Sunday, December 27, 2009

December 27, 2009 - Burning Bright - Christmas Reflections

I love Christmas.
The bright lights and giddy commotion.
Wide eyes and Grand-Canyon grins.
Joy to the World and Silent Night.

A rainbow of packages spread beneath the tree.
Snickerdoodles and bourbon pecan pie.
Peas and carrots and mashed potatoes.

Gramma and Grampa coming our way.
Or maybe we’re heading out to Vermont,
In a one-horse open sleigh.

Friends over for drinks and dinner.
Bright hopes for tomorrow; a toast to one another.
Good Christian Friends, Rejoice, rejoice … Christ is born today.

I love the energy of Christmas.
Something good always happens.
Because love is real.
And God is love.

Life filled with promise at every turn in the road.
God is here!
God is there!

Small enough to fit into Bethlehem’s manger.
Humble enough to be born in stable.
God with us.

In the darkness, a light.
A light burning bright.
The light of the world.
God’s love for all.

I love Christmas.
It brings out the child in all us.
Because children do it best of all.

I love the children’s Christmas pageant.
Costumes and cardboard camels and songs to sing and lines to memorize.
The story told again and again.
The story told anew.

Shepherds in the dark hills of Judea.
A heavenly chorus of angels.
The first words spoken in the dawn of a new world.
Don’t be afraid.
We bring you glad tidings.
Good news of great joy.
Unto you is born this day
In the City of David,
A savior who is Christ the LORD.
You will find him wrapped in his mother’s love,
Lying in a manger, safe and warm.
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing …
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks.
Go, Tell it on the Mountain .. over the hills and everywhere.

The shepherds set out at once to find him.
They believed, and we do, too.
There’s something in all us that trusts deeply and loves greatly.
The child’s heart within all of us.
O Come All Ye Faithful … The First Noel.

Every year, like those shepherds of old,
We make our trek to Bethlehem to see if it’s true, wanting it to be true, hoping it’s true, wondering if it’s true …

And every year, we discover anew the Christ in our heart.
We watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and get teary eyed with George Bailey, when an angel gets its wings … we watch soldiers come home to the arms of their loved ones … we read an inspiring story and take a deep breath and give it a try … … Christmas does something wonderful to all of us … something good and beautiful … we find Christ in our heart!
And we find ourselves.
Who we are and what we want to be.
O Little Town of Bethlehem.
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

The light of the little manger.
Burning bright in the night.
The light of the little manger.
The light of Christ the Savior.

In our hearts.
The manger of our love.
A little place just right for Christ.
A little place filled of gifts.
The stuff we’ll need for the year ahead:

Courage … the courage to face whatever life throws at us, the courage to look upward and trust God … the courage to forgive and build a bridge and take down a fence and heal a wound and put on a smile and reach down deep and believe, and trust and hope.

Confidence … the confidence to keep on keepin’ on with our lives … to stay the course and never give up, for Christ is in all things, and in all things, God is at work … and we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

Comfort … the comfort that consoles us with heaven’s love, when life takes a hard turn and our heart is broken … the comfort of God’s hand upon our lives, that we belong to God, and God is our strength and God is our guide, and we’ll get there, however it works out … and life is good, and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our LORD … nothing in life and nothing in death … nothing anywhere that has a greater power than the light of God’s love, burning bright in the night, the night Christ was born

The light of Christ,
The gifts of Christ!
The stuff we’ll need for the year ahead.
That’s why I love Christmas!

Merry Christmas, indeed.
Merry Christmas to all.

The light of Christ, burning bright.
Amen and Amen!

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 20, 2009 "Dangerous Love" - notes

Luke 1:39-56

A lady was leaving church one Sunday after worship and reached for the hand of her husband.
She felt a tap on her shoulder, turned to notice her husband behind her, saying, “That’s not my hand you’re holding.”
Then she looked at the man beside her who was smiling, and he said, “Lady, I’m a visitor today, and I’ve never been in a friendlier church.”

I think Mary needed someone to hold her hand …

Mary’s situation … frightened?
The morning after – “buyer’s remorse” …
She sets out with haste – to a safe haven?

Who doesn’t need Elizabeth now and then?
     My Aunt Lala – Sylvia … uncanny ability to make a 5-year old boy feel like a giant!
Who was your Elizabeth?

All along the way, God has given me Elizabeths …

Elizabeth is a picture of Christ.
No greater love than Christ.
A love that receives us today, just as we are!
“Come and follow me!”
A love that transforms us for tomorrow!
“Go, now, into all the world!”

