Isaiah 11: 1-10
ACTS 1: 1-11

December 4, 2022 – SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT for 2022

[1]Merry Christmas – Merry Christmas – Merry Christmas!!” Charles Dickens’ fabled character Ebenezer Scrooge in the new adaptation of the Christmas Carol written by Katie Leamen, called ‘A Christmas Carol Comedy,’ declares early in the play that you can never proclaim Merry Christmas enough times!

Well, church I am here to remind you that as people of faith you and I can never declare the reality of God’s love through Jesus Christ enough times … you and I cannot share the joy of faith too many times and as a church family of believers we CANNOT invite too many people … too many friends … too many co-workers and neighbors or too many family members to come to WORSHIP GOD and Jesus Christ with us enough times …. WE CANNOT INVITE THEM enough times … because we know the joy; we have read and heard Psalm 150’s call to absolutely and enthusiastically praise God with every ounce of energy we have. In fact Scripture instructs us that EVERY- LIVING- THING -should -praise -the Lord!

In a reflection of God’s expectations for humanity, Jesus told the crowd gathered around Him on more than one occasion that, “ [2]You MUST love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” A MUST statement from Jesus and if we have accepted that then we know we can never declare our love of God too many times … our thankfulness for God’s loving every single human being including each of us and for God’s gift to humanity in Jesus Christ that thankfulness should always be on our lips! Truly a reason to REJOICE ALWAYS in the LORD … and as Paul reflected AGAIN I SAY REJOICE!

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!! Let earth receive her king!” And, to think some church ‘fuddy-duddy’ rule setters have stated that we can’t sing that song until Christmas Eve … no wonder some people who are not in the churches of Jesus Christ around the world this morning don’t get what faith is all about! They don’t see the people called Christians expressing joy in our faith and praise for God that brings impression-making smiles to our faces! They only sense rules that make no sense.

Church we know that God has made it simple … believe and then follow two clear commandments that every other rule is subservient to: LOVE GOD and LOVE ALL of YOUR NEIGHBORS as Jesus loved ALL. And, to think that some rule setting humans even attempt to limit who can share in the Lord’s Table, the Sacrament Jesus told ALL people of faith to share in when we come to worship Him … thank goodness in the United Methodist Church the Table of the Lord is open to ALL not just to members of the denomination … not just to members and regular attenders of St. Paul’s …. Not just to those whom I as pastor give a thumbs up to.

So on this second Sunday of Advent do you feel the spirit of joy … do you sense God’s Holy Spirit in your life … does it feel OH SO VERY GOOD to be worshiping God either here in the Sanctuary or online? Does your heart warm up whenever you hear these words about Jesus Christ … HE IS RISEN!! <<He is Risen Indeed!!>> Doesn’t that truth just bring a smile to your face today even though today is not Easter Sunday; a day on which we anxiously await for a rabbit to bring us chocolates?

The joy of faith and acknowledgment of Jesus Christ is not an Easter exclusion but an every day reality. Leamen’s Scrooge in her hilarious rendition of Dickens’ book prepares audiences for what is to come with that early shoutout directed to the audience as much as it is to Bob Cratchit, ”MERRY CHRISTMAS MERRY CHRISTMAS … “

Church, it feels good for those of us who believe … those of us who understand God …. Those of us who have come to realize that Jesus Christ is more than a name adorning Christmas cards but an every day truth in our lives … I would hope it feels good for you to SHOUT MERRY CHRISTMAS even on this second Sunday of Advent.

I would hope that you live your daily lives as people who sense the love of God when you declare HE IS RISEN INDEED. It is with a sense of apprehension however that I hope that each of you is a person who is deeply concerned with every other person in your personal collective of humanity … concerned that they too feel and sense the same love of God as you and I do. That they discover God and Christ before the sun sets.

Because Jesus Christ, HE IS RISEN <<He is Risen Indeed>> is alive and well but more importantly God is alive each day not just on the two holidays when more people seem interested in church attendance than on the other 363 days when God and church are neglected in their lives … On the two days when we see dads with their kids in churches …. Dads who otherwise diminish God through their disconnection; their self-focus … young adults treasuring sleep over worship …. Don’t you want to know that they find the joy of faith … that they understand the love of God that’s right there for them to be wrapped up in … and that they just like you and I become almost desperate in a desire to praise God with other people of faith? To be the church of today and of the future?

