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Archive for category Christmas

Matthew 1:18-25 Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

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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]

The Christmas story is an experience with DELIVERY.

  • Fedex plans to deliver 317 million packages this shopping season, Black Friday to Christmas Eve.
  • UPS plans to deliver 700 million packages this shopping season.
  • USPS plans to deliver 750 million packages

God promises deliveries, too!

  • God delivers on the promise to live with us.
  • God delivers on the promise to claim and give us eternal life.
  • God delivers on the promise to use us, you and me, to deliver and forward God’s gifts.

The postal carrier’s “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” – while by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service – have long been associated with the American postman. The motto is inscribed on New York’s James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.[1]

This statement is a paraphrase derived from a quote from HerodotusHistories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire:

The different in the two is the first and last word, with the last words being significantly different: these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.

Rekindling the spiritual power of Christmas is found in picking up the job of postal carrier, delivery person, one who is delivered, sharing Christ with those who have not, or have forgotten or have lost their way.

What keeps us from Delivery of the Good News?

  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to work out all the social, economical and family systems issues before delivering the news that God was choosing them for witness and service.
  • God did not wait for Mary and Joseph to begin parenting in their hometown, surrounded by family and friends to help raise and train up their child in the way they should grow.
  • God did not wait for the politics to be peaceful and safe to show up for us.
  • God did not wait for penthouse hotel accommodations, God did not wait for a
  • God did not wait for a convenient, simple time, God delivers into the middle of the mess.

Where do we find things in a mess?

  • Poverty and Politics
  • Families and Freedoms
  • Drugs and Debts
  • Religion and Racism
  • Churches and Checkout lines

We find lives broken, messed up, tested and stretched everywhere!

  • Don’t be afraid, God is with us.
  • Didn’t stop the doubt
  • Didn’t stop the evil
  • Didn’t stop the humility and struggle of the birth
  • Didn’t promise to show up at midday at the palace rather now. A stable in the dark of night

God’s continues to deliver on promises for us..

  • God didn’t stop fear, nor doubt, no evil nor struggle nor darkness nor troubles, Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers on crying out where we suffer
  • God delivers on shining as an alternative in darkness
  • God delivers by calling those willing to Go, See and Tell to share Good News for a searching and hurting world.Christmas is about keeping close, continuing to reveal, share, tell
  • God delivers signs that inspire those who are wise. Those who see Jesus as a gift, are wise enough to reply with sharing the gifts that they have.

This is our model, our cue, our response:

  • God delivers God’s promises, God’s self, God’s strength, God’s light, God’s glory
  • God delivers Grace, Forgiveness, Hope, Love, Restoration of Trust,
  • And you and I are the recipients, the winners, the benefactors, the gifted. (Tell your neighbor, “You are Gifted”

God’s Back Bumper has a sticker that reads: “All my Children are Gifted”

Picture Holding God’s Hand: Why is it a comfort to hold you parents hand as a toddler, an embarrassment as a teen and, and a lost opportunity as an empty nest parent ourselves?

  • Remember a time you were trying something new, confronting someone difficult or when we are in a dark time of grief, illness or loss? What does it mean to have someone be preset with you? Maybe they are silent, but they bring their strength to yours.
  • When you and I were born, the very first thing we needed to do is breathe, to fill our lungs, not with with something parents provide but something God has made before any of us could breathe.
  • God breathed on the face of the earth and gave us breath to be present before we’re came to be delivered, God had already delivered just what we needed
  • Before we imagined, discovered and formed notions that we no longer needed a God, God delivered us with minds, emotions storage for Growth and maturity,
  • God ordered mathematics and physicist so that we can benefit from the, before we even understood how these constants work

Reclaiming Christmas is about reclaiming the comfort and joy that God is with us. God was before us and God will be with and for us long after these bodies wear thin.

A practical way of reclaiming Christmas is to become a vessel, an instrument, a channel, a highway or portal for God to keep shoeing the work that the promise to continue with us is still true.

