Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope

It was just an ordinary day in the City of Bethlehem.

The population, in those days, was around 1,000 people. That is a little more than double the latest Census estimate for Salvisa. All of those 1,000 people and more were gathered in Bethlehem on that day. The people were under the authority of the Roman Empire, which had no problem throwing its weight around. On that particular day, the people under Rome’s authority were required to return to their hometown in order to be counted. This was an ordinary occurrence for the people in Bethlehem, because Rome made it a habit of doing things to reminded people of their authority and power.

It was also an ordinary day for those outside of Bethlehem. Residing around the hillsides outside of Bethlehem were a group of shepherds. The shepherds were doing their job. They were keeping watch of their sheep to make sure they stayed safe from intruders. Shepherds were not the most beloved group of people. Some tolerated them as those who performed a needed task in society, but the people had little use for them. Others viewed them as thieves, because they would do what was needed in order to survive even if it meant taking from others. On that day they were just trying to live and survive. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Message: Ordinary Day and Extraordinary Hope”

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Why Do We Worship on Christmas Day?

Why Do We Worship on Christmas Day?

Every five or six years the calendar gives pastors and worship planners a true gift at the Christmas season: Christmas on a Sunday.

It should be a gift, but in all honesty the idea of Christmas on a Sunday makes many pastors, including myself, quiver. The reason is that we know we will spend weeks trying to help people understand why the church is open on Sunday, and why we will worship on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Sunday. Place that within the context of a worshiping movement that argues that the Sunday after Christmas Eve should be a time for family and not for community worship then we are left with questions as to why do we have church on December 25 and not cancel so we can be at home with our family.nativity

This year, I have found that the simple answer of “because it’s Sunday” works as well as when my parents tried to use the response of “because we said so” to one of my many questions as to why I had to do something as a child. It falls flat and is truly dismissive of the larger question that, I believe, many are asking.

I think our people are smarter than we give them credit and are able to have a deep conversation about faith, worship, and theology. So, why do we worship on Christmas Sunday? Why is it so important for the church to be open, this year, on December 25? Continue reading “Why Do We Worship on Christmas Day?”

Preparing for Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas movies, if not one of my favorite movies of all time, is “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” It is my “must watch at least five times” movie during the Christmas season.

The movie follows Clark W. Griswold on his mission to have the perfect Christmas family gathering. He invites his entire family to his Chicago home, from in-laws to distant cousins, for a festive celebration. Of course, along the way Clark runs into a lot of hilarious obstacles.

I think that is why I love the movie so much. I can relate to Clark. For one, I’m a little bit of a klutz and can be a bit accident-prone. When Clark staples his shirt to the roof, I empathize with him, knowing that it is something I would likely do. I can also relate to Clark because I love to plan things and want every holiday gathering to be perfect. I spend all my time in the weeks leading up to a holiday thinking about what we will eat, what we will do, or what route we will take to get to our families. I plan for everything so that we will have the perfect celebration and have a hard time when something goes wrong, such as an unexpected traffic delay on the way home from a family gathering. Continue reading “Preparing for Christmas”

Christmas Eve Sermon: Go. See. Tell.

The shepherds were out in the fields, that night, simply doing their jobs. They were situated on a hillside just outside of Bethlehem watching their flock. We do not know what they did to pass the time. I like to think they sat around the fire and told stories from Scripture and the prophets. Whatever they did it is they likely did not expect what they experienced that evening.

It was on that hillside, so long ago, that the shepherds were greeted by an angel, who approached them as a “stranger.” A fearful sight, indeed, when someone is not expecting a visitor, especially one of a heavenly nature. The angel tells the shepherds that they had no reason to fear. That is because the angel came with an important message for all.  A message that would change the world and continues to do so today. The message was an announcement of good news of an event that had occurred in Bethlehem, the City of David. That event was the birth of a child.

This wasn’t the announcement of just any birth. It was the announcement of the Savior’s birth. The long-awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, is born. Continue reading “Christmas Eve Sermon: Go. See. Tell.”