Archive for category celebration
Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, “Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [NRSA]
- Finding lost money. I put on a suit coat to see if it still fit and found a $20 bill in the pocket. Let’s go out to lunch?
- I found a $100 dollar bill at the mall at Christmas time. We asked at five shops and two dozen people to see if anyone lost money. No one claimed the $100. We went to the toys story and spent the whole amount to give to angel-tree family for Christmas.
- We found Susanna sitting inside a clothes rack watching Barney in the children’s department in Belk’s and took her to celebrate y eating ice cream. She had not run off we walked away from her and didn’t know she had stayed.
- We have caution our children to hang on to their tickets stubs at ball games so that if they became lost they could use the tickets to find our seats.
These are a taste of being lost, but invite you to see from the eyes of those who are lost from the heart of God, but I ask you to step into the world of true emptiness and the hopeless of being lost.
We phrase this as loosing our way, loosing our mind, loosing our place, loosing out perspective, and even loosing our dreams, hope and purpose.
This is the lostness that we visit today.
First we must own up that all of us are lost without a relationship with God. God who loves us, formed us, fills us with breath and spirit, the one who long’s for us to find our purpose, peace, strength and wholeness in a relationship, with God and with one another.
When we are truthful about our hearts, our family, our own inner and personal self, we know what it feels like to be lost:
Asking the congregation …
We can spend a lifetime blaming and excusing ourselves, but it is more important to recognize our state of being lost and seek to find our way or to make us easier to be found
Once on a scout camping trip we spread out our troop throughout the woods moving each campers lean-to just at the edge of being in sight of the next, maybe 200-300 yards apart. When the sun rose, some wrestles camper awoke and made their way bake to the base camp. The last camp slept a bit later, got turned around and walked the opposite direction of the camp. Two hours later we found his sleeping bag and gear by the road, but he was nowhere in sight. Two more hours passed with Forrest service persons, sherif and ems searchers we got word that he had hitch hiked a ride home and was asleep in bed. It had a good ending but it helped us realize how quickly someone becomes lost.
The ease of sneaking a few beers, coolness of vaping, the curiosity of marijuana, the high of meth, the addiction of heroine, the deadliness of fentinyal. It’s a slippery slope that everyone who starts down a path believes they can handle and avoid what everyone else fallen victim.
How many families, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other we know who find themselves lost in addiction. Again we can focus on blame and excusing but the transformation come in becoming “found”.
In Jesus’s parable, a sheep my happen to find its way home, but it is 99% more likely to be found when those who have the perspective of compassion, hope, and access to salvation go out to the one lost and bring them home.
In the parable a lost coin could never find its way home, it is because of the diligence of those who search that the lost are found.
Jesus’s parable is calling us picture the joy of helping someone find their purpose, hope, strength, perspective, healing, restoration, new life..
Samuel Bangura of Sierra Leone. Lost, alcohol and failure, lead him accross the Atlantic, down the east coast and to the streets of Atlanta, we welcomed him to dinner, to buy clothes, to spend Christmas Eve night and to share in the family Christmas celebration and his love blossomed and he gather a freight container of clothes and he returned to SL to start an orphanage and school, loving and dying to save children in a warming homeland. It started with a conversation, a meal, a sleep over, worship, bible study, mission project, to transforming hundreds of others.
Recapping, there are none of us who escape feeling and experience being lost at times.
We know the joy of being found, helped, restored and
We have the ability to offer that gift to others
The problem: many times folks don’t think they are lost, the say we are
Many time folks don’t see another way of hope or happiness their what they have committed to
a. The task of reaching out is about our offering
B. Making the risk of trying
C. Our task is not to wait until someone comes to us but to go to those who are lost
D. Ultimately we offer the compassion, strength and hope of Christ, in tangible ways and let God work through us.
NOTE: One crazy thing is that for some you may not be the person someone will listen to, but you can connect them with others that might.
Out job is to avoid neglecting the lost
2. In Jesus’s parable he risks leaving those who know his voice and the comfort of the green pastures and the still waters and the shade of the tree and going out to ONE who is lost.
Our denomination is struggling. Over forty years we have dodge around the gender identity issues and focused on policies and politics. When we have been called to offer the saving, loving, restoring power of Jesus Christ to all persons.
