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Covid-19 Update: We are meeting for Sunday School at 10 AM and worship at 11:00. There are no evening services or other activities scheduled at this time. If you choose to join us there will be hand sanitizer and masks by the front door, please observe social distancing in the sanctuary. Sermons are also posted online. Be safe, stay well, and God bless.

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The sermon title is Epiphany and we begin with the visit of the Wise Men in Matthew 2. The sermon deals with the Messiah the Jews were expecting versus the one that God sent. In a manger in Bethlehem seemed like the wrong place for a king to be born. Nazareth, up north in Galilee, is seemingly the wrong place for the Messiah to come from. The Jews were looking for a Messiah that looked and sounded a lot like themselves; we must be careful not to do the same. If Jesus looks a lot like us to start with, it would be a small thing to be conformed to his image.

Note: You can view the map via the online bulletin.

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What is a Gift?

I was under the weather a few days this week but feel much better. It doesn’t take a lot of activity to feel winded and after teaching Sunday School this morning I was not able to preach without breaking down into fits of coughing. Instead of upload the sermon audio I’m going to write out a long form blog post. Just like the good old days (circa 2015).

A gift is something of value. If I were to clean out the contents of my car, such as empty snack wrappers and 20 oz. drink bottles, and bag all of that up and offer it to you “free of charge” that wouldn’t make it a gift. Just because there is no charge doesn’t mean that anyone wants my garbage. A gift has to be something that a person wants or could use. Some things have intrinsic value, other things have sentimental value associated with them and some gifts would only mean something to the person getting it. Sometimes the rarity of an item makes it more valuable. Even if it’s the thought the counts, a gift has some type of value to someone.

A gift blesses the recipient. Even if an item costs a lot of money it is worthless to someone that can’t use it or doesn’t want it. A complete set of golf clubs in a bag could run hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands if you got carried away, but I would have no use for one. The thought of peanut butter fudge might start your mouth to drooling but if your best friend has a peanut allergy or your is diabetic then that would not be a good gift idea. A thoughtful gift involves knowing something about a person’s interests, hobbies, passions, likes and dislikes.

A gift honors the giver. Maybe you have something given to you ages ago by a parent or grandparent. You might honor that person’s memory as you continue to cherish an old pocket knife or a piece of heirloom jewelry. Likewise a grandparent may be proud of a small child’s handmade gift or watercolor picture. As it hangs on the refrigerator and ages over the years, the child grows up knowing how proud you are. All of these characteristics may exhibit in small ways but a thoughtful gift, big or small, will possess these qualities.

We are just coming out of the Christmas gift-giving season. With these thought in mind, take a look at John 3:16. You probably know it.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Jesus is of great value. Consider the Colossians 1 text we read last week and preeminence of Christ in all creation. Being the only begotten Son speaks to his rarity. He is truly and uniquely one of a kind. Jesus blesses those who receive him. He will be rejected by most even when offered freely. Jesus honors God the Father. Everything that he says and does brings honor and glory to his Father in heaven. he does not speak or act of his own accord but only according to the Father’s will.

The gift that is Jesus brings mercy, grace and salvation. Eternal joy. Peace that surpasses understanding. Sharing this gift does nothing to decrease your own blessings. Freely you have received, freely give.

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The True Meaning of Incarnation

Christmas is more than the celebration of a baby’s birth. The Son of God became like us so that we could become the children of God. The long road to the cross at Calvary begins in Bethlehem.

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Peace and Goodwill

We light the Shepherds candle and celebration joy on the third week of Advent. We light the angels candle on the fourth Sunday in Advent and the theme is peace. “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men” was their proclamation.

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Share the Joy

When the shepherds received good news of great joy, their immediate response was to share that with others. The shepherds are the pattern for what we need to do.

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Bethlehem Faith

Bethlehem Faith is today’s sermon as we mark the 2nd Sunday of Advent. Click the play button below or the three dots at right to download the audio file. Two notes:

1) Last week I may have said that Elizabeth was three months along when Mary came to visit. Elizabeth was six months along carrying John and Mary stayed with her for three months. Just to clarify.

2) I took part in an online discussion this week about the ages of Mary and Joseph when Jesus was born. I did not add that to my notes and told myself the lie that I would remember. A well-meaning individual reasoned that Mary must have been at least 15, more likely 17 or 18, when she carried Jesus. She mentioned how dangerous it would be for a 13 year old to carry a child to full term. Dangerous? This line of reasoning shows a lack of faith in God, exactly the lesson that the Bethlehem story teaches us. If God could miraculously cause a virgin to conceive, he could see to her health and safety and that of the baby. The birth of Jesus was ordained before the foundation of the world. Once Gabriel told Mary it was going to happen, there was a 0% chance than anything could prevent it.

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Prepare the Way of the Lord

John the Baptist began his ministry just before Jesus began his earthly ministry. John was called to prepare the people to receive Jesus, like turning the soil before planting. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation in which we get ready to receive good things from God.

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Blessed by Revelation

I recently preached a couple of sermons from Revelation. I stressed that John pointed out in the prologue, Rev. 1:3, that anyone who reads these words, hears these words and keeps this prophecy will be blessed. A common argument against studying Revelation is that with all of the imagery and symbolism we cannot understand it. Another thought occurred to me this week: that never stopped Jesus from teaching and preaching. Much of what even his own disciples heard was not understood until later.

Click here to read this full post on my blog The Master’s Table.

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Who is God?

Our understanding of God progresses as we read through the Bible. He reveals more of his nature and character as the narrative moves forward.

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The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Revelation chapter 1, introduction to the last book in the New Testament. After reading the letters to the seven churches last week, this is the background of John and his vision on the Island of Patmos. Avoid Revelation at all costs and spending all your time in this book and neglecting the rest of the Bible are both wrong.

*I made a mistake not just in my notes but on the sermon outline printed on the back of our church bulletins. I realized when reading the text passage out loud during the sermon. You will hear it all go down on the audio recording. I might could edit that out but it’s fine; I’m imperfect, made a mistake, it gets corrected before we get all done.

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