Hello Brothers & Sisters,
I know this is a busy time of year, so I pray that we will all take a moment to center ourselves on the coming of Christ. I want to encourage you to take a few minutes this week to be still and intentionally place your thoughts on the story of the Father sending Jesus into the world the way he did. If it helps, read the story of Christ’s birth in Matthew 1:18-2:12 or in Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-20 and enter into this narrative. You could also watch the film, The Nativity Story (2006).
What is God saying to you through the way he came to earth? How does he want to come to you this Christmas?
I confess that I didn’t grow up in a tradition that thought much about liturgy. The idea was resisted, usually out of a desire for freedom of the Spirit and not to be confined by rituals that become meaningless over time. Of course, even the most contemporary or post-modern church has an expected liturgy, order, or way of doing things. I think it is good for us to acknowledge that liturgy or “holy patterns” and practices can be helpful in shaping us.
While I don’t ever envision myself or Grantham Church embracing a “high church” model of worship (e.g. Episcopal or Catholic), I do believe that liturgy is not only helpful, but we were made for it. What do I mean? The Old Testament is filled with ritual and liturgy. Contrary to a lot of anti-religious sentiments today, even by folks in the church, we see Jesus and the apostles embracing religious habits, feasts, and festivals. Also, the historic Christian church instituted a church calendar to assist in our formation.
Holy habits are good for the brain, thus good for the soul.
Neuroscience is proving that our brains look for patterns. It wants to create patterns. You could even say, your brain needs liturgy. Have you ever cared for children? You see this at an early age. If there is no structure, chaos will likely ensue. Lanna and I both learned this in teaching teenagers in the classroom. When there is an expected order and predictable patterns, people are more likely, not less likely, to be formed by the experience.
Our practices give us meaning and purpose. It shapes who we are for better or for worse. So, how are we being shaped? What liturgy or holy patterns are we embracing to deepen our faith and grow us up into Christ, particularly in Advent-Christmas? What about your children? What holy habits and patterns are they learning?
Having said that, I do believe that if we accept that liturgy and the church calendar are for our spiritual formation, we will then cease to see our gatherings as just another event in our busy lives. Instead, we will see that we have an opportunity to expose ourselves and our families to the holy patterns that build faith. We will see that they are actually necessary for maintaining and deepening our spiritual formation. What can compete with that?
For example, our Christmas services have that potential. If we break from the pattern of the world that bends toward consumerism and individualism in order to be with the Body of Christ, imagine how that can impact our formation! In this way, the choice to worship with the church on Christmas is truly a subversive, holy act.
So if you’re in town this week, I want to encourage you to join us for the following events:
Wednesday, December 21 – Lessons & Carols with Friends meal at 6:30 p.m. Service at 7:30p.m.
Saturday, December 24 – Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, December 25 – Christmas Day Worship Service at 10:30 a.m.
(No Learning Communities on Christmas morning)
Remember, we finish our Ancient Words series this Sunday on Christmas Day with a message entitled, Immanuel Has Come (5 of 5). I hope you will join us for congregational worship and the final installment of the series, as we look at Isaiah 7:14 and the unique birth of the one who is called, “God With Us.”
Finally, my family wants to thank you all for the Christmas cards we have received. We have been overwhelmed by your love and support these first six months. We can’t tell you how much that means to us. You are a special congregation that has made us feel special. Thank you!
Rest assured that we will be returning from our vacation in Texas. Please pray for our health and safe travels. We will fly out on Dec 27 and return on Jan 5, joining you again on Sun, Jan 8.
From my family to yours, may the Lord grant you his peace this holiday season.
* The following post was first sent as an email to all church members. If you would like to receive the weekly email from the pastor, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org