WHAT IF THERE HAD BEEN NO CHRISTMAS
MATTHEW 1:18-25 AND MATTHEW 2:2-11
DECEMBER 15, 2019
THE LESSON FROM MATTHEW TODAY HAS JOHN ASKING, IS JESUS IS THE MESSIAH?
CHRIST THROUGH HIS ACTIONS AND HIS TEACHING CHANGED THE WORLD
IN ANOTHER PART OF THE GOSPLE OF MATTHEW HE SAYS:
“AND THEY SHALL NAME HIM EMMANUEL, WHICH MEANS ‘GOD WITH US’”
NOT A DISTANT GOD, GOD IS WITH US!
WHERE WE LIVE, WHERE WE GO TO SCHOOL, WHERE WE WORK.
HE IS WITH US WHERE WE HAVE JOY AND HAVE HURTS
HE IS WITH US IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD TIMES.
BUT DO WE REALLY BELIEVE IT AND LIVE THAT WAY?
LET’ S START WITH THE THOUGHT “WHAT IF THERE HAD BEEN NO CHRISTMAS?”
OF COURSE, WE WOULD DATE EVERYTHING IN A DIFFERENT MANNER
AND THERE WOULD BE NO GIFTS THAT SYMBOLIZE THE GREAT GIFT THAT GOD GAVE TO US AT CHRISTMAS.
BUT, WHAT ABOUT YOU? WOULD YOUR LIFE BE DIFFERENT? IN WHAT WAYS?
I KNOW MINE WOULD DIFFERENT BECAUSE THERE WOULD BE NO SUCH THING AS A LUTHERAN MINISTER!!!!!
A. QUICK, NAME SOME GREAT CHRISTMAS LITERATURE
1. FIRST COMEs THE NEW TESTAMENT
A. “WITHOUT IT, WE WOULDN’T BE HAVING THIS
B. BUT, WITHOUT CHRISTMAS, THERE WOULD BE NO NEW TESTAMENT
2. THEN WE COULD LIST OTHER CLASSICS SUCH AS “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”
AND “HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS” AND EVEN “LITTLE WOMEN”
IN KEEPING WITH THAT THOUGHT WE ALSO WOULDN’T HAVE:
1. SONGS SUCH AS “WHITE CHRISTMAS” & “RUDOLPH”
2. POEMS SUCH AS “THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS”
3. MOVIES LIKE “IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE” OR “MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET”
THINK ABOUT IT —- “WHAT IF THERE HAD BEEN NO CHRISTMAS?”
1. THERE WOULD BE NO FAMILY GATHERINGS THIS TIME OF THE YEAR
2. THERE WOULD BE NO CHRISTMAS CARDS
A. NO CHRISTMAS TREES OR HOLIDAY DECORATIONS
3. NO HOLIDAY PARTIES
4. NO CHRISTMAS VACATIONS FROM SCHOOL!!!
5. AND DECEMBER 25TH WOULDN’T BE A HOLIDAY!!!
BUT, OF COURSE, IT GOES MUCH DEEPER THAN THAT. THERE WOULD BE:
