Archive for category Christmas
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
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'” Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.” When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. [NRSV]
If you think about how much time we spend thinking about the perfect gifts to give, looking for the best deal, waiting in lines or for the deliveries to arrive, wrapping and transporting our gifts. There is a great deal of investment in every gift, no matter the monitory value of the gift itself.
Do you ever read about Mary and Joseph giving each other gifts? Did the shepherds draw names and play games to see who gets which gift? Do the Maji just find the best deal along the way or at the last moment?
Gift giving can hold many different meanings.
The obligatory gift is an oxymoron. Gifts ought be given of free will and love and not obligation. But if you don’t give someone a gift there is hell to pay in the not giving. Can you imaging only giving gifts to some of your family and not to all of them. What would be the message if you didn’t explain why.
- Did you run out of money or just didn’t want to spend your resources.
- “Its not the gift its the love or thought that counts” But how do you express your thoughts and love? Is it clear to the recipient?
- Did you run out of time, ideas, opportunity? Could you not make a home-made card from a used piece of paper that expressed your heart?
- “We can’t buy everyone something” My great-grandmother in her late nineties still bought a bar of soap for every member of her nearly 100 member extended family. “It is something I know you can use, so use it and think of me.”
- Did you get everyone something, or many somethings, but you gave them what you wanted them to have or to become?
- Gifts are a tradition: I bought my father Old-Spice Soap-on-a-rope for years just because he seemed to like them on Christmas morning. I was helping him carry some boxes to donate and found three soaps-on-a-rope from the past three years and I got the message.
Gift Giving Is a Tricky Business
What do we learn for the Wise men? Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Wealth, Extravagant Royal spa treatment and Glade Tomb-fresher
Gold has been a standard of exchange and value, beauty and tender for thousands of years. Frankincense comes for the roots of a small shrub that contains trace amounts of fragrant oil and was burning in the palaces of the king Herod daily and made as offerings to their gods without end. Myrrh, smells like dried prunes and was used in preparing a tomb.
- Gold is completely practical: A gift card.
- Frankincense: Extravagant Generosity, acknowledging Jesus as true King.
- Myrrh: A Preparing for Jesus’ death, even at his birth. Telling the whole story
- The Star-watching Travelers Journey: You have to leave home, journey in faith and uncertainty, and follow the signs you have.
Reframing our Gift Giving Practice
If you take a painting or photo and removed it from the frame and mat and exchange the boundaries, you will see the image in a new way with new meaning.
So go with the same gifts we have given: What if we connected why we give the gift with the hope we have for the gift.
“I gave you this tie, because I want you to look your best, feel confident and want you to think of our love when you wear it.”
Is that what you meant the gift to be? or did you just need something to go with a shirt.
“I gave you this game, because I want you to know joy and to share time at home playing with me. I want to spend more time being with you.”
Is that what you meant the gift to say? of did you just know they were hinting like crazy for that game.
“I gave you this vacuum cleaner because I am unimaginative but I do like a clean house and I want it to be easier on me to keep the floor and our home clean for you.”
Is that what you meant to gift to do? of did you just know the old one blew out and you needed a new one anyway.
Keep the Magi Model in mind:
Not just with Christmas gift, but all gives, seasonal, birthday and church gifts..
Practical AND Extravagant AND with a Purpose, Explained.
So Now You Tell Me..
So John, why didn’t you tell us this before Christmas. I don’t have a great answer but I will say: It is never to late to explain our gifts.
Don’t assume the message is conveyed that you hoped for the person. Tell them.
Finally. . be known as doing all three parts in your giving
Practical AND Extravagent AND with a Purpose, Explained.
Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.” When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazorean.” [NRSV]
Joseph and his dreams
- OT: It is Jacob’s son, Joseph who has visions and dreams where God is revealed to him even as a child.
- His dream that the shafts of wheat would bow down to him offended his brothers who sold him into slavery.
- While imprisoned, Joseph becomes known as one who interprets dreams as God’s messages. Later he is called on to explain Pharaoh’s dreams and describes how they will have abundant years followed by lean years. Pharaoh placed Joseph as is second-in-charge to prepare for the years of famine.
