Worship Where You Are

The Worship Where You Are blog contains what we think of as "first drafts" of the sermon for each week.  They are prepared mid-week for people who might not be able to be present on Sunday morning but wish to still participate in the worship experience.  They contain scripture, the sermon text, a few questions to ponder and a closing prayer.  May they help you in your faith journey.

All Bible verses come from the Common English Bible

Mary's Visit to Elizabeth

Luke 1:39-45

Mary visits Elizabeth

39 Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. 40 She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.42 With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry.43 Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”

 

Thoughts on the passage:

When I started in ministry, I was appointed to two churches. One of them was a small, struggling new church that was organized ten years ago and have not yet grown enough to support itself. The other church I was appointed to was Park United Methodist Church in Brainerd. At Park I was the part-time associate pastor. My role there was to support the senior pastor, Rory Swenson, in the work that he was doing. It was a great first appointment for me because it gave me the chance to work in my own space at the smaller church but also to continue to learn from Rory in what he had to teach me.

As I mentioned the smaller church was struggling to be self-sufficient. I remember one year, after doing our fall pledge campaign and looking at the budget we were going to have a significant budget shortfall. I do not remember the exact dollar amount anymore, but I would be willing to guess it was easily between 10% and 20% of the total budget for the congregation. I was at a loss at what to do. I called Rory asking for help and he dropped everything and met me for coffee to go over the numbers and talk about what options there might be. He did not have some sort of magic answer for me. What he did do was provide a listening ear, a calm presence, and a quiet wisdom to the situation.

 We are not told exactly why it is that Mary heads to visit Elizabeth. We know that Mary has just learned two huge pieces of news. The first is that Mary is going to give birth to the Son of God. The second is that her relative, Elizabeth, against all odds, is also pregnant and already getting close to giving birth. There could be a number of reasons for her journey. As an older woman who previously was childless, it is possible that Elizabeth had been like a second mother figure to Mary, offering her support and care. It might be that Mary felt she had a duty as a family member to be present with Elizabeth and help with the birth. It might be that Mary felt overwhelmed with what she had learned, and she needed someone to talk to. After all, who was going to believe her if not another woman who was also experiencing a miracle.

When we face challenges in our lives, we often turn to people in our lives who can offer understanding and support. When I am struggling with what to preach on a Sunday, I turn to my mother, and not my father for help. When I am not sure what to do with a home repair project, I am calling my father instead. I love both my parents and often turn to them for advice, but I usually tailor that request to the person I think is going to better understand what I am going through. The greater the need the more likely I am to seek a person who could understand me. When the little church I was serving finally did need to close, I did not call Rory, but instead called my friend who had just recently closed her first church as well. I wanted to talk to someone who had been through what I was going to go through and could offer me that support.

I really think that this is why Mary rushes to go see Elizabeth. She undertakes this journey because she needs to be near someone who will understand her. Mary could certainly talk to her mother about the process of giving birth and would have likely gotten some good advice. She might have also gotten a stern lecture on having sex before getting married. Mary might have avoided telling her parents because she was not sure they would believe her. After all, the idea of God fathering a child is a lot less likely than the idea of a woman getting pregnant outside of marriage. If your child came to you and said they were pregnant with the Son of God, would you believe them.

Desperate for understanding and longing for support, Mary rushes to the only woman she can think of who might be able to really believe her. In Elizabeth she has someone she knows has experienced God’s miraculous power. When she meets Elizabeth, this is only further confirmed. Before she can even say something, Elizabeth can already tell that God’s spirit is upon her and knows she is pregnant. Elizabeth then becomes the first person to recognize Christ as Lord. The experience that both Mary and Elizabeth have had brings them together.

Who is the Elizabeth in your life that you turn to when you need help and support? Who is the Mary in your life that you have helped mentor and support when they were going through something difficult? If you think of my examples, it probably depends on what the problem is. Who is the person you turn to when you get bad news and need to process it? Who is the person you turn to when you have a spiritual experience and you are trying to understand it? If God called you to do something new and different, who would you reach out to?

