Isaiah 60: 1-6
MATTHEW 2: 1-12

Well, this past week I could certainly sing the song “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” because the snow covered evergreen trees and cold breezes were in the air.  The truth of this week is that for many of the Christian community today is CHRISTMAS DAY so MERRY CHRISTMAS FRIENDS!!!!  MERRY CHRISTMAS … God has given us a son and he will be called


And, on that one day on our calendars … one day when the marketing executives do all they can to focus our lives on buying stuff … well, not even on the one day marked as the birth of Jesus but actually on the day before because on the day we celebrate the birth we have to open presents and make meals and not worry about worshiping this ONE DAY MARKED BY LOVE … Christmas, do you remember CHRISTMAS of 2017?

How did you connect with God on Christmas 2017 … I am not talking about our three worship services here at St. Paul’s on Christmas Eve of 2017 but it would be interesting to see how many of you remember the order of the hymns we sang, the Scriptures that were read or the message preached … but what did you give back to God on CHRISTMAS DAY in terms of your time, your prayers, … your relationship to the ALMIGHTY?

Serious questions friends … a new year has begun.  We all know by now that in the vast majority of churches at least here in the United States … the Sunday after Christmas is a Sunday to avoid church if possible because after all we had a chance to pray, sing, and join in worship on Christmas Eve with strangers who only come to church once a year so that service is totally exhausting that most Protestant churches might as well hang a sign up on our doors that the Sunday after Christmas is a day to skip out on worship … as I whined about this to another pastor yesterday he reminded me that the Sunday after Easter is another ‘skip church Sunday” so I am guessing that it is very stressful for regular church attenders to spend time in worship with non-church attenders so they need a week off on two of the most Holy days on the calendar which are days marked by God’s love for all.

So, I decided … to celebrate Christmas again today here at St. Paul’s.   We can pretend we are all Orthodox Christians so if someone asks … “On the One Day Marked by God’s Love” through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ how did you connect with God … how did you worship God you can say I was in church and the cool thing is … we will probably have a good attendance next week because we know how incredibly awesome and loving our God is!!!  Given the percentages of our calendar year … 365 days … 52 weeks … 8,760 hours … if we allow for the skipping of church on the Sunday after Christmas Eve and the Sunday after Easter … and our services usually unless I get really long winded last only an hour but if you toss into the mix an hour on Christmas Eve, Mandy Thursday’s hour, and Good Friday’s hour … lets see that adds up to 53 hours unless of course illness, traveling or weather stop you from being in church … out of our year’s breathing moments that comes to just over ½ of one percent of our time in a year when we are actually in worship.  Not a bad return on God’s investment in us is it?

ARISE, SHINE … for your light has come and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See. The darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you.  Nations will come to Your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

But, my friends … a new year has begun … it is Christmas Day all over again … ONE DAY MARKED by LOVE … Jesus is alive … and now a week after the resolutions of New Year’s Eve already have experienced a degree of fading … we are here with great potential … JOY to the WORLD the LORD has come and it is time for church like ours with people like you who love the Lord, who have Jesus in your hearts, and who are open to the Holy Spirit to truly take the gift of the child out into your every day experiences.

The classic hymn VICTORY IN JESUS Sings out

“O victory in Jesus My Savior forever … He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood. He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due him He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.” 

It’s not an old old story … it should be our story … VICTORY … It begins with Jesus’ birth but continues with his life teaching us about living and through His death and resurrection our victory over sin!

When I read this chapter of Isaiah’s prophesy I look at verse 5 in two ways … one obviously is tied to the coming of Jesus but the other way … is about us.  Believers who are imperfect but continue to believe despite our imperfections … believers with sins with a loving God who forgives us … with a loving God who sent Jesus yes to be born in that stable in poverty … to become with Mary and Joseph strangers in the land of Egypt, which welcomed them, to teach us about living and then to to our sins to the cross and rise up conquering death and evil on Easter morning … I read verse 5 and think of us … how we should be … why we should be smiling and filled with joy every chance we get to worship … Isaiah wrote,

Then you will see and be radiant … your heart will tremble and open wide.” 

