Posts Tagged "Advent"

Sermon December 18: We Are Not Alone

Posted by on Dec 19, 2016 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon December 18: We Are Not Alone

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/We-Are-Not-Alone-December-18-2016.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church December 18, 2016 Fourth Sunday of Advent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Isaiah 7:10-16, Matthew 1:18-25 Prayer of Illumination: The One who visited Joseph in a dream visits us still. The Spirit that was at work saving the Hebrew people long ago is at work in our lives today. The child born of Mary lives in our midst when we gather in his name. God is with us, Emmanuel. Amen. Sermon:                              We Are Not Alone I bet Joseph felt pretty alone when he heard the news that Mary was pregnant. He knew the baby wasn’t his, so that only left one other option. Mary had been unfaithful. Joseph was a righteous man, which meant that he followed all the rules of his faith, was, generally, a good guy. And he thought he was marrying a righteous woman, a woman who would manage his household and raise his children. All of a sudden that seemed not to be the case. And who could Joseph talk to about this? Who would understand? The Scripture suggests that Joseph didn’t want to talk about it. Matthew tells us that Joseph had resolved to, “dismiss her quietly.” He just wanted all this ~ the humiliation, the betrayal, the disappointment ~ to go away. But before Joseph had a chance to get down to the magistrate’s house (because, in those days, engagement was a legal union, not just a social one) he had a dream. And in his dream he received a message telling him to go through with the marriage, that Mary hadn’t been unfaithful after all, but was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I had a dream like that I would probably dismiss it as a result of the Italian sausage I had the night before and go on with my day. But not Joseph. No, Joseph paid attention. When the angel of his dream quoted Isaiah with the prophecy that a virgin would bear a son and name him Emmanuel, Joseph suddenly knew that he wasn’t alone. God, indeed, was with him.   And Joseph would never be alone again. He took Mary as his wife and raised the baby as his own. By naming Jesus, Joseph acknowledged this baby of unusual origins as his own son. One of the greatest joys ~ and biggest challenges ~ of my life is being a stepmother. Ben was two-years-old when Gary and I married. Today he is 17 and getting acceptance letters from colleges. As a 27-year-old bride I was in love ~ with Gary and with the toddler that would make my up my instant family. We did all the ‘right’ things before we got married. Gary and I talked a lot and I read books on being a step-mother. But nothing can prepare one for the realities of being a stepfamily ~ the anticipated visits and the too-soon goodbyes, the blending of grandparents and cousins, aunts and uncles, the disagreements on what’s in the best interest of who, and the linking of two families that might not have much in common but the love for one boy. One thing I knew from the beginning was that I didn’t want to try to be Ben’s mother. Ben has a mother who loves him as only mothers can.   But where does that leave me? And what can I offer Ben? Those are questions that I still ponder, but don’t think I’ll ever figure out. I imagine they are questions pondered by many stepparents. Maybe it is enough that I am the wife...

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Sermon December 4: What Are We Waiting For?

Posted by on Dec 5, 2016 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon December 4: What Are We Waiting For?

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/What-Are-We-Waiting-For-December-4-2016.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church December 4, 2016 Second Sunday of Advent Rev. Kristabeth Atwood Scripture:  Isaiah 11:1-10, Matthew 3:1-12 Prayer of Illumination: God of peace, may these words of prophesy, promise and preparation encourage us to steadfast love and action. And may the words that I say and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight. Amen.            Sermon: What Are We Waiting For? Let’s just say, John the Baptist wasn’t one to mince words. In fact, it seems that he didn’t worry at all about what other people thought.   He called it as he saw it. “You brood of vipers!” he said. Living in the wilderness, wearing camel hair clothes with honey stuck between his teeth, he wasn’t afraid to say what he meant. “…every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” John felt the urgency. He took this Messiah thing pretty seriously. And why wouldn’t he, right? His people ~ the people of Israel ~ had been waiting a long time for the Messiah. I’m sure John was familiar with the passage from Isaiah that we read today. The promised Messiah would bring peace, righteousness, justice, and equity to the earth and all people. In fact, the Messiah’s promised reign would be greater than anyone could even imagine. “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.” And John, believing in his heart that the Messiah had come, wanted the people to be ready. He wanted them to know that the waiting was over. Today is the day!   And that’s kind of what we’re doing here, isn’t it? John the Baptist announced the first Advent and here we are, some two thousand years later, still taking John’s advice. Still getting ready. Waiting for the promised coming. Because Advent is when we prepare for the coming of the Messiah, into the world and into our hearts, which is no little thing. So if John was waiting for a Messiah who would change the world, a Messiah who would call into question the regular conventions and assumptions of the day, what are we waiting for? If John was waiting for a Messiah ready to chop down any tree not bearing good fruit, what are we waiting for? John the Baptist told us that the Messiah, when he came, wouldn’t mess around. John warned, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” The Messiah John described was no Hallmark, Lake Champlain Chocolate, Vermont Country Store Messiah. The Messiah John described could not be tamed or domesticated or fit into even the biggest box we could find at the Christmas Tree Shoppe. Truth be told, we probably don’t think too much about the winnowing-fork carrying, chaff-burning Messiah when we are doing our Christmas shopping and baking our Christmas cookies. If the Messiah comes to mind at all it is probably the infant Messiah, the Christ child. Peace on earth. Good will to all. The Christ child doesn’t get up into anyone’s business too much. He lays in his manger and ‘coos’ to his mother as the shepherds and magi sing “Silent Night.” And there’s nothing wrong with the “tender and mild” Messiah, so long as we remember why he came and the mission he was sent to fulfill. Because, would all this Advent waiting be worth...

