January is the first month of the yearly entrenchment of winter. Christmas and its valiant drive to bring some light and warmth to the darkness and cold is over and reality sets in. I was reminded of this recently when I went out to retrieve our daily copy of The Buffalo News from its delivery tube. As most of you know the parsonage Brenda and I inhabit is right where Whitehaven road widens out into four lanes. That means that the highway plows are nowhere near the edge of the road and simply plow in our mail box and paper tube. So there it was, “the fresh” Buffalo news slushed in without a protective wrapper, and resembling wet toilet paper. Though it was still before Christmas, something of the long winter invaded my psyche. I had visions of the annual futility of trying to keep the dense packed snow away from the mail and paper delivery points. My feelings were intensified by the reality it now takes more effort to clear such than in younger years. And yes, my dear fellow Christians, I had less than benevolent thoughts about the paper carrier who for whatever reason did not bag the paper, The Buffalo News and its liberal bent, the state snow plow driver who forgets just where the road widens, and irritation over a host of things absolutely unrelated to the precipitating event. Surely Scrooge missed the appropriate time for his exclamation “Bah Humbug!” January warrants the exclamation, not Christmas!
OK, I do feel better. Confession has a way of bringing relief to bad attitudes and less than stellar dispositions. Try it sometime. I doubt you are anymore immune to periodic bouts of grumpiness than I, and January is fertile ground for the development of these.
There is an ancient proverb that says “It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness.” I’m going to do that by thinking kindly thoughts of the people who drive our snowplows through terrible weather to keep our roads clear. I’ll do that by appreciating our paper carrier who must arise every morning at the earliest of hours so I can take a short walk down the driveway to find the paper. I’ll even thank the Buffalo News for including a conservative commentary on occasion.
Join me, won’t you, in lighting a candle this January. Soon we will note the lengthening of daylight, and we will look back on the good things that happened this winter. It’s all a matter of perspective.
Epiphany / Matthew 2: 1-13
Epiphany : When God’s purposes come to light.
The wise men worship Christ.They represent the world’s faithful of all races and of all geographical location.
Herod rejects Christ and instead plots to force his agenda on the world.
God is strongly involved just as he has been when he came to Mary and Elizabeth, and Joseph.
God intervenes but we have to respond!
Because the wisemen are worshippers and therefore open to God, they become part of God’s salvation plan.
Are you?Are we?
If so, our paths will go in a different direction, and always at the direction of God. Not our own agendas and priorities.
For me it took me on a wild and wonderful path from Lyndonville to Lycoming College to Colgate-Rochester Divinity School to Wyoming and Covington; East Bloomfield and Ionia, Westfield, Clarence, to the Southerntier, and finally to Grand Island.
Sent on another road.
Every time we respond to God we go “God’s Way” not “My Way!”
Another route for the wisemen meant they went out of their way, bypassing Jerusalem entirely and probably following the trade routes through the wilderness of Judah.
They could have traveled either north or south of the Dead Sea, but likely to the south which provided more secrecy and chance to be seen.
The word used is “anochoreo” which means “strategic direction.
"The mysterious Wise Men from the East searched deeply and diligently for what the star revealed. May my searching be so comprehensive. The Wise Men offered wildly inappropriate gifts. May my offering be so extravagant. The Wise Men departed "by another road." May my path be so drastically altered because of my encounter with Jesus." - Eric Park, Butler PA UMC
Mark 13: 24-37
Preparation for Christmas is a mix of experiences. It can be stressful as we try to produce a Christmas that lives up to our own expectations. It can be a delightful cultural experience as an odd mix of commercialism and religion gets mixed together. It can be the vehicle through which our faith is impacted in a new and refreshing way.
Today I would like to attempt to launch us into all of those things with a prayer that we will experience a meaningful Christmas.
The first I will leave somewhat to yourself.Blessings as you attempt to create a memorable holiday time.
The other two I will invite you intoby way of the Biblical theme we have before us from Mark 13: 24-37.
Today’s lesson takes us into an admonition to “stay alert” to the arrival of Jesus in the second coming. Unlike our celebration of Christmas on December 25th, the day of the arrival of the Lord, no one knows.
Mark 13: 23 – 37
So how do we stay alert in what appears to be a secular surrounding to the presence and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? (Pittsburgh calls Christmas “Twinkle Days” to make it appealing to everyone.)
ANGELS - Angels are messengers. Every time you see an angel figure ask yourself what message do you think God has for you this season.
BELLS – Bells call us to worship. Every time you see a bell determine when next you will take a moment or hour to worship. Is it possible the whole season could be put in the context of worship?
