My sermon on Sunday at 9:30 AM is called “The Wreath.”
Just like a wreath is a sign of welcome and hospitality, you are welcome to join me at church this Sunday to hear more! 9:30am at New World UMC in Arlington, Texas.
You’re invited to come wearing your Christmas sweaters or even Christmas pajamas! We’ll even have a hot cocoa station for you to enjoy.
All are welcome – and I mean all.
Today’s devotional was written by special guest contributor, Rev. Gena Anderson. Be blessed today! ESJ
“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!”
Luke 2:10-14 ESV
Angels, play a very important role in the Christmas story. An angel announced to the virgin Mary that she was going to bear the Son of God, then appeared to Joseph, telling him the very same thing. Finally, we see a group of them announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem. You might just get the idea that the main role of angels was to make announcements for God, and you would be right! The word for angel literally means “messenger” and they played a similar role as human beings who bore that title: acting as a king’s herald who made royal announcements.
Angels always point away from themselves and to God. During this Advent season, how are you being an angel for God? How are you pointing others to Christ through the words that you say but more importantly through your actions?
Prayer: Jesus, we worship you as our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord. Help us to be like your angels, announcing the good news of your birth this Christmas. Amen.
My concept of worship has evolved over time. For so long, as a musician, I thought it was about how we expressed ourselves through song—hymns and modern music. I participated on praise teams who appeared to take 100% responsibility for every congregation member’s worship. Are we trying to contrive a feeling of elation through music for everyone? I don’t believe so. Though, I love when I have that ‘feeling’. This seemed too narrow a definition.
After much contemplation, it seems to me it’s about wanting to live our lives out of delight for what has been done for us. Our daily work is worship and ministry. You don’t choose between being a missionary or a teacher or a business person. We are all on mission, we are all teachers by the example of our lives and we are all in business by how we steward resources. Doing something for someone else out of gratitude and abundance is worship. I give thanks to my dear friend, Dave Stone (founder and Chief Worship officer of First Rate), credit for expanding my thinking about that. “Work is Worship!” I will one-up him and say “Life is Worship!”
Also, I questioned, as C.S. Lewis did why we need to worship an all-powerful God. Google his responses if that has puzzled you. But, here was the personal revolution for me from C.S.’s book ‘Reflections on the Psalms’.
“The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game—praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars.
It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”
“The delight is incomplete until it is expressed.” Selah. The worship is FOR OUR DELIGHT!! SMH! Then, Lewis goes on to say, that Heaven will be a place where this resounding expression of delight will be with the fullness of worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Glorifying the (triune) God by enjoying Him forever. Sign me up for some ‘forever enjoyment!’
I wish for you a presence of mind & spirit this holiday season. This is so that you can enjoy to the fullest your daily walk and those you share it with. When you share that enjoyment, it becomes complete and is worship.
I’ve included a picture ‘Paul Thorn with the Blind Boys of Alabama’ who were at the Levitt this summer. Hearing live music is the where my husband and I find ourselves ‘expressing delight’ and making the enjoyment complete.
Heaven is declaring God’s glory; the sky is proclaiming his handiwork. -Psalm 19:1
When I hear the word “glory,” I keep hearing a song in my head, but it’s probably not the Christmas song you’d expect. There’s a praise song written by Holland Davis but often attributed to William Murphy called “Let it Rise,” and the words go like this:
Let the glory of the Lord rise among us
Let the glory of the Lord rise among us
Let the praises of our King rise among us
Let it rise
Oh, let it rise
Let the songs of the Lord rise among us
Let the songs of the Lord rise among us
Let the joy of our King rise among us
Let it rise
Oh, let it rise
I love the upbeat rhythm, the way the song lifts us up. We sing this song at my current church from time to time, but I mostly connect it to many church youth group gatherings throughout the years. (You really haven’t heard the song done right until you’ve heard a few hundred youth singing it loudly, their voices and hands raising with the word “rise.”)
There’s something about having music as part of worship that is deeply moving and spiritual. There are feelings and emotions that music can reach when words fail us. It’s like the glory of the Holy Spirit rushes in to that space, filling our hearts and uplifting us.
Questions to consider: Do you have songs that lift your spirits? What is your heart song? How have you seen God’s glory this week?
Be blessed today!
This blogpost is part of a series based on the New World UMC Advent Photo-A-Day challenge. Feel free to jump in on the photo challenge whenever you’d like, no matter who you are! Tomorrow’s word will be “worship.”
Today’s devotional is written by special guest contributor, Rev. Gena Anderson. Be blessed today!
“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
The word of the day is child. When I think of the word child I think of wonder. The best way of seeing the joy of Advent and Christmas is through the eyes of a child, which ideally should be our own. We should see the time of expectation, which is Advent, through eyes which are pregnant with wonder. If, however, as is sometimes the case, our own child-like eyes have become dimmed with age or skepticism, the next best way of seeing these two joy-filled seasons is through the eyes of another child; perhaps, if we’ve been so blessed, through the eyes of our own children.
