Archive for category Advent A
But you, O [Rock Spring] of [Walker County], who are one of the little [communities] of [Georgia], from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in [My People], whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. 4 And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; 5 and he shall be the one of peace. [Micah 5:2-5a modified for RSUMC]
What if this were the word given to us, instead of the little town of Bethlehem? Prophetic words I have heard in 34 years of ministry:
There are about to build a second regional airport in Northwest Georgia and it will transform the state and every little town around it. (First DS shared the news: Still no airport, for good or bad).
Stand, Refine, Do, Now, Welcome: on the edge and eve of Arrived!
Our Advent Adventure has started by with the first steps of
- taking a stand, responding to the call to get up and get moving.
- We have refined our faith and tools and claimed God’s call upon us to continue the momentum and DO what is good and right,
- We have been encouraged with hope and called to share hope and
- Today we remember to welcome those we meet to help them find Christ through together.
One of the annual tradition that I grew up with at Christmas was my mother’s annual open house party. I believe that it is for this reason that I have struggled to see the joy in the parties because I know all the work and preparation that goes on before, during and after a big event.
Mom started with the decoration over Thanksgiving and by mid-December, the menus and Christmas card/Invitations would be sent out. The ten to fourteen days before Christmas would include a long checklist of grocery shopping, baking and cleaning around the house. The Sunday afternoon before Christmas was the target party date. I preferred the years where Christmas Day fell on Saturday or Sunday as the party would be far behind come Christmas morning.
A dozen varieties of cookies would need to be baked, iced and decorated. Cakes, pies and hor doves would be prepared and ready for baking and heating. Serving plates and cups would be washed and dried. We had little time for playing in anticipation of the open house!
My brother, being younger, had the job of playing with all the children who came to the party so they would not be “trampled under foot” momma would say. But the truth was she didn’t want them to play with the two hundred nativity / manger scenes that decorated every shelf, side table and flat service in the house. My job was to make sure the table was full of food and that the dirty dishes and cups would get washed and returned to the big table. (I didn’t mind the chocolate covered peanut butter balls and the cheese biscuits, but I didn’t want to be washing dishes when the others were playing in the yard) I made a promise that year, “I would not make my future children wash dishes at any open house parties I might have down the road. Christmas was a time to welcome not wash.”
The work made it hard for me to see the joy. I know my mother’s intention was that the collective labors we give to neighbors, friends, members, and strangers in an effort to welcome in Jesus’s name.
What does it take to welcome someone in Christ?
One year while we were living in Eatonton, Georgia, mom had decorated the hall bathroom downstairs with fancy soaps and special towels and hermetically sealed the door closed with a large note on the outside of the door, which read: “Keep your nasty hands off the towels!!”
We were afraid to go in and she forgot to take the sign down. I don’t think anyone at the party went inside. But the did go upstairs to our bathrooms!
How will you and I continue to welcome others in Christ?
It is a life lesson that making others feel welcome is a self-less gift at times. Some people are difficult to include. Some people share little in common. Some people work as hard to avoid as we do to invite.
The world is hungry and doesn’t think it is for dinners and snacks.
The world is hungering for three things:
Being on the Correct side of things: Greatness in the sense of truth
Meaning – Strength and Majesty
Peace – Security and Peace
These are actually the things that are promised by the prophet Micah that the Messiah would be God’s People.
The prophetic call to look for Greatness even when it comes through a small town, God is working GREATNESS in small ways, not larger than life folks, but ordinary folks like us are where the GREATNESS is where we are to look for God to show up.
The Messiah we share is one who welcomes in strength and majesty. Jesus is the very one who welcomes us while we are yet sinners. Jesus is stronger than any of us. And he greats us as sons and daughters, co-heirs
Micah foretells that God is Great, Majestic and Strong, brings security and, offers peace.
The three things that world longs for can be found in the Messiah, in Jesus.
The trillion dollar question is: How do people find what they are looking for in the Christ we are sharing?
.. We need to be taking that STAND for Christ ourselves
.. We need to be refined our understanding and trust to in Christ
.. We need to be doing the things of Christ that reveal his strength, majesty, peace, and greatness.
So what does that look like for us?
The passage from Micah serves as a preview of the nativity story. Bethlehem and Mary are the recipients of coming Lord, and as the people of Israel and Elizabeth, we are to open the door and welcome the God who has decided to set up tent in the midst of our neighborhood and who is more fascinated with each one of us than with a throne surrounded with angels and archangels (Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8), facing all the risks and passions of all human beings.
Most likely a Judean prophet during the eighth-century before Christ, Micah was responsible for delivering the divine oracle to God’s covenant people. We are told that “the prophecy about a new ruler to come from the town of Bethlehem (5:2), and the response to the question of what the Lord requires of them, signal Micah’s importance.”
