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.” [NRSV]
I recall my parents making drawn and silk screened Christmas cards as part of the family tradition of preparing for Christmas. Part of the handmade effort was the personal and creative gift the other was for economical reasons. Each year mom would draw some variation of Mary and Jesus, occasionally including Joseph, an angel or a star. Dad would do the printing. My jobs waving the paper for the ink to dry, affixing stamps and sealing the envelopes. After the fourth or fifth church, it was necessary to use a bulk permit to cover nearly 800 hundred cards to church members, family, and friends. Somewhere along the way, a simple gift became a chore and the tradition change to about 100 written cards. The issue was the growing gap of ingenuousness between the original gift to the present.
What had been a creative chore, became a dreaded task not to forget or offend.
What is the appropriate message to share at Christmas?
- For some, it is the annual family letter. If I have one good thing to say about Facebook, is that it seem the longer FB is around, the fewer Christmas letters I receive.
- For some, mention every attribute of a Bing Crosby festival but offers wishes for happy tidings and warm companionship with everyone.
May You feel God’s presence in the candles, that softly spread their glow at Christmas and may you experience the wonder of His abiding love, as He guides you, through each day of the coming year.
- For others, the cards convey perfunctory words of acknowledging goodness and an unclear image of peace.
“Thinking warmly of each of you and wishing your family an extra measure of comfort, joy and hope.”
- We have tried to send Christmas cards, but we typically send them out during the Christmas season, rather during the weeks of Advents. [as late as St Patricks Day]
What about the Cards from the John the Baptist Card Collection?
- Front: May your camel’s hair coat be scratchy and you locust be toasty, may your voice be one crying out I the wilderness this year. Inside: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
- Front: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Inside: 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.
- Cover: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor. Inside: He will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
- Best Cover: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Inside: Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
John the Baptist reminds us to ask each other: for what are we preparing? Christ, ourselves or something else.
Our response is to say, “80 percent may be for me, my family, my idea, my traditions, my memories, my warm fuzzy feeling, and 20 percent is for you Jesus.” You complete the percents for yourself.
I have shared by Christmas list with Santa, I have begun to buy gifts for others, I have begun to get out decorations, I have begun filling my calendar with events, I have begun singing along with Christmas favorites, but
Can anyone tell Jesus is the driving cause of my actions, or have I left that to chance and hope others will guess what leads my heart and life.
It’s not about “Merry Christmas” it is about Jesus.
- John the Baptist is not so worried about offending the Jewish leaders, as he is making certain everyone knows to be humbled before Christ.
- Jesus is the King whose roads need to be made ready, not the government
- Jesus is the is the one worthy to give himself for us
- Jesus is worth shouting boldly about to the world
Advent, Preparing, Reclaiming the task of preparing: The example is baptism.
REPENT: Turning around and Remembering we are claimed by God, made new in Christ, forgiven and made whole through water and the Spirit.
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]
You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. [NRSV]
We have collectively experienced a physical, emotions, spiritual and social wrenching that has come to a crescendo this week.
Some of the most hateful, intolerant and hard-hearted words have been spoken about the election in the past seven days.
- Some have been riding on a seemingly, unending roller coaster that did not stop where it started.
- Others are grieving, spiraling, and building a strong case of depression
- while others have begun acting out of anger, which never leaders to safety, tolerance, and peace.
- Still others have remained silent and afraid to speak, for fear of ridicule.
It is time for us to HEAR the words of God’s prophet.
- God is my salvation.
- I will trust and not be afraid
- The Lord is my strength
- With Joy, draw water from the well of salvation.
- Give Thanks to the Lord, call his name, make his deeds known among the nations.
- Proclaim and exalt God’s name.
- Sing Praise to the Lord,
- Tell the world how glorious God is,
- Shout aloud and sing for Joy, God is with us.
It is time for us to SHARE the words of God’s prophet.
- Salvation is found in God, not our government
- Trust God and do not be afraid
- Find your strength in the Lord
- Draw on God’s joy when yours is missing
- This is a great time to look for and give witness to God in the world.
- Sing praises to God to remind us who leads this world
- Talk of good that God has done for us and the good God will do through us
- Shout loud and Sing the Good News: God is with us.
It is time for us to LIVE the words of God’s prophet.
- Our neighbors are divided and God is counting on us to salvation
- There are people in our workplaces that have lost truth and trust,
- Don’t ignore fears, but don’t be turned to anger and wrath, Find strength in God, not politics.
