Archive for December, 2011

Luke 1:26-38 “CHRISTMAS: IMPOSSIBLE” JUMC 20111218

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. NRSV

Our family is a big fan of Robert Irvine’s television shows: Dinner Impossible and Restaurant Impossible on the Food Network. This summer, Frances had the opportunity to help prepare her own dessert in Robert’s kitchen at his restaurant, EATS, on Hilton head Island, SC. Both his shows put Chef Robert into what appears to be an impossible situation with limited resources and limited time to feed hundreds or even thousands of people four star meals in some of the worst or unbelievable conditions. He may find himself, “in the weeds” and at the deadline, but every time he pulls through to feed fabulous food that is amazing.

The real amazing thing that I found out about Chef Robert is that he made time to sit down and eat dinner with us for about 45 minutes and as big a TV celebrity that he is introduced me to his pastor and invited me to his men’s prayer breakfast the next morning. As big as his television personality is on air, his real life spirit is a great witness of extravagant generosity and radical hospitality, two of our fruits we seek to share as a church family.

In our text today, Mary, the fiancée of Joseph, and expecting mother of Jesus, is given a MOST Extravagant gift in caring the incarnation of God and serving as mother. If that is not the MOST Radical hospitality I don’t know what is! It is Mary’s charge to carry Jesus within her own body and make room in her plans and expectations of life… yielding to God’s work through her.

The remarkable thing about this passage is that Mary is only perplexed by the angels message. In my experience as a pastor and Christian the people who have had unique divine experiences: Angels, voices, lights, and signs they try sharing them with a few folks who are not anymore ready to hear or believe and then they stop telling the story of their faith event. My own call to ministry became most clear in the context of worship, during a sermon, through a brightly shining 100 watt light bulb, connected to a bare wire hanging from a crepe myrtle tree.. I saw the glory of God shine and hear the voice of God sending me home to tell what I had seen, heard, and shared… not just in the moment of that story but in the context of the community of faith/church I had experience that summer.

We have to be careful getting into the mind of Mary. I would guess she had a mixture of faith and fear, worry and wonder, surprise and service.. and a thousand other emotions and experiences. But what she does becomes an example for each of us.

In the times since that event of the light in the tree there have been many conversations, worship services, retreats, songs, hymns and anthems, hospital room, classrooms and meeting room Christ shine out and speaks up to make may faith more bold. Showing me hope when I had none.

Mary hears God’s call to use her life, shape her family, and changing her plans and defining her family all as her service to God.

Each member of your household has the ability to help determine your part of family life.
Q: “Hey, Why is this a Christmas story, except for it mentioning Mary?”
A: “It’s an Advent passage because it directs us to what WE in preparation for Christ in our lives.”

Who is getting Ready for Christ?
If you measure that readiness in church attendance there are some new numbers out about Christian worship. The Barna Group has identified of those responding as Christians
▪ Unattached – not attended during the past year. (23%)
▪ Intermittents – not during the past month. (15%). At least 1 church event at sometime in past 6 months.
▪ Homebodies – people who had not attended a conventional church during the past month, but had attended a meeting of a house church (3%).
▪ Blenders – adults experimenting with new forms of faith community. (3%).
Conventionals – adults attended in the past month (56%)

23% not during the past year
15% not during the past month
6% not in a traditional church
56% in church but only once in the past month..

To compare that statistic to our regular attendance we would be only at about 52%

Q: “What does that have to with Mary or Christmas?”
A: “Mary’s burden of becoming Jesus’ mom, seem impossible. The mystery of the virgin birth, the great expectation of the task, the great sorrows that will follow. Together these make for what is an impossibility.”

What makes something impossible?
When you have no options for movement nor change.
Stale mate or Check mate!

Actually it is matter of perspective…
something is impossible we see fore see no alternatives

The Difference in Mary and Joseph is a matter of perspective… faith perspective..

Q: “Where is Joseph?”
A: “While he reveals on one side a sense of kindness he also wants out. He offers to not make a big deal of ending the relationship. He wants to give up.

Men.. we need to hear Mary’s message, though we cannot relate her pregnancy, we can to her willingness to allow God to shape our families.

▪ he typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.
▪ On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
▪ This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
▪ Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
▪ The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).
▪ Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
▪ More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
▪ Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance.
▪ Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man.
▪ Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
Church is good for men:
Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
Church involvement moves people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
Not picking on the men, but it is a message that MEN need to be willing to hear from MEN. Guys, Let your family hear you say: “Let’s go to church.”

Getting to the heart of the text: God says trust, Mary sees the impossible and say yes, use me.

What seems impossible this Christmas?
This fear, worry, grief, frustration, failure that steals our love, trust, hope or peace:

This just maybe God’s calling to trust and let God move through us.
This might be just the Christmas gift we can’t afford, and can’t afford to let slip.

Make Christmas: Christ With us.. possible. How? Try Gods way instead of your own.

