What Do You Want for Christmas??? (12/24/18)

Posted by on Dec 27, 2018 in Sermons, Worship & Prayer | 0 comments

The annual cycle of traditions at PUMC has a lot of high points that we all look forward to.  There are moments that lift our spirits, messages that challenge our lives, and times when we just enjoy the warm friendship of each other’s company.  The Christmas Eve Candlelighting service is one of those high points which features all of these elements.

The evening began- in the afternoon. Approximately 200 people attended the 4:00 PM service which was oriented towards our younger families.  A few hours later, the sanctuary was nearly full as we celebrated Christmas Eve with our evening Candelighting service.

 

 

Music

At 7:00 PM the “Songs of the Season” opened the evening celebration.  As people gathered for the service, our Praise Team and bell choir led us in a series of inspiring music.  And when the service began, a brass orchestra added their energy to the Christmas Carols.  Trombones, Trumpets, Tubas, flutes and mallet percussion created the mixture of cheer and holiness that is needed to observe this special evening.

Message

Pastor Jim opened our hearts to the Bible with some familiar passages from the Old Testament…

Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

2 The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.

6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

 

Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”  

 

We then turned to the New Testament fulfillment of these prophesies as found in the Gospel of Luke…

Luke 2:1-20

1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

 8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

 

What Do You Want For Christmas?

Pastor Jim opened his message with a question that may have been a bit late for the Christmas Tree gifts… but what is it that we really want to gain from this Christmas season?

The Carpenter’s song “Merry Christmas, Darling” reflected on this question… “greeting cards have all been sent, the Christmas rush is through…. I’ve just one with on this Christmas Eve: I wish I were with you.”

“I wish I were with you.”…  “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas”… even “All I want is my two front teeth”…  Christmas is a time of longing.  Longing for friends.  Longing for home.  Longing, even, for two front teeth.

So, on this Christmas Eve- what is it that YOU want?

 

Mary and Joseph

Joseph’s family was from Bethlehem, and many of his family had to make the trip from wherever they were to Bethlehem.  For him it was a family reunion.  Undoubedly he bumped into long lost family members as he and Mary wound their way through the crowded streets.

They wanted to get “home.”  By today’s standards, the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is a chip shot by car.  But on a camel, it was an arduous journey.  And, imagine poor Mary: Nine months pregnant riding on a camel!  She must have wanted to arrive at their destination and to rest in a comfortable room.

And they were about to become parents!  God sent angels and dreams with the overwhelming news that they were going to be the parents of the Son of God.  They were longing for this birth.  Not only to get through it, but to raise their son.  To love this Son of God!

 

God

Why did God send His Son into the world?  What did He want out of this Christmas?  Put simply, God wanted (and still wants) Jesus and YOU!  You-  one with His Son.  You- loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.  You- the one that He thinks about all the time.   As David wrote in Psalm 139:17-19…

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.   When I awake, I am still with you.

And Jesus prayed that WE be one with Him in John 17:20-21:

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

God had always planned on sending Jesus to be a bridge between Himself and Humanity.  God’s Christmas wish?  That we be with Him!

 

You?!?

So back to the original question: what do YOU want for Christmas?   When this is question asked, the response is usually about a gift.  We want the latest video game or phone, we want a new coat.  We want a new big screen TV.  We want a car.   We are attracted to things that wear out, become obsolete, and rust away. Christmas day comes and goes, and we forget about this stuff as soon as we put the decorations away.

But Jesus offers us much more; gifts that go deeper and last longer.  If you look at the Gospels, you’ll  quickly see how everyone who came in contact with Jesus was changed.  And all of them for the better!  Some found their sight.  Others lost their leprosy.  Others found healing and acceptance.  Others found purpose.

Jesus offers Peace and Hope.  He offers us the freedom to live the life that God designed us to live.  We don’t have to be slaves where we’re always trying to fill our lives with jolts of material things or fun experiences.   There’s a hole in our hearts that only God can fill, and Jesus is the answer to that gift.  Jesus fulfills the longing that all of us have.

In 1995, Scott Wesley Brown released a song entitled “I Wish You Jesus.”  Here are  the lyrics:

I could wish you joy and peace To last a whole life long,

I could wish you sunshine, Or a cheerful little song,

Or wish you all the happiness That this life could bring

But I wish you Jesus…

I could wish you leaves of gold, And may your path be smooth,

I could wish you treasures, Or that all your dreams come true,

And I could wish you paradise, That ev’ry day be spring,

But I wish you Jesus,

Cause when I wish you Jesus, I’ve wished you ev’rything.

 

Christmas is a time to renew the gifts that God has given us.  God has called us to be ambassadors.  As we celebrate and ponder God’s gifts day in and day out, Christ fills our hearts and WE become the hope, peace, joy, and love that the word so desperately needs.  Knowing that our Good Shepherd surrounds us and is always in our midst is a gift that we can unwrap and celebrate throughout the year. 

What do you want for Christmas???

 

 

Candlelight

The end of the service ushers in one of the highlights of the year: the lighting of candles while singing Silent Night.  Pastor Jim gives the obligatory safety message about dipping unlit candles into lit ones, the lights go dim, and Silent Night begins to flow out of the organ.  The first candle captures its flame from the Advent Wreath’s Christ Candle, and this light of Christ gradually fills the sanctuary as worshipers dip their candles into the flame held by the person next to them.  By the time we reach the second stanza, the entire sanctuary is filled with the flickering glow which came from the Christ Candle.  When the song is completed and the benediction is given, the process quickly reverses itself as the flames are blown out.  When the lights are turned back on, we know that we have experienced a holy moment…

 

 

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