Worship Service – December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!!!

 Praise the Christ-child, the newborn Prince of Peace!  Praise to the God who has come to us in the flesh!  Praise to the Spirit who calls us together to serve! 


Scriptures; Luke 2:1-20 and Micah 5:2-5A
Message; “Small Towns”
Luke 2:1-20
The Birth of Jesus
(1) In 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.) (3) And everyone went to his own town to register.
(4) So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. (5) He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (6) While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, (7) and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
(8) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. (9) An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. (10) But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (11) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (12) This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
(13) Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, (14) “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
(15) When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
(16) So, they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. (17) When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, (18) and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. (19) But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (20) The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Micah 5:2-5A
(2) “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. “
(3) Therefore, Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites.
(4) He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
(5) And he will be their peace.
This is the word of God, for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Merry Christmas!
Today on this final Sunday of Advent I would like us to not only celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, but also to remember that Christ was born in the small town of Bethlehem. How many of you grew up in a small town? Small towns are just a little bit different. As someone has written, “You know you live in a small town when . . .”
A baby born on June 14 receives gifts from local merchants as the first baby of the year.
You speak to each dog you pass by name, and he wags his tail at you.
You can’t walk for exercise because every car that passes you offers you a ride.
You can name everyone you graduated with.
You have to drive an hour to buy a pair of socks.
You get a whiff of manure and think of home.
Someone asks you how you feel . . . and actually listens to what you say.
There is no town idiot everybody has to take turns.
Small towns are just a little bit different.
So, the reason I am writing this message on small towns is, of course, because Jesus was born in a small town. Each year we sing Phillip Brooks’ beautiful hymn, “O little town of Bethlehem / How still we see thee lie / Above thy deep and dreamless sleep / The silent stars go by / Yet in thy dark streets shineth / The everlasting Light / The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee tonight.”
Jesus was born in a small town to fulfill a prophecy that we read today in Micah 5:2. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
The message of Christmas would be just as powerful if Christ had been born in a great metropolis, but somehow this tiny village seems to capture the essence of the Christ event.
Bethlehem reminds us that God can use ordinary people in ordinary places in extraordinary ways. Once again, this year, Bonne and I watch that classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life. And maybe you and your family also gathered around the television this Christmas season to watch that classic motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life.
Actor Jimmy Stewart, who starred in the film, offered this reflection on its meaning, “The character I played was George Bailey, an ordinary kind of fella who thinks he’s never accomplished anything in life. His dreams of becoming a famous architect, of traveling the world and living adventurously, have not been fulfilled. Instead, he feels trapped in a humdrum job in a small town. And when faced with a crisis in which he feels he has failed everyone, he breaks under the strain and flees to the bridge. That’s when his guardian angel, Clarence, comes down on Christmas Eve to show him what his community would be like without him. The angel takes him back through his life to show how our ordinary everyday efforts are really big achievements. Clarence reveals how George Bailey’s loyalty to his job at the building-and-loan office has saved families and homes, how his little kindnesses have changed the lives of others, and how the ripples of his love will spread through the world, helping make it a better place . . . Today, after some 50 years, I’ve heard the film called ‘an American cultural phenomenon.’ Well, maybe so, but it seems to me there is nothing phenomenal about the movie itself. It’s simply about an ordinary man who discovers that living each ordinary day honorably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.”
There are no superstars in the Christmas story. All kinds of notable people came into this world in “Small Towns”. Bethlehem reminds us that God can use ordinary people and ordinary places in an extraordinary way.
The Israelites expected the Messiah to be a great warrior and king. They got a carpenter. You generally don’t expect the guy who’s doing your kitchen cabinets to save the world, do you. But the point is that Bethlehem reminds us that God can use ordinary people and ordinary places in an extraordinary way.
Bethlehem also reminds us that we are part of a sacred history.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem to fulfill an Old Testament prophecy. This is important. The coming of Christ was part of God’s covenant with the people of Israel, and subsequently with all people everywhere. Bethlehem was no accidental birthplace. Bethlehem was where Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel was buried and where Israel’s greatest king, David, was born. Samuel anointed David king in Bethlehem (I Sam. 16:1-13). David was a descendant of Ruth and Boaz, who were married in Bethlehem. The Messiah was to be of the house and lineage of David. We are a part of a sacred history that extends all the way back to Abraham and Sarah.
