Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Message 2008

This sermon was delivered on Christmas Eve 2008 at St. Patrick's Church in Amherst, NY by Rev. Kevin L. Baker

Why I Love Christmas Lights


· Merry Christmas, everyone. This is a beautiful time of the year. It is a time to celebrate family and friends, it is a time of warmth, a time of peace, and a time to enjoy Christmas lights.
· As a priest and ambassador of heaven, today I would like to help us pull off all the paper, bows, and ribbons that decorate the true gift of Christmas and simply behold the simple gift that started it all.
· After cutting through all the hype, marketing, and the commercial Christmas, inside all the trimmings is the actual Christmas gift.
· Here is the gift. Jesus left heaven and came to earth as told by St. John the Apostle in the first words of His Gospel. God himself lived in the womb of Mary, blessed among all women.
· Then, in the dark of night on a Judean hillside near Bethlehem, a bright star and angelic lights of heaven filled the sky announcing that God himself had been born as a human being.
· He came to the earth he created to live among us; to make himself known to us so we would never have to doubt that he exists or that he cares about us.
· At the core of John chapter 1, the Christmas Gospel, is a story about Christmas Light. Like most of you, I have been enjoying my ride home at night looking at Christmas lights at the darkest time of the year.
· Although many people are trying to eliminate the religious significance of Christmas, the very existence of all the lights points to Jesus Christ.
· St. John says about Jesus being born at Christmas , 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
· In God’s world, Light represents God’s glorious presence of inapproachable light, Light is His love shining out from his heart. Light is everything good—love, the source of life, and ethical truth.
· Darkness is the antithesis of life. It is evil, wickedness, sin, death, and the absence of God’s Light.
· St. John’s Gospel begins by telling us that John the Baptist was chosen by God to tell the world that into the darkness of this world, the Light of Heaven had arrived to shine and bring a new day.
· Isaiah had prophesied this day 700 years earlier in Isaiah 9:2 "The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them."
· How do we personally experience the dark? Author Joyce Rupp says darkness manifests as:
1. A time in which the energy and focus of life is almost completely funneled into physical, emotional, or psychic pain.
2. An experience of being buried in deep sorrow and grief.
3. A discouraging and empty inner sojourn when nothing seems valuable or worthwhile.
4. A stage of spiritual desolation in which there is no sense of God's presence and little or no desire for things of the spirit.
5. A battle of indecision and struggle, when the unknowns and fears of the future press painfully on decision to be made.
6. A fog-like state when life is confusing, unclear, and seemingly impenetrable.
7. A situation with evil and atrocity which threaten to overpower or annihilate.
8. An excruciating time of helplessness in which one feels paralyzed or powerless to alleviate the pain of another.
9. An on-going negativity which brings with it a constant state of frustration, irritation, and dissatisfaction.

· Jesus came into a world filled with darkness. But when Jesus comes the darkness hides.
· John tells us that Jesus is the Word that was in the beginning in Genesis. The Word that said “Let there be Light and there was Light” now came into the world as a person.
· The sad words of the Gospel this evening tell us 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
· So many living in dark times don’t realize Jesus is the Christmas Light .
· He wants to shine the light of heaven into your dark world. My prayer is tonight you will see the Christmas Lights and understand why Jesus came on that first Christmas.
· For many, Christmas is a time of more intense darkness. Some of us have lost loved ones and miss them intensely during the holidays stricken with grief.
· For some Christmas is a time of deep sadness because their lives have not followed the plan they set out for themselves and their children. Dreams have died.
· Marriages have failed. Careers have been disrupted by sickness or sudden unemployment.
· Families have been wounded by addictions, and good people have suffered wrongs.
· Remember John’s Christmas message about the baby Jesus , 9That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. John says Jesus is the Light for each of our lives.
· Christmas means that Jesus is here in the dark to bring light. He cares. He loves. He gives hope.
· The real cool thing is Jesus wants to make each of us Christmas Lights too. Once the Light of Jesus shines in our hearts, we become Light bearers; the Light of the World
· The Church is really one big string of Lights that Jesus is hanging all over the world.
· Peter says God’s Church is a group of people God called out of darkness into His wonderful Light.
· Daniel the prophet said3 Those who are wise [a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
· Tonight, may we live in a dark world of recession, uncertainty, loss, worry, depression, poverty, pain, sickness, hunger, war, suffering, and sadness.
· Jesus has been stringing his lights--the people of God--all over the world and the power of the Holy Spirit is the switch that turns on the Lights.
· Singer Lauren Christy wrote, The truth is here, So come on hold me tight 'Cause I was not a child afraid of darkness But an Adult Afraid Of The Light.
· Tonight if you are afraid of the light, of becoming a Christian, hear the message of Christmas, "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings...which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11).
· Did you hear what the Christmas Angel said? FEAR NOT. FOR UNTO YOU IS BORN THIS DAY A SAVIOR. Do you know what Christmas means?
· Jesus came to this world for YOU. He came to be YOUR Savior. Don’t be afraid to come to the child in the manger and bow before him. Come like the Shepherds and Wise Men and worship Jesus.
· At Christmas, Jesus comes to all living under the power of darkness; to those who are weary.
· He is reaching out. He is giving us the opportunity to come of out of darkness and live in Light.
· Are you worried and afraid in this recession? Come to Jesus and tell him and Light will come.
· Are you living in depression, suffering, and sadness? Ask Jesus to come into your life.
· I want to close by reaching out to anyone here who has trouble believing that Christmas could really be all about Jesus Christ.

