The Days Are Just Packed

Sunday’s sermon title comes from a collection of the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” This Sunday comic strip is from the early Nineties and features a young boy and his stuffed tiger friend. They have many adventures in the play world of the boy Calvin. Their days are just packed with fun, imagination, and various mischief.

And just when many in church want a “day of rest” (on a Sunday!), especially after the full Season of Advent and Christmas Day, we find ourselves with a “packed Sunday!”

The scriptures are packed with the solemn wisdom of Ecclesiastes, 3:1-13, the wonderful priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22-27, and the continuing drama and joy of a child born in Bethlehem! Add to these the start of year 2017, and Holy Communion plus a surprise here and there! Whoever comes to worship this Sunday will surely find SOMETHING that will bless and give faith, hope, and/or love! SOMETHING that will enliven and guide us into God’s 2017 future!

As the famous blind and deaf writer and inspiration, Helen Keller, once said, “Life, if nothing else, is an adventure.” If she can “see” this truth, can’t we who have many physical gifts intact, set forth in spiritual adventure?!

So…..this Sunday worship is “just packed.” Be there and go adventuring in your life with your brothers and sisters in the faith!

Blessings in the New Year!

Pastor Barry

Meditation – “Loud and Quiet”

The animated musical SING opens today Dec 21 in theaters “everywhere” (as they say). PG rated so it should be very family friendly. If you don’t see it, you will hear about it from kids, grandkids, neighbor children, nephews and nieces! It’s about animals of all types in a song competition much like the popular TV shows. I think I will try to see it before Sunday. Maybe…… If you don’t see the movie, just use your imagination about animals singing (legend has it that animals sing and speak on Christmas!).

December is usually a month of singing and we run the range of loud joyous song, “Joy To The World” to that of quiet reflective words “Silent Night.” Add to that the visual treats of light and colors and with a message of faith, hope, and love, why you just might have a winning combination of a Word bringing Light for everyone (John 1:9).

The Good News is shared in so many ways. We will do just that on Christmas Eve at Locks Memorial at 6 pm and in our respective churches on Sunday morning 9:30 and 11:00 am. We will miss a few who are on the road, with family near and far, but we will all be together in “Spirit and Truth.”

In addition to singing voices on Dec 24 & 25 we very likely will have guitar, ukulele, dulcimers, and possibly a saxophone (!). All instruments welcome ~ Let them SING in their own way!

See and hear you soon!

Merry Christmas!

Pastor Barry

Keeping Christ in Christmas

Somewhere around 1962, I think, there was a big enough snow on a Sunday in Lee County, VA and my parents opted to miss church. I suggested we have “church at home.” That amounted to the three of us getting around the piano and singing a few hymns. Well, mother and I singing a few hymns. Dad was not known for singing! I suspect we had a prayer and read scripture but I don’t remember. Only the singing. Then I went off and played and I think they drank more coffee!

This coming Sunday December 18 we will sing a lot and have our respective Christmas programs at each church. Then….comes December 25. On a Sunday. A challenge for many with issues of travel, meals, and children. Some will attend Christmas Day worship and others will not either by choice or by circumstance. Some will let Christmas Eve services be their Christmas Day worship. Some may attend services with family in other churches at a distance.

On the other hand, however, all can gather at some point in homes and remember The Reason For the Season. Keeping Christ in Christmas is not so much a matter of worship location other than in the heart and with others and for others.

In some ways, this “unusual” combination of Christmas Day and Sunday is a blessing. There now has to be some intentional effort to say and demonstrate to one another outside the church building, “we worship the Christ child born this day in Bethlehem.” It cannot be simply a matter of routine and habit in this year of 2016.

Of course, the churches will be open and worshiping on December 25th. Some will not be traveling and some will not be gathering in the morning for presents and breakfast with family from here and yon. Many will be eager to join with others in Sunday worship at the church building. Some who tend to attend ONLY at Christmas and Easter will sorely miss the opportunity if the doors were closed!!

Again, I want to say that this 2016 Christmas Day is a grand moment to be more thoughtful about the meaning of Christmas wherever you are at 9:30 and 11:00a!! You can still come to Christ and say “Welcome and Thank You!” Wherever you are and whoever you are with!

And the final Christmas obligation must be to “rejoice and be glad, for unto us a Savior is born!” You can do that most anywhere!

See you soon! Enjoy!

Prayers and Merry Christmas!

Pastor Barry

The Parade of Advent

I’ve always liked the wit who came up with this charmer: “If you are being run out of town, get in front of everybody and make it look like a parade.”

Our selected texts are full of Biblical characters, e.g., prophets, John the Baptist, the adult Jesus, Job, people healed of deafness, blindness, all in a movement toward something better. A parade, to emphasize the drama of it all, toward an End Point of God’s eternal reign. And, unlike most parades, all have a rough time getting through it all, and two, John the Baptist and Jesus die!

This kind of parade is not exactly what we will see locally as we head toward Christmas in Middle Tennessee! But, the thing to watch for in our ADVENT parade is the wide diversity of characters. Much like a modern Christmas parade there will be many different participants from bands to floats, from horses to tractors, from a band that looks alike in uniform but play very different instruments! But all headed in the same direction!

Advent is like that. All of us are to a great extent quite different. But, each one is called to join the Kingdom of God journey toward wholeness, toward salvation. Like children excitedly thinking about holiday school break and those presents under a tree, all ages should be excited to be in the Advent parade. And excited to invite others in all their differences to come along for the journey toward the meaning of Christmas. Isaiah sums up that meaning very well when he writes, “They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10.

Blessings as we worship on this coming 3rd Sunday of Advent!

Pastor Barry

Gatlinburg, Wilderness, and One Shouting

Most of us native Tennesseans and local transplanted folks from all over the USA have felt the horror and the sadness coming from East Tennessee ridges, woodlands, towns, and homes in flames. And closer to home we have tornadoes! So called natural disasters are hard to bear. And the human element of arson brings forth feelings of anger as well.

Such thoughts, feelings, and images are not those of Christmas. And no more so for Advent either. Except that our texts for this Second Sunday in Advent include numerous images of nature, animals, and wildness in John the Baptizer! And the final reconciliation of all nature in Isaiah AND reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles by the time we hear from Paul in Romans 15! Things do get better!

Good enough reasons to go to worship! Good enough reasons to read the Bible! These are great “helpers” in coming to grips with our multiple sadnesss and angers and pains in this Fallen World. In hearing and also doing the Word, e.g. disaster responses by thousands of Tennesseans and others, we find ourselves able to “keep on keeping on.” This is the walking by faith and not by sight!

It is always a long ways to Bethlehem, going through all types of wilderness and dangers, but we never walk alone! Grab someone’s hand! Give of your time and talents. If you are blessed, be a blessing to someone in need!

Thanks be to God!

Pastor Barry