January 15, 2023 The Real Work Of Christmas (Epiphany 2)

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, please click on the link below to watch the entire worship service as a video on your home computer, tablet or smartphone:

Link to Video:

Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/789375719

Screencast-o-matic: https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/c0VoeCVwA24


If you would prefer not to view the video, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just right click on the link to “open link in a new tab” to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)


1 Blessed are the ones who walk not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers; 2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law they meditate day and night. 3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, that yield their fruit in its season, and their leaf does not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

HYMN 254 We Three Kings
Anne Murray – We Three Kings [with lyrics]

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − The WESLEY COVENANT PRAYER

I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

Please pray for yourself and your neighbors, lifting up your needs to God while giving thanks for answered prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.

HYMN 369. Blessed Assurance
Alan Jackson – Blessed Assurance (Live)

MOMENTS WITH THE CHILDREN – If you are blessed to have children with you, ask them what they are thankful for, and then thank God together!

GIVING OF OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS – these can be mailed to the church office.

MESSAGE: The Real Work Of Christmas
Text: Matthew 4:16-20, John 20:19-23, Matthew 5:14-16
Series: Organizing For The New Year

Right-click, open in new tab to play … Sermon audioSermon slides as a PDF file.
Saturday Video AudioWesley Sermon Audio


Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


HYMN Open My Eyes, That I May See
Open My Eyes, That I May See || Breath of Praise; West Kenya Union Conference

BENEDICTION The Prayer of St Francis:

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
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

If you worship at home, please let us know so we can pray for you!


The real work of Christmas. You may have done a lot of work with regard to Christmas prior to Christmas Day. All that wrapping and shopping and cooking and cleaning and getting ready. You may have done a lot of work since Christmas Day, putting all those things away. Maybe they’re all put away now. Maybe there are a few things still left out. Maybe if you go on vacation to Austin, Texas, everything is still set up, just like Christmas at your house.

But the real work of Christmas is what Jesus does after Christmas. There’s an old saying that the words most frequently heard in churches are these: We’ve never done it that way before. And the rest of that saying frequently is we’re not going to do it different today either!

But when you think about that attitude, it’s an attitude, almost a prayer, Lord, don’t let anything be different. Don’t let anything be different in our church. Don’t let anything be different in our community. And if you think about that, that’s really sad. Because a prayer that every year be the same as every other year is a prayer for a year that is less than perfect.

And Jesus Christ came so that this would be a better world. And the real work of Christmas, this year, is for the world to be a better world. And what brings that to pass, I would suggest, is for our prayers to focus on a better life. And also for us to be better.

There is a poem … it’s also a prayer … that was written by Howard Thurman, theologian, college chaplain, and he called it The Work of Christmas, but most people refer to it as The Real Work of Christmas.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flock,
the work of Christmas begins.

And what is that work?

To find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among others,
and to make music in the hearts.

All too often, when we are praying our prayers, we are praying for the same thing, the same thing, the same thing. And we are avoiding the reality that God would like to do a new thing.

Sixty years ago, in August, I was 8 years old, so I completely missed it. Martin Luther King gave what is generally acknowledged to be the very best sermon, the very best speech that has ever been given. It’s called his I Have A Dream speech … where he described a better world. He described a hope that he had. And he asked people to join him in moving toward that hope. Near the end of the speech, he talks about the difficulties they’ve experienced. But he makes this conclusion, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today, and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

And I would like to suggest, friends, we need to have a dream as well. How could the three wise men — or there may have been more than three. We honestly don’t know. Tradition says there were three. How could the three wise men find Jesus? Well, they were guided by a star in the sky. So they always, wherever they were, all they had to do was look up and go toward the star. Friends, you and I also need to be guided by God because if we don’t allow God to guide us, we will wind up back in those same old, same old habits, which sadly include the same old, same old problems, just like the wise men.

And in fact, to be wise, I would suggest, you need a star. You need a dream. You need a very clear image of hope because it will help you to move forward. The raw material from which dreams are built is simply this: faith and hope and love. 1 Corinthians 13, the last verse points out these three things last. You let your love look out at the people around you and you say, “What do these people need?” And you’re supposed to love your neighbor as yourself.
So you look at your own life, “What do I need?” And out of that awareness of the difference between the way things are right now and the way things could be, your hope begins to blossom. You see, hope really isn’t about the same thing over and over again. Hope is about life becoming better. And hope gives power for life to be gathered because hope is the fuel for faith. And for us to believe that God can bring about a future that we would want to live in– so I want to encourage you this morning to let your imagination bring your dream into focus.