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1Thes 5.16-28. “Check Which Christmas List?” JUMC 12112011

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise the words of prophets, 21 but test everything; hold fast to what is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this. 25 Beloved, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I solemnly command you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. NRSV

Top 5 Authors for Christmas Sales:
• Michael Connelly
• Stephen King
• Janet Evanovich
• John Grisham
• James Patterson

Top Ten Christmas Movies List: (Based on Sales)
• It’s A Wonderful Life
• Miracle on 34th Street
• Scrooge (Musical Version)
• A Charlie Brown Christmas
• How The Grinch Stole Christmas
• A Christmas Story
• The Santa Clause
• The Santa Clause 2
• Jingle All the Way
• Home Alone

Top Gadgets
1. ipad,
2. iphone,
3. itouch,
4. ipod,
5. kindle,
6. Digital Camera

TOP Toys
1. bakugan monster figure and trading cards
2. nerd blaster gun
3. crayola ‘glow’ products
4. lego theme sets
5. remote control helicopter

Strange Gifts List
• interactive t-shir with drums, guitar, keyboard, personal sound track
• large nose shampoo dispenser for the shower
• lunar real estate

ASKMEN: top romantic gifts?
• 1 jewelry, or a blank check to pick out jewelry
• 2 get away trip
• 3 scrap book items
• 4 vintage items
• 5 show tickets
• 6 engraved iphone, itouch ipod
• 7 a hand written letter
• 8 unmentionables
• 9 cashmere sweater
• 10 chocolate of the month

Top 10 Ways to have a Healthier Christmas
• Don’t sit down all day: Move more than you sit and sleep.
• Go easy on the drinks: More water less sodium and alcohol
• Don’t give yourself a Christmas stuffing! Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories at each Christmas dinner or party. smaller portions and more frequent meals. Stop eating and drinking by 8pm.
• Keep colds at bay: Wash hands, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and avoid smoking will help)
• Don’t stress: Easy to say, but worth letting judging words, over-booked time and spending excess go
• Eat fruit: 5 fresh fruits a day.
• Do something for others: Cook for a neighbor, visit a neighbor, volunteer to service, sing or take someone shopping or to the doctor.
• Think before you eat: Eat what you truly want not simply because it is available, celebrate don’t vegetate (stress eating)
• Engage your brain: Turn off the TV – Try real conversations
• Be a careful cook: Use gadgets, knives and devices with care, through out questionable dated/stored foods

Paul Shares a completely different type of list for those who are waiting for Christ:
• Rejoice…always: look for joy at all times…
• Pray…continually: don’t stop
• Be Thankful: be appreciative
• Keep the Spirit alive and at center, don’t cut each other down
• Listen to those who warn, teach and advise you, be prophetic
• Test daily, get on the scales, compare how you are doing each day
• Hold on to the good, let go and learn from the good examples
• Avoid evil, Stay clear of what you can avoid.
• Live right, and without seeking blaming til Christ comes…
• Share this list with everyone  (Amazon Wish List, family tires of my crazy updates..)
• Greet with a holy kiss….

This is our Christmas List, the one that brings us our true WISH list:

  1. Put this list in front of you throughout the day…
  2. Check these things off
  3. Keep putting them on our to-do list

.. until Christ comes.

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Mark 1:1-8 “Look Who God Sends” JUMC 12042011

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'” John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  NRSV


I messenger that wears rough clothes and a big belt, that eats nuts and berries.

There was this guy, who took what he could find from the land. A man who Occupied some space down by the Jordan River. He drew crowd of attention and people flocked from all around.


For all of the outlandish demands and lewd activities of those folks who are taking over parks, streets and sidewalks around the country there is a important voice of warning to hear.

We have forsaken what has made our country great. We have taken advantage of folks and


Appropriate clothes, 

Mario and his baggy pants, Giant belt buckle the size of Texas, grubs and honey..  eating off the land..

Tips for dumpster diving… ordering a pizza to a false address, health department says it can’t be reserved, dive in to dumpster behind the pizza place for hot pizza, free.


The call is to prepare for Christ to come.

Hear his invitation and warning.


If we do hear the call. What does it mean for us personally?

Make right, straighten up, ..or measure up? No

Make room, make a way, let go…


The one coming is greater than I am. I can’t even tie my shoes compared to what He will do for me and for you.

The response is to confess our sins and make changes in our behavior, and not the reverse

People were baptized, an act of repentance then, as a cleansing of sin.

Baptism is God’s claiming us, even though we have sinned, do sin and will continue to do so.

Baptism is God grafting us into the fold, when our roots are withered..


What do we celebrate is coming.. a spiritual celebration: This is where so much our Christmas traditions get in the way.

We living in the anticipation of Christ’s return and Christ’s presence with us until that time.


Rather than be critical of one another

Rather than making it difficult for each other

Rather than taking on the role of judge which is not our job nor call, we are to follow….


Different Baptism, Different Message

John, that baptized, called people to get cleaned up

Jesus, who was himself baptized, came to claim us through baptism.

Jesus’ baptism was not about washing sin away, it was about bringing us life: power, breath, and meaning to our spiritual life.


We are not baptized in the name and work of John, rather in the name and claim of Jesus Christ.

Listen to the messengers that give us life and call us to remember who gives us life.

Don’t judge the messenger at the risk of excluding or not hearing the Good News

Trust your baptism in Jesus Christ, that comes to make you life full and whole.

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