entire Advent season and in particular for this fourth Sunday of Advent serves as a way to acknowledge and warmly welcome those who visit our church, those we meet in our paths, those who are thirsting for love, fellowship, help, and counsel.
The text can encourage people to serve as volunteers serving hot meals, visiting nursing homes, setting up a caroling church group. The sermon can raise open questions that invite people to find their answers after the worship service is over, or posit a list of possibilities by which people can incarnate the message of welcoming. This may mean hospitality among their own circle of friends and acquaintances, but especially beyond.
A part of our Wesleyan DNA is the ministry for and with the poor. Just as Advent leads us toward encountering the infant Christ in a stable and with the announcement of the Good News being first shared with lowly shepherds, so we are invited to become more mindful and aware of ministries with and for the excluded.
For personal reflection and sermon preparation:
- How do I and my congregation welcome Jesus into our area of greatest weakness, brokenness, or loss?
- 2. Do I leap for joy when I spend time in Scripture, worship, and fellowship with God’s covenant people?
- 3. How can I inspire parishioners to make the poor and the oppressed the center of their Christian concern and witness?
- 4. At some point in the sermon, pose an inductive question, such as “Who am I in this text? Am I Micah, the carrier of good news? Am I Mary who is welcomed by her family? Am I the leaping child in Elizabeth’s womb, excited about the presence and coming of Christ?”
- 5. Is this congregation a fellowship of excitement, an Advent community with a contagious faith and neighborhood involvement?
- 6. How can I set the tone through preaching for a greater passion for justice?
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]
Making Life Easier to find and Share God.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” [NRSV]
Proclaiming a baptism of repentance.
Acknowledge that we are broken, incomplete and more than physical and mental. We are a spiritual being, created of God with the free choice to do as WE please, or do as God pleases. If we are in charge our time on earth is all we have and we are to blame for our sins and have no provision for relationship or life after death.
If God is in charge of our lives, we are to blame for our sins but God promises to judges us for our sins and Jesus takes the sentence and blame for us, as a sign of God’s love and as a fix/ connection we could not make without God’s help.
I’m the problem. Not someone or something else. I might not be responsible for the whole world, but I’m responsible for my part.
- We live in a time that we confuse being responsible for creation with being responsible to the creator.
- We live in a time where we confuse my will and self-determination and free will with the consequences
- for not using our choice to build a relationship with God and God’s people.
- We live in a time when the church is not seen or known as the presence of Christ, rather an institution of affirmation of our ideals, traditions and behaviors.
Why would I need to say I am broken or incomplete if God has made me?
- Even before I am of age or development to make a choice of my own. You and I lived in a world bent toward selfishness and self-preservation.
- Long before we are aware of choosing what is good from bad, we live in the process of trial and error. We touch the stove and burn and hand and learn we’d rather not experience that again. We push, hit, or raise our voice to get attention, power or response, We validate the influence we have in the world.
- Before I have developed neural synapse memory patterns, I live in a world that is broken and hurting, cut-throat and starving, filled with rich and poor alike.
- Charles and John Wesley fought over the our state of sin. Charles felt are hopeless without any chance of goodness. John said, we have the presence of God’s power and spirit in us that is at work to help us, and while “bent toward sinning” we have the choice to choose God’s help and strength.
To say it most plainly:
If there is one perfection it is impossible for trillions of human beings to individually unique and yet perfect. The reality that we are unique and different, also means that while there is good in us, we are fundamentally missing the “God-part” of our relationship with the world.
- We live in a world where plateaus shift and volcanos erupt and storms swell and the sun bakes, and sinkholes open and asteroids impact. Processes beyond our control and strength.
- We live in a world where people have different abilities and aptitudes. Different skills and perspective. If everyone were given the same resources, we would continue to have rich and poor, different politics and languages, different interpretations, successes and failures.
SO: even we made every good choice as an individual, we are surrounded by broken, selfish folks in a hurting, unfair world. All the more reason to secure God’s blessing and help in being whole, individually and collectively.
Making Easier Instead of More Difficult.
Finally, John’s invitation to repent, is a personal and individual way we can help make our relationship with God and one another better is by intentionally making it easier for ourselves, others and for God to be in our lives.
- Stop making poor choices
- Stop working against God’s will
- Stop justifying both/and living
- Make the path easy and straight for yourself, others and God.
- This is our personal responsibility…
- Start making room for God
- Make time for God
- Extend grace for God’s people, who are also broken and struggling and imperfect
- See the best in each other and not preoccupied with being right, in charge or in control.
It is better not to put millstones around our necks or others, make the world a better place my making room for a relationship with God and God’s people.
