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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12242014 Christmas Eve Late Service

Sermon Audio

December 24, 2014
Why celebrate?
Gracious, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  As we come to celebrate Your birth in Bethlehem, open our hearts to You in a more deep and profound way on this Christmas Eve!  AMEN.

Tonight we gather to celebrate and remember the real reason for the season, Jesus Christ.  As we gather here at the church, around the Advent Wreath with the White Candle and especially around the manger, a question comes to mind.  Why celebrate?

For what reason does the church always set aside Christmas Eve to celebrate Jesus birth?  In our current culture our society takes potshots at the validity of Jesus for us today.  Philosophers use logic and social norms to justify the need to forget Jesus.  Our modern capitalistic world brings out Christmas in September.  Sales begin in earnest the week of and especially the days after Thanksgiving.  People put up displays and figurines in their yards and homes and we have parades, weeks and even sometimes before Thanksgiving calling them Christmas Parades, only to take our displays and decorations down December 26th.

But the reality is Christmas doesn’t start in September, October, November or even most of December.  The real Christmas season starts tonight, December 24th at sunset.  But I return to the question, “Why celebrate?”  Why should the church and members of congregations across the globe celebrate Christmas?  Why should we the people of Emmanuel celebrate?

When Apollo 8, launched on December 21, 1968, the three men who left the earth’s gravitational pull for the first time embarked on a mission of historic proportion.  On December 24th, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders while circling the moon, shared the beginning of Genesis where God created the World.  In sharing the Creation story, the astronauts shared their faith as well as celebrated an achievement on the path to man’s setting foot on the moon only 7 months later.

Tonight we celebrate a milestone on the path of salvation history for all of mankind.  Here before us is a manger that represents our celebrating a gift and especially a milestone.  But, I return to the question, ‘why celebrate’?  We celebrate Christmas, because God has come to visit!  We celebrate Christmas, because, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to die for you and for me.  We celebrate, because God comes offering Himself for all of mankind and it begins in the manger and is ultimately and eternally fulfilled on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind including you and for me.

God in offering us the gift of His Son, gives us the best reason to celebrate.  Whether soldiers who are far from home walking the line to insure our safety.  Police officers, first responders, nurses, medical staff or even those working in Good Samaritan or Wheat Ridge, God came for all of them and for each of us gathered here this evening. 

So tonight we celebrate both as a witness for our culture, and because of God’s gift to us in the manger.  Let’s share this gift and celebrate with our hearts, heads and voices and with the choir of angels who gather tonight to proclaim, for all of mankind and for all of us saints gathered here a true saying.  “Emmanuel” – God is with us!  AMEN!

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12242014 Christmas Eve Early Service

Sermon Audio

December 24, 2014
Christ our Light and Life Preserver!
Gracious God, as we gather this Christmas Eve night may we not only come to celebrate Jesus birth, but worship our King of Kings and Lord of Lords that lies in the manger.  AMEN!

When Christmas Eve was celebrated by some families in cultures across the globe, the one thing that all could do was light candles.  Even here in Northwest Kansas, some members of Emmanuel recently shared their remembering actual candles being lit on the Christmas trees at church and having to have a bucket of water handy and a watchman just in case the candles tipped.  Candles when used on trees to celebrate Christmas or cakes to count years always had a purpose.  This Christmas Eve the candles we use here in the church have a purpose as well.

Tonight, we light not only the four candles that form the circle of the Advent Wreath, but we add an additional candle.  A white Candle symbolizing the birth of Jesus Christ.  This White Candle sits in the center of the circle of light, because Jesus Christ should be at the center of each of our lives.  Jesus Christ came into the world in a lowly manger in Bethlehem not only to fulfill the promises of the prophets of the Old Testament, but to be the all atoning sacrifice for all of mankind.  Jesus Christ remembered with this white candle is the spotless Lamb of God that came to take away the sin of the World.  The White Candle is a symbol of Jesus Christ purity from conception, to birth, in life and especially in His death on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.

