Monthly Archives: December 2018

Year of Gratitude: December, Week 4

On this third day of Christmas, I find myself deeply grateful for many things. However, I have been in several conversations where people are tired, overwhelmed and just want to close the book on 2018.

Some periods of time are like that. Sometimes it feels like one damn thing after another and the desire is to be “over it!” Our challenge, is a year of gratitude. Certainly, a new year, with all the blank spaces on the calendar can give a visualization of hope, promise, opportunity and newness of life.

I don’t think that we should actually just try to erase the past, particularly not the painful past. I know I hate when I hear what have I learned from my difficulties or pain or grief. The challenge is what have I learned?

I can be grateful, even when my life is not all I would hope it would be. I can be grateful when nothing is going right. How? I am grateful by choosing to find those moments when I have been loved, cared for and affirmed. I can search my memories and experiences to find those people who have most embodied God’s presence with their love, their laughter and their grace.

In the Christian tradition we are in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas which begins on December 25 and ends with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. We celebrate Emmanuel, God-with-us. We give thanks for God who is embodied in humanity and we see this embodiment in Jesus. Through Jesus, we too, are called to embody God, to be the incarnation of the God in the world.

The challenge for this week, is to take some time and think about 2018. Where have you seen God at work in your life and in the lives of others? In the gospel of Luke, at the end of the story of the birth of Jesus, it says that “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” What will treasure from this year? What things will you continue to ponder?

Anytime someone lives out the “incarnation” of God, it is a gift without measure. In our faith, God puts on skin and shares life with us. We, in our faith, then allow God to be at work in us and through us. The greatest gift of Christmas is seeing God in Christ and then seeing God in others. Share this week, how you have seen that gift in another.

The December challenge is to be grateful for gifts. Write one thank you note to someone you have seen living out the grace of God. Perhaps it was seeing someone help someone else, perhaps they were embodying the love and grace of Jesus in a conversation, or in a visit or a call. Surely there is one person in whom you have seen the living expression of God’s love and grace. Thank them as part of this year of gratitude.

 

 

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Christmas Eve: Calm and Bright

Merry Christmas! Last night on Christmas Eve, the services were beautiful and touching and helped me to experience “Emmanuel” God-with us in a real way. Our 5:30 p.m. service at First United Methodist Church is a bilingual family service.

Technology can often be glitchy and it certainly was last night. At the last night, we thought we would be going old school, and went to get  hymnals. By the time we returned with the hymnals the problems with the computer program was ironed out.

The service had the usual elements with singing, a children’s time and the reading of the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. We had two people share what the birth of Christ meant for them. One was a girl, around 8, and she spoke of Jesus’ birthday and being able celebrate such a gift from God. The other was an older man, from Hondurous who speaks little English and his witness was translated to English from the Spanish.

What struck me the most, was when he said, “In my culture, Christmas is the time to reconcile with family and friends. If you have fought and disagreed, then this is the season to make amends.” I ponder how little that is done in the Anglo culture, at least in my experience. Yet the carols certainly speak of the restoration and reconciliation of God and human kind. Very little is spoken about the challenge of reconciling as people, brother to brother, sister to sister, friend to friend.

Our late service continued the use of Marcia McFee and the Worship Design Studios “Calm and Bright” series. Two hundred years ago the carol “Silent Night, Holy Night” debuted. How I and many have been blessed by that lovely song. We sang and broke bread, and lit candles and were once again reminded of the mystery and beauty of Emmanuel, God with us always. You can find the entire service as it was broadcast here. 

Now, on this first day of Christmas I begin to celebrate and truly enjoy the gift of family and friends. Today is quiet, but tomorrow the house will be filled with friends and tomorrow night the first group of family will be here. I am so grateful to have the privilege of preaching the Good News of God with us, now and always. Merry Christmas!

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Advent 4: Hope in the midst of Fear

Christmas is literally almost here! Tomorrow is Christmas eve and then “It’s Only One More Sleep” until the first Day of Christmas (better known as Christmas Day!) As we continue our sermon series, “Calm and Bright” today we lit the fourth candle, the candle of hope.

The world hasn’t seemed very hopeful in the last few days. The stock market plummeting, a partial government shutdown, new worries over global issues and then a tsunami hitting Indonesia without warning. I, need a reminder, that the lack of hope is not new in the 21st century. Time after time, there have been wars and rumors of wars, governments that rise and fall, and injustice.

That is why we cry out for “Emmanuel” God-with-us, now as we did long ago. The promise of Advent:  of Peace, of Joy, of Love and of Hope is the promise of our God who will restore us to the joy of salvation and to the ways of justice and righteousness.

Silent Night, Holy Night is one of the ways we give voice to that hope and faith and trust that God is with us, really with us. Today’s worship service in it’s entirety can be found here.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. There are 2 services, one at 5:30 which is a Bilingual Family Candle Light service, the second is at 11:00 and is the traditional candlelight communion service. Silent Night will sung and the candles will be lit as a sign of our faith in Emmanuel, God with us. The 11:00 service will be televised live on KAKE TV and also will be live streamed at the link above. Merry Christmas!