This Advent season, we have shared how reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

reclaiming our Christmas Traditions if they help us proclaim Jesus Christ with us. We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We talked about that even a Christmas card can become the physical and spiritual manifestation of Christ connecting us.

We suggested making intentional lists that force us to connect the dots between what we know about Christ and how we share Christ in our lives.

Today, I add, that there is a final step. Making the delivery of Christ. We can sing about Jesus, Read about Jesus, Give and Recieve in Jesus, But there is a core thing that you and I are called to do: Go Postal! Be the one who brings Jesus to the doorstep. That offers the gift and places Christ in the hands of the

Be one who leaves no doubt that all that we do in the name of Christmas is to deliver Christ joy, comfort, hope, forgiveness, trust, love, power, grace, truth, praise to a world filled with sorrow, struggle, doubt, revenge, separation, hate, weakness, guilt, lies and silence. That’s what God has done for us; we who have been delivered are called to share the deliverance. This is the work of Christmas.

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Luke 1:46b-55 ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus 20161211 Advent3

advent_3My 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]

Christmas is on Sunday

“I hate it when… or “I love it when… Christmas falls on a Sunday. Either way: Christmas is always a sabbath day. A day of worship.

Christmas for us looks back and looks forward.

Looking back we retell the story of birth, incarnation, hope, peace, love and joy.

Looking forward we hear the prophet foretell of who God will work as seen through the life of Mary.

Have you ever looked at the similarities of Mary’s faithful “favor” reflects God’s work through us in Christ?

  • holy is his name. (King of Kings, Lord or Lords, Prince of Peace, Mighty One, the Christ!)
  • mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation, (Grace and Trust go hand in hand)
  • shown strength with his arm; (Incarnational, personally and physically working alongside)
  • scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. (
  • brought down the powerful from their thrones,
  • lifted up the lowly; (Children come to me, women at the well, hemorrhage, demoniac
  • filled the hungry with good things, (feeding the 5000)
  • sent the rich away empty. (Rich Young Ruler)
  • helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, forever (Connection to the covenant with Abraham, eternal)

All these things that God finds favor with Mary’s faith and remembering of God at work through God’s People, tell the Jesus story before he was born.

Christmas is reclaimed in the present

Not I didn’t say in the presences, not necessarily, but Christ is reclaimed in the current moment, right in what we are dealing with, here and now.

In this third week of preparing for Christmas, we work to reclaim Christmas by looking at our own lives:

Making the list of God’s faithfulness in my life and how the faithful has shaped God’s work in me

Mark breaks out singing praise to God when she is told of  God calling entrusting her to serve as mother to Jesus.

It is a whopper of task for sure.

Me the Magnificant? No not me?

What is God calling me to do? to be? to say? to stand for? to witness to a struggling world.

So far was have talked about reminding each other that Christmas is Jesus’s birthday and the gifts are his.

Secondly, we talk about the simple act of sharing a card can begin or continue a conversation of love and faith.

Today, it time to add the list.

Advent is the season of lists.

If you keep them in your head, on paper or in some digital form, the lists are important. (From best to worst list)

  • The Santa List
  • The gift list
  • The cooking list
  • The party and company list
  • The decoration list
  • The clean up the house list

The things we do in response to the special day, the day of the Lord.

Look back at Mary’s list

 

  • How can I share God’s Glory this Christmas (God’s greatness.. God is so great..
  • How might God bring peace and home to my fears? ( Start acknowledging our fears then match of God’s mercy and grace, connect dots.
  • How will I offer my hands/feet/body to be used to reveal Christ? (Feeding, Serving, Gifting, Friending
  • Share what holds our heart captive from loving and forgiving. (Go out forgive and love someone difficult.
  • Power and Pride
  • Teach a child God’s in-the-flesh, incarnation story, Share your story with a stranger or elder or sojourner
  • Feed someone, letting them you are eating together as sharing of Christ.
  • Give a gift that is extravagantly valuable yet cost not money. Forgive, Bless, Teach, Empower, Relent your control!
  • Most importantly, name how your Christmas traditions connect you to God and God’s people through your generations, what do you want the next generation to learn from you about Jesus.

