First Sunday of Advent

December 2, 2012

Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13; Luke 21:25-36

O Lord, I give my life to you.
    I trust in you, my God!
Do not let me be disgraced,
    or let my enemies rejoice in my defeat.
No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced,
    but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and unfailing love,
    which you have shown from long ages past.
Do not remember the rebellious sins of my youth.
    Remember me in the light of your unfailing love,
    for you are merciful, O Lord.

The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.
He leads the humble in doing right,
    teaching them his way.
10 The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness
    all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

Wow! It’s hard to believe that we have completed two three-year cycles of the lectionary.  The first time through, we looked at the scriptures together.  The last three years, we have looked at the Old Testament readings, which can provide some interesting passages to work through.  It’s time to begin a new three year cycle – this time looking at the Psalms.

This Sunday begins a new church year.  The new church year always begins with Advent, which we often think means Christmas, but Advent is a time of preparation.  Advent itself means coming.  This past year I heard that it really means the coming of something new. When Jesus came the first time, it was something new – Jesus was God in the flesh.  Advent is a dual preparation.  We prepare our hearts, souls, and minds for the coming of the baby Jesus at our Christmas celebration, and we prepare ourselves for the time when Jesus will come back again for his church.  Our musical worship this Sunday will reflect that.

This week’s passage shows us the reason for us needing a Savior – God in the flesh.  He is the God who saves us.  As I look at the text of our scripture my mind goes to the song Mighty to Save.  

Everyone needs compassion
Love that’s never failing
Let mercy fall on me
Everyone needs forgiveness
The kindness of a Saviour
The hope of nations.

He can move the mountains
My God is mighty to save
He is mighty to save
Author of salvation
He rose and conquered the grave
Jesus conquered the grave

This week let’s remember the words of the Psalmist as we meditate on Jesus coming as a baby to save us.

I Guess I’m Just Spoiled

Earlier today Pam and I went to Roanoke to do several things – both church and personal.  One of the things that we wanted to do was visit our friends at the recruiter’s office and deliver them some cookies.  We wanted to go down early to catch everyone in the office. Unfortunately some of the recruiters that we knew better were either sick or already out doing their jobs.  The recruiter we talked to was nice – but not as chatty as some of the others that we’ve talked to.  We dropped off the cookies and left.

Our next assignment was to stop at Joann Fabrics and pick up some royal blue cloth for our altar table and the Advent candle display.  The store had moved so we had to find its new location.  That was easy enough.  We looked it up on our phones and called the store and the answering machine gave great directions.  We got in the store and looked for our fabric.  We quickly found what we were looking for and then had some questions.  All of a sudden things went down hill quickly.  Apparently the store has started a new procedure to get your fabric cut.  We approached the table – looking like we needed help.  The lady sort of ignored us and I got ready to ask a question.  Immediately she said, “Pull a number.” I wasn’t sure what that meant.  She repeated and pointed in the direction “Pull a number.” Apparently now you had to pick a ticket number and wait until your number was called – even though there was no one in line.  She proceeded to keep working on whatever she was working on and then after about a minute or two responded, “Number 46” – our number.  I had a simple question and she responded gruffly, “No, all of our stock is out.  If you need more, you’ll have to special order it.” Being that we drove 75 miles, I didn’t want to do that.  I just dealt with what I had.  I got some great, although a bit more expensive fabric.  In retrospect, it presents better than the cheaper fabric.  Somehow someone forgot to tell this lady that customers or guests are golden.  She made every part of the transaction difficult.  Unfortunately, there’s not many places to buy fabric, so we were stuck.

As we drove out of the parking lot, I left shaking my head and thinking to myself, Chick-fil-A has really spoiled me.   I would never treat a guest like that.  In fact, we often trip over each other trying to help our guests.  At this point, I said to Pam, “It can only get better from here.” Unfortunately I was wrong. During our Minister and Spouses Gathering back in September, we got a gift card for Carraba’s. The closest one is in Roanoke and we thought that we would take advantage of this and go there.  Well, what we didn’t know is that Carraba’s doesn’t open until 4 on weekdays – another strike on this day.

Fortunately the day did finally get better.  We went to Firehouse Subs and had a great lunch and then drove home and I went for a run.

I guess the point of all this is to remind everyone that whatever we do, where ever we are we need to do the best we can at serving those who we are working for, especially if we work in the public sector.

Here is a great verse that I preached on recently from Colossians 3:16-17:

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Important Information for Those Sending Packages to Military for Christmas

Post office warns overseas military Christmas mailing deadline is near: December 3, 2012


Stars and Stripes

Published: November 2, 2011

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Eunice Haynes, of the 374th Contracting Squadron, prepares her packages Nov. 1, 2011, at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, post office to send to friends and family in Texas. Haynes said she was hoping to get ahead of the Christmas rush by sending her packages early. GRANT OKUBO/STARS AND STRIPES

RAF MILDENHALL, England — The deadlines for sending gifts for the holidays are fast approaching, and postal officials caution that mail service could be busier than usual this year with U.S. troops withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and shipping  their belongings home by mail.
To help those mailing packages to the U.S. ensure they are delivered in time, the Military Postal Service Agency has released its annual mail-by dates, which take into account the expected increase in mail during peak season.