As a denomination we have lost our way. About a month ago, Scott and I looked at the attendance and membership data of 40 churches in the North Georgia and in to Chattanooga and of those congregations 1 church has held steady, one started a second worship service Ana has reported some growth, but small, medium and large church have decreased in participation. Again we can dwell upon the blame and excuses, but until we return to our neighbors who are lost we will continue to be less of the church we are called to be.
We are all called to help restore others
3. This message is directed to disciples, Pharisees, teachers, agents of the government and all the other sinners.
If you are happy and celebrate when you find lost money or a runaway animal, how much more wonderful it is when we go out to search for our neighbors who are hurting, broken, empty, lonely, grieving, struggling, and worse.
Being the Faithful vs. fixing the problems
4. The charge is to bring persons into the fellowship of belonging, growing, worshiping and maturing in faith and not necessarily what the lost person is asking as help. “If you truly loved me then you would pay my bills, give me a house and car and job and not expect anything of me…” but this is never true.
To be found is to be found, to belong, to be joined as family, restored to the collection, part of the fold.
I look forward to hearing about your celebration of God working through you!
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name. For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. [NRSV]
Fill my cup Lord
- If we are coming to church to be served, pumped up or filled we have not prepared for worship
- Come to worship
- Come to church
- Come in the holy gathering of the holy people ready for praise
- People come to church because of tradition, habit or hurting
- We owe it to God to encourage, prepare and teach each other to come ready to find God
- God made us
- We belong to God
- We are Gods holy people
- We are sheep needing to a shepherd.
How to Prepare
- Joyful noise
- Glad hearts
- Start with Singing
- Shouts of Thanksgiving g
- Proclaiming God’s goodness
- Anticipating God’s faithfulness
Are we Ready to worship?
Or start over
Bottom line today is a day of praise
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
The Work of Rest
- Take off your shoes, get comfortable walking on holy ground… as opposed to keeping the floor clean.
- Take off your traveling shoes and stay awhile
- Take off your work shoes and rest
- Take off your athletic shoes and rest from striving to win.
Joy is Found in the Holy Places
- Camp Glisson
- Buckeye Creek
- Prayer Closet
- Altar Rail
- In Songs,
- Spiritual moments and memories
The 3rd Rule of Methodism
Practice your piety. not Pie-eating
The Question for tonight: What are you doing to seek the holy JOY of the Lord?
Don’t just tease God on Sunday morning, spend time dwelling all day, wherever you are.
Practice hunting for Joy: Not everyone finds because not everyone is searching.
Practice naming and claiming Joy: Pokemon Go model of not only seeking but capture for later use.
Practice offering Joy to one another in the face of our obstacles. Fear, Grief, Guilt, Apathy, Ignorance, Greed, Shame, etc.
Setting a new Millstone for Joy (Commitment time)
Where will I look for Joy: Sunday school, new small group or study, personal study, a journal
How will I stay connected to Joy: Will I stay in God’s word and songs? Will I start the conversations? Will I use the post its’
Where will I begin sharing Joy each day: It is a USE it or LOOSE it power. Keep it ready, keep it handy, keep it alive.
Joy is not forced upon us, but it ours through Jesus Christ who died and lives for us: Our greatest Joy.
When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered,
because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”
All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:
“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist. The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord’s great and glorious day. Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.‘ [NRSV]
Prophecy: In the last days..
Jesus instructed the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit, Comforter, to empower them. In Acts Chapter 2 we see the Holy Spirit Revealed. Peter begins explaining the scene in the context of the prophet Joel. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples this would be in last days.
Remember how Peter had the great idea to build monuments on the mountain of Transfiguration to remember Jesus, Moses and Elijah being revealed. God interrupts and says, “Listen.”
Remember how Peter promises to proclaim Jesus, even to the point of death and Jesus corrects him, no you will deny me three times tonight.
Remember how Jesus hears the Good News of the Resurrection from Mary and does not believe her, but runs to see the tomb for himself, and leaves not finding Jesus, only the empty grave.
Peter selecting a less than accurate passage from the Old Testaments prophets to make sense of the tounges of fire and the understanding of the Good News through different languages.
The Joel passage is similar to what Peter, the disciples and the great crowd of strangers experience that day. The part that Peter points is the Spirit’s presence being revealed through, men and women, slave and free, young and old.
Some say they are drunk on milky grains, new wine.
This festival, celebration that has brought the crowds into town is also known as the Festival of Weeks. This celebration was a way to serve God by bringing first fruits, the early crops, and waiting for God to provide the full harvest, as a remembrance of when Moses came down from the mountain with the law, the ten commandments. .