Jesus Christ is represented by this white Candle, because Jesus Christ is the light of our world.  Jesus Christ is the light that brightens the darkness that surrounds us and is the beacon we need daily.  Just as ships need the light from a lighthouse to not only warn of the danger of reefs and shoals, Jesus Christ is the light shining into our darkness.  This is why lighthouse keepers jobs were extremely important, they insured the light given off by the lighthouse would not go out no matter the conditions.  This helped prevent ships from hitting anything that would sink them and cause the loss of revenue, but especially life.

The War story from the Battle of the Java Sea is told of how a ship of sailors on stormy seas was torpedoed by an enemy ship.  116 sailors jumped into the water in order to escape certain death and clung to rafts and floating debris in the oil filled water to stay afloat and alive.  Three rescue ships tried in desperation to help, but were helpless, until the actions of one man.  The man began to throw life preservers to the survivors who could be heard in the darkness.  Normally in daylight one could see the life preserver easily, but in the darkness, it seemed only like desperation.  But the life preservers used were special, they had a light attached.  The light attached guided not only the men to the life preserver, but also guided the three ships to the survivors from the torpedoed ship.  Those 116 lights were beacons in the darkness that surrounded those men and saved all of the survivors of the sunken ship.

Brother’s and Sisters in Christ, Jesus Christ is our life preserver, for us and all of mankind.  Jesus Christ is the light for each and every one of us in the darkness of our world.  Tonight we come to celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ.  In a few minutes we will light our individual candles.  Our candles are our individual and collective reminder for each of us of how Jesus Christ is our light for each of us in this world.  May we as we light our candles, do so to be the beacon for our world in order that others might be saved, just as Jesus Christ has saved each of us.  For Jesus Christ is our life preserver and came in a manger in order to save us and be the light for all of mankind, but especially each of us who light our candles this Christmas Eve night here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

12212014 Advent 4 - Rorate coeli - The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Sermon Audio

December 21, 2014
How do you show your love?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

It is intriguing that every week in the Fall of the year, the networks carry football games that are filled with clear expressions of brute strength.  Last night my mother and I watched some of one game where the trainers consistently were on the field because of injury.  The players hit one another with a clear sense of determination, intensity and strength that even some televisions resonate with the hits through the stereo surround sound.  But on the sidelines and up in the stands, there are some who watch the event who hold up signs that are the polar opposite of the at times seemingly brutal hits on the field.  The signs are common place today that say, “John 3:16”.  It is one of the best known passages, because it simply states the Gospel message clearly and can be shown and recognized quickly.  The passage reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” 

So well-known is this passage that I would venture it is the most translated passage of the Bible.  But for we who gather here this morning, it has a different meaning.  In our series on the Advent Wreath, we come to the last of the four candles.  In previous weeks we have learned about the Hope we have in Jesus Christ, Preparing Him room in our lives for Jesus and the Joy we can find in His Gift to us of His life, but now we reach the last and greatest of the four candles.  The Candle of Love.  This candle clearly epitomizes the feeling of this season of the Church Year.  For in Jesus Christ coming to the earth, His love is clearly manifest and unmistakable of His willingness to come to save mankind.

This is why so many people not only gravitate to and memorize John 3:16, but use it to tell the truth of the Gospel for all of mankind.  This is why Jesus Christ came to earth over 2000 years ago.  Jesus came because of His great love for all of us.  Jesus Christ love for us cannot be measured because Jesus love for all of mankind is limitless.  In mathematical terms God’s love would be represented by the infinity sign, the one that looks like an eight on its side.  For God, Who has no beginning and no end, has a love for us that has no beginning and has no end.  If you would ask someone who has lived surrounded by trees all their life and all of a sudden move to a place like Montana or even here in Northwestern Kansas where trees are rare, they would say they felt like they could see for miles or to the ends of the earth.  God’s love also will never end.