There was once a man who didn't believe in God, and he didn't hesitate to let others know how he felt about religion and religious holidays. His wife, however, did believe, and she raised their children to also have faith in God and Jesus, despite his disparaging comments. One snowy eve, his wife was taking their children to a service in the farm community in which they lived. They were to talk about Jesus' birth. She asked him to come, but he refused. "That story is nonsense!" he said. "Why would God lower Himself to come to Earth as a man? That's ridiculous!" So she and the children left, and he stayed home. A while later, the winds grew stronger and the snow turned into a blizzard. As the man looked out the window, all he saw was a blinding snowstorm. He sat down to relax before the fire for the evening.

Then he heard a loud thump. Something had hit the window. He looked out, but couldn't see more than a few feet. When the snow let up a little, he ventured outside to see what could have been beating on his window. In the field near his house he saw a flock of wild geese. Apparently they had been flying south for the winter when they got caught in the snowstorm and couldn't go on. They were lost and stranded on his farm, with no food or shelter. They just flapped their wings and flew around the field in low circles, blindly and aimlessly. A couple of them had flown into his window, it seemed. The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them.
The barn would be a great place for them to stay, he thought. It's warm and safe; surely they could spend the night and wait out the storm. So he walked over to the barn and opened the doors wide, then watched and waited, hoping they would notice the open barn and go inside. But the geese just fluttered around aimlessly and didn't seem to notice the barn or realize what it could mean for them.

The man tried to get their attention, but that just seemed to scare them, and they moved further away. He went into the house and came with some bread, broke it up, and made a bread crumb trail leading to the barn. They still didn't catch on. Now he was getting frustrated.

He got behind them and tried to shoo them toward the barn, but they only got more scared and scattered in every direction except toward the barn. Nothing he did could get them to go into the barn where they would be warm and safe. "Why don't they follow me?!" he exclaimed. "Can't they see this is the only place where they can survive the storm?"He thought for a moment and realized that they just wouldn't follow a human. "If only I were a goose, then I could save them," he said out loud. Then he had an idea.

He went into barn, got one of his own geese, and carried it in his arms as he circled around behind the flock of wild geese. He then released it. His goose flew through the flock and straight into the barn--and one-by-one, the other geese followed it to safety.

He stood silently for a moment as the words he had spoken a few minutes earlier replayed in his mind: "If only I were a goose, then I could save them!" Then he thought about what he had said to his wife earlier. "Why would God want to be like us? That's ridiculous!" Suddenly it all made sense.

