Friday, January 9, 2015


Sermon preached January 4, 2015

Texts: Isaiah 60:1-6; Matthew 2:1-12

            Arise! Shine!  Your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.  People shall come to your light, and to the brightness of your dawn.
            Get out of bed!  Wake up!  Put your face in the sunlight, God’s bright glory has risen for you.  God rises on you, God’s sunrise glory breaks over you.  People will come to your light, to your sunburst brightness.
            Among the songs I appreciate this time of year, this Christmas season is a song written and performed by Sheryl Crow, “There is a Star That Shines Tonight”.  It begins: There is a star that shines tonight, for all the world to see.  We hear that in Matthew’s story of the three wise men from the East.  While we read this story during the Christmas season, or as the Christmas season moves into the season of “Epiphany,” a word which means an illuminating discovery.  Light shining is the primary image for this season in the church year.  A light shines, and it illumines our lives.  A light shines, and somehow we take that light in and are asked to shine ourselves.
            Matthew’s Gospel speaks of this.  Sheryl Crow’s song speaks of that, of what it might mean to shine.  Tonight my Christmas wish will be, for all to heed the call.  Peace on earth and in our hearts,  That love ring out ring near and far, And lift the weary and the weak, Keep you near this Christmas Eve, There is a star that shines tonight
Sheryl Crow, “There is a Star That Shines Tonight”
            Arise!  Shine!  God’s sunrise glory has broken in on us.  God’s sunshine brightness touches our lives in Jesus.  So how are we gonna shine this year?  How are we each gonna shine in our lives this year?  What are you thinking about?  What are you planning?  And how are we gonna shine this year as First United Methodist Church?  How can we shine more brightly with God’s light, with God’s sunshine brightness?  How are we going to cultivate peace in our hearts and work for peace in the world?  How are we going to cultivate love in our hearts, and let it ring out near and far?  How are we going to lift the weary and the weak?
            Sixty-first Avenue United Methodist Church is located in West Nashville, Tennessee, in an area where 90% of the children quality for free or reduced-price lunches.  This is not an affluent congregation.  Yet, for eighteen years, this church has operated the Last Minute Toy Store in the final days before Christmas.  The toy store in recent years has typically had more than 20,000 gifts worth more than $200,000 donated by individuals and organizations, and it is aimed at reaching persons who have missed the deadline for toys from other agencies.  During the four days the store was open last year, more than 4,600 children and youth from more than 1,400 families received new toys and gifts, books, oranges and candy canes.  To make all this happen requires hundreds of volunteers, many from outside the congregation and many who receive assistance themselves.  The pastor of the congregation says “It’s not about caring about people from a distance….  It’s helping grow a community of struggling folks into a community of mutual caring and being there for each other.  It’s giving them an opportunity to serve and encourage others, and be disciples themselves….  What I see with the Last Minute Toy Store is people giving - - - often just of their time, because they don’t have the resources to give money or toys - - - out of a genuine kindness, and often with a very intentional desire to celebrate the birth of Christ through acts of caring for those who are struggling.”
            There is some shining going on there.  We often shine here, too – providing food, and warmth, and care, and a place to gather for many.

            How are we, each of us, gonna keep shining this year, shining with the brightness of dawn?  How are we, together, gonna keep shining this year with sunburst brightness?

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