December 2011


John 1:1-14 

In the beginning was the Word,

            and the Word was with God,

                        and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him,

            and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life,

            and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness,

            and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 

            He came as a witness to testify to the light,

                        so that all might believe through him. 

            He himself was not the light,

                         but he came to testify to the light.

             The true light, which enlightens everyone,

                        was coming into the world.

             He was in the world,

                        and the world came into being through him;

                                     yet the world did not know him.

             He came to what was his own,

                        and his own people did not accept him.

             But to all who received him, who believed in his name,

                        he gave power to become children of God,

                                     who were born, not of blood

                                    or of the will of the flesh

                                    or of the will of man, but of God.

             And 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.

 

            from Rev. Dr. William B. Allen, Regional Minister Emeritus

            The Gospel according to St. John, as we have come to expect, regularly casts a surprising light on familiar events.  This is true of the nativity as with so many things.  Here we have no angels, shepherds, magi, stable nor any of the familiar elements of the Christmas story.  But, we do have a powerful statement of God’s entry into history and our own lives.  This, after all, is what the birth of Jesus is all about.

            John informs us that baby Jesus is not just a baby, but is also the pre-existent Word of God – “God from God, Light from Light…” as the ancient creeds have it.  He comes with power, bringing life to the world and life to us!  The darkness recedes before the presence of the Word of God.

            This advent of life and light is good news because it comes to us, to you and me, in the presence of the Word whom we know is Jesus Christ – Bethlehem’s babe and the creative Logos of God.  This Christ comes to us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves and brings life and light, even when we thought we were mired in decay and darkness.

 

We celebrate the coming of your Word who brings light to our darkness

and life to our world..  Praise to you, O God!  Alleluia!

 

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Luke 2:1-20  

            In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

             In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them,

            “Do not be afraid; for see—

            I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:

                         to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,

                        who is the Messiah, the Lord.

             This will be a sign for you:

                         you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth

                                    and lying in a manger.”

 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

             “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

            and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 

            When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 

            from Rev. Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister

               Our lesson finds us in the midst of a great deal.  In this text we find government decreeing, young couples traveling, angels appearing and the heavenly host praising.  In this text we encounter inconvenience, fear, awe, and sacrifice. And yet, in the midst of all of this, life is present as never before. God comes into the center of all that is happening, and in the midst of a great deal, we are reoriented to God. 

               There seems to be a great deal going on in our midst these days too.  In our lives we struggle to comply, we are often fearful, at times lonely, and are shaken by an insecure future.  But in this holy time, we are reminded, yet again, that Jesus and life stand at our center. 

               So on this day may we be comforted by the coming of Christ.  In the midst of all that consumes us, may our fear be turned to song, may our uncertainty be transformed into assurance, may our tears be life-giving signs of love, and may we join the host of all times and places in worship.  On this day may we ponder this holy event in our hearts, and may we be reoriented to the One who is with us even yet. 

 

We give our whole selves to you, dear God, on this day. 

Let us claim your presence with us in all of life’s varied circumstances. 

We love you, and we trust you, and in you we rejoice!

Heb. 1:1-4 

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.  He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

 

            from Rev. Kevin Bowers, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Weirton

            I always believed in God.  I was born in a family where my father was a minister, and my mother was preparing for the mission field, and later on worked for the Pennsylvania Disciple’s Region.  In most of my memories, I have heard God’s voice speaking to me through the scriptures, especially the Words of Jesus in the New Testament. 

            There have been a few times when I felt the Spirit of God tugging at my heart, giving me advice, or telling me what to do, but I always check this to see if it’s consistent with the scriptures. 

            We come to this Advent season knowing that Christ is coming again.   Let Christ come fresh and new into your heart again this year.  Sure, Christ has never left; but clean up your act, prepare a special place, and be prepared for wonderful blessings. 

 

Prepare your place within me, O God,

 that I may be a home for you in this world.

Isa. 61:10—62:3        

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

 my whole being shall exult in my God;

            for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

            he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

                        as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

                        and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

            and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

                        so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness

                        and praise to spring up before all the nations.

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent,

and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest,

            until her vindication shines out like the dawn,

                        and her salvation like a burning torch.

