Showing posts from 2017

Christmas Carol Countdown* (Wednesday Night Worship)

A survey was taken over the last several weeks and the results, though minimal, are in.  Tonight, we will enjoy the top six Christmas carols of our congregation.  There were five songs tied for second, and a final song that stood alone at the top of the standings. The lyrics will be on the screen, so please feel free to sing along. At number six we have a song of mysterious origin.  It is perhaps one of the first Christmas carols taught to children.  It seems to date back to the latter part of the 1800’s.  It has been wrongly attributed to Martin Luther, leader of the Protestant Reformation.  It was said that he would sing it to his children every night.  The legend grew to him singing it to children across Germany.  Interestingly, though, is the fact that not a single mother in Germany was familiar with the song prior to its introduction from the United States to them.  The authorship continues to remain uncertain, though many believe its roots are here in the United States.  There is…

A War Cry: Angels and Shepherds - Luke 2:8-20 (HIUMC - Christmas Eve Sunday Morning)

When you think of Christmas angels, what images come to mind?  For most of us, pageants over the years, have left us with images of pretty, young angels, often female, singing over a field of shepherds.
[Maybe a little something like this.]

What if, however, we pictured the group of angels, less like a professional music group dressed in choir robes singing…and more like [this],

a group of angels, swords by their sides, standing in military formation, who just happened to be gifted in music and singing.  Why this image?  We’ll explore that in just a few moments.
Let’s take a moment to remember where we have been on this journey, that we have entitled, “A War Cry,” so we will have a grounding point for where we find ourselves today.  We began our journey by noting that while Christmas time has traditionally been a point of thinking about “peace o’er all the earth,” an image highlighted in 1914 with the Christmas cease-fire during World War I, that in reality, Christmas is God’s decla…

Preparing for Peace - Isaiah 9:6-7, John 14:27, John 16:33 (Saturday December 23rd - “Fourth Sunday In Advent)

Peace…peace…peace.  We hear that word more this time of year, probably, than any other.  We talk about it.  We sing about it.  We pray for it.  We crave it, perhaps, more than anything else—whether we realize it or not.  After all, shouldn’t that be the highlight of this time of year as we gather to celebrate the the birth of Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  Yet, for many of us, peace is more elusive this time of year than any other.
Our calendars disrupt our peace.  There are church services and other faith activities…. parades… school programs… work and sometimes work Christmas parties… family gatherings… decorating… shopping… wrapping… cooking and baking… phone calls and Christmas cards… Peace?  Who has time for peace?
The weather disrupts our peace.  In North Carolina that’s a given.  It’s rainy.  It’s sunny.  It’s cold.  It’s hot.  We’re outside playing ball in shorts and short sleeves.  We’re huddled on the under blankets while wearing our winter pajamas.  All in one week.  All in …

Not Always What We Expected - Matthew 7:7-11 (Wednesday Night Reflection)

That doesn’t seem like a very Christmassy Scripture passage does it?  I mean this is the time of year when we gather for Christmas messages and we expect to hear about Quirinius and Bethlehem…Mary and Joseph…shepherds and angels…and maybe a wise man or two or three (depending on what Michael and the other Chris-myth busters tell us).  Yet here I am talking about asking, knocking, and seeking…alone with bread and rocks, fish and snakes.  Well, you’ve got to think about it…this season is all about asking (Santa), knocking (on doors as you go visiting or caroling), and seeking (that elusive perfect present). Going back to the asking part…particularly the asking Santa part…I think I am going to petition congress to pass a law that a child may only speak to Santa once per year.  Over the course of my life I have found that Santa’s head has to be spinning.  When I have had children visit Santa one more than one occasion during the year, because he keeps showing up, at the mall, at the school…

A War Cry: A Baby - Luke 2:1-7 (HIUMC)