The youngest, most tender grains of wheat, barley and fruits like grapes and apples. These would be cooked with the old leaven or yeast and set aside to ferment. At the end of the countdown of seven weeks of seven days, the following, 50th, day would be ‘Pentecost, the 50th day.
So it would not be unreasonable for some to say, the disciples had been drinking the new wine, the freshly fermented beer, cider or wine.
The disciples had not been drinking but they were filled with something else:
The Holy Spirit.
God’s presence was poured out like liquid flames, resting on the disciples, similar to Moses’s burning bush event.
Another mis-understood part of the passage is about speaking in tongues. Actually the text suggests that they were speaking Galilean but the hearers from different regions and foreign lands, heard in thier own native language. Some translations go a step further and say they heard in their own hearts.
So Much for the History Lesson?
What do we learn about the Spirit as a take-away as modern day disciples?
First. The Spirit moves like the wind.
2nd, The power is revealed when they were all together, not a solo event.
3rd, The Spirit worked through the disciples, The disciples were vessels, hose pipes, conductors, channels, God uses to reach others.
4th, The Spirit choose the moment and venue
5th. Not everyone will understand or receive, but those who do, find God alive and at work through our willingness to serve.
Pentecost: A Season of Service
The Weeks of Counting: Are a call to serve God in the weeks ahead.
Our response might be: But school is almost over, it’s vacation time!
It is time to remember God calls us together
It is time count the ways God guides us. Review one commandment a week.
It is time to be available for the Spirit to work through us
It is time celebrate God is will with us. We are spiritual people, saved through Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Young and old, Males and Female, Oppressed or Oppressor, God is in Charge
At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” [NRSV]
The Festival of the Dedication
A Jewish Feast of Lights celebrating a time between the Old and New Testament to the Maccabean Revolt when the temple was reclaim and rededicated after the Jews were forced to give up the temple and the practicing of their faith.
This celebration is better known as Hanukkah. When the temple was reclaimed only one small jar of oil could be found to light the temple lights. The jar was enough oil to burn the lights for one day, yet the oil burned for eight days.
It is at this celebration of reclaiming the temple worship, the miracle of lights, and a restoring of the faith by the Jews that Jesus makes the claim that leads him to the cross.
John 10:30 The Father and I are One.
There it is: Jesus said it as plainly as at any other point in the Gospels.
- The I Am that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob called father.
- I am that father. I am, I Am with you.
- The I Am the Moses saw in the burning bush and the cloud guided them in the wilderness.
- The Spirit that moved over the face of the earth at creation, I was the one working that day.
- I’m the Light of the World.
So During the Festival of Lights, Jesus, the Light of the World, is Revealed.
- How are we willing to shine the light of Christ on the darkness in the world?
- When are we willing to enlighten others that we filter life through our faith
- Can you see yourself, filled with the ‘oil’ or fuel of the Holy Spirit to be a vessel for Christ?
Live as one connected to God.
- They might take my body, but not my spirit
- They might take my things, but not my identity
- They might take my position, but not my self-worth
- They might take my health, but not my eternal life
- They might take my reputation, yet God will never let go.
Why Wouldn’t we trust/reveal our Christ connection?
There are those people and things that grab at our connection.
Driving through a neighborhood, my phone wifi trying to logon to just any signal it can find. When my setting is to grab onto anything, even in the name of saving some money, I am putting myself at risk.
- Im not as pretty
- I’m not as wealthy
- I’m not as popular
- I’m not as happy
- I’m not as worthy
- I’m not as important
- I’m alone
- I’m not appreciated
- I’m not included
- I’m lost and forgotten
- I don’t have time
- I don’t have enough
- I’m not ready
Every time we listen to theise voice we pry away at God’s grip on our hearts. God will not let go, unless we ask him to let us go our own way.
How to I/Someone find the way back to God?
Ray Charles sings about it in our state theme song, Georgia on my Mind.
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you”
No peace I find
Just an old sweet song
Keeps [Jesus] on my mind
Change lyrics of the World’s songs, hooks and teaser to reframe our connection with the one who will never let us go.
Preaching on Easter Sunday has a seesaw of expectation. It’s Great news to celebrate the Resurrection and a challenge to tell even more.
Jerusalem. A Joy?