- During the drought, Joseph’s brothers journey to Egypt and to Joseph’s court asking for food to feed their family. After some testing, he reveals himself to his brothers that enslaved him who bow before him. His dream is revealed over the span of his life.
- NT: Now Mary’s husband, and Jesus’s foster parent, our Joseph from today’s text continues the experience of God speaking through dreams.
- God sends an angel to comfort and assure Joe when Mary becomes pregnant.
- God speaks in a dream warning Joseph to leave town and avoid Herod and his plot to kill the baby Jesus.
- God uses Joe’s dreams to direct him to live in Egypt. (Note the geography similarity to Jacob’s Joseph in Genesis.)
- God speaks in a dream to call Joseph to return to Israel and leave the far country to return home.
- God uses Joe’s dream to direct him away from Herod’s son and to live in Galilee region in the city of Nazareth.
Does Joseph Sleeps Alot?
- I don’t think he slept too much, but it seems that is the time that Joseph was most receptive of God’s word and direction.
- It is rare that God speaks through thundering clouds and a voice from heaven rubbles down.
- It is more common that God speaks through other people, through music, through art, and through creation itself.
- Not everyone pays attention during the sermon: ref. “Best Sleep I get all Week..”
- Not everyone enjoys singing or pays attention to the words.
- Not everyone is patient enough to listen after exhausting our list of petitions in prayer.
- Some folk are too busy at work, at school or even in their own homes.
Joseph is one of those who God found his attention when everything else was laid to rest.
Where and When is God Most Likely to Speak to You?
Just as we might hope and expect to find presents under a Christmas Tree, we hope and expect to find God when we are a church. Gathered with God’s people doing good and right service, witness and worship. But there are times that we are too preoccupied with something else even when we are in the “God Zone.”
The original intention of Sabbath as a day of rest was not simply to cease working. It is a vacation from our vocation. A clearing of the table that cluttered with junk and find the level foundation where we can begin afresh.
As we continue in this season of Christmas, carve out time to be silent, open and patient for God.
It might be easier now that most of the holiday festivities are behind us. Possibly now is a better time to find Christ born anew than at the reenactment of the nativity.
The shepherds took a bigger than broadway production to get their attention.
The wise men looked to distant star and calculations and a map.
Marry and Joseph had their sleep interrupted.
Have you ever had trouble falling asleep or going back to sleep after waking up?
It seems that is my every-night struggle.
Rather than fight it, take that time listen for God.
Prayer journaling, FB chatting (you’d be surprised who is up ready to pray with you), read the Psalms (That will put you to sleep for sure..lol) Just ask God to speak. Be quiet and listen.
No matter the time of day or night, we can sleep and work right through God’s message and guidance.
Out fears, worries, control, stubbornness and uncertainty can cloud our visions and keep us apart.
Turn the Christmas tree lights back on, light a candle (that you blow out before falling asleep), and pray for the Light of Word to Open your heart and mind.
Speak to us and give us ears to hear and hearts to trust and minds to believe.
Let us know what you hear from God.
Joseph did.. as we see how God protected, prepared, moved and shaped Joseph and his family throughout their lives. A pretty good example if you ask.
Merry Christmas.. See you next Sunday.. it will still be Christmas then too.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. [NRSV]
Jesus gave himself to save us and to do Good.
1. Grace Appeared.. in Jesus’ birth
2. Bringing Salvation.. to show and sacrifice
3. Training us to
a. renounce Worldly Passions
b. Live self-controlled, godly, upright lives
4. Wait with hope for the Manifestation of Jesus
Titus attempts to give us handles to grab hold of and to comprehend who Jesus is for us and the world.
I am so frustrated by friends and particularly clergy friends who are impassioned with political correctness and the feelings of those who don’t want to hear that Christmas is Christ’s birthday. Why does it matter?
Why Was Jesus Born?
