We even finished early. Our family along with many other Wesleyans have been reading through the Bible this year. We finished about four days early on last Wednesday. It has been a great experience. I got to read some passages that I’ve never read before, especially the Minor Prophets. I would recommend it to any believer. As I’ve said before, this year I’m planning a more leisurely pace, using the lectionary as an example.
This week’s gospel reading focuses on twelve year old Jesus teaching in the temple.
1 Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Psalm 148; Colossians 3:12-17; Luke 2:41-52
An interesting parallel occurs in verse 26 of 1 Samuel and Luke 2:52. The accounts speak of Samuel and Jesus growing up. It’s interesting how both accounts finish with a similar statement about how they grew taller and their favor grew with God and the people. I had never seen that put together like that before.
I like the Colossians passage and it reminds me of a message that Dr. Bud Bence preached at our District Conference when we first moved to the Shenandoah District. Here were his three points from Colossians.
- Let the peace of Christ rule your heart
- Let the word of Christ dwell in you
- What name do you wear? The name of Christ.
The passage finishes off with, “Whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of Christ.” That’s good for each of us to remember.
As our children get older, we don’t get up quite as early as we used to, but James, our youngest, was up at 4:30 this morning wondering what Santa had left him. I got up at about 5:30 and we decided to wake the rest of the household up at 7:15. The children opened up their presents. It was interesting because everyone was sleepy except for James and we heard several oohs from him. They all like their presents. After we opened our presents, I made our now traditional sausage scrambles. We had planned to go visiting some of our shut-ins today, but Pam has not been feeling well, so I think we are just going to take it easy and enjoy the family.
One of the cool things that happened this morning as I was making breakfast is a lady from our congregation called and told me how much she enjoyed the choir’s presentation yesterday and to wish the pastor’s family a Merry Christmas. I think that’s the first time that has ever happened and again I was overwhelmed at what God is doing.
May you all have a blessed Christmas from the Argot family to yours and may God bless you in the coming new year.
It’s hard to believe that Christmas is here. Today we finished up with the Fourth Sunday of Advent in the morning service with a musical worship celebration. Our choir which numbers 11 did an awesome job in presenting the gospel through music and worship. I sang and directed the choir. We did the musical “Jesus: There’s Something About That Name.” It used several familiar old gospel songs from Bill Gaither and Lanny Wolfe as well as some new songs and Christmas carols. It was a wonderful presentation. Toward the end of the musical I presented a personal testimony about Advent being a season of Joy We finished with several familiar songs of worship.
To usher in the Christmas season we had a Lessons and Carols Christmas Eve service. There were nine scripture lessons with a corresponding Christmas carol. I received many positive comments about this service. We’ll probably use this format again, but use different scriptures and songs. We capped off the night with a candlelighting service, which is probably my favorite part of a Christmas Eve service. Before service we had a few teens over for Christmas snacks and then took them home after Christmas.
Thank you Lord, for using me for your service.
From time to time I will post special services that we had at our church. Tonight, I wanted to post an order of service from our Lessons and Carols Christmas Eve service. I’ve included links for the scripture lessons and Christmas Carols listed here. Special thanks to Chaplain Gordon Ritchie for the resources.
Processional Hymn – O Come All Ye Faithful
Lighting of Advent Wreath
First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15
God announces in the garden that the see of the woman will bruise the Serpent’s head
Second Lesson – Isaiah 40:1-11
The prophet speaks of the coming of the Lord
Third Lesson – Micah 5:2-5
The prophet foretells the glory of Bethlehem and the coming deliverance
Fourth Lesson – Zephaniah 3:14-17
Zephaniah prophecies of our deliverance
Fifth Lesson – Luke 1:26-37
The birth of Christ foretold
Sixth Lesson – Luke 2:1-7
Jesus is born and laid in a manger
Lighting of the Christ Candle
Seventh Lesson – Luke 2:8-16
The shepherds go to the manger
Eighth Lesson – John 1:1-14
John unfolds the great mystery of the incarnation
Ninth Lesson – Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Paul declares the purpose of God’s light in our life
The central Advent candle represents Christ, the light of the world. During the singing, the light will be passed from the Christ candle to the pastor’s candle then to the worshippers to be shared with each other. When all the candles are lit, we will stand and sing “Joy to the World.” On the last stanza, hold your candle aloft with the earnest prayer and resolve that your light may shine more brightly for Christ in the coming year.
