Message for Sunday 24 December–“Birth a Renewal” (Fourth Sunday of Advent)

God bless you on this marvelous Christmas Eve. Prepare for the Christ child to inspire and empower you this season and beyond.

Amid the holiday cheer looms a relevant and serious question: Do you have a [spiritual] life? Christmas is the time when people often focus on birth, including the manger scene with the baby Jesus and all the pastoral trappings of his ancient family. Even more so in the here-and-now, God wants everyone to embrace the wonders of spiritual life that Jesus’ birth represents. Are you ready for a decisive spiritual transformation?  What better time than now to embrace rebirth, renewal and restoration.

Jesus’ birth is not merely some passive, historical event to be indulged with rampant materialism and super-sized holiday dinners. The Christmas Spirit beckons spiritually-awakened people to overcome the glitter of distractions and the trappings of wrappings. God’s presence remains in the world through the power represented by Jesus’ birth, a reminder of the promise and possibility of life and light. The challenge involves welcoming God into your life in a persistent, pervasive manner. God promises that personal renewal is yours if only you earnestly seek it.

People of faith are invited to embrace more than commercial enthusiasm over the seasonal imagery. Living a productive spiritual life means nothing less than cultivating a desire to represent God to the world. Sound difficult?  Take heart, because together we can DO it! The overall mission of the church involves partnering with God to help existing Christians become Disciples (the “D”) and then to partner with God to produce new Christians through Outreach (the “O”). We therefore proclaim that we have received the ultimate present: a new life in Christ through spiritual rebirth. Are you ready? With an epidemic of fear, ignorance and anger, the world needs the power of God more than ever. Come, and together we’ll help one another achieve the best possible life of redemptive wellbeing.

The power, beauty and even the legitimacy of a person’s spiritual calling is demonstrated through their living of Jesus’ gospel message, which involves receiving and then sharing God’s love and truth. This means that a person of faith is invited to match their words with their behavior, their talk with their walk. The sincerity of a person’s Christian faith attends closely with how they think and live, with attitudes and actions shining as a beacon of God’s presence. If we call ourselves Christians then we need to make a positive difference in the world. So, here we are on Christmas Eve filled with good cheer and the best of intentions. Even better, however, is embracing authentic transformation through the power of God in Jesus. Words are easy, but living them is always more challenging.

Many people cherish the special nature of Christmas Eve. That’s great. Even better is your active participation throughout the year. We need you!  There are some exciting ministries at St. John’s United Church of Christ and we want you to be a part of the miracle of personal spiritual renewal.  The Renew Celebration ministry happens every Sunday morning at 9:00 AM in the fellowship hall, where we have a mini-service of sharing & caring along with a PowerPoint faith lesson. Also, join us Thursday evenings starting 11 January at 6:00 PM, when the Renew Seminar restarts. In this venue we have a faith fellowship and a lively lesson that will help us attain spiritual renewal.  And if you’re available Tuesday mornings at 11:00 – noon you’ll enjoy Renew Review, a splendid time of sharing and blessings as we strategize and discuss our transforming ministries.

Aside from the spiritual insights, I have something quite personal to share with you. On behalf of my wife Cynthia and son Sean, I wish all of you the most blessed Christmas possible. I pray that this season will inspire you to accomplish wonderful acts of compassion in the name of our Lord. May your faith be activated and shared through Jesus’ gift of spiritual life. Let us therefore enter a covenant, one with another, such that our spiritual vitality extends into 2018 and beyond. God bless you all, and . . . Merry Christmas!    –Reverend Hoxey