Jesus was not born to bring us good feelings
Jesus was not born so we would all get along
Jesus was not born so promote Santa Shopping
Jesus was not born to keep him to ourselves
Jesus was not born for publicity
Jesus was not born to be only remembered,
Jesus was born for relationship
Jesus was born to save us from ourselves and sin
Jesus was born to love us even when divided
Jesus was born to share with the world
Jesus was born to live and teach us how to live
Christmas is celebrated when we remember
The angel’s message of hope in a fearful world
The gifts are for the Love of Christ and not to attempt to buy love or relationship
Take the Good News and apply it to our daily actions
I learned this year that the Original St Nicholas was instrumental in working on the foundations of faith through the Council of Nicene. He was known for getting into fisticuffs to defend his faith and beliefs and hold off heretics. Now that is an interesting image of Santa fighting for the church.
We tell the story of the Nativity again and again to remind us that the gift lives in us.
If we let the world tell what Christ is upto it becomes clouded with cartoons, gifts, and the weakest failures where the church makes the news.
Be responsible for giving birth to the Nativity story of Christ alive in you this night, this month, and all this next year.
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?
1:39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” [NRSV} (46-55) 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
The Family Connection Mary receives some incredible news concerning her life and faith.
1. God is pleased with her faith and willingness to be part of the grand work.
2. Mary become pregnant as a unwed, teenage
3. Mary is almost cast out by her fiancée and family Her response is to go visit the one person in her extended family who would welcome her with unconditional love and patience.
This is the first and greatest gift of Christmas.
If there is one person you can love and entrust yourself with without limit or condition, you can experience the power of Christ and Christmas every day. Period.
If you have that person you can turn to that may not give you everything you want but will love and listen and welcome you no matter what mess you may find, then you have THE treasure of God’s love.
If you don’t, the best way to find this love is to show this kind of love.
Mary, in her confusion, excitement, fear and celebration runs to aunt Elizabeth’s house.
In the Family Way
Mary travels to the home of Uncle Zachariah, who is mute until the birth of his son, John, who would become the baptizer of many and the messenger of the Lord calling for repentance and the preparing of our hearts of the coming of God’s own. He is unable to speak because he talked too much about what he did not know.
Do you know someone like that? They are the expert on the ball game, the shopping deals or the politics and they don’t know when to stop talking and just listen.
Sometimes our Christmas gifts are what we need and not what we want. This economy and it’s strain upon our incomes and lives should be a wake up call to our materialism. We don’t need nearly as much as the commercials and advertisements tell us what we need.
Sometimes not having what we want is thrust upon us. Just as Zach could not speak, he could spend more time hearing. If we spent the resources and time of Christmas shopping on worshiping and serving Christ, we might begin to appreciate what Zack learns through his time out… God’s family is larger than he ever dreamed and God could do much more wonderful and miraculous than Zachariah could imagine.
Is there someone you could give the gift of silence to this year?
They could open up a box of quiet that took a whole day or weekend to experience.
Is there someone you could give the gift of boldness to this year?
Someone who is always quiet and in the background and they could speak freely and with all confidence.
What if these two gifts were exchanged in our homes and families?
Parent’s listened to children and children listened to parents? What is the Parents would be strong and the children child-like. What if the boss would serve and the servant take the responsibility of leading.
Shepherd hearing the first words of the King of kings? That kind of insider news would be for the inner circle and the privileged? Wise men of other cultures and traditions being shown a guiding star follow what the learned scholars and teachers had studies for a millennium?
What is the news You need to hear? What are the signs you need to pay attention to see and follow. Who are the families that need to hear the Good News and see it in acted and lived out right now?
Christmas is about the Larger Family too
Through out most every Christmas movie and show this pre-Christmas season talks about Christmas being for the children and for the family. We need to do a little bit of correction:
This pre-season of Christmas is a time for families and children to be making ready for Jesus Christ. If Santa Claus can be a helpful figure to show us selfless giving and generosity to a world that has a need for joy, then that bring all the help that Santa can bring.
Mary visit’s her aunt and when she walks in the door of the house, Elizabeth’s child becomes excited. The sign that what is going on in one person’s life is connected to each other’s live. Mary had her own agenda for visiting her aunt and uncle. God had another. Zack had other dreams and plans, and so did Elizabeth about having a child in her retirement years. Bottom line: God is at work through us all.
Continuing to do the impossible even now: Giving us messengers of hope, promise and accountability. You and I are in this story, in our hearing the words and gathering to worship today.
Where will we go with the Good News today?
What will be say God can or cannot do this year?
