Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas Joy!

Dear Peace family,

This coming Sunday we will light the “JOY Candle” on the Advent wreath.

Christmas is a happy time for most of us: gatherings and gift-giving, singing and special services. Yes, Christmas is a happy time…for most of us.

But for some, Christmas is a tough time of the year. Sometimes we just have a hard time getting in the “holiday spirit.”

For some it’s the general anxiety in our society these days: gun violence and terrorist attacks have left us on edge -- we don’t feel safe.

For others this is the time of the year when we most acutely aware of the loss of loved ones; when we most miss those are supposed to be with us but no longer are.

For others it is the circumstances of life: difficulties at work, financial stress, problems at home, or too much on our plates, that leaves us feeling more like Scrooge than Santa!

But I would remind you we do not light the HAPPINESS Candle this Sunday. We light the JOY Candle…and I believe there is a difference. Kay Warren, from her book “Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough,” gives this definition of Joy:


“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”

I like that definition:  Joy is a “quiet confidence,” that is based not on how we feel in the moment, but on a dogged and determined belief that we are known by God, loved by God, and belong to God, now and always, and that there is nothing in life or in death that can change that. 
That is what the Angel announced to the Shepherd’s the night Jesus was born:  “There is no longer any need to be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of a great JOY for all the people; for unto you, is born this day, in the City of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.” 
“Unto you,” said the Angel.  “Unto you, a Savior is born, who is Christ the Lord.  And he will be “Immanuel – God with us…God with You…not matter what.”  Now, that is indeed a message of great joy!      

Throughout this Advent Season we have been sharing with you the poetry of Ann Weems, from her book of Christmas reflections called “Kneeling in Bethlehem.” 
Here is one for this, the Third Week of Advent:

NOT CELEBRATE?

Not Celebrate?
Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas Season?
Your tears seem to have no end?

Not celebrate?
You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
   To ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
   And open your house to your neighbors,
      And call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others
   Who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that is Savior is born this day,
   One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
   One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
   For he is born this day for you.

From Kneeling in Bethlehem. © 1993 Ann Weems. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved

Praying Peace and Joy for you this Advent Season.

- Pastor Bob

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Reminder:


Christmas Lists

We know better, but we still get caught up in the retail madness of Christmas. It is hard to avoid when stores announce the countdown of shopping days till Christmas, when ads keep putting gift ideas in our heads, or when the kids give us a sad look and tell us what they really want for Christmas. It’s hard not to think that our worth is measured by an abundance of presents under the tree.

We know better. But our children know that their friends will ask, “What did you get for Christmas?” while eagerly cataloging their haul. And while we as adults may be more subtle, we are not immune from the comparison game. We might not ask our friends, “What did you get?” but we can’t help noting someone’s remark about a vacation or new bling. Especially in December we need to be on guard “against all kinds of greed.”

Having things will ­never satisfy, but waiting for our faithful God will! Change your focus from "stuff" this Christmas season to the simplicity and significance of the first Christmas. With greed set aside, we can recapture the powerful message of “peace on earth.”


10 Tips for a Faith Focused Christmas
  1. Read an Advent Devotional with your family.
  2. Take time to serve others.
  3. Attend (or participate in) the Living Nativity on December 20 at 6:00pm.
  4. Plan a cookie exchange with family and friends.
  5. Have a door-decorating contest with your family.
  6. Check out Christmas books and movies.
  7. Go Christmas caroling - Join your church family this Friday at 5:30 pm.
  8. Make hot chocolate and share a Christmas memory with your family.
  9. Do Christmas Cards together!
  10. Take a Christmas lights tour - Again, you can join your church family this Friday at 5:30 pm!

With a little creative thinking, this Christmas can be simply wonderful. It need not be the Pinterest kind of perfection that features 11-foot Christmas trees with hundreds of perfectly wrapped presents beneath them, but rather, the kind of Christmas celebrated with the simplicity of its humble beginnings. After all, Luke 9:4 (MSG) states, “Keep it simple; you are the equipment. And no luxury inns—get a modest place and be content there…” This is how Jesus entered the world…no luxury inns, no parades or fanfare.

taken from: Family Fire Article - 10 Tips for A Faith Focus Christmas

Lighting the Second Advent Candle

Lighting the Second Candle - PEACE
Advent is a time of waiting.  We relight the first Advent candle to remind us that, like Mary, we are waiting for God to come in new and surprising ways.

But waiting is not enough.  Advent is also a time or preparation.  And so we decorate, shop, bake, and buy gifts in order to get ready for Christmas.

We also prepare ourselves for Jesus to come by reading his story, by praying and singing, and by sharing with others.

On the Second Sunday of Advent we remember Joseph, who shows us that to prepare for the Coming of Christ means putting Love into action.  It means doing what needs to be done, even when it is not easy to do.  And sometimes it means putting ourselves front-and-center instead of hiding in the background.