We are not islands unto ourselves. We are not meant to survive in this world alone. When Mary gets this awesome and life changing news, she needs to talk to someone about it. We need to make sure that we do the same when we are facing challenges in our lives. Unfortunately, our society does not always make that easy. We lift up the self-made person as being the epitome of the American dream. We prioritize and celebrate the individual rather than the group. We teach our children, especially our boys, to stuff their feelings inside and to deal with things on their own.

We need look no further than the appalling rates of suicide and depression in our country today to know that we are not helping anyone with this advice. Would a 21st century Mary been willing to confide in Elizabeth or would she have hidden her secret in shame, afraid of seeming too weak, afraid of she would be judged? Do we create a climate of love, trust, and support? Are we too quick to leap to judgement and from there to condemnation?

I know what I think the answers to those questions are. I think yes, as a society we are too quick to judge that which we do not understand. We are too quick to cast out those we disagree with. We forget the lesson of Luke’s gospel, that to be blessed is to be loved by God, not by the world. We fail to see those around us with the eyes of God and know that they are loved like us. Instead we judge them, for their political beliefs, for their gender, sexuality, tattoos, clothing, music choices, country of origin and so many other things.

We need to be more like Elizabeth, open and ready to greet Christ in whatever form he comes in our door. We need to be more like Elizabeth, creating a home for those like Mary who are confused, afraid, and seeking understanding to come in the door. We need to do more to love the least, the last, and the left out, because in them we will find the Son of God.  Amen

Questions to Ponder:

When is a time you have needed to turn to someone else for understanding?

When is a time you felt judged for the problems you were dealing with?

What can you do to see Christ in those around you who need help?

Prayer:

Wondrous God, you come into our hearts in small and simple ways, like a child, born in a manager. As we get ready to explore again the miracle of your birth among us, prepare our hearts and minds to let you rule them. Take away from us all of the distractions and temptations to follow others instead of you. Help us to be faithful to you. Amen

Joseph of Bethlehem

Matthew 1:18-24

Birth of Jesus

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
        And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

24 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

When Marianne and I got married we had a conversation about what to do about our names. It was actually something I had not really thought about. My parents had both kept their own names when they were married. Marianne planned to take my last name and then to add her maiden name as a second middle name. She proposed that I would also take her maiden name as a second middle name. For whatever reason, it was something I could not wrap my head around. Changing my name was something I had just never really thought about doing and it seemed odd to me. In the end I did not make the change, and it something that I have regretted since then.

Growing up, one of the few musical groups I listened to was Peter, Paul and Mary. One of the songs I listened to is a song entitled “Danny’s Downs.” It is about a new mother and father grappling with unexpected complications in the birth of their son, Danny. They had been so looking forward to having this child, but when he was born, it was not the way they had imagined it. Through the course of the song they learn to accept and love the child they have, not the child they imagined having.

I share these two illustrations to start our sermon today because I think it is important to remember just how powerful our expectations of things can be. A more immediate example would be the disappointment that Zoe had the other day when she opened a gift she had gotten at school. In her head it was going to be a toy, she was so disappointed to get Gummy Lifesavers instead. There was nothing wrong with the gift, but it did not match her expectations and that through her off.

We are continuing our journey to the manager this week with the story of Joseph. Our inspiration for this series, as well as much of the background information comes from the work of Adam Hamilton, specifically his book “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem.” Each week we are focusing on a different part of the story as we seek to get ready for Christmas and the birth of Christ.

For whatever reason I do not tend to give as much thought to Joseph. He feels like the extra in the story, dutifully accompanying Mary but not really playing as important a role. After all, he is not the real father of Jesus, and Mary is the one who is going to have to do the real work when it comes to giving birth. Still, when I read this story today, I am struck by the challenge that would have faced Joseph when he was given the news about Mary.