By December 23, our nation will have experienced midterm elections. Hopefully, the people newly elected or reelected will have the integrity to follow through on their promises. Hopefully, their promises will be in harmony with God’s concern for the “least of these.” The sermon for this entire Advent season and in particular for this fourth Sunday of Advent serves as a way to acknowledge and warmly welcome those who visit our church, those we meet in our paths, those who are thirsting for love, fellowship, help, and counsel.
The text can encourage people to serve as volunteers serving hot meals, visiting nursing homes, setting up a caroling church group. The sermon can raise open questions that invite people to find their answers after the worship service is over, or posit a list of possibilities by which people can incarnate the message of welcoming. This may mean hospitality among their own circle of friends and acquaintances, but especially beyond.
A part of our Wesleyan DNA is the ministry for and with the poor. Just as Advent leads us toward encountering the infant Christ in a stable and with the announcement of the Good News being first shared with lowly shepherds, so we are invited to become more mindful and aware of ministries with and for the excluded.
For personal reflection and sermon preparation:
- How do I and my congregation welcome Jesus into our area of greatest weakness, brokenness, or loss?
- 2. Do I leap for joy when I spend time in Scripture, worship, and fellowship with God’s covenant people?
- 3. How can I inspire parishioners to make the poor and the oppressed the center of their Christian concern and witness?
- 4. At some point in the sermon, pose an inductive question, such as “Who am I in this text? Am I Micah, the carrier of good news? Am I Mary who is welcomed by her family? Am I the leaping child in Elizabeth’s womb, excited about the presence and coming of Christ?”
- 5. Is this congregation a fellowship of excitement, an Advent community with a contagious faith and neighborhood involvement?
- 6. How can I set the tone through preaching for a greater passion for justice?
Advent: Series RECLAIMING CHRISTMAS
“ReClaiming Christmas: The Unexpected Gifts
A Look at the gift that is missing from Christmas, and why.
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. [Matthew 24:36-44]
ReClaiming Christmas: The Christmas Cards
A Season of Sharing the Story, “The John The Baptist Collection” of Cards: Repent, You Brood of Vipers,
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.“” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “”The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’“” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “”You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “”I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”” [Matthew 3:1-12]
ReClaiming Christmas: Why Celebrate Jesus
Why Care About the Reasons for the Season
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”” [Luke 1:46b-55]
Reclaiming Christmas: Christmas Delivery
Will the gifts we share bring hope, life and joy?
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “”Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.“” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “”Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”” which means, “”God is with us.“” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus. [Matthew 1:18-25]
Making Life Easier to find and Share God.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” [NRSV]
Proclaiming a baptism of repentance.
Acknowledge that we are broken, incomplete and more than physical and mental. We are a spiritual being, created of God with the free choice to do as WE please, or do as God pleases. If we are in charge our time on earth is all we have and we are to blame for our sins and have no provision for relationship or life after death.
If God is in charge of our lives, we are to blame for our sins but God promises to judges us for our sins and Jesus takes the sentence and blame for us, as a sign of God’s love and as a fix/ connection we could not make without God’s help.
I’m the problem. Not someone or something else. I might not be responsible for the whole world, but I’m responsible for my part.
- We live in a time that we confuse being responsible for creation with being responsible to the creator.
- We live in a time where we confuse my will and self-determination and free will with the consequences
- for not using our choice to build a relationship with God and God’s people.
- We live in a time when the church is not seen or known as the presence of Christ, rather an institution of affirmation of our ideals, traditions and behaviors.
Why would I need to say I am broken or incomplete if God has made me?
- Even before I am of age or development to make a choice of my own. You and I lived in a world bent toward selfishness and self-preservation.
- Long before we are aware of choosing what is good from bad, we live in the process of trial and error. We touch the stove and burn and hand and learn we’d rather not experience that again. We push, hit, or raise our voice to get attention, power or response, We validate the influence we have in the world.
- Before I have developed neural synapse memory patterns, I live in a world that is broken and hurting, cut-throat and starving, filled with rich and poor alike.
- Charles and John Wesley fought over the our state of sin. Charles felt are hopeless without any chance of goodness. John said, we have the presence of God’s power and spirit in us that is at work to help us, and while “bent toward sinning” we have the choice to choose God’s help and strength.
To say it most plainly:
If there is one perfection it is impossible for trillions of human beings to individually unique and yet perfect. The reality that we are unique and different, also means that while there is good in us, we are fundamentally missing the “God-part” of our relationship with the world.
- We live in a world where plateaus shift and volcanos erupt and storms swell and the sun bakes, and sinkholes open and asteroids impact. Processes beyond our control and strength.
- We live in a world where people have different abilities and aptitudes. Different skills and perspective. If everyone were given the same resources, we would continue to have rich and poor, different politics and languages, different interpretations, successes and failures.
SO: even we made every good choice as an individual, we are surrounded by broken, selfish folks in a hurting, unfair world. All the more reason to secure God’s blessing and help in being whole, individually and collectively.
Making Easier Instead of More Difficult.
