It is so easy to miss Jesus in the weeks leading up to Christmas. With the festivities and family gatherings and travel, we neglect the spiritual disciplines that ordinarily keep us close to Jesus. We don't hear John the Baptist preaching, "Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!" The Bible tells us to cast our eyes upon Jesus, but everybody has a laundry list of things that turn our attention away from Jesus-and we forget that Jesus is calling to us in the storm, "Take my hand if you are worried; take my hand when you're alone. Take my hand and let me guide you. Take my hand and let me lead you home." (Blind Boys of Alabama, "Take my Hand")
Following the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, several of my African American friends were understandably beside themselves with glee. One of the women said, "Lee, I haven't been this full of hope for the country since, well, I don't remember when." The shepherds must have felt like that on the night Jesus was born-hearing an angelic chorus praising God for sending salvation would stir that kind of hope. It must have been the kind of hope that made the Magi follow the star to Bethlehem and then defy Herod's orders and sneak out of the country. It must have been hope that carried Joseph and Mary through their own terror and confusion, all the way to Egypt, running to save their son's life. It is that kind of expectation-call it transforming hope - that Advent is all about; and Christmas is the celebration of hope fulfilled.
We preachers hawk peace and good will this time of the year, but if that's all that we do, then we are off the mark. While we sing Christmas carols about "peace on earth and good will to all," we will also be hearing the Advent scripture constantly reminding that we should be waiting and watching for the transforming presence of Christ in our lives.
My friend Fran Elizer lived in Oxford, Georgia most of her life. Every day, up in her eighties, she walked the streets two, maybe three miles at a time. She carried a plastic bag and picked up trash. The bag was always full by the time she got home. I asked her, "Fran, what do people say to you when they see you out there?" She answered, "Well, some think it's not safe. They say, 'What's a stooped over old woman like you doing picking up trash on the highway? I walk for my health. And I pick up the garbage because I just can't stand to leave the world trashy. I re-cycle what I can."
Maybe that's why God gave us Messiah. God could have just swept all the trashy people in the world up and thrown them in the burn pile and been done with us. But God decided to give humankind another chance. God chose to re-cycle instead of incinerate. The biblical definition for recycle is to save and transform. It's like Isaiah said - we're clay in the potter's hands. God loves us in whatever way we come; whatever we are, God can recover us from the trash pile on which the world has left us. God's all about redeeming the messed-up stuff, healing the brokenness, and re-creating us in God's own image.
The Vision at Grace
our surrounding community, spiritually and physically, while
outward with God's love and intentionally
all in the name of Christ.
TOMORROW - Thurs., Dec. 8
Church Council Meeting, 6:30pm, Grace Cafe
HELP Ministry, 9am - 11am, Middle Parking Lot
Tuesday, December 13
Needles & Prayers, 7pm
Saturday, December 17
Rehearsal for Children's Christmas Pageant, 9:30am, Sanctuary
Sunday, December 18
Children's Christmas Pageant, 11am, Sanctuary
Farewell Celebration for Kate Hurst Floyd and Kyle Tau, Daisy and Samuel, immediately following worship, Grace Cafe
Saturday, December 24
Christmas Eve Worship, 5pm, Sanctuary
Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 - Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017
Grace office closed for Christmas and New Year's Holidays (The office reopens on Wed., Jan. 4, 2017.)
Tuesday, January 10
Needles & Prayers, 7pm
MEALTRAIN FOR THE BARWICK FAMILY
(Jenny and Stephen's baby boy) has arrived! If you are interested in preparing and dropping off a meal for the Barwick family, please sign up on the meal train website:
or contact Shelly Hart for additional details via the church office
FAREWELL CELEBRATION FOR KATE, KYLE, DAISY and SAMUEL
Come say goodbye to Kate and Kyle as they begin a new journey!
Chef Jess will provide a hearty soup and and salad for lunch. To make things fun and festive ... everyone please bring 3 dozen cookies
(1 kind/flavor) for a cookie swap.
(If homemade, please also bring a copy of the recipe for Kate and Kyle.) If you'd like to participate in the swap,
please email Chef Jess
(email@example.com) the kind of cookie you will bring.
Sunday, Dec. 18th, immediately following worship in the Grace Cafe.
NOTE: please bring cookies
before worship and place on the designated table.
Sharing Our Gifts
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Thank you for your faithful support of the work that God is doing through Grace Church!