What will be brought to life when you say yes to God’s call in your life?
What will be shut off and not possible, when you doubt, refuse or not follow?? That is the dangerous Question…
Merry CRISTmas and Happy HOLYdays to you.
Luke 12:49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? 57 “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? 58 Thus, when you go with your accuser before a magistrate, on the way make an effort to settle the case, or you may be dragged before the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison. 59 I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny.”
Matthew 16:1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, “It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’3 And in the morning, “It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away. 5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”7 They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.” 8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9 Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. [NRSV]
Matthew 24 1 As Jesus came out of the temple and was going away, his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 Then he asked them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” 3 When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” 4 Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, “I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. 9 “Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see the desolating sacrilege standing in the holy place, as was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader understand), 16 then those in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17 the one on the housetop must not go down to take what is in the house; 18 the one in the field must not turn back to get a coat. 19 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a sabbath. 21 For at that time there will be great suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, “Look! Here is the Messiah!’ or “There he is!’—do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and omens, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Take note, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, “Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, “Look! He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven’ with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. 32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 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. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed,’ 49and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51 He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [NRSV]
1000 years is figure of speech that draws on Old Testament imagery of a really long time. It is not a literal 1000 years. If it were literal then we would have to interpret that 1000 years through God’s understanding of time as a day is 1000 years then Christ’s return would have been in a day or 6000 years later as Bishop Hippolytus of Rome explained in the first century.
The theology of millennialism draws on eight verses from one chapter of one book is not a balanced nor full use of scripture.
Look at Jesus own words in Luke and Matthew:
Signs are good, important and essential to watch for in our understanding of God’s work in the world.
Luke 12.54 “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?
Signs can have multiple meanings. It is through time that we signs bear out the truth but the evidence that follows. You see storm clouds and then it rains.. the dark clouds as a sign of the thunder and flood to follow.
What are the signs of the present time? We are in the midst of war. Nations are threatening to escalate to global war. The Muslim faith is rapidly out numbering the Christian faith around the world.
Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, drought, disease, cancers, poverty, political hysteria, melting glaciers, desire to be served rather than to work, jealousy, prejudice, fears, and somebody stop me..
When you see these things ask yourself this: “Is this what heaven is like? Are these signs of God’s kingdom and reign? Is this what God wants for us?” I say, NO!
These are the signs of the present age. These are the signs of the world we living in. We are called to seek God’s kingdom where we see glimpses of God’s grace at work.
There was a pasty, proud preacher who claim to have prayed a hurricane past his church and university without compassion on the neighbors who experienced the full brunt of the storm. Not signs of God’s work.
Why is this 1000 year reign of Christ thing important to so many folks?
A: At times, we have a desire to know what God has said is not for us to know. We want to know what is in our Christmas presents before we open them… Every child snoops, shakes or peeks to find out what is in the wrapped package. Our quest to know about the end of time, God’s divine plans, and Chirst’s return
(In all honesty, trying to pinpoint at time and moment that Christ has said he did not even know boarders on blasphemy and is easily as waste of time)
But that does not stop us from trying to make sense out of senseless events in the world.
For example, we need only look to the tragedy in CT at the elementary school. Are the twisted and vengeful actions of a son against his mother and her class signs of God at work in the world? NO!!
It is a wake up for those who know God’s power and love to take on a hurting and twisted world. Who is going to tell people like this shooter about the love, power and grace of Jesus Christ. (We could say, he doesn’t live in Jackson so it’s not our responsibility, but somebody didn’t teach him another way to deal with his rage and anger.) If you and I don’t reach out to a hurting world, who will?
We have gathered together for worship on the last Sunday before the end of the Mayan Calendar ending on the 21st. What are we doing to prepare for the coming of the end?
It is rather easy to dismiss the warning of a pre-determined time, based on Matthew 24:36, “About the time and hour, no one knows..”
And yet we have to look to Jesus’ warning to pay attention to the signs, if we see wars, famine, lying leaders and natural disasters do we say, “business as usual” mind the gap and continue on as you were?
What is the wise magi in the East had not been looking in the heavens and studying the charts and signs in the heaven? Would they have known other wise to go to Bethlehem with great treasures to celebrate the birth of our spiritual king?
