Tag Archives: Blue Christmas

When holidays are depressing [Third Sunday of Advent]

2 Jan
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Editor’s Note: I’m playing catch-up with blogging Faith Church’s sermons. My doctoral coursework, a heavy load grading online classes I teach, and the holidays landed simultaneously these past few weeks! So before we jump back to the Deuteronomy series, I’ll survey the last few weeks of Advent, belatedly, of course.

On the Third Sunday of Advent 2018, Emerald Peters preached the Lectionary passages. While I won’t be blogging her sermon here, for a few more weeks, you can listen here. The passages were: Zephaniah 3:14-20; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7; and Luke 3:7-18. Before you listen to Emerald’s sermon, read the passages and see if you can discover a theme!

Emerald starts with a Pop Quiz! One question, multiple choice. There are many statistics that say this time of year has some of the highest rates of:

  1. Happiness
  2. Warm fuzzy feelings
  3. Suicide and depression
  4. Pleasant family interaction

What’s your answer? Listen to Emerald’s sermon not only to learn the correct answer, but also to hear how the Scripture passages on the Third Sunday of Advent address this!

Why Faith Church Observes the Season of Advent

25 Nov

The angels said to the shepherds “peace on earth, goodwill to men” that night Jesus was born in Bethlehem. But many of us do not feel like Christmastime is peaceful or filled with goodwill. In fact many of us are afraid that we will have what Elvis Presley sang about, “A Blue Christmas”.

Or we get so harried by the shopping, the traffic, the preparations, decorations, and expenditure of money we don’t have, that we end up frazzled. Worse, we can truly get stressed out.

So how do we navigate the intensity of Christmas? I would encourage you to participate in Advent, which begins this coming Sunday, November 29. Advent is a four-week preparation time that ancient Christians created to help disciples of Jesus prepare themselves for the celebration of his birth. Nowhere does the Bible teach about Advent. But in the same way that the Bible doesn’t teach about church buildings and Sunday morning worship services, which are also man-made, Advent can be a wonderful tool to help us deal with all the stress of the holidays.

Each Sunday during Advent at Faith Church begin worship with the lighting of the Advent Wreath candles, and short reading and prayer designed to help us prepare for Worship. That brief ceremony is a taste of a much larger personal emphasis that we can place on Advent. Advent, itself, means “arrival or coming”. It refers to the coming of the King. The entrance of Jesus into our world. When we celebrate Advent we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the King. How, then, should we prepare?

If you look on the communion table, or the front the cover of our bulletin, we display the color of Advent, which is purple.  Three of the four advent candles are purple.  This color gives us a clue for how to prepare ourselves to worship the King. Purple is the color of a bruise. A bruise hurts, but the purplish, painful spot reminds us that after injury, healing is taking place. During Advent we face the injury of our sins, and with a penitent heart, we confess our sins, and ask Jesus to heal us. Advent is like a bruise on our spiritual lives, helping us to heal so that when we gather for worship on Christmas Eve, we will erupt in praise that our Savior has been born!

So rather than allow yourself to get sucked into the frenzied vortex of Christmas, I urge you to prayerfully slow down and examine your lives by entering into the season of Advent.

Why our church prayer meeting tripled in attendance this week

22 Dec

We normally have 8-10 faithful pray-ers at the Faith Church prayer meeting each Wednesday evening.  This week we had 27.

On Sunday night, a lady in our church family, who lives just a few doors down the road from the church building, was walking to a Bible study Christmas party, and she was struck by a car as she crossed the road.  Her injuries are severe, and she has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since.  I had a first in my short tenure as pastor yesterday as I sat with her family and the neuro-trauma staff of our hospital to discuss the likelihood of removing her from life support.

Those who knew her remember that, though she had a very difficult life, she laughed loud, smiled broadly, and served God with all heart.  My last memory of her was a week ago, as she stood behind the food counter in our church kitchen helping serve a meal to kids who had come for a Children’s Ministry event.

She is part of the reason why we had to bring extra chairs into our prayer meeting room.  The tragedies in Portland and Connecticut filled our hearts with grief too.

Over the last few weeks it seems like the light and life of Christmas has been shaded by darkness and death.  At Faith Church we regularly start our prayer meetings with a psalm of praise.  This past week I used Psalm 23, which famously mentions the valley of the shadow of death.  The image is quite vivid: high walls of a ravine that shadow daylight and invite treachery from thieves.  It was a real-to-life scene that the author of the psalm, David, knew quite well.  You might not be in a ravine, but you feel David speaking to you.

And we’re supposed to be happy and celebrate the birth of Christ in a few days.  Celebrating can feel like such a burden when we’re in pain.  We have a sister church that holds a Blue Christmas service every year because many people can’t fathom singing “Joy to the World.”

Tomorrow at Faith Church we finish our series studying the Minor Prophets with the prophet Malachi.  The people in Malachi’s day felt like worshipping God was a burden too, mostly because they lost sight of what it meant to be in relationship with God.  I wonder if we are like them.  Perhaps you might read Malachi before joining us tomorrow.  Look especially for how God responds to the people.  Does God have emotion?  How does he feel?  It would be great to discuss this.