Look Your Savior Is Come

Nativity of the Lord – Proper II
December 24, 2011

Isaiah 62:6-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-20

6 O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls;
they will pray day and night, continually.
Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord.
7 Give the Lord no rest until he completes his work,
until he makes Jerusalem the pride of the earth.
8 The Lord has sworn to Jerusalem by his own strength:
“I will never again hand you over to your enemies.
Never again will foreign warriors come
and take away your grain and new wine.
9 You raised the grain, and you will eat it,
praising the Lord.
Within the courtyards of the Temple,
you yourselves will drink the wine you have pressed.”

10 Go out through the gates!
Prepare the highway for my people to return!
Smooth out the road; pull out the boulders;
raise a flag for all the nations to see.
11 The Lord has sent this message to every land:
“Tell the people of Israel,
‘Look, your Savior is coming.
See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’”
12 They will be called “The Holy People”
and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.”
And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place”
and “The City No Longer Forsaken.”

Sunday Set List – Wednesday Edition

We normally don’t have a Wednesday night worship service, but instead of a Christmas Eve Service, we decided to sing Christmas carols and read the Christmas story this past Wednesday evening.  Here’s how the order of service went:

Christmas Carol Sing
December 21, 2011

Call to Worship – Make Room For A Christmas Miracle

Welcome and Invocation

O Come All Ye Faithful

Joy to the World

Scripture – Matthew 1:18-24

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Angels We Have Heard On High

Scripture – Luke 1:26-38; 47-55

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Once In Royal David’s City

Scripture – Luke 2:1-20

Children’s Story – The Innkeeper’s Daughter

Angels from the Realms of Glory

Infant Holy, Infant Lowly

Special Music

We Three Kings

Scripture – Matthew 1:1-12

Devotional – A Strange Way to Save the World

Video – 

Candelight ServiceSilent Night, Holy Night

Benediction

The People Who Walk In Darkness

Nativity of the Lord – Proper I
December 24, 2011

Isaiah 9:2-7; Psalm 96; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-20

 2 The people who walk in darkness
will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness,
a light will shine.
3 You will enlarge the nation of Israel,
and its people will rejoice.
They will rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest
and like warriors dividing the plunder.
4 For you will break the yoke of their slavery
and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.
You will break the oppressor’s rod,
just as you did when you destroyed the army of Midian.
5 The boots of the warrior
and the uniforms bloodstained by war
will all be burned.
They will be fuel for the fire.

6 For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His government and its peace
will never end.
He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David
for all eternity.
The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will make this happen!

Immanuel – God With Us

In the midst of the hectic shopping season, a frustrated gentleman was overheard remarking, “They ought to kill the guy who’s responsible for this!”To this, another shopper quietly replied, “They did.”

The significance of Christmas does not lie in a cradle, but in a cross. The angels proclaimed his birth saying, “Unto you is born this day, a Savior. . .” He came to save us!

If the world had just needed a better education, God would have sent a teacher.

If the world had only needed some encouragement, God would have sent a motivational speaker.

If the world merely needed emotional stabilization, God would have sent a psychotherapist.

If the world needed a better social order, God would have sent a politician, or perhaps, a general.

But God sent Jesus to this earth as a lowly little baby–to be our Savior. He came to save us–from our sins, our situations, and ourselves.

Forgiveness is the greatest need of the human soul, and Jesus Christ entered our world to bring it.

My nephew, Rodney, lived in South Korea for a while. He was astonished to discover the South Koreans don’t celebrate Christmas the way we do. There are hardly any decorations. People don’t put up Christmas trees, and Christmas songs are not played on the airwaves. His English class sat in rapt attention when he described all the things Americans do during the holiday season. Then Rodney asked, “What do you do for Christmas?” They all replied with the same answer, “We go to church.”

Although I love the Christmas enthusiasm around here, I can’t help but wonder if the Koreans have figured out something that we’re missing.

Christmas started in the heart of God and concludes in the hearts of His people.

We need to remember the deeper meaning of the season and keep Christ in Christmas.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come! Let earth receive her King!

–Mark O. Wilson serves as senior pastor at Hayward Wesleyan Church in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Christmas Sunday Worship – 2011

By now everyone is aware that this Christmas falls on Sunday.  It seems just a few years ago Christmas also fell on Sunday.  It was that last time that Christmas fell on Sunday that I first heard of churches canceling Sunday services on Christmas day.  I’ve been trying to look at both sides of this issue.  I wondered at first why this has become an issue.  So when has Christmas fallen on Sunday in past years?  Before 2005, I don’t remember when it happened last and I knew it had been some time.  The last three times Christmas fell on Sunday before 2005 was 1994, 1988, and 1983.  If you think about it, mega-churches as we know them today, with multiple services and satellite and video venues were just coming online in 1994. In 1994, most churches could pull off a Christmas day service with very little technical support (Audio/Video/Lighting) or worship bands or worship teams.  At most, you would need a sound tech, a pianist and/or organist and a song leader, and the pastor and pull off a service.  Perhaps this is one reason why.  Also many of these churches have multiple service leading up to Christmas, involving many volunteers (tech services, musicians, singers and so on.) This could be another reason why this has been a new thing.