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Year of Gratitude, December: Week 3

DECEMBER

Just a few days from Christmas we continue with week 3 of our Year of Gratitude. Week one I invited us to write thank you notes to those who talents had blessed us and to share our talents with others. Week two we were thankful for the gift of time.

It was a real joy for me to write some thank you notes to people who had given the gift of time. Honoring their commitment and savoring the gift was a blessing to me. Giving of my time was another way to celebrate the joy and love and yes peace of the season. Giving time not out of obligation, but out of a sense of love and faith was joyous!

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note focusing on treasure. The first definition of treasure from Merriam-Webster focuses on money and wealth. It is the second definition that speaks of something or someone of great value. That can be, but isn’t necessarily based on monetary value.

Jesus once said, “that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Perhaps it begs the question, but what do you treasure? What do I treasure? What do I find most precious in my life? What do you find most precious in your life? What do we treasure above all else?

This week the challenge is to write a thank you note that honors what we treasure most. That thank you note might honor a relationship we might have, it might be to an organization that we are so grateful to be able to assist through our time and our donations. Honor what you treasure most with a thank note and through the gift of you: your time, your presence or a donation.

May what we treasure help us focus our faith this week as we celebrate the birth of Emmanuel, God-with-us.

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Advent 3: Love in the midst of Hate

The journey towards Christmas continues. Ten days from today is Christmas Day. Advertisers would tell us to hurry up and finish our shopping. The hustle and bustle is real and all around us. Advent is about preparing for the birth Jesus, but perhaps it has more to do with our hearts than with how many gifts we have purchased or how many packages are around our tree.

The candles of Peace and Joy have been lit and are joined this week by the pink or rose candle Love. While I am certain I didn’t talk about hate today in worship, I did focus on Love. Love can be elusive this time of the year in spite of all the smiling faces that come at us in the advertisements streaming on our devices or pictured all around us. Love is a gift and a commitment that we know first from God’s love for us.

In the Zephaniah passage, this verse is profound: God will renew you in his love (New Revised Standard Version). The Common English Bible says it this way: God will create calm with his love. On Christmas eve we sing “All is calm, all is bright” and “Son of God, love’s pure light.” Love doesn’t back down from difficulty or fear, love renews us and creates calm in our lives our hearts.

You can find today’s worship service here. I am praying for Love this week to renew me and you and create calm in our lives and hearts and spirits.

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Year of Gratitude: December, Week 2

DECEMBER                                                                                                                                          We are now less than two weeks from Christmas day. For many of us, the crush of things to do, places to go and parties and events to attend seem relentless. Where does one find the time to give thanks? Like Straight No Chaser’s song, The  Christmas Can- Can, it can feel like a mad dash to get to the end of the season. Other than a quick thank you through a text or e-mail or phone sending a thank you note may feel like one more thing to do in an already ridiculously full calendar.

Yes, indeed, I am going to challenge you to write a thank you note this week. Our focus, will be on the gift of time. This one thing, seems to be the hardest to grasp with our culture overwhelming us with things to do. And there are so many wonderful places to go, performances to attend, special worship services and events in which to participate. Time is precious and a gift in and of itself.

So this weeks challenge is to write one thank note to someone who has given  you the gift of time. Maybe they went to coffee or lunch with you, or called you or stopped by and their presence and time spent with you was a special gift. I believe I often overlook the simpliest things because I get too busy, too focused; a simple hug, a “how are you, really?” and the time it takes is a gift beyone measure.

Write one thank note, at least for time shared and given. Then sometime this week offer a gift of time to someone else. Some one you love,  someone who you haven’t talked to for a while, or perhaps, just bring a cup of coffee to their desk and see how they are doing. This week, we give thanks for the gift of time.

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Advent 2: Joy in the midst of Uncertainty

The dawned filled with sunshine. My week has been filled with wonderful activities at the church, with some deep and meaningful family time and our house filled with laugher and love. Yesterday, December 8, we gathered to celebrate my mother-in-laws unique and unrepeatable life and spirit. She had died in early November, but this weekend allowed more of her grandchildren to make the trek to Wichita for her memorial service.

Traditionally the candle of joy is the third week of Advent. This week, at least personally, it seemed very appropriate. Joy can come sneaking around the corner or burst out in the most amazing times and events. My husband’s family here, created a joy filled space and time as memory board were made and stories shared and laughter and more laughter ringing through the rooms.

In the sermon Calm and Bright, from Marcia McFee’s Worship Design Studio, the 200th anniversary of the debut of Silent Night, Holy Night is celebrated. Verse two of that well known carol goes like this:

Silent Night, Holy Night,  Shepherds quake, at the sight                                                              Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing “Alleluia”                                                 Christ, the Savior is born, Christ, the Savior is born.

When fear moves to awe and wonder, joy becomes part of the experience of the glories streaming and the alleluias being sung. In today’s service we focused on Elizabeth and Mary’s joy at being part of God’s grace being made real in their lives and through their participation in God’s work in the world. You can find today’s worship service in it’s entirety here.   

I am praying for new spaces and places to experience joy in this Advent Season.

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