I know this Advent season that is my prayer … that is my desire … and. I believe that the missing ones … the lost ones … really do want to hear a message of joy. Experience a message of hope! And, yes live a message of Resurrection. They just want to know that it is real … that being part of the followers of Jesus Christ … believers of the Resurrection and accepting of God’s love they want to see that it is truly transformational. They want to see the difference faith in Christ and God makes in individuals’ lives because all too often they can’t find any difference between those who attend church and those who watch Eagles’ games on TV …. Well perhaps they notice that the Eagles’ fans are more enthusiastic and inviting about their Sunday focus. They want to notice believers following Jesus’ teachings with a joy that parallels or exceeds a celebration after a Jalen Hurts touchdown. They want something real … something transforming …. They don’t know it but they need God and Jesus Christ.

In the classic prophecy from Isaiah, we hear that “A shoot will grow up of Jesse … a branch will sprout from His roots. The Lord’s Spirit will rest upon Him … a Spirit of wisdom and understanding. A Spirit of planning and strength, a spirit of knowledge. Righteousness will be the belt around his hip and faithfulness the belt around his waist.” Jesus would be coming for ALL.

God offering God’s people hope of who was to come but friends Jesus arrived …. Jesus has already been born and we do not have to wait to until December 24th to celebrate His birth … after all on December 25th most people will not be rushing to fill churches like this one because of their concern for what’s under a plastic tree in most of our homes. So, in our society even Jesus’ birthday has been reduced to a “keep it short and sweet pastor” afternoon or evening service the day before Christmas where thank goodness they are still doing Silent Night with candles because we like that.

So, do you wonder if THEY want to hear? Do you consider what those who are not connected to church … those who have diminished sacred days from Jesus’ life stories to a rabbit and a jolly old elf … do you consider why when they look to and are dismissive of those in our churches today who seem no different from those honking their horns and raising their fingers in shopping parking lots when a driver makes a mistake or goes too slowly … and sometimes they notice that the one who is angry is someone they know who goes to a church … Do you wonder why they don’t come … why they reject the reality of God that we have found … that their children will never sing Joy to the World … not even the Three Dog Night version about a bullfrog or perhaps they will value the frog more than the One who came to be their Savior.

We heard Luke’s report of Jesus last lesson … first Jesus tells those gathered around Him on the Mount of Olives that only God knows when God’s kingdom on earth will be restored and that absolutely no television evangelist holds the secret but then Jesus says, YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES … in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, in Swedesboro, Woodbury and even onto Thorofare which ye shall call West Deptford in the day … YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES to the end of the earth.”

I have a good news and sort of a bad news story from Friday night’s Christmas Carol Sing-Along. More than one of our guests made their way to this pastor after the singalong to thank me for the awesome program that Dave and Patty put together. But then I had three separate conversations with strangers then made me both happy and sad at the same time. THREE SEPARATE conversations with people who came to sing Carols SEPARATE from each other but all of them basically said to me how impressed they were that our church family laughs together … that our church seems full of joy … that our church seems so happy and then in each conversation I was told that they never see that joy … that happiness … nor hear laughter in their churches.


These guests at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church of West Deptford came up to me separately this past Friday night to celebrate our joy as a church family and then told me that in their churches there is never a level of joy, happiness or laughter comparable to here …. And we wonder why people are choosing not to worship God but today I feel an even stronger need for you and I to showcase to our small little worlds of friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers that faith is transformational … that God’s love is real for ALL not just for a separatist group of self focused individuals …and yes, that joy and praise can be expressed in church combined with laughter! Invite them here!

Do they want to hear … they sure do!!! Do they want to discover God? If they understood who God is they sure would want to discover God. Who … can change their lives and turn them around for God? It’s you and I … “YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES … in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, in Swedesboro, Woodbury and even onto Thorofare which ye shall call West Deptford in the day … YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES to the end of the earth.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS MERRY CHRISTMAS …. MERRY CHRISTMAS!! HE IS RISEN!! <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> And, Dickens wrote, “I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.” AMEN

[1] ‘A Christmas Carol Comedy’ by Katie Leamon
[2] Matthew 22:37 – New Living Translation

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