SERVICE FOR THE LORD’S DAY
1st Day of Christmas
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Let me remind you quickly of our protocols for everyone’s safety.
· Attendance was taken by Ushers as you entered.
· masks are required by Session, as well as social distancing
bulletins are placed in the pews to help with social distancing
· Offerings may be placed in the plate by the doors.
· Please write your prayer request on the Yellow cards. An usher will pick them up during the 1st hymn.
· Please join us after service for fellowship will be continuing with beverages only, in Calvin Hall
Gary Iverson, Bob Bock, Joan Boyd, Wanda Hirl, Marilyn Neymeyer, Joan Pinkston, Maxine Wagner, Annette Conzett, Jo Lefleur, Dr Dyke, Bonnie and Jon Pillers, Mike Niles, Harlan Marx ,Tom Kelly, Lois Seger, Jon Ryner, Family of Jack Braden, Lucy Melvin. Bob Emmert, Abagail Niles, Helanah Niles, and Rich Lewis is having more tests this week.
*CALL TO WORSHIP Isaiah 60:1,3, CEB
Arise! Shine! Your light has come;
the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.
Nations will come to your light
and kings to your dawning radiance.
Child of Bethlehem, we come bearing our gifts to worship you as the kings of old once did. We bow in respect for the King of Glory you came to be in our lives. We shine because your light shines through us. We celebrate not only your birth but your place in our lives today.
*HYMN The First Noel #56
Let us confess our need of God’s grace.
God of Grace and Glory, as we enter a new year we confess our sins of the past. We confess our failure to care for one another or care for the earth. We confess our fears and the good we avoid because of them. We confess our lack of understanding and compassion. We confess our failure to bear your light to the world. Help us in this New Year, not to just make resolutions but to do our best each and every day to live in a manner that truly honors you. Amen.
WORDS OF ASSURANCE Ephesians 1:13-14, MEV
In Him you also, after hearing the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and after believing in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Through Christ we are forgiven. Thanks be to God!
*SONG OF PRAISE Gloria Patri #579
*PASSING THE PEACE (facing those across the aisle from you)
Left: May the peace of Christ be with you.
Right: And also with you. May the peace of Christ be with you.
Left: And also with you.
(You may be seated.)
THE WISE MEN’S VISIT Matthew 2:1-12
We Three Kings #66
GOSPEL LESSONS John 1:14
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
SERMON Living God’s Word in the Flesh
The gift of Christmas is that God came in the flesh to live among us. John’s Gospel expresses that gift.
“The Word” refers to God as the Word that spoke the world into being at creation.
“The Word became flesh” emphasizing that God became human to experience life as we experience it and to be more relatable to us.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Perhaps you remember hearing before that word translated as dwelt actually refers to a tent. So, God came, in human flesh, and pitched his tent to live among us as one of us.
“And we saw his glory” Ah, but while we are grateful for Jesus’ humanity, we dare not forget his divinity. It is the conundrum of the ages that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. I can’t explain it scientifically. I can only strive to accept it theologically on faith.
“We saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father.” John is calling to mind for his Jewish readers, the Tent of Meeting or tabernacle made in Moses’ time according to God’s instructions. That tent traveled with them wherever they went. When it was set up, God’s Spirit, God’s Glory came and filled the tent with God’s presence. When Moses entered the tent to meet with God, Moses’ face shone brightly enough as he came out that he had to wear a covering over his face for some time afterward. Jesus, God’s Son, reflected that same bright glory. The disciples glimpsed it once on the mountaintop when Jesus was transfigured, and his face and clothes shone as he talked with Moses and Elijah.
“The glory as the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.” The NIV Study Bible notes suggest the corresponding Hebrew words might be translated love and faithfulness. I recognize that as a common pairing in the Old Testament, especially in Psalms.
In the New Testament grace is one way of referring to God’s agape, self-giving, self-sacrificing love that we cannot earn or deserve. It is a free gift from God. A love that is filled with compassion and mercy. That is the grace that comes to us in Christ.
Truth is an important word for John, referring to reality. This grace and truth combine as I think about a later verse in John’s Gospel. It is because of grace that Jesus is the truth that sets us free.
What was born in Jesus on Christmas was God’s presence clothed in human flesh, pitching tent to live among us, a nomad like his human ancestors, yet so filled with God’s glory that his Spirit shines and we can glimpse the grace and truth, the love and faithfulness God offers to us. That is the gift of Christmas to all of us, to all of humanity, to all the earth.
That gift of God’s grace was so dazzling that God marked it and celebrated it with a star that shown brightly enough to catch the attention of foreign astronomers who interpreted its coming as a marvelous sign. They were convinced that a very special king had come. They left everything else behind but their convoy of camels, provisions for the trip, and three very special gifts to honor this king. Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh are gifts for a king, gifts for a deity, and even a gift that hints at the future death of Jesus’ human form. They are a model for us to bring our best to honor Jesus. They beg us to accept Jesus as our King. They remind us of Jesus’ divine nature and also his sacrifice of love for us.
But as I said on the First Sunday of Christmas, while it is important to receive the gift, that isn’t enough. The gifts of God through Jesus are gifts we are meant to share. The parable we read in Matthew is so familiar perhaps we take it for granted. It comes much later in Jesus’ life, in his time as our teacher. The point of the story is of course, that when we do something for others, for the least or lowliest around us, it is as if we do it for Jesus. Martin the Cobbler and other Christmas stories have shared a theme of waiting with a special gift to offer Christ, but instead finding oneself caring for others in need. Let’s take a deeper look at what is shared in Matthew’s parable.
You might recognize that this is not the full parable, but only the last paragraph of it.