The last of the Advent Candles clearly sums up all of the candles on the Advent Wreath in a simple four letter word of LOVE!  God’s love overflows and overcomes all not out of coercion, but out of the sheer reality that God’s love is clearly manifest in Jesus Christ coming in the manger in Bethlehem.  As we have seen throughout these four weeks each candle has a different and unique meaning and understanding, but this week we come to the center of God’s core, His love for all of mankind.

We see and experience today the mercy of God for mankind from the Garden of Eden made manifest for each of us that is fulfilled and made complete in the manger.  When we see all four candles lit and fully understand the significance of each of them and the fullness we find with all of them aflame, we are overcome with the reality that God loves each and every one of us so deeply and profoundly.  God’s love is so complete we can only be overcome by God’s grace and respond on bended knee at the manger where His Son Jesus Christ lies wrapped in swaddling clothes.

For only on bended knee at the manger can we clearly see and understand the depth to which our God will go to bring us home to be with Him in His Kingdom.  God’s sending His Son into the world to save all of mankind has one goal in mind, our being with Him to learn from Him the unconditional love He has for all of mankind.  This especially includes all of us saints gathered to light the Candle of Love on this the Fourth Sunday of Advent here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12172014 Wednesday of Advent 3

No Sermon Audio - Due to Cancelled Service

December 17, 2014
What spices your life?
May the offering of our time to be in the presence of our Lord be a blessing not only for our lives, but also our souls as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the entrance of the King of Kings!  AMEN.

One of the most cherished items I have as a Pastor here at Emmanuel, I received, not at my ordination, nor on an anniversary or milestone event in my life.  It isn’t something that takes up a lot of room.  But the significance of it brings full circle the last three weeks of our Advent Series.

We began talking about Gold and how we should offer, not materialistic things, but our very selves to God.  Last week we asked, what do you smell?  When frankincense was offered to Jesus Christ, it was a prophecy of His future as our High Priest.  And finally this evening we come to Myrrh.

For me as a Pastor, my most prized possession that I carry to minister to the saints of Emmanuel is the oil of anointing I have in a communion set bought for the church.  Anointing with oil is an ancient practice in the church that even the Apostles alluded to after Jesus return to heaven.  The Apostles would send the elders of the church to sick members to read scripture, but also make the sign of the Cross over their foreheads and hearts.  It was a clear reminder for the people that they were the redeemed children of God.

Not only were they redeemed, but the sick would have read to them from the Gospels, Psalms and sung hymns to remind them of their baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  This reminder is where the people of God are clearly connected, not only to the Apostles, but to the last gift given to Jesus Christ by the Magi.

For the Magi’s gifts, all three, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh are important, but this last gift takes on special significance.  Myrrh was not only used as a means to make people’s clothes smell better, for they did not like our current culture take showers or baths every morning or evening.  But Myrrh was used by families specifically at a time of an individual’s life that was at the exact opposite of birth.  Myrrh was one of the spices used for embalming.

The Magi in inspiration from God brought the gift of Myrrh as a further prophecy of Jesus death.  Not only was this a foretelling of Jesus death, but for Jesus it was meant to be a clear reminder of His life as a sacrifice.  Jesus coming down from heaven was a clear sacrifice of epic proportions.  Jesus Christ chose to come to the earth, be born of a virgin, live in poverty, be baptized by John the Baptist, heal the sick and minister to the poor.  In Jesus Christ coming down from heaven He fulfilled the plan of salvation for all of mankind.  For in Jesus Christ being born in a manger and receiving the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, He received not only the gifts, but chose to die in order that we might live.

For this gift of Myrrh given by the Magi points clearly to His death over 30 years later.  And this gift was given not only as a reminder for them, but for us as well.  One day we will die.  But for we who have been baptized into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection, death no longer has dominion over us.  Because of Jesus Christ, death no longer has sway over us, we are set free and this gift of Myrrh is the reminder for us of this fact as we gather here this last Wednesday night of Advent.

