Christmas Present 
Wednesday, December 26, 2007, 08:56 AM - Extra Christy, Christmas
Did you want all the presents you got? Not everyone did. Today the stores are packed with people returning gifts. At some stores, part of this tradition is the "airing of grievances": stating the reason for the return: Wrong Color, Wrong Size, Broken, and the favorite: OTHER

I had one gift that was designed to be returned. It was a present of presence. A coupon book handmade by my child with coupons good for chores like "cleaning up the kitchen" and services such as a "back rub". Some were more creative: "Going to bed without complaining" was a unique and thoughtful gift. The coupon book was the definition of a great gift: one I didn't know I needed until I got it, and after I got it; wouldn't have parted with it for any amount of money.

The first Christmas gift was a Christmas presence. Nothing store bought with a gift receipt for easy exchange, but God with us, Emmanuel, a personal coupon for salvation. Something we rarely know how much we need, until after we receive it.

Hope you treasure your Christmas gift. Christ's coupon is still good and still precious.
Gift of God

For a child has been born-for us!
the gift of a son-for us!
He'll take over the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor, Strong God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies will do all this.

-- Isaiah 9:6-7 (NRSV)

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All I Want for Christmas 
Tuesday, December 25, 2007, 03:00 AM - Christmas
Long before the wistful Joan Osbourne song asked, " What If God Was One of Us ," God answered by becoming one of us in Jesus Christ. When I look at many young people in crisis, my wish is the same as the first Christmas gift: that God will be with them, with me, with all of us in a way that is real. I wish that I could play a part in making this happen, wrapping the gift in my witness, my love, my work as pastor.

Originally published in Presbyterians Today , December 2007, p. 16

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Seeing Stars 
Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 01:57 PM - Extra Christy, Christmas
Our friend was waiting for the green arrow to turn right when, CRUNCH! Our shaken traveler got out to angry howl of the offending driver: "WE HAVE RIGHT ON RED IN THIS STATE!" To which the response came: "But you don't HAVE to."

Why do some people move when they don't have to stir? Why do others not budge when they have the opportunity? These questions come to me when the magi (or astrologers) bump into King Herod and his advisers surprising him with the news they have star proclaiming a new king in this state! Didn't Herod and the magi share the same sky? Yet even after our stay at home friends get the news and find where the turns should take them, they don't go with the magi...they don't have to.

You don't have to turn right at a red light. You don't have to follow the star to the ruler who will shepherd God's people. Yet if you go where you can when you can seeking Christ, you just might be overwhelmed with joy. The chances are much better than if you wait until getting a push!

The magi saw the light and turned toward Bethlehem and found the one who sets all things right. They didn't have to, they went anyway. Maybe that is why we call them "wise men".

Turning Right

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men* from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, 'Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising,* and have come to pay him homage.' When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah* was to be born. They told him, 'In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
"And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd* my people Israel." '

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men* and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, 'Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.' When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising,* until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped,* they were overwhelmed with joy. -- Matthew 2:1-10 (NRSV)

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Room for Christmas 
Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 08:00 AM - Extra Christy, Christmas
Luke tells us that Jesus was born a manger, an animals feeding trough or even an animal's stall because there was no room in the Inn. The focus is often on an innkeeper who is never mentioned in the Bible! Some scholars have suggested that Luke was not writing about an inn but a guest room of a private home, or even the sleeping area of single room home.

Reading the scripture without the innkeeper, we are reminded that finding room for Jesus is not the job of an innkeeper, but the task of those who live in homes, even humble ones.

As furniture is moved for the Christmas tree, tables cleared for manger scenes, and mantels made over with little holiday houses; think about making room for Christ coming into your home this Christmas.

Where will you make room for him? Can self-centeredness be boxed up with the fall decorations and replaced with displays of generosity for men and women needing shelter? How about tossing the frosted pumpkin on the porch and replacing it with a bag of presents for the kids on the angel tree in honor of the baby who had nothing on Christmas but a place borrowed from an animal?

Don't miss welcoming Christ by leaving it to the professional innkeepers. Make room for Christ this Christmas in your home, welcoming the stranger, the homeless, the traveller, and those in need.

Seeing Christ This Christmas

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me." -- Matthew 25:37-40 (NRSV)

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Christmas Prayer 
Saturday, December 8, 2007, 09:22 AM - Prayers, Christmas
God, who is always coming into our lives, come be with us today. May we listen to the angels who tell us unbelievable news Help us to ask for our part in the plan…

Like the shepherds, may we be leave the safety of flock and find God's glory. Help us to see your glory in unfamiliar places,

Like Mary and Joseph, may we make room for Christ Help us open the doors to people who need a place even when we have no place prepared.

Like the Magi, may we leave the darkness and patiently journey wherever your star shines. Help us find Christ in new places.

Bless our Sunday School classes and teachers, this food and fellowship so we may Hear good news, discover glory, welcome Christ, and follow where your lead. Amen.

Originally given at Sunday School Christmas Luncheon

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