So how do we make the path straight?
- Do No Harm
- Do all the Good You Can do
- Practice intentional Spiritual Growth (A Goal for RSUMC to have every member in a small group)
So Advent 2 is a call to prepare by making faith, love and life easier by living straight toward God.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. [NRSV]
The Prophet Isaiah gives those who seek God’s presence words of encouragement as well as a reality-check about where to placed our faith.
This first Sunday of Advent we begin lighting candles. This is our sign, this is our symbol and logo for the season. There is a great presence of darkness all around us: Economic, Political, Geo-political, Racial and Cultural protests and looting, A woman killed three people in Denver to buying the last discounted TV at Walmart. The valuable has become trivial and the trivial takes on the value of greatest worth.
This prophet work is a call to make a way that prepares for God’s coming
Prepping: The ultimate Boy Scout exercise of being prepared. I will admit there are some items that I have more of than I used to keep around. I’m not a zombie apocalypse follower. But there seems to be some common sense in looking at the signs and seeing the need to prepare for things I can manage and control.
There is a fine line sometimes between having a few extra supplies, jugs of water and basic necessities and those who have bunkers, stock-piles and provisions for decades. Somewhere in between folks will say we are crazy, foolish or even delusional, while others will say we are foolish, crazy and delusional for not getting ready for a return to the 19th century way of life.
Here is a point of learning for each of us: At what sign, moment or circumstance would we change the focus of our regular way of leaving and prepare for Christ’s return. What would I need to experience in order to act most seriously and sincerely about preparing, not only my self, but others for the coming God Christ, God with us here and now?
In other words: how bad do things need to get before we see that we cannot fix world hunger?
How many acts of terror before we confront that the power of Evil is real and irrational.
How tough do our finances drop before we see we can’t buy nor save our way out of trillions of debt?
How long do we allow people to build waves of doom and gloom before we look to God of strength, hope.
How long will we convince ourselves that we can manage any situation without God’s help
How long will we allow those around us to live, plan, lead and struggle managing the world around us without God’s help and allow them the political correctness, fairness and to-each-his-own theology?
The promise in Isaiah warning is that God will certainly put us into perspective, just like we through out old flowers that were once beautiful but are now dried and lifeless.
Jericho: Mt Temptation
Isaiah call to action is to CRY OUT!
But what are we to call out? Who are we to Call out? What is it we are supposed to say? Answers: We will all fade, fail and died… so we best prepare for God’s stepping in our place.
Advent is this call to action: Remember God is God and we are the created. We are very smart, strong, and
This Advent is a time to speak up, speak out, Cry Out. Not so much to remind each other here, but for the rest of the world to know now is the time to make way for God.
“Swords ready? “On Guard! On Watch! Be Alert. Pay Attention. Look for God, for God is coming.
This get’s back to the prepping: If we live like the apocalypse is coming in 2015 then the majority of folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.
If we are talking about Christ’s return and final victory coming this December 25 instead of Santa then folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.
God is appearing every day. This is the real, reality.
Advent is not just a season prepping us for Christmas; it is the call to faith for each day and every season.
So I offer a balance: On one hand remember we are a fragile and delicate as a flower, think if power of a bacteria or virus, the sudden impact of a crash, the in hailing or injecting or ingesting of substances that end out live quickly as well as those that quietly tear us down.
On the other hand: God’s word is eternal. Ever strong and to be trusted.
Cry out for folks around us to ready, study, share, learn, open and press through God’s word.
How do we prep for God. Trust what is spoken of God. Have faith in God’s promise of grace and salvation.
Be on Guard to speak and share the word with everyone..
The road to heaven is paved with God’s intention. That we believe, trust and follow.
Not our intentions, God’s.
Advent 1 20141129 “Luke 21:25-36” Q: Is It Beginning to Look Like Advent? What is CHRISTmas suppose to look like?
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. “Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [NRSV]
I am ready to give up on the word “Christmas” as a title for celebrating the birthday of Jesus. But more on that in moment:
First: I am thankful for the businesses that try to keep the “true meaning” and urge theirs employees to say “Merry Christmas” instead of the generic “Happy Holidays.” Goodness knows I’m not persuaded to celebrate Kwanza, Hanukah nor Ramadan (no matter what time of the year it falls) to make adherents of other cultures comfortable. If someone’s religious practice includes a holiday, they can name it anyway they choose, but not to change it’s name based on my feelings. That would be intolerant.
If we lived in one of the Middle Eastern countries would we expect folks to start saying “Happy Holidays” instead of naming their respective holidays by name. So out the window with correctness!