1. NO MANGER SCENES
2. NO STORIES ABOUT THE SHEPHERDS
3. NO WISE MEN TRAVELING HUNDREDS OF MILES TO SEE THE BABY
4. NO HOLIDAY TO CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST
5. THERE WOULD BE NO NEW TESTAMENT.
6. NO BEAUTIFULLY DECORATED CHURCHES
A. IN FACT THERE WOULD BE NO CHURCHES
B. PICTURE WEST RIDGE ROAD HERE ON SKIDAWAY ISLAND
C. AS YOU DRIVE AROUND THIS WEEK, OBSERVE ALL THE CHURCHES THAT WOULDN’T BE THERE
7. WE WOULDN’T BE HERE THIS MORNING TO PRAISE AND THANK GOD!!!
8. WE WOULD HAVE NO CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE IN A WEEK AND A HALF
THINK WHAT THE WORLD WOULD HAVE MISSED
1. NO GOLDEN RULE
2. NO PARABLES ABOUT THE LOST SHEEP, THE PRODIGAL SON, OR THE
3. NO STORIES OF PEOPLE TURNING THEIR LIVES AROUND
4. NO STORIES OF THE MIRICLES OF HOPE
5. NO STORIES OF HEALINGS OF THE LAME, AND DEAF, AND BLIND
6. NO ENCOURAGEMENT TO ACCEPT FORGIVENESS AND TO FORGIVE OTHERS.
IF THERE HAD BEEN NO CHRISTMAS:
1. MARY MAGDALEN WOULD HAVE DIED IN HER SIN
2. MATTHEW WOULD STILL HAVE BEEN A TRAITOR TO HIS COUNTRYMEN SINCE HE WAS DREADED ROMAN TAX COLLECTOR
3. PETER, JAMES & JOHN WOULD HAVE CONTINUED ON AS FISHERMEN
4. THE PEOPLE WHO NEEDED HEALING WOULD HAVE STILL BEEN BROKEN IN BODY AND SPIRIT
5. LAZARUS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN BROUGHT BACK FROM THE DEAD..
6′ THE TEN LEPERS WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN CURED
7. WE NEVER WOULD HAVE HEARD THE WORDS:
“PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU, MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU”
“DON’T LET YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED AND DON’T BE AFRAID”
“I HAVE COME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE AND HAVE IT IN ABUNDANCE”
7. THE REPENTANT THIEF ON THE CROSS NEVER WOULD HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO GO TO HEAVEN.
IF THERE HADN’T BEEN A CHRISTMAS —WE NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN HOW MUCH GOD LOVED US.
THAT HE CARED ENOUGH TO COME AND BE WITH US
HE CAME TO SHOW US WHAT HE WAS LIKE
HE WAS THE FRIEND OF SINNERS AND FAILURES
HE SHOWED LOVE AND COMPASSION TO THE OUTCASTS OF THE WORLD.
THE SINFUL, THE SICK, THE POOR AND THE WEAK WERE THE ONES HE PULLED OUT OF THE TRASH AND TRANSFORMED INTO A TREASURE.
HE HEADLED THE SICK AND RAISED THE DEAD
HE TAUGHT US NOT TO USE THE VALUES OF THIS WORLD TO DETERMINE OUR WORTH.
IF THERE HADN’T BEEN A CHRISTMAS, WE NEVER WOULD HAVE KNOWN ALL THIS ABOUT GOD.
IF THERE HADN’T HAVE BEEN A CHRISTMAS:
THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO ONE TO DEFEAT THE DEVIL
THERE WOULD BE NO EXPERIENCING THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
THERE WOULD BE NO PROMISE OF A RETURNING SAVIOR WHO WILL OPEN HEAVEN FOR US
THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE
THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO WAY TO KNOW WHAT GOD WAS REALLY LIKE
CHRISTMAS HAS AFFECTED EVERYDAY OF OUR LIFE — EVEN FOR THOSE WITH LITTLE OR NO BELIEF.
1. EVEN YOUR CHARITABLE GIVING WOULD BE DIFFERENT
2. NOT JUST THAT THERE WOULD BE NO CHURCH TO GIVE TO
A. THE WHOLE CONCEPT OF HELPING OTHERS — WITHOUT
EXPECTING SOMETHING IN RETURN — IS CHRISTIAN
B. THE ROMANS AT THE TIME OF JESUS WOULD OCCASIONALLY
SET UP FUNDS TO HELP SOME PEOPLE, BUT NOT ON A REGULAR
3. THERE WOULD BE NO LUTHERAN WORLD RELIEF OR WORLD HUNGER FUND
4. THERE WOULD BE NO SALVATION ARMY
5. NO YMCA OR YWCA
6. NO PLACES LIKE BETHESDA HOME FOR BOYS
7. MANY FAMILIAR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES WOULDN’T EXIST
A. THEY WERE STARTED AS CHRISTIAN INSTITUTIONS.
B. NO HARVARD OR YALE
C. NO NEWBERRY OR LENOIR RHYNE
8. NO RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS LIKE LUTHERAN SERVICES OR CATHOLIC CHARITIES, OR MENNONITE RELIEF
THE CHRISTIANS STARTED WITH FUNDS TO HELP THE ORPHANS AND WIDOWS
1. THEN THEY EXPANDED TO OTHERS IN NEED
A. AND THEN TO ALL PEOPLE — NOT JUST CHRISTIANS
2. THEN THEY EXPANDED TO HOSPITALS AND OTHER HOMES TO HELP PEOPLE IN VARIOUS NEEDS
A. THERE WOULD BE NO CHANDLER’S OR ST. JOE’S HOSPITAL
B. NO SHELTERS FOR THE HOMELESS AND NEEDY
3. THEN THEY STARTED SCHOOLS TO IMPROVE THE LIVES OF PEOPLE.
THESE ARE ALL RESPONSES TO GOD’S LOVE FOR US
THIS IS HOW CHRISTIANS SAY “THANK YOU” TO GOD FOR THAT FIRST CHRISTMAS GIFT IN BETHLEHEM SOME 2,000 YEARS AGO.
