Advent – Year C

Read Matthew 25:31-46

from Rev. Wesley Howsare, First Christian Church, Moundsville

If you are reading this on New Year’s Day, and you didn’t make your New Year’s resolutions before midnight last night, well then, I’m really sorry about your luck! Because apparently if you want to lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, save more money, attend church more regularly, or be nicer to others, you had to resolve to do that before midnight last night. Otherwise, like health insurance enrollment, you have to wait until that window of opportunity opens up towards the end of this year.

Obviously that is a bit of a stretch, but it is rather humorous to me that it seems the only time we can resolve to change is right before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t work that way? In advance, He shares what He expects of us: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” But we can resolve to do those things anytime—like now! Even if it is after midnight.

Father, we thank you for your guidelines for us and your grace as we resolve to follow them.


Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

from Rev. Dr. Gregory Widener, Huntington

This litany about time in scripture is often used as a text around the New Year when our attention is focused on the passing of time in our lives. I think that we would all agree that the gift of time that God gives us during our lives is very important! If you are over 50 years of age, then it is humbling to realize that the great majority of human beings in history have lived shorter lives than you—thanks to the scourges of war and disease.

I think that we are all aware that there are two words in Greek that are used for time. One word is “chronos” which refers to time is the typical sense of the word, and the other word is “kairos.” which refers to a quality of time. In the New Testament, the word “kairos” is used more frequently to describe spiritual life—and therein lies the rub.

If it pleases God to give us another year of life, how will we spend that gift of time? Do we lives our lives in a “chronos” way, simply existing from day to day with little direction from God and few goals for the Kingdom? Or, are we busy using the gifts, opportunities and resources that God has given us to improve this world and to let others know the saving power of Jesus of Nazareth who is the Christ?

Of course, I hope that all of us will be found in the second group. Jesus told us that he came to give us “abundant life” and I think that means more than just living a life of drudgery and aimless existence. But to live lives of spiritual significance will require effort and sensitivity to the still small voice of God. To be a real Christian means more than just attending church on Sundays and giving God some of our money. Let us get up each morning with the prayers: “God, what do you have for me today? God, how I can touch someone for you? Let us seek in 2016 to live for Christ 24 hours a day, and thereby care nothing for the passing of chronos time.

O God, what do you have for me today? O God, how I can I touch someone for you today?

Read Luke 2:41-52

from Rev. Rodney Hubbs, First Christian Church, McMechen

As I study this passage, I can’t help but think of the children of today as compared to the way Jesus was raised. His earthly father was actually a step-father. Many children are in this same situation today and they don’t seem to be taught or shown how to live a Christian life.

Several of today’s children, and adults as well, are quick to blame someone else for their actions. Jesus had respect for both his earthly father and his heavenly father. Jesus grew spirituality, physically, and socially. He was willing to learn his step-father’s trade and he would follow his heavenly father in his ways. He grew and was beloved by other families around him. Some of the children of today are just the opposite. Perhaps this is a portion of the Bible that both parents and children could learn from, and what better time to start than at the celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth.

Perhaps, instead of looking to see what we have received for the Christmas holiday, maybe we should try to help someone who is less fortunate in this world. We need to spread our love as Jesus did, to all people.

Father, teach us to be humble and to show your love, not only in this season, but throughout the year.

Read Psalm 148

from Rev. Janice Hill, First Christian Church, Parkersburg

You know, there are a lot of things we can, and do, think about that cause us to be frustrated, mad, hopeless, and a myriad of other emotions. Who can watch the national news, or even the local news, and not feel a sense of despair? Isis, Taliban, Boko Haram, Syria, Afghanistan, Ferguson and the list goes on and on. What are we, as Christians to do? Maybe we need to pray and realize we are not in charge of this world. We support, and very well I might add, organizations that have a direct impact on people around the world. But Psalm 148 reminds us over and over to praise God–14 times in the NRSV. Were times not tough when this was written? Of course they were. But in the midst of awful times, we need to remember our place in this world – and praise the One who is truly worthy of our praise.

A new year is dawning soon, O God, and with it a struggling world reaches toward your peace. Empower us to help bring it to bear, starting here, starting now.

Read Colossians 3:12-7

from Rev. Judith Bennett, Bridgeport, Ohio

It was 1971 and one of those songs that literally had people all over the world singing. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony…”, and I have a hunch that many who read this will instantly be singing or humming. Not a Christmas song, the lyrics were originally written as an advertisement for Coke, but within a year were revised to become a song that even small children were singing without advertisement. It included words that spoke of a world whose home was furnished with love, whose people were standing hand in hand singing songs of peace that echoed throughout the land. – Now here we are nearly 45 years later, basking in the glow of the dying embers of another Advent and Christmas. We’re all tired and worn out from the “things” we’ve done by sheer rote and habit, attempting to keep Christ in Christmas and the traditions alive. If truth were known, we’re glad that it’s over for another year. But does it have to be? Could its message go on?

My friends, as the New Year is now upon us, will you join hands with me as we clothe ourselves in the love of the newborn Christ and vow that whatever we do in word or deed in the days ahead, will be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Then maybe – just maybe – we can begin to teach the world to sing in the perfect harmony of Christmas.

God of all nations, as we join hands with others throughout the land, may our song of love and peace truly echo throughout the world and never go away.

Read Luke 2:21-49

from Rev. Kenneth Hardway, First Christian Church, Wheeling and Assoc. Regional Minister for Youth and Young Adults

Wow! We have a lesson today that spans Jesus’ entire childhood experience! What is it that we notice here? Jesus is raised in a faithful, modest family—faithful because they observed the Levitical purification laws after childbirth, and modest because the offering of two turtle doves or pigeons was a provision to the poor who could not afford the sacrifice of a lamb. Despite their modest income and social status, the Holy family made the annual trek to Jerusalem for the Passover.

What is it that we notice about Jesus? From his birth he has been blessed by the sages. A precocious young man, he dialogs in a masterful fashion with the priests and temple elites. Was Jesus a troublesome child? At least we know Jesus got scolded once by his momma for worrying his parents half-to-death (Jesus and I have that in common). While not canonical, there are ancient stories from those presuming to be followers of Jesus who tell all kinds of wild antics of Jesus’s youth. I always find joy in thinking of Jesus in that way.

Another thing to notice about Jesus’ childhood retelling… it starts and ends in the house of the LORD.

Let us not neglect to mark our lives in the same ways…faithfulness, modesty, surrounded by sages, and found attentive in the house of God.

Raise us up, O God, as your family, and direct us in the way that we should go.

Read John 1:19-28

from Rev. Richard Howard, Morgantown

In today’s lesson we encounter John the Baptist (or “Baptizer”), a man we think we know very well. In the Synoptic Gospels, he is spoken of by Jesus in Matthew and Mark, and by an angel in Luke as the new Elijah. Here, however, we find John himself denying that identity, then go in to claim a title that is more important to each individual Christian: “Witness.”   As Jesus is referred to as the “first born of the dead,” perhaps John should be celebrated as the “first witness” or “first testifier.” Why is John’s role in this world as defined in this fourth gospel so key for us today? Because he goes out and does what we are called to do: to go out and witness, or testify to who and what Jesus is for us and for the world: Savior.

This Advent season has been closed by the fulfillment of its promise: the arrival of Jesus. Today, in this passage, John sets the foundational standard on which we are to build our faith: proclamation that Jesus is Lord!

Gracious God, grant us strength and courage to boldly testify to the new life that is found in Jesus, that all who hear our testimony will rejoice and embrace your salvation.

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