Category: Christmas (Page 2 of 5)

Those Who Expect the Dawn

“To be a Christian is to live every day of our lives in solidarity with those who sit in the darkness and in the shadow of death, but to live in the unshakable hope of those who expect the dawn.”
~ Fleming Rutledge, Advent

The Advent season is the beginning of the Christian calendar; last Sunday was New Year’s Day for followers of Jesus. And the season is intended to remind us that we live between the First and Second Comings.

The Christmas season is unquestionably a time of great joy. We celebrate the coming of our  Messiah, the holy Son of God. He comes to us in a flesh-and-blood human, the ultimate inbreaking of heaven into earth that redeems us and begins the restoration of all things. We celebrate that gracious gift of God by giving gifts to one another, by gathering together with family and friends and other Christians to sing and praise, by giving generously to those in need, by decorating our homes and church buildings, by forgiving and showing mercy.

But this Advent season is also a time for painful yearning. Right now, we only see glimpses of the Kingdom of God on earth. The kingdoms of men and women are much more obvious. We see terror and violence in the Holy Lands, war and oppression in Ukraine and Myanmar. Poverty and racism and division. Suicide rates still going up. Our society seems increasingly lost in chaos and confusion, aimlessness and animosity.

This is where we are, between our Lord’s First and Second Comings. The glory of what our God has done and is doing through Christ Jesus calls to us and fills us with hope. But we also mourn for this broken world and for fractured people. We long for God’s perfect justice and peace. We pray for reconciliation and unity, for healing and grace. We long for his Kingdom to come on this earth fully and for his will to be done here just as it is in heaven.

The light dawned on this world in a manger in Bethlehem almost two thousand years ago. And we celebrate.

The dawn is also still coming. And we pray. Lord, come quickly.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…
They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest…
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end…
The Zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”
~Isaiah 9:2-7


Peace at Advent

This is the liturgy we are using this Sunday at GCR, the second Sunday of the Advent Season. I’m posting these on each of the four Tuesdays of Advent. Please use this in preparation for this Sunday here in Midland, use this in your own private Word and Prayer time this week, or use this at your own congregation.

In the days when God’s people longed for peace, the prophet declared from Isaiah 2:

In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as chief among the mountains;
it will be raised over the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more.
Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.
~Isaiah 2:3-5

We who gather today also seek comfort and peace. Yet we are not satisfied with ideas of peace that tell us to just keep quiet and go with the flow. We long for real peace, true peace, just peace. The peace promised by our Lord Jesus in John 14:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
~John 14:27

Congregation: We wait as people who yearn for the perfect peace that bears the Kingdom of God fruit of community, equity, and flourishing for all people.

We light this candle as a symbol of God’s perfect peace. May this be a beacon calling us to repent and to live the Good News of Jesus Christ, as we wait and work for the day when all people can gather to worship and glorify God together. Amen.

Hope at Advent

This Sunday, December  3, marks the beginning of the four week Advent season, the time of year when Christians prepare for the coming of our Lord. Starting this Sunday, the Church remembers the coming of the Messiah in a flesh-and-blood human, born in a manger in Bethlehem. And, at the same time, we wait for his second coming, his second appearing, when Christ truly reigns over all creation and the Kingdom of God has come in all its eternal glory.

Each Tuesday during Advent, I’ll post here the liturgy we’re using at the GCR Church that coming Sunday. Please feel free to use these readings and passages during your own time in Word and Prayer during this season or at your own church as you light the candles that symbolize our waiting and watching and working for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

This first liturgy is for the lighting of the candle that represents “Hope.”

When God’s people were in the days of exile and uncertainty, his chosen prophet cried out from Isaiah 64:

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
~ Isaiah 64:1-4

In the middle of our own encounters with uncertainty and upheaval, and our own longing for deliverance, our Lord Jesus calls to us from Mark 13:

“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come… Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'”
~Mark 13:32-37

Congregation: We wait as people surprised again and again by our God who shakes us out of our complacency and wakes us up to the gracious work of his Kingdom all around us.

We light this candle as a sign of our all-surpassing hope. May we stay awake to God’s activity in the world as we wait in expectation that even now God is with us, working to restore us to fullness of life with him and with one another.


Advent #5 Christ

Tomorrow is Christmas Day and it falls on the Lord’s Day and it’s beautiful. We won’t only be gathering with our families in our homes, we’ll be gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ in beautiful worship centers designed for coming together in the presence of God. We won’t just be eating turkey and ham and jalapeno corn with our relatives, we’ll also be eating and drinking the communion meal together with our Lord and with one another as members of his eternal Body. We won’t only be unwrapping presents purchased at stores and online, we’ll be receiving the gift of Christ’s unmitigated peace and joy through song, prayer, Scripture, and the proclamation of the Good News with fellow believers. What a blessing!

Tomorrow at GCR, we’re planning a traditional Christmas service with Christmas hymns, candle lightings, a story time with our kids on stage, and readings from Luke 2. I’m going to show a whole bunch of pictures from our trip to Bethlehem in a sermon we’re calling, “For All People.” There will also be a photo area for family pics and hot chocolate and candy canes.

The Bundys and Hills are lighting the Advent candle at the beginning of tomorrow’s assembly. Here’s the script we’re using:

Today we light the center candle of Advent, the candle that symbolizes the arrival into this world of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This candle is white, to represent the light that now shines into the darkness.
Jesus is born! Jesus has come! Jesus is God with us!
Jesus is our eternal hope! Our surpassing peace! Our everlasting joy!
The curse is no more, God’s covenant promises are fulfilled, and we live today and forever in righteous relationship with the Lord and with one another because Jesus Christ is born!

Luke 2:8-14

Christmas Day won’t fall on Sunday again until the year 2033. This is special. Where will you be in eleven years?  How old will your kids be? Or your grandchildren? Make tomorrow special, make it an out-of-the-ordinary Christmas. Take the opportunity to teach them and show them and experience with them what’s really important to us and why. Take ’em to church.


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