First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin- December 22, 2019

12-22-19 Bulletin PDF

  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. Courage (Love) Can’t Wait
  2. Joseph’s momentous day(s)
    1. Low, followed by a much higher high. Though a bit more confusing
    2. Many assumptions about Joseph and age– not mentioned during Jesus’ adult ministry
      1. Assumptions that he was an old man.
      2. Partially based in early church desires that Mary remain virgin
  • Widower, with kids from previous marriage – blended family
  1. Patron saint of step fathers and blended families
  2. Fiancé pregnant – deal with that
  3. Fiancé pregnant with God’s baby – deal with that! – momentous!
  1. Momentous dates in History
    1. 7, 1941 – bombing of Pearl Harbor
    2. Assassination of JFK – Nov 22 1963
    3. Challenger Explosion – Jan 28, 1986
    4. 11, 2001
  2. Joseph’s hidden momentous events
    1. Joseph’s first momentous date was much less glamourous, or distinctive
      1. What to do with a supposedly unfaithful Mary
    2. Courageous even before the angel
      1. Mary could \ would’ve been stoned – Deut. 22:20-29
        1. 25-27 if they did it in a field, she could have called for help and not been heard
      2. The character was revealed in his earlier decision – righteous man
        1. No advantage of the angelic vision – “angel eyed view”
      3. Other Momentous dates in history – hidden or unknown
        1. 27 October 1962 – Vasily Arkhipov – a Soviet Navy officer credited with preventing a Soviet nuclear strike (and, presumably, all-out nuclear war) during the Cuban Missile Crisis by refusing to authorize the captain’s use of nuclear torpedoes against the United States Navy
        2. Lisa Kaveledge – 1966 act of civil disobedience, when Kalvelage and three other housewives parked themselves in front of a forklift loading shipments of napalm bombs headed to Vietnam.
          1. Pete Seeger wrote a song – “My Name is Lisa Kalvelage”
          2. In a 1986 profile in the San Jose Mercury News, Mrs. Kalvelage likened her protest to lessons learned from being raised in Nazi Germany — never to keep silent. “If you live in a democratic country where the government is you, you cannot say, ‘I followed orders,’ ” she told a reporter. “If you recognize that something is wrong, you have to speak out to set it straight.”
        3. Le Chambon – Under the remarkable leadership of local Protestant minister Pastor André Trocmé, and his deputy pastor Edouard Theis [fr], the citizens of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon risked their lives to rescue and hide Jews from being rounded up. They hid the Jews in private homes, on farms in the area, as well as in public institutions. Whenever the Nazi patrols came searching, the Jews were hidden in the mountainous countryside.
        4. In reality, there’s an infinite number of these unknown momentous events
          1. Not always a single act
          2. Not always aware of the ramifications or scope, of the decision
  • Often based in previous training or morality teachings
  1. Christmas as courageous love
    1. Fulfilling God’s promises also inspires and confounds many people
      1. Elizabeth and Zechariah – accepting and rejecting angelic vision – Zechariah struck dumb
      2. Mary and Joseph –
  • Simeon and Anna – prophetic words of elders for an infant Jesus – not all rosy
  1. Future story of Magi and Herod
    1. Escape to Egypt and slaughter of the innocent
  2. The neutered Christmas story – barely tell the fuller story at all
    1. No pathos
  3. Leads to a neutered Christian church?
  4. Concerned still too much of a desire to have this congregation be a safe space and not enough about a brave space
    1. More advertising for Cookie Walk than Christmas Worship, or external Christmas decorations
    2. A lot of effort for the inside, shouldn’t it also show on the outside?
  5. Doing the Advance Work
    1. Before the crisis moment – to prepare for our needed future response
    2. Missed opportunities – missed chances to be what people need
      1. If reactive only, not proactive
    3. Love is courage – taking the leap
      1. Putting ourselves out there
    4. What we see and what we don’t see now
      1. Impeachment
      2. Government shutdown
        1. 40% of Americans are one missed paycheck away from poverty
        2. Climate change
        3. It’s Christmas – and there’s no room left in the inn
          1. Can be divisive to tell the truth
          2. Platitudes over faith commitments
            1. Family, community, unity
            2. Truth, justice, empathy
          3. Today’s reading Raise above silence – reject evil and choose good
        4. 5% solution
          1. 5% to topple oppressive dictators
            1. No democracy movement has ever failed when it was able to mobilize at least 3.5 percent of the population to protest over a sustained period At that scale, most soldiers have no desire to suppress protesters. Why? Because the crowd includes their family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.
            2. 70 people in a town of 2000
  • Building up to a next momentous event?
    1. Truly, what’s the difference? Our beliefs and actions should be the same, regardless
    2. “Some Were Neighbors: Collaboration and Complicity in the Holocaust” –
      1. Comparing people who collaborated and resisted: neighbors, shopkeepers, police, etc.
    3. collaborators
      1. “the people weren’t very enthusiastic about the anti-jewish measures, but nobody did anything about it” – Jewish American immigrant 1940
      2. “I read in the newspaper we shouldn’t go easy on such individuals but that the police should pursue them without mercy, so I decided it was my duty to report” Elizabeth Cohrs, who reported a neighbor on suspicion of homosexuality in 1938
    4. resisters
      1. Greek Orthodox church producing fake baptism certificates
      2. “Apart from organized rescue networks, individuals were most motivated to help when they knew the victims as neighbors, business customers, colleagues, friends, and in-laws.”
        1. Real community ties
  • Isaiah 43:10 – You are my witnesses
  1. If you’ve ever wondered what you would do during slavery, the holocaust, or the civil rights movement, you’re doing it right now.
    1. Righteous Among the Nations
  • See Christmas story as more than a family event
    1. Look for how it challenges us to align with God’s wishes for the world
    2. Calls us to re-form our lives along God’s wishes – whether we get an angel telling us what to do or not.
    3. Blue Christmas service – a step in the right direction
    4. Need a Brave Christmas focus
      1. Not just choosing ‘feel good’ but Good!
      2. Rejecting evil – more than our personal stress of the holidays


Isaiah 7:10-16 page _________ Today’s first reading is referenced in our Gospel reading

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.”

12 But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.”

13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? 14 Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. 15 He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. 16 Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.

Matthew 1:18-25 Page ___________ The entire story of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew. The 17 previous verses in Matthew 1 are the lineage of Jesus, traced through Joseph

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. 20 As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:

23 Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, And they will call him, Emmanuel.

(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)

24 When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.