On New Year’s Day, I shared with you a sermon, and I told the story of the index card. And in every bulletin, there was an index card. And I talked about how at one point in time in my life, I made a list of the things that I felt I needed. And I was listening to an audiobook, and the audiobook said, “Now, just put that in a drawer and forget that you filled it out.” And I did. In fact – I’ll be honest with you – I lost it. A year later, I was moved to another church. And I was unpacking, and I found that index card, only to discover that every single thing on it that I really wanted– because I’d put two things on it that, I have to be honest with you, were just things that I thought I should put there. But every single thing on it had actually come to pass because God heard that as a prayer. And without my pushing or nudging or prompting or nagging God, God took care of it.

Now, I don’t know if you were here January 1st or not. I don’t know what you did with your index card. But I brought some more out and put them on the table over there because I want to highly recommend that we do this. Let’s make a written record of what we would like to see God do in our lives, in our church, in our community. The German writer, Goethe, said, “Whatever you do or dream, you can begin it.” But how can you begin something that you’ve not described? “Boldness,” Goethe said, “has genius and power and magic in it.”

Here’s what the scripture says. Matthew 4:16: “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who sat in the region in the shadow of death, light has dawned.” This “light” relates to Jesus appearing before the people. This is the theme of Epiphany: Jesus has appeared and begins to teach; and through what Jesus says, the world begins to change.

And then you see this 17th verse: “From that time,” and the implication is he never stopped, “From that time, Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent.'”

Friends, “Repent,” is never about everything staying the same. “Repent,” is always about being more in line with God’s desire and God’s will. And why should we repent? Jesus says, “For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

God is ready to act. But sometimes, God waits for us to repent. And so, in the Wesley Covenant Prayer, the early Methodists began their whole year with this simple repentance, this simple surrender, this simple saying to God, “Lord, you do whatever you want. I’m okay with that. You do whatever you think is best. I know you know better.” And they surrender the whole coming year with this worship service on New Year’s Eve. But the summary of everything they say is just simply this, “Thy will be done.”

What is God’s dream for us here, today? The way for God’s dream to become true is for us to say, “Thy will be done.” So Jesus began to say to everyone, “Repent. It’s time for things to be different.”

What was the next thing he said? This is how things become different. As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. This is what they did every day, the same, same thing. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me.” Now, it’s time to do something different.

“Follow me,” Jesus says, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And verse 20 says, “Immediately, they left their nets and followed him.” And Jesus still says down through all the ages to each of us, “Follow me.” It’s not time for you to do everything that you’ve always done before. It’s time for you to listen to me, to do what I do, to go where I go. Oh, and as I do that, I’m going to teach you how to fish for people, which they did.

God’s dream for us today and right here is that all of us be more and more followers of Jesus in the new year. That will make a huge difference in our lives.

At the close of Jesus’s time with us, the beginning of that was Easter Sunday. He rose from the dead. He was in the upper room with the disciples, and he gave them a new understanding of what it meant to follow him. Here’s what it meant to follow him: As the Father has sent me, now, I’m going to send you. You’re not going to follow me literally, which they had done for three years. Now, you’re going to follow me because you’re going to do everything I did. You’re going to say everything I said.

And in different ways, this past year, I mentioned this to you. We are in the midst of a rerun because we’re going to redo everything Jesus did and said in his life because that’s what it means to follow him.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus was like light that came into this world, but he very quickly began to say to his disciples– this is from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5. We know that Jesus is the light of the world, but he looks at us and says, “You are the light of the world.” A city set on a hill cannot be hid nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. So therefore, let your light so shine before men so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven … and also so that they can be guided to also follow Jesus. God’s dream for us today is for your light and my light to shine in the darkness of this world.

Well, Pastor Dave, what does that mean? What exactly should I do? I’ve frequently said that the very worst sort of sermon is one in where the pastor on Sunday says to people, “Be good.” But never tells them how to be good, never tells them what to do on Monday. But you see, that’s why I’m asking you to give some thought and prayer to your own index card.

John Acuff wrote many books on planning and dreaming and doing. And he said, there are four tasks, the dreams coming true, and they revolve around these four words.

And the first word is this: “Dream,” to ask yourself, “What do I want to do?” Or to say it a little bit differently, because not everything needs to be done by you, what do I want to see happen?

There’s a branch of psychiatry by the name of Reality Therapy that suggests that when people struggle with mental illness, when people struggle with emotional problems, when people struggle, frequently, the struggle is because there’s a confusion about what they want. They are pulled in different directions and so Reality Therapy starts with a simple question: What do you want? And what people who practice this brand of therapy say is it takes a long time for a person who’s torn and pulled in so many directions to actually define exactly what they want, but once they have defined that very clearly, their lives begin to rapidly change because now they have a focus.

And you see, that’s the first step. However, long it takes, that’s the first step to our prayers being answered.

The second step is to ask the question, How will I do it? And that’s a conversation we have with God, but that’s the planning question. But you can’t plan something out until you’ve identified it.

