A New Year… A New You?

So, here we are. Winding down Christmas… only 6 more days to go. New Year’s is coming up really soon as well. And what do we like to do around New Year’s? We like to make resolutions. We want to start the new year with our best intentions to being a better person! Maybe we want to lose a little weight. Maybe we want to be in better shape. Maybe we want to eat better. Maybe we want to have a better attitude in some situations. What sort of resolutions do you make?

Then what is the joke a few weeks in? “Have you broken your resolutions yet?”

Sure, some people are able to keep on the path to a better lifestyle. But many, many people just don’t make it. You want proof about people struggling to make adjustments to the their lifestyle? Go to the gym on January 2nd and try to get on one of the treadmills. See how long you have to wait. Then, go back on February 2nd and see how long the wait is then. Gym owners they must love January with all the new memberships they sell.
I’d love to lose a little weight, I’ve been considering it for some time now. At least I think I’d love to, I haven’t really done anything to achieve weight loss. I suppose I could join a gym for a few weeks then not go back again to see if that helps. For some reason, just wishing for some weight to drop off my body doesn’t seem to be working. I mean, I’m eating all the same stuff I always have. I haven’t changed my lifestyle any. I don’t see why it’s not working!

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What If?

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

Tonight is a wonderful night. It’s a quieter night. Everything is closed. The streets are bright with Christmas lights and trees in everyone’s homes. It just seems so peaceful. Then we come into the church, and it too is all lit up and bright. But at the same time, there’s a peacefulness here as well. Even with the crowd and shuffling about in the pews we feel that peacefulness, don’t we!

We come and we hear that old, old story again about Mary and Joseph heading to Bethlehem. Mary is very pregnant on this journey, carrying God’s Son within her. We hear about how they found an unexpected place, a manger, where their special son is born.

We also hear about the shepherds, who hear the angels proclaim the good news of the birth of the Saviour. They too make their way to the manger to witness the child born for all humankind.

We spend so much energy on preparing for this night. All the decorating. All the baking. All the shopping. All the wrapping. We want this day to be very special. And we should! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, although maybe some people do take it a little over the top.

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What For?

Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25

We so often focus on the story of the birth of Jesus as written in the Gospel of Luke. We read it every Christmas Eve. And I see why we do, it has the most detail of the story. It’s much easier to plan a play for, it has all the characters, it has movement, it has a great plot line. But it’s not the only account of the birth of Jesus. There is a simpler version, like what we find in the Gospel of Matthew this morning. It’s a story with a greater focus on Joseph. It’s not a big surprise, really. The world is male centered at the time. The strong focus on Mary in the Gospel of Luke would probably have been a greater surprise given the time and place of the Gospel of Luke.

It also has something to do with the audience. Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience and is leading them to the conclusion that Jesus is the Messiah. He draws them in by following the genealogy of Jesus through Joseph, highlighting his Jewish heritage. This is important, because the infant will be identified by the heritage of his father. So by showing Joseph is Jewish, we know that Jesus is a Jew from the family line of David. This is also important, because they audience knows from their teachings in the Old Testament that the Messiah comes from David’s family line.

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Who Is It?

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

Have you ever heard a description of someone, and without hearing the name you just knew who it was? Here’s a few to see if you can picture them for yourself.

Chubby guy with a beard, dresses in red, travels a lot. Can you picture someone like that?

What about: dresses in white, hangs out in people’s front yards, wears a hat, carries a pipe, he’s cold all the time, and has a button nose and two eyes made out of coal.

How about one more: he’s a successful businessman, also seems to not mind being cold, nor does he like spending any money. Doesn’t seem to have a lot of friends. Is known to possibly have hallucinations late at night.

For each of those descriptions, someone came to mind. Maybe you could even form a picture of them. There are some characteristics which point us to picture someone clearly, we don’t even need to know their name. We just know.

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Who Me?

Scripture: Esther 4:1-17

We’ve jumped right into the middle of the action in the book of Esther, so we should take a moment to sort out just what is going on. If you remember last week, I talked about the imminent danger the Jews were facing by surrounding enemies and nations. Well, it happened. The Jews have been taken into exile, and have been there for some time. Esther, the namesake of our book, has been chosen to be part of the king’s harem and has worked her way up to being queen. Yet, no one in the royal family seems to know she is Jewish.

The king is also a man of a simple mind, and has been persuaded to make an decree that all Jews should be killed. Just like at earlier times in the Old Testament, they are growing in population quickly. The dilemma facing Esther is for her to decide if she is going to make her heritage known and make a political statement as queen. She is being urged strongly by her cousin Mordecai to use her influence and her Jewish background to make a stand to save her people. This is where were are today when we catch up to Esther.

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