January 7, 2024, It’s All About Jesus, Christmastide 2

If you prefer to worship at home at this time or simply wish to listen to the service or sermon again, you’re welcome to use the links below to have a time of worship at home. (Just click on the link to play each hymn or the sermon in a separate tab, and close that tab when finished.)

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 flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost, to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

HYMN 57 O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing
O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing With Lyrics By David Crowder Band
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F8QQdgnnwo
or
O For A Thousand Tongues – Chris Rice
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxkzpMyOPiQ

A TIME OF PRAYER (Testimonies, Joys & Concerns)

Congregational Prayer − O God, you made of one blood all nations, and, by a star in the East, revealed to all peoples him whose name is Emmanuel. Enable us who know your presence with us so to proclaim his unsearchable riches that all may come to his light and bow before the brightness of his rising, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit now and for ever. 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 171 There’s Something About That Name
Bill & Gloria Gaither – There’s Something About That Name (Live)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwzP1jiYhi0

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: It’s All About Jesus
Text: Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 6:33-34, 22:36-40 , 25:40
Series: The True Work Of Jesus for 2024

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

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SERMON NOTES

Philippians 2:1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.

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HYMN 170 O How I Love Jesus
O How I Love Jesus by Alan Jackson
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GgQ3MdTn4A

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!

TRANSCRIPT

This picture was our family New Year’s Day card on Facebook to all of you. And it talks about the fact that the Christmas story has gone on year after year … because the latest chapter, chapter 2024, it is what we do this year … because the Christmas story is going on and this year’s chapter has just begun. And what I put on the picture was, I can’t wait to find out what happens next. But there’s one thing I know, whatever happens in 2024, the Christmas story is always all about Jesus.

Now, the day after Christmas is another holiday. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it or not. It’s called Boxing Day. This is an actual holiday, especially in England. The day after Christmas, people put little boxes of presents together to give to their neighbors, and especially to the poor. And as a sign of their great kindness and charity to the poor, stores in England have their version of Black Friday. Not as much as in the United States, but the day after Christmas, they come out and shop to get a bargain.

But I have a feeling in our United States, Boxing Day might not always happen the day after Christmas, might not always happen after the 12 days of Christmas. But there comes a time when we put all the Christmas stuff in a box and take it up to the attic or down to the basement. And at least for some people, they say to themselves, “Well, Christmas is over till next year.” And unfortunately, if it’s like that, that’s the end of the chapter. Because when you box up everything about Christmas, what you’re in a sense saying is Christmas is over.

But whatever you do with your Christmas decorations, don’t put Jesus in a box and believe that Christmas doesn’t matter until next year. Because here’s the heart of the Christmas story: Jesus is still here today. And because Jesus is here, anything can happen.

And so you have a choice. What will happen next as a part of our Christmas story here throughout this year of 2024? What’s going to be our priority? And let me tell you, when people box up Christmas, part of what they’ve decided is we’re going to have another priority. First priority is probably taking half the stuff they opened as Christmas presents back to the store to switch for something else. It’s astonishing what distracts us from the Christmas story! But if Jesus Christ is the priority throughout this coming year, and I pray that that would be so, The Christmas story will go on. And we’ve had this one verse that reminds us of what that means, the priority is, if you and I choose to seek first the kingdom of God, if you and I choose to seek first the righteousness, the way of life that God asked us to follow, then Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “God’s going to take care of everything else.” Because if Jesus comes first, He begins to sort through and organize our life to do His will. And we will see joyful answers to prayers all year long. But before we get distracted, we need to understand the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.

Once upon a time, which means this is a made-up story– once upon a time, the children gathered in the front of the church for the children’s sermon. And the pastor sat down and looked over all the eager young faces and said, “Boys and girls, I have a riddle for you. What is small and brown and furry and lives in a tree and eats nuts?” And one little boy’s hand shot up, and he said, “Pastor, it’s Jesus.” And the pastor thought, “Oh, no, I’ve embarrassed him. I’ve embarrassed his parents.” And he says, “Now, boys and girls, now think carefully here. Think carefully. Brown fur. Lives in a tree. Eats nuts.” The little boy just kept shouting, saying, “I know it’s Jesus. It’s Jesus. I know it’s Jesus.” Finally, his mother came up, got him, drug him out of the church, and he said, “Friends, it’s Jesus. Y’all pray for me now.” After church, the pastor came over to the little boy, and he said, “When I was talking about something that’s brown and has fur and lives in a tree and eats nuts, you knew it was a squirrel, didn’t you?” And he said, “Well, that is a squirrel, but weren’t you supposed to be talking about Jesus?”

And you see, we have this problem. We want to start with a squirrel and work our way up to Jesus. Friends, we need to keep the main thing, the main thing, and the main thing needs to come first. We need to start with Jesus and work on to the squirrely stuff. We need to start with Jesus. We need to have our focus where our focus needs to be.

