Sunday, December 2, 2012

God So Loved the World

Pastor Brad Shannon begand by greeting us with his usual warmth, "Good morning. I’m grateful you’re here today." He then noted this this is the  first Sunday in advent, which speaks of the time of longing, preparing for the coming of the Messiah. Today, first advent candle would be lit, representing hope. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Our hope is not in government or material possessions but in Jesus Christ.

Announcements included the following...
1. Next Sunday, December 9, the group Men as Peacemakers will be with us for a dininer and time of learning about domestic abuse.
2. Bring your Covenant World Relief cans next week
3. This year we are again adopting a family through a Salvation Army to help make Christmas special for a needy family. The family we are sharing with is a Mom with two three-and a half year olds. The boy is size 5T. Jeans, slippers, Spiderman, buzz cars and sleds are on his list. The little girl has Tinker Belle, Disney Princess and sleds on her list. See Dawn Walsh for details. Bring your gifts by the 16th.
4. The 16th will also be our Christmas Children’s Program, the 16th, the theme being Christmas Around the World.

Chuck and Darlene were away for the weekend. Ed Newman filled in on the piano for our introit and music during the offering and communion.

The Borndal family lit the first Advent candle and shared the meaning of this first candle: Hope… awaiting for the hope of Christ to come into our lives in a new way.

The offering was taken after which Ed shared a few thoughts on the theme of “What is God doing in my life?”

Today's Scripture reading was from Luke 21:25-36.

There were many requests for the church family and needs in our world today during our time of prayer.

God So Loved the World

Brad began by sharing memories of Christmas growing up. He remembered the pressure to make each Christmas the “best Christmas ever” though also in the aftermath they would say, “We’ll have to cut back next year.”

Our Christmas rituals included shopping, getting gifts, Mom baking cookies, etc. But for many of us Christmas memories include family times with grouchy relatives, unspoken issues in the midst of everything else, Christmas parties on top of other parties, economic uncertainties… What would it take for this Christmas to be the best Christmas ever?

To answer this question Pastor Shannon had us look at what made the first Christmas great and so we can make this Christmas great again. He had us turn to John 3:16, the first words that expressed what launched Christmas."For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

What made the first Christmas great is that God gave…. Giving is what God is into.

God is so generous, and has been so right from the beginning. James rights that we shouldn't be deceived about God… “Every good and perfect gift is from above…”

Brad shared an anecdote about a famous surfboarding location called Half Moon Bay. Surfers come from all over to surf here. One stated, “We are the luckiest organisms in the history of the world to be able to enjoy this.” Once again, God’s generosity is lavish and continual.

As expressed in the Book of Lamentations, “Your mercies are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.” God is constantly giving. Every day. It's as if He greets us each day like this: “You liked yesterday’s sunrise? Here’s another…”

But when God gave us Jesus He outgave Himself. God gave the gift of a savior to people who needed it most…

What makes Christmas great is not the Christmas tree It's not the music or food. It's not the moments we create, or feelings we experience. It's our giving.

What if we expressed record levels of compassion in sometimes costly ways? What if we so loved the world that we gave to others in ways that blessed more?

Instead of a "see more, shop more, stress more, frenzied more Christmas, let’s make it a Christmas of compassion.

Giving is not something good only for others. Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than receive." In other words, you will be enriched and enhanced when you give. Jesus did not say, “You should give more” or “It is better to give.” He said you will be blessed.

Brad shared the results of a study of two groups of youth, those who did volunteer work with younger kids and those who did not. The first group was much more well adjusted, less likely to end up with teen pregnancies, drug addicitions, etc. But at all ages, people who volunteer with school children have more satisfaction. It is more life-giving to give.

Bringing it down to practical applications, Brad invited us to bring extra food to church with us for area food shelves. And to bring something for the family we’ve adopted. "Go on an adventure of giving."  

I know God gave His only son… What can I give?

To illustrate what it is like to be on the Taker road, Brad explained how to catch a monkey. Get a jar with a narrow mouth. Put some bait inside the jar. The monkey reaches in, grasps the banana or orange. And because he only wants to grasp, he won’t let it go, even though grasping keeps him from being able to pull out his hand.

The story of the Rich Young Ruler comes readily to mind. "Good teacher? What must I do to inherit eternal life?" It's the right question, but the young man didn't like the answer. "Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow Me." The rich young ruler walked away sad.

On the other hand the Gospels tell another story of a man with wealth who encountered Jesus, Zachias. Zachias has a different response, giving lavishly. This is the path toward making this the best Christmas ever.

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Today we concluded the service by celebrating the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.

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