CANDY CANES – Candy canes are a confection shaped to remind us of the Shepherd’s crook. The shepherd uses the crook to guard and guide his flock. Every time you see a candy cane remember the Good Shepherd who will guide you not only through the season, but through life.
THE COLORS RED AND GREEN – Yes, even as the popular song “Silver Bells”
Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush
home with their treasures
Two colors which we can embrace. Green for eternal life as evergreens stay green year around. Red the color of Jesus’ sacrifice to bring about that new life which is eternal. Every time you stop at a stop light this year I invite you to reflect.
CHRISTMAS TREES – Make sure every person you know has some kind of a Christmas tree. In early Christian plays the evergreen tree symbolized the Garden of Eden, the good creation of God to which God now strives to offer again through the work of Jesus Christ and His Church.
DOVES – The bird of peace released by Noah who returned over the water of the flood with an olive branch in its beak … a sign of God’s intent of peace and restoration of His “Good Earth.” An invitation for us to join in that work.
GIFTS – Scripture says: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17 Reflect on this passage every time you give or receive a gift. God is the best giver of all!
MISTLE TOE – Most of these are a form of evergreen – reminding us of how God brings people together, and how in fact our primary relationships are meant to be one of God’s greatest gifts to us in this lifetime.
SAINT NICHOLAS – An opportunity for us to share with our children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews about generosity. Santa Claus was real person, Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myrna, known for charity and generosity. Everytime you share this season in real generosity whether it be charitable giving or an expression of your love. Know that Nicholas’ Spirit is very real and can be embodied in real people, people like you and me.
SNOWFLAKES – God save us from too many! But none the less, each unique creations. When you see the snow reflect upon God’s creative genious.
WREATHS – Symbols of eternity. Eternal life is the ultimate gift of the reception of the work of God in Jesus Christ and brought to completing by the work of the Holy Spirit.
NOW ALL THAT FOR STARTERS! KEEP WATCH FOR GOD IN THE ORDINARY CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS.
THEN EACH REMAINING SUNDAY OF ADVENT I INVITE YOU TO JOIN WITH ME IN VISITING THE FIRST FAMILY AND COMMUNITY WHO CELEBRATED CHRISTMAS. THAT WOULD BE MARY AND JOSEPH OF COURSE AND BEING WITH THEM WILL TAKE US TO THE VERY HEART OF CHRISTMAS.
AND HOPEFULLY VISITING THEM WILL ESTABLISH IN US A LIFE-STYLE OF STAYING ALERT FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST, BE IT THIS YEAR OR WHEN CHRIST COMES AND GOD’S PLAN AND PURPOSES WILL BE REVEALED IN PERFECT CLARITY.
Pastor Baird’s December Preaching Plans
A Mary Christmas: Lessons in Discipleship from Jesus’ Earthly Family
Luke 1: 26-38
Mary’s dangerous prayer: “…let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1: 39-56 Mary prophesies the Kingdom of God: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones.”
“MARY’S HUSBAND: THE EXAMPLE OF A GOOD MAN”
Matthew 1: 18-25 The angels intercede with angelic divorce protection: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife….”
December 24 (Christmas Eve)
“THIS IS A SIGN FOR YOU” Christmas itself is a sign of God’s presence.
Luke 2: 1-20
“NEVER TOO OLD TO MATTER”
Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple, and the elders Simeon and Anna respond
. Luke 2: 22-40
If you were with us for worship, use this simple outline to remember the key points of the message. If you were not present, you can hear the sermon in its entirety by going to the main page, and clicking on "sermons."
This month we are looking at “large” concepts underlying a Christian way of life.
Today we look at “stewardship” as a way of life.
Matthew 20: 1-16
The landowner represents God.
This parable tells us the nature of God is to graciously offer life, talents, and opportunity to all who will receive them at any point in their life.
Biblical Concept:Whatever we have is God’s, not ours because we “earned it.”
Some grumbled becausethey thought they deserved more, but the key verse here is 15:
“Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me?”
We usually think our life is ours, our body is ours, what we have earned is ours.
The point of today’s story is that God owns everything, and God has a gracious intent for it all when we recognize that and seek to live life accordingly.
To put it simply, “what we’ve got is God’s stuff.”
The Christian perspective:Our life belongs to God.Our bodies belong to God. Our talent is a gift from God.The resources of this world belong to God.
WE ARE STEWARDS OF IT! Our job is to invest life for God.
The big takeaway this week is the excitement of partnering with God to use what God has given you!Effective living is partnering with God to achieve what God designed you to be and do.When we do that we find true fulfillment, contentment, and even happiness.
Next week we look at “The Direction of Servanthood” which is how we can act out of, and live out the direction of servanthood.