Maybe I am reading my own 21st century gender assumptions into things, but if Joseph is like most men I know, he had probably not given a lot of thought to his wedding, and probably even not that much thought to the children he was going to have. He might have assumed that he would get married and that kids would follow, but if he was like me, he was not concerned with the exact details. When he receives the news from the angel however, his assumptions are shattered. Even though he never thought about his wedding, he was probably sure it would not take place with a woman who was already pregnant! When it came to imagining the children he would raise, he had always thought they would be his, not someone else’s. Now he must wrap his mind around a totally different reality.

In his book, “The Journey,” Adam Hamilton makes note of the fact that there are a lot of assumptions we make about Joseph because not a lot is said in the scriptures. Traditions emerged over hundred years later that would see him as an old widower who married Mary very late in life. In the Catholic tradition, Mary is a virgin her whole life and this explanation merges well with this belief. For Protestants, Mary’s status as a virgin after Jesus’s birth is not important and so often Joseph is believed to be young, like Mary, since this would be the typical age that a person marries. Hamilton also observes that a closer reading of the text makes it clear that while Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth after their marriage, at the start of the story, Joseph was likely living in Bethlehem. If this is the case, Hamilton notes, Joseph likely learned that Mary was pregnant when she would have been visiting her cousin Elizabeth who lived near Bethlehem.

When I read the part about Joseph wanting to break the engagement, it can seem like a cold and callous thing to do. After all, it seems like Joseph is cutting ties with Mary and leaving her to her fate. What we fail to remember, however, is that the real risk is that Mary would be found to be an adulteress, the stated penalty which was death. When Joseph chooses to break off the engagement, he is taking the cost onto himself instead of Mary. If he accused her of adultery, she would be penalized, and he would recover the dowry he would have paid to her father. Instead, by him breaking the engagement he is the one who accepts the fault and he not only loses what he had already given to Mary’s family, he would owe the remaining amount that was to be paid at marriage.

When we consider this information, we realize that Joseph really is a righteous man, seeking not what is best for him but what is fair and just. In Joseph’s actions we see connections to how Jesus will act later on, taking on the sins of others and paying the cost himself. It is quite fitting that Joseph is the adoptive father of Jesus. Even when he does not believe her, he is able to forgive her. Once he believes her, he goes even further, setting aside his own dreams for the future and joining with her in this great journey that God has placed them on.

Think back to those early examples I gave of when things did not go as one might have planned or imagined. What is a time in your life when things did not go as you had planned them? What was it like to have to let go of your dreams and visions for how things should have to be? If you are like me, sometimes you do not realize how much you wanted something until it is not possible. Often the process of accepting the new way of the world is hard.

There is a word associated with each Sunday in Advent. The second Sunday of Advent is peace. There are lots of meanings for the word “peace” but one of them is a serene calm when we can accept things as they are rather than as we would want them to be. We all have things in our life we wish we could change. We all have people in our lives that we want to change. We can scream and shout about it. We can lash out at things around us. None of this is necessarily going to change the way of the world. There is a deep wisdom and peace to be found in recognizing what we can and cannot change. It comes when, like Joseph, we can accept the world as it is, not as we want it to be.

Martin Luther King described peace not as the absence of tension, but the presence of justice. I think we see that same sort of peace working in the story of Joseph. In his actions towards Mary, his goal is not the absence of tension, but rather an attempt at justice. He wants to do what is best not just for him or for her, but for everyone. His wisdom comes in recognizing what he can and cannot change. When he is able to do that, a peace surrounds him, and he is able to do God’s work.

As we get ready for Christmas there is a lot we can and cannot control. We cannot make our brother-in-law like us, or our sister to behave herself at family gatherings. We cannot change the fact that the stores will be busy, the weather will be crappy, or that we will not get everything we really want for Christmas. We can choose how we react to all of this. We can choose to be filled with God’s peace in this season.

Even beyond the Christmas season, there is so much we cannot control that is wrong in the world. We cannot fix the tragedy of the civil war in Yemen. We cannot control the economy. We cannot solve the growing divides in our country around issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality. What we can do is place our trust in a child who comes to offer peace. We can place our trust in a God who loves us and forgives us. We can set aside our problems and troubles and join Mary and Joseph in following God.