That is what God had done. We were like the geese--blind, lost, perishing. God had His Son become like us so He could show us the way and save us.As the winds and blinding snow died down, his soul became quiet and pondered this wonderful thought. Suddenly he understood why Christ had come. Years of doubt and disbelief vanished with the passing storm. He fell to his knees in the snow, and prayed his first prayer: "Thank You, God, for coming in human form to get me out of the storm.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Look Ahead to 2009

Dear Ones,

Every year as we begin the new church year in Advent, I send out a message that summarizes the year spiritually, and looks forward to the coming year. This is not a state of the church address for our local church, but a more general note as a pastor to the larger audience of whoever reads this in the blogosphere or on the web. An expanded version is sent to friends and family and anyone who asks for it.


I think it will be a few years before we sing "Happy Days Are Here Again." I believe church prophetic voices and economic forecasters are converging to say the same thing these days--we are going to come out of this recession, but it is going to get worse before it gets better. I believe, along with others, that Obamanomics will fall short. As a student of economics, this means Austrian economics is part of our hope, not Keynesian government command economics which is what the new President is planning. We need to pray for President Obama daily. Socially and spiritually, I believe America will be refined in 2009. Spiritually, Isaiah 48:10, Joel 2, and Daniel 3 are important scriptures for Christians. For awhile, I think we will shake our heads in the midst of our country and say "Lord have mercy."


In all the days ahead, God does not want us to fear, but like Joseph, our call is to understand the times and know what to do in both plenty and famine. For those who are retired and have suffered significant contraction of life savings, I think Joseph is part of God's word of hope. Thrown into a pit by the actions of his brothers, what at first looked like evil God turned around for good because Joseph kept the faith and eventually his family was healed. Draw close to both your earthly and spiritual families in this recession. Band together, pool resources, and love each other selflessly. God is in control of this recession. Put your faith in the sure foundation of hope that is our Rock of Salvation. Make a daily time of prayer, Bible reading, and meditation part of your life and you will do much better for the next few years.


Having stepped into the waters of sounding the alarm on possible threats to our society in the past, I want to offer the disclaimer that all forecasters whether economic, prophetic, or weathermen must admit--due to our limited human knowledge, we only see in part and know in part. We can only offer possible outcomes in our forecasts, and as the events grow closer clarify them. So, when a hurricane is forming forecasters can only say there are several possible outcomes with varying degrees of probability of which one is most likely to occur.

Which outcome actually happens--whether a hurricane makes landfall and affects your life or turns out to sea and does not effect you is in God's hands. Similarly, the current recession is worsening--this is for certain. What comes to pass and how each of us are affected in this season of refining depends on God.
I am sending this to you for your own prayerful consideration.


In addition to being a priest, I have an MBA degree and am a CFO for a non-profit in western New York. For the past six months I have been studying every analysis I can find on recessions and the Great Depression. I have been to a recent local economic summit where I heard a Federal Reserve President (Charles Plosser) and JP Morgan Chief Economist (James Glassman) give mixed forecasts for the economy. I regularly scan the economic and financial environment reviewing hundreds of analyses and forecasts of economists from a wide variety of perspectives. I am do business on Wall Street and have several friends working for major investment banks there that provide me with insight to the Street. I also monitor government and market activity, and what the prophetic voice of God through the Church is saying. I also pray. This is my watch of the Lord.

A few months ago, as a result of this lifestyle of watching, I called our church to get their financial houses in order, live under your means, save money, pay down debt, be faithful to God, and get in a good cash position and invest only in value--no speculative gambling trusting greedy thieves, but only real stewardship investing. I agree with Rick Joyner FROM Morningstar Ministries and the economists who say we will recover. I believe the data forecasts a deeper recession and longer gradual return to stability than we would hope for. I agree with Rick Joyner--God is calling us to know his hope, and be ambassadors of hope.


In closing, I must confess that my shepherd's heart has ached for those whose faith in Jesus Christ is growing cold. Since 1992 when I was ordained, I have noticed that during hard times people either draw close to God or they fall away from God and pursue pleasure to numb the pain of life.

