This Sunday, January 13, is Baptism of the Lord Sunday on the church’s liturgical calendar. This year we will read Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism found in 1:9-11, and we will reflect on the Life-Changing Epiphany Jesus received that he was God’s beloved son. Can we accept that we too are God’s beloved? I will also explore the connection the gospel writers make to the prophecy of God’s servant found in Isaiah 42:1-9. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” (v.3) Could this be our calling as well? Think about these things.
“The Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” This Sunday, January 6, we enter the season of Epiphany. In preparation, here are some questions to think about: What does it mean to have an epiphany? Where do epiphanies come from? What is their purpose and impact on our lives? Our scripture readings will be Matthew 2:1-12 and John 1:1-14. My message is titled, Having an Epiphany.
Join us this Monday night, December 24, at 7 p.m. for a beautiful Christmas Eve Service with carols, candles, reading, and lots of special music. Come celebrate and ponder the meaning of the birth of Jesus, also called Emmanuel (“God is with Us”). And stay for refreshments afterwards in the Celebration Center.
On the final Sunday of Advent, we will reflect on our hope for peace. Peace is something that we all yearn for: peace in our hearts, in our families, in our communities and in our world. And yet peace is illusive and hard to find, and even harder to hold on to. Even as we yearn for peace, we find within, among and around us the seeds of conflict, misunderstanding, injustice and war. Two thousand years ago Jesus came as the living embodiment of the way of peace. The question is Will we walk in his way? Will we allow him to change us? May the peace of Christ be born in us this day.
What gives you joy? What reasons do you find to rejoice even in the midst of the challenges of life? This third Sunday in the season of Advent, we will rejoice together, “for the Mighty One has done great things” (Luke 1:49)! So we will sing, shout, ring, pray, and rejoice. Even as we continue to wait for the fullness of God’s reign, even as we prepare our hearts to receive the Christ, we will also rejoice! We will rejoice in the promised victory of God who is for us and rejoices over us. Let the words of the prophet Zephaniah sink in, “God will rejoice over you with gladness, God will renew you in God’s love; God will exult over you with loud singing as on a day of festival.” (Zeph. 3:17-18)
On the second Sunday of Advent, December 9, we will reflect together on God’s coming to us. What will that be like? How and when will God come? Are we prepared? The prophet Micah (3:1-4) proclaimed that the Lord God will come suddenly into his Temple as powerful change agent, like a “refiner’s fire” or “fuller’s soap.” And in our gospel text (Luke 1:26-38), a young Mary suddenly learns that her whole life will be changed. She will be the mother of Jesus, the Son of the Most High. She wonders how this miraculous thing could be, but accepts it. “Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” God’s coming changes things. Let us prepare ourselves for that coming.
This Sunday, December 2, we begin the new Christian year with the season of Advent. Our services throughout Advent will include a lot of wonderful, inspiring music. I can’t wait. My upcoming messages will be on The Many Times of Advent (see the schedule below). Each week I have paired a scripture passage from the ancient Hebrew prophets suggested by the lectionary with a selection from Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth. I invite you to read and ponder these texts beforehand. May your Advent be a time of deepening faith and wonder.
This coming Sunday, November 25th, is the last Sunday of the Christian year! A new Christian year begins on December 2nd, the first Sunday in the season of Advent. The Christian liturgical cycle divides a calendar year into a series of seasons – Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time. These seasons are based, not upon predictable changes in the weather, but upon the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Just as each season in the world of nature has a distinct quality, each season in the Church liturgical cycle has a distinct mood and spiritual nuance. By regularly remembering and re-experiencing the key aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus, we are refreshed, deepened and reconfirmed in our own faith and depth of understanding. And because we are not the same person with the same understandings from year to year, our experience of the Church Seasons is similarly different and deeper each year. By God’s grace, through our celebration of the Christian year we are being shaped into the pattern of Christ. May you all have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Our scripture for this week is one of my favorites, Philippians 4:6-13. I invite you to read it and ponder it daily from now until Thanksgiving Day. While working on the bulletin and message for this coming Sunday, I came across the above picture that contains the saying, “Gratitude, the key to a happy life!” I’ve been wondering about it ever since. Could it really be true? Is gratitude the key to a happy life? Could it be that a grateful life is also a happy life? Think about that.
This coming Sunday we will ponder the apostle Paul’s encouraging words in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 concerning God’s abundant blessings which enable us to share freely with others. We are challenged to sow abundantly so we may reap bountifully. There is great joy in being able to give. There is great meaning in living a generous life.