We often say that Christmas is a tradition, and it is. Tradition is from the Latin word traditio which means the “action of handing over.” Over the centuries Christian people have been “handing over” from one generation to the next the songs, the stories, the rituals that have come to mean Christmas to us. We treasure that which has been handed down.
Let me share this story with you today to remind us of the importance of traditions.
In mid-December the year before her first child was born a woman named Cathy was given a baby shower by her family. After opening what she thought were all of her presents, she found one additional box, wrapped not in baby shower paper, but in Christmas paper. It bore a card that read, “To my daughter.”
“This one is from my mom,” Cathy announced as she opened the gift. Inside was a quilt. She tried to smile as she held it up for all to see, but secretly she hoped her mom couldn’t see her face. Her mother would know her smile wasn’t genuine.
The quilt wasn’t very pretty. It wasn’t a “baby quilt.” It wasn’t made of pink, blue and yellow materials; it didn’t have bunnies or bears. It was just a patchwork quilt sewn of materials that were of all different colors and patterns.
Holding the quilt up, Cathy noticed a note tucked in the bottom of the box. Not realizing the note was intended to be private, she set the quilt aside, picked up the note and began reading it. Then she discovered that her mother had made the quilt for her. The unmatched materials were remnants of her life her mother had saved over the years. She had cut swatches of material from items dating back to her first Christmas dress. Some of the swatches were as current as the shirt she wore to the doctor the day she found out she was pregnant. Her mother had accumulated “patches” of her life over all those years to make this quilt. By the time Cathy finished reading her mom’s letter telling of the “patch” of her mother’s old robe she remembered it well; it was fleece and she used to insist her mother wear it so she could lay her head on it when her mother rocked her and the “patch” of Dad’s flannel shirt she used to put on after her bath, and each and every other “patch” and its meaning, there was not a dry eye in the dining room. Cathy picked up the quilt and held it against herself and cried. To think, just seconds before she had thought the quilt ugly, but now it was beautiful. It was the most beautiful quilt she had ever seen. This quilt was made of her life and with her mother’s love. She had sewn her love into every stitch.
Christmas is like that. We have traditions, from many lands and many cultures, all stitched together to make a holiday like no other. It is a tradition that actually goes back many centuries before the birth of the babe in the manger all the way back to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all the way back to Moses and Joshua and David all the way back to Isaiah and Jeremiah and Micah. Actually, it goes farther back than that. It goes all the way back to the time God took the dust of the earth and created man and woman and breathed into them the breath of life. It is a tradition of Divine purpose and love. Bethlehem reminds us that God can use ordinary people and ordinary places in an extraordinary way. Bethlehem also reminds us that we are a part of a sacred history.
And one final thing. Most important of all, Bethlehem reminds us that God is with us. Listen again to Micah’s words: “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.’ (Micah 5:4-5A) I love those words: “He will be their peace.” Christ doesn’t simply bring us peace. He is our peace. Where Christ is, there is peace.
Perhaps your life is filled with conflict, unhappiness, emotional pain this Christmas season. That is true for many people. All the happiness of this season of the year can mask the desperate hurt that many people really feel. They to often forget that when Christ dwells within, there is peace. When this Christmas Day comes to a close and you collapse in your bed and say to yourself; “Thank God it’s over!” Perhaps you should pray; “Bring me peace. Christ Jesus, give me yourself. Come into my heart Lord Jesus. Be born anew in me.” For where Christ is, there is peace, happiness, joy.
Small towns are a little bit different. Christ was born in a small town. Bethlehem reminds us that God can use ordinary people and ordinary places in an extraordinary way. Bethlehem reminds us that we are a part of a sacred history. That is why the traditions of Christmas are so important. And most importantly of all, Bethlehem reminds us that God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ. And here’s what Christ wants this Christmas; it is to be born anew in our hearts.
May he be born in your heart today.
In His Service,
Pastor Joe
Listen To Audio: Sermon 20221225
Listen To Audio: Service 12252022

Prayer of Confession:      We are told by your holy word to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  But too often we clothe ourselves with hurtful garments; we clothe ourselves instead with stubbornness, selfishness, impatience, rudeness, and apathy.  Help us to clothe ourselves with love that the peace of your son might rule in our hearts.  This we pray in your merciful and forgiving name.  Amen






Pastor Joe will be available at the church on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4.  If you need to speak to him, contact Pastor Joe at 570-267-4570 (cell) or Email: joe.s.travis@gmail.com

Loose change goes to General Fund

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Our mission for “Noel” ends.

Installation of Elders on Sunday January 1, 2023

Corporation Meeting after church on January 15, 2023

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