WHY SHOULD THIS BE WHO WE ARE ?… BECAUSE we have Jesus friends!!! It’s not about Christmas Day even thought that is One Day Marked by Love … it is not about Easter another day marked by love nor Good Friday, Ash Wednesday, Mandy Thursday, Thanksgiving, Rally Day, Memorial Day, All Saints Day … friends it is about every day and how you and I take our Victory in Jesus to heart.  AS people marked by God’s many days of love we the people who worship and praise the Creator of the universe whose Son is known as Jesus the Christ … whose Holy Spirit is here to direct our living …. WE friends should be radiant … our hearts trembling and wide open … I love how the New International Version translation phrases this …

Then you look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy!”

Is that you?  When you pause and think about God and Jesus Christ … are you looking radiant? Your heart throb?  Are you so full of joy that your smile is ready to burst open and everyone who sees you wants to be like you … WOW, look how happy she is … did you see that guy he is just beaming … JESUS THE CHRIST … GOD THE ALMIGHTY … THE HOLY SPIRIT who DWELLS WITH IN … VICTORY in Jesus … all my love is due him.  Just like our joy on Christmas Eve … today is CHRISTMAS DAY all over again … another chance to celebrate ONE DAY MARKED BY LOVE!

Every single day should be a day of Joy … HARK THE HERALD the ANGELS SANG GLORY to the newborn king … GLORY to GOD … don’t you want to say MERRY CHRISTMAS to someone today?  Or HAPPY EASTER tomorrow morning to someone with joy on your face?  Don’t you want to make every day you wake up your one day Marked by love … by the love of the cross?

Yes, I realize that today’s message is taking us on a journey … a challenging one to consider who we are in this new year of 2017.  But, I believe that each of us who believes needs to consider who we are in relationship to God each day.  Are we the church goer who dismisses God for the approximately 8710 non-church service hours in our year?  Hard to be radiant in Jesus if that’s the case … hard to have your heart swelling with joy throbbing away giving a smile for the world to see … maybe hard to even show joy in church.  Or are we the believer who strives to do our best through prayer, Scripture reading, and worship both in church and outside of it?  How do we share that Victory in Jesus?

This week we are going to start a new Bible study … we are trying to get some folks who can’t be here on a Wednesday at lunch time or early evening to join us.  We all have smart phones … we all have computers … tablets … anyone in the world can join this Bible study online.  So far … one person in North Carolina has joined.  Are you studying the Bible or does that not fit into the 8710 hours outside of church?  We are looking for team members to go to Red Bird this August … all ages welcome and all abilities welcome … are you going to go on mission beyond our community for God?  It will change your life …

Are you celebrating your Victory in Jesus by sharing the message of your joy with others?

Last week … most of you know that my Buffalo Bills made it into the National Football League playoffs.  The Bills had to beat Miami, which they did but then Buffalo had to wait to see if Cincinnati beat Baltimore in a game that finished after the Bills game.  With 53 seconds left in the game … Cincinnati was losing by 3 points and had the ball on the 49 yard line.  It was fourth down and 12 yards to go.  If Baltimore stopped Cincinnati from getting a first down they would win the game and be in the playoffs.  Andy Dalton took the ball … stepped into the pocket … threw the ball down field where wide receiver Tyler Boyd was waiting at the 20 yard line just steps away from the Baltimore defender … the pass came into Boyd’s hands who quickly ran to this right avoiding one tackle … then he sprinted just out of the reach of Another Baltimore player and into the end zone he went.  The Buffalo Bills’ team went crazy with tears and shouts .. the Buffalo community including those of us living in other parts of the world went nuts … after 17 years our team was in the playoffs but the real victory came in the days since.

Buffalo Bills’ fans discovered that Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has a charity for disabled children and their families living in the Cincinnati Ohio area … since Dalton threw that touchdown pass last Sunday people in Buffalo New York have donated over THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS to Andy Dalton’s charity, which is more money than the charity expected to receive for all of 2018.  Not a single dollar will go to someone from Buffalo … Andy Dalton never played for Buffalo … Tyler Boyd helps troubled teenagers in Western Pennsylvania, which is where he is from.  He posted a need for $50,000 and people from Buffalo have now given over $75,000.

How do you show your victory in Jesus?  How joy filled are you when you consider your days marked by God’s love?  Back in 1980 the people of Buffalo wanted to celebrate that my city is the City of Good Neighbors … once again it wasn’t about football … it was about people showing they could help other people.

Look at these smiles … talking proud about a city … shouldn’t the world notice our joy in Jesus?


Watch a video of our worship service:

© 2017- St. Paul's United Methodist Church, West Deptford, NJ