Rose Park Sunday School (Adults and Children) at 8:45 a.m. / Worship at 9:45 a.m.

Madison Sunday School (Adults and Children) 10:15 a.m. / Worship at 11:15 a.m.

Sermon Notes 


Isaiah 63:7-9

7 I will tell of the kindnesses of the Lord, the deeds for which he is to be praised, according to all the Lord has done for us—yes, the many good things he has done for Israel, according to his compassion and many kindnesses. 8 He said, “Surely they are my people, children who will be true to me”; and so he became their Savior. 9 In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Hebrews 2:10-18

10 In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. 11 Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.” 13 And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me.” 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Matthew 2:10-23

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

The Escape to Egypt: 

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18 “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.”19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” 21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.

This is an interesting week to consider: Last Sunday we celebrated the birth of the Christ Child. Christmas Day! Think of your own celebrations in your homes. Christmas morning brings a certain intensity to the day as if the air around us takes on a type of electricity. Children can hardly contain their excitement, and even as adults, most of us will admit there is a special feeling surrounding our family gatherings on Christmas. We go to bed and while we continue to relive the excitement of the day, we drift off to sleep. 

How do we feel when we awaken? Do we still feel the joy of Christmas or are we ready to pack away the decorations and get back to our normal lives? Maybe Christmas already seems like a pleasant memory from the past. We think, “How wonderful it was to be together, but now it is time to return to work or school.” We spent an entire month in preparation for this big event! How can it already be over? We might even worry that we missed something important. 

It seems that the older I become I have learned to be insistent in savoring the moment. It is easy to be so caught up in the frenzy of big events that we later realize that we didn’t even get a chance to speak to someone who is there. There are the decorations and the food and the fellowship. I have memories of big events in my younger years where I didn’t take the time to realize that this might be the only time this happens or that I am with this group of people. When I returned to college in my thirties to complete my teaching credentials, I had to prepare and present my senior recital. Now, I do love to play the piano, but a college senior recital is a totally different thing. I was consumed with my preparations for more than two years. On the night of my recital, I played and completed the degree requirements. After my final bow at the end of the program, I sat back on the piano bench and took a moment to reflect on what I had just completed. Precious Moments

Let’s recap the events of Christmas: The shepherds who followed the star to Bethlehem have returned to the fields. They will likely continue talking about this special event for many days. Mary and Joseph are enjoying this bonding time with their child. In those first days when a couple becomes a family, the adrenaline from our emotions allows us to take care of our baby’s needs even when we are ready to collapse from the lack of sleep.  I fondly remember marveling at each finger and toe of my newborn children. Nothing could be more precious than these first hours and days. 

Meanwhile, Herod is in a rage to find the “king of the Jews.” He will stop at nothing until the child is destroyed. Herod can not see past the possible destruction of his kingdom. His goal is to run a quiet town so that he can get promoted to a less remote place. If the Romans hear about the birth of this “king”, he will be finished as a politician. So, his work to eliminate the child continues. 

Once again, the angels appear to Joseph as he sleeps. And it is this moment of faith and dreams that save Emmanuel. Joseph, like his Hebrew namesake, is so open to God that God’s angels inhabit his slumber, warning and instructing him. Have you ever awakened from a dream and struggled to remember what was going on? Sometimes we know details, while other times just a sense remains. On the basis of a memory that dissolves at daybreak, Joseph takes his family and flees to Egypt.

Jesus is safe, but all those others are killed. It is hard to imagine a small town with no toddlers. It is hard to imagine the cruelty of Herod. And yet it still happens today. All of us know about the mass killings in our schools, our stores, and our communities, Just like all the toddlers of Bethlehem our children are among the innocent victims of gun violence. The Herods of our time is everywhere. The innocents are still being slaughtered.

While the angels’ words of peace and goodwill still ring in our ears, we are called to work for the holy dream of a world where all children are safe. May it be so.

We read of Rachel weeping for the lost children of Israel who had been taken into exile at Ramah. She would not be consoled; she did not want to be consoled. The mothers of Bethlehem also refused comfort because to dry their tears would be to forget the joy, the laughter, the love, . . . their babies. Weeping honors the dead. Tears are a visible sign of hidden heartbreak. Mourning is an essential part of remembering. 

Some feel that tears are a sign of God’s presence. If that is true, then God has been close to us all. Psalm 34:38 tells us, “He is near to the broken-hearted.” He is closer than the air you breathe and He wants to bear your burden for you. And when the tears do not cease, when sleep does not come, all we can do is hold on to that presence. Even in the midst of tears and sleepless nights, there is love. Sometimes we know the love by knowing the grief because love is embedded in every grief. Without love, there would be no sense of loss. 

With each challenge we face and each loss we suffer, we are called by God to follow the light of Christ. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; 

where there is hatred, let me sow love; 

where there is injury, pardon; 

where there is doubt, faith; 

where there is despair, hope; 

where there is darkness, light; 

and where there is sadness, joy. 

O Divine Master, 

grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; 

to be understood, as to understand; 

to be loved, as to love; 

for it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, 

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. 


The prayer of peace is about transformation – 

the movement away from darkness to light,

 it is not a specific place but it is about a direction of travel

 towards a state of wholeness and well-being: peace

Birth and death, fear and faith, love and loss are intertwined in the story of Jesus. From beginning to end, from cradle to Cross, Jesus’ life is in danger. And on the other side of Christmas, we are to do as Joseph did: listen for God’s whispers and do what we can to keep Christ alive in the midst of the world’s threats. We are called to hold on to Emmanuel and know that indeed God is with us.

This morning, I bring you Good News, Good news of great joy! With the arrival of Christ, light is born. The light that shines in the darkness will lead us toward everlasting life. Jesus comes as a human to become our advocate so that the divine can reside within us: God our Creator, Christ our Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit our Intercessor. Soon the light will be revealed to the world by the Magi who arrive at Epiphany. From the manger to the cross, Jesus is our Savior. 

Finally, we are called to praise God. This praise is more than a song; it is a way of being. As Walter Brueggemann explains, “‘World-making’ is done by God. . . . But it is done through human activity that God has authorized and in which God is known to be present. . . . Praise is not a response to a world already fixed and settled, but it is a responsive and obedient participation in a world yet to be decreed and in the process of being decreed.”

When we choose to follow Christ, we are accepting the call to be co-creators with God, to let our lives be the kind of praise that remakes the world in the image of God, who is with us, is one of us, and shows us how to live. 

Jesus came to walk among us and he participated in the work of the new creation, where the least and the last are loved and cared for, where children grow up in safety, and where evil fails. May we truly be followers of the way of Jesus. Hallelujah!

We must not pack away Christ in the boxes and bins of Christmas decorations. Christ is with us now and always.