CHRISTMAS IS THE STORY OF THE BIRTH OF A SAVIOR.
1. IT IS GOD COMING TO EARTH TO LIVE WITH US AND HELP US CHANGE
IT’S TIME NOW TO LET GOD TAKE OVER AND COME INTO THE WORLD
1. AND LET HIM COME INTO YOUR LIFE
2. IT’S TIME TO PUT GOD BACK IN CHARGE OF CHRISTMAS
A. FOR THE PAST MONTH, WE HAVE ACTED LIKE THE
SUCCESS OF THIS CHRISTMAS WAS ON OUR SHOULDERS
3. ITS TIME TO LET THE JOY OF THE BABY JESUS COME INTO
OUR HEARTS AND LIVES.
IT’S TIME TO SHUT OUT THE COMMERCIAL PART OF THE CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION — AT LEAST FOR
A LITTLE WHILE
1. IT’S TIME FOR US TO PREPARE TO TAKE A TRIP TO BETHLEHEM THIS CHRISTMAS EVE.
TIME TO PUT THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE. REMEMBER, ADVENT IS A TIME OF PREPARATION FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST IN TO OUR LIVES.
2. ITS TIME TO UNDERSTAND WHAT CHRISTMAS IS REALLY ALL
3. TIME TO LOOK AT THE CHRISTMAS STORY ONE MORE TIME
DURING THE NEXT WEEK AND A HALF, LET’S JOIN TOGETHER IN A TRIP TO BETHLEHEM THAT WILL CHANGE OUR LIVES FOREVER
1. ONCE CHRIST BECOMES THE CENTER OF YOUR LIFE, YOU WILL
NEVER BE THE SAME PERSON YOU WERE BEFORE
2. AND IN THIS CASE — THAT IS ALWAYS A POSITIVE CHANGE.
THE CHRISTMAS STORY IS THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE
1. “FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD”
2. IT IS A CELEBRATION OF WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US
3. IT IS ABOUT GOD’S PLAN TO REDEEM AND SAVE US FROM
SIN AND THE DEVIL
“FOR WHOSOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NEVER
PERISH BUT WILL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE”
LET ME FINISH THIS SERMON WITH A STORY ABOUT ROME TO BETTER UNDERSTAND THE CHRISTMAS STORY…...
1. HOW ABOUT A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON
2. CHRIST WAS BORN IN 4 BC
3. BUT LET’S GO BACK A FEW YEARS BEFORE THAT….
IN 29 B.C., FOR THE FIRST TIME IN YEARS THERE WAS TOTAL PEACE IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE
1. THEY CLOSED THE TEMPLE OF JANUS, THE GOD OF WAR
2. THEY CHANGED THE NAME OF THE RULER, GAIUS OCTAVIUS
TO CAESAR AUGUSTUS WHICH MEANS THE “ULTIMATE RULER”
A. THEY CONFERRED ON HIM THE TITLES OF “SAVIOR” AND “GOD”
3. THEY BUILD AN ALTAR THAT SAID, “PAX AUGUSTA”
A. THE PEACE OF CAESAR WAS DECLARED
4. HIS BIRTHDAY BECAME A NATIONAL HOLIDAY
5. EVERY CITY HAD A SHRINE TO HIM
6. EVERY CITY HAD A BANNER THAT READ: “THE SAVIOR OF
THE WHOLE WORLD.”
7. THE WORLD HAD EVERYTHING IT WANTED
8. THE WORLD HAD EVERYTHING IT NEEDED
AND YET THE BIBLE SAYS “GOD SENT HIS SON IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME”
1. WHY…. WHEN ROME WAS AT PEACE?
2. WHY … WHEN THE WORLD HAD ACCEPTED A SAVIOR?
3. WHY … WHEN EVERYONE WAS WORSHIPPING CAESAR?
4. WHY DIDN’T GOD JUST USE CAESAR AUGUSTUS AS THE
SAVIOR OF THE WORLD?
