Here’s the Bulletin for today, followed by the Reflection
Order of Worship *All who are able, please stand
First Scripture Reading A Virgin Conceives Luke 1:25-38
This is the beginning of our story. Thanks be to God.
Baby Jesus is born to us throughout the year, whenever we remember that Emmanuel is God with us.
Come into our hearts and minds, Jesus, and refresh us anew with your Christmas message.
Opening Hymn #133(stanzas 1 & 3) O Come, All Ye Faithful
Glory to God
* Prayer of Confession
Gracious God, our burdens are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear, and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgment. Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed; and grant us grace to grow more and more in Your likeness and image; through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen. http://matthewstarner.com/elements-of-worship-confession/
* Words of Assurance
John Dowden, the Bishop of Edinburgh in the 1880s said, “We lay down our burdens at the doorway before entering upon the praises of God.” Friends, believe the Good News of the Gospel:
In Jesus Christ we are forgiven.
Hymn #128 (stanzas 1 only) Infant Holy, Infant Lowly
Second Scripture Reading The Birth of Jesus Luke 2:1-7
2 1-5 About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiancée, who
6-7 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel.
The story continues. The baby is born.
And where do we find this Son of God?
We don’t find him in the temples or the palaces. We don’t find him where people worship. We find him in the smelly places where no nice, respectable people would spend the night.
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Hymn #115 (stanza 1 only) Away in a Manger
Emerging Wisdom Congregational Discussion
Topic: What are some of the feelings that you associate with Christmas?
*Passing of the Peace Let us exchange a greeting of God’s peace.
*Hymn #119 (stanzas 1 & 2 only) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Third Scripture Reading An Event for Everyone Luke 2:8-20
After the birth, angels spread the news.
The first people they told were the shepherds, those who were the lowest of the low in Jewish society. They were visited by angels.
The highest of the high sought out the lowest of the low
Because THIS birth was for EVERYONE, not just the powerful elite.
He was born where no one would go
And he was seen first by those who raised sheep and lambs for sacrifice in the Temple just as Jesus would become a sacrificial lamb for all of us.
This is the Gospel of our Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.
*Hymn #113 (stanza 1 only) Angels We Have Heard on High
Fourth Scripture Reading Scholars from the East Matthew 2:11
The Magi were the first to come from the non-Jewish world to worship Jesus.
God’s love extends to all people.
It is said that Wise Men and Women still seek him.
And for that we give thanks to God who leads us on our quest.
Reflection on the Day The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Invitation to the Offering
Our blessings are many. Let us share them with others through our morning offering.
Offertory Hymn #132(stanzas 1 & 2) Good Christian Friends, Rejoice
* Presentation of the Gifts and Hymn #147 The First Nowell (stanzas 1 & 2)
* Prayer of Dedication
Just as the birth of your son brings hope to our lives, O God, we dedicate these gifts to bring hope and new possibilities to the lives of others.
* Closing Hymn #136 (stanzas 1 only) Go, Tell it on the Mountain
What We Believe A Christmas Creed
I believe in God the Father, Creator of all things, who sent His Son as my Savior.
I believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, announced by angels, worshiped by the Wise Men, who lived to suffer, die, and rise again, to free me from sin, death and the power of the devil.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, who has brought me to faith in the Christ and by whose continuous work in my heart I am ever led to lay before the feet of Christ my worship, my life, my love; to live under Him as my King, both now and forevermore. Amen.
* Closing Hymn #134 (stanzas 1 & 4) Joy to the World
Glory to God
* Recapping the Day & Benediction
Christmas is more than a time of year;
Christmas is an attitude, a season of hope.
When so much is in turmoil,
We need to remember that to find Christ, we have to look in the shadow places where we least expect to find him.
He didn’t come in a temple. He didn’t come in a palace.
But he is Emmanuel. He is Emmanuel, God with us.
God with us?
Yes, because God IS with us wherever we are. Jesus travels with us and finds us wherever we are.
Jesus is with us Wherever we are. Thanks be to God.
Let us go in the love and abiding presence of the One who creates us, the one who saves us, and the one who journeys with us no matter where we go. Amen.
REFLECTION: “Christmases Past, Present and Future”
July 20, 2014
South Presbyterian Church / Rochester, NY
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Christmases Past, Present and Future
Several Traditional Christmas Readings
South Presbyterian Church – July 20, 2014 – Christmas in July
The Reverend Deborah Fae Swift
Okay … so here’s why we’re celebrating Christmas in July.