Personalize the Mary List

Of all the things we do to prepare for Christmas, Tackling the Mary List is the best way to reclaim and rekindle Christmas.

Mary has nine things on her list: We would rather have one thing, maybe three or four. But nine sounds like too many to squeeze in with all we have planned.

Three part list: God’s part, Our Part, Connecting the Dots.

That is the point.

  • God Part
    • Praise God
    • Trust God
    • Serve God
    • Confession to God
    • Let go and Rest in God
  • Our Part
    • Share the story
    • Live the faith
  • Key Part
    • Connect the dots.

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Matthew 24:36-44 The Unexpected Gifts

“Reclaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

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

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

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

Q: What is there to reclaim?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The second part of answering why we celebrate Christmas is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Give them the unexpected Link to Christ this Christmas.

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2016 Advent: 4 weeks Prep 4 Christmas

Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS

“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts

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

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

ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards

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

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

ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus

Why Care About the Reasons for the Season

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]

Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery

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

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

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1 Corinthians 13:1-13 Reset: The Power of Love 20160131 RSUMC

Heart_MerryChristmas

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [NRSV]

Do I love that dress?

In a world, where we love mashed potatoes, love our sports teams and love or hate the weather, it is important to spend a moment being clear about love.

This past Christmas Eve, I ran a few errands and saw three stores putting out Valentine season products on the shelf. At first, I was frustrated that we had not officially started Christmas and retailers had moved to the next money grab. But if we stop and think what Christmas is about, God loving us so much that our heavenly father sends his only child to bridge the gap of love that we cannot build nor complete. Maybe a giant heart-shaped box of delicious treasures is better Christmas gift.

Love:  Nothing Gained

ELOQUENT SPEECH: Genuine Love needs no response. That’s hard.

  • If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

CHARISMATIC VISION: Genuine Love sees through a show.

  • If I have prophetic powers,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

INSIGHTFUL COMPREHENSION: Genuine Love is not calculated.

  • If I understand all mysteries
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

MULTIPLE DEGREES IN MULTIPLE DISCIPLINES: Genuine Love has nothing to prove.

  • If I had all knowledge,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

UNWAVERING TRUST and BELIEF: Genuine Love is the core of faith.

  • If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
    • but do not have love,
      • I am nothing.

EXTRAVAGANT SELFLESSNESS: Genuine Love is Forgetful of the score.

  • If I give away all my possessions,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

SACRIFICIAL OFFERING: Genuine Love cannot be faked.

  • If I hand over my body so that I may boast,
    • but do not have love,
      • I gain nothing.

IF, THEN STATEMENTS

  1. Conditional statements about unconditional, foundational core of relationships.
  2. SuperMan/SuperWoman are meaningless without love. Right Action, Wrong Purpose
  3. Love is God’s meaning, purpose, and energy, what we have to gain. Love is God’s power plant
  4. BOTTOM LINE: Without Love all in life is meaningless. Scientific Method can never love. Science is accurate in measuring how, but not why. Love is why. The universe is not so big to make us feel special; it is to show how incredible God is.

The Object of Love NOT loves itself.

LOVE is sacrificial, selfless, extravagant, unwavering, trusting, knowing, insightful, visionary, and charismatic, but the reverse does not necessarily describe love.

The test if Love is love or something else: Does my love stop if Love is not returned?

  • You can take one for the team and not love the team at all.
  • You can act selflessly, seeking approval for your random act of kindness.
  • Your extravagance can become enabling. 
  • You can be “committed” and support something evil
  • You can trust wealth, fame, opinion polls or deeply held principles, but these are based on us, and we inconsistent, fragile and often wrong.
  • You can know many facts but not know how to use information
  • You can misguide judgement selfishly
  • Your visionary work can be selfishly motivated
  • Your charisma or charm can fool people
  • The Object of God’s Love is you. Hear the Good News.. 
    • God’s love is not if, then. God’s love is. God may not like our behavior,
    • God forever loves us.