A HISTORIAN FROM CAESAR AUGUSTUS’ TIME MAY HAVE THE ANSWER TO THAT WHEN HE WROTE:
“WHILE THE EMPEROR MAY GIVE PEACE FROM WAR ON
LAND AND SEA, HE IS UNABLE TO PEACE FROM PASSION,
GREED, AND ENVY. HE CANNOT GIVE PEACE OF HEART, FOR
WHICH HUMANITY YEARNS MORE THAN EVEN FOR OUTWARD
CHRIST CAME TO BRING WHAT NO MAN COULD DO —PEACE AND HARMONY
1. SALVATION AND ETERNAL LIFE
2. NEARNESS TO GOD
3. ACCEPTANCE OF SELF AND OTHERS
4. FORGIVENESS TO US AND ….. FORGIVENESS TO OTHERS
THAT IS WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT AND WHY IT IS SO IMPORTANT THAT CHRISTMAS DID OCCUR SOME 2,000 YEARS AGO.
LET US PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST IN JUST A FEW DAYS
The “I AM” Statements of Jesus
Lenten Sermon Series
The season of Lent comes each year, and Lent invites us into a
deeper, more intentional walk with God. Why now? Why this
spring? On the horizon is Good Friday and Easter, the highpoint of
the Christian year. Shaped by those impending events, the church
has encouraged the forty days before Easter as a time for study,
reflection, and spiritual growth.
To that end, we are inviting all our worshippers (and those reading this) to participate in a reading of a daily devotional – our “Lenten Challenge”. Some who have signed up have never done such a thing. Others have been doing daily devotionals for many years. Regardless of your background, this Lent there’s an opportunity for personal growth, and I ask that you take advantage of it. Daily devotions allow for personal growth and a deepening of the faith. They also help shape our
Consider the following statement:
What we think about ourselves does a great deal to shape our outlook on life and living.
Consider the following, which I have heard others say, both positive and negative:
I am frustrated. I am resourceful. I am hopeful.
I am loveable and capable. I am unlovable. I am afraid.
I am fed-up. I am a hot mess. I am resourceful.
I am a creative. I am negative. I am blessed.
Even though these are statements about one’s self, these words shape and influence how we picture
ourselves, and subsequently shape how we relate to others.
Sermon Series: Jesus says “I AM”
As we might have “I Am….” statements such as those listed above, there is another voice in our ear, that
of Jesus himself. In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes a series of self-defining “I Am” statements. In
engaging in metaphors and principles, Jesus conveys to us important aspects of his identity. This Lent,
each Sunday we will engage these words of Jesus. What follows is a schedule:
- Sunday -“I AM” Theme
- March 10 -The Door
- March 17 -Bread of Life
- March 24 -Light of the World
- March 31 -True Vine
- April 7 -The Good Shepherd
- April 14 -Palm Sunday: The Passion according to John
- April 21 -Easter:I am the Resurrection and the Life
Each of these statements give us a glimpse of how Jesus relates to our lives. Most, but not all, are
metaphors. The goal of this series is to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus. If our understanding of
Jesus grows, our confidence in how he works in our lives also will grow. That is my hope and goal for
every person who visits our congregation.
I pray that this Lent would be a time of deepening our spiritual roots. As we reflect on our own identity in
daily devotions and in worship, we also encounter Christ, who brings his transforming grace to our lives.
+Pastor Jason Talsness
Going to Guatemala
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. I Chronicles 16:24
This year I will be again going to Guatemala for a medical mission trip. Messiah has a long history of supporting this worthy cause. We will be serving in Antiqua, Guatemala with Faith in Practice (“FIP”). FIP is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian organization that seeks to improve the physical, spiritual and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala through short term integrated surgical, medical, and dental mission trips and health related educational programs. Each year, more than 1,200 medical professionals and support personnel from across the United States and the world travel to Guatemala.
Going this year from Messiah, in February for either one or two weeks, are Pat Cooper (food prep and presentation), Eric Gilster (OBGYN), Jim Hazel (food preparation and presentation), and me (Chaplain).
Imagine a group of 30 Americans who work in healthcare and other fields, taking time oﬀ from work to do the same work as their day job, but in Guatemala. Nurses, dentist, surgeons, pharmacists, and so on, all drop what they are doing to go south for a week to help people in need. Many go at their own expense. It is a remarkable thing to witness.
A Day in the Life
This being my second year, I know now what will be expected of me. My morning starts at 5:00 a.m. with devotions. I lead the team in prayer and song. I am not a morning person, but as long as I get a cup of coﬀee in me, I’m good to go.
