BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE
Sunday, December 14, 2014
A service of Christian faith especially for those approaching this Christmas in grief.
This service is for those who have a hard time when everyone else is happy. People who have experienced the death of a person close to them, have divorced, had a miscarriage, lost a job, have health difficulties or other losses and need a place of peace and reflection at Christmas. Together we will acknowledge the sadness and difficulties of the holidays but also will be reminded of the healing and hope we have in Christ.
Quiet hymns, scripture, a reflective meditation, prayer, and the opportunity to light candles of memory to remind us of the ongoing strength of the Christmas message. Everyone is welcome, regardless of church membership or where you are in your personal journey of faith.
Some Thoughts on Gratitude at Thanksgiving
How do we learn to be grateful? Does it just come naturally to some or can it be taught? I know that early on we try to teach our children to be grateful. We often hear a young mother prompt her child to say, “Thank you!” Can it be taught that easily or do we need to see it in action? Did you grow up with a grateful mother, a grateful father, or someone else who taught you by example to be grateful?
I remember a church service when a man who had been raised in a country without personal freedom prayed and thanked God for now living in America where he could really have freedom. I remember being surprised that his tears flowed freely with gratitude for his new country. I asked myself if I, too, was grateful for living in American, or if I didn’t think much about it since I was so used to it. I had not had this man’s experience of lack of freedom. Perhaps I became more grateful for my country because of his example.
In our recent Bible study on Philippines, the apostle Paul has quite a bit to say about being grateful. He was grateful for the support the church at Philippi had given him. Max Lucado, the author of our study, says that the book of Philippines is a thank-you note from Paul to the Macedonian believers who had supported him with several generous financial gifts. But he also pointed out that the givers in turn, would be blessed.
So, as we approach this season of stewardship and of thanksgiving, may we be both grateful and generous. And we have the assurance of scripture that, “My God shall supply your every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippines 4: 19) That applies to us as individuals and to the church as His body on earth.
Thank you, Jesus!
Tomorrow is Halloween. I think it is my least favorite holiday. Oh, the costumes are fun. At least those that are not too scary. And who doesn?t like candy. But it is it?s connection with evil things that bother me. I don?t like the idea of witches, goblins and zombies. I also don?t like the fact that Halloween has eclipsed the special day that follows it - All Saints Day. In fact, Halloween was originally All Hallows? Eve. It was the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.
As Baptists, we don?t often focus on the Saints, but All Saints Day, November 1, is a good time to do that. So I would like to highlight four early Christian martyrs. First, is Saint Ignatius of Antioch (born 35 - 50 AD, died 98 - 117 AD) He was the third bishop of Antioch in Syria. Tradition tells us that he was a disciple of the disciple John, and some even suggest that it was Peter who made Ignatius a bishop. He wrote seven letters encouraging churches in right faith and practice. Ignatius ?rst used the word catholic to refer to the whole church. He was brought to Rome to die in the coliseum, attacked by lions.
Second is Saint Polycarp (70 - 115 AD), bishop of Smyrna, who taught against heresy. He was burned at the stake. When a Roman of?cial suggested he say, “Ceasar is Lord,” so that he would not have to die, Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
Finally, Saints Perpetua and Felicity (died 203 AD), who were young women from North Africa who were martyred in Carthage. They came from very different social backgrounds: Perpetua was a married noble woman from the senatorial class, and Felicity was a slave. As sisters in Christ, they de?ed social boundaries to worship the Lord together in a community that saw all Christians as free to become slaves of Christ. They were both new mothers. Perpetua sought permission to keep her nursing infant with her in prison, and Felicity rejoiced that an early delivery allowed her to face wild animals with her fellow Christians rather than alone. Both these women left their biological children, and us, their spiritual children, a powerful testimony about the extraordinary strength that the Holy Spirit grants to ordinary people seeking to glorify God in life and death.
And the list goes on, even until today when Christians around the world are martyred for the sake of Christ. Let us focus on that as we begin the month that we give thanks for our blessings.
As Baptists we don’t consider ourselves as creedal people. If we look closely at the Apostle’s creed, we must admit that in some ways we are. Let’s look at the words of this creed and see if we agree.
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.”
We believe in this basic statement. In our children’s Sunday School last Sunday, the students drew pictures to illustrate this fact.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,”
We believe this, too, as we annually act out this story in our Christmas pageant.
“suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried:”
Again, we believe this as we walk through the solemn days of Lent and Good Friday considering the great cost of our redemption.
“he descended to the dead.”
In our recent Bible study of Philippians 2:9 - 11, we are told:
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What this passage teaches is that all will eventually recognize and confess Christ’s Lordship.
“On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
We absolutely believe that Christ rose from the dead! That’s why we celebrate Easter. We know that he appeared to many after his resurrection. We have the biblical account of his ascension into heaven. His followers looked to the sky as He was taken into heaven.
“I believe in the Holy Spirit,”
We all come to Christ through the calling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit gives us strength and comfort.
“the holy catholic church,”
Some baptists might say, “We are not Catholic but rather protestants.” But that is not what this line means. Catholic here refers to the church universal, a combination of all believers, marching together through all eternity.
“the communion of saints,”
This is definition of the Christian church. We are joined with believers of the past centuries, today’s believers, and those that are to come.”
“the forgiveness of sins,”
Thank you, Jesus, for taking our sins to the cross so that we might be forgiven.
“the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” AMEN
We will be raised to new life in new bodies and will live in heaven with our mighty God. AMEN and AMEN!