Posts Tagged Christmas

Galatians 4:4-7

Childisnotaslave.png

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. [NRSV]

The Gifts of Christmas

How unusual it would be to have a grand birthday party where no one brought gifts to the honored guest, rather the one having the celebration had gifts for each of the guests.

The Good News is that Jesus is born bringing Gifts to each of us.

For months we have prepared to share the gift of Jesus Christ:  Thankfully we have a season and not just one day to begin sharing the gift of Christ, that is our faith and our hope and salvation

The Prize Closet

I have a dear friend who is the best and most attentive giver and sender of cards. She would carry in her purse no less than a dozen cards for just the right occasion to express love, loss, prayers, compassion or cheer where ever she sent. She was once having surgery and handed her husband her purse i the pre-op waiting room and she told him to give a card to one of the people in the waiting room while she was having her surgery.  She was prepared to give the gift.

My grandmother had a special gift drawer where magical gifts materialized when someone needed a last minute gift for a forgotten occasion or a guest revealed it was their birthday or an unexpected guest showed up when others were opening Christmas presents. Tommye would disappear to the secret drawer and retrieve a small treasure for the surprise occasion.

Some folks may have a top shelf, others might have a closet or other special collection of gifts for every occasion.  All good things can be taken too far, but it is a great tradition and practice of anticipating the sharing of gifts.

The danger of gifts is that we see and value only the object in place of the relationship expressed in the gift.

The Angel Tree

We have some very generous folks who gave great gifts to young boys who are forgotten by so many but were given not just one, or two, or three but fives gifts: Nice gifts. I affirm that your generosity was shown in the assortment of games, toys, clothes, teddy bears and various gifts that were requested. The director shared the boy’s appreciation of the gifts and that love and thoughtfulness that strangers would be so generous. He reminded them that we may not have met, but were are not strangers because we share the same love and trust in Jesus Christ.  (That is the gift given and received!)

Church and Money

We try not to be a church that talks about money too much. But we do need to talk about the spirit of faithful generosity that shares 60 prayer quilts in the last 52 weeks.

We see the generous gifts that have helped retire hundreds of thousands of dollars of building debt in record time.

We see the sack lunches, the pottery – mud for Culebra to share hope and rebuilding of lives,

We have given one another generous gifts that we enjoy and remember that gifts are given and share not out of duty or requirement but given as expressions and extension of love, faith, and hope.

The Galatian Gifts

The Gift of Freedom

The Gift of Family

The Gift of Inheritance

Freedom: Christ comes and gifts us the gift of freedom from slavery to the law. We are not measured by rules instead of by love and grace.

Family: We are not only set free from rules we could never fully keep, to being adopted as family. We are made to be equal to the household/family. We are not junior worker-bees, we are brothers and sisters in the royalty. (We have different jobs, skills, gifts and talents entrust, but we aril equally valued and needed.

Inheritance: Not only are we free from forced faith and made equal partners, we share in the work and have shares in the company.

What does the gift look like?

What we do as the church is living out God’s business in a family owned business as equal partners with equal value and voice.

  • God is revealing to the whole world, one person at a time, God’s love, power, mercy, and grace
  • and has invested all his business in us
  • to do God’s work
  • with each other as co-owners and co-workers.
  • Paul reminds the church at Galatia and us:
  • We are gifted to freely share our faith
  • We are gifted with a family to support and be supported
  • WE are gifted with a life that is eternal, fulfilling, hopeful and directed by love.

So who do we share our gift of Christ with?

  • Someone who is locked in rules, fear, and spiritual blindness
  • Someone who my have all the civil right but no joy nor hope
  • Someone who complains, judges, hates and cowers
  • Someone who knows so much that don’t need Christ
  • Someone who is more interested in fairness than grace
  • Someone who is alone and finds no only to be family
  • Someone who’s family is so dysfunctional they don’t know what family can be
  • Someone who wants to look of a perfect family without the sweat equity of honor, respect and trust.
  • Someone who hope is in stuff rather than spirit.