IS / IS NOT

  • Love is patient; tolerant of us and intolerant of our manipulations
  • Love is kind;      when is the last time we were snippy, rude or down right mean
  • love is not envious;     I want vs. God wants
  • love is not boastful     I’m right, you are wrong
  • love is not arrogant    I know better than you
  • Love is not rude.           Thoughtless or intentionally vindictive
  • Love is not insistent     My way or no way.
  • Love is not irritable      How can I get attention
  • love is not resentful     How come I’m not getting attention
  • love cannot rejoice in wrongdoing,     I told you so
  • love rejoices in the truth.  Admit I am wrong, especially when they are wrong too.
  • (sometimes being truthful is not popular or pleasing)
  • Love endure and hold up through all things,   vs. I will give you one more chance, or no more chances
  • Love believes through all things;     You crossed my line, your out.
  • Love remains hopeful through all things,    We can’t do it, That’s impossible.
  • Love lasts longer than anything else.           I give up

If we are honest, our conversations and actions reveal, while we know what loving is, we are not always loving when it get self-less.

Timeless

  • Love never ends.
  • Prophecies end
  • language ends
  • knowledge ends
  • wealth ends
  • Love never ends.

The Best is Yet to Come

For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.

We learn to love as children, and it is to mature and grow.

  1. Speaking.. saying I love you.
  2. Thinking— Thinking about
  3. Reasoning   Justifying Love

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

  • Adult love, mature love, doesn’t have, to say it. We are not there yet..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to plan it and think it through, it is automatic. We calculate..
  • Adult love, doesn’t have to have everything neat. We try to fix, cover up or manage love.
  • When we move toward God’s love, we loose ourselves and more fully enter the heart of God.

For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Love is a work in progress.. try letting your guard down and God through.

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Twas the “Real” Night Before Christmas

ROOMintheSTABLE.jpg

When all through the town,
Folks were snuggled comfy and sound.
All my night guests had checked in,
And I was exhausted and tucked in my kin,
When out at the door the I heard a swift rap,
of the door knocker knocking interrupting my nap.

I sprang up from my cot to see what was the issue,
Couldn’t they read. “NO VACANCIES! We’ll miss you.”
But my old grandpa’s business voice, said clear as day,
“There’s still some money to be made, and bills to be pay.”

So I thought about the stable stalls out back,
I knew there was fresh straw, out with the tack.
“Meet me in the back yard,” I told the young couple,
His wife was expecting; it looked like a double.

The sky was dark but for an enormous new star,
That lit up the night from so very far.

There among cows, donkeys and sheep,
I offered them the last place to sleep.
It was so late; they were wearier than I,
So I left them to rest, until morning came by.

As much as I hoped that would be all for the night,
after a few hours later, the yard was a sight.
Shepherds and sheep had come straight to the stable,
Some were young while others, barely able.

But all reported hundreds of angels in the air,
Singing the world’s savior is born, “Have no dispair.”
Have no fear they proclaimed,
Peace on Earth was their refrain.

It was odd how they left their posts in the night,
They risked losing their jobs, to report on their sight.
I walked out the back and up to the rail,
I saw the young beaming mother, the father quite pale.

But there shown a warm aura of light in the barn
I half-worried about fire and sounding the alarm,
But the numinous, radiant, wonder I saw,
was a life changing scene that filled me with awe.

My Lord and My God was born on that night.
To love and to save and to give us all life.
I went to my front door and pulled down the sign,
I’m glad I made room for my Savior, divine.

As keeper of strangers and travelers and folks,
Mine is the task of lifting the yoke.
I hope that you will find Christ in your way,
to make room for Jesus, who lives still today.

A “Real” Merry Christmas,  Jesus is born,
Afresh and anew in your heart, sound your horn. Merry CHRISTmas to all! 

JTB with inspiration from the meter of CC Moore

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Luke 1.39-55 “Fruit of the Womb” 20151210 RSUMC

FruitofWomb
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “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.” [NRSV]

Thirty years ago a preacher was called into the District Supervisors office to be reprimanded for saying that a woman was “pregnant” when in fact, she was actually “expecting with child.” It is amazing how the power of words touch our sensitivities and expressions about the world and time in which we live.