So Paul describes where our focus needs to be. Philippians 2:1. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility, count others better than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. That’s perfection in a church.

And then Paul tells us how to do that. Verse 5, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Now, that’s a subtle way to say, “Have this mind. I want you to think like Jesus. Have this heart. I want you to feel like Jesus. I want you to be like Jesus.” And then he describes Jesus in a very beautiful way. And in fact, the way the Greek is written, scholars think that this is actually a hymn. And if it’s a hymn, it’s a Christmas carol because it’s about Jesus coming to be with us. Verse 6, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” Jesus came here from heaven to be God with us. Verse 8, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross.” The entire life of Jesus can be described in these four words, “Thy will be done.” And so the Christmas story is about Jesus coming to be with us and through his entire life saying, “Thy will be done.”

Therefore, because of his choice, because of his priority, because of his intention, thy will be done: God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. This is the consequence of Jesus choosing to make God’s will a priority, therefore.

And friends, here’s our therefore. “Therefore, my beloved,” Paul writes, “as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In this coming year of 2024, as we add to the Christmas story, work out your salvation and what God is doing in your life. Verse 13, “Because God is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God has chosen to work through us to the degree that we have chosen to pray what Jesus prayed, “Thy will be done.” And this can lead to great changes in our life.

Down in the bottom right-hand corner is a picture of a church in Louisville, Kentucky. When I was in seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, back in 1978, they were a church that was a few blocks down the street from where our United Methodist Church was, where I was a youth minister. At that time, they had about 600 people coming to their church. I went back to Louisville for a Serendipity Small Groups conference that was held at this church. And I thought to myself, “Well, I know exactly where that is.” And I came there, and the church building was all shut up. There were no signs. There was nothing. And I took a look at the address, and I had the wrong address. It was a few blocks farther in the other direction. So I drove past the United Methodist church, which looked exactly the same, came around the corner, and there was this giant campus. In those 21, 22 years or so – I’m not sure which year it was – they had grown from 600 people on a Sunday to 6,000. And I thought to myself, “I wonder how that happened.” I was fascinated. Well, in the years since then– keep in mind, it’s what, 45 years since I was in seminary. They are now the eighth-largest church in the United States. Just like McDonald’s, they’re in nine locations. And in 2019, their average attendance every Sunday was 27,000 people.

And I told you that just simply to tell you this. I extended my stay in Louisville one more day so I could go to their Wednesday night worship service. And the praise band sang praise songs, and people were there. And the man who started this church, had been their pastor for over 40 years before he retired in 2006, Bob Russell stood up in a suit and cowboy boots, and he gave what basically seemed to me to not be a very good sermon. Because, you see, he didn’t tell a single joke. He didn’t tell an amusing story about a squirrel. He just simply talked about the Scripture. And there came a time in this sermon that I would not have said was a very good sermon that he looked out at all the crowd, and he said, “People come here, and they ask us, ‘How did this happen?'” And he looked at the audience. And he wasn’t looking at me, but I felt as if he was because this was my question. “What gimmick did you do that caused this to happen? What’s the secret?” And I remember he looked out over the crowd assembled that Wednesday night, and he said very quietly, very simply, very calmly, he said, “Everything that’s happened here is because of one principle that guides us.” He said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. And what we have tried to do is for the main thing here to always be Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.” And I’ve never forgotten those words because every time I’m tempted to talk about a squirrel or tell a joke or read another book looking for some idea that nobody’s ever tried before, these words remind me to come back to the main thing, because the main thing is always going to be Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 22:36, Jesus is asked, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” And Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Now if Jesus is the main thing, what Jesus says is the greatest thing that we can do, the first thing that we should do, it becomes something for us to do: to look to God and love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is what Jesus did.

And, of course, once God has our attention, our focus on God, God points our attention to other people. And the true work of Jesus, the true work of Christmas begins. The one who loves God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength will begin the work of finding the lost, of healing the broken, to feed the hungry, to set free the prisoner, to rebuild the nation, to bring peace among others, to make music in the heart. This is what God calls us to do when we love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.
But you notice the focus of these things are the people around us, which leads to something C.S. Lewis said, “Next to the blessed sacrament…” that piece of bread, that cup that you and I just shared in, that as we believe in what Jesus said, Jesus comes into our lives, becomes a part of our life today, next to the blessed sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object that you will see. Your neighbor’s voice is the holiest sound that you will hear because your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. because the very next thing that Jesus says after the Great Commandment is He says, “A second is like it,” – you see, there’s a first priority and a second priority – “a second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
All of the Bible can be summarized in these two commandments. We love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And God tells us now, “Go love your neighbor as yourself.” And what could be more true than that at Christmas? There are people who want to say that we misunderstand the inn, that we misunderstand the stable, that we misunderstand all of that. And we might, but the truth is that Mary and Joseph did not have the help that they needed at Christmas. That is an established fact. And so as you and I seek to practice this commandment, to live out Christmas and do the work of Christmas throughout this whole year, we pray to God to help us to notice our neighbors. Because all too often, we’re so distracted by our own worries and our own stuff, we don’t notice anything that’s going on around us. And when we notice a neighbor in need, we pray, Lord Jesus, work through me to redeem, to help, to save, to forgive my neighborhood.

