After the greeting there were several announcements.
1. Poinsettias are always appreciated this time of year. If you would like to bring one we will decorate the sanctuary with them.
2. The special concert featuring Christina Deloach and music from her new CD, Father's Heart. Invite a friend.
3. Wednesday eve at 6:15 there will be a practice for all the children in the Christmas program.
4. The annual cookie drive is on for inmates at the St. Louis County jail. Due to allergies, no nuts or coconuts please.
5. If you would like to contribute to make this Christmas special for the needy family we're sponsoring this season, contact Pam Johnson.
It was also announced that everyone was invited to the Shannons after the service for food and fellowship, their way of thanking us for the privilege of serving Christ with us.
Darlene's introit led us into a time of worship, offering and prayers.
Getting It Right
Brad began by asking if any of us have experienced "buyer's remorse." Nearly everyone was familiar with the concept, and he compared it to the feeling many of us feel the first week of January when someone asks, "How was your Christmas." Instead of having given to the poor or reaching out to friends or doing other things of value, we all too often feel like we missed the point of it all, again.
"What if we decide that this year we're going to covenant together to get it right?" he said.
Before presenting his points he noted that this message was just as much for himself as for us. Too often we can get caught up in Christmas parties and other activities, never really taking time to read and contemplate the Christmas story, which he proceeded to read for us, from Luke 2:1-20.
The Birth of Jesus
1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.
4So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ[a] the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Brad's message today focused on practical things we can do when we walk out the church doors and re-enter the world we inhabit.
1) The Nativity Scene
Pastor Brad shared a couple of the thoughts he's had when driving past a nativity scene in someone's yard. "Who's got the time to put that up?" he said... and "Where do they store all that stuff the rest of the year?"
Then he gave us a new thought to call to mind every time we see a nativity scene: THIS REALLY HAPPENED IN HUMAN HISTORY.
He cited the Holocaust, and how it's one thing to read about it, and quite another to stand inside the showers that killed masses of people.
Brad also told about a friend who visited Israel experiencing first hand the very places which we have read about all our lives. The reality of it all came vividly to life.
So when we see a Nativity creche, Brad encourages us to remember, "This really happened in human history, and it happened for me."
2) Christmas Music
Next, Brad showed us a record album. It happened to be an Andy Williams Christmas album. "I'd like you to tether it (Christmas music) to a central truth, the song of the first angels who appeared to the shepherds: Glory to God in the highest, and Peace on earth to men."
People are anxious in our world today, but Jesus came to give us peace in our hearts, not only in this life but especially regarding eternity.
3) Christmas Cards
Brad held up a Christmas card from someone who wished them well. When we get a card it is nice to know we are on somebody's friendship list. But here's a verse that adds a dimension to this thought, John 15:5.
"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."
"We're on God's friendship list," Brad said.
4) Credit Card
Brad showed us a credit card, which a lot of people use this time of year. We all know how they work. We use the card now, and pay the bill later. This year, whenever we're using our credit or debit cards, Brad wants us to say, "I had a debt that came due one day & Jesus came and paid it... and it hurt Him. And I now worship You."
Brad then showed us a gift bag, a present. Sometimes presents are hard to accept. But what good is unexpressed love? Brad said we should thank God for the person who gave that give to us.
Think about this beautiful gift: God saw this broken world and came to us as a gift. As we open gifts say, "What an awesome God we serve."
As a transition into communion we listened to a recording of Christina Deloach singing Twinkle Twinkle from her first CD. Communion was especially meaningful as together we sang the Lord's Prayer and interwove other Christmas messages into a worshipful flow, an appropriate conclusion to a beautiful service.