If only folks would focus on the Good News and get as excited and motivated to action and response when they heard the Christmas story. This encounter with Mary and her Aunt Elizabeth helps us recapture some the power and presence of God’s word.

Our first look at the text, as an overview, Mary, who is now “with child” as an unwed mother goes for an extended visit to her aunt’s house.

The CDC National Vital Statisti#285869B report that the number of unwed mothers was at 29% in 1980 and up to 44% in 2013, the a high water make of 51% in 2008 prior to the economic turn. Millennial women, those ages 26-31, have a current rate of 57% of children being born out of marriage, and 74% of those without a college degree had children outside of marriage, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Read-Online.pdf.webloc. The 2014 report from childtrends.com Read-Online.pdf.webloc, report that of all the births to mothers who are 15-19, 88% were not married, and 65% of women who had babies last year where 20-25 were not married. The church has already lost the corner on the marriage market long before the Supreme Court expanded its definition of marriage.

All these statistics help us think about Mary and Joseph and the community’s response to marriage and childbirth. In a current time when our youngest mothers might even take their children to school or have the child’s grandparent raise the baby. Mary is more old school and goes to visit her Aunt for a while.

Our second look at the text, we see Elizabeth providing a safe-haven for Mary and her baby. She does not great her with judgment nor shame. Elizabeth’s focus is on the children, both her own and Mary’s.

Look back at the statistics of all the years and all the age groups and periods of time. How many unwed-expectant mothers have been told by God that their child is to be the Messiah and the child ends up being born and becoming the messiah? There is but one.

It is interesting that Mary’s hurried trip to the hills to see her aunt is first a response to that she could not explain in a way that the community and family could accept or understand. Even with Joseph’s willingness to take responsibility and Mary’s skipping town reveal that we live in a time when marriage less of a covenant of love, trust, and faith and an event, a tax deduction and a perceived hindrance to self fulfillment.

The Loop hole: They were engaged, betrothed, technically committed, covered? Surely it is more than this.

The Messiah and Savior of us all is born in a relation of broken-ness and twisting of the laws to suit our world view and personal experience. The balance of how we make sense of the world is our of order.

John Wesley taught us to ready and study scripture as a part of experiencing Jesus as the Word: spoken, alive and forever present for our benefit. We study, read and sing scripture as one of the ways we practice our faith.

But how we understand the Word is gathered through (3) three lenses/filters.

  1. We read and interpret the Word from our own experience in the world, our personal context as a spiritual being in a physical world.
  2. We read and hear how other faithful followers have experienced the Word in the past and learn from their trial and errors as well as their faithfulness.
  3. We also measure the world through the context of the world around us using our God given gifts of reason and part of us that reflects God’s image in our lives.

Therefore we lean about marriage by

  1. Asking and listening to those in the faith have been married successfully for generations.
  2. We ask God to reveal directly through our own experience of relationship and marriage.
  3. We learn from the minds and psyche God has given to each of us.

If we only value one or value one more than another, we skew God’s perspective in exchange for our own.

Time OUT! What does all this have to do with Christmas and Baby Jesus?

The greatest news that God loves the world that he wants to:

  • Move in with us
  • Show and teach us how to live and disciples others
  • Come to give himself for our selfishness, pride, greed, and all matters of sin.

Can we hear this message in the conversation and visit to Aunt Elizabeth’s House?

Despite the perceptions that Joseph and Mary were out of bounds with marriage.

Not married, Difference of Ages, spiritual maturity, Expectations from family and society

(1) Elizabeth is filled with Joy, when the sound of Mary’s voice enters her house.

..When the angels show up to tell the shepherds, Be not afraid, be filled with, JOY.

Mary comes, for a time to move in with Elizabeth.

(2)Elizabeth hears the news and affirms, ‘my Lord has come to me.

..Jesus says to disciples, Come to me all you who labor and heavy laden.