This year, I have seen many who do not even realize how far they have fallen away from God. A few weeks ago I was sharing songs I loved as a new believer with my daughter Stephanie. I got on You Tube and we found two Dallas Holm songs that were close to my heart as a baby Christian in 1984 "Rise Again" and "I Saw the Lord"

These songs are my prayer for those who have fallen away from God their first love; drawn away by materialism, pleasure, cares of this world, pride, or emotional and spiritual pain. I pray they would know that God sees them, and they would see a fresh vision of God in their lives and rise again to faith. These words of Jesus, are for those who are backsliding from Revelation 2-3:

Rev. 2:4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

Rev. 3: 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

I agree with a word the prophet Bob Jones has recently spoken and I would like to share a portion of it. This is for all pastors, leaders, and believers whose hearts ache having seen Christians they love growing cold in their faith, drunk on the things of the world, and blind in the midst of even global calamity:

And this year the walk shall be hard to begin with. We shall walk through the sewers of man and begin to discern what is God and what is of man. Then we shall put our shoes on and follow God the rest of the year. Offended, The Holy Spirit offends the mind to reveal the heart. If you are offended, the Holy Spirit will not be able to reveal the truth which will set you free. He will not violate your free will. So repent from your sins and seek Jesus and you’ll find Him. This will be a very, very hard year but the righteous will be given a little help when they look to their Lord.

Joel 2:13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "

Rick Joyner Wisdom from Jim Rogers from whom I learned how to buy and sell commodities futures for the Abbey. Buffalo area academic on the economy


Kevin Baker+
Priest St. Patrick’s Church, Amherst, NY
CFO Abbey of the Genesee, Piffard, NY

Advent 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Conspire--A Word That Can Change Christmas



• I wonder how many of you as kids or parents have had the talk—Christmas isn’t going to be as big this year. These words of small Christmas are spoken when a person has a consumer mentality of Christmas.
• Today as we enter week two of our Advent Conspiracy, I want to show you how to make Christmas big every year for the rest of your life. How to accumulate things that really matter and not junk.
• Back to Genesis to make Xmas big. God created the world and all in it, and said it was all good.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
• God made us to be like him, and gave us everything we needed in this world, and made man and woman King and Queen to rule together over God’s world. Then Satan came with a lie.
• The temptation and fall for men and women is for us to become discontent with God’s blessing and want the KINGDOM OF MORE instead of the KINGDOM OF GOD.
• What caused Adam and Eve to fall, and what causes God’s people ever since to fall away from God into sin is to become obsessed with getting what God has not given us.
• That was the story of God’s people leaving Egypt as well. Delivered from slavery and oppression and on the way to the promise of a land of their own.
• There God would give them a land where they could be free people to worship God, land filled with plenty, they became obsessed with what God had not given them on their journey.
• Even though everyday, bread from heaven would just show up supernaturally to give them all the food they needed on their journey to the promised land, they became obsessed with what they did not have.
• They wanted meat, and throw in a little garlic and some vegetable salad too God.
• Americans are like this. We have so much, but what a re we concerned about? The STUFF we do not have.
• In the KINGDOM OF MORE, we are told a lie too. If you can just get the stuff you don’t have, the stuff that the Jones’s next door have, then you will have that life you always wanted.
• Right now, commercials; emails; texts ads are all coming at you with lies from the same source that Adam and Eve were tempted.
• OK. STOP. Right there, some of you are going to think, wow—Fr. Kevin is going Scrooge. I see where this is going. He is going to go activist and give us preacher rant about not letting the commercial consumer Christmas steal the truth that Jesus is the reason for the season, etc.
• Now, let me tell you right up front, I like getting gifts, especially things I needed or wanted, and especially when they are the right size, color, or brand I wanted 
• I do confess, there are some gifts that make me want to rant. Have you ever noticed how much junk shows up in stores—especially dollar stores—this time of year? If I can rant, please don’t rationalize giving people useless stuff they will only throw away saying “Self, feel good about giving the dollar store your money for junk people are going to throw away after getting it because it’s the thought that counts! They’ll appreciate and like you because of the thought.”
• It is the word driving this whole Advent series—CONSPIRE. 2: to act in harmony toward a common end circumstances conspired to defeat his efforts
• The second Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of PEACE/SHALOM. At Christmas, Jesus came to bring peace on earth and good news for mankind.
• When Jesus was born, the Romans were in power. This is the background to Advent. They were the Empire that dominated the world like America has been since WWII.

Luke 2:1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3And everyone went to his own town to register.