Finally, John’s invitation to repent, is a personal and individual way we can help make our relationship with God and one another better is by intentionally making it easier for ourselves, others and for God to be in our lives.
- Stop making poor choices
- Stop working against God’s will
- Stop justifying both/and living
- Make the path easy and straight for yourself, others and God.
- This is our personal responsibility…
- Start making room for God
- Make time for God
- Extend grace for God’s people, who are also broken and struggling and imperfect
- See the best in each other and not preoccupied with being right, in charge or in control.
It is better not to put millstones around our necks or others, make the world a better place my making room for a relationship with God and God’s people.
So how do we make the path straight?
- Do No Harm
- Do all the Good You Can do
- Practice intentional Spiritual Growth (A Goal for RSUMC to have every member in a small group)
So Advent 2 is a call to prepare by making faith, love and life easier by living straight toward God.
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that she has served her term, that her penalty is paid, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” A voice says, “Cry out!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. [NRSV]
The Prophet Isaiah gives those who seek God’s presence words of encouragement as well as a reality-check about where to placed our faith.
This first Sunday of Advent we begin lighting candles. This is our sign, this is our symbol and logo for the season. There is a great presence of darkness all around us: Economic, Political, Geo-political, Racial and Cultural protests and looting, A woman killed three people in Denver to buying the last discounted TV at Walmart. The valuable has become trivial and the trivial takes on the value of greatest worth.
This prophet work is a call to make a way that prepares for God’s coming
Prepping: The ultimate Boy Scout exercise of being prepared. I will admit there are some items that I have more of than I used to keep around. I’m not a zombie apocalypse follower. But there seems to be some common sense in looking at the signs and seeing the need to prepare for things I can manage and control.
There is a fine line sometimes between having a few extra supplies, jugs of water and basic necessities and those who have bunkers, stock-piles and provisions for decades. Somewhere in between folks will say we are crazy, foolish or even delusional, while others will say we are foolish, crazy and delusional for not getting ready for a return to the 19th century way of life.
Here is a point of learning for each of us: At what sign, moment or circumstance would we change the focus of our regular way of leaving and prepare for Christ’s return. What would I need to experience in order to act most seriously and sincerely about preparing, not only my self, but others for the coming God Christ, God with us here and now?
In other words: how bad do things need to get before we see that we cannot fix world hunger?
How many acts of terror before we confront that the power of Evil is real and irrational.
How tough do our finances drop before we see we can’t buy nor save our way out of trillions of debt?
How long do we allow people to build waves of doom and gloom before we look to God of strength, hope.
How long will we convince ourselves that we can manage any situation without God’s help
How long will we allow those around us to live, plan, lead and struggle managing the world around us without God’s help and allow them the political correctness, fairness and to-each-his-own theology?
The promise in Isaiah warning is that God will certainly put us into perspective, just like we through out old flowers that were once beautiful but are now dried and lifeless.
Jericho: Mt Temptation
Isaiah call to action is to CRY OUT!
But what are we to call out? Who are we to Call out? What is it we are supposed to say? Answers: We will all fade, fail and died… so we best prepare for God’s stepping in our place.
Advent is this call to action: Remember God is God and we are the created. We are very smart, strong, and
This Advent is a time to speak up, speak out, Cry Out. Not so much to remind each other here, but for the rest of the world to know now is the time to make way for God.
“Swords ready? “On Guard! On Watch! Be Alert. Pay Attention. Look for God, for God is coming.
This get’s back to the prepping: If we live like the apocalypse is coming in 2015 then the majority of folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.
If we are talking about Christ’s return and final victory coming this December 25 instead of Santa then folks will think we are crazy, foolish and tune us out.
God is appearing every day. This is the real, reality.
Advent is not just a season prepping us for Christmas; it is the call to faith for each day and every season.
So I offer a balance: On one hand remember we are a fragile and delicate as a flower, think if power of a bacteria or virus, the sudden impact of a crash, the in hailing or injecting or ingesting of substances that end out live quickly as well as those that quietly tear us down.
On the other hand: God’s word is eternal. Ever strong and to be trusted.
Cry out for folks around us to ready, study, share, learn, open and press through God’s word.
How do we prep for God. Trust what is spoken of God. Have faith in God’s promise of grace and salvation.
Be on Guard to speak and share the word with everyone..
The road to heaven is paved with God’s intention. That we believe, trust and follow.
Not our intentions, God’s.
$2.99 digital version exclusively on Kindle and paper back versions available for $9.99 at the Pastime Grill in Barnesville, GA or from the district office of the UMC in Griffin, GA.
Matthew 1:18-25 (The Message)
18-19 The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced. 20-23While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term: Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son; They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”). 24-25Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
Life is not just about myself. We have a new life to be responsible for.
Life is more than my family and my work and my reputation.
Life is not a dream. It is difficult and has consequences.
Joseph Builder: builds family, builds faith, builds witness/reputation.
Call to action: Wake up, take responsibility for the life given you.