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Archive for category Christmas B

Matthew 24:36-44 The Unexpected Gifts

“Reclaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

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

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

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

Q: What is there to reclaim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The second part of answering why we celebrate Christmas is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give them the unexpected Link to Christ this Christmas.

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Isaiah 35:1-10 Christ’s Way is Coming JUMC 20131215

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. NRSV

Upside down Onside out.

Our world perspective is out of order and backwards, when children don’t feel safe at school, when politics is more important than people, when trillions of dollars of debt are ignored, when a kindergarder’s kiss is sexual harassment. Just a few, but you get the picture.

Gods highway. The Holy Way

The prophet Isaiah, describes a highway. Not a traffic jam in Henry County, but a way paved with the folks who are trying to live right, putting their steps in sync with God.

Singing of Joy and Gladness

Isaiah foretells, the crowd will be recognized through singing songs of joy and gladness. Eternal and unstoppable joy. What are you singing about today?

So What: Christmas has become a season of compromise: (Santa and a savior: The Fight carton that stated South Park.)

The birth of Jesus paves Gods way of transforming grace and salvation. Do we worship a sacred santa and lust for gifts or trust the one who has given us THE gift before we even made our list? Are our Christmas prepping making us ready for traditions or salvation? ready for Warm fuzzies and mounds of wrapping papers or warmed hearts and a parade marching toward God?

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2012 Advent Daily Devotion Book

Here is a great resource for your spiritual journey preparing your faith and heart for Christmas.

 

 

 

 

$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.

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“The Giving Continues” Matthew 25:31-46 JUMC 20120101

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.. –NRSV

As we end the year 2011 the highest rated TV shows have been football games; number two over all and the number one series is the X-Factor. Knowing the letter “X” is Greek for CHI and a historic abbreviation for “CHRIST”. Our life and faith are founded on the X-factor. Is that the conversation you hear folks following and sharing? Or is it football teams and entertainers that we will talk about come the Day of Judgment and accountability?

As we begin 2012 I am struck with how on-target other businesses are with their marketing for the new year: For example: Weight Watchers focusing on our cultures intention to adopt fresh resolutions offer a new message for this year:  2012 The Year for Believers:

“By declaring 2012 ‘The Year to Believe’ we are sounding a rallying cry to help persons across the country turn their dreams in truth,” said Cheryl Callan, Principal Promotion Officer for Dieters. “Dieters will encircle persons with inspirational messages starting in the holiday season and then ongoing all the way through the coming year. At a time when lots of us are not feeling specifically confident, we wish to express our ardent faith in persons and the power in all of us to change for the much better. We see it take place each day. That Is what we are about, and what ‘The Year to Believe’ will be about.”

Chrysler employed a mass choir to introduce their new line of cars calling would be buyers to “Lose Themselves” MT 16, MK 8, LK 9, That sounds just like Jesus’ word for those who will follow.

Blackberry threatened by iphone and android devices calls for us to “Be Bold”  Believe: That sounds like the Gospel of John’s message and invitation! Be Bold, That sounds like the apostle Paul, 2Cor 3 and 10. How is it that?

Jesus’ messages is clear:

  • Are you aware of people other than yourself?
  • Are you aware of people who suffer?
  • What are you doing about it?

Football games have pre-games to gets us ready, excited, informed and primed.

The pre-show is not the game..

  • Get into the real game…. Feed the hungry, clothe the cold, befriend the excluded and lonely
  • Let’s look at 2011: How many hungry people did you help feed? What were their names?
  • Until the time of accountability comes:
  • Our Task, Our Mission, Our Response is Feed, Clothe, Share.

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