The Nativity: Mary

The Nativity: Mary

Today, we will conclude our sermon series looking at the characters that make up the Nativity of Jesus Christ. Throughout Advent, we’ve focused on how each of these characters help us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. We’ve saved the most beloved and important of the characters, outside of Jesus, for last. Her name is Mary.

Mary’s role is central to the entire Christmas story. We do not give her, in the Protestant tradition, enough attention and respect. She deserves more of our time and reflection, because she is theotokos. This is what the early church called her. Theotokos is a Greek word that means “God bearer.” There is no better word to describe Mary. That is her contribution to the Christmas story. She was the one who gave birth to the incarnate Son of God. She was the one chosen by God to give life to the One who offers true life and hope into the world.

But, who is she? Why did God choose her? What are we to make of her life and her connection to Christ? These are all questions that, perhaps, we’ve wrestled with before and are ones important for us to consider as we think about Mary, her life, and how she enables us to encounter the peace, hope, joy, and love found in the Christ child. Continue reading “The Nativity: Mary”

The Nativity: Angels

The Nativity: Angels

December is a season full of busyness. There is a lot going on, both at the church and in our lives, as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas. It can be a stressful season even though we are seeking to announce a time of joy and hope. Maybe you’re like me and, as a result, you look for ways to bring a little laughter and fun into the month.

For the last few years, bringing in an element of laughter and fun during December has meant debating people on what constitutes a true Christmas movie. You may not know this, but people are really attached to their ideas of what counts as a Christmas movie and are willing to debate you nonstop on the topic. I’ve taken joy in putting up mock debates, especially on social media, about how I do not believe “Elf” is that funny or that “Die Hard” cannot count as a Christmas film. That last one really gets people going. Just because something takes place around Christmas doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. I’m sorry, John McClane.

I love these discussions, because I always laugh at where the conversation goes and the lengths people will undertake in order to convince me that Die Hard is, in fact, a Christmas movie.

If you’re wondering, it is not Christmas in my family until I have seen Clark Griswald have a major meltdown after receiving a 12-month subscription to the “jelly of the month” club. Nor is it Christmas until I’ve watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” True story: I’m the only person in our family who loves the movie. I cannot help its story of George Bailey as the down-on-his-luck family man who believes there is nothing for him in the world. That is until he encounters a unique individual by the name of Clarence. Continue reading “The Nativity: Angels”

A Place for You this Christmas

A Place for You this Christmas

On my desk there is a stack of invite cards for our upcoming special worship services. The cards are decked out in a beautiful array of seasonal colors with a wreath on one side. The words on the card strike me as a word of welcome. It says, “A place for you this Christmas.”

A place for you this Christmas. I love that phrase. At its core, the card offers a word of invitation and welcome and hospitality that gets to the heart of what it means to share God’s love. In response to our faith and in celebration of the birth of Jesus, we are called to make room for people so they may experience the hope of the Christ child.

It’s easier to say there is “a place for you this Christmas” in our places of worship. It is another thing, and much difficult, to live it out. To live out that there is “a place for you this Christmas” requires reflection upon what it means to welcome people and to understand that it will mean making our welcome more than just words we place on a card or screen. To truly have “a place for you this Christmas” means making a conscious choice to make room in our hearts for all to experience the hope of Christ.

So, what might that look like? Even more, I wonder what groups of people in our community need to know that there is “a place for you this Christmas.” Continue reading “A Place for You this Christmas”

The Nativity: Joseph

The Nativity: Joseph

Perhaps like many of you, we took time over the Thanksgiving weekend to decorate our home for the Christmas season. It began with my usual decorating the outside walkways with candy canes. It continued with putting up my beloved Christmas village. We put up our tree with ornaments we’ve collected over the years, and we put up our Nativity set.

We have several Nativity sets in our home and in my office. My favorite is actually the one that is not the most appealing. It is one that currently sits in my office. It is a small painted set that I got at a White Elephant Christmas party years ago. When it came to me and my turn to trade it or keep it, I actually went against the custom of trading and kept the set. Why? Because at the time I didn’t have a Nativity set of my own and it was quirky enough that I felt it and I would be a good match.

Nativity sets, no matter what they are or look like, are treasured decorations each Advent and Christmas season. They combine all the elements of the Christmas story from Matthew and Luke to give us an artistic rendering of the scene. The descriptions we have from Scripture do not take place with all the characters – Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, shepherds, angels, and the Magi –being there together at the same time. So, there is artistic liberty taking place in many of our sets, and we can appreciate how they invite us to see things that are present within the stories that lead up to Jesus’ birth.

Throughout the Advent season, we are going to take a look at some of the characters that appear in our Nativity sets. We’ll share about their lives, how they came to be part of the story, and how they shape our understanding of Jesus’ birth and what it means for us today. Our journey beginswith the least known of the characters involved with Jesus’ birth Joseph. Continue reading “The Nativity: Joseph”

Expect the Unexpected

A high school friend of mine, yesterday, made an interesting observation on Facebook about this time of year. She said she wanted a bumper sticker that proclaimed to fellow drivers how she survived shopping at Wal-Mart the Saturday before Christmas.

That is a bumper sticker we all want by this point in December. We have arrived at the moment in the Advent season where we start to echo the motto of “survive and advance.” Survive all the rushing around, the frustrated shoppers, the overcrowded parking lots, in order to advance to the celebration of Christmas morning. After a month of hustle and bustle we’re just ready for things to slow down and to move on to the celebrations.

To be honest, however, there might be some among us who might have a different view about at this time in December. You might not be thinking about simply surviving to Christmas morning or wishing for things to slow down. You are thinking about something else. You are just ready for Christmas to be over. Continue reading “Expect the Unexpected”