Sunday, December 25, 2011

Making Room in Your Heart

A pediatrician was examining a little girl. Peering into her ears with his otoscope, he asked, "Is Miss Piggy in your ears?"

The girl frowned and shook her head no.

Peering into her mouth, he asked, "Is Kermit the Frog in your throat?"

The girl frowned and shook her head no.

Listening to her heart with with his stethoscope, he asked, "Is Barney in your heart?"

The girl responded, "No, Barney is on my underwear. JESUS is in my heart!"

Suppose you get a DVD or a video game or a book as a Christmas gift. If it's something you wanted, you'll make time to use your gift.  We make time for what's important to us.

And yet how many of us got a book or video game or DVD for Christmas last year that we've essentially forgotten about?  Not all gifts have lasting value.

Jesus is a gift with eternally lasting value.
Knowing Jesus is important.
Take time to know Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

God Does a New Thing

Fourth Sunday of Advent

From Isaiah 43, Luke 2

• Talking with another pastor this week, what is favorite holiday, what’s best about slash passion for being pastor, also the sometimes challenge of taking a familiar story and telling it again...

• But there is something to be said about the familiar... potential assurance in dark times. I think that’s what God was teaching in the years wandering in the wilderness: trust in me. I make food and water appear for you, you have but to collect it and be satisfied. Give me thanks. When you wander from me I will raise up for you a faithful one to bring you back. Trust in me, have faith in me, listen to what I say.

• The people of Isaiah’s time knew trouble, knew sorrow, knew desperation. And God spoke into their situation and said Trust in me, have faith in me, I am redeeming you, I love you, I am for you.

And I’m doing a new thing. I will walk among you, live among you, live IN you, restore you renew you redeem you. There will be no desert in your life in which I cannot produce fruit, there will be no darkness in your life in which I cannot shine, no wilderness path you must walk without me.
Into your desert: I come, bringing water.
Into your unending suffering: I come, bringing respite
Into your darkness: I come, bringing light. 
Into your unchanging oppression: I come, bringing justice
Into your brokenness: I come, making new.

I am Emmanuel, God-is-with-us.

Prayer: Come Lord Jesus. Help us see you. Help us to make room in our hearts for thee.

• Children’s Program: The Case of the Reluctant Innkeeper

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Inoculation, Enthusiasm, Incarnation

Third Sunday of Advent

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

• Tis the season of giving. When I turned 16 I received the gift of this guitar. I’m not very good, but my friends saw something in my enthusiasm and planted the idea that I could be good. Enthusiastic about guitar.

• I’m not particularly enthusiastic about getting flu shot, but I get em every year.

Flu shot, they actually inject you with weak or dead strain of the flu, and your body reacts against it, then if you come in contact with the real thing, your body is ready.

Inoculation against virus. Injected into and utilized by living body.
The verb to inoculate is from Latin inoculare, which meant "to graft or implant" (as a plant part is grafted onto another plant); Over 2,000 years old, modern practice in 18th C. led to eradication of polio and the wide-spread control of many diseases, saving many lives.

• In a way, inoculation and enthusiasm are synonyms.

• Enthusiasm: God is in us, in our world. We recognize its advent (it happens) at Christmas. The incarnation is God’s life-saving inoculation of the world

• Incarnation: Jesus comes into living world and gives power.

Prayer that God would be born in us, change and save our lives, and that in our enthusiasm for God, others would know God.

• Reading of Luke 2 by Deb with musical accents by Josie, Art, Dylan, Brandon

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prepare the Lord's Way

Second Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 40:1-11 and Mark 1:1-8

• season of political positioning & campaigning... season of making wish lists... look at me! glad to live in democracy where we can vote, but get sick of a year of campaigns.

Can you imagine if Jesus had a campaign to be savior? What platform would he run on?

Some of his talking points come from one of his campaign managers, the prophet Isaiah...

Here is the Lord God, coming with strength, with a triumphant arm, bringing his reward with him and his payment before him. (sounds good!)
Like a shepherd he will tend the flock, he will gather lambs in his arms and lift them onto his lap. He will gently guide the nursing ewes. (tough and tender! Nice touch)

• But his head campaign manager was John the Baptist, who, frankly, dressed funny and ate funny and I don’t know about you, makes me think of the street preacher that you cross the street to avoid.

And yet...

The people flocked into the wilderness to see John the Baptist. There was something attractive about him that compelled people to leave their comfort zones and enter the wilderness, leave their comfort zones and confess their sins, leave their comfort zones and receive baptism, turn their lives around.

John the Baptist was announcing a parade in which God was coming (Isaiah 40:3-5) and saying if you wanted to be part of this parade, you had to let go of certain things so your hands would be free to carry a flag or a banner in God’s parade.

Gotta let go of pride, let go of LookAtMe.

Gotta let go of the illusion that you can somehow earn God’s favor

And not only gotta let go of past failures but the notion that past failures are greater than God’s ability to redeem. (my sin is too great)

• John preached repentance of sins accompanied by baptism by water – a symbolic shedding of the old way of life, cleansing of the associated guilt, and emergence of re-ordered life.

And people wanted what John had to offer. They wanted to get right.

And John the Baptist was quick to tell people you’ve only just begun – there’s a One coming after me, HE’S the one to live for, HE’S the one will change your life.

And John the Baptist’s desire in life was to become more and more like HIM, to the diminishment of himself, which happens through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

• From the onset of the journey of faith the Holy Spirit is present in our lives. The Spirit comes to convict us of our need, to make us aware of our sin, to reveal to us the beauty of the Savior, to give us new birth, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, to empower us for service in the kingdom and in the church, and the like.

The Spirit ever moves us one step further in God’s parade.

• So, as you prepare for Christmas, be humble and repentant, and open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in you, and ever point to God.

• Hymn 163 As With Gladness Men of Old