        (You can buy me a boat and a truck to pull it…)

Buy Me a Boat

Chris Janson

I ain’t rich, but I damn sure wanna be

Working like a dog all day, ain’t working for me

I wish I had a rich uncle that’d kick the bucket

And that I was sitting on a pile like Warren Buffett

I know everybody says

Money can’t buy happiness

But it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

They call me redneck, white trash and blue collar

But I could change all that if I had a couple million dollars

I keep hearing that money is the root of all evil

And you can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle

I’m sure that’s probably true,

But it still sounds pretty cool

‘Cause it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

To float down on the water with a beer

I hear the Powerball Lotto is a-sitting’ on a hundred mill

Well, that would buy me a brand new rod and reel

And it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it

It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

Yeah, and I know what they say,

Money can’t buy everything

Well, maybe so,

But it could buy me a boat

It could buy me a boat

Songwriters: Chris Dubois / Chris Janson

Buy Me a Boat lyrics © Spirit Music Group, Ole Media Management Lp

  It’s not both/and,

Here is the Heart of Paul’s word for us, the church

it is that we are the Gift the World is freed by, claimed by and saved through

The Christmas Gift: Jesus Gives us the gifts so we will

  1. Know God loves us
  2. Know we are of great value to God
  3. Know that God’s work is our work and witness.

verse 7) So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God

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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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Colossians 3:12-17 “Clothes for Christmas” 20151227 RSUMC Xmas1

Socks4Xmas

94% of American’s celebrate Christmas (3). We have verbal and ideological battles with 6% of the population who don’t feel comfortable greeting each other this season by saying, “Merry Christmas.” It’s important to keep this in perspective. The number who keep a religious Christmas is about 70% with 29% celebrating some holiday during the same period of holidays (4). And yet we hear political debates about our nation not being a Christian nation, when 70% of the 94% who celebrate Christmas do so for religious reasons. Tis the Season to be religious.

The National Retail Federation reports

  • average spending per person reaches $805.65 in 2015
  • Gifts for family members will total $462.95 this year
  • 46 percent of their shopping this holiday season was conducted online,
  • 21.4 percent of smartphone owners used their device to purchase holiday merchandise in 2015,
  • 47%) said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors  where to shop.
  • 55.8 percent of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves

 

The number one anticipated “item” for Christmas is what category? ____ Clothes. Men 48% / Women 56%. But the number one “non-item” requested is gift cards. Men 51% / Women 66% (3)

What does that say? We expect Clothes at Christmas and more than half the time we’d prefer to pick out our own clothes than have people guess.

So this is where we begin hearing this passage from the church to Colossae:

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [NRSV]

Clothe one another in love

  • compassion
  • kindness
  • humility
  • meekness
  • patience

Imaging celebrating the 12 days of Christmas. Not just the first one.

Imaging, after all the celebration of Christmas morning of day one, we continues giving the gives of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.. all together as example of Christ’s love for us.

What does that look like?

Seeing or hearing the needs of someone who is hungry or wanting and we take them food for the day. It does not solve their every need, but it gives them one more day of perspective that they are not forgotten and their transformation is not hopeless. Or teach them skills to work or to deal with their brokenness, fears or depression. This is not the task of someone to do FOR us, but for us to give one-on-one. Gifts of compassion.

You could think of sarcastic and judgmental comments, that might be accurate, yet, instead you find kind words of encouragement or forgiveness. In speaking where you would have remained silent and offering kindness instead of leading with what’s wrong, you lead with the kindness you would hope to hear when someone is speaking with you. A gift of Kindness with words.

You and I could choose to give a gift out of our abundance away. You know how special it makes you feel to know someone has given you a gift of love, think how sharing what you have might make you both feel loved, even if it is yours to keep. A Gift of humble sharing, it cost no more because it is yours to give.

Often it is not the value of the gift, but rather the appropriateness of the gift. We wait and save up to give expensive gifts, when it is our present half-hour each day that transform lives around us. Which would I rather have today: a grand gift from my father, who died a decade ago or 20 minutes talking about the day with him face-to-face?  In the meekness of time, we share the lives we have to share.

Or could you find it possible to not fix someone’s problem, but rather be one who stands with them while they work through the trial and error of failures. So often we don’t want folks to live life for us, we want someone with us, to make certain we are not alone. Can you be present with someone who is alone and listen, encourage and wait with them, the gift of patience, for you and them.

For the remainder of the Christmas season, ten more days, try giving these gifts in love for Christ.

In the next ten days: Let everything you do, be done in Jesus name.

