December 2012


Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 —

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:  a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

What gain have the workers from their toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to everyone to be busy with.  He has made everything suitable for its time; moreover he has put a sense of past and future into their minds, yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  I know that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and enjoy themselves as long as they live; moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.

 

from Darwin Collins, Christian Church Foundation

Yes, this is the day that we lament the passage of another year? Time has an illusive quality to it that permits it to move at times outside of our consciousness.  Still the wisdom writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that God has given us a sense of past and future. Not necessarily an awareness and understanding of this time past and yet to be.

We know this passage primarily as the glossary of seasons and their appropriate nature in God’s plan, but what of the verses that follow that speak of how God wishes for us to use that time. Much like the creation story, the writer speaks of each having a suitable way to use our time.  Aware that some of our time is spent in struggle and uncertainty, I find it helpful to hear in this and every time that God’s intention is for us to be happy and to enjoy our life.

God of each day, in this day and in the new year to come

remind us of your desire for our happiness and joy!

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Luke 2:41-52 —

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.  When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”  He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”   But they did not understand what he said to them.

Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

 

from Phil Auten, Minister of Visitation, Christian Church in WV

In the lesson for today we move quickly from the manger scene to  see Jesus as a preteen boy. Dr. Luke gives us our only glimpse of Jesus as a boy. We find Jesus discussing theology with the teachers of the law at the temple. The teachers were amazed with the depth of knowledge and understanding Jesus showed.

When Mary and Joseph first realized that Jesus was not with them they must like all parents been very frightened. We can only imagine how they felt when they found him at the temple. When he responded to their questions they did not understand. But they did not burst into a rage or did not try to make Jesus ashamed by their punishing words. Luke tells us that Mary held all these contemplatively in her heart.

Luke helps us to realize that Jesus grew up like any other young Jewish boy of that time. His Father in Heaven wanted Him to be truly human. We   give thanks to Luke for allowing us to see Jesus and to know that he was a normal boy.

Heavenly Father; Help as we seek to know you better.

Psalm 148 —

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!  Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!  Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!  Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.  He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!  Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!  Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!  Young men and women alike, old and young together!  Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.

He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!

 

from Kenny Hardway, First Christian Church, Wheeling

‘Tis the Season’, as they say, and for Christians there is no other season greater than the Season of Christmas.  It is said of St. Francis of Assisi that he regarded the good news of Christmas so much that even if there weren’t a Resurrection, Incarnation is enough for God’s Creation to rejoice.  And so this Psalm is calling us to do—rejoice, all of creation, for the LORD has come!

The birth of Christ changes everything!  No longer is world to be rejected, for God embraced it.  No longer are we to be against one another, man or women, rich or poor, prince or pauper, humanity and animal and the rest of creation.  No!  For with the Incarnation God embraced the world in an all-inclusive act of love that shook the cosmos.  We are one.  The universe is one.  Brothers and sisters with all of creation, joined together with God.

“Be praised, my LORD, through my Brother Sun…Sister Moon… Brothers Wind and Air…Sister Water…Brother Fire…

Mother Earth…Praise and bless my Lord, and give him thanks, and serve him with great humility.”

 (St. Francis of Assisi from his Canticle of the Creatures)

Colossians 3:12-17 —

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

from Rae Browning, First Christian Church, Cumberland, MD

This time of year is truly a blessed time of year; if only the season of Christmas was as apparent all year long.  Oh, I don’t mean the season of hustle and bustle, buying and baking (haven’t lost all the results of last Christmas baking), decorating of homes, etc.

As a child, I remember hearing my parents speak of my uncles overseas during the war, and that the war was on hold for Christmas day. All firing and battle had ceased so peace could be observed for that one day for our troops. Peace on Earth and Good Will to All.