Let’s get correct what needs correction. Jesus’ caution in LK 21 is that we have our heads in the sand when its time to look up toward heaven. When you see Jesus, point him out! Be on guard not to be weighed down by distractions and division that are earthly and miss the heavenly focus.
Second: When I wish someone Merry Christmas with the hope they find joy in knowing Christ is with us. But that is a very big assumption on my part.
What we name the celebration of Christ’s birth and presence and witness in the world is not actually the issue.
Christmas, Easter, Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Labor Day, Memorial Day, Earth Day, Thanksgiving, New Years and Festivus: For the Rest of us are all creations of people for people. The meaning, ritual and purposes are a mixture of tradition, symbols and signs to mark time and celebrate memories and hopes.
The key is to remember why we mark these as significant markers and to keep the ones that guide our individual and collective journey toward God.
Third: The tradition of Advent has been replaced with the worship of Christmas. The text today cautions us to be on watch, to keep our guard up, to be alert and conscious of our actions… Advent is the season of alertness and we let Christmas slip in every year.
We have the lights out, the tree up, the parties and gifts prepared so that when the day of Christmas comes, it pretty much all over about noon. Just listen to the radio station flip the six week Christmas programing back to ‘normal’ just twelve hours into the first day of Christmas.
You might think I don’t like Christmas. You would be mistaken. I enjoy both the secular and faith celebration of Christmas. But we place ourselves in a slippery slope of trying to blend the two so we are save in both camps.
Did you realize that the religious “Christmas,” celebrating Jesus birth was not so popular until about 1000 years after Jesus was born. And its only in the past 300 years that the traditions we enjoy looked like the Christmas we know now.
But its just as much a political conflict as it is commercial. In the mid 300’s the Roman emperor, Constantine reframed and aligned Christianity with culture celebrations to help connect the influence of believers with the existing holidays. It’s not just a 20th and 21st century issue.
So my answer is to give up the word “Christmas” to shoppers and markets and commercial folks who have already claimed it as their own. I’m find not trying to hang on to “Merry Christmas” which actually not any clearer than “Happy Holidays” in reality.
These four weeks that begin today are a season of living out Luke 21 in anticipation of “Sharing the Joy of Christ with Us.”
Think of it this way: if your say “Merry Christmas” to someone they might think of Jesus or they might think of Santa. It’s no longer clear. Rather than fighting for what is unclear. State it bold and place.
May Christ live in me!
May the Joy of Jesus live in you!
In these next four weeks look at the signs and celebrations. Don’t skip any of the fun, but think about what we do and say, with words and actions.
Think of this way:
- If we knew your birthday was coming in four weeks, would we have all the parties before then and stay at home when the day arrived?
- If we were getting ready to celebrate your life and presence in the world, would we go buy each other and ourselves gifts and not get you any?
- If we put up signs and symbols on our homes, clothes and yards to tell the world about you would we use your name or something that make everyone else comfortable and appreciated?
- If we spent ourselves into debt to celebrate you how would that make you feel about our judgment and responsibility?
We could continue with this all day: But I hope you get my point.
If we spent the next four weeks preparing for Christ to be with us in personal and tangible ways: How would we do that?
If we spent the next four weeks getting our mind, heart, eyes focused on the things of God: How would we do this?
If we spent the next four weeks preparing signs that were clear to others that God was about to be revealed, What would we do?
If we spent the next four weeks reading ourselves to stand before our Lord: What would we change about our lives, thoughts, behaviors, etc.?
Advent.. this is the season we are called to begin
Christmas: Christ With Us, God with us. Emanuel, that’s where we are heading. Honestly, I’m not ready. Are you?
Here are a few greetings:
“Get to work, It’s Advent”
“Get your head out of yourself, God is coming soon.”
“You’re the fatted goose and Christmas is coming.”
“Put the light of Christ on the lampstand.”
Luke records the preparation for these four weeks:
- Be Alert
- Pray for Strength
- Avoid the temptation to confuse the world’s promise and God’s promise.
Merry Christmas and Be Careful
$2.99 digital version exclusively on Kindle and paper back versions available for $9.99 at the Pastime Grill in Barnesville, GA or from the district office of the UMC in Griffin, GA.
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. NRSV
Our family is a big fan of Robert Irvine’s television shows: Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network. This summer, Frances had the opportunity to help prepare her own dessert in Robert’s kitchen at his restaurant, EATS, on Hilton head Island, SC. Both his shows put Chef Robert into what appears to be an impossible situation with limited resources and limited time to feed hundreds or even thousands of people four star meals in some of the worst or unbelievable conditions. He may find himself, “in the weeds” and at the deadline, but every time he pulls through to feed fabulous food that is amazing.