Mary is welcomed into the heart and home, because of joy AND for fulfillment of the WORD/ promise, salvation.

(3) Elizabeth, as a person of the Word/Scriptures acknowledges our Savior is here/now.

..Jesus explains to those on the road to Emmaus all the scriptures how the prophesies and teaches have all paved the way.

She teaches and encourages the fearful that God’s plans are unfolded, dependable and available.

 

In less than two minutes, Elizabeth speaks and models the work of Christ in the world.

 

JOY, I share:

Her own child rejoices within her, and she communicated the JOY by telling it.

MY HOME, Go is present in our real lives, NOW.

The Joy has come into our house, into our hearts, into our crazy brokenness

The Promises are worthy of Trust

All the Words and promises are fulfilling in Jesus.

 

So Elizabeth teaches some radical hospitality in welcoming Mary:

She Passionately shares her worship

She Intentionally shares her faith with encouragement

She Takes the Risk of welcoming the expectant Mary

She celebrates the Extravagant Generosity of God’s preparing us for this moment.

 

So Elizabeth gives us the homework assignment for Christmas prep and it takes two minutes.

 

STEP 1. Listen for Joy in the midst of Bad News

STEP 2. Claim that moment as time for God to be real in your life/experience

STEP 3. Place the current moment of Faith Sharing in the context of scripture.

 

This becomes a blessing for Elizabeth, Mary and God

Christmas is not about the gifts; it is about the giving.

It is not about preparing for the future, its about living in God presently.

It is about opening our hearts and homes to disciples others in their weakness and fear.

 

This is when Christ shows us as CHRIST-MASS.. Start today!

 

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Luke 21:25-36 Watchfulness 20151129 Advent1 RSUMC

 

Wedding Preps are more than wedding day events“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 does not 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]

 

CAUTION: The Yellow Flag, the Caution triangle, the surgeon general’s official warning.

Key Verse: Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.

  • Be Alert.
  • Pray for strength
  • Be ready to stand before the Son of Man

Advent: Be Alert. The core purpose of the liturgical season of Advent is to make time and make ready our lives for Christ.

It has little to do with #redcups from #starbucks or store’s commercializing the season without the faith-based reason. It ultimately is study time before the test. It is practice driving before getting your drivers’ license. It is the work that leads up to the #retirement time we live the life unencumbered by work. (ideally)

I invite you to join in a series of mini marathons to prepare us for the full #26.2 mile race. I am not a runner at this point in my life. I learned from my DNA research that my people only have a 3% of becoming sprinters. I am certainly in the right family. But I do know that if I was going to self-propel my body in any fashion for 26.2 miles. I am not ready for the race today.

The first word of preparing in our text today is ‘Alert.’

Alertness is a willful, intentional, state of readiness to be either proactive and/or reactive to the situation and circumstances around us.

The rampant increase of acts of terror have raised our alertness to evil in the world. Paris, Mali, Chattanooga and even in our experience. We are cautioned to prepare one another to be watchful. If something is wrong or out of place, then report it, follow up on it and take the information as credible until it is disproved.

This way of daily life is stressful, and it carries the risk of being so cautious that we withdraw or cause injury to ourselves and others. The text affirms that we live in risky times. So learning how to be alert that is appropriate to the level of risk is what our insurance companies help us figure out.

Based on our experience of driving, they determine the degree of risk to cover inevitable accidents and losses we will experience. Every insurance representative would work with drivers, renters and home owners to take proactive precautions to prevent poor impact upon policy payments.

For our spiritual journey and spiritual home, we prepare in similar styles. Be preventive and proactive.

Luke and I have agreed to encourage each other in goal of loosing the same amount of weight. He is loosing muscle, I’m loosing fat. If we wait start until the end of April to meet our goals. We will surely fail.

We both agreed, let ‘s start after Christmas. With all the dinners and parties and festivities. It would be better to start when we were less tempted. But we are fooling ourselves.

Remember Jesus ministry was challenged by temptation before he told the first parable or healed the first person. We get busy in the temptation, because the nature of letting our attention and guard down opens the flood gate for failure and disappointment.

