Please join us on Christmas Eve, Saturday, December 24, for one of three services celebrating Christ’s birth:
- 4pm: A Children’s Service, geared toward families with children, but all are welcome!
- 8pm: A Christmas celebration.
- 11pm: A candlelight service that will end with communion.
Please note that we will not have a service on Christmas Day, December 25.
December 11, 2016
Katie Henry Murad
November 27, 2016
Luke 1:5-25, 57-66
Pre-Message Notes From the Weekly Gracevine
Gracevine December 22, 2016
[for message on Christmas Eve – December 24]
“A Long- Awaited Birth”
For a lot of us, the Christmas season is one of the most joyful and exciting times of the year. We celebrate and anticipate the birth of Jesus, we give and receive gifts to show our affection to one another, we have parties in our homes and at work (maybe with really tacky Christmas sweaters as added bonuses!) and we enjoy the crisp weather that comes with this time of year (maybe even some snow at times). Yet there are also some of us who struggle more during this season of the year than in other times. The weight of where we’re at in life can really burden us, especially as everyone else seems joyous and full of life.
Maybe this year you’re missing a loved one and things just won’t be the same as they have been in years past? Maybe you’re experiencing a time where a significant person is particularly strained and it makes the traditions that you have enjoyed vastly different without the closeness of that relationship? Or, maybe this year you’re wondering (because of a particular circumstance or situation) whether you’ve been celebrating the birth of this God-baby, Jesus, every year, but you’re not really sure you believe anymore?
The truth is that the holidays oftentimes carry a lot more stuff with them than we are willing to admit and some of that stuff is very difficult and heavy. As a human being with real feelings, struggles and emotions and also as a person of faith, I feel like it’s important to name that, even as we celebrate and sing together throughout the season. So, if you’re struggling to find the joy in the Christmas season this year, know that it’s okay to say that. If that’s true of you, I’d encourage you to share those details with a great friend or one of us on staff here at Grace and not let them fester.
My prayer for this Christmas season is that each of us would be honest about where we are in life and press into the words, songs and powerful story of Jesus’ birth in a new, awe-inspiring and mysterious way even if we’re struggling.
I hope to see y’all and your friends on Christmas Eve at one of our services (4, 8 or 11 pm).
Gracevine December 15, 2016
[for message December 18]
“Joseph’s Adoptive Son”
It’s hard to believe that this Sunday will be the fourth of Advent — a season of expectant waiting, anticipation and preparation for Jesus’ birth at Christmas! That means we’re on the doorstep of Christmas 2016 and, almost immediately after that, some exciting times of new beginnings as a community in 2017.
Last Sunday morning Katie did a great job of walking us through Mary’s Song from Luke 1 in her sermon. In the birth narratives from Matthew and Luke’s Gospels, we learn a good bit about Mary. She was young and a virgin. She had found favor with God. She was pregnant and bore a son. And, she was engaged to a man named Joseph among several other details. However, we really don’t know very much about Joseph from the birth narratives nor does he factor into much of the rest of the Gospels. In a lot of ways, he largely disappears from the scene after Jesus’ birth, which means a number of questions about him and his role in Jesus’ life remain unanswered.
One thing we do know about Joseph is that he is chosen, as Mary’s husband, to be Jesus’ earthly father. In a real way, Joseph adopts Jesus into his family even amid the shocking details of His birth. Although they don’t share a biological connection, Joseph’s example of adopting Jesus into his family serves as a model for how God adopts each of us into the family through Christ (see Galatians 4). But, why does Joseph do this? Is it out of obligation since he’s a “righteous man”? Or because he really (romantically) loves Mary? Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what is going on in the Gospel account at this time because of things that seem “lost in translation” and foreign to us.
My hope is that this Sunday morning we will look at Matthew 1:18-25, a familiar story to a lot of us, with new eyes and see how Joseph plays into this incredible, scandalous and beautiful story about the birth of our Savior. Make sure to bring a friend or even family with you as we continue to celebrate and remember that God didn’t abandon us when we were disobedient. Instead, God chose to be with us!
Gracevine December 8, 2016
Katie Henry Murad
[for message December 11]
This time of year always brings with it a spirit of anticipation. For some, it’s the thrill of the gifts. For others, it’s time with family we’ve been longing to see. Yet for some, it’s the hope of something completely unexpected. It’s interesting to me how trusting Mary was when the angel of God told her what would unfold in her future. What radical trust in her God!
What I love, though, is that Mary didn’t stop there. She told the angel she was up for the job and considered herself a servant of the Most High. She expressed her unfathomable faith by extolling God. Read her moment of sheer awe at the faithfulness of God in Luke 1:46-55:
46 Mary responded,
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
What I think we often forget in this season (a season when we think everything has to be perfect) is Mary praised God in the midst of truly uncertain circumstances. She didn’t have to have all the answers because she had the promise that God would BE WITH her and USE her. She anticipated these events coming to fruition.
My prayer this Advent season is that the presence and promise of God will fan the flames of expectation within us for our Savior. The gifts, the songs, the meals, the family will all pale in comparison to the awe we have as we meditate on the goodness of our God. This anticipation doesn’t mean that things have to be perfect. It actually means the exact opposite…that in the middle of the mess, we meet God in the most interesting ways and our only response is to shout of God’s goodness! Praise Emmanuel, God with us!
Gracevine December 1, 2016
[for message December 4]
Often, there is a sequence to building a family. The order may or may not be followed. For us reading this short article, there are probably 8-10 different paths that we took to build our family.
For the sake of simplicity, the process might have these steps:
- Find a significant other
- Fall in love
- Talk, date or court for a time period from weeks to years
- Make the decision, buy the ring, ask the question, receive the answer
- Announce the engagement, plan and celebrate the “big” day
- Go on a honeymoon, enjoy one another, as two become one.
- Pregnant! 9 months of exhaustion and the final sprint to choose birthing options
- Labor for 4 -24 hours (natural, with drugs, c-section, emergency procedures)
- Baby arrives!
Having been a pastor for a good number of years, I know that final word (“baby”) has come in all the different steps above for many different people. As a matter of fact, our personal life story has many of us coming in these different spots as well. Well, the “biggest, brightest birth ever” did not follow these steps either.
Imagine with me that the Son of God would not follow and teach us how to “build a family.” Well, apparently, the birth of Jesus the baby came around step four. Read the story below from Luke 1:26-38:
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you. “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
This Advent season at Grace, we are discovering and growing in anticipation for “A Thrill of Hope.” However, the path to the birth of the Son of God was not typical, nor was it the “biggest, brightest birth ever.”
This Sunday, please arrive on time as our Children’s Ministry presents “The Biggest, Brightest Christmas Show Ever,” with a message from Luke 1:26-38 leading us to celebrate the Lord’s Table together. Join us this Sunday for a wonderful, fun family day “preparing us to be a people ready to receive the birth of the Son of God,” Jesus.
Gracevine November 23, 2016
This Advent and Christmas season we hope to hear, see and experience the birth of Jesus with new ears, new eyes and new hearts — the kind that are filled with wonder and awe like being a child again. Although many of us have heard this ancient story numerous times over the years, the details, scandal and beauty of it will come alive for us in new and fresh ways. This is a great time, maybe even the best time, to bring a friend or family with you — someone who has heard the story before or someone who hasn’t. May God use this incredible moment to soften and change our hearts.
- November 27: Chris Sasser
- December 4: Children’s production and Brian Worley
- Decemeber 11: Katie Henry Murad
- December 18: Clark Rinehart