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

January 6, 2019

BE IT RESOLVED that in the year 2019 I will … uh exercise each day; avoid cookies; uh … well it’s really good news my friends to announce that I no longer make New Year’s Resolutions because even as the first week of the New Year continues I have had ready made excuses to cancel out what to others might have been resolutions. Actually, I stopped even thinking of New Year’s Resolutions years ago just because I knew that most were doomed to failure.

But today; today is truly the first opportunity I have had to say HAPPY NEW YEAR to most of you gathered here! HAPPY NEW YEAR … “Arise my friends, SHINE! Your Light has come; the Lord’s Glory has shone upon you!”

Yes, once again, we have made it through the Christmas Shopping Season—haven’t we … perhaps you have returned those unwanted items or those that didn’t fit just right … we have transversed the Advent Season mostly in good health and mind … For most people who attend church with regularity we have been in and survived the one season of the year when we are comfortable putting our faith on display through our crèches and our greetings of Merry Christmas!

In almost every church I know of .. the rafters shook as the crescendo of music reached beautiful levels as the people sang JOY TO THE WORLD THE LORD HAS COME … but then out those church doors the people poured … out to their homes where a tree awaited them with presents and the anticipation of gatherings with delicious food … and then the clean up and packing away of the light strands, the ornaments and yes of the crèches until sometime next December when suddenly the birth of Jesus Christ will again be discussed. A discussion more in relationship as to whether store clerks should say Merry Christmas than in bold testimonies of faith being shared. Somehow the salvation story of forgiveness and grace is usually not on the lips of church goers throughout the world when they share conversations with friends about the concluding holiday season of the calendar year we call Christmas.

I believe friends … I truly believe … that it is time … we have reached a moment when you and I are needed more than ever before. Just this week I had the misfortune of being in the midst of a large gathering of people who purportedly were people of faith but the hate was palatable … I was so saddened that I had to step out because I could taste the division’s ugly tones but I kept sensing the prophets words “ARISE SHINE … Your Light has come; the Lord’s glory has shone upon you.” I had to wonder how had they missed Christmas but their intent had nothing to do with Jesus.

We come out of the Christmas celebrations … we consider on this Three King Sunday of Epiphany the journey of those magi who saw the light of God’s star. They came face to face with the evil of Herod; an evil so perverted that this King would institute a policy that murdered children in his attempt to stop the Son of God but thankfully Joseph, Mary, and Jesus chose the journey of the unknown road to a foreign land that offered the hope of safety for each of them; sanctuary and recovery from that evil.

This morning friends … can you still recall the rising tones of the Christmas carols? The faith inspiring moments of Silent Night Holy Night … if you were here did the green bracelet reminder to make each moment matter carry you into the new year? I will argue that we are coming out of the crescendo of the Christmas Eve celebration with an opportunity while the memories of Merry Christmas and Jesus in the manger are still fresh.

I am here to encourage you, to prod you, and yes even perhaps to annoy you to consider whether it is time … a new calendar year’s clean slate awaiting us ….is it time for each of us to take the loud singing of Joy to the World; the Lord has come and to jump fully and completely into the history of salvation by declaring to those who know us … by changing our lives dramatically to be the examples the world needs … I believe with all my heart that it is time for us to jump into the crescendo of the history and reality of salvation and be the ones … be the ones… even in our Gloucester County communities and out into the world who are THE difference makers .. I believe that you and I my friends have it within us …. I believe that God’s call is upon each of us regardless of age or wealth or knowledge of Scriptures … I believe this church can grow … I believe God’s message can be heard … I know we can be silent and afraid no more of declaring we have seen the star and are willing to honor Jesus by living our lives for Him.

I believe we need to hear the prophet’s call again and again … “ARISE, SHINE!!! Your Light … My Light … Their Light … the World’s Light has come! The Light has a name … JESUS THE CHRIST! EMANUEL; GOD IS WITH US! PRINCE OF PEACE! KING of KINGS!!! LORD of LORDS! Savior to the World! ARISE SHINE! Our light has come!

And, friends … if you were in church on Christmas Eve and Jesus mattered … if you will be taking the meal from the Lord’s Table this morning with a seriousness that only faith can bring … if you reject the world and embrace the God who created the world … then truly you understand those words of Isaiah, “The Lord’s glory has shone upon you!”

“Though darkness covers the earth and gloom the nations … THE LORD WILL … Friends yes, THE LORD WILL … Do you hear me … can you sense God’s Holy Spirit … are you ready to accept God’s power and direction in your life as this new year begins? “THE LORD WILL SHINE UPON YOU!!!” And, then you already understand that “God’s glory will appear above you!”

BE IT RESOLVED … simple words. As I already noted; words that for so many people coming out of New Year’s revelry as words with little or no meaning actually in the English language can have meaning and purpose. We here in this place called St. Paul’s can make the declaration as our promise of faith this morning … BE IT RESOLVED that we will strive to fill this Sanctuary on Sunday’s because worship matters and we understand that others need to experience worship as much as we do. BE IT RESOLVED that we will be willing to give up some of our personal time; our precious Netflix binging time … to be in mission for God’s Kingdom perhaps just by spending 2 hours on one night with families without homes who stay here in this church during our Family Promise weeks. We all know that is one of our struggles church … four times a year I stand here before you seeing those empty slots of time where the mission work is just being a good neighbor in conversation no sweat just being a loving welcoming neighbor but we can’t fill those hours. BE IT RESOLVED that we help the people in Kentucky and in Camden and in the world by giving some of what God has given to us in our skills and in our loving hearts. BE IT RESOLVED that our Vacation Bible School program is filled again; that our Sunday School classrooms are loud places of God discovery; and that our Bible studies need more space rather than just a few chairs. BE IT RESOLVED that this is the year this place called ST PAUL’s of WEST DEPTFORD gains a reputation that this is the place for people to rush to rather than being a mystery location in a town divided into segments.

ARISE …. SHINE!!! Jesus Christ, our Light, has come and the Lord’s glory continues to shine upon us! I read these words this week about church … “The church nurtures God’s people gathered in a community to carry out God’s Word. “ Mmm THE CHURCH.

I smiled thinking about this place but with the spirit of the magi traveling great distances to reach Jesus with gifts and in consideration of the prophet’s words I wondered what gifts we can bring to Jesus in the year Two Thousand Nineteen that can bring the Light of Christ out there …. And yes, even in here because we all need to remain connected; we come to the table to be transformed by the bread and cup so that we can go into the world representing Jesus not representing Dave or Mary or Tom or Kathy but to represent Jesus Christ.

The potential is within us … the beauty of God’s love for us is that Jesus Christ can be the center of our lives. He willingly died for us out of love for each human being … He rose up from the grave to gain eternity for the whole world! He should be … if we jump into the crescendo that started with the birth in the manger but reached its heights on Easter … the history of salvation … if we jump into that crescendo then we know and live the reality that Jesus is the reason for everything we do; everything we say; ALL THE TIME not just on Christmas Eve … not just when we set up the crèches in our homes … not just when we smile because we said Merry Christmas to a stranger at the Wal Mart.

With Christ as our center … we can see clearly and we can be strengthened daily.

ARISE CHURCH and SHINE!!! The Light of Jesus Christ has come and the glory of the Lord is shining!

BE IT RESOLVED we are going to be difference makers for our Savior this year!


Watch a video of today’s worship service:

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