- Make a withdrawal from God’s account when ours is empty or draining.
- When we are divided is the clearest time to all move toward God.
- Sing praise to remind ourselves and others the God is speaking through us all.
- Talk of Good instead of evil. Speak of hope that is to be revealed.
- Shout, don’t keep quiet, God is with us. God will save us. God will guide us
The Alternative is grim:
- Continue to hold government higher than God and we will surely fall apart.
- Count on our political powers to provide for every need and we have no need for God
- Find our strengths in our efforts, our wealth, our correct thinking, and our feelings and they will all fail
- Sing praises that are only pleasing and comforting and we will be alone
- Only talk about our point of view, our goodness, and correct thinking and we will see only ourselves
- Keep quiet about God and God will speak through someone else who will follow, trust and love.
Lord have mercy on me a sinner.
Lord have mercy on our nation and all the nations, for we are all sinners.
God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing. [Sarum Primer, 1558]
As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned. But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose, he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. [NRSV]
Paul gives the instruction to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, by example, spoken or written. (Scripture through tradition, reason, and experience)
- God sends the powerful delusion, (God allows evil, as the consequence of choice)
- Sin is when we trust ourselves over trusting God. (Pleasure in unrighteousness)
- Salvation: Way Home: God has given us the gift of salvation and a challenge to grow in Sanctification through the spirit.
From the Letter with the church in Thessaloniki:
God calls us to proclaim the good news and stand firm/host fast to the traditions.
Evil, unrighteousness, destruction, lawlessness, lying wonders, wicked deception
(Those who refuse to love the truth and so be saved.)
This is a practical instruction on what to do when faced with evil, crisis and brokenness: on holding fast to the Good News, what we have been taught and experienced in the Spirit.
When we are faced with a crisis:
- Our first reaction is to be overwhelmed with the circumstances that are crumbling around us.
- We often look to find someone, something, some entity to blame.
- We then realize that even if we can blame someone for the crisis, we have two choices give up or trust God.
Money Crisis, Family Crisis, Political Crisis, Personal Crisis: is the place of powerlessness to face brokenness.
Paul reminds us: God has saved us for a reason and this Crisis might be something we can learn and grow from, but God has more for us than to give up. God has given to us grace and Spirit to save us, eternally and currently.
When we are faced with evil:
In the news, in our family, in our community, in our hearts:
- Our first reaction might be to say we are strong, smart, tough enough, (Don’t let anyone know we are facing evil.) (Prove that we know better)
- (Do as we please, without regard to God’s call or our relationship with God) We go it alone: Motivated by our weakest assets (shame, guilt, fear, blame, etc)
- (Prove that we know better) (Do as we please, without regard to God’s call or our relationship with God)
- We go it alone: Motivated by our weakest assets (shame, guilt, fear, blame, etc)
We feel we have only two choices: 1) Give up and die or allow some part of us to died or 2) Give in and join the evil.
We have a third choice: Paul reminds us that “our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.”
When we are faced with layers of evil and layers of crisis:
- So many forces working to kill our hope, dim our vision, transform our love to fear, and we give up on God and ourselves.
- The reason we have so many people struggling with drugs is that we have lost the grasp of God with us.
- The reasons our global church is in division is that we have lost our hold on the Holy Spirit
The reasons our neighbors look hope is that trust someone else to save and to provide for us., Government, technology, knowledge, self-determination instead of learning and teaching what it means to 1) proclaim Good News and 2) hold onto the Word and 3) be lead by the Holy Spirit.
- The starting place is to 1) Learn the Good News (God loves us and desires us to have a personal and collective relationship, (first fruits for the church)
- The next step is to 2) Make the Word the foundation of all that we do. God wants us committed to building and fortifying our foundation, our relationship and our living with the word (proclaimed, studied, and understood through the Holy Spirit.)
- Third, we live following God’s Spirit, to navigate through the evil. The evil will not be taken away, but God promises to go with us through all things. Sanctification is the process of moving past the written or studied word, to trusting God to lead by the Spirit.
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfill by his power every good resolve and work of faith,so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. [NRSV]
The importance of encouragement
Paul and company write to celebrate the good and faithfulness of the church’s work in Thessaloniki.
The call to growth
- The target encouragment is growth, spiritual growth
- The third of the 5 fruits of a healthy and growIng church is Intensional Spiritual Growth.