Amen

Questions to Ponder:

How do you react when things do not go how you expect them to?

What do you think it was like for Joseph to learn about Mary being pregnant and that God is the father?

What sort of peace are you longing for this Christmas season?

Prayer:

Wondrous God, you come into our hearts in small and simple ways, like a child, born in a manager. As we get ready to explore again the miracle of your birth among us, prepare our hearts and minds to let you rule them. Take away from us all of the distractions and temptations to follow others instead of you. Help us to be faithful to you. Amen

Mary of Nazareth

Luke 1:26-38

Jesus’ birth foretold

26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”

38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

Over the next four Sundays we will be undertaking a journey to the manger. It will be a chance to look at the Christmas story from different angles as we seek to better understand the miracle of Christ’s birth. We will look at Mary, Joseph, Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and the trip that Mary and Joseph take. We will draw from both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. The format for the next four weeks is informed by the book, “The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem” a book written by Adam Hamilton as a part of a sermon series he did for his congregation, the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.

Our story starts with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the main character in the birth narrative. Mary lives in the town of Nazareth. While we have to make some assumptions because of the limited amount of information we have, it is assumed that Nazareth was a small town. It is not mentioned in several of the major historical records about the region of Galilee, which likely means it was a small town maybe with less than one hundred residents. Based on archeological evidence, it was likely also very poor, with many of the townsfolk living in limestone caves rather than proper dwellings.

The humble location of Nazareth, and by extension Mary as its resident, could seem an odd place for God to find someone to give birth to Jesus. On the other hand, it might be just the right place to look. After all, with her simple origins, Mary was more likely to be ready to humbly follow God rather than thinking too much of herself. Had she been born into a life of privilege and power, would Mary have been so willing to take a risk and take part in the work that God had for her to do?

We can see some of the faith of Mary when she is first told by the angel that she is going to give birth to a son. She does not rebel against doing this for God. Instead her question is about how it is possible since she has never had sex. She is ready to follow God, if God will just tell her what she needs to do. Would we have reacted the same way? She is not worried about the reaction of friends and family to her having a child or any of that. Her question is more about how it is possible. If this is what God wants her to do, she is ready. Her faithfulness is humbling.

The angel’s response also makes it clear that the real concern here is about what is possible. God knows that it might be hard to understand how you can have a child without have first had sex. Those of us who took health class in school would probably be wondering the same thing. To prepare Mary to trust in what God can do, the angel tells of another miracle that is about to occur. Her cousin Elizabeth, who everyone thought was unable to have children, is also going to give birth to a son. In this other birth, Mary will be reminded that with God anything is possible.

The most important part of this story is the last verse that we read: Mary’s consent. We can focus on the miracle of the two pregnancies that we learn about. We can be left pondering what the angel looked like or how this was at all possible. All of that is fine, but we should not let it distract us from the highlight of this text, Mary gives her assent to be a part of this.

In the #metoo era and a time when we need to be teaching everyone, men and women, about the importance of consent. We need to be reminded that this is reflected in scripture. Mary has a choice as to whether or not to bear the Son of God. Even when talking to God, Mary still has autonomy of her body. For that reason alone, we need to make note of her consent.

There is another reason we should take note of it. Mary choses to be a part of God’s work in the world. She answers the call that God has for her. She says that she is willing to do what it takes to follow God. It is not something that is forced upon her, rather she chooses to do it. Each of us has the same choice to make in our lives. We also need to choose if we are going to be a part of God’s work in the world or not.

Today we are celebrating two baptisms. Given that our scripture is about the birth a child this seems very fitting. It is also fitting because like Mary, our parents today are making a choice to say yes to God. Our parents are being asked if they want to be part of God’s work in the world. Through promising to raise their children in the faith they, like Mary, are choosing to be a part of God’s acts of salvation.