**Please tip only the unlit candle**
**Please extinguish candles**
This service is an adaptation of the original service by Edward Benson while Bishop of Truro who later became Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1918 Bishop Eric Miller-White of King’s College Chapel at Cambridge University simplified the service into the format widely used today.
The name of Jesus is worthy to be cherished. It is worthy to be praised. This morning we want to look how this season can be a season of joy. We want to take a look at a song from one of the primary players in the nativity narrative. In Luke’s gospel chapter one, we have Mary’s response to being the mother of Jesus. It’s been called the Canticle of Mary (or Mary’s Song). Some of you may know it by The Magnificat; the title taken from the first word of the song in Latin. Or, you may know it by “My Soul Magnifies the Lord.”
It’s amazing to see the maturity of Mary; a 13, 14, 15 year old girl. Here’s what she sings.
46 And Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
49 For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
50 And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
52 He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
54 He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”[i]
What does it feel like when you feel you’ve received God’s grace in a huge way? It is overwhelming. Mary felt this way. I’ve told several of you that Pam and I bought a Christmas CD this year that was different in a good way. The writer took the passage we just read and set it to music, which is beautiful. The song before that describes Joseph’s feelings toward being selected. Here’s one of the lines, “I’d always hoped You’d have my eyes and maybe a bit of the skill of my hands, But as I look into Your eyes I see Your hands created mine.”[ii]
Since about the first of November, I have lived in the overwhelming presence of God; first, at FLAME where God used me in an amazing way. Then, God has used me several times this past month and I rejoice that I can be his servant and one of his shepherds. I sort of feel like Joseph, “Why couldn’t have God chosen another man?”
As the events over the last few months have unfolded, this I do know, I was called to Martinsville for such a time as this. I can’t go into all of the details of how God has been using me. It’s in the way that God has been using me that I can have great joy. Each one of us should desire to be used of God in this way. Let me share another line from Joseph’s song.
This is all I have to give/You can share my home and bear my name/But this is not how you should live/But the Son of God has become the Son of man/The glory of God taking the form of man/May the grace of God shine upon this man/’Cause this is all I have to give.[iii]
To repeat a theme that we looked at earlier this year, I challenge you to live a life of worship to your God. When you do, you just may be surprised at how you will be overwhelmed by God and you will sing as Mary sang,
Praise the almighty God/He’s done great things for us/Holy is His name/His mercy is free for those who fear His justice/May generation to generation loudly proclaim His fame.[iv]
[i]The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
[ii] This Is All I Have to Give, Do You See What I See, Todd Agnew and Friends, 2006 Ardent Music
[iv][iv] Magnificat, Do You See What I See, Todd Agnew and Friends, 2006 Ardent Music
Actually there are three sets of readings this time around.
As you can see the Luke narrative is included twice. Also note that the Wise Men narrative is not included. This will come several weeks later as part of Epiphany. The messianic prophesies are included in the Isaiah passages. I plan to post some devotional thoughts on Christmas day about these passages.
An aquaintance of ours from El Cajon, CA wins the prize for the longest distance Christmas greetings this year…at least so far. Sorry Mark, now you’re in 2nd place.
One of the things I love about Christmas is sending and receiving Christmas cards. Over the years we have gotten to know people from all over. There are several family newsletters among the cards. There are quite a few cards from our church members. We’ve received cards from FL, WI, IN, TN, PA, MD, NY, and VA.
When we got our first Christmas card, I forgot our family tradition, which is waiting until the family is together for supper and opening them, each person taking a turn to read them. I was so excited, I just ripped it open. It’s great to know we have friends all over the United States. I’m also excited that Christmas is just about here. I can’t wait. I think I’m as back as the kids this year.
This week I have been meditating on “The Magnificat.” It is Mary’s song after she finds out that she will be mother God’s child. Considering that Mary was young, it’s an incredibly mature prayer. I’ve been listening to Todd Agnew’s, “Do You See What I See” this year. There are several songs that have resonated with me. One of them being Mary’s song, or “my soul magnifies the Lord.” The lyric that got to me yesterday was this
He has filled the empty with good things
The rich He sent empty away
He has remembered His servant Israel
And we will remember Him always.
What I’ve learned is that only when I am empty of myself, can I truly be filled with God. I will sing the song that Mary has sung, especially what follows:
Praise the almighty God
He’s done great things for us
Holy is His name
His mercy is free for those who fear His justice
May generation to generation loudly proclaim His fame
To go back to an earlier theme this year, it’s part of living a life of worship to my God. I thank Him for being able to be a part of building His Kingdom.