In 2005, I was the pastor of a small church in southern Virginia.  We attempted something that year that I wouldn’t try again and that in part fueled the decision that we made at Parkway this year.  I tried to have both a Christmas Eve Service and Christmas Day service.  The Christmas Eve service was poorly attended (but they hadn’t had one for some time) but the Christmas Sunday service was well attended.  I thought perhaps the two services were too close together.  That’s why we decided to have a Christmas Carol service last night and then just a worship service on Sunday at our regular time.  We did decide to cancel Sunday School, so that our congregation wouldn’t have to be at church as early.  Last night’s service was really nice (and very casual.)  We are expecting a smaller than usual crowd on Sunday, but yet I don’t think the place will be empty either.  We will be rolling with our just our worship musicians Sunday (Drums, keyboard, guitar) and Anna will be playing her flute, as well as our regular A/V, although, I will be our only singer.  We will be singing many familiar Christmas songs during the service.

I know there has been some controversy in this area and the conversation has gotten heated on both sides.  Here’s my take on it and the philosophy that drives my decision.  I have no issue with churches that are not having services on Sunday, if they don’t normally have service on Sunday.  My brother-in-law pastors a church that meets on Saturday night.  Guess what, they will be meeting on Saturday night and not meeting on Sunday.  I guess I feel that if you normally have service on Sunday, then you should give the congregation the opportunity to worship on Sunday morning just as they always would.  That’s what we are doing.  If people choose to stay home and be with their families that works for me, but let’s make an opportunity to gather as we normally would.  We do have the extra benefit that most every other business is closed on Christmas morning and we don’t have to “compete” with that J.

Then again, I wish we could meet at some time on Christmas every year.  I love the preparation time that Advent brings, but sometimes I don’t think we get to celebrate Christmas the way it needs to be celebrated once it gets here.  We forget that Christmas season is December 25 to January 5, not the three months leading up to December 25 (sorry, a little personal rant there J)

On a side note, I can’t believe that Christmas is almost here.  As I write, it is a balmy 50 degrees and raining.  It’s hard to get in the mood for Christmas with weather like that.

Are you ready to Celebrate Immanuel?

‘Twas the Night…

[Here’s a different take on Clement Moore’s famous poem.  Thanks to our daughter Anna.  It is in honor of our military personnel around the world.]

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the base

Not a creature was stirring especially Corporal Chase

The guns were all locked in the cabinet with care

While hopes of not running with them the rest of the year

 

The barracks were filled with people snug in their bed

While visions of leave danced in their head

While my buddy in his camo and I in my gear

Were sleeping soundly with nothing to fear

 

While up from ground arose such a clatter

I rose from my bed to see what was the matter

Away to the window I flew like a flash

The run was less painful than the 2 mile dash

 

The moon which did glimmer through that dark night

Did give the darkness a wondrous dazzling light

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
Much faster than a convoy they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the roof! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry MREs that before the war cries fly,
When they meet with the barracks, mounted to the sky.
So up to the barracks the reindeer they flew,
With the sleigh full of presents, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the ladder St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in camo, from his head to his toes,
And his clothes were all tarnished with the sleet and the snow.
A bundle of care packages he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a soldier, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The beef jerky he held tight in his teeth,
And the barracks filled with the smell of beef.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up to the roof he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a hoot,
And away they all flew off into the moonlight right off the roof.
But I heard him exclaim, before he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

The Battle of the Bulge

This last week has been a real battle of sorts.  It seems like everytime I turn around this week, there is food in front of me.  There have been a lot of parties and I like to eat and very rarely refuse food — usually only when I am sick and then I have to be really sick.  While running is helping with burning off the extra calories, I have gained a few pounds back, but slowly I am sliding back to where I want to be.  Before this past weekend I was closing in on 200 pounds and thought I might be there for Christmas, but that is not to be.  I’m hoping to be around 205 for Christmas and then I’ll just start working back at it again after the holidays.

This does remind me of the battle that we face as Christians.  We have to be on constant guard for the enemies attacks.  It doesn’t take much…The devil can trip us up in an instant.  But the key for us is to continue to press on – to be constantly alert.  As Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:

 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,[d] but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Let’s all keep pressing on!

Dealing with Betrayal and Hurt

“Christ developed a new possibility for dealing with betrayal and hurt: He forgives. But forgiveness does not come cheap because on the cross He paid all of sinful humanities debt. When we forgive each other, we begin to see more clearly, not ignoring the hurts, but seeing beyond them. We are always to pursue forgiving people who have hurt us, even when the offenders don’t ask for or deserve it. Christ commands us to forgive because it is the best way to live and because He first forgave us.”

John Ortberg