The dates are merely a guideline, said William Hossack at U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s Postal Operations Branch, and they vary slightly from the Pacific to the Middle East to Europe. But postal service officials say the earlier, the better.

“We’re saying, if you use these dates for the particular class (of mail), they’ll almost assuredly get there by Christmas,” Hossack said. “The only thing I recommend is to mail early and avoid the rush.”

Packages coming from the Middle East have the earliest dates due to the logistical challenges of moving mail from far-flung outposts and the unpredictable nature of a war zone.

This holiday season could see more delays due to the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq and continuing troop reductions in Afghanistan. Many of the returning troops will ship personal belongings home through the mail, said Army Lt. Col. Edward Bayouth, Postal Operations Division chief of the 14th Human Resources Sustainment Center in Kuwait.

Judy Theroit, a military dependent at Yokota Air Base, Japan, sends a package to her deployed husband from Yokota’s post office. Postal officials are encouraging customers to get their holiday packages in the mail as early as possible.

“There will be an exceptionally heavy volume of mail for those two locations this holiday season,” Bayouth said.

The U.S. and military postal services will stop processing mail to and from military post offices in Iraq starting Nov. 17 in light of the withdrawal there.

In general, there are four classes of mail to choose from when sending packages internationally. Space-Available Mail is the cheapest option, but it takes longer to get to its destination. SAM is followed in price by First Class, then Priority, up to the most expensive option, Express Mail. Military post offices in Iraq and Afghanistan do not offer Express-Mail service.

Priority is the most commonly used service among troops, according to Lionel Rivera, USAFE’s postal public affairs representative. Priority offers various sizes of envelopes and boxes at a fixed price, as long as the packages meet weight and size restrictions of 70 pounds and 108 inches. Measurements are calculated by adding the object’s length to its girth.

There are more than 500 military post offices in the world, and many overseas locations may extend business hours or open additional days during the holidays. Check with your installation post office for information on holiday hours.

Mail classes
• Express Mail Military Service: expedited delivery service. Not available from military post offices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
• First Class: used for items weighing less than or equal to 13 ounces. Flat-rate packaging available.
• Priority: weight limit of 70 pounds, length-girth limit of 108 inches. Flat-rate packaging available.
• Space-Available: weight limit of 70 pounds, length-girth limit of 130 inches on mail to the U.S.  Packages sent low priority take longer to reach destination.
• Parcel Airlift Service: limited to 30 pounds and a length-girth limit of 60 inches.

Extra services
• Certified mail: provides proof of mailing along with date and time of delivery or attempted delivery.
• Insured: coverage against loss or damage up to $5,000. Fee based on value of item.
• Registered: most secure service offered. Monitors movement of mail from beginning to end. Insurable up to $25,000. Fee based on value of item.
•Delivery confirmation: provides tracking number to see when item was delivered to address. Nominal fee of 70 cents.
• Other services: return receipt, signature confirmation, certificate of mailing, restricted delivery and others.

Hints and tips
• Take the time to wrap items correctly.
• Choose a sturdy box that’s appropriate for the size and weight of the item.
• Allow room for ample cushioning; use foam peanuts, Bubble Wrap, newspaper or shredded paper.
• Print names and addresses clearly on the package.
• Place an extra label with the shipping and return addresses inside the package in case the original labels get damaged. Also include an itemized list of contents.
• Use adequate amounts of tape to secure the opening and seams of the box.
• Write “fragile” or “perishable” on boxes, if appropriate.

December 3 is the deadline this year.

Definition of Worship: Te Deum

There is no finer definition of worship than Te Deum.  It is a prayer that dates from the fourth century and represents a high point in the development of a theology of worship…

Te Deum is a prayer, and this fact calls attention to the forgotten reality that worship is primarily prayer.  Worship is a prayer of relationship in which the whole creation lauds and magnifies God, the Creator and Redeemer of the world.  

Robert Webber, Planning Blended Worship, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), 36

Bringing the Healing Light of Christ

I found this quote on Facebook, posted by our General Superintendent, JoAnne Lyon.  I’ve also posted the question and challenge that she posted.  This is some good stuff to think about. 

“We all will have numerous opportunities through the course of our routine days to bring the healing light of Christ to those who are around us.” ~

Richard Foster

The question, then, is whether you will look for and recognize those opportunities, and bring healing to your neighbor, or will you be like the busy priest and temple worker who cross to the other side of the road to avoid dealing with the hurting person?

Hymn Story: O Worship the King

Posted by Raquel Manning on 18-02-2011 in The Story Behind

For Robert Grant, royalty was no mystery. Born in England in 1772, Robert grew up in a world of politics. His father was a Member of Parliament, and Robert followed in his footsteps. He became King’s Sargent in the Court of the Duchy of Lancaster and entered Parliament in 1818.