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. [NRSV]
- Joy that we have hope even though Terror fills the earth
- Joy that we have faith even though correctness challenges beliefs
- Joy that we have grace even though we want it immediately
- Joy that we have life even though we need it eternally
- Joy that we have love even though our hearts still know how to hate
- Joy that we have each other because the body of Christ is entrusted to the church
- Joy that we have forgiveness
- Joy that we have songs for praise
- Joy that we prayers for conversation
- Joy that we have time for repentance
- Joy that we have history to learn from past mistakes
- Joy that we have a future that is prepared and paid for by Christ
- Joy that Jesus was not just a teacher with good life lessons
- Joy that Jesus was not just a historical figure
- Joy that the Holy Spirit is our power
- to Celebrate Easter is to feed not eat
- to Celebrate Easter is to forgive not hold over
- to Celebrate Easter is to love the difficult to love
- to Celebrate Easter is to live for Christ and not ourselves
- to Celebrate Easter is to bring hope to the sad
- to Celebrate Easter is to open hardened hearts
- to Celebrate Easter is to offer life to the dying
- to Celebrate Easter is to free those who hoard
- to Celebrate Easter is to be the body of Christ living in the world for the transformation of the world toward Christ how lives forever.
Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8 You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” [NRSV]
I recall visiting sanctuaries through out Europe, some hundreds of years and wonder on one hand did Jesus imagine the ornate gilded cathedrals would become witnesses of his body and presence in the world. On the other hand, having walk through those ornate and gilded cathedrals and having join in the presence of worship that was older than my prayers and praises the allow us to experience the glories of a presence that is beyond our imagination and beyond our wealth and beyond our interpretation.
Somewhere in the combination of faithful stewardship and extravagant generosity we find the sincerity and and passion of worship.
There are times for simple and there are time for excess
The Garden of Eden reflects a sips relationship, one love and one rule, one trust and the consequences one transgression/choice.
Think of worship in the home of Mary and Martha. Recall Martha is the practical, hard working, thrifty with time and extravagant with comfort and dependable order. Mary is willing to throw caution aside! She is willing to leaving the house messy for a time, eat brunch for dinner, and invite too many guests to the party.
Mary take an extraordinary gift worth a years wage and gives the entire jar to cover Jesus. One pure of nard retailed for $700. Not a dab with the lid behind the ear r on ones wrist. She covers Jesus’s feet. Nard is viscous, acidic and concentrated scent similar to gardenia. It would have filled the house
Today we come to a historical day in the life of the church that is a mar rage of extravagant generosity AND a practical challenge. The big news is about t be revealed and it is a unique and exciting opportunity that draws on both our Mary and Martha sides.
The waste is not in using our gifts, the waste would be not to give.
Life in the Joy of Chrost with us.
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question. [NRSV]
Love is the Core Value and Core Action
Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;
- you shall love the Lord your God
- with all your heart,
- and with all your soul,
- and with all your mind,
- and with all your strength.’
- The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
- To love God is to love your neighbor and yourself
The five languages…Gary Chapman (not so different a list from the Greatest and 2nd Greatest commandment)
- Words of Affirmation.
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
JESUS EXAMPLES OF “5 love language”
- in this text : Jesus gives the affirmation that the scribe who knows when we show love to others, God’s Kingdom is near to us.
- In the examples of feeding and healing Jesus and the disciples give themselves in service to others.
- From birth, Jesus receives gifts: gold frankincense myrrh, a child’s lunch, the hospitality of supporters. And he gives gifts of healing, food, forgiveness and resurrection.
- Jesus spends concentrated time with the disciples, “leaving nets and follow”, with the little ones, “bring the children to me.”
- Jesus also shows his love through physical touch. The hem of his robe, the touch of his hand, He is not just words in stone, he is a physical example and resources.
All Saints Day
Saints are those who love God because God has first love us
sainthood is not determined by our opinion nor the church’s vote, rather by God.
Those who love God and love neighbor, are themselves love in the world.
Motivation to thank and pray
we have no real reason to love God is God has not loved us first
so we love our neighbor before they love us
- Saints take the first step
- Saints start the conversation
- Saints offer gifts
- Saints make the time
- Saints extend the contact
- loving is a process not a perfection
So on this All Saints Sunday we remember those who have shown us God’s kingdom of Love and we reaffirm ourselves as the Saints who will show God’s love to this world in every way we can.
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