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus shares a parable of warning. In fact, there are three warnings in Matthew chapter 25. And the last one says this: At the end of times, God is going to assemble every living person. And as they pass in front of Jesus Christ, he will point to this side or that side and divide them into two groups. And he’ll say to one group, ‘Blessed are you because when I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was sick or in prison, you came to visit me. And the people in that group will say, ‘Well, Lord, when did we do that to you?’ And Jesus will say, ‘When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”‘

In other words, they noticed. But what they didn’t realize is that what they did to their neighbor, Jesus counted as what they did to help him. Now, the other group was not so fortunate … because they didn’t see Jesus. They just went on about their business. In fact, you can probably hear them complaining, “Lord, well, if we knew it was you, we would have done something. But those people probably deserved what they got.” And you see, it’s a warning to us. Just like on Christmas evening, to not turn away from what Jesus draws our attention to.

Now, there’s a quirk with regard to this that I mentioned last week. It’s important to mention it again this week. Another beautiful saying from Howard Thurman is this one, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” And last week, I said to you, “Every single one of you has a way that God works through you. Some of you,” I said, “have the gift of making cookies.” On the other hand, some of you do not have the gift of making cookies. And you need to not take cookies to people. Okay?

But there’s something that you do, though, that’s wonderful. And that thing that’s wonderful, that tool, I want to ask you, take it in your hand because whenever you’re doing the thing that makes you feel alive, it’s almost like you can feel God working in you. Take that and look for someone who has their hand outstretched because they need that. And you’re the one that God God sends to them.

So friends, if there’s nothing that brings you greater joy than hammering in a nail, take your hammer and go around and look for things that need hammering. If the great joy for you is to reach a screwdriver in where there’s a loose screw and tighten it, take your tool with you and find the person who needs it. And consequently, each person here will be helping another person in a different way. Don’t try to be like each other.

And for God sake, don’t try to be like me because the last thing your neighbor needs is a long sermon. Hi, my name’s Pastor Dave. I just wanted to stop by and say hello and I have a wonderful sermon from last Sunday. Can I tell you right now on your front porch? No! But you see, if somebody needs a sermon, hey, I got a sermon for you. But I’ll be honest with you, whatever it is that God gave you to use to help people, your neighbors need it more than a sermon. And when they need a sermon, I’ll be there. There’s something that God wants to do through you because somebody out there thinks: “I have trouble believing that God can help me.” And all you do is say, “Let me show you,” and let God help them through you.

A few weeks ago, I explained it this way: Put me in, coach, I’m ready to play. Because a Christmas story for this new year is going to be written by the people who are out there on the court. And you know, when the ball exchanges possession from one team to the next, they all run down to the other side of the court. And guess what? Everybody runs to their position. Friends, you have a position in the kingdom of God. There is something you’re supposed to do. And no one else or not very many people can do it as well as you can.

But when you run down the court and are ready to get involved and not just sit in the stands and watch, what you’ll realize is the very first thing that you actually do as a part of helping somebody is to notice and to pray for them. And you might say to yourself, “I really don’t know what they need me to pray for.” And Tim Keller has this wonderful little quote. He said, “In short, God will either give us what you ask, if you’re asking for the proper thing, or God will do what you would have asked if you knew everything that God knows.” But what it means to play on the team for Jesus Christ is to take up your position and pray for the people around you. Notice what they need. And if that’s your gift, you’re ready. If it’s somebody else’s gift, well, you can pass the word to the person who has that gift. Or whoever it is that has what they need. We talk to each other, and one notices and prays and then another one comes and does the job.

And the work of Christmas, the work of Jesus Christ, gets done. Please pray with me. Lord Jesus, we have had centuries when people thought that the Christmas story was a spectator sport. We have had centuries to where people have sat in church and thought that that was the main thing that you needed us to do. But Lord, we know the truth is that you want to help the people all around this church who need you. And I pray, Lord, that all people who are seeking a better life might be drawn to this church and might be drawn to the people of this church. And we are people who are praying and people who believe that since Jesus is here, right here, in Kinmundy, Illinois, because Jesus is here, our prayers can be answered and anything can happen. 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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