What is a Service of Hope?

It started as an ordination project.

Two years ago I had to lead a “fruitfulness project” to fulfill one of my ordination requirements. The project is intended to demonstrate a pastor’s effectiveness in leading a ministry that seeks to make disciples. That is the simplest way of defining the project.

I had a couple of ideas for my project – a study on the Book of Revelation, a youth ministry intern, etc. – but my heart settled on this worship service I had heard about. It was called a Blue Christmas or Longest Night Service.

A Blue Christmas Service or Longest Night Service typically takes place on the first day of winter – the longest night of the year – and recognizes how many of us struggle during the Christmas season. The service is intended to offer hope and expressions of peace in the midst of our struggles. Continue reading “What is a Service of Hope?”

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”

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”

A Hope That Never Fades

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season and the beginning of a new Christian year. For four weeks we will look ahead with anticipation to both the celebration of the birth of Christ and the Lord’s eventual return. It is a season of excitement, of busyness, and of magnificent colors and decorations. It is a season of hope.

That word, hope, is among the key words of Advent. It is one that we need today. Hope is something that seems to be absent in our lives and in our world this season. We approach this start to the Advent season wondering if hope exist today or may be felt in a world of tears, brokenness, and death. Continue reading “A Hope That Never Fades”

24 Hours of Jesus: Arrest and Betrayal

“Nothing good happens after 2 a.m.”

Have you ever heard of that saying? It is a classic idiom often passed along to youth and young adults to remind them to be cautious of their actions, especially once evening gives way to the early morning. The idiom is based on the belief that the later it gets the more likely we are to make bad choices of judgment and do things we may later regret. As well, the more likely we can find ourselves in challenging or difficult situations.

Not that I am ever guilty of making such poor choice of judgment late in the evening. I did, of course, attend West Virginia University, which is known as a quality institution that does not support things like couch burnings or late-night campus parties.

What we hope for with this saying is that it will reminded us all that our choices have consequences. Those of us who have uttered this saying to our children or those who we are in ministry with desire that it would lead someone to make sound decisions and wise judgments. Continue reading “24 Hours of Jesus: Arrest and Betrayal”