But in addition to being a powerful politician directly involved in royal affairs, Robert was also a devout Christian. One day in the early 1830s, during a personal study of Psalm 104, he began to lists the comparisons of Christ, the King of Kings, to British Royalty.

Robert meditated on the Scripture, which speaks of Christ, who “makes the clouds His chariot” and is “clothed with honor and majesty.” There, he penned the words,

“O Worship the King, all glorious above

And gratefully sing His power and His love;

Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,

Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”

Even though Robert was surrounded by the “glory” of British royalty, he recognized the unsurpassable glory of Christ, and humbly called others to do the same through his hymn, “O Worship the King,” which was published in 1833.

Amidst a world that exalts earthly power and kingship, do we, fellow believers, recognize the majesty and splendor of our Heavenly Father, who “makes the clouds His chariot” and give Him the praise that He alone deserves? What a joy! What a privilege to worship and serve the One who holds the king’s heart in His hands(Prov. 21:1)!

How trivial the works of even the most powerful men seem when compared to the greatness of our Lord!

Sunday Night Thoughts


Sunday, November 25, 2012 – Christ the King Sunday

Wow!  Here it is – Sunday night – the last Sunday of November.  It’s been an amazing week.  The last 72 hours have been quite a whirlwind.  But right now, I am enjoying the quiet…the quiet of listening to Mannheim Steamroller – in a dark living room, lit only by the lights of our Christmas tree.  I love our tree, I really do.  I love what it means – I am a big lover of symbols and symbolism and our tree is full of symbolism.  Our tree tells about our family – about our faith – and about what we like.  We have lots of lights on our tree – the base layer of mini-lights – in blue, green, and purple.  Blue for Advent – green for our everlasting God, and purple for King Jesus.  We have other lights as well – Many of those sets are well over twenty years old.  There are mini-bubble lights.  After last year, I didn’t think we would get them on, but we did – and I’m very happy about that.  They are starting to show their age, so I had to sacrifice one set (of three) so that I had two good sets.  We have a set of mini-lanterns, icicle lights, teddy bears and a set of Mickey Mouse lights.  We had a casualty this year and the lights that were giving to us by Pam’s mom and dad our first Christmas died.  Fortunately a couple from our church gave us a gift tonight and it is a light tester/fixer.  How cool is that?  So hopefully I can diagnose the problem and get those working again.

We have lots of ornaments – some homemade – lots of bought – that are who we are — what we like – what holds our interest.  Like I said I love our tree.

I still need to get the outdoor decorations up – maybe James and I can get those up on Saturday.  With that handy little gadget I hope to check on my animated train and get that working this year as well.

This was a wonderful week to spend with family.  Our daughter Anna was home from college – in fact, we just got home from putting her on the train back to Southern Wesleyan.  We got to spend time with my mom and dad and my brother and his family.  It was great – I ate too much – but still it was great.

It is most definitely feeling like winter – I have had some cold runs over the last week.  Just when I think I’m getting used to it, it gets a little colder.  Several times this week, I bundled up to run.  Looks like our highs will top out in the mid 40’s to low 50’s this week, which from what I understand is pretty seasonable.  All I remember is pictures from last year with me taking down lights in a sweatshirt and shorts.  Hopefully it will warm up a bit.

Since Thursday, we have been on the go.  We did some early morning Black Friday shopping – I worked on Friday – Celebrated Anna’s birthday Friday night – served at Valley Mission yesterday with our church and some new friends at Oak Grove Baptist Restoration Ministries – went out for a run – got ready for today – I led worship and preached this morning – put up the tree this afternoon – had choir practice and drove to Charlottesville and back.  No wonder I am enjoying the quiet.

I really enjoyed leading the service and preaching this morning.  It went very well.  This week we finish up the church year and it is hard to believe that Advent starts next week.  It’s really hard to believe that 2013 is almost here.  I think I want to finish this up.  I pray you have a wonderful week.  Pressing On!

About Christ the King Sunday

From CRI Voice:

Christ the King Sunday is celebrated on the last Sunday of Ordinary time (last Sunday after Pentecost), before the beginning of Advent that starts the new Church Year. As the last Sunday of the Christian Church Year, Christ the King Sunday is the climax and conclusion of the Church’s liturgical journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message. Its purpose is to celebrate the coming reign of Christ as King of the Earth and his completion of the renewed creation that marks the fullness of the Kingdom of God. That hope is born from the entire life of Christ and his teachings that have been celebrated in the seasons of the Church Year during the past twelve months. In celebrating the Reign of Christ the King, this Sunday also provides an appropriate bridge to the new Church Year that begins the following Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent with an emphasis on hope and expectation, the longing for the coming of the Kingdom of God amid the darkness of a sinful world (see Advent).

As such a bridge between the completed year and the beginning of a new year, Christ the King services often use Scripture and song to provide both a retrospective and introductory overview of the journey through the life of Christ and the Gospel message that the Seasons of the Church Year provides. This offers not only an opportunity for a worshipful reflection on the significance of the life of Christ, it also presents opportunity to remind people of the meaning of the various seasons of the Church Year.