Sunday, December 8, 2019                              Second Sunday of Advent    PEACE
Scripture: Romans 14:1-12; Matthew 3:1-12
Sermon Title: “Are We a Crucible Or A Quilt?”                                                                                                                        The Rev. Dr. Larry Norris, Preaching

It is certainly a fair question for Christians to ask, “How are we to behave toward one another?” In our world we often hear voices that suggest we should be aggressive, competitive, and tough. Other voices urge us to be caring, loving, and empathetic.

In our secular culture, we are challenged to be clear about our “spiritual manners.” Paul, in his letter to the Romans, took care to exhort believers that living the Christian life was rooted in letting each another make their personal decisions in freedom and grace. He is saying that people have different opinions and attitudes on all kinds of
things, and he affirms that as good.

Unlike the infamous Borg of the Star Trek series, Christians do not function as the “collective!” The truth is that as Christians we are not a crucible, but a patchwork of diversity that that radiates
the splendor of Christ’s church. We are to practice the Golden Rule!

Sunday December 15, 2019                                Third Sunday of Advent     JOY                                                       

Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:16-24 / Matthew 11:2-11                                                                                                                    Sermon Title: A Time for Wonder, Awe and Peace,                                                                                                              The Rev. Daniel Gómez, Preaching

Christmas is busy! There is so much to do! Decorations need to go up as we prepare for the arrival of friends and family. Oh, and what about the company Christmas party, the kids’ pageant at the school (or church), shopping and baking still needs to get done. There is still so much to do and so little time to prepare. We wonder every year how we’re going to fit it all in.

But it’s not this way only at Christmas time. Some of us live our lives similarly the other 11 months of the year. We consume so much energy going from here to there, trying to accomplish to-do lists from A to Z with little room to pause and ponder. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the shepherds were the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. They were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. It must have been quieter with their flocks than it was with the crowds in town who’d arrived for the census.

In the midst of our busyness at Christmas and other times throughout the year, we need to take time for wonder, awe and peace. In the Pauline letters,  Paul urges young Christian congregations to “rejoice always” in light of the new life they have received in Christ. These fledgling Christian congregations were waiting the soon return of Christ. Christ had come and had shown them the way. They were now on the way, following Christ, yet expecting Christ to come and complete his work, and bring his realm to glorious fulfillment.  Waiting and waiting, they grew anxious and
began to ask… Where is Christ? Why doesn’t he come and rule in glory?

Paul’s response to them “Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return.”

Sunday, December 22, 2019      Christmas Sunday          Fourth Sunday of Advent  PEACE   

Scripture Lesson: Matthew 1:18-25; John1:6-8, 19-28
Sermon Title: What Is Our Role?                                                                                                                                                    The Rev. Dr. Larry Norris, Preaching

It is interesting how John the Baptist keeps appearing in the Gospel readings around the time of Advent. After all, Advent is all about the birth of Jesus, and while John’s birth is mentioned, he does not really serve a major role until he announces the arrival of Jesus – some thirty years later!

Yet, thinking about what John would “be” and who Jesus “is” gives us clarity about an important aspect of Christian behavior, namely, “humility.” John clearly understood his role: “I am not the Messiah. I am not the prophet Elijah. I am not the main attraction. The main attraction is coming, and I am not worthy to clean his sandals!”

However, the point most also be made that even though John knew his “lesser role” in relationship to Jesus, he was nonetheless bold in his proclamation about repentance and baptism. Being humble does not mean one is passive and acquiescent! Can you be strong and assertive and be humble?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019                     Christmas Eve 5 pm, 7:30 pm, & 11 pm
Scripture Lesson: **Matthew 2:1-6; 10-23; Hebrews 11:32-40
Sermon Title: “Where Is the Child?”                                                                                                                                              The Rev. Dr. Larry Norris, Preaching

There is no place in the Bible where we witness more dramatically strength born out of weakness than in an obscure village called Bethlehem. Here we find the story of Mary, Joseph, and the tiny babe. What could be good about another child born into a cold, dark night? This is all so common and insignificant. Babies are born all the time. But look again! There is so much more here than meets the eye.

Every birth of every baby is a miracle, but this child is different. His birth launches a struggle between good and evil, and sets a narcissistic lunatic on a killing mission, asking, “Where is the child?” Here we learn a great biblical principle: that when God is working in our affairs, there is great strength in weakness. The baby Jesus is fragile and vulnerable, but under the hand of God’s protection, his weaknesses become strengths. What would happen if we let God empower our weaknesses?

Sunday, December 29, 2019                          1st Sunday after Christmas

Scripture: Matthew 2:13-23                                                                                                                                                          Sermon Title: “The Story in Bethlehem Continues”                                                                                                            The Rev. Pamela Wagner, Preaching

The young family does not stay in the manger for long. They eventually set up some sort of a household and the baby soon enough grows into a toddler.

Then one day an angel appears once again to the kindly Joseph, warning of Herod’s evil intentions toward the child. What does he do?