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”

The Better Way

The Better Way

The last few weeks have been, well, crazy. I think that is the holiest way you can describe what it is like to move from one state to another, deal with movers, and to make new friends with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It feels like these last few weeks have been a case of constantly going from one thing to the next. A series of events of making sure Noah is getting enrolled in school and has the proper therapies. A series of trying to figure out what is going on and where things are. A series of learning all I can about the church and meeting as many of you as I can.

I want to thank you for how you have made us feel welcome, the stories that you have shared, and the information you have provided. They have all been welcome and appreciated. I want to be honest with you. It is easy to feel like my head spinning around like it was on a swivel. It is easy to get overwhelmed by everything.

Do you ever feel that way? Do ever feel so overwhelmed by life that, at times, you’re not sure which way is up? Even when what you are doing is good and necessary, do you ever feel so caught up in life, in busyness, in craziness, that you’re not sure what is going on and feel distracted by trying to get it all done?

Now, do we ever feel like that in the church? Do we ever feel overwhelmed in the church? I’ve been thinking about my previous churches I have had the pleasure of serving. Each of these congregations have done some amazing things, but they all held in common a sense of anxiety and nervousness. Anxiety about the future, of trying to hold on, or of trying to make sense of the world. They all seemed to be caught up in busyness to a point it distracted them from the main thing.

I don’t know about you, but when I am overwhelmed, I am not able to accomplish the things that I want to do with all of my focus. Can you imagine how much more than statement is true for a community of 60, 70, 80, 90, or even 100 people?

I wonder if this is how Christ desires for us to share life together. Is there a better way for us to live that is absent of the anxiety that often consumes us? A way that leads us to discipleship in Christ that forms who we are, what we claim, and we do in response to our love of God. Continue reading “The Better Way”

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”

Sunday Sermon: Living Out the Resurrection

We all have stories we love to tell. Stories that have been passed down from generation to generation. Stories of memorable times with our family and friends. Stories where we were able to experience something that changed our life. Stories that must be told again and again. 

My guess is that few of us have a story anything like the stories Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome could tell their friends and family. They were among the followers of Jesus who went with him as he traveled throughout Galilee. They saw his miracles of healing and the moments of great teaching that he did. They were there. 

More than that, though, this group of women were the first to witness some of the events that have changed the world. They were present at Golgotha when Jesus was crucified. A moment that changed the world as Jesus gave of his life for humanity’s sin. They were present later that Friday afternoon as Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus buried Jesus in a tomb located in a garden near where Jesus died.  Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Living Out the Resurrection”

Easter Sunrise Message: It’s No Longer Dark

It was still dark that Sunday morning. An appropriate way for John to begin his account of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One of the things to appreciate about the Gospel of John it is that word choice means everything. A word like “dark” or “darkness” carries with it a meaning that is deeper than what it may seem. 

On one hand, it was literally dark in Jerusalem and at the tomb where Joseph of Arimathea and Niccodemus laid Jesus following his death on the cross three days earlier. The morning sun had not broken through the darkness of the night as a new week began. Darkness filled the skies much like the darkness that greeted us, this morning, as we gathered for this sunrise worship. Continue reading “Easter Sunrise Message: It’s No Longer Dark”

Sunday Sermon: Here is Your Mother/Here is Your Son

During the first two weeks of our Lent sermon series looking at the final words of Jesus from the cross, we have encountered some of the participants who were at Golgotha on that fateful Friday afternoon. They are as much a part of the story of understanding Jesus’ final words as Jesus is himself.

The first week allowed us to look at some of the activity that took place during a crucifixion and how the Roman soldiers would cast lots for the criminal’s possessions. Last week, we looked at the interaction between Jesus and the two criminals who were placed on crosses with him, especially the one who repented of his actions. This week, we turn our attention to Jesus’ who have come to this horrifying place to watch Jesus die.  Continue reading “Sunday Sermon: Here is Your Mother/Here is Your Son”