The blessing of Elizabeth … the first beatitude in Luke … blessed are you, Mary …
The Hail Mary - not a football term …
I see God in you.
Like Buddhists bowing to one another – because they see divinity in the other … to see God in one another … what a gift.
Elizabeth’s gift takes Mary the frightened girl on a journey into the heart of God … and Mary comes out on the other side, ready for the task.

The courage to sing – the Magnificat – my soul magnifies the LORD.
To celebrate God’s goodness.
God’s work.
God’s faithfulness.

Mary returns home a courageous young mother.

Love will do that for us.
The kind of love that Elizabeth had.
You’re gonna be okay.
I see God in you.
Great things from you.

God does this for us … God is our Elizabeth.
And one day, we begin to sing:
My soul magnifies the LORD!

Amen and Amen! 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

December 13, 2009 "Joy Gets Serious"

Luke 3:7-18

To remember who we are …
I am who God says I am.
I have what God says I have.
I can do what God says I can do.

A man in Scotland calls his son in London the day before Christmas Eve and says, "I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough."
“Dad, what are you talking about?” the son screams.
"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer" the father says.
"We're sick of each other and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Leeds and tell her."

Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
"Oh no, they’re not!" she shouts, "I'll take care of

She calls Scotland immediately, and screams at her father;
"You are NOT getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?" and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “All taken care of! They're coming home for Christmas - and they're paying their own way.”

“It’s a Wonderful Life” … Jimmy Stewart … George Bailey …
Two characters: George Bailey inherited his father’s tender and a savings and loan business … and Mr. Potter, “the richest, meanest man” in town.

The crisis … Christmas Eve, bank examiners find $8000 missing … George goes to Mr. Potter to ask for a loan … all George has for collateral - a $15,000 life insurance policy, $500 equity … Mr. Potter, “George, you’re worth more dead than alive.”
George Bailey crashes and burns … his life is worthless: I wish I were dead; I wish I had never been born … Clarence the angel … rescue … let’s pretend … that you had never lived …

In the end, we all know that George is “the richest man in town” … and he’s got a heart.

That’s what the gospel is all about … having a heart …
To love God … to love neighbor … to love one another … to do unto others …

John’s message directed to the heart … a 3-way test:
Am I generous?
Am I fair?
Do I use power well?

Impressed, they thought John might be the Christ …
But John only points the way.
Helps folks get ready.

Ready for Christ.

Amen and Amen

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 6, 209 - "Peace"

The Message of the day was given from the following notes ... I hope these spare jottings give you some sense of the message - not everything here was developed, and much was said beyond these notes ... such is "extemporaneous preaching" ... blessings!

Zechariah’s Story … “Peace Is Our Work” – Dec. 6, 2009

Ever watch Joel Osteen?
This is my Bible … I am what it says I am, I have what it says I have, I can do what it says I can do … today I will be taught the world of God … I boldly confess my mind is alert, my heart is receptive, I will never be the same, in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Full of the Holy Spirit …

Full of what, these days?
Or some reference to excrement …

What are you and I full of this morning?

Billboard – Tag Hueur add – featuring Tiger Woods, and tagline, “What are you made of?”

I thought: same old junk that we’re all made of … and some mighty precious stuff, too … but it’s all mixed up together, isn’t it?

A combination …
Anxiety …
Fear …
Anger …
Longing …
Envy …
Love, too …

So we pray, fill us with the Holy Spirit …

Zechariah’s confession of faith … a Spirit-filled life … all the other stuff is there, too, but the Spirit prevails …

God-centered …
And there is not greater positive energy in this world than being God-centered.
It helps us pull all of the other junk into some proper alignment … fear and anxiety are not quite so powerful …

The notion of rescue … Presbyterian, Calvin, predestination … careful! But salvation is not within our reach … it’s a gift from God … and more than a gift, an intervention … “while we were dead in our trespasses and sins”

Rescue story …

Two things:
Light …
Peace …

Peace is our work …

Romans 5:1 - peace with God!
Matthew 5:9 – peace-makers … to bring peace to our world …

Luke 12:49 … not peace, but division … tempted to turn the gospel into a sedative … to follow Jesus seriously is to take up his purpose and sometimes experience the consequences … why does Jesus speak of a cross for us?

Jesus is our peace … Ephesians 2:14 … the intersection …
John 14:27 … peace I give to you, not as the world …

The heart and soul of the Christian life – a surrender to Jesus …
Personal, heartfelt … surrender …

To give our lives …
It’s more than doing good, it’s walking into the heart of God.

Jesus is our peace …