First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Neil H. Wilson, Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


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Sermon ~ December 2, 2018 ~ Pastor Greg Briggs

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Sprouting Hope and Worshipping Fully
    3. Lots of links between time and plantlife
      1. Seasons as timekeepers
    4. Signs of the times
      1. “On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves. 26  The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”
      2. Descriptive, vs. proscriptive
        1. Examples, vs. a checklist
      3. Lesson of the fig tree
        1. When you see these things happening, you’ll know that God’s kingdom is near
        2. 34 “Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life.
  • Stay alert at all times
  1. It is a time of strength
  1. Jeremiah
    1. Time is coming, God fulfills promise
    2. A branch rises up out of the line of David
      1. Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse, a branch will sprout[a] from his roots.”
    3. Out of what appears dead, comes new life
  2. Story of dead branches
    1. Read “The Pressure of Crisis” from Meditations of the Heart by Howard Thurman
    2. Shaking of the branches in the storm
      1. The living separated from the dead
    3. When the sun was shining and the weather was beautiful, the dead and the not dead were indistinguishable
    4. May be hard now, in the onset of winter, to look at trees and see what branches are alive and hibernating, and which are dead
    5. Using up what is dead to provide warmth for the living
    6. Signs shaking loose and making visible what was hidden
    7. “it is good to know what there is in us that is strong and solidly rooted.”
  3. Shake off the dead branches
    1. What do you really want from Christmas?
      1. I want to feel loved – and money can’t buy me love.
      2. I want hope – and money can’t buy me that, either
    2. Worship Fully – the Missing Ingredient
      1. Starting place for the Advent Conspiracy
      2. Again, not about getting butts in pews on Sunday, but experiencing the divine
      3. Almost everyone who encountered the baby Jesus springs into worship
      4. Mary
      5. Elizabeth
      6. Zecheriah
      7. Shepherds
    3. Seeking Hope
      1. If you are craving hope in these days and age, use that craving to connect deeper to the story of Jesus. Read Luke 1 and 2, especially in conjunction with the Advent Conspiracy
        1. see how Jesus is the embodiment of hope both then and now
        2. Lukan Advent devotional, a chapter a day brings you to Xmas eve
      2. name where you most deeply seek hope
      3. Diaper pantry volunteers – lit candle of hope, because they embody hope. Hope in supporting children to grow up in better lives. Hope in the future
      4. At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality.” 2 cor 8:14
    4. Pick up the dead branches
      1. Do something else with them – use them to help add meaning to what is still alive
        1. Make it mulch, or fertilizer
      2. Ours is a faith of birth, death, and resurrection. We like to think it’s a linear process, but it’s ongoing as well.
        1. Birth of Jesus leads to the death of so many things, fear, hopelessness, sin
        2. Letting go of those things leads to new life and resurrection, love, hope, forgiveness, mutuality.
      3. Communion is new life and forgiveness coming out of brokenness
    5. Conclusion
      1. “it is good to know what there is in us that is strong and solidly rooted.”
      2. It is good to know that God will I will raise up a righteous branch”
      3. It is good to stay alert, and look for sprouting things, because we will know the kingdom of God is near.

Readings

Jeremiah 33:14-16 Common English Bible (CEB)

14 The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill my gracious promise with the people of Israel and Judah. 15 In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is what he will be called: The Lord Is Our Righteousness.

Luke 21:25-36 Common English Bible (CEB)

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, there will be dismay among nations in their confusion over the roaring of the sea and surging waves. 26  The planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken, causing people to faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world. 27  Then they will see the Human One[a] coming on a cloud with power and great splendor. 28  Now when these things begin to happen, stand up straight and raise your heads, because your redemption is near.”

29 Jesus told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 In the same way, when you see these things happening, you know that God’s kingdom is near. 32 I assure you that this generation won’t pass away until everything has happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away.

34 “Take care that your hearts aren’t dulled by drinking parties, drunkenness, and the anxieties of day-to-day life. Don’t let that day fall upon you unexpectedly, 35  like a trap. It will come upon everyone who lives on the face of the whole earth. 36  Stay alert at all times, praying that you are strong enough to escape everything that is about to happen and to stand before the Human One.”[b]

Click on the link below to enjoy the audio version of this Sermon.