- Look at what Spiritual Growth can do
- Quilts, nearly 50 years of show and sell, 1.5 million for this building, mission teams and individuals reaching gout in our ccommunity count and to the end of the earth, counselors and campers at Glisson, from the 200+ of us. Plus our shared ministries,
- The encouragement. S to look back to see what has brought us through to the moment, but more than a celebration of the past it is a passionate call to prepare for the generations that follow
The goal of fulfillment of purpose
- Our purpose is to t me service rather to serve in he name and life of Jesus Christ, by Christs glory strength and spirit.
- Call and challenge one another to grow in spirit…
- if you are in a as class be faithful to prepare study and pray
- If have been in a class doe a while pray about starting a small group
- If you have not connected with a Sunday school class or small group as a weekly part of your Spiritual Growth program, let’s get you connected, praying, studying and sharing.
- Our goal is 100% participation in a small group or Sunday school class.
- Invite new friend neighbors, coworkers friends from school to join our commitment to grow in spirit
- We are not Calle to maintain the faith we are called t grow in the faith and serve with christs help.
At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen [NRSV]
1. We fail one another, show some grace, don’t judge, but that is not our only help
- Ask your neighbor to forgive the times you have failed to be strength
- Ask them to remember but not hold that against you
- Ask them to stay strong in Christ or next time I call on you.
2. The Lord Stands by us
- Hear the Good News: God is With us.
- I’m right here in your heart
- Throughout the old and New Testament is God’s Desiree to be with us
- WHY? Because of free will.
If God had it all fixed ahead of time there is no need to journey with us to wait at the end of the merry go round. God chooses not to know and chooses to travel with us along the way.
3. Trust the Lord’s strength and not our own and to each other’s alone
- The lesson is to start with God strength
- It’s not do what you can on your own and then ask for help.
- Ask for help, don’t go alone
- Ask God, Others, self
4. Saved from every evil attack
- Not save us from pain, suffering and struggle
- Yes, save us from attack
- Difference between persecution and persecution for faith in Christ
5. Saved for eternal life
- Save along the way from attack
- Save for the end game as well.
6. Let give thanks for Gods love for us, Gods Strength in un and praise Godslif shine through ours
- Response to Gods strength: Thanks and appreciation
- Act of giving God glory and not my own strength or weakness.
- Action: “I need your help, your hand, your heart!
Benjamin Earl King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015), known as Ben E. King, was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer. He was perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a US Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the UK in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group the Drifters notably singing the lead vocals of one of their biggest global hit singles (and only U.S. #1 hit) “Save the Last Dance for Me”.
Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city, there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, “Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [NRSV]
- He just ain’t right in the head.
- She just ain’t right in the heart. They ain’t right with each other.
- They ain’t right with each other.
It is one thing when it is your child in the grocery store saying: Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy.
It is another thing to hear someone else’s child drone the chant: Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy.
My questions are as follows
- What in the world does that child want?
- Why in the world does that parent not listen?
- If I were the child/parent what would I want an annoyed stranger to say or do about the situation?
Thomas Smith wrote a guide called Successful Advertising in 1885. The saying he used is still being used today.
The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.
Back to the text:
God who breathes life and spirit into each of us.
- Looks at our brokenness
- Hear our persistent complaining
- Knows our overwhelming frustration
- See our rejection, failures, and weakness
- and cannot wait to heal us, restore us, hear us, claim us, renew us, and empower us with new life.
In this parable God is the one persistently calling and begging and pleading for you and for me.
How many people do you know who feel: broken, guilty, afraid, ashamed, rejected, alone, or weary?
Even if it is only one: You have the opportunity to show them the love, saving, life-giving power of Jesus Christ as quickly as you open your mouth to tell, your heart to receive, your hands to serve and your ears to listen and your heart to bless.
For all the persistence God offers, there are those who continue to not listen and there are those who know and do not tell/share/show what has save themselves.
When Christ looks at us, does he find someone who offers God’s justice?
When Jesus shows up, in the end of days or on an ordinary Tuesday,
- Does he find us making people whole?
- Does he hear us telling the Good News?
- Does he see us being peacemakers?
- Does he watch us bless and forgive one another?
- Does he find us making divisions
- Does he hear us tearing relationships
- Does he watch us picking fights
- Does he see us sitting back, holding back, knowing what we know and doing nothing to make others whole, complete, nor right