December 16, 2018    

We light the third candle on the Advent wreath.  Its theme is ‘joy’.

We now decorate Advent in blue, but many faith communities continue the long-time practice of decorating Advent in purple.  On wreaths in such communities, there are three purple candles and one pink candle.  The pink candle is not the last but the third one in the sequence.

Why?  Because even in the midst of all the difficult waiting and preparing,  God provides some joy as encouragement.  Both the first and the second lesson appointed for this Sunday begin with the word “Rejoice!”

Why?  In the first lesson, because the judgment against you has been taken away.  Wow!  Like someone paying off that credit card which contained the bill for all the Christmas shopping.  Yes, we racked up the debt, indebtedness.  But now, it’s gone.  How would you feel opening your Visa or Master Card statement and seeing a $0.00 balance?

Rejoice that God forgives – and gives new life. 

The gospel calls us to bear fruit worthy of such a new, forgiven and turned around life.

What does that look like?

The worship service at 10:45 will include, in place of the big sermon, the proclaiming and presenting of the Christmas story by the church school.

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the preaching of John, that rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
            Zephaniah 3:14-20
                Isaiah 12:2-6
            Philippians 4:4-7
            Luke 3:7-18

CHILDREN’S SERMON:  “Jesse Tree: Branch 3”


from Zephaniah 3
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
            O daughter Jerusalem!
15The LORD has taken away the judgments against you.
from Philippians 4

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

FIRST LESSON from Zephaniah 3:14-20
Sing aloud, O daughter Zion;
            shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
            O daughter Jerusalem!
15The LORD has taken away the judgments against you,
            he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
            you shall fear disaster no more.
16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Do not fear, O Zion;
            do not let your hands grow weak.
17The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
            a warrior who gives victory;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
            he will renew you in his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing
            18as on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you,
            so that you will not bear reproach for it.
19I will deal with all your oppressors
            at that time.
And I will save the lame
            and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
            and renown in all the earth.
20At that time I will bring you home,
            at the time when I gather you;
for I will make you renowned and praised
            among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
            before your eyes, says the LORD.
SECOND LESSON from Philippians 4:4-7

  Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 3:7-18
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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. 9Even 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."
            10And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" 11In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" 13He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." 14Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."
            15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
            18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.




December 23, 2018

We light the fourth and final candle on the Advent wreath.  The time is getting close.

The theme of that fourth candle is peace.

The fourth candle’s light shines, radiates, and advocates for a ‘peace’ that goes beyond the absence of hostilities between antagonists.  Although at many times, I would certainly ‘settle’ for the absence of angry feeling and words, the lack of deadly weapons, and the ceasing of wars. 

The biblical sense of ‘peace’ is the presence of wholeness rather than the absence of barbs and bombs.

I remember reading but don't remember who wrote a version of the old Humpty Dumpty story.  Yes, Humpty might have been a good egg, but Humpty was also rather unaware and foolish.  He was rounded and not inclined to be safe on any flat surface.  He was roly-poly.  Not like that roly-poly pudding in that Beatrix Potter story.  Oh yes, there were Potters before Harry.

Why is something that is roly-poly trying to sit on top of a wall, we might ask.  Ah, the answer might be similar to one re a couple of creatures in a lovely garden who are asked not to pick the fruit on the tree which stands in the middle of the garden. 

We might foresee that both Humpty and those creatures in the Garden of Eden are heading for a fall.

We know from the nursery rhyme that ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty back together again”.  Broken. Goner.

But this other version of the rhyme asks “what of the King?”  In it the King appears and puts Humpty back together again.  We might say Humpty is whole again and alive, because all the pieces of his broken life have been put back in place – by the King himself. 

That is my understanding of the Biblical sense of ‘peace’.

Blessed is this One who comes – to bring peace to the broken pieces of our lives.  Who comes in love to risk being broken himself so that others may have peace and wholeness in relationship with God, self, and community.

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that binds us, that we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
            Micah 5:2-5a
                 Psalm 80:1-7
            Hebrews 10:5-10

            Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]

CHILDREN’S SERMON: “Jesse Tree: Branch 4”

SERMON: “Abolishing to Establish”

WORD OF THE WEEK – From Micah 5
4And 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;
5and he shall be the one of peace.
FIRST LESSON from Micah 5:2-5a
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
            who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
            one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
            from ancient days.
3Therefore 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.
4And 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;

5and he shall be the one of peace.

SECOND LESSON from Hebrews 10:5-10
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
            "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
                        but a body you have prepared for me;
            6in burnt offerings and sin offerings
                        you have taken no pleasure.
            7Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God'
                        (in the scroll of the book it is written of me)."

8When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), 9then he added, "See, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. 10And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

THE HOLY GOSPEL according to Luke 1:39-45 [46-55]
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."
[46And Mary said,
            "My soul magnifies the Lord,
                        47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
            48for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
                        Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
            49for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
                        and holy is his name.
            50His mercy is for those who fear him
                        from generation to generation.
            51He has shown strength with his arm;
                        he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
            52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
                        and lifted up the lowly;
            53he has filled the hungry with good things,
                        and sent the rich away empty.
            54He has helped his servant Israel,
                        in remembrance of his mercy,
            55according to the promise he made to our ancestors,

                        to Abraham and to his descendants forever."]