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”

True Riches

True Riches

I’m always on the lookout for things that make me laugh or brings a smile to my face. Life is too difficult and challenging to go through these years without a sense of joy and a chance to pause and laugh.

I still have to laugh when I am reminded of a trip to Abbi’s family in Chincoteague, Virginia. Whenever we go to the island, it seems that I have to go to the store to pick up extra food for Noah. Not only does Noah eat like a teenager at times, but he also has a very specific diet that is a result of his autism. He eats the same food nearly every day, and Lord have mercy on the parents who do not have that food readily available.

On this specific trip, however, I made an excursion to the Food Lion that is located off the island. As I did, I happened to look over and noticed the Sonic across the parking lot. It was there that I saw a hearse in the drive-thru. Yes, I said a hearse in the drive-thru line. I couldn’t stop laughing and took a picture that I have somewhere. I couldn’t get the thought out of my head that even the dearly departed still want their mozzarella sticks and corn dogs.

That moment has been on my mind this week, as I’ve reflected on our passage from Luke 12:13-21. This imagery connects to what Jesus is saying to these two brothers who approach him to settle a family inheritance dispute. We’ve probably all heard preachers who have shared how you never see a hearse go to the grave with a U-Haul attached – “you can’t take it with you.” We’ll talk about how we shouldn’t be concerned with possessions and then move on without discussing the deeper realities that connect to the life Christ calls us into through these words. This parable is concerned with more than just our possessions. It calls us to consider the anxiety that often holds us back from being the people God calls us to be through faith. Continue reading “True Riches”

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”