As you wake to start the day: In Jesus Name

As you write a check or open your purse or wallet: In Jesus Name

As you open you mouth to speak or your mind to consider: In Jesus Name

As you cook, clean, travel, read, share or listen: Do so in Jesus Name

As we shall then be clothed in love.

—–

(1) http://www.statista.com/topics/991/us-christmas-season/

(2) https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/retailers-very-digital-holiday-season-according-nrf-survey

(3) http://www.berkshireeagle.com/local/ci_29153886/from-spending-celebrating-2015-holiday-season-25-stats

(4) https://www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/699-tis-the-season-how-technology-is-affecting-the-holidays#.Vn9dPpMrLBI

 

 

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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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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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Galatians 4.4-7 “A Piece of Pie” RSUMC 20141228

Mov'in On Up

The Jeffersons, Lear Sitcom “Mov’in On Up”

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. [NRSV]

The Season of Christmas, 12 Days of Gifts

I have no idea why retail industry has not fully adopted the 12 days of gift giving. Christmas Day is but the first day of a 12 day season. I think we need to help extend the celebration. Don’t You?

When you think of Christmas, part of our celebration is gifts, trees with lights, decorations and music, are all part, but the one thing that sets a holiday apart is food. Food implies sharing at a common table the fellowship of those we share all holidays: Valentine chocolates, Easter eggs, 4th of July grilling, Halloween candy and Thanksgiving turkey all are essential elements of the holiday. If you had to pick a flavor of pie for Christmas what would you pick?

Apple, Pumpkin, Cherry, Sweet potato, pecan, chocolate custard,  Key Lime, Peach, minced meat, (who said minced meat, take them out of the room right now and feed them some rhubarb pie and send them by to New England.) Here is a one reported list: http://www.livescience.com/33111-favorite-pie-america.html

pie-chart-02

Apple 47%                    16%
pumpkin 37%                12%
Chocolate Creme 32%  11%
Cherry 27%                       9%
Apple Crumb 25%            8%
Pecan 24%                        8%
Lemon Meringue  24%      8%
Blueberry 21%                  7%
Key Lime 18%                   6%
Peach 16%                        5%
All others 10%

What ever flavor you choose. You in good company if you choose some type of pie for Christmas.

In a way, the Christmas Story is God’s way of inviting us to be part of God’s heart and family.

God asks us “Do you wanna a piece of pie?”

What does a baby born so long ago have anything to do the pie we eat today?

Because of that baby, you and I have a piece of pie for Christmas.

I date myself remembering the sitcom, The Jeffersons, who’s theme song celebrated a successful black/African-American business man and his family and their their upward social and economic mobility in the city.

Mov’in On Up, [Ja’net Dubois (from Good Times) and Jeff Barry co-wrote The Jeffersons’s theme song]

  • Well we’re movin on up, to the east side. to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Movin on up, To the east side. We finally got a piece of the pie.
  • Fish don’t fry in the kitchen; Beans don’t burn on the grill. Took a whole lotta tryin’ Just to get up that hill. Now we’re up in the big leagues, Gettin’ our turn at bat. As long as we live, it’s you and me baby, There ain’t nothin wrong with that.

We have a piece of the pie because of that baby born in Bethlehem.

We are no longer servants and slaves; we are children of God. Jesus is our brother.

And if Jesus is our brother then we have a sharing in the inheritance from the Father.

Because of Jesus We have moved up..

How are we related? Adoption

While It does explain why we don’t look like Mary or Joseph sides of the family.

I don’t remember any interviews or paper work about adoption into Jesus family.

God Chooses Us..

God Sends us a brother that will show us the way home.

God chooses us before we were born. This is the good news of Christmas!

This is the gift. This is the Christmas Gift, Paul shares with the church in Galatia, and with us all.

Gal 3.25-29 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise [covenant].  [NRSV]

As we draw close the end of the year, we do beginning to reaffirm that we are part of God’s family.

Tell you neighbors, (pref not your bio family members) you are my brother/sister.

This is how we celebrate the brother that makes us one heart, one family, one people.

Not based on our faithfulness, rather because God is faithful

Not based on our love nor loveliness, rather because God first loves us.

Not based on holidays and traditions but is celebrated because God’s desire is that we are part of God’s tradition.

  • Merry Christmas.
  • Merry Christ is our Brother
  • Merry Christ connects us.