Advent. 1.a, Step one, be alert by study, fellowship, singing, exercise restraint from the thing we KNOW are not helpful. Be attentive to the building up of our spiritual self. Make our spirit the priority of each day. Not at the expense of all else, rather the priority of the day.

Advent. 1.b, Step two, pray for strength.

Wow, Jesus knows the disciples are going to find their weak points in a hurry. Not only will we get lazy and justify our physical demands replace our spiritual demands, but we will grow weary, quickly.

The preventative training is to pray.  Pick a time and work to make it your prayer time. Read the prayers of others, start with the prayers of your childhood, sit in silence as ask God to hold your thoughts and worries and simply rest in the arms of God. But start praying with the regularity with which we do important physical things. When you eat, prayer. When you rest in the room of rest, pray. When you get in the car, prayer. When you arrive at school or work or your destination, pray for what you will face. Start talking and listening to God. Listen to spiritual music, read spiritual writers, discuss spiritual topics with a desire to inform and learn rather than force others to agree. All these are forms of prayer as we offer our speaking and listening to God.

 

Advent 1.c, Step three, Be ready to stand before the Son of Man.

Keep the goal in mind. Not only be awake and proactively growing your spirit. (2016: Have every member of RSUMC involved in some spiritual growth group. 3-300, sized) Not only be talking and listening to God, encourage one another to keep the goal in mind.

Our lives our gifts of God, entrusted to us to build a relationship with God through the grace of Jesus Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of the Church. When we finally have lived our life, and we stand before God. Can we say, “I want to be with you.”

It sounds crazy in a way. It seems if anyone had a chance to stand before God and say I love you our I hate you. I know you or I never really knew you. If there was sliver of opening, we would want to go with God. But the truth is that not everyone believes this to be true, or has another way of fulfillment and meaning. Some folks with stand before Christ our judge and is not interested in our excuses or laziness or business or intentions.

The text’s second warning is that difficult, terrible, and oppressive things are to come in this world: Things we will want to escape.

Be alert, be preparing, be strong , be encouraging… but do all this for what?

Jesus has come into the flesh to show and open a relationship with God. Think of your best friend. How often would you want to share

  • a meal?
  • an adventure?
  • a comment about the news or a movie?
  • or build a memory or retell an old one?
  • working through your struggles?

These are the journey points of a relationship with God. It is not just saying we are friends, it is showing it with the life, time and stuff that makes up our being.

Finally, we in a time of preparation, aimed for more than a day.

Like so many #wedding have months of planning and preparation lead toward a day, but should always be for more than that day: “That Day” may be the wedding, but it is the marriage that begins. Christmas is the season for which prepare. This is our first journey

Action Plan:

  • How am I going to keep alert my spiritual self and relationship
  • How am I going to talk and listen to God and God’s people
  • How am I going to become strong enough to finish the race.

 

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John 1.1-16 The Word Moved In With Us RSUMC 20150104

movingin

Merry Christmas: Jesus Moved In With Us!

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.  But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ “) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. [NRSV]

Christmas: A Moving Story

Have you ever stopped to think about the Christmas storying has a great deal of movement.

The angel appears to Mary announcing the coming birth and she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth.

Joseph hears about the baby and moves into action trying to fix the problem.

The government is more interested in numbers and taxes than the comfort a mother-to-be or the situation of  a new family and calls for Jesus to be born away from home in a place where people have parked their traveling animals.

The angels tell the Good News to shepherds in the field and calls them to go, leave work and job behind and visit the family.

God moves the heavens to reveal a sign for those looking for inspiration and moves the wisemen into action for a long, long journey.

As soon as Herod hears God’s Good News he is filled with fear and the family is on the run to Egypt.

The Christmas story is a moving story..