Recently, I visited one individual who certainly needs not only our prayer, but also the reminder of their baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  You see death is very close for them and my visits are the opportunity not only to remind them of God’s promises, but to retell why Jesus Christ came into this world in a lowly manger.  When I visit them there is one song that clearly reminds them of this fact and reality and I share it every time.  “Jesus loves me this I know”.  This song not only reminds them of Jesus love for them, but also of Jesus willingness to come in a lowly manger and receive the three gifts of the Magi of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.

May we as we prepare for our celebration of Jesus birth, be reminded and comforted with the reality that we are only sojourners on this earth and the Gifts of the Magi are but reminders of another sojourner, Jesus Christ.  For He came to sacrifice Himself for us in order that we might have eternal life with Him in His kingdom.  And His gift to us of Himself was for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel on this last Wednesday of Advent in 2014.  AMEN.

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

12142014 Advent 3 Gaudete Sunday - The Third Sunday of Advent

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

December 14, 2014
What joy do you have?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

When I first arrived here at Emmanuel one of the first church celebrations I had the opportunity to celebrate in the first two months was Christmas.  Not only here in the church proper, but also with the saints at Wheat Ridge.  Since that time I have not only visited and celebrated Holy Communion with the saints both at Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan, but joyfully proclaimed Christ and Him crucified for many who now make heaven their eternal home.  The reality is each time I do visit Wheat Ridge, Good Samaritan and even elderly members of our congregation, I receive a great joy in reminding them that they are part Emmanuel and especially members of the Body of Christ!  They are part of our fellowship and I have the greatest pleasure to bring the joy of Christ for and to them during every visit.

Today we light the third Candle of the Advent Wreath.  The third Candle is known as the Shepherd’s Candle or the Candle of Joy.  For my family growing up and many others, the third candle was pink on the Advent Wreath.  This candle has special significance because of the reminder of the Joy of the Angels.

Remember in the account of Luke that tells of the sky being full with Angels proclaiming the birth of the Savior.  This is so impactful even listening to it as a child.  The joy the angels and others must have felt when they heralded Jesus entrance into the world.  At a congregation in Western New York, on Christmas Eve there would be from the balcony a trumpet sounding the joy of the moment.  This would not only raise the collective hairs and goose bumps on many people’s necks, but clearly elicit the joy of the moment of the heavens clearly proclaiming Jesus birth.

When I was in Israel as a student, this passage took on new meaning for me personally.  Our tour group that had been in the Holy Land for days and enjoyed visiting the most sacred sites gathered together shoulder to shoulder huddled in nothing more than a cave, an underground cavern.  Very similar to what the shepherds would keep their sheep in to protect them from the marauders of the night.  In that cave, in the dim light, the proclamation of the angels was recited from memory from the King James Version.  And in that one moment all who heard, clearly connected not only with the joy of the shepherds, but especially the joy of the message shared of Jesus Christ birth in Bethlehem for all of mankind.

My question for we who gather here this morning, “What joy do you have?”  As we light this the Shepherd or Candle of Joy, “What joy do you have?”  Clearly we could say, it is the message of Jesus birth, but that was over 2000 years ago our society would respond.  But for we who gather here in the church and light the Advent Wreath, now with three candles, our Joy can have new and greater depth and meaning.

When we look through the lens of the fulfillment of the promised Messiah, just as Joy filled Elizabeth with the entrance of her cousin Mary who carried Jesus in the Womb, we to can have that joy.  For today we gather here to let the joy of Christ overflow from within us.  We look to this wreath of greenery, now with three of the four candles lit, knowing that in ten days we will gather to celebrate Jesus entrance into the World.  We will sing the songs of joy and light our candles and clearly with unmistakable hearts and voices raised, sing “Joy to the World”!

