Tag Archives: Christmas Eve

Q & A with Jesus – How many will be saved?

24 Dec

Every now and then I get to preach on a passage of Scripture that I’ve covered before.  This coming Sunday is one of those times, as we will study Luke 13:22-35.  Last time it gave me the chance to talk about a guy I’d like to think I know pretty well, Bono, the lead singer of the band U2.  At the time, I was preaching the Lectionary texts for Lent.  (You can read all about it here.  And the follow-up post here.)

I try to read back over those sermons each time I preach them again.  If there is material I can use again, I just might, but almost always I find that I need to start from scratch, even if I feel that previous sermon was decent.  Technically, last time I only preached on Luke 13:22-30, and this time we’ll add verses 31-35.

Take a look at the passage, as it raises some difficult questions.  Luke sets the scene by telling us that Jesus is continuing his preaching and teaching ministry in the towns and villages he passes through as he is on his way to Jerusalem.  The crowds are big, no surprise, and on this particular day, a person in the crowd starts a little Q & A with Jesus.  The person asks “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

It is a question that comes up often in Jesus’ ministry, and one that people still today ask.  Recently a college friend asked this very question.

The answers are varied.  Some believe all will be saved.  We call that view universalism.  It is quite popular as it depicts a gracious, loving, merciful God who can’t let any of his human sons and daughters perish in hell.

Others believe there is no hell.

Still others believe that there is a hell and people will go there.  Some views depict God placing people there of his own desire and choice.  Others say that humans choose to go there, mostly out of disobedience to God, primarily for failing to believe in him and follow his ways.

What is so interesting to me, as I write this on Christmas Eve, is that tonight at our Christmas Eve Service we will be talking about and celebrating the purpose of Jesus’ birth, and in Luke 13:22-35 Jesus himself, about 30 years into his adulthood, is also talking about his purpose.  What does adult Jesus have to say about why he came?  What he has to say directly relates to the question of how many will be saved!

As is so often the case, he decides to answer the question from the crowd with a story.  A story about a man with a house that has a door.  Then he goes on to liken himself to a chicken, and a female chicken at that!

Join us Sunday at Faith Church to hear how Jesus answers the question of how many will be saved!

Angel wings, Candle lighter, Blocks of Wood – Monday Messy Office Report – 12/29/2014

29 Dec

My office is tidy Friday, mysteriously messy on Monday.  Here’s what I found today.

angel's wings1. Angel wings.  For real. The kind of angel wings that a child might wear in a Nativity play.  Except that this set of angel wings wasn’t worn by a child!  At our Christmas Eve service, one of our young men put them on as he gave a mini-talk about the angel Gabriel!  I found them in the sanctuary after the service was over and brought them to my office.  (Just in case I needed some material for this blog!)  For years Faith Church has invited a variety of people from our congregation to give mini-talks during Good Friday Worship.  Since we started participating, a few years ago, in the local ministerium’s community Good Friday service, we weren’t able to do that. So this year we brought it back on Christmas Eve, and it was great.  We also had a bunch of people using their musical gifts to celebrate Christ’s birth.  They each gave their take on one of the famous characters of the Nativity story.  It was a wonderful night!

candle lighter2. Candle Lighter.  There has to be a more official name for this.  But I looked on Google, and I think they’re just called candle lighters.  We use it primarily during the Advent season to light and extinguish candles on the Advent wreath.  As you can see in the picture, it has a small mechanism that enables you to move waxed wicks up and down as you’re lighting the candles.  Ours has been sticking, perhaps due to wax build-up, and just before Christmas Eve worship began, the mechanism broke!  We have a lot of candles to light before the service starts!  Thankfully, a bunch of people stepped up and used those little plastic candle-holders/candles that we finish our service with (everyone in the congregation lights one as we sing Silent Night), and we got the job done!  I brought the the candle-lighter to my office to remind myself we need to purchase a new one!

3. Wood Blocks.  I also brought these to my office.  They have been sitting on out mailslot ledge in our Fellowship Hall for a long, long time. I have no idea why.  Maybe our martial arts ministry uses them for wood-breaking tests?  But today as I was walking through the Fellowship Hall, I decided to grab them and write about them here.  If they don’t get claimed soon, they will serve as wonderful kindling for my wood stove!