• A little background to the Jesus story. Octavian, the adopted son of Julius Caesar was in power at the time Advent angels started appearing to Joseph and Mary from 27BC to AD 14.
• Octavian said that since his father was a god, he was the son of God. There were prophesies that the son of god would bring peace to the whole earth, so Octavian changed his name to Augustus.
• This was a religious title of divinity meaning the illustrious one. He saw his divine mission to bring peace to the world as the son of God.
• If you look at Roman coins form the time of Augustus Caesar, they say things like:
o Salvation is found in none other save Augustus.
o There is no other name given to men by which they can be saved.
o Caesar is Lord.
• So into that world, Jesus was born to bring real peace. The world will always offer one type of peace, and then Jesus comes offering us a peace that is sourced in heaven—the realm of God not of this world.
• The early Church all acted in harmony together toward a common purpose of saying that the only name and true salvation that could bring peace was that Jesus is Lord, not Caesar.
• Shalom or peace is a state of being where everything it put right. It results in a sense of wellness.
• Christians since the beginning say real peace only comes when Jesus, not Caesar is Lord of your life.
• I am not proposing we become Scrooge. I am proposing we conspire together to change how juts our family does Christmas. Maybe it will catch on like church did in the Roman Empire.
• The world’s merchants tell us hyper-spending and consuming is the altar of worship where you will find happiness. Spend your cash and all your credit cards the banks were readily supplying for the cause—notice—were past tense.
• The message of the KINGDOM OF MORE—getting stuff is going to make you happy. Foreclosed?
• In America we think buying things will cure everything. Lose a boyfriend or job, shopping is the cure. Getting new things is what will make you feel new. It doesn’t last though.
• In fact, even a Skymall on planes to sell you junk at 600% markup to cure you!
• Get beauty, sex, fame, education, money, bigger better houses and you will be somebody, you will have influence, you will be happy.
• Nothing wrong with any of these when received from God used as he intends. HOWEVER…
• When we get obsessed with wanting these things or suing them in ways God does not want for us, and we arrange our whole life thinking these things will satisfy us—God is going to destroy these false gods and altars of worship to set people free from the lie of THE KINGDOM OF MORE.
• A shocker—in a deep recession, a housing and credit crisis—the KINGDOM OF MORE IS IMPLOSING… Guess how much money economists forecast will be spent on THE KINGDOM OF MORE in 2008? $475 Billion. 50% of people still paying off last year’s Xmas credit cards!
• A couple passages and I am going to end.

Isa. 55:2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

Luke 10:1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. 5"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.'

• Let me pull this all together now. Adam and Eve conspired with Satan to invade the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of More.
• When Jesus was born, the Kingdom of God invaded the Kingdom of More and challenged the false gods of this world like Caesar who promised a false kind of peace.
• When Jesus came, look how he told his foot soldiers of peace to invade the Kingdom of more.
• Go to every town and place with the message of real peace. AND TAKE NO PURSE, OR BAG, OR SANDALS.
• He was saying, it is not going to take a lot of money, or expensive luggage or shoes, you don’t need $3000 suits to do it.
• In fact, the way the Kingdom of God will invade the Kingdom of More is not by being obsessed with accumulating the stuff the world has that doesn’t matter, but getting less of that and accumulating things that really matter. He called those things treasure in heaven.
• SELAH. STOP AND THINK NOW. LISTEN TO YOUR HEART. What thoughts are coming to your mind? What is Jesus saying in there?
• Here is the CONSPIRACY. Pray. If you are a family, start having a conversation about what God is saying to us. As a church—if you can’t feed 1000 people feed just one—that’s our prophecy.
• The Empire of More is calling out. They are obsessed with getting things to make them feel new and happy. Jesus says “NO, you don’t need more. You need less.” Not $17B in makeup. Not $10B in perfume. Let’s talk about WWJB. It is the new thing. Not just WWJD.
• Morgan Spurlock who made the McDonald’s expose “Super Size Me” has a new message “What would Jesus buy.” Rev. Billy is warning everyone in Times Square about the Shop-ocalypse yelling STOP SHOPPING. The Shop-Ocalypse happened in September and October.
• Here is the Advent Conspiracy message. Less is more. I am not saying don’t have Christmas or buy gifts. I am saying don’t get sucked into buying useless things and think that will make you feel new or make you or someone else feel happy giving or receiving those kinds of things.
• $10B would give clean water to the whole world. $19B would feed all the world’s hungry. Our nation wants to spend $34 billion on automakers and $700B on banks to prop up the Kingdom of more. It’s time we focus not on CNBA but on the pulpit on Sunday for useful things.
• Story—parents with 2 kids. Son makes it real big and has everything. Your daughter did not do well. Doesn’t have enough food. No good schools. Poor roads out where she lives. You as the father or mother as your son to help but he won’t.
• As Xmas, God the Father looks on us and asks us to sacrifice to help those in need.
• St. Francis heard the call and gave everything including the clothes off his back. Not what I ask.
• I ask, think about an Angel Tree Kid. Sponsor a child from Compassion International. Give to Helping Hands. How about giving each other gifts of time together? How about we conspire to not buy useless junk at dollar stores…Help one family in need; or one child without clean water, or a school, or roads where they live.
• God’s Kingdom will fill you with peace, joy, love, and, hope when you accumulate less of the Kingdom of more and give away the Kingdom of God.