Christmas season “can” be apparent all through the year if we but follow the Word. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

I can attest when someone causes you a deep pain that sucks the life out of you, it holds you hostage. That’s the time to call on God, and learn what “life” really is. I learned forgiving is not placing one’s self in harm’s way to be trampled on over and over, again and again, but calling on the love of Christ that sets us free.  In doing so, there is a whole new way of living ahead.  Then one can really know what living is all about and can truly say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Then and only then, is Christmas year round and celebration of the season is followed as doing “all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

May Christmas be apparent all year long, O God,

not just for a  day, and may your love and peace

 fill our lives throughout the year.

Luke 2:21-49 —

After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.  When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed–and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.  At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.  The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover.  And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival.  When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.  Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.  After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.  When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.”  He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

 

from Rodney Hubbs, First Christian Church, McMechen

The day is December 27, 2012.  You are sitting back looking at all the presents under the tree and wondering how many of the gifts are the right size and if they are something that you can really use.  Then you think of the one gift that had no wrapping paper, no bows, no ribbon and yet you realize that it was the most important gift of all.

We all know that the gift that God gave us over 2000 years ago was the gift of our Lord and Savior,  Jesus Christ.  We sometimes get all excited about the earthly gifts that we receive and then we may be a little disappointed with some, due to the fact that they are not exactly what we wanted.   However, if we take a long hard look at God’s gift we realize that it is the greatest gift of all.  God  sent his Son to us that we may have the possibility of spending our eternal life in heaven.

Sometime, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could see Jesus the way Simeon and Anna did?   They recognized Him immediately for what and who He was.  Why can’t the world today see Jesus for what and who he really is?

Almighty God we come to you asking your

forgiveness of our shortcomings.  We pray that the world will someday be able to see peace on earth. 

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 David T. Chafin, Deputy Regional Minister

The “morning after” experience of Christmas often makes me a little sad.  There’s a mess to be cleaned up in many homes, a tree that may be dropping its needles, leftovers that seem to last for more days than we’re ready to consume them.  Yet something is qualitatively different about our lives because of what has come to be in the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.  It may not be measurable in the same ways we measure other celebrations.  It may not be obvious, this glow that lingers into the new year.  Yet it is remarkably real:  Christ has come among us – the Word made flesh, dwelling among us as one of us.  May the light which has been lit among us, revealing the “glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,” be ever more obvious as we meet him in the streets, in our homes, in our relationships through the coming days.  May the “hangover of Christmas” linger with us, and may we never be the same again!

O Christ, Light of the World,

as you came to us in the misty distant past,

come to us again in ways that reveal to us who you are

so that we may be born anew.

Luke 2:8-20 —

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 Thaddaeus B. Allen, Regional Minister

Merry Christmas!  This holy day is indeed special.  The advent journey has been a blessedly helpful guide as we approach this feast day.  We have been encouraged to stay awake, to be hopeful, to embody joy, and to expect and exemplify the peace of Christ.  This day we recall shepherds who journeyed to visit Jesus.  And lo and behold they did indeed catch a glimpse of the Christ child.  I have a strong pastoral hunch that today, just like the shepherds of this Gospel account, we also are catching a glimpse of Jesus, the Christ child, who continues to take shape right in the center of our lives.  Look around and see!

Wide awake from the journey we see the incarnate one with fresh eyes and hearts.  Like shepherds of old, we too, by the grace of God, are being drawn closer and closer to the very life of our God.  Through the worship of the church we have been drawn, through acts of charity and love we have been drawn, through moments in fellowship we have drawn, and on this day we are reminded again that the living God draws us close and we see.  A glimpse of Jesus alive in the world is quite a gift.  Christmas makes clear the case that God loves us and indeed loves all of humanity.  Christmas tells the story again that the Word and Flesh are inseparable.  God is with us, right here in our midst.  Can you see?  Have you caught a glimpse?  May we too treasure this and ponder this within our hearts for it is true. God Bless you and yours on this day and, again, Merry Christmas!

Incarnate God, be revealed to us again

as you draw us into the mystery of your presence here.

Glory to you, O Lord!

 

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