Swept Up In Christmas

Luke 1:39-55

From the opening of this gospel story, we see that Luke has apparently learned a very significant truth. Women are smarter and more perceptive than men.

How many of you would agree with that?

Of course I do, Carrie, dear. Luke seems to think so, too.

Look at Zechariah. the priest. He is visited by an angel, told that he is going to have a son and that he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Does he believe the angel? No.

Then comes Mary, a young, unwed girl, who had not yet known any man. An angel comes to her and tells her that she will give birth to the Son of God. What does she say? “Here I am, Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”

Then, in our story this morning, comes Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah. She was once barren, but now she is pregnant with John the Baptist. She opens the door of her home to see her young relation Mary, pregnant and unmarried. In their world, this would be a shameful situation for those to whom angels have not spoken.

But Elizabeth is not filled with shame for Mary, she is filled with the Holy Spirit as John does somersaults in her stomach. She knows, she understands, she sees, that shame is not the order of the day; it is joy and wonder. This is the coming of the Lord.

What an embrace that must have been between those two women, each chosen for a special honor by God. Each was chosen to play a critical part in the unfolding plan of the Lord. (So much for the men. But don’t worry, we eventually get it…kind of ;)

Mary and Elizabeth discover in the Spirit that there is something real, something wonderful, something world changing being born inside of them. After Elizabeth greets her not with judgment but with joy, Mary begins to sing. She begins to sing a song that tells the rest of us who don’t get it at first, exactly what God is up to. Oh, and what an audacious song it is! Listen to what Mary sings!

Whoever we may be, God has not forgotten us. God has not left us to sway with the wind or to be swallowed up by the world. God is sending a son, in human form, with hands to work, a mouth to preach, a mind and a spirit to discern, and a courage to take on the very powers that keep all of us subdued.

This Child, as he grows, will have something to offer all of us. For our moments when we are too proud, and when we relish in or pursue our own power, he will relieve us of our swelled heads. When we are overfilled with our own riches, God will take care of that too, so that we can make room for that which money cannot buy.

When the world or our circumstances beat us into submission, overwhelm us with more than we can handle, or present us with puzzles that we cannot solve, God lifts us up, and sends us his son, and loves us like a mother. When we are hungry, hungry for food, for love, for hope, for joy, for peace, for healing, this baby who is born, and who will grow, and who will give himself up, this one will fill us with good things.

What has your Christmas season been like so far? Perhaps you have been able to feet the joy, and the celebration of the season-enjoyed the concerts, and the parties, and the family get-togethers.

Or, maybe your Christmas season has been something less than ideal? You have felt overwhelmed by the hustle and the bustle? Or perhaps family gatherings are not necessarily occasions of joy? Or maybe you carry a burden, or a question, or a belief that the trees and lights cannot remove.

Perhaps you have felt despair as we have watched the opportunity for real health care reform slip away in the midst of all the political wrangling? Or lost hope as world leaders fail to look beyond their own interests to do something significant about climate change? The lights, the decorations, the cookies, the gifts under the tree seem powerless in the face of all this.

But Mary’s song, and the season of Advent, reminds us that Christmas is, finally, not about all of that stuff that we do this time of year. Christmas is about God coming to us in the middle of life, going through it with us, and inviting us to let Emmanuel guide us, comfort us, heal us, and empower us. Christmas is about giving us a song to sing, a song of life.

I know its a busy season that can have a lot of stress. Take a moment right now…take a breath…and listen for the song. Whatever your circumstances. Christmas is about empowering us to live faithfully, meaningfully, and joyfully, proclaiming that the current issues and problems of our lives and world, overwhelming as they may seem, will not have the final say.

About a month or so before Carrie and I got married that we had a chance to see Bruce in concert.  I like my music, and since I am a member of the rock and roll generation, I tend to like it loud.  That concert was one I will never forget.

You see, it was a special time in our life.  Carrie and I were about to tie the knot.  I had just moved down from Portland to So. California for the wedding.  Carrie’s family was still just getting to know me and well, let’s just say that the jury was still out.  Carrie was feverishly working on her own wedding dress with her mother, all the preparations were proceeding at a feverish pace, and everyone was in a light, joyous mood.  So when we had the chance to go to a concert, we took it.

As we walked up to the LA Sports arena for the concert, I have to say that I looked marvelous.  I had taken a job on the receiving dock at Nordstrom’s department store, starting at 2:30 in the morning…that’s am. I had loaned my beloved 1970 maverick to my brother, so I was riding a bike to work.  The morning before the concert, I had a little mishap on the way, taking a spill. My face, as I walked into the concert hall, told everyone of my up close encounter with the asphalt.

So we were all in a good mood. I was stiff. Carrie was rejoicing now that our wedding pictures would have a unique road rash theme.  But then, Bruce walked out on stage, and for three and a half hours we were transported to another place.  The outside world did not exist for that period of time. I let go of everything that was on my mind and spirit. My brother, who was there with his partner, had never quite seen me that way before. I was nuts! I was singing. I was dancing. If had had a lighter, I would have held it up high. I was swept up by the music.  It was like a tonic.  It felt good.

I pray that somewhere along the line you are able to let go of everything that weighs you down, and that you are able to celebrate the message of Christmas. It is simple, yet so profound. It is the song of Emmanuel– God with us. May Mary’s song sweep you up this Christmas, and bring you joy.

Amen.

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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