The real amazing thing that I found out about Chef Robert is that he made time to sit down and eat dinner with us for about 45 minutes and as big a TV celebrity that he is introduced me to his pastor and invited me to his men’s prayer breakfast the next morning. As big as his television personality is on air, his real life spirit is a great witness of extravagant generosity and radical hospitality, two of our fruits we seek to share as a church family.
In our text today, Mary, the fiancée of Joseph, and expecting mother of Jesus, is given a MOST Extravagant gift in caring the incarnation of God and serving as mother. If that is not the MOST Radical hospitality I don’t know what is! It is Mary’s charge to carry Jesus within her own body and make room in her plans and expectations of life… yielding to God’s work through her.
The remarkable thing about this passage is that Mary is only perplexed by the angels message. In my experience as a pastor and Christian the people who have had unique divine experiences: Angels, voices, lights, and signs they try sharing them with a few folks who are not anymore ready to hear or believe and then they stop telling the story of their faith event. My own call to ministry became most clear in the context of worship, during a sermon, through a brightly shining 100 watt light bulb, connected to a bare wire hanging from a crepe myrtle tree.. I saw the glory of God shine and hear the voice of God sending me home to tell what I had seen, heard, and shared… not just in the moment of that story but in the context of the community of faith/church I had experience that summer.
We have to be careful getting into the mind of Mary. I would guess she had a mixture of faith and fear, worry and wonder, surprise and service.. and a thousand other emotions and experiences. But what she does becomes an example for each of us.
In the times since that event of the light in the tree there have been many conversations, worship services, retreats, songs, hymns and anthems, hospital room, classrooms and meeting room Christ shine out and speaks up to make may faith more bold. Showing me hope when I had none.
Mary hears God’s call to use her life, shape her family, and changing her plans and defining her family all as her service to God.
Each member of your household has the ability to help determine your part of family life.
Q: “Hey, Why is this a Christmas story, except for it mentioning Mary?”
A: “It’s an Advent passage because it directs us to what WE in preparation for Christ in our lives.”
Who is getting Ready for Christ?
If you measure that readiness in church attendance there are some new numbers out about Christian worship. The Barna Group has identified of those responding as Christians
▪ Unattached – not attended during the past year. (23%)
▪ Intermittents – not during the past month. (15%). At least 1 church event at sometime in past 6 months.
▪ Homebodies – people who had not attended a conventional church during the past month, but had attended a meeting of a house church (3%).
▪ Blenders – adults experimenting with new forms of faith community. (3%).
Conventionals – adults attended in the past month (56%)
23% not during the past year
15% not during the past month
6% not in a traditional church
56% in church but only once in the past month..
To compare that statistic to our regular attendance we would be only at about 52%
Q: “What does that have to with Mary or Christmas?”
A: “Mary’s burden of becoming Jesus’ mom, seem impossible. The mystery of the virgin birth, the great expectation of the task, the great sorrows that will follow. Together these make for what is an impossibility.”
What makes something impossible?
When you have no options for movement nor change.
Stale mate or Check mate!
Actually it is matter of perspective…
something is impossible we see fore see no alternatives
The Difference in Mary and Joseph is a matter of perspective… faith perspective..
Q: “Where is Joseph?”
A: “While he reveals on one side a sense of kindness he also wants out. He offers to not make a big deal of ending the relationship. He wants to give up.
Men.. we need to hear Mary’s message, though we cannot relate her pregnancy, we can to her willingness to allow God to shape our families.
▪ he typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.
▪ On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
▪ This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
▪ Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
▪ The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).
▪ Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
▪ More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
▪ Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance.
▪ Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man.
▪ Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
Church is good for men:
Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
Church involvement moves people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
Not picking on the men, but it is a message that MEN need to be willing to hear from MEN. Guys, Let your family hear you say: “Let’s go to church.”
Getting to the heart of the text: God says trust, Mary sees the impossible and say yes, use me.
What seems impossible this Christmas?
This fear, worry, grief, frustration, failure that steals our love, trust, hope or peace:
This just maybe God’s calling to trust and let God move through us.
This might be just the Christmas gift we can’t afford, and can’t afford to let slip.