We commonly call it the Sheep and the Goats, because the image is of sheep (representing those who helped others) being separated from the goats (those who did not), and this separation determines their future. The King who is the judge in this scene, the one doing the separating, is either God or Jesus, and in my own thinking that’s pretty much the same thing, they are of one mind and Spirit. NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes that it was common in Jewish parables for the King to represent God and talk about “the righteous ‘inheriting’ the kingdom or the world to come.” The next two verses talk about how those who expect to inherit should behave.
Verse 35 gives us the basics of hospitality. When a guest comes to your home for more than a few minutes, you likely offer them something to drink, even if it is just water, and if they stay longer you might bring out refreshments or ask them to stay for a meal. I’ve probably shared this before, but it reminds me of visiting Barb and Wade years ago. Wade always handed me a drink. Barb set a place for me at supper. Heather, who was two at the time, even figured out how to make room for me to stay the night. We are all a lot older, but occasionally I still get to visit. Last time Barb and I had gone to a gal’s reunion dinner, then I stayed with Barb and Wade. I was still handed a drink, given a bed to sleep, and food was available for breakfast. As the verse points out, hospitality may be for a friend or for a stranger. We might provide food or clothing or shelter, but these are simple gifts we are called to share when the need arises. When I was in college several families made room in their homes for me to stay. In later years I could pay that forward when one of David’s countrymen lived with us for a while. There was even a night when we were one of several church families who took in strangers who were stranded in a snowstorm. Think of the many ways hospitality has been shared with you, and how you share it with others.
Verse 36 doesn’t let us just stay home to serve our Lord, but sends us out to offer acts of kindness. It talks about visiting the sick and those in prison. Of course that is more difficult in the pandemic, but even when we cannot physically go to see someone, there are other ways of reaching out with care and encouragement. Think about times someone has visited you when you were in the hospital or brought food when you were sick. Perhaps there was a phone call or a card or flowers. Maybe someone offered to help in some way picking up groceries, doing some laundry, or caring for a pet. There are ways you can also bring help and encouragement to someone needing a lift.
Jesus’ words are framed in a way suggesting he has received all these acts of kindness, and those being praised for their good works are genuinely surprised. They don’t recall such an opportunity to serve their Lord in these ways. Jesus’ response in verse 40 is the key. When they did these things “to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” Of course scholars have debated who these brothers and sisters are. As the NIV Cultural Bible Study Bible sums it up, some believe it refers to the poor while others think it refers to Jesus’ disciples. I suppose I can see it either way.
I hadn’t considered before that Jesus could be encouraging his followers to take care of each other, but in the early church they did indeed share what they could so that everyone’s needs were met. That even included caring for those who were imprisoned for their faith. Taking care of each other in the family of faith was and continues to be a genuine need. Of course Jesus wants us to do that, but I don’t think that is all we can do. I think as we have opportunity, we are also called to reach out beyond those we know, beyond those with whom we have something in common. If we are to “let [our] good deeds shine out for all to see,” as Matthew suggested earlier in his gospel (Matt. 5:16) so that others will praise our God, then outreach to others is important, even imperative. There are countless ways we do that as a church, locally or through our mission agencies, and there are simple ways you can help those around you or strangers who cross your path.
It’s not that hard to be one of the sheep in this story. When we share what we have to help or encourage someone else, it is a gift we also give to Jesus. Think what a difference that has made in your own life when someone has done even some small thing to help you. Now recognize that you can also do some small things to help someone else. As we go into a new year, even in the ongoing frustration of a pandemic, even with all the other major challenges that will continue to dominate the news and whatever else may come, we can each as individuals and together as the Church offer kindness and encouragement to those around us, and that will make this a better world.
Did you catch an ongoing theme of a light shining in the darkness? It was in an earlier verse of John’s Gospel and the reference to Jesus’ glory. It was in the star that led the Wise Men to Bethlehem. It was in Matthew’s gospel reference of letting our good deeds shine for others to see God at work. Jesus came to be that shining light for us, and we can be that light for others.
I want to challenge you to make 2022 a year of kindness using Matt 25 as a springboard. Start a journal or make notes in your calendar of two things.
First, note when someone has done something that was helpful to you. Over time see how often that has happened each week or the whole month, and be sure to give God thanks for each one.
Second, jot down the opportunities God has given you to do something for someone else and how you responded. You are not doing this to brag about it, but to recognize the ways God asks you to care for others and the resources God has given you to use for that calling. Again, give God thanks for each one and perhaps continue to pray for some of the people you have helped.
As you review your notes in the months ahead, I hope you see the hand of God at work for you and through you. I hope you also see that whatever else may happen, God is bringing something positive to our world through all these acts of kindness. May 2022 be that year of kindness as God’s light shines for and through you!
*HYMN Bring We the Frankincense of Our Love #62
PASTORAL PRAYER AND LORD’S PRAYER
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
for ever. Amen.
OFFERING OUR LIVES
Word of God, we offer ourselves to live as you did, to share your love with the world around us. Strengthen us for the task to serve you well in the year to come. Amen.
*DOXOLOGY Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow #592
*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Apostle’s Creed (Ecumenical) p. 14
AFFIRMATION Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Version
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven,
He is seated on the right hand of the Father,
And he will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
INVITATION AND INSTRUCTION FOR HOLY COMMUNION
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is truly right and our greatest joy to give you thanks and praise, …
Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with the celestial choirs
and with all the faithful of every time and place,
who forever sing to the glory of your name:
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
You are holy, O God of majesty,…
With thanksgiving we offer our very selves to you
to be a living and holy sacrifice, dedicated to your service.
Dying you destroyed our death,
rising you restored our life.
Lord Jesus, come in glory.
Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon us …
Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honor are yours, almighty God, now and forever.
*HYMN I Come With Joy #502
*CHARGE & BLESSING
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