Luke 4: 14-15 “Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.”
What motivates you to help someone? What gives you the courage to act? Maybe it’s your conscience, your moral compass, or your kind and compassionate nature. Christians believe that God has given the gift of the Holy Spirit to strengthen, motivate, and move people to action. The Spirit is mysterious and hard to explain. And yet, it could be that its presence is known in your conscience, moral compass, and kind and compassionate nature.
In the Bible, Jesus is said to be ‘filled with the power of the Spirit’ as he began his ministry. He declared that he had come to fulfill what God had started and he would be good news to the poor, the captives, and the oppressed. In his life, Jesus would continually be moved by the Spirit to act out that good news through his love and compassion for all people. We too can be moved by the same Holy Spirit to act with justice, peace, and bring good news to the world.
John 2:11 “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.”
Isn’t there a saying that goes something like “You can never have a second chance to make a first impression”? I guess that might in true in some circumstances. The way we dress, what we say, and how we act in a new situation can have a lasting impression.
In the Bible, Jesus was just beginning his ministry and one of the first signs or miracles he performed was turning water into wine at a wedding. It seems an unusual start to the work of God in the world through Jesus. Wouldn’t a miraculous healing or feeding the hungry have been more impressive? Maybe, but perhaps a sign of God’s abundance at a wedding was just the impact God was trying to make. Maybe, the miracle of making water into wine did reveal the power of Jesus. Maybe, Jesus’ first impression was enough to make people take notice and to believe in him. The wedding miracle at Cana was the beginning of what Jesus would do and say. There was much more to come that would reveal God’s love and grace and would change lives and even change the world.
Mark 1: 9-10 “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.”
It’s a new year and we had been hoping that things would be better. As we face another wave of the pandemic and re-instated restrictions, it’s hard to believe that we will get back to normal. However, we are resilient people who can make the choice to keep ourselves and others safe. We can make the choice to stay connected and positive even when it’s difficult. We can make a choice to have faith that this year will bring about new and good things.
This week, we will be looking at the story of the baptism of Jesus. Baptism is a Christian sacrament that involves making a choice to have faith in God. Using water as a symbol to wash away the old, believers in Christ are made new and joined together with others in a shared commitment and faith.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”
As we begin 2022, let us pray that the pandemic that has changed our lives, will finally come to an end. This past year has been one of hope as the vaccine roll-out has turned the tide against the virus and we have slowly started to do all the things we used to do and see all of our loved ones again. We are not done yet. It is still the time to continue to be safe and to connect with those who have struggled in the past 2 years with all the changes we’ve seen. As we welcome a new year, may we all know the light of God’s love and compassion and share it with others.
We will continue to worship online only for the month of January.
Luke 1: 47 “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.”
God loved the world so much, God came to be with us through Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. God chose to dwell in the midst of his people, to show a new way of being in relationship with each other and with God. Jesus was born into a world like ours, where poverty and hunger, injustice and violence still cause suffering today. The infant Jesus is the sign of the eternal love that God has had for all of us from the very beginning. God’s love stirs us to action, to care for the broken-hearted, to feed the hungry, to work for justice, and to be examples of peace. Jesus is the living promise that the world can be changed for the better when we are filled with the love of God.
Luke 1:37 “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Classic Nativity sets contain all the main characters of the first Christmas: kneeling shepherds, bowing Wiseman, a barn animal or two, singing angels, attentive Joseph, the baby Jesus, and of course Mary. Mary was the young woman chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. We assume she was fairly young, and we hear in the Bible that an angel visited her with what seemed to be impossible news. Mary would have a special baby through the power of the Holy Spirit. We’re told she was surprised and confused by the news, but she was reassured by the angel that nothing is impossible with God. With all the uncertainty surrounding her circumstances though, it’s hard to imagine that she was happy or joyful at first about how her life would change. However, Mary accepted her role as the mother of Jesus and lived out one of the most well-known stories in history that we celebrate today. God made the impossible happen, and in the birth of Jesus, Mary knew the possibility of joy.
I’m sure we have all experienced times when unexpected news causes us anxiety and confusion, and we don’t feel happy or joyful about it. In this holiday season, with its unexpected stresses and worries, I pray that we will all know at least the possibility of joy. Perhaps we’ll find joy in the beauty of the lights, a delicious meal, a surprising gift, or a long-awaited visit from a friend. Or maybe we will find it in the good news from an angel to a young woman, that her child would be cause for celebration and joy for years and years to come.
Luke 1: 78-79 “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
The holiday season is not generally thought of as a peaceful time. We are often stressed about getting everything done: the shopping, the baking, the wrapping, the visiting, etc… Our world is not a peaceful place either. Groups and peoples always in conflict, over power, money, control, land, and religion. It can feel like we are always at odds with someone or something.
At Christmas, we celebrate the first coming of Jesus, the one called the Prince of Peace. The Prince of Peace showed us new ways to be in relationship with God and each other. Through Jesus and his love for the world, God gave us a plan where there can be peace in our souls, peace in our relationships, peace within our community, peace between nations, and peace among those with differing opinions and interests. As we celebrate this season, may we all be a little more patient, a little more understanding, and a little more compassionate as we make a place for peace.
The season of Advent, which leads to Christmas, begins this week. For Christians, Advent is a time of preparation, reflection, and celebration of the birth of Jesus. This Sunday, as we start a worship series called The Inn: Housing the Holy, we will strive to make room for hope in our lives.
Hope is what gets us out of bed each day. Hope is what leads us to make plans and is what inspires us to make this world a better place. Advent is all about hope. Advent hope is anticipating that something is on the horizon, something greater than we can imagine on our own. Advent hope is believing that God was breaking into our world through a child born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. And Advent hope is knowing that God is still with us today. Even when the challenges of life seem too difficult to manage, there is always room for hope.