  • It is an Action film where God is moving through history, present and future to remodel the lamp that was broken and patched so many times from careless play and intentional deception.
  • You know the lamp or vase or treasure on a shelf that get’s knocked off, first by chance from playing where you knew you were not suppose to play in the first place and the consequences are the treasure gets broken.
  • You try and glue the pieces together but it’s not right, it’s not whole.
  • When the parents find the broken crack, now apparent with dried glue where there should be no glue at all. I don’t know who did it? It wasn’t my fault. It was her fault. She did it.
  • Punishment follows and yet on the next occasion to play the treasure is broken again and the fragments are more difficult to find and there ends up being more glue than parts and paint is added to cover the brokenness and..
  • over time the treasure pass through generations and the brokenness pass as well the treasure is mostly glue and paint. and in comes the Christmas story.
  • Jesus, the baby born comes to take the blame for what was broken then, what is broken now and what will be broken until the end of time.
  • Jesus moves in, to take on what has separated us from truth and wholeness and becomes the brokenness that we might be whole and true.

This is what makes the Christmas story moving.. Jesus moves in, and becomes the broken gap that makes us new.

Christmas is a moving story..

One of the reasons that United Methodist clergy move so frequently originated in a setting where the church was growing so fast that there were more congregations than preachers to preach, teach and administer churches. The circumstances has out grown that movement. [While I am grateful that system has lead me to RSUMC!!] The role in many churches is the clergy and lay leaders are overwhelmed with the task of maintaining and preserving the past as a way of appreciating donors and keeping dreams of the past alive. That is not very moving.. to live in memorial.

Christmas is Moving Story..

Because it celebrates that Jesus has moved in with us. His spirit remains with us. His body, the church, lives as a perpetual witness that the story continues. Moving through history continuing to tell that God’s love and grace are for us and not just shepherds and wisemen back then. If Christmas is only a memorial of what happened in Bethlehem it would have faded over time and some other tradition of some mythical gift-giving elf turned reindeer herder and resident of the North Pole might become more celebrated… {Oh, that’s confusing, is he talking about this is a good thing or a bad thing?} I’m just say, crazier things have happened.

Christmas is a Moving Story because it’s power travel through time

The celebration of Christmas has two more days to go in the 12 days of the season. Don’t pack up all the decoration just yet.

Jesus has come to our house and moved in with us.

I would make a case that it would be fun to have a live tree in the house all year long to help us keep Christmas all year long.

We pack up the treasures for a future occasion when we just might need to leave them out.

The day my parents dropped off my younger brother at college they went and bought the nicest stereo equipment, television and car they could afford. The next time I went the their house my response was, “What’s Up with this stuff, now? Why didn’t we have this when we lived here?” They answered, “Because you lived here then.”

As I was going through my parents house to sell it this year I found this equipment well used and worn out. It fetched only a tiny fraction of its original price tag at the yard sale. It was no longer the same treasure, but it’s lesson remains with me beyond the physical items will be long past.

So it is with Christmas, it moves in and the decorations go out, but the power of Jesus grows beyond the physical person, beyond the sheep and manger, shepherd and frankincense. (More on that next Sunday when we start the season of discovery in Epiphany)

Today, while the season of Christmas draws close the power of Christmas moves into “THE REST OF THE STORY..

Allow Christmas to move you..

Not just to remember, but to shape your present.

Not just to keep traditional alive, but to prepare to find Jesus all year, each day.

Jesus moves into our living, not just our story books, because this is where we find the struggle with power of sin.

God has moved in with us because most of the days are not holidays, folks are not kind hearts and generous, sin is a real as ever and lamps and treasures and Christmas morning toys are already broken… Thankfully God is Good, all the time.

 

Ref Note: I give thanks to the title reference to the Cotton Patch Gospel of John talking about the incarnational gift of Christmas: Jesus Christ

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Advent 1 20141129 “Luke 21:25-36” Q: Is It Beginning to Look Like Advent? What is CHRISTmas suppose to look like?

OnGuard

“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:

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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.”

“On Guard!”

Luke records the preparation for these four weeks:

  1. Be Alert
  2. Pray for Strength
  3. Avoid the temptation to confuse the world’s promise and God’s promise.

Merry Christmas and Be Careful

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