Today's Lectionary Text
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Sitting down, thinking about new year’s resolutions led me to thinking about the conference devotional. So, while I searched for Lisa’s email that told me where the link to the signup could be found I started to think about this week, it led me to thinking about the whole season of Advent. This has been a tough season for me. While I have been leading both my congregations through the Joy to the World series by Rev. Marcia McFee celebrating the 300th anniversary of this beloved hymn I have struggled to find the joy. Part of the reason for my struggle is losing my dad to complications from lung cancer in October. I tell others that no two people experience grief the same way and as I have thought about worship, Advent, and Christmas I have been in a deep funk.
In the midst of this seasonal funk I have had two opportunities to truly feel the Holy Spirit move. The first was on December 14th during our network Blue Christmas service. The Salt & Light Network (Lyons, Ks First, Geneseo, Sterling First, Alden, Lyons Ebenezer, Mitchell Chapel, and Little River First) came together to offer peace and hope for those struggling during the holiday season. I was not thinking about myself, but in the midst of the service I had those goose bumps come up and the little hairs on the back of my neck stood up. The second was when we had the opportunity to worship Christmas Eve at McPherson First and Pastor Lacey Wheeler and Rev. Emily Spearman Cannon led a moving worship service.
Thinking about these worship opportunities gave me time to reflect one of my favorite scriptures for the Christmas season. As I think about the shepherds all alone out in the fields in the middle of the night, I wonder what troubles they were thinking about. Predators, loneliness, food, family, I think all of these may have been on their minds and then an Angel of the Lord appears to them and they hear, “Do not be afraid”. Yeah right, all alone out in a dark field with sheep sleeping and an Angel appears. They were receptive to the rest of the message and became the first messengers of Christmas. The last line is something we should follow, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told to them. So here we are a few days after Christmas and we too need to remember to glorify God and praise all that had been told to us. Let us always proclaim Joy to the World as we spread the light of Christ.
-Rev. Jeff Goetzinger
Little River and Mitchell Chapel UMC's
Prayer for Reflection
Holy and loving God, may you watch over all those that may have troubled hearts, those that are struggling in this season of Christmas. May your holy light push back the dark thoughts, and all that may separate us from you. In Jesus holy name we pray, Amen
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