The next step is to actually do what you’ve planned, but there’s no point in doing things until you figured out what you want to do. In our marriage, I am the navigator and Kim is the driver. I am the one who’s constantly on my phone looking at the map, trying to figure out where the next McDonald’s is. And you know what happens when you’re in the navigator? My greatest frustration, one of my greatest frustrations, is when Kim keeps driving aimlessly instead of waiting by the side of the road for me to tell her where McDonald’s is. We’ve all done this, haven’t we? I want to go to McDonald’s. Maybe it’s over here. Maybe it’s over there. Maybe it’s over here.

Friends, we have to figure out things before we do them. And then after you do all those things, it’s really smart to ask the Review question: Did it work? Now, if it didn’t work, we need to go back to the planning stage and figure out what we didn’t do. But if it did work, then we just should keep on keeping on. But it all goes back to that very first thing, which is that we have to dream.

There’s one other thing that’s really important, you see the next line down on the screen, the dream is not with regard to church, what do I want to do, but the dream is actually about what do we want to do. All too often, we pastors, we jump in. We’re in a hurry to define the dream. We’re in a hurry to describe what we think needs to happen. And all too often, we pastors train people to not think for themselves but just simply to let the words of the pastor come into their brain and that’s what we’re going to do.

But you know something? For God’s dream to come to pass, we need to think together. And I need to hear from you and you need to hear from each other, because God speaks to all of us.

And all too often in our world today, if you ask a church, “What is it that you want God to do?” they would tell you what the pastor says because in a sense, their card is blank. They say to God, “Thy will be done.” But you know what else? They also say to the pastor, “Pastor, thy will be done.”

Our dream is something that we clarify together. And we need to talk about what that is, even if we’re a little afraid to bring it up. Maybe the dream is that the sermons need to be a little shorter. Maybe the dream is that the coffee needs to be a little hotter. I don’t know. But our dream is something that we dream together.

There’s actually a verse where Jesus says that when two or three of you agree on something in prayer, it will be done. All too often, pastors don’t even wait for that agreement, but they just plow straight ahead. So we need to dream. And there need be no restrictions on what we dream except this: the purpose of our dream is to allow faith and hope and love become visible, become real so that the real work of Christmas will be done:

to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among others
and to make music in our hearts.

When we dream together, these things begin to happen. So friends, gather up your faith, hope and love, and let’s dream a dream together. Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, the future belongs to those who believe. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams, so let’s dream.

Let me remind you of something from nine years ago, 2014. The third sermon I preached, I talked about another branch of psychology called Psycho-Cybernetics, that talks about how you do need to focus and define this reality that you would like to see happen. And the example that Dr. Maxwell Maltz uses is a man riding a bicycle. You cannot remain in the exact same place balanced on your bicycle. A bicycle can only remain in balance as it’s moving forward. And I said to all of you, nine years ago, we need to move forward and stay in balance. And the benediction of that Sunday was this picture on the bicycle.

And Steve Fox just started putting it in for the benediction every Sunday. And so for nine years, we’ve concluded our sermon by saying the church is not merely about what we hear or what we think, but it’s time for us to do something.

But I want to say to you, the very first step in doing something is for us to dream something.

Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, please turn our imagination loose so that we can make a list, whether it’s on an index card or a piece of paper that we put in our Bible, whatever form it takes, Lord, please help us to make a list of what we hope. Help us to look over the people that we love and consider what they need and help us make a list, so that those needs are fulfilled. Please, Lord, help us not to be afraid to ask boldly or to dream a big dream but to have faith that, Lord, when we’re ready, when the time is right, what we pray will come to pass. And help us as a whole church together to clarify, to speak of what we dream so that we can all be riding our bikes in the same direction. Lord, help us to dream in faith and hope and love, and we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION: Let’s have a conversation! Please reflect upon the questions below as you consider the material presented above. In a comment, share your thoughts and additional questions. What would you like to know?

What grabbed your attention?
What is the human need or problem?
What questions do you have about any quotes provided?
Does the Bible say anything about this?
What solutions do you see for the problem?
What specifically could we begin to do to make a change?

Additional Resources

Kinmundy United Methodist Church is located at 308 E. Third Street, Kinmundy, IL 62854. Worship begins at 9 am Sundays. The building is handicap accessible.
Wesley United Methodist Church is located at 3381 Kinoka Road, Patoka, IL 62875 in the country between Kinmundy and Patoka. Worship begins at 10.45 am Sundays.
VISION: We are a functional family of God, where Jesus is Lord and people grow.
MISSION: Every layperson is called to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); every layperson is called to be missional. (¶126 of the 2016 Book of Discipline)
Paradigm: There are two kinds of people in this world: people who need to become disciples and disciples who need to become disciple makers.

(If you wish, you can listen to the Prayer of St. Francis being sung:
Sarah McLachlan – Prayer of St. Francis
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agPnMxp5Occ )

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