If they had not paid attention to signs in the night sky, we might never have the tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas. Oh my, what a shame.
If the shepherd had not listened to the super-natural experience of heavenly voices they may not have gone to see the baby lying in the manger.
The Christmas story is filled with signs. If we ignore the signs we learn nothing. If the doctor says watch your blood pressure, it is a sign of what is going on in our heart and vascular system. If we are watching the check engine light burn day after day and never have it checked out, then we wonder why our car stopped on the side of the road with out warning.
Watch for the signs, see what they prove in them selves. If it floods where you live, MOVE!
If your life seems short, make the most of it. If you days are long and all ahead of you, plan for a long future of LIVING.
As for the 1000 years.. don’t worry if Christ is coming on the 21st of this month or not until the 22nd century… worry about Christ coming into your heart right this minute.
Be focused on telling, teaching and planting the love, power and grace of Jesus Christ in the lives and hearts of those around you. You see the signs: so make a difference through Christ, today.
Christmas is God’s promise to be present with us… now and 1000 years and for eternity. Don’t get hung-up in ‘the’ day, live this one as if it were.
If Christ were coming this week and a 1000 years would follow of peace would you want to make certain you were right with God and if doing that mean you were in right relationship with your family, community and world… would you ignore signs? I hope not.
$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.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 25 Beloved, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NRSV
Top 5 Authors for Christmas Sales:
• Michael Connelly
• Stephen King
• Janet Evanovich
• John Grisham
• James Patterson
Top Ten Christmas Movies List: (Based on Sales)
• It’s A Wonderful Life
• Miracle on 34th Street
• Scrooge (Musical Version)
• A Charlie Brown Christmas
• How The Grinch Stole Christmas
• A Christmas Story
• The Santa Clause
• The Santa Clause 2
• Jingle All the Way
• Home Alone
6. Digital Camera
1. bakugan monster figure and trading cards
2. nerd blaster gun
3. crayola ‘glow’ products
4. lego theme sets
5. remote control helicopter
Strange Gifts List
• interactive t-shir with drums, guitar, keyboard, personal sound track
• large nose shampoo dispenser for the shower
• lunar real estate
ASKMEN: top romantic gifts?
• 1 jewelry, or a blank check to pick out jewelry
• 2 get away trip
• 3 scrap book items
• 4 vintage items
• 5 show tickets
• 6 engraved iphone, itouch ipod
• 7 a hand written letter
• 8 unmentionables
• 9 cashmere sweater
• 10 chocolate of the month
Top 10 Ways to have a Healthier Christmas
• Don’t sit down all day: Move more than you sit and sleep.
• Go easy on the drinks: More water less sodium and alcohol
• Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories at each Christmas dinner or party. smaller portions and more frequent meals. Stop eating and drinking by 8pm.
• Keep colds at bay: Wash hands, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoid smoking will help)
• Don’t stress: Easy to say, but worth letting judging words, over-booked time and spending excess go
• Eat fruit: 5 fresh fruits a day.
• Do something for others: Cook for a neighbor, visit a neighbor, volunteer to service, sing or take someone shopping or to the doctor.
• Think before you eat: Eat what you truly want not simply because it is available, celebrate don’t vegetate (stress eating)
• Engage your brain: Turn off the TV – Try real conversations
• Be a careful cook: Use gadgets, knives and devices with care, through out questionable dated/stored foods
Paul Shares a completely different type of list for those who are waiting for Christ:
• Rejoice…always: look for joy at all times…
• Pray…continually: don’t stop
• Be Thankful: be appreciative
• Keep the Spirit alive and at center, don’t cut each other down
• Listen to those who warn, teach and advise you, be prophetic
• Test daily, get on the scales, compare how you are doing each day
• Hold on to the good, let go and learn from the good examples
• Avoid evil, Stay clear of what you can avoid.
• Live right, and without seeking blaming til Christ comes…
• Share this list with everyone (Amazon Wish List, family tires of my crazy updates..)
• Greet with a holy kiss….
This is our Christmas List, the one that brings us our true WISH list:
- Put this list in front of you throughout the day…
- Check these things off
- Keep putting them on our to-do list
.. until Christ comes.