A reading from the book, "Kneeling in Bethlehem":

GETTING TO THE FRONT OF THE STABLE
by Ann Weems

Who put Joseph in the back of the stable?
Who dressed him in brown, put a staff in his hand,
and told him to stand in the back of the crèche,
background for the magnificent light of the Madonna?

God-chosen, this man Joseph was faithful
in spite of the gossip of Nazareth,
in spite of the danger from Herod.
This man, Joseph, listened to angels
and it was he who named the Child Emmanuel.
Is this man to be stuck for centuries
in the back of the stable?

Actually, Joseph probably stood in the doorway
guarding the mother and child
or greeting shepherds and kings.
When he wasn’t in the doorway,
he was probably urging Mary to get some rest,
gentle covering her with his cloak,
assuring her that he would watch the Child.
Actually, he probably picked the Child up in his arms
and walked him in the night,
patting him lovingly
until he closed his eyes.

This Christmas, let us give thanks to God
for this man of incredible faith
into whose care God placed
the Christ Child.
As a gesture of gratitude,
let’s put Joseph in the front of the stable
where he can guard and greet
and cast an occasional glance
at this Child
who brought us life.



We light the second candle in honor of Joseph, who shows that we are to fill this time of waiting and watching with concrete actions that make for peace, and which help to bring about God's purposes for the world.

Together we pray: God of Peace, we look forward to the day when the earth is full of your glory and when peace reigns over all the earth.  Until then, may we prepare for it by doing justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with you.  AMEN.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Toward the Light

This Advent Season we are sharing poems from the book “Kneeling in Bethlehem,” by Ann Weems.  In honor of this Sunday’s Candle of Peace, I leave you with the following:

Toward the Light
Too often our answer to the darkness
is not running toward Bethlehem
but running away.
We ought to know by now that we can’t see
Where we’re going in the dark.
Running away is rampant . . .
separation is stylish:
separation from mates, from friends, from self.
run and tranquilize,
don’t talk about it,
avoid …
When are we going to learn that Christmas Peace
comes only when we turn and face the darkness?
Only then will we be able to see
the light of the World.


From Kneeling in Bethlehem. © 1993 Ann Weems. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved

Enough

Dear People of Peace,

I write these words Wednesday evening, after yet another tragic, and senseless, mass shooting.  Early reports are indicating 14 dead and another 17 wounded at a center in San Bernardino, California that provides social services to persons with developmental disabilities.  This has happened so many times now that it’s hard to keep asking “Why?”  Perhaps the better question is to ask, “What?”  As in: “What are we finally willing to do about this?” 

This coming Sunday – the second Sunday of Advent – is the Sunday we will once light the Advent Candle of Peace, and pray once again for the coming of the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6), and for his Reign of Peace, that blessed day when “the wolf will lie down with the lamb” (Isaiah 11:6), and all the peoples of the earth will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa 2:4). 

Until that day we have work to do, People of Peace!  We may not be able to change the entire world… but we can change the world around us, in the name of Jesus Christ.  And who knows what your acts of peacemaking might lead to.

Today is not just the day of another mass shooting, today is also the 60th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks took a stand, by taking a seat, and not giving it up.  Because of her quiet courage, others also found the courage to speak, walk, march, and pray for change.  Rosa Parks said, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired.  I was not tired physically; no more so than I usually was at the end of the day…No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”     (http://www.churchleaders.com/daily-buzz/)

Advent Blessings,
- Pastor Bob





Monday, November 30, 2015

First Sunday of Advent


Lighting the Advent Candle


Advent is a time of anticipation... a time of waiting:

Waiting for Christmas programs and parties.
Waiting for Santa to arrive on Christmas Eve night!
Waiting, and hoping, for loved ones to come home for Christmas.

Advent reminds us that we are also waiting for God to come to us - and that this often occurs in new and surprising ways!

Certainly, this was the experience of a young woman named Mary, who was told by and angel that she would conceive and bear a son who would be the Savior of the world!

A reading from the book, Kneeling in Bethlehem:

Mary, 
   Nazareth girl:
What did you know of ethereal beings
   with messages from God?
What did you know of men
   when you found yourself with child?
What did you know of babies,
   you, barely out of childhood yourself?

God-chosen girl:
What did you know of God
   that brought you to this stable
   blessed among women?

Could it be that you had been ready
  waiting
       listening
             for the footsteps 
       of an angel?

And could it be there are messages for us
    if we have the faith to listen?

Advent is still a time of waiting and watching for God to come again, in new and surprising ways.  We light the first candle of Advent today in honor of Mary, who reminds us to wait with faith and hopeful expectation.

Let us pray: God in whom we hope, this Advent Season we wait for your coming once again. Strengthen us as we wait, so that we will not lack any spiritual gift.  Help us to stay awake to the signs of your coming and bless our worship today.  We ask this in the name of the one born in Bethlehem.  Amen.