After devotions and breakfast, we go to perform the surgeries for the day. Everyone has a role. One important function I have is to pray with those who are about to go into surgery. With the aid of an interpreter, we hear the stories of people who are hurting. Moms, children, seniors, all come and wait to be seen. They are grateful to get the care they so desperately need.
As the day goes on, I meet with staﬀ, discuss what surgeries are coming up, and followup with those who have gone through surgery. The day is covered in prayer. As the week goes on, I get to know the American staﬀ, their hopes and struggles. My time with staﬀ is almost as important as the time with the patients. All in all, my role is much like that of Father Mulcahy in the television series in M*A*S*H. I quickly go from counselor to helper to dispenser of spiritual ideas within an hour. I enjoy this role, being part of a team and learning about the art of medicine.
Ten Facts about Guatemala
- Roughly the size of North Carolina
- Famous for its 33 volcanoes
- The most populated Central American country
- Blue denim comes from Guatemala!
- Some 5-10 people are killed by falling bullets at Christmastime, when people shoot skyward in celebration.
- Guatemala is ground zero for chocolate. The first chocolate bar was invented there during Mayan times.
- Guatemala has the second-highest concentration of ozone in the world, according to The Economist magazine’s The World in 2007.
- The native indigenous have a statue they worship called Mashimom, a little guy with a mustache dressed in a suit who wears hat. The locals give him cigars and alcohol so he will bless them.
- About 60% of the population does not know how to read or write.
- Instant coﬀee was invented by a Guatemalan.
- The majority of the Guatemalan population lives in extreme poverty and has virtually no access to medical care.
The Guatemalan Connection
Over the years, FIP has developed a deep respect for the medical, clergy, and administrative Guatemalan staff as they seek to meet the needs of the poor. We are honored to join them in this mission. Each year, nearly 900 Guatemalan volunteers work beside FIP volunteers in this endeavor. FIP Practice teams see more than 25,000 patients annually. FIP volunteers serve through a variety of teams that are connected, providing a continuity of care in the context of short-term medical mission.
How you can help
Perhaps you can’t go to Guatemala, but you want to help. Please pray for us. A blog will be kept of the events of the day, a link will be provided in the Messiah Minute. Although some supplies are donated, each medical mission trip costs about $30,000. If you would like to contribute toward supplies, Faith in Practice is a 501(c)(3) organization, and contributions are deductible for tax purposes. Faith in Practice has been rated a Four Star Charity by Charity Navigator. All contributions go to the mission.
If you would like to donate to this cause, there will be an informational seminar when our Messiah Lutheran missionaries return. Thank-you for sending me on this mission trip. It is inspiring to see God’s work in the world. I look forward to my return February 16 when I can share what Messiah is doing through this ministry.
Pastor Jason Talsness
All About Our New Look and Logo
Have you noticed the new masthead on this month’s newsletter? This is part of a larger eﬀort to further establish a “look” or “brand” for our congregation.
We live in a rapidly transforming age and the way churches communicate has changed greatly in recent years. There was a time when churches informed solely via paper and ink: the weekly bulletin and monthly newsletter. Today most churches have a website and a weekly email in addition to the bulletin and newsletter. This incorporation of digital pathways means congregations need to reflect who they are visually by way of fonts, icons, logos and pictures.
A verse connected to this discussion is from a small Old Testament book Habakkuk. The prophet reports: ” Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.” Habakkuk 2:2
In this passage, the Lord has given Habakkuk a vision, but the vision needs to be plain and understandable to the extent that a runner can read it while speeding by. It isn’t enough just to have a vision of what God wants; the vision needs to be immediately interpretable. This verse translates well to our time and place, where people are rushing from one thing to the next. Messiah needs a clear and defined image that connects to our congregation.
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wound you have been healed. I Peter 2:24”
Our new logo proclaims boldly what centers us: Messiah’s cross. It is the focal point of our worship space where we address God in prayer and praise. Assembled from various types of wood, it is symbolic of our congregation — people from diﬀerent places gathered together to be the body of Christ at Messiah Lutheran Church. The cross is where God meets us as Jesus Christ crucified and risen, bringing us abundant and eternal life.
The backdrop of our logo ties in with the green-blue color palette of our sanctuary.
The words “Messiah Lutheran Church” seek to be both new and old at the same time, reflecting our stable but relevant presence in the community. The “Skidaway Island” script is a bit whimsical, reminding us of the joy our unique setting brings.
We also have a logo that encapsulates our mission statement, which states: In the name of Jesus, welcome everyone, grow in faith, support one another, serve others.