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Sermon December 20: A Song of Strength

Posted by on Feb 3, 2016 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon December 20: A Song of Strength

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/A-Song-of-Strength-December-20-2015.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church December 20, 2015 Fourth Sunday of Advent Rev. Kristabeth E. Atwood Scripture: Luke 1:46b-55, Luke 1:39-45 Prayer for Illumination: O God, slow us down. Help us center our thoughts and restore in us a childlike wonder. Open your word to us that we may hear your message for our lives as we call on your name. Be with us an in us, Emmanuel. Amen. Sermon: A Song of Strength Lullabies. How many of you can remember a lullaby your mother or father sang to you? Maybe you even sang that lullaby to your own child? “Rock-a-Bye Baby.” “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”   “Hush Little Baby, Don’t Say a Word.” Songs often live on in our memories in ways that the spoken word does not. Just holding a baby can bring back the words to an old nursery rhyme, one thought to be long since forgotten. But the song we have before us today ~ Mary’s song ~ is not a lullaby. Mary’s baby wasn’t even born yet. But it is still a mother’s song. A song pregnant with hope and expectation. Hope in the God who had done great things. Expectation for what God would do through the one growing in her womb.   It’s not a song of soothing tones, but a song with undertones of challenge and transformation. A song that recognized that the baby about to be born would change everything. But that’s nothing new, is it? All babies change everything, don’t they? At least for their parents! There is something unique and wonderful about a new life coming into the world. Perhaps that’s why Mary took the long, and probably dangerous, pre-natal journey from Nazareth to Judea to be with her cousin Elizabeth who was also pregnant with her first child. Both Mary ~ young, innocent and unwed ~ and Elizabeth ~ who was past childbearing age ~ find themselves pregnant under the most unusual and unexpected of circumstances. Henri Nouwen describes this encounter between Mary and Elizabeth in his book The Road to Daybreak. He writes, “Who could ever understand? Who could ever believe it? Who could ever let it happen? But Mary says, ‘Let it happen to me,’ and she immediately realizes that only Elizabeth will be able to affirm her ‘yes.’” So, on the doorstep of Elizabeth’s house, these two unusual women met and shared a most unusual greeting. The baby Elizabeth was carrying leapt in her womb while Mary burst into song. But who could blame Mary, really? She was finally with someone who understood what she was going through. Can you imagine the talk around Nazareth? The accusing? The gossiping? Probably the rumor mill was going wild. These days we recite the Apostle’s Creed with barely a second thought to the part that refers to Jesus’ birth. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary.” We say it matter of fact. Yet imagine how strange that must have sounded at the time. That innocent Mary isn’t so innocent after all! An angelic visit? Mm Hmm. The Holy Spirit? Yeah, right! As Barbara Brown Taylor put it, there was no affidavit from the Holy Spirit.   And Mary’s story wasn’t the most believable one in town. So Mary sang. She sang because there was nothing else she could do. She was bursting with hope and joy and wonder that this could be happening to her. She sang of a God who looked upon her and called her blessed. And Elizabeth, her companion on this unusual journey, heard her song. And I wonder if there was someone else...

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Sermon December 21: Unexpected Love

Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon December 21: Unexpected Love

