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

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720

Sermon & Weekly Bulletin~ December 29, 2019

12-29-19 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. It was to the older folk that Jesus came
      1. The first responses to the Birth of Jesus
    3. The deeper truths of Christmas – more than the birth and our parties
    4. It was to the older folk that Jesus came
      1. “Christmas is for Kids!”
      2. Christmas expectations sure are different at different times
        1. The lull years in the Briggs family– 1990s, esp. 1995-1998
          1. No more Santa worries, parents divorced, Caring for elderly grandparents
          2. Christmas eve became a BYO fingerfood extravaganza, open to many “non traditional” people – other single parent families, disaffected individuals.
        2. Then, the first niece was born – Dec 24, 1999
      3. Yet, age is an important variable in most of the people mentioned in the Xmas stories. And, except for Mary and Jesus, it is about their advanced age.
        1. Yet the shepherds and the Magi get most of the witnessing glory.
      4. Elders keep out rooted in what’s important
        1. Deeper sense of Tradition, retaining the essentials
      5. Zechariah
        1. is a priest of Aaron, doubted God, asked for a sign, got one – was struck mute
        2. Can’t fulfill his priestly role
        3. Came around at the end
      6. Elizabeth
        1. saw it as a blessing
          1. John lept in her womb
          2. Offered assurance and compassion to Mary
        2. Simeon – met Jesus at his presentation, when he was 40 days old
          1. “Now, master, let your servant go in peace according to your word, because my eyes have seen your salvation. You prepared this salvation in the presence of all peoples. It’s a light for revelation to the Gentiles and a glory for your people Israel.”
          2. “This boy is assigned to be the cause of the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that generates opposition 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your innermost being too.” (Luke 2:25-35)
        3. Anna –
          1. She was now an 84-year-old widow. She never left the temple area but worshipped God with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 She approached at that very moment and began to praise God and to speak about Jesus to everyone who was looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
        4. Magi & Herod
          1. Magi will be next Sunday
          2. Herod
            1. When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;
          3. Power, and what is done with it
            1. Zechariah – religious authority
            2. Herod – worldly authority
            3. The rest – authority of age, experience, wisdom, and maturity
              1. It’s a bit ironic that one of the younger people here is preaching on this, to you, who would be, presumably, better suited.
              2. Contrast between individual, and collective experiences
  • Lost authority of elders
    1. Lyrics from “Glory” by John Legend and Common – Selma movie soundtrack
    2. Somewhere in the dream we had an epiphany
      Now we right the wrongs in history
      No one can win the war individually
      It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy
      Welcome to the story we call victory
      The comin’ of the Lord, my eyes have seen the glory
    3. Wisdom – seeing the cycles of the world
      1. Learning the cycles of the world – knowing that the center doesn’t hold, all things change
      2. Detachment from self interest
    4. Learning includes learning from failures and mistakes
    5. Christmas and Winter solstice
      1. In these shortest and darkest of nights, we have festivals to remind us that the light is coming
      2. In these short and dire times, we have Christmas to remind us that the light is coming
        1. Not in denial of the vileness, but in spite of it
  • Wisdom of elders in an era of Fox News
    1. Wisdom is not synonymous with intelligence or progress
      1. Balance – not just platitudes
      2. Yes one of the 10 commandments is honor parents, but there is also John’s first letter, which encourages us to “test every spirit to see which ones come from God.”
    2. Consequence of the quest for eternal youth
      1. Elders trying to stay young – not feeling or living into their responsibilities
      2. Trying to peak, and stay there
    3. Need elders
      1. I’m 44, and SO MUCH MORE at peace than I thought I’d be when I hit my 40s.
      2. Aging is something to be enjoyed, not just mourned
        1. I wish people would have told me 15 years ago, that I’d care so much less about other’s opinions. And said it in a way I could hear it.
  • Elders aren’t automatic with age
    1. Measures of elder-hood
    2. Jewish Spirituality
      1. Must be 40, married, and have a full stomach
        1. Full stomach = well read in the scriptures
        2. Married = their definition of settled
      2. Spiritual directors, can’t start the training until 35.
      3. UCC Preamble to Constitution
        1. [The UCC] affirms the responsibility of the Church in each generation to make this [historic, rooted] faith its own in reality of worship, in honesty of thought and expression, and in purity of heart before God.
      4. The Elders organization
        1. The Elders are an independent group of global leaders working together for peace, justice and human rights.
  • How to be an elder?
    1. I only have guesses, I’m not an elder yet
    2. Examples in the scriptures – read Gospel of Luke, chapters 1 & 2, esp.
    3. Spread the good news
      1. Today’s reading from Isaiah:
      2. I will recount the Lord’s faithful acts;
        I will sing the Lord’s praises,
            because of all the Lord did for us,
            for God’s great favor toward the house of Israel.
            God treated them compassionately
            and with deep affection.
  • During all their distress, God also was distressed
    1. Elders would be distressed, too
  1. Share your experiences, including your failures
  2. Focus on those that come after
  3. Spot, and hold accountable neglectful elders
  4. You tell me!
    1. Guesses:
      1. Knowing what you don’t know
      2. Knowing what’s essential, and what isn’t


Isaiah 63:7-9 Common English Bible (CEB)

I will recount the Lord’s faithful acts;
    I will sing the Lord’s praises,
    because of all the Lord did for us,
    for God’s great favor toward the house of Israel.
    God treated them compassionately
    and with deep affection.
God said, “Truly, they are my people,
    children who won’t do what is wrong.”
    God became their savior.
During all their distress, God also was distressed,
    so a messenger who served him saved them.
In love and mercy God redeemed them,
    lifting and carrying them throughout earlier times.

Matthew 2:13-23 Common English Bible (CEB)

13 When the magi had departed, an angel from the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon search for the child in order to kill him.” 14 Joseph got up and, during the night, took the child and his mother to Egypt. 15 He stayed there until Herod died. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: I have called my son out of Egypt.

16 When Herod knew the magi had fooled him, he grew very angry. He sent soldiers to kill all the children in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding territory who were two years old and younger, according to the time that he had learned from the magi. 17 This fulfilled the word spoken through Jeremiah the prophet:

18 A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and much grieving.
        Rachel weeping for her children,
            and she did not want to be comforted,
                because they were no more.

19 After King Herod died, an angel from the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. 20 “Get up,” the angel said, “and take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel. Those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” 21 Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus ruled over Judea in place of his father Herod, Joseph was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he went to the area of Galilee. 23 He settled in a city called Nazareth so that what was spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled: He will be called a Nazarene.