Sunday, January 12, 2014

Christmas Reflections 12/24/2013

Dec. 24, 2013 Christmas Reflections Pastor Carol P. Taylor

Scriptures read during the service:

Lesson 1 Genesis 1:1-5, John 1:1-5
Lesson 2 Isaiah 9:2-7
Lesson 3 Isaiah 7:14
Lesson 4 Luke 1: 26-38
Lesson 5 Matthew 1:18-25
Lesson 6 Luke 2:1-7
Lesson 7 Luke 2:8-14
Christmas Reflections

Jesus is God's plan from “in the beginning”. Gospel of John deliberately modeled first 5 verses on first 5 verses of Genesis, to show that Jesus was indeed God, was present in the beginning.

You will notice in our readings there is a lot of mention of the contrast of light and dark. Remember in ancient times, there was no electric lighting, when it was dark out, it was REALLY dark! In a city at least, we now don't get that sense of utter darkness now. But we are affected a lot by light or its absense.
During the short days of winter many of us, get a bit grumpy. If there is an extended time of no sunshine, oh my, people get crabby! The short days of winter, which are often dark too, get tiresome.
Author Wendell Berry said, "It gets darker and darker and darker, and then Jesus is born."
Jesus is the Light of the World! (bulletin cover verse)
Light here means light that is energy,-daylight, not pigment.

Immanuel (God with us)

Jesus born as a human being, living as part of His own creation! Becoming human in order to fully experience life as we know it! God became vulnerable... sounds like a fairy tale?!

Yet we who believe, and maybe never even told our kids fairy tales, but we KNOW down deep in our hearts that this story is true.

and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

ahhh Peace....that quality we seek that can be so hard to least this time of year. Yet God's peace is special, and it can be within us even in hectic seasons. God's peace is in the Hebrew, Shalom! The Peace that passes understanding...The peace that encompasses protection, wholeness, prosperity, the peace in which the wolf will lie down with the lamb.. and a little child shall lead them! The peace that brings hope, and joy even in the midst of life's trials.

Thru Jesus, Emmanuel, Spirit lives in us, when we listen and follow, we are living our faith, we are glorifying God.
When things go badly, when the stuff of life happens, and it will....we ask why?
If God is good, etc....we want life to make sense. But often it doesn't. And that just rankles. When Shalom prevails, things make sense. One day it will all make sense, we won't ask why any more, because we will understand, but until that day comes, when someone asks why? It may be that the best thing we say or do is 'I don't know either, but I am here for you.”

We live out God's love and light by caring for others, by sharing our love, our time, yes our money, giving to church and to charities. The word charity is derived from the Greek work Charis... which means “Grace' the Grace of God, the blessing and love of God, lived out and shared.

Our church, like many others, supports organizations that help individuals and families with needs like food and clothing. There is so much need out there, and once a person or family is in the position of needing assistance, sometimes they need help to get out of that position too. There is a cycle that can be a real challenge to overcome. So our church supports organizations that provide various kinds of assistance, to help with immediate needs and agencies that help people obtain knowledge and skills to overcome their circumstances. Folks learn resources and skills to become empowered and move beyond the cycle. And then they are able to help others as well!

The light spreads to others. The protection and well being-the Shalom of God spreads to others. This is one of the ways we honor God.

This is modeled by the shepherds in our final reading

Lesson 8: Luke 2:15-20
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

When we live our faith, we glorify God. When we sing and pray in Jesus' Name we are praising God and praying to help spread the light, the shalom of God. In just a few moments we will see just how a little bit of light, shared, can spread far and wide!

Tonight we celebrate the birth of a baby, a very special baby.

But there is a shadow over the manger.

A few years ago, I was 'multi-tasking” in the Bible. I was preparing Advent Bible studies and so read thru the Christmas stories, the birth narratives. I'd been asked what is the significance of the baby being wrapped in swaddling clothes. And I explained that is a sign that the baby Jesus was well cared for. Later that day, I was going to write a devotion for a Lenten publication, and read the Good Friday story. And was struck by parallelism in the texts.

Mary gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger.
(Luke 23) Then {Joseph of Arimathea} took {down the body of Jesus} and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone.
The shadow of the cross lies over the manger, this baby, Jesus, was born to go to the Cross...for us.

Jesus came to be with us, to fully experience life as a Human being, in a human body. Because of Jesus we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, who will guide and help us. That is God within. Thru Jesus, we have God with us and within us. Just as in the beginning, Jesus was with God and was God, Jesus is us and is with us. Imagine that...the God who is and was and ever shall be, SO LOVED, that he chose this! By living out that love, by caring for others, we spread the light, and the darkness can not overcome it!

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