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Unexpected-Love-December-21-2014.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church December 21, 2014 Fourth Sunday of Advent Rev. Krista Beth Atwood Scripture: Luke 1:26-38, Luke 1:46b-55 Prayer of Illumination:         We come to you, O God, ready to be bearers of Christ to the world. Send your Spirit into our very lives, that we may be your servants of love. Scatter the pride that would harden our hearts. Fill us with your goodness and grace. Strengthen us with your justice and righteousness. Humble us with your mercy and compassion. Make the impossible possible and let it be with us according to your word. Amen. Sermon:  Unexpected Love In preparation for today’s sermon I glanced through my sermon archive to see what I’d preached about Mary in the past. Mary, the mother of Jesus. Surprisingly I found very little. But, then again, Mary has what we might consider a bit-part in the gospels. Apart from the Christmas stories she only appears a few times. Briefly we hear from her when Jesus, as a pre-teen, went missing at the temple. She appears again at the wedding at Cana to encourage Jesus to turn water into wine. Later we find her trying to get a moment with Jesus in the midst of his teachings and healings. And finally she is there, at the cross, when Jesus died.   The woman, who as a young peasant girl accepted an amazing call from God, watched as her first born son was crucified. It’s true that, as Protestants, we don’t spend a lot of time with Mary. We don’t revere Mary like our Catholic brothers and sisters do. And when we do speak of Mary we often emphasize her gentle and meek nature. In Christmas pageants Mary often doesn’t even get a speaking part. (I noticed that wasn’t the case in our Christmas pageant last week! Yay for our FLOCK.) Yet our characterizations of Mary don’t do justice to the strength of her faith. Some have, rightly, described Mary as the first disciple. Just like the disciples of later years, Mary was willing to give up all that she knew to follow God into a new life. And isn’t it appropriate that we get to spend this time with Mary on the Sunday we light the Advent candle of love. For what could embody love more than Mary opening her very self to bear God’s love into the world? This certainly was not a life path that Mary could have chosen, but when the angel showed up with unexpected news she answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me according to your word.” That’s not to say that Mary understood exactly what she was getting into. As Lillian Daniel put it, “She understood enough to understand that she did not understand.” In other words, she had faith. She had enough of the story to get started, which is often all that any of us have when setting out on a journey of faith. Mary had guts. Mary believed. But still, can you imagine the talk around small-town Nazareth? The accusing? The gossiping? Mary engaged and already pregnant! Probably the rumor-mill was going wild. These days we recite the Apostle’s Creed with barely a second thought to the part that refers to Jesus’ birth. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit; Born of the Virgin Mary.” Yet imagine how strange that must have sounded at the time. The Holy Spirit? Yeah, right! The disgrace of an unwed pregnancy in that day was one thing. From that alone she could have faced social stigma, isolation and even death by stoning. Then there was...

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Sermon December 7: Waiting Place

Posted by on Dec 10, 2014 in Sunday Message KB | Comments Off on Sermon December 7: Waiting Place

http://faithsbvt.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Waiting-Place-December-7-2014.mp3 Faith United Methodist Church December 7, 2014 Second Sunday of Advent Rev. Krista Beth Atwood Scripture: Mark 1:1-8, 2 Peter 3:8-15a Prayer of Illumination:         May the words that I speak and the thoughts that we form be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen. Sermon:  Waiting Place     I don’t remember much about Advent as a child, but I do remember always having an Advent calendar. Not the fancy kind with chocolates, or anything, but just a simple one we would buy at the Hallmark Store with windows to open each day telling the story of Jesus’ birth. Every morning, at breakfast, we would open the next little window. One window at a time, it would seem like forever until Christmas arrived. Today we still open our Advent Calendar at breakfast ~ Gary and I take turns ~ but I have the opposite problem. The little windows fly open too fast and before I know it Christmas is here with not enough time to prepare. Interestingly, one of the characters never featured in any of my Advent Calendars is John the Baptist. Ever see John the Baptist in an Advent Calendar? If so, I’d like to see that calendar! With his camel’s hair and diet of locust, he doesn’t really fit the Hallmark image of Christmas. But guess who we run into on this Second Sunday of Advent? Martha Stewart’s worst nightmare, as someone once called him ~ John the Baptist himself ~ with words for those of us counting down the days until Christmas. Prepare. Repent. The One is coming. The truth is, John the Baptist is totally inappropriate for the way we celebrate Christmas. He is the antithesis of the twinkling lights and perfectly wrapped presents. He would never be invited to the office Christmas party. Totally inappropriate. Totally inappropriate, yet absolutely essential. For he draws us out of ourselves ~ he’s a little bit shocking ~ and he reminds us in no uncertain terms for what, for whom, we wait. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me…” Prepare. Make straight. Repent. Waiting, though, is not often something we do well. You might remember the great theologian Dr. Suess’ reflection on waiting. In his book Oh, the Places You’ll Go, he talks about one place called the waiting place. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow   Have you ever been in that place? The waiting place is a place where people are just waiting.   And Dr. Suess has a point, doesn’t he? It seems like we’re always waiting for something and waiting isn’t easy. We may be stuck in the waiting place right now. Waiting for the test results. Waiting for the job interview. Waiting for the best sale. Waiting… Waiting… Waiting. Probably the most difficult thing about waiting is that there is nothing to do but wait. And this may have been how the recipients of Peter’s letter felt. That they were stuck in the waiting place.   Discouraged that Jesus was not returning as quickly as they hoped and thinking that maybe they had gotten it all wrong, they began thinking that Jesus may not return at all. Yet, they received a letter with these words of encouragement: “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think...

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