John Wesley, the founder of the United Methodist Church talked about the idea of prevenient grace. Wesley believed that God’s grace is at work in the world, and in our lives before we are even aware of it. Wesley then talked about justifying grace, which is the moment we accept this grace for ourselves through baptism. Finally, there is sanctifying grace, which is the ongoing work of God in our life.

We see all of those at work in this narrative today. First, God is at work in Mary’s life even before the angel shows up. The plan has already been put into place because her cousin is already six months pregnant. Then there is the point of justification, where Mary chooses to be a part of what God is doing and gives her consent. Finally, there is the on-going presence of God with Mary through the many challenges that lie ahead. God’s grace is not a one-time event for her, but rather something that is on-going.

In the baptisms of Thea and Olivia, we remember the grace that is working in their lives as well. It has been stirring in them even now before they are aware it. It will work in them in the baptismal water we sprinkle on their heads. It will also be present later when they are ready to give their own assent and confirm their faith for themselves. It will watch over them as they grow and live out their faith.

Are we ready to say “yes” to God like Mary? Are we ready to be a part of God’s work in the world? As we prepare for Christmas and the journey to the manger, let us open ourselves up to how God is asking us to say “yes” and be a part of the amazing things that God is doing all around us.

Amen

Questions to Ponder:

What are the ways that you have experienced God at work in your life?

What do you think made it so easy for Mary to say yes to God?

What is God calling you to help with this Christmas season?

Prayer:

Wondrous God, you come into our hearts in small and simple ways, like a child, born in a manager. As we get ready to explore again the miracle of your birth among us, prepare our hearts and minds to let you rule them. Take away from us all of the distractions and temptations to follow others instead of you. Help us to be faithful to you. Amen

Christ the King?

John 18:33-38

Pilate questions Jesus

33 Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others spoken to you about me?”

35 Pilate responded, “I’m not a Jew, am I? Your nation and its chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?”

36 Jesus replied, “My kingdom doesn’t originate from this world. If it did, my guards would fight so that I wouldn’t have been arrested by the Jewish leaders. My kingdom isn’t from here.”

37 “So you are a king?” Pilate said.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into the world for this reason: to testify to the truth. Whoever accepts the truth listens to my voice.”

38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Release of Barabbas

After Pilate said this, he returned to the Jewish leaders and said, “I find no grounds for any charge against him.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

The last Sunday before Advent is considered the end of the Christian year. It is also the Sunday known as Christ the King Sunday. It is a Sunday that we explore what it means to claim Christ as our king. It is a chance for us to examine historical statements about the lordship of Christ that we might take for granted. It also helps us transition to Advent because it gives a context for why we are so excited about Christmas and why we want to get ready for it.

The idea of Christ as King obviously is rooted in a historical era when everyone had a king. For those of us in a democracy, it takes on a different meaning. We are not juxtaposing Christ the King with the king of our nation. Still, I think there is value in seeing the kingship of Christ as a counterpoint or a contrast not only to historical kings, but also our own leaders who we democratically elect.

If we look at this text from John, I think we see that the image of Christ was not just hard to understand for those of us today, it was hard for Pilate to wrap his head around as well. The text comes from a reading that we typically associate with Easter. It is the questioning of Jesus by Pontius Pilate before Pilate renders his verdict on Christ. In his questioning, Pilate brings up one of the concerns that he, and others have with Jesus, specifically, the claim that Jesus is the king of the Jews.

It is not hard to see how such a claim could be threatening to those in power. At the time of this trial, Herod was the King of the Jews. While it was a hereditary title, it was also one that existed only with the permission of the Romans. Pilate is not a part of the Jewish establishment, rather he is part of the Roman empire that occupies the region. While the claim of Christ as king of the Jews was a direct threat to Herod, it was also a challenge to Roman power. Even if Jesus is ONLY the king of the Jews, that kingship would still be opposed to what was essential the puppet government that was endorsed and allowed by Rome.