I have been blessed to be able to see the Advent season through the eyes of a child. Actually two children, my girls Julia and Georgia. The way that they receive the birth of the Christ child is with hope, expectation, and wonder.
This Advent season, may you also experience Christ with the same kind of wonder.
God of signs and wonders, heaven touching earth and the divine entering into human flesh, be the peace among us, the hope within us, and that we might become your people filled with wonder so that we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all that we encounter along the way. Amen.
Today’s Advent devotional was written by a special guest contributor and New World church member, Kate Baird.
This series of Advent devotionals has themes based on a Photo-A-Day challenge for New World UMC. Anyone can participate and jump in at any time. For the details: check out this link.
To give an appropriate answer is a joy; how good is a word
at the right time! Proverbs 15:23 CEB
Have you ever had someone say just the right thing to you at just the time you needed it? Perhaps you are having a bad day and someone brings a smile to your face, or you are looking for an answer and someone just says it for you. It’s a joy to hear the right word at the time you need it most.
Some folks might chalk this up to coincidence when this happens, but I believe that God is at work through the Holy Spirit when it happens. Sometimes it means we have to be open to hearing what God might want us to say. Not necessarily literally hearing God with your ears, mind you, but open to what God might be putting on your heart to say to another person.
In the last few months, I had the name of a specific person come up in conversations in several different places. So many people asked me, “have you talked to so-and-so” or recommended I seek out this specific person that I felt like, in order to be faithful, I needed to do my part to make it happen. I set up an appointment.
In our meeting, I was open and curious about what God might be up to. We had an uplifting conversation, and before I left I felt like I needed to share a specific ministry idea with him.
It was delightful when he said, “Oh! We were just trying to make a decision about that!” I was able to encourage him in that particular ministry idea.
I know others might say it must be coincidence (we can disagree), but I am grateful I was able to pass on the word & it will be fun to see what God does with that. It’s a journey of joy.
I would love to hear your stories about when God has been at work in your life, giving you just the word you need at the right time. ESJ
Last Sunday I preached a sermon called “The Candle” that included a sermon illustration about getting ready for when company is coming. John the Baptist is preparing the way for Jesus ministry in Luke 3:1-6, we too can use Advent to prepare our hearts and minds for an arrival. There’s only so much a person can fit in a sermon. (Well, I imagine I could make my sermons longer and fit in as much as I can, but nobody wants that!) Today’s Advent devotional is from my “cutting room floor,” a part of the sermon that I didn’t quite get to fit in last Sunday’s message.
Today’s Advent word is “Open” as part of our Advent Photo Challenge. I am interpreting the word as an Open Door, a place of welcome.
As people filed out the sanctuary door last Sunday, shaking my hands as they do, at least one person said, “now I feel like I need to get home and clean the house!” Giving folks stress wasn’t the sermon goal.
I want to share today about my “messy house friends.”
See, my sermon was about getting the house clean, and I mentioned that if I know you’re coming, my house will be clean for you. But my closest and dearest friends fall into a special category – they’re my “messy house friends.”
By that I mean that we’ve agreed we’re going to love each other no matter the condition of our homes. We are going to have the kind of friendship that values relationship over a sparkling clean house (think of the story of Mary and Martha with Jesus in Luke 10:38-42 to get the idea.)
In the same way, Jesus loves us no matter where or how we are. Jesus can be like a messy house friend, full of grace for you and accepting you with all of your imperfection. The door is always open.
Even better, Jesus is not only a messy house friend, Jesus will not leave you drowning and suffering in the mess. You are accepted, loved and welcome how you are and you are loved enough that you’ve got company who’ll help you and love you through the messiness of life. That is grace.
God, help me to get past the temptation to get caught up in making my life seem perfect. Instead, God, help me to open my door and my heart to offer hospitality and love to all God’s children. Thank you for the grace you offer me. Amen.
“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
I come from a family of quilters. Not that I quilt, I don’t. But my grandma, mom, aunts, cousins and countless other relatives love to make quilts.
There is a really sweet ministry in our church called the Stitchers that makes quilts. They are passed on to people in the hospital, people who are grieving, kids who graduate from school. Each quilt is put together with knots of yarn, little ties to show the prayers that have been uttered over the quilt. It’s a ministry of sharing comfort, love and prayer. We also have a ministry of knitters who make prayer shawls for the same purpose.
Extra quilts are folded neatly over the back rows in our sanctuary, available to provide warmth and comfort to anyone in need.
There really are few things as comforting as the warmth that comes from a blanket or shawl handcrafted with deep love and prayer. There is warmth to be found in the love and kindnesses of others. I am so thankful that people are using their gifts and talents in ministry of love to others.
What are the gifts you have that you can offer to others in ministry? May today be a day that you find ways to use your gifts in ministry. Whether it is through handmaking something or a warm smile, may God’s love shine through you and warm the hearts of others. Amen.