A few weeks ago I was driving to Vermont on my way to do a wedding. It was 80 degrees and beautiful. Sunny and warm. It SMELLED like summer, it FELT like summer … and I had my music on Random Mix.
So there I am on the Northway, getting ready to cross the border and drive through the BEAUTIFUL Green Mountains when all of a sudden a Christmas song comes on in the random mix.
I hit the skip button and it went on to something else more appropriate for this season.
But within another couple of songs I found myself listening to Wyndom Hill’s Winter Solstice music and it was really PLEASANT. Soon after that, another Christmas song came on and I was reminded that when Mel Torme wrote “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” it was 90 degrees, part of a very long heat spell and he was trying to cool off so he created the winter world in his head.
Slowly the songs kept infiltrating the Random Mix and I found myself listening to them DIFFERENTLY. I mean, I’m not used to hearing “Silent Night” in 80 degree sunny weather. And the words meant different things to me because of the weather.
And that’s when it hit me: Emmanuel … God with us … God is WITH us through ALL of the seasons because of Jesus. And JESUS is born every time we invite him into our hearts.
So there I am driving along and I find myself thinking about all that we’re going through and how last Christmas was the first time I said from the pulpit that it would most likely be our last Christmas in this sanctuary and I start having this conversation with God … or somebody … I think it was God. And I’m asking, “So what do your people need in all of this?”
And what came to me was Christmas in July.
Well, come to find out, there is a whole international MOVEMENT to celebrate Christmas in July. It’s mostly people in the southern hemisphere because they have winter in the summer time and they want to have the associations that we have with Christmas … snowy nights … stars reflecting off the snow … all of that.
But for US … the meaning is even MORE striking: Baby Jesus will NOT just be born here at 4 E. Henrietta Road.
For many of us, it’s where we have celebrated his birth for DECADES … but he’s not just born HERE.
Jesus goes with us to the Meadows.
Baby Jesus will be at the Meadows just like he’s HERE! Why? Because he’s INSIDE of us wherever we go.
When we talk about Christmases past we have lots of thoughts and associations. Lots of memories. And there are some things we might want to do the same way … but there are bound to be some things we will want to do differently, too.
Christmas Present???? That’s TODAY! Jesus is born in EACH ONE of us whenever we invite him to be. So today IS Christmas Present.
And Christmas FUTURE?
It will be everything that we invite it to be because God’s love that’s shown to us through the birth of this baby is universal and timeless.
There are two things for us to keep at the forefront of our minds these next few weeks: God reached out to us through the birth of this baby boy so that we would have a model for how to be in a faithful relationship with our God … and through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are GUARANTEED that nothing can separate us from the love of that God. NOTHING … not life, nor death … not principalities of this world or the next … not even moving to a new location and building new traditions.
There is a continuum here. In medicine it’s called Continuity of Care. The God who WAS, is also the God who IS … and is also the one to COME. So the Ghost of Christmas Past morphs into the Ghost of Christmas PRESENT … our experience of “God with us,” Emmanuel … TODAY … in the middle of July. And THAT morphs into the Ghost of Christmas FUTURE which is the Spirit that we will all experience and find such a comfortable homecoming in December at the Meadows.
And there are certain lessons that these three Ghosts of Christmas teach us. They’re not the lessons of Charles Dickens … they’re the lessons of God’s love. Among them are that:
- Christmas is an ATTITUDE. It is a SEASON … a season of HOPE and wonder. Friends, I don’t know about you, but the sense of hope and wonder are almost palpable to me right now. I am so excited that I’m practically VIBRATING with the energy of the season. Another lesson?
- Jesus was never found in the rich palaces. He wasn’t born into opulence. He was born into the SHADOWS of a cave … at some time of the year (probably not in the winter at all but more like the spring or maybe even in May) and y’know what??? We STILL find him in the places where we LEAST expect him so we have to be open to it.
- And finally, because he is God WITH us … he goes with us everywhere that we go. Here … the Meadows … Barnes & Noble … Bruegger’s … downtown … no matter WHERE … Jesus goes with us and is born ANEW wherever we welcome him.
So let’s get into this and continue our celebration of this amazing holiday.
Merry Christmas … 😀