What is surprising to Pilate, and important for us, is that Christ does not endorse his own kingship. He does not use the question as a chance to state his lordship. He does take it as a chance to question the legitimacy of the Roman government. Instead he starts by questioning the premise. He pushes back on the notion that he is king of the Jews. Wanting to have a clear charge with which to judge Jesus, Pilate tries to pin him down to saying that whether or not he is the king of the Jews, he is still claiming to be a king. Jesus, however, refuses to be caught in this legal trap either. Instead, he asserts that Pilate is the one that is calling Jesus the king. Jesus says he has come to testify to the truth.

Pilate is not sure what to do with his confrontation with Jesus. He openly muses, “What is truth.” He eventually reaches a decision to not charge Jesus. Instead he goes back out to the crowds and tells them there is not grounds for any charge against Jesus. Pilate has heard what Jesus has said and made a choice, for him, Jesus is not a king. Since Pilate does not see Jesus as a king, he does not see him as a threat to Rome and so is willing to let him live. His calculus will change later when he gets pushback from the crowds, but even when he hands him over to be killed, Pilate never sees Christ as a king.

I do not think that the kingship of Christ is relativistic, but I do think each of us has to answer for ourselves the same question that Pilate does. Do we say that Christ is king? Maybe this is my own post-modern and democratic values coming into play, but I think this is something powerful about seeing the kingship of Christ as a title that we bestow upon him. Christ’s ultimate kingship comes from God, but he is our king if we choose him to be.

The reality is that kingship only really works with the consent of the governed. Even though Christ is king eternal, through the power of free-will we can always choose to reject his rulership. We can choose to not let him into our hearts and lives. We can choose to ignore his teachings, break his laws, and turn away from him. Like Pilate, we can choose if we want Christ to be our king.

I for one, want to make that choice. I want Christ to be my king. In a world of imperfect rulers and tarnished heroes, I for one want to place my trust in a king who is not lacking and who is not flawed. I want to follow Jesus because he, and he alone is worthy. Whoever your idols are, I am willing to bet, that like you and me, they make mistakes, they do somethings that are wrong. I believe that like you and me, they are not perfect. I declare Christ as my king because he is perfect.

What does it mean to claim Christ as king? It means that we acknowledge that we are going to follow Jesus. It means that our allegiance is first and foremost to God. We are a part of this world, citizens of the United States, but our first loyalty is not to our temporal leaders, but instead to Jesus. Claiming Christ as our king means that we are going to seek to live our lives the way that he would want us to. It means loving God and loving our neighbor. It means caring for not only our friends and family, but also the stranger and the enemy. It means a radically different approach to the world than others might have. It is a powerful, audacious, and challenging claim.

Christ the King Sunday comes a month before Christmas because we need that time of Advent to get ready for our king to be born. There is a change that will happen in our lives if we are going to make Christ our king. As the commercial Christmas season begins, our mailboxes and emails will be inundated with suggestions of how we can focus our attention on ourselves and our needs. The world will encourage us to think only about ourselves. Instead, as we enter into the sacred season of Advent, we need to be preparing ourselves to let go of ourselves and focus on God. Instead of thinking about what we want, we should be thinking more about what God wants. When we are able to do that then we will be ready for the true season of Christmas that begins with the birth of a new king.

Today we have a chance, to declare Christ as our king. This is our chance to once more put our trust not in earthly rulers, but instead in God. We have an opportunity to turn away from the temptations and pressures of the world and instead follow Jesus. As we get ready for the journey of Advent and begin to head to the manager and the birth of Christ, let us first get prepare our hearts and minds to make room for his presence in our lives.

Amen

Questions to Ponder:

What does it mean to you to call Christ the king?

What images come to mind when you think about kings?

What are the ways you struggle to let Christ be the ruler of your life?

Prayer:

Wondrous God, you come into our hearts in small and simple ways, like a child, born in a manager. As we get ready to explore again the miracle of your birth among us, prepare our hearts and minds to let you rule them. Take away from us all of the distractions and temptations to follow others instead of you. Help us to be faithful to you. Amen