Do Not Be Afraid...
"Do not be afraid," the angel told Zechariah, the old priest who was about to receive a great promise. "Do not be afraid," the angel told Mary, the young woman who was about to be blessed with one of the greatest, most terrifying callings any person has ever heard. "Do not be afraid," the angel told the shepherds, those men watching their flocks by night who were about to hear the greatest news of all and see the glory of heaven's fireworks.
Over the last month or so, we have been bombarded with news that is enough to make anymore cower in fear. From terrorist attacks to near-daily, senseless shootings, from the breakdown of civil discourse to rumors of economic uncertainty, the news leads us to all fear all the time. We never know what will happen next and when or where the other shoe will drop. It is only natural that we should be afraid: afraid for our lives, afraid for our children, afraid for our freedom, afraid for our home, afraid for our world, afraid, afraid, afraid. Everywhere we turn, it is overwhelming fear that we find.
Yet the message we repeatedly hear as we approach Christmas reading Luke's account of Jesus' birth is "Do not be afraid..." It almost sounds absurd in the darkness of the fear we feel, but the message is there refusing to be ignored. And it is not a new message but rather one of the most ancient and consistent messages that God has given to the people of God. Time and again, the message is clear - "Do not be afraid!" - and there in the angel's message to the shepherds we overhear the reason why: "Do not be afraid... for today in the town of David a Savior is born to you!" Because of Jesus and what he has done for us, we have no reason to fear no matter how frightening the world may become. As Charles Wesley wrote in one of his great hymns, Jesus is "the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease." Jesus has freed us from the bondage of our fears so that we may truly love. As John wrote to the church, there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out all fear.
The angel's voice calls down to us through the generations: "Do not be afraid!" As we approach Christmas all the while continuing to witness the fearful news of the world, may the love of Christ so fill our hearts and cast out our fears that we may reflect his love into the dark fears that surround us!
Blessings on the journey, Jim
God's Christmas List
What would be on God's Christmas list? What did the prophets tell us God wants, and what was God up to just before the birth of Jesus? We are exploring these questions as we prepare for the coming of Christmas.
Last Week's Sermon Snippet: Love
(Hosea 11:1-4; Luke 1:26-38)
It is no surprise that we can expect that love would be on God's Christmas list. God wants us to be loved and to love one another. Yet love is one of those words that is so often misunderstood and sometimes even maligned. We often think of love as just a stronger version of the word "like" - I like ice cream, but I love mint chocolate chip. We believe that someone or something has to be good or special in some way to be deserving of our love. Love is often seen as weak and mushy. In real life, love is impractical because there are many people we do not even like and many times when getting even seems to be the only strong response. Yet the story of Hosea - at its core a love story - tells us about a different idea of love. Hosea was told by God to marry the prostitute Gomer. When she left him and went to another man, Hosea went after her and brought her back home. This is a symbol of God's love for us. We may stray from God, but God comes after us and does whatever it takes to bring us back home. Hosea 11 tells the story of God's love for us as a parent who tenderly cares for a child, teaching him to walk, healing his wounds, feeding him, and holding him up against a warm cheek - all this despite the way the child wanders off and ignores the care of the parent. These stories of love tell us the truth about love: 1) love says more about the one who loves than it does about the one who is loved, 2) love is strong because it fights for the beloved and has to endure the inevitable heartache that comes from truly loving with abandon, and 3) love seeks the best for the one who is loved whether they want it - or "deserve" it - or not. That is what God wants for us and from us - to be loved and to love with abandon.
Looking Ahead: Joy
Over the last couple weeks, we have looked at God's Christmas list in terms of what God wants to give us in the gift of Christmas. This week, we turn our attention to something God wants not just for us but to enjoy personally: "Joy!" God wants to take joy in us, who we are, what we do, and our relationship. What can we do to wrap up the gift of joy for God? Join us this Sunday as we continue reading through God's Christmas list!
Bible Basics: How to Read the Bible
The Bible is a special kind of book. We believe that it is more than just a book that tells us some facts about history or a list of rules to follow. The Bible is a living book - the Living Word - and it speaks to us in our lives today in new ways. How do we read the Bible for more than just information? How do we find comfort and inspiration and the challenge to live transformed lives in it? Join us in Sunday School this week as we explore the Living Word!
Living in Community
This Week at Port Church
Wednesday, December 9
9:30-2:00 - Office Hours
Thursday, December 10
9:30-12:00 - Office Hours
Sunday, December 13
9:30 am - Worship: "God's Christmas List: Joy"
Don't forget to bring you gently used winter shoes to share with those who are homeless
and items for the Food Pantry Christmas Baskets.
11 am - Sunday School
Join our Adult Sunday School Class as Pastor Jim teaches on "Bible Basics!"
6:30 pm - Christmas Program with Spotswood High Choir
Come enjoy the music, sing along, and savor some homemade cookies!
Freewill offering to support Spotswood High Choir.
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!