God wants us to not only have the joy, but share the joy!  This morning, we have heard the children singing, telling of the coming Christ and those children are our future.  The children are our joy and we not only have an obligation to teach them the stories, but share the joy God first placed into each of our hearts.  And that joy came in our baptism into Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection.  This is the fount of all blessings and the joy that God clearly shares with each and every one of us.

May we who gather here this morning not only come to bask in the glow of the lights of the Candles of the Advent Wreath, but also share in the joy given to us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ came into this world in a lowly manger to save all of mankind, including all of us joy filled saints gathered here this Third Sunday of Advent.  AMEN.

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is our culture discipling our church instead of our discipling our members?

Alan Hirsch makes some really good points on "Disciple Making", the church NEEDS to change!!!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

12102014 Wednesday of Advent 2

Sermon Audio

December 10, 2014
What do you smell?
May the offering of our time to be in the presence of our Lord be a blessing not only for our lives, but also our souls as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the entrance of the King of Kings!  AMEN.

As a child, I remember going up into my Grandmother’s attic during one of our visits to Northeast Iowa.  Up there she had boxes of trinkets and treasures that were there for the exploration of young children.  One such item that always caught our interest as kids was a trunk.  This was not a small foot locker that we are accustomed to see these days in Wal-Mart, but the old Steamer Trunks.  It was a relic from the old country.  You see my Grandparents came separately to America through Baltimore on ships from the Czech Republic as young children.  Like most who travelled the oceans all their family’s worldly possessions were crammed into a steamer trunk to keep them safe until they arrived in the New World.

When we would open the steamer trunk the first thing that we noticed, wasn’t the clothes, the memorabilia or mementoes, but it was the smell.  It was not the smell that assaults us when we go by a feed lot or dairy farm, but the smell of old clothes and long ago perfumes that wafts through the air.  The kind of smell that is clear nostalgia of a by gone era.

This evening the second gift in our series of the Gifts of the Magi is of Frankincense.  Clearly Frankincense has a smell, not of ‘old clothes’ or ‘steamer trunks’, but a fragrance and aroma that people of the Old Testament knew well.  Frankincense was used in the Temple and prior to that Aaron’s people used it when there was not a place for God’s Glory to dwell.  During the time of the Exodus from Egypt when the people were wandering in the desert Frankincense was used as a fragrant offering to God.  The clear use of Frankincense in the Temple meant it was a priestly aroma, meant for God.

When the Magi presented Frankincense this gift was presented on bended knee for God the Son born in a manger.  By presenting Frankincense to Jesus Christ born in the manger the Magi foretold what Jesus would be doing when He grew older.  We have all heard the story of Jesus staying behind in Jerusalem when older and being found in the Temple with the leaders of the Jewish Synagogue.  They saw great wisdom that came from Jesus, beyond His very years.  And this gift of Frankincense as the fragrant offering, was exactly that what Jesus would be known as for we who gather here this evening.

Jesus is our High Priest.  Jesus goes before the Father for each and every one of us.  Though born in a manger in the lowest of circumstances, Jesus Christ took on His humanity and was humble in His beginnings.  But with the presentation of the Gift of Frankincense was a prophecy of what Jesus would be for we Who gather here tonight.

Frankincense offered in the sacrifice indicated how Jesus would be sacrificed for you and for me on the Cross of Calvary for our sins.  The fragrant offering Jesus Christ made in order that we might live would fulfill the plan of salvation and set us free from the bondage of sin, death and the devil.  We through Jesus perfect sacrifice are offered grace and mercy beyond what we deserve.  And in Jesus sacrifice it is a pleasing aroma for His Father in heaven.  All pointed to with the opening of a simple yet profound gift of Frankincense by the Magi.