This is who we are and who we invite others to believe.

Christmas is one of our greatest evangelistic stories: God loves us so much, God wants us to be family.

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Advent 4 20141220 Luke 1:39-55 “It’s That Time of Year” RSUMC

JOY_maryandelizabeth

Mary’s news is to be shared at home and throughout the hill side with leaps of Joy.

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]

Preparing for God With Us:

  • The Big Things God Does through Individual people
  • Exploring What God See in Our Faithfulness
  • Sharing the Joy with Family and Friends

The Bible is a collection of stories about God working through individuals. The individuals may end up leading tribes, bands and nations, but the conversation starts one-on-one.

One like you and me.

One who have been faithful and even those not as faithful.. Mary the faithful and Joseph the doubting, fixer of problems.

Part of understanding, discerning and responding to God’s work in us, is revealed through conversation and relationship with others. Elizabeth and Mary.. not just two women talking about babies, but talking about God at work in all their lives and witnesses.

Small Groups, Bible Studies, Classes, and conversations at home all give us a place and opportunity to question, reflect and experience God at work in each others’ lives.

Barna Group: Friends and family sharing faith is still top evangelism relationship: They have observed Fewer people are sharing with one another.

Q: How many have talked about God’s work in your lives in the past two weeks?

Examples: What is God doing in my life? What is God expecting in my life right now? Where do you touch God’s presence this week ahead.

What we have been journeyiing toward is an incarnational, experiential presence with God, THIS is what CHRISTMAS is for us now.. the story began in Bethlehem, but the story for our time now is where is the living CHRIST revealed now?

Ask you family, neighbors, a stranger.. because it is into relationship that God is revealed.. not just my mind our your mind..

The church is the present body..Are we actually expecting to share God With Us or just familiar stories, songs and comforts?

Jesus came to unwed parents, homeless in a strange place of in laws connections, in the dark of the night, revealed to servants and kings. Revealed in leaps of joy in the womb and praising shepherds and rejoicing magi.

What about you? What is God revealing to you this season? THIS IS WHAT WE ALL WANT AND NEED TO HEAR AND SHARE.

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Advent3 Luke 3:7-18 “Do We Bring Fire?” RSUMC 20141213

FireGiftJohn said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. [NRSV]

What should I bring?

If we knew Jesus were coming to our house for Christmas this year. Everyone would be gathering around a beautifully decorated treat what we wrap under the tree for Jesus?

<story of Sam Bangura spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with our family> The welcomed stranger brings Christmas Joy for lifetime of “Christmas Gift”

In this third week of Advent, our preparing has lead us to be 1) Alert and On Guard, 2) Making room and paving a Way, and today 3) we talk about Gifts and Presents:

Asking: What does Jesus want for Christmas this year? Know the answer will be “what Jesus wants every day.”

John the Witness, John the Baptizer, John the Spiritual Road Pave-er tells us:

Bear fruits of repentance:

  • If we have asked for forgiveness, live as though we have been forgiven.
  • If we have forgiving some one treat that person or relationship with grace like we have forgiven.
  • If we have not forgive then we have some work to do.
  • As long as you have two coats and there is someone who has no coat, we have work to do.
  •  As long as we have food enough to eat and there is someone hungry, we are not done.

How to Bear Fruit when we have things working against us?

It’s one thing when the ground is fertile and serving is easy. It’s hard NOT to bear fruit on a mission trip. People will complain many times about the cost of going on mission trips when there is so much to be done right here at home. But let me ask this: How many mission trips have you heard about that were fruitless? Oh there will be roadblocks, illnesses, and set backs, but have you ever heard of a mission team coming home saying. We did nothing good, we got nothing out of it. It was a total waste of time, money and energy. I’ve never heard it… We invest in having a fruitful, productive, meaningful and powerful experience from the outside expectation.

(We don’t always do this when we are near home. So close to home, we are more likely to say: We will get to it soon and when we get around to it.) Advent is a Round-to-it time of year.

An uncommon audience

The tax collector and soldier are two who have come to hear John’s teachings and ‘good news’ and as how do I do my job that seems be so hated or feared… how to I do my job and serve God?