Our war march began in Bethlehem.  We recognized that this little town is more than a sleepy little village of Christmas cards and carols, and holds a very dark history—a history of idolatry and betrayal, a history of prejudice and brutality, a history of violence and death.  When the Lord of all Creation decided to take on sin and evil once and for all, He entered on front lines—He entered this town plagued with its diminutive size and its past.  In doing so, God says to each of us, “there is no place that is too small and no place too dark for Me to enter in and bring light, hope, and victory.” As we continued, we discovered Mary—not the Mary that so many young girls volunteer to be in all her splendor and glory in the popular Christmas pageants—but the real Mary, a scared, hesitant volunteer in God’s battle plan.  A young thirteen year old girl who risked and was rejected by family and her community, and possibly narrowly escaped stoning, as she found herself unwed and pregnant.  He…

A War Cry: Joseph and Family - Matthew 1:18-25 (HIUMC)

Almost every family has one.  The family gathers, and there they are.  They couldn’t stay at home, you couldn’t not invite them (well you could, but then there’s all the disruption that would cause in and of itself—there’s the whole thing of not letting the rest of the world know about that person and your family’s problem with them).  So they show up…and it’s clear to everyone there that you really don’t want them around.  If there’s a meal, they don’t get to sit at the main table (or if they do, the hosts have already worked out ahead of time who has to sit beside them).  When they walk into a room, the conversation completely grinds to a halt (most likely because the conversation was about how everyone couldn’t believe they had the nerve to show up, considering what they had done).  Maybe they rang your doorbell yesterday.  Maybe you were the one ringing the doorbell.
We are in week three of our “A War Cry” journey, as we consider the signs of God’s declaration of war that we call …

On The Naughty List - Romans 5:6-11 (Wednesday Night Reflection)

Disclaimer:  This is not an anti-Santa sermon…I am not anti-Santa.  However, as the sermon progresses, it notes differences between some of the traditions that have grown up around Santa (which, though I don’t note it in the sermon, are different from the original Saint Nicholas) and the nature of God.

It’s that time of year.  It is the time of year where every child, and maybe a few adults, are trying to be good for goodness sake.  They know that Santa’s got a list and he’s checking it twice to see who all is naughty and who all is nice.  Most, if they remember, are on their best behavior because they want to be good enough to get on the good list.  How many of you here think you’ve been good enough to get on Santa’s “Nice” list?  How many of you are still working hard at it?  How many are just content to go ahead and stay on the naughty list?
Well, the truth of the matter is, if we want to try to get on the nice list, that’s fine and good for Santa Clause…but when it comes to God’s…

Don’t Be A Decoy - Romans 12:9-21 (Wednesday Night Reflection)

My family and I are always playing games with words, particularly when it comes to the meaning of words.  So it should have been no surprise to me, when last week, my niece Erin came up to me after she came back to the Island from Black Friday shopping, seeing all the signs, and said, “so where’s the real festival if that’s the decoy?” I have to tell you that as I heard about the Decoy Festival before we arrived, I was real perplexed.  I was thinking to myself, “what’s the big deal about decoys”?  I mean, up to that point, my encounters with decoys were limited to those obviously fake plastic ducks sitting in ponds…to me the only folks that would be celebrating are the hunters who used them to lure in some pretty near-sighted ducks. However, upon coming to the Island and visiting in your homes and going through the museum, I have been awestruck.  The gifted artwork of so many of y’all and others across this Island just amazes me.  The detailed work on the wooden decoys I have seen is un…

A Battle Cry: Mary - Luke 1:26-40

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It has long been one of my favorite Christmas stories, first having read the book by Barbara Robinson back when I was in high school.  I loved the story so much, that when I found out that it was playing at the Fayetteville Little Theater twenty-five years ago, there was no question as to where I was going to take Anita on our first date.  I can’t remember if it works its way into the dialogue, but in the book Robinson writes (from the perspective of a young teenage girl): …The script is standard (the inn, the stable, the shepherds, the star), and so are the costumes, and so is the casting. Primary kids are angels; intermediate kids are shepherds; big boys are Wise Men; Elmer Hopkins, the minister’s son, has been Joseph for as long as I can remember; and my friend Alice Wendleken is Mary because she’s so smart, so neat and clean, and, most of all, so holy looking. Isn’t that how we always picture Mary—neat and clean and, most of all, so holy looking.  I…