May we who gather here this evening as we smell the pleasing aromas of the meals, the cookies, cakes and goodies of the season, remember the pleasing aroma of Frankincense given to Jesus Christ.  For Jesus Christ came in the manger, was given the gift of Frankincense, chose to offer Himself and is the reason for the season.  Jesus Christ is the pleasing aroma of our God Who came as our sacrifice to set all of mankind free, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this Second Wednesday of Advent evening.  AMEN.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

12072014 Advent 2 - POPULUS ZION - The Second Sunday in Advent

Gospel Audio
Sermon Audio

December 7, 2014
Are you prepared for Jesus Christ?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

A few weeks ago I told of how Michele and I are preparing for my parents visit in a few weeks.  Like with any visit whether relatives or with friends for an evening meal, there is anticipation and there is perspiration.  The one takes place inside of ourselves and sometimes keeps us up at night, the other is the work that we have to complete with our hands and by the sweat of our brow before their arrival.  But all of this connects clearly with our Advent Worship.

This week we continue our series of the Advent Candles and contemplate the second candle.  It is sometimes known as the Candle of Preparation or the Bethlehem Candle.  We need to ask ourselves as we prepare during this Advent season, “Are we prepared for Jesus Christ?”

When I visited with Edna Snethen in the hospital last year about this time, she and I talked about the coming of Jesus Christ and our return to Him in heaven.  We both agreed that we do not know the day nor the hour of His return, nor do we know when we will be called home to be with Him.  Yet, though we do not know when, we both agreed that we still needed to be prepared.  And this Candle of Preparation we light this morning is just that, a reality check for us who gather here today that we need to be prepared for Jesus return.

Each of our lessons this morning reflects, refines and refocuses this concept of preparation and concentrates us on the reality of our need for preparation.  Just like a magnifying lens used to capture the sunlight and focus its rays, our lessons illuminate the reality of our need of preparation for Jesus coming in the manger.  For the King cometh, Jesus Christ is coming and we need to be prepared.  Just like farmers in the spring after a winter slumber check the irrigation towers and pivots and get out the planters and make sure they are serviced, repaired and ready to plant the corn or milo to insure a crop in the fall.  So to in the church and in our individual lives during Advent we need to prepare and be prepared for Jesus entrance in Bethlehem.

Sure, we look to the manger and say, this is only a Child.  Yet, this Child Who lays apparently helpless in the manger is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  This is Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh Who dwells among mankind.  Jesus Christ comes to offer each and every one of us life and salvation.  Jesus Christ takes on His Humanity beginning as each of us began as babes, but this is no ordinary Child, this is the Savior of the World that we find in the manger in Bethlehem.

In our lighting this Candle of Preparation, we prepare, not only the wreath counting down the weeks until our celebration of Christmas, but also the preparation of our hearts and homes for the entrance of the King.  We light the Candle of Preparation and of Hope because this is God’s fulfillment of His promise of a Savior to come down to earth and save us.  We light the Advent Wreath to be a beacon for Goodland where we live and our church community in which we gather to partake of His precious Body and Blood.  We light the Candles because we live in a world full of darkness that is filled with fallen humanity in need of the light of Christ.  The Advent Wreath leads us down the path of remembering and preparing for Jesus and sharing why He comes in a lowly manger.

For Jesus Christ is the light that breaks the bonds of darkness and shows us the way to Him.  Jesus Christ is the light of the World.  We prepare and light our Advent Wreath candles in preparation of His entrance not only in a manger in Bethlehem, but especially into each of our hearts.  We light our Advent Wreath in order to pass on to the future, our children our history and heritage and especially our faith in our King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

We light simple candles in a circular wreath in order to lighten our path and our journey to the manger to meet our Savior.  For our Savior, Jesus Christ comes offering us grace and forgiveness and we remember this not only with our wreath of candles, but around and from the Altar.  For Jesus Christ offers in, with and under His Body and Blood the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, not for a select few, but for all of mankind.  And we are empowered to share this with our fallen world, including all of mankind, but especially all of us saints who come to light the Advent candles in preparation on this the Second Sunday in Advent here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

12032014 Wednesday of Advent 1

Sermon Audio

December 3, 2014
What are you offering?
May the offering of our time to be in the presence of our Lord be a blessing not only for our lives, but also our souls as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of the entrance of the King of Kings!  AMEN.