Worship--A Word That Can Change Christmas



• Advent is the season where we look forward to Jesus coming at Christmas, and at his second coming at the end of time. This year, I am asking us all to join together in what we are calling the Advent Conspiracy.
• Conspire = 2: to act in harmony toward a common end. The end this year is transforming the consumer Christmas back into the real Christmas gift.
• In traditional Advent services, each Sunday of Advent focuses on a different theme—hope, peace, joy, and love.
• I think God’s Spirit fills the air with the presence of these blessings each December in America because we are still a nation where many, if not a majority, are Christians.
• As we begin the new Christian year today, our Advent celebration will combine the traditional Advent themes with 4 important words that can change our Christmas.
• Every year, I think most of us ask the question, “How can I recalibrate my heart and soul to capture the real spirit of Christmas? That’s where we want to begin of preparation for Xmas this year.
• Each week, I want to share just one important word to think about.

READ LUKE 2:22-38

• What we notice here in Luke’s Gospel is the Old Jewish ritual of a woman who had a baby was to present herself in the Temple for ritual cleansing, and on the eighth day after birth, the male child was to be circumcised which was the sign of being in covenant with God.
• One thing to make note of was the offering of turtledoves was that of a poor family who could not afford the more elaborate offerings.
• In v. 25, we meet Simeon. A faithful believer who had it revealed to him by Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ come.
• He waited all of his life for the coming of the Lord on the scene to make all things right—to ransom captive Israel.
• So this older faithful believer is led by the Holy Spirit to go hang out in the Temple courts at the same time Joseph and Mary have come with Jesus to present him to God.
• To make a long story short, Simeon ends up meeting the Holy Family. He who had held the promise in his heart, now holds the realization of the promise in his arms.
• Now, here is the one word for this week that I am going to ask you to hold on to through the Advent and Christmas seasons—WORSHIP. Notice Luke 2:28

28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God,

• The word used by Luke for praised here is eulegeo—we get the word eulogy from it. To eulogize is not only something you can do when someone dies, but when some one lives.
• In Greek, eulogy meant to bless and celebrate with praises. This is what Simeon did when he caught on to what the birth of Jesus really meant for him and the whole world.
• WORSHIP is a word we want to cultivate in our lives the next 3 weeks. We will talk about it, read about it, learn about it, and do it.
• Now don’t be afraid of this word. For some early in your spiritual journey worship might seem strange. I remember being real self-conscious about singing in church… Let me share more…
1. Worship is the reason God made us.

• We all sense deep in our soul that we live for a reason bigger than paying bills.
• Worship means we were all meant to look for wonder, and awe in our lives. We have a longing to find that something that seems to be missing in our lives.
• Worship happens when we find what we were missing. It happens when like Simeon, we find that dream we have been hoping for. This is what happens when Jesus comes into our lives.
• Let’s lay a foundation for understanding worship from Leviticus 23:

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.