Make Christmas: Christ With us.. possible. How? Try Gods way instead of your own.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 25 Beloved, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NRSV
Top 5 Authors for Christmas Sales:
• Michael Connelly
• Stephen King
• Janet Evanovich
• John Grisham
• James Patterson
Top Ten Christmas Movies List: (Based on Sales)
• It’s A Wonderful Life
• Miracle on 34th Street
• Scrooge (Musical Version)
• A Charlie Brown Christmas
• How The Grinch Stole Christmas
• A Christmas Story
• The Santa Clause
• The Santa Clause 2
• Jingle All the Way
• Home Alone
6. Digital Camera
1. bakugan monster figure and trading cards
2. nerd blaster gun
3. crayola ‘glow’ products
4. lego theme sets
5. remote control helicopter
Strange Gifts List
• interactive t-shir with drums, guitar, keyboard, personal sound track
• large nose shampoo dispenser for the shower
• lunar real estate
ASKMEN: top romantic gifts?
• 1 jewelry, or a blank check to pick out jewelry
• 2 get away trip
• 3 scrap book items
• 4 vintage items
• 5 show tickets
• 6 engraved iphone, itouch ipod
• 7 a hand written letter
• 8 unmentionables
• 9 cashmere sweater
• 10 chocolate of the month
Top 10 Ways to have a Healthier Christmas
• Don’t sit down all day: Move more than you sit and sleep.
• Go easy on the drinks: More water less sodium and alcohol
• Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories at each Christmas dinner or party. smaller portions and more frequent meals. Stop eating and drinking by 8pm.
• Keep colds at bay: Wash hands, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoid smoking will help)
• Don’t stress: Easy to say, but worth letting judging words, over-booked time and spending excess go
• Eat fruit: 5 fresh fruits a day.
• Do something for others: Cook for a neighbor, visit a neighbor, volunteer to service, sing or take someone shopping or to the doctor.
• Think before you eat: Eat what you truly want not simply because it is available, celebrate don’t vegetate (stress eating)
• Engage your brain: Turn off the TV – Try real conversations
• Be a careful cook: Use gadgets, knives and devices with care, through out questionable dated/stored foods
Paul Shares a completely different type of list for those who are waiting for Christ:
• Rejoice…always: look for joy at all times…
• Pray…continually: don’t stop
• Be Thankful: be appreciative
• Keep the Spirit alive and at center, don’t cut each other down
• Listen to those who warn, teach and advise you, be prophetic
• Test daily, get on the scales, compare how you are doing each day
• Hold on to the good, let go and learn from the good examples
• Avoid evil, Stay clear of what you can avoid.
• Live right, and without seeking blaming til Christ comes…
• Share this list with everyone (Amazon Wish List, family tires of my crazy updates..)
• Greet with a holy kiss….
This is our Christmas List, the one that brings us our true WISH list:
- Put this list in front of you throughout the day…
- Check these things off
- Keep putting them on our to-do list
.. until Christ comes.
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” NRSV
I messenger that wears rough clothes and a big belt, that eats nuts and berries.
There was this guy, who took what he could find from the land. A man who Occupied some space down by the Jordan River. He drew crowd of attention and people flocked from all around.
For all of the outlandish demands and lewd activities of those folks who are taking over parks, streets and sidewalks around the country there is a important voice of warning to hear.
We have forsaken what has made our country great. We have taken advantage of folks and
Mario and his baggy pants, Giant belt buckle the size of Texas, grubs and honey.. eating off the land..
Tips for dumpster diving… ordering a pizza to a false address, health department says it can’t be reserved, dive in to dumpster behind the pizza place for hot pizza, free.
The call is to prepare for Christ to come.
Hear his invitation and warning.
If we do hear the call. What does it mean for us personally?
Make right, straighten up, ..or measure up? No
Make room, make a way, let go…
The one coming is greater than I am. I can’t even tie my shoes compared to what He will do for me and for you.
The response is to confess our sins and make changes in our behavior, and not the reverse
People were baptized, an act of repentance then, as a cleansing of sin.
Baptism is God’s claiming us, even though we have sinned, do sin and will continue to do so.
Baptism is God grafting us into the fold, when our roots are withered..
What do we celebrate is coming.. a spiritual celebration: This is where so much our Christmas traditions get in the way.
We living in the anticipation of Christ’s return and Christ’s presence with us until that time.
Rather than be critical of one another
Rather than making it difficult for each other
Rather than taking on the role of judge which is not our job nor call, we are to follow….
Different Baptism, Different Message
John, that baptized, called people to get cleaned up
Jesus, who was himself baptized, came to claim us through baptism.
Jesus’ baptism was not about washing sin away, it was about bringing us life: power, breath, and meaning to our spiritual life.
We are not baptized in the name and work of John, rather in the name and claim of Jesus Christ.
Listen to the messengers that give us life and call us to remember who gives us life.
Don’t judge the messenger at the risk of excluding or not hearing the Good News
Trust your baptism in Jesus Christ, that comes to make you life full and whole.