Archimedes solved the question of a crime by simple density.  Farmers use density to determine how much fertilizer or phosphorous to put on a field.  And cities use density to determine how best to structure the utilities needed to supply a city with water, electricity and roads.  But what does density have to do with Gold.  Gold is one of the densest of precious metals.  And Gold is exactly what was offered by the first of the three wise men.

Tonight we begin our first of the three gifts of the Magi.  Typically the gifts and preaching on them is after Christmas, because the Magi and the gifts did not arrive on the scene of the inn in Bethlehem until January 6th, the 12th Day of Christmas.  But I chose these three gifts to preach upon, because they deserve more than just one day and one sermon.  These gifts have greater meaning and significance even for us here tonight.

The first gift of Gold is not only a priceless metal, but a color that denotes being set apart from others.  We use it on the Altar to highlight the symbols on the Altar.  We wear it on our fingers for wedding bands and even ear rings.  Our society even keeps accurate track of it daily on the reports from the stock exchange where countries used to not only stock pile gold, but use it as the basis for our money.  But of what significance is Gold for a child?  Why are the Magi offering it?  And most importantly during this Advent Season we have to answer the simple question, “What are you offering?”

Simply the gift of Gold offered to the Christ child in the manger is not to ‘buy favors’ by the Magi.  Just as we present our offering on Sunday not to gain favor, Gold was how one Magi presented a wealth that would be a great help to Joseph and Mary.  Remember Joseph and Mary did not arrive in Bethlehem by caravan, but alone and by Mary riding upon a donkey.  They did not have extravagant wealth only what they carried on their backs or in their meager purse.  The journey they were about to embark upon in fleeing to Egypt would not be cheap and the Gold offered by the Magi would insure they would not starve and be able to get established wherever they were headed, even to distant Egypt.  And the Magi was just the person God intended to use.

Chris Jackson in his book, “Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church” says, “People are the most common form of answered prayer.” (Kindle Location 1941)  And I believe Joseph and Mary didn’t know what to think.  Having experienced the Shepherds who came from the fields, the animals that bowed in adoration with the birth of Jesus, the Angels announcing the birth of Jesus Christ, the only thing their Jewish faith and heritage taught Mary and Joseph to do was to pray.  And these Magi were an answer to prayer.  This was God’s answer to Joseph and Mary and God used this Magi to bring Gold, exactly what they needed for the days, months and years ahead.

So I ask we who gather here this Wednesday evening during the first week of Advent, what gift do you bring to the Manger?  What are you offering?  God does not expect Gold.  God does not expect us to sell the land we farm, the cattle we tend, nor anything that has any materialistic value here on this earth.  God only asks us to humbly offer ourselves.

God wants us to offer ourselves so we can be used like the Gold given to Joseph and Mary in order for each and every one of us to be the hands of Christ for our world around us.  Whether it is remodeling the downstairs rooms of the church or kitchen, hands to make beer rocks as a fundraiser, cleaning the church in preparation for our Christmas celebration or donating of time or talents as one is able for the glory of God.  God only asks for us to offer ourselves in humble adoration of His coming in the manger.

For in offering ourselves on bended knee, like the animals in the stable and the Magi, our gifts offered from the heart will give the greatest Glory to our God Jesus Christ Who lies in the manger.  For Jesus Christ comes, not expecting gifts of great monetary worth measured from an earthly perspective, but great gifts measured from an eternal perspective, God’s perspective.

May we respond to “what are you offering?” not with Gold, but with ourselves so we can honor God’s gift given to us in a lowly manger for all of mankind.  Including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this First Wednesday of Advent.  AMEN.

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//trial script