Now it’s time to clean up this mess!

On shouting a Christmas message that can get you killed – Luke 2:1-20

24 Dec

2014-12-24 Advent Art Panels - close

It’s Christmas Eve!  My younger kids (age 9 and 11) are charged with excitement, begging to open just one gift, or at least put them under the tree.  They cannot contain themselves.  At Faith Church we’re looking forward to a wonderful time of worship tonight.  We’ve had artists from our congregation creating art to illustrate the four weeks of Advent, and tonight we celebrate as more people from the congregation will add artistry through voice and the spoken word.  Like my kids, ours will be a church like so many others today, filled with joy and light and excitement!

On that first Christmas there was another group that couldn’t contain themselves.

The Shepherds.

After hearing glorious news of the birth of the king, they rush into town to verify the message.  Finding it true, they cannot keep their mouths shut, as they start telling everyone what just happened.  The shepherds are positively beaming. It might be the middle of the night when they finally return to their sheep, still shaking their heads at the once in a life-time experience they’ve just had. And they are praising God!

Joy to the World the Lord has come.

I imagine their joy eventually wore off. That was a big night. But things get back to normal pretty quick. Sheep to watch, sheep to feed, sheep to shear, sheep to sell. Real life. What pays the bills. And that baby isn’t heard from again. I wonder if any of them were still alive 30 years later, when his time had come?  Did they remember?  Hearing stories of an up-and-coming teacher and miracle-worker and how some people were speculating that he was the Messiah, might one of them added up the years and realized this was the baby, now a young man?

I wonder how long they told the story of that one glorious night?

I wonder if life got in the way. I wonder if they started to doubt. I wonder if people started to make fun of them, say they were hallucinating, dreaming, and that babies are a dime a dozen. “Where is this king now?” people might say. “The Romans are quite solidly in power. Shut-up, shepherds. We don’t want to hear about the angels anymore.”

And maybe they did shut-up.

Have you?

We make a big deal out of Christmas every year because it is a big deal.

When that baby was born, and those angels blazed in the night sky, and the shepherds’ hearts were bursting, it was because it IS a big, big deal. There is hope, there is a savior! God wants to have peace with humanity! That’s incredible news for those of us walking in darkness.

But have we become quiet about this?

Have the years gone by, the job that requires too many hours, the busy family, the house, the lawn…in my case these last few weeks, the wood stove, the fridge, signing up for new health care…

Life.

Has life gotten in the way? Has life shut us up?

If we feel the burden of life, then we need these boisterous Christmas celebrations. We need Advent. We need to cry our eyes out because our great God has shown us grace and mercy and peace in Jesus. And we need our hearts to be filled.

And we need our tongues loosed to tell the good news. Those humble shepherds’ tongues were loosed.

60 years after these events, Luke wasn’t afraid to directly challenge Rome by telling the story. He wrote it in a book. It was the kind of story that could get you killed!  A new king’s birth that trumped the current king? Sitting kings don’t always take kindly the news that a contender to the throne has been born.  They like to kill off the competition.  Right after Jesus’ birth, word got to the local king, Herod, and he responded in an infant genocide that caused Joseph and Mary to flee with Jesus to Egypt.  Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth presents a bold message to the world leader in Rome, the Caesar.  Take a look at this thought-provoking article that shows how Luke’s courageous message could have gotten him killed!  Because his heart was filled to overflowing and his tongue (or pen) was loosed, and he told the story of God’s peace for all, there is a Savior for all, and he welcomes everyone to his Kingdom!

When was the last time you were so jacked up about something you just couldn’t keep quiet about it?

When was the last time you experienced something so amazing, so incredible you just wanted to tell everyone about it?

When was the last time you got good news and you started lighting up Facebook about it, thumbing out text messages to your family and friends?

That’s what Christmas is all about. Let’s not just keep the carols in our churches tonight. What could it look like for you to spread Christmas joy, hope, love, grace and mercy to the people in your life?