These visual tools don’t change who we are. The content of our mission remains the same but how it is presented and portrayed does change, giving us a fresh and inviting look. I hope you agree.
Gratefully Yours, Pastor Jason Talsness
Among the many joys of this season is the music. Christmas songs are in the air, around us wherever we go, whatever we are doing: on the radio, in the stores, and at home. Some Christmas songs have nothing to do with the sacred. Instead, the focus is on “Christmas time in the city” or “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Other songs are about the faith, many of which we can remember hearing on our first handful of Christmases. Some songs are quiet and reflective such as “Silent Night” and “Away in a Manger.” Others are full of energy, such as “Joy to the World” and “Angels we Have Heard on High.” We love these songs in part because they remind us of prior Christmases. But we mainly love them because of the messages they contain, that Christ was born in Bethlehem, Emanuel, which means “God with us.”
We call Christmas songs “carols,” which is a word with French roots. Carols are defined as songs that are religious, seasonal, and originally connected to dance. There used to be carols for other occasions. Today, carols are synonymous with Christmas. As curious as the word “carol” might seem today (after all, no one sings any Thanksgiving carols!), it doesn’t take much of a cognitive jump to connect “carols” to “chorale.” Christmas carols are treasures, over hundreds of years they’ve been collected and added to the pool of Christmas songs we call upon during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. But what was the first Christmas Carol? “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” is among the oldest with the text dating to the fifth century and the tune dating to medieval Europe’s monastic plainchant.
But there is one carol older than that. We know that the first hymn sung about Christmas was by Jesus’ mother. Upon hearing from the angel Gabriel about her being chosen by God to bear the Christ-child, Mary broke out into praise about her son Jesus in Luke chapter 1. This song is called “The Magnificat” due to the Latin translation of the first verse: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Mary, pregnant with Jesus, sings of what this savior will accomplish.
On Wednesdays this month we will feature Advent midweek gatherings, starting at 6:00 p.m. We will have a light supper followed at 6:30 p.m. by worship in the Fellowship Hall, ending at 7:00. We will be using an acclaimed worship setting, Holden Evening Prayer, and during a brief message consider this first Christmas carol. Each week we will consider The Magnificat. Here is the schedule for the themes:
Dec. 6: Luke 1:46-49 God will raise our spirits. Dec. 13: Luke 1:50-53 God will turn things around and upside down Dec. 20: Luke 1:54-56 God will be Faithful
This year, as we sing these familiar songs from yesteryear, we do well to hearken back to that first Christmas carol. In this song, Mary sings of the greatness of God, how Christ will come to right the wrongs of the world, and she proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness. As we enter the frenzy of the season, Mary grounds us in what Christmas is all about.
Have a Merry Christmas, Pastor Jason Talsness
Much of our congregation’s focus for this year has been on the Reformation, as this coming October marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses. It has been a healthy exercise for us to re-examine our identity and heritage as Lutheran Christians.But nagging questions persist pertaining to the question of Lutheran identity.
Does Lutheranism still matter? Is all this focus on the Reformation just an exercise in history, with little impact or relevance to today? We live in a culture that is increasingly indifferent to matters of the faith. Denominational identity is even less of a concern. Surely, I’m not the only one who regularly encounters those Christians who not only say, but even boast of being in a non-denominational church.
To be clear, it is more important that one be a Christian. Denominations are merely adjectives that describe the important part, the noun “Christian.” Yet we know that the main factor when people choose a church is not who the pastor is or the type of music. Instead, the main factor is what the church believes and teaches*.
So later this month we will begin a sermon series, called “Reclaiming Lutheranism,” that seeks to articulate why Lutheranism still matters. Instead of being a discussion of history full of dates from the 1500s and a lot of terms in Latin, my goal is to apply Lutheran principles to today’s church. The schedule is below.
o August 20 – In Defense of Dogma
o August 27 – A Confession: Jesus is Lord
o September 3 – Everyone is Welcome
o September 10 – Love Changes People
o September 17 – Everyone has Something to Offer
o September 24 – The World Needs Jesus
The basis for this series is a great little book called RECLAIMING the “L” WORD by Kelly Fryer. I invite you to get a copy and read it, the perfect accompaniment to the series.
My hope for the series is that together we will gain an appreciation for what we believe and why, and even more importantly, how such principles are expressed in our lives today, both as individuals and collectively as Christ’s church.
See You in Worship, Pastor Jason Talsness
* SEE: American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Putnam and Campbell