These two folks the Tax Collector and the Soldier were feared and hated, most because they were the first line of OFFENSE from the government. Interesting advise from the prophet helps us all:

Do you job: Collect what is due. BUT don’t take advantage of folks. (Don’t run a title pawn that keeps folks in poverty.)

You work for the government. Do your job, don’t use your position to take advantage of folks.

It’s ok to make a profit don’t extort, don’t take advantage of folks.

It’s fine to make money: John Wesley’s advise on money: Make All you Can, to Give all you can, to Do all the Good you can. But use money as tool and instrument of Goodness, blessing and grace rather than power, abuse or oppression.

Back to the Gifts: What gifts do we bring to Jesus for HIS birthday?

Side Note:  John the Baptizer were speaking with authority and connecting with people helping the to find their way closer to God and so they thought he might be the Messiah.

“Nope, I’m bringing Water, Jesus is bringing Fire.”

“You think I’m fired up for God, God is about to send his very own Firestorm. Look out, be on guard, get ready and keep asking for a status report.

Jesus wants, what I need.

What I need vs What I want.

I want a gift card from Krispy Kreme, what I need is accountable set of scales.

I want to be blessed and loved, what I need to is to be a blessing and love unconditionally.

I want protection and care, what I need to offer support, counsel and keep a watchful eye on someone.

I want freedom and grace, what I need is to let go of leverage, grudges, guilt and shame and model grace.

The gift I give is the gift I receive.

Jesus wants folks fed, clothed, friend-ed and connected in grace.. the John the Baptist Question:

AM I GIVING THAT GIFT as daily witness?

Do I still need to go shopping?

Have I been looking for the wrong deal?

As long as Im asking for the status report, I’m on the right track… Ask you neighbor: Have you gotten Jesus’s gift yet?

What have you got him today?

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Luke 3:1-6 “The King Is Coming Soon” RSUMC ADV: 2 20141206

 ElvisBWIn the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'” [NRSV]

Prepare the way of the King: There is some confusion about who the real king is at Christmas? Is it Jesus or Santa. South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker pit Jesus and Santa clause in a boxing match and the victor is Brian Boitano who instructs everyone Christmas is a time to be good to one another. Smoothies all around the cult classic born.

But we all know better? We just want our manger and our presents. I have tried to share some Advent and pre-Christmas photo posts on Facebook each day. So far the one the has drawn the greatest comment has been the most misunderstood:

startrekstarwarsbatmanaNativityMost folks have thought i was promoting this as a creative, post modern spin on the traditional nativity. (When actually I’m totally offended by the collection.) But this passage is not so much about Elvis as King or Super Hero Movie action figures holding court in a fake moss-crusted manger set. Let’s get to the juicy part. Politics and Christmas.

Politics at Christmas? Jesus comes into the world to transform all powers.

I good friend of mine shared a personal commentary this week. She observed that there were two conversations going on this week. Christmas bargains and responses to the turmoil in Ferguson. It was interested to here to two radically different conversation interwoven without clashing until she brought them together.

Who wants to talk about politics at Christmas time?

But this is the very thing that John the Baptist, John the son of Zacharia, called attention to in the introduction of Jesus’ ministry.

Luke retells of John’s ministry of Advent, preparing for Christ’s arrival, in the context of the politics of the day.

The Emperor was Tiberius, [ a soldier become leader, opposed by others, wanted to Senate to make all the decisions, married for politics and was concerned a very unhappy person and leader. ]

Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, [ primary functions were military, but as representatives of the empire they were responsible for the collection of imperial taxes,[25] and also had limited judicial functions ]

Herod was ruler of Galilee, [ Born Arab, Became Jewish in Marriage, Gave himself the name, Herod the Great, massive building and taxes for his glory in the name of Rome. Killed many, fears everyone, 2000 body guards, pool in is house on the Med Sea. ]

herodpoolHerod’s brother Philip was ruler of the region of I-tur-aea and Tra-cho-nit-is, [ Self titled, Phillip the Tetriarch, married his niece to secure the family conquest of ‘dynasty’ ]

Ly-sani-as ruled Abilene, [ Arab city of Damascus, in Syria, little is know, but Luke uses the regional context as inclusive of powers ]

And the high priests in Jerusalem were An-nas and Cai-aphas,
[ The Annas family ruled the temple from 3 AD to 63 AD and Caiaphas married into the family, think of the church dynasties today ]

For us, in 2014

It would be like telling the Jesus story today in the context. When Obama was president, and Deal was Governor of Georgia, Haslam was Governon or Tennessee, Paul Johnson was coach at GTech, Mark Richt was a UGA, and Mike Watson was Bishop and Herzen Andone was DS in the Northwest District.

