Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + Advent Sermon Series

December 2016: "Fireplaces and Farmhouses"

Dear Church,

One of the features that Carrie and I most love about our new house is the gas fireplace that sits as the focal point in the living area--it has classical style framing and wainscotting around it that makes it look amazing, and on a cold fall or winter evening, it is all I need, along with the cuddling of our dogs, to warm up again.

It is something that I have come to associate greatly with the Christmas season--after all, just a few years ago, the closest I could get to having a fireplace was to put a video of a Yule log up on my computer and set it next to my space heater! (It isn't the same. Trust me.)

That sort of warmth and coziness, in truth, is easy to associate with this season because we have all likely experienced it--the feeling of getting to bundle up, or of sitting up near a fire, and knowing that we will be able to celebrate the season in relative security. Some of us haven't had the chance to feel that sort of comfort every Christmas, though.

It is easy to forget that Jesus's parents had no such luxury--far from being able to stay in the inn (and some Bible scholars believe the inn may not have even been that--or, at least, an inn in the modern hotel sense--but simply a guesthouse, like a farmhouse bed + breakfast), they had to stay in a stable that was quite possibly open-air: while there was likely a roof of some sort, we have no inkling as to its quality, and we have no idea if there were even walls to the stable, or if it was simply a roof propped up by posts with mangers and feeding troughs running along the sides.

So as you draw inward towards the light and warmth of the Yule fire this Christmas season, I hope and pray that you will remember just how Jesus came into this world, and that you will also remember the billions of people who still live in similarly insecure circumstances today. For when God chose to become flesh and to come to earth, it was not in the form of royalty or wealth, and not in the form of a middle class American family (for neither the middle class or the United States existed then), but in the form of someone physically insecure, whose only security came from God, and God alone.

Part of the bargain of celebrating Christmas is remembering how it all began. And in remembering how it did indeed begin, may we also remember just how far we have come from that fateful night in Bethlehem, and just how much further we have yet to go in the building of God's kingdom here on earth.

So wherever you celebrate Christmas this year, from in front of a fireplace to inside a farmhouse, please take a moment of prayer to remember and recall the circumstances of Christ's birth--not as we might want it to have happened, but as it actually took place.

I wish you and yours a very merry and blessed Christmas!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

Advent 2016 Sermon Series

Alright, it's officially holiday season--no, just because Starbucks and Dutch Bros hand out "holiday" cups by the time Veteran's Day rolls around doesn't mean it's the holiday season--and we've got a new series for it. Truthfully, what we think of as the "Christmas season" is in fact Advent: a month of preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ, which then kicks off the twelve-daylong Christmas season (yes, as in the Twelve Days of Christmas carol). For this year's Advent season, we started a new sermon series last week and will be continuing it up to Christmas Day, and it is based on The First Christmas, the sequel by John Dominic Crossan and the late Marcus Borg after their popular The Last Week book that you may recall I used as a template for my Lenten sermon series a couple of years ago. Just as The Last Week went verse-by-verse through the Passion story to uncover some of its original meanings and contexts, so too does The First Christmas with the birth narratives in Matthew and in Luke. We won't be sticking to the birth stories from Matthew and Luke themselves until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, though, so that we may understand more deeply some of the theological points that Borg and Crossan make. I hope you'll join us this Advent and Christmas season for an exciting sermon series and some lovely worship services

Advent 2016 Sermon Series: "The First Christmas: Recreating a Holiday's Original Meaning"

November 27: "An Angel Comes to Mary," Luke 1:26-38
December 4: “In David’s City of Bethlehem,” Micah 5:2-4
December 11: “Light Against the Darkness,” John 1:1-5
December 18: “A Fulfillment of Prophecy,”
December 24: “And On Earth, Peace,” Luke 2:1-20
December 25: “Joy to the World,” Matthew 1:18-25
January 1, 2017: “A Year of Jubilee,” Leviticus 25:1-13

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