• Back when God was first guiding the spiritual leaders of his people in how to lead worship, God had Moses put in place a series of feasts and festivals. We get our word festive from feast and festival—it means a time of joy!
• What God built into the calendar of worship 3450 years ago, was a time for his people to relax, celebrate, and focus on who God is. This would be a time of joy—a party! Weekly, seasonally, and annually. That’s what holy days were—days set apart from all others for God.
• God was saying to them and to us today, that holidays are times where God wants us to realize life is not just about GO, GO, GO and wearing ourselves out.
• Life will find focus when worship is in the center of it. Festive joyful celebration of who God is.
• If you want to have a new kind of Christmas filled with hope, here are some reasons to celebrate:


• In my life, I remember one time at Christmas, in the midst of our kids excitement on Christmas, in all the noise, paper, empty boxes, and playing, I looked at them and said God—thank you for my kids. Now they are all grown up and Kathie and I have hearts that ache for that…
• Then, for married people—have you ever looked at that person God gave you as a spouse, and thank God for them? I was watching a movie “Family Man” and in the midst of problems and her husband’s apparent mid-life crisis, she says “No matter what happens, I choose us.”

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY ABOUT WORSHIP. Pastor Gene Appel. Most recently a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Church, and recently back on his own as senior pastor of a local church.

• Church in Vegas growing, new building, dedication >>> Wife leaves him that night a guy at work.
• Decision made by leaders that he should stay as pastor. First Christmas> After Xmas Eve service
• Alone in a mostly empty casino lounge eating the blue plate special while other lonely people pull slots.
• Goes home to empty house, did laundry, packed for next day, and went to his empty bed.
• Heart aching, sings Jesus love me this I know to fall asleep.
• What Gene Appel teaches us is sometimes we worship not because we feel like it, because we have to. All he had at that most empty moment on Xmas eve was the love of Jesus.
• The only thing that makes sense sometimes when the world and life is spinning out of control is to worship.

Walter Brueggemann: Worship is a bold refusal to let the trouble that surrounds us be bigger than the God who comes to meet us there.

• Sometimes a song is what helps us put words on what our heart is trying to say to God in worship.
• This is why music and poets are so powerful. They tap into releasing the emotion of our hearts.
• This song is by Chris Tomlin and we sing it here. I know it helps me worship…

The splendor of a King, Clothed in majesty Let all the earth rejoice, All the earth rejoice
He wraps himself in light, And darkness tries to hide And trembles at his voice, And trembles at his voice
CHORUS(1): How great is our God, sing with me How great is our God, and all will see How great, How great Is our God

• And this is one of those Christmas hymns that taps into my heart and helps me express something I might not otherwise be articulate:
1-What Child is this who, laid to rest On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping?
Ch: This, this is Christ the King, Whom shepherds guard and Angels sing; Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, The Babe, the Son of Mary.
3-Why lies He in such mean estate, Where ox and ass are feeding? Good Christians, fear, for sinners here The silent Word is pleading.
4- So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings, Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
• Advent and Christmas mean that just as Jesus once appeared in this world, he is about to appear in your life this Christmas.
• Jesus appears when the magic fills the air—people treat each other differently, a spirit of giving fills the land, festivities and parties start.
• I wonder what would happen if all of us started reacting to Jesus like Simeon. What if we looked for Jesus in the sea of people that we meet during the holidays?
• What if we reacted like the shepherds who were working the midnight shift when Jesus appeared in this world.
• Today is the Advent Sunday of Hope. Hope has a name—JESUS.
• This year, HOPE and WORSHIP mean that God intends to appear to you like he did to Simeon. The Spirit says “You will not die till you the Lord’s Christ appear in your life.”
• What would happen this year if you found the real joy and the source of all the festivities and holy-days we are experiencing once again in the month of December.
• Remember, God commanded his people to set apart special days as feasts, festivals, and holy days.
• Since Jesus came the first time, the Church has set apart the weekly day of the Lord, as well as seasonal days like Advent and annual holy days like Christmas.
• Worship are the appointments God has written into your Outlook or Daytimer for you to rest, celebrate, and rediscover that God made us to experience the awe of his presence, and praise him and thank him for his goodness.
• So as we begin this awe filled season of Advent, let us conspire together. Let us act in harmony toward the common goal of transforming the consumer Christmas.
• Look for Jesus in the children; in the people you meet; in the love you realize God has given you in your family; and see him in the needs of the poor.
Come next week and I will give you another word that can change your Christmas.