The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory;

            and you shall be called by a new name

                        that the mouth of the LORD will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD,

            and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

 

             from Rev. Rosetta Smith, United Disciples of Christ Church, Charleston

            Isaiah shares with great excitement about the depth of love God has for us and the grand Hope we have through God’s graces and blessings. Wow!  We are adorned with life-transforming gifts.  God arrays us in salvation and righteousness!  God gives His very best to us because of His deep love.  With this deep love, how can we be silent?  How can we not shout out?  How can we not blaze like a torch?  People will see the transformation and a new name will be given. 

            In acknowledging these gifts, may you recognize the hope you have this Advent season and throughout the year.  Let us anticipate with great hope as we allow our souls to be renewed and transformed.  What new name does God give you?  “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.”

 

Gift Giver,

fill my soul with acknowledgement of your blessings

so others may see.

Gal. 4:4-7 

            But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.  And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

 

            from Rev. Dr. Larry Grimes, Dir. of Church Relations, Bethany College

We’ve, finally, been adopted!

 

Usually they come for the sweet ones,

Innocent infants, swaddled and cuddly,

Or the precocious ones: French at three,

piano at four, calculus at six.

Or the sturdy and strong. Or the very good and kind.

 

But he received the whole kit and caboodle of us

The rag-tag messy mass of us,

all of us as we are.

Right then. Right there.

Broke the chains that keep us here. 

He declared us, each and every one,

his child. And if his child, his heir.

 

Brothers and sisters the time has come,

this Christ-mass season of the year,

To shout it out, to dance it about,

To claim it, to name it, to cry it aloud:

 

“Abba! Father!” “Abba! Father!” Amen!

 

Ps. 96

O sing to the LORD a new song;

            sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;

            tell of his salvation from day to day.

Declare his glory among the nations,

            his marvelous works among all the peoples.

For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised;

            he is to be revered above all gods.

                        For all the gods of the peoples are idols,

                        but the LORD made the heavens.

Honor and majesty are before him;

             strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

 

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,

            ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

            bring an offering, and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in holy splendor;

             tremble before him, all the earth.

 

Say among the nations, “The LORD is king!

            The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.

            He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;

            let the sea roar, and all that fills it;

            let the field exult, and everything in it.

Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy

            before the LORD; for he is coming,

                         for he is coming to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with righteousness,

             and the peoples with his truth.

 

             from Rev. Aaron Watkins, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Bluefield

            I am continually amazed as I watch my boys grow up how fast they pick up certain things.  Even at twenty-one-months-old, Xanthus is learning how to sing, and Nicholas is known to sing certain things repetitively (enough to drive his Dad crazy).

            Singing is one one that we worship God.  We sing the Sunday hymns.  We sing along to the contemporary Christian music played on the radio.  No matter how we do it, we sing!!!!  “Sing praises to the Lord,” the hymnist writes.  Don’t just say it, sing it! 

            Is there a day that ever goes by that the majority of us don’t sing something whether it’s out loud or under our breath. We don’t have to be professional singers to sing, especially when we sing praises to God! We simply have to  possess a heart for the Lord and that’s all. Church, let us sing praises to the Lord for He is worthy of praise!
 
Heavenly Father, let us sing praises to you this Advent Season

for the gift of your son, Jesus.

May we honor Him in our fellowship,

our actions, our words and our song.

Isa. 9:2-7 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;

             those who lived in a land of deep darkness—

                        on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,

            as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,   and the bar across their shoulders,

            the rod of their oppressor,

                        you have broken as on the day of Midian.

For all the boots of the tramping warriors

            and all the garments rolled in blood

                        shall be burned as fuel for the fire.

 

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;

authority rests upon his shoulders;

            and he is named Wonderful Counselor,

                        Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

His authority shall grow continually,

and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom.

            He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness

            from this time onward and forevermore.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

 

            from Rev. Steven Smith, United Disciples of Christ Church, Charleston

            He is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…and how soon we forget.  We wake up in a bad mood.  Someone gives us a bit of disturbing news.  Something we wanted to go a certain way goes another…and we forget. 

            We forget in circumstances turned bad to seek direction from the Wonderful Counselor.  We forget when it appears that things will not get any better that we believe in a Mighty God.  We forget when something we have known like a job, a relationship or a family tradition comes to a conclusion that we believe in an Everlasting (never concluding) Father.  When situations in life get us all tensed and knotted up it is then that we often forget, that our Lord is the Prince of Peace. 

            We forget…that is why God does not.  Remember?

 

God of many names,

 as you are born anew to us this Advent and Christmas season,

 we remember.

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