Isaiah35: 1-10
Matthew 11: 2-11

December 11, 2022 – THIRD SUNDAY of ADVENT

This morning … just a few hours ago my GOOGLE ASSISTANT wouldn’t respond to a request I made because it didn’t recognize my voice. SAY WHAT?

I immediately wanted to say ‘But Google, I am the one who talks to you each day … I am the one requesting information … I am the one asking you to play songs … I am the one expecting you to do things for me but … on Sunday morning December 11th at 6am you are telling me that I need to go back to settings so that you can recognize me.’

An interesting concept. I wonder how many folks who make ongoing requests and demands filled with expectations have slipped away to the point that a higher power doesn’t recognize them any more. Individuals who state they have faith but their words, their actions, and their worship reflect individuals with no connection whatsoever with God much less with the teaching of Jesus Christ. They have lost the GPS to Isaiah’s highway of God called THE HOLY WAY. They need to go back to the settings to get in the right place … and again worship God for God’s love.

The God we worship here at St. Paul’s with joy … Jesus Christ is more than a name to those who come to this church focused on God’s love. Jesus Christ, yes Christ is a name that has been morphed into a demanded upon close to every shopping transaction for some who insist that they need to hear Merry Christmas or they will lose their tempers at the one who short changed them those words. You know who the angry ones are … they are shouting put CHRIST BACK INTO CHRISTMAS rather than worrying about having Christ in their lives, which would be reflected to the world if they showed love for ALL of their neighbors every day. Jesus in our Gospel lesson today reminded us “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

Friends, Christmas is coming and when you consider your relationship with God … how are you thinking about your relationship with Jesus Christ … What is the gift of Christmas in the year 2022 that you want to open first? As the first light on Christmas Sunday appears and before you get ready to come here to church at 930, will you be telling your children and messaging your friends to “not panic, BE STRONG! Don’t fear!! Here’s your God … God come to save you” because of God’s love for you and through the first gift of Christmas, JESUS CHRIST? Will you still be singing the songs from our Christmas Eve service in your head as you turn on the lights of your tree Christmas morning to see the other gifts of the day?

Last Sunday night I played Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and if you watch my FACEBOOK stream weekday mornings on our FACEBOOK page or my IN THE KITCHEN recipe sharing on Friday mornings then you know I was focused on Tiny Tim’s Razzleberry Dressing but it is in the words of a song called the Lord’s Bright Blessing that I want you to join in thinking of the gifts of this church:

[1]We have the Lord’s Bright blessing and knowing we’re together, knowing we’re together heart and hand we’lol have a Christmas more glorious than grand.”

Friends, 2022 has been an interesting year and so I want to unwrap some gifts that reflect St. Paul’s today …

  3. There were 80 KIDS in VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
  4. WE have A FOOD PANTRY feeding the hungry 365 days/year
  5. COAL=> Only one man in any of our Bible studies and no new study other than Patty’s
  6. Children’s messages and kids to hear them
  7. 45 angels taken care of (ANGEL TREE) $1000 in giving
  8. 18 kids in next week’s CHRISTMAS pageant
  9. TWO fantastic Chicken barbecues
  10. COAL è Very few Thanksgiving envelope donations
  11. A new electronic piano and Gloucester County flute ensemble
  12. A church were people love to worship God
  13. COALè Empty pews on Sunday and Wednesday
  14. Sunday School picnic
  15. Donations to the Ukraine
  16. We coordinate the National Day of Prayer for West Deptford
  17. More groups using our church
  18. RED BIRD

I have asked our treasurer, Lori Brown to briefly come and tell us what our financial picture is like today …*We are in the RED*

  1. Sunday School Attendance is up
  2. Church attendance and membership is growing
  3. 7250+ have worshiped in 2022
  4. Our love for each other and fellowship together is great!
  5. We are a vital church in mission for God!

And, so for the first time as your pastor we face the close of the year with a significant deficit even though giving is up. As I wrote in my e-blast on Friday … other local clergy friends representing various denominations and I are extremely concerned that watching the football team from this area on Christmas Eve will take priority over coming to church for many dad’s who will then have their boys next to them on the couch rather than in the pews worshiping God and Christ. Christmas Eve is one of the biggest giving services on every church’s calendar and those other pastors and I fully expect to see less money this year in our churches Christmas Eve offerings even though all of us need that money to close out the year because giving is always low in January, February and March.

I started today’s worship service with the quote, “[2]Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” and I think it’s about time that we give the world the real Jesus Christ … not the plastic Jesus …. Not the shopping greeting Jesus … not the politically aligned Jesus but the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus who is God’s Son … Jesus who is the reason for the season!

Who are you bringing with you to church on Christmas Eve? Who are you calling to remind that their children need to be in church on Christmas Eve? Where will you be on Christmas morning … focused on God and Jesus Christ or elsewhere? What do you open first … each day you are alive and breathing and would Jesus recognize you for your faith every day?

We are blessed here at St. Paul’s … we are a loving and vital church and we will survive these difficult days and continue to be a vital church in the year 2035 and beyond thanks to people of faith like you!

As Tiny Tim declares in the Christmas Carol … God Bless you every one! AMEN

[1] ‘The Lord’s Bright Blessing’ words by Bob Merrill, ‘Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol’
[2] Carl Sagan

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