Why would set the Spiritual story in the context of political leaders?

Because the spiritual story is unfolding now.

Because the spiritual story in a context of current realitiy

Because the spiritual story is a contrasting story to the culture in which it is revealed.

Because to NOT know the reality of the context is to ignore the role and power of the message.

A call that Challenges Authority

Think of John the Baptizers Call to the Nations: Prepare the Way of the King, the Lord, the Authority

Q: What preparations would be made if we knew the president, governor, coach, bishop or DS were coming?

A: It kind of depends on what you think of their leadership or how you respect the office.

John is calling for God’s Children to prepare for a greater Authority..

Who is our Authority?

There are many levels in many different contexts. But who is responsible for shaping our view, motives and responses to the world in which we live?

Take the injustice of racism: In my doctoral studies I attended Gammon Seminary. It is a historically Black United Methodist seminary on the Atlanta University campus. At the time I started my degree, one third of my congregation persons who were Black, African-American, culturally different from my experience. My going to school was to try to learn and better understand so I could better connect, serve and lead as their pastor. When I choose the topic of addressing racism through the repetition of worship as a white pastor, I was quickly set straight by both students and faculty that that was not possible for a “little white boy” to do. I was told that fighting racism was the job of “the black man” and the “black church.” It took me several years to find an adviser who would work with me.

The political reality of racism is a real as ever. But the current charges in the news are not based on solving the problem, instead it continues to be a struggle for power and authority. It fall right in with John the Baptist’s call for making away for a NEW AUTHORITY. One that is more than black or white or yellow or red or brown or tan. BUT TO PAVE A NEW ROAD, old ways have to be torn away. The answers to the conversation of Ferguson, MO. are not impossible, but they call for our society to look at people as people and crime as crime. Folks on both sides of the conversation are not necessarily ready to do both simultaneously.

Have yourself a politically correct happy holiday.

Again I say, we can applaud the efforts of those individual and merchants who continue to state, Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, but that is only an attempt at resurfacing a road that many have given up traveling in the first place.

John Preaches Prepare the LORD’s path, the KING’s road, Christ’s Way.

The Way

From the beginning the church was known as the “Way”:

  • The way to God,
  • the Way to live,
  • the way to follow Jesus,
  • the way to heaven,
  • the Way to salvation,
  • the Way to life eternal

The Lord’s Way… The way God is working in the world, through the Spirit and through those who follow.

  • I would make a case that it is not the government’s responsibility to feed the hungry: it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to clothe and house the homeless, it is the church’s,
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to comfort and help the widow, orphan and imprisoned, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide health care, it is the church’s
  • It is not the government’s responsibility to provide moral instruction to broken families and expectant mothers, it is the church’s

This is a radical road, a difficult road, a path that has been long forgotten and forsaken…

The preparing for Christ coming is not getting our decorations, it is paving a new road, by a new authority, for a new world relationship with God.

Tell me I’m wrong and show me my miss reading and I will repent..

So you say: “Im overwhelmed.” If this is true, I don’t know where to start.

This advent we have started with the conversation of Prayer, the Study of the Word, and today we add Breaking Ground.

Ground Breaking

Isn’t it fun to break ground: to see the shovel of reality break through the dreams of hope and change.

That act is the physical and tangible involvement of putting ideas into motion.

Prayer

Study

Actively Break New Ground for Christ:

and Dig into reality.. get involved. get your hands dirty, get the sweat equity in what you believe..

If Christmas is a time for giving gifts, don’t just get a good deal, use the gift to be witness of JESUS’s love and grace.

If Christmas is a time for traditions of family and friends, use the occasions to make certain Make God known through them

If Christmas is a time for lights and songs, then make sure they clearly point to why we do and sing and remember.

The Season of Assumption is past…

We living in a time of paving, new break through of God’s authority… and we hold the shovels!

And God is coming Soon…

Advent is an annual experience of asking ourselves: If Jesus were coming in a month, what would be different about my life and faith and living… and act accordingly.

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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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