Sermon for Dec 11

By on December 11, 2016

The Gift of a Strong Foundation

Preached to Clark’s Chapel UMC and Alexander Chapel UMC on 11 December 2016

Joshua 24:14-15

NIV Joshua 24:14 ¶ “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

 

Introduce / Establish Need

 

When I was growing up, we cut our own Christmas tree.  Back then we lived in piedmont Virginia.  There were no beautiful Frasier fir trees.  In the back woods, our choices were cedar and Virginia pine.  The cedar trees had the more consistent shape, but sharper needles.  Virginia pine trees usually didn’t have a good shape.  One year, we cut down one of these pine trees and dragged it to the house.  We put the tree stand on it and set it up only to watch it lean precariously in the corner.  When the tree doesn’t have a good shape, it doesn’t have good balance, either.  With some ropes tied to the window sills, we got the tree steady and ready for the season.  If my memory is correct that may have been the last year we had a live tree!

 

The point of my story is that not only does a Christmas tree need good balance and a foundational tree stand, as we approach Christmas, one of its gifts to us is that it gives us strength and something to trust in.  We don’t want to be falling in our faith, but rather relying on the strong foundation of faith in God.   This morning’s scripture text is not a traditional Christmas or Advent scripture, but it does remind us of where our trust is.  And it can guide us in our celebration of Christmas.

 

Into the Biblical World

 

As I said, this scripture most likely doesn’t show up on anybody’s list of Christmas scriptures.  It is Joshua’s address to the Israelites as they were settling into the Promised Land.   Joshua knew that as they settled into their lives, they would be tempted to set aside their trust in the Lord.  They might follow the idolatry of the neighboring peoples.  They might choose in their own wisdom instead of the guidance God had given them through Moses and Joshua.  They might choose a tepid relationship with God.  And so Joshua calls the assembly to challenge them to remain faithful to God; to know that they can trust in the Lord and lean on his foundation.  By trusting in God, they will live under his care and blessing.

 

Christmas calls us to discern and make choices about our trust.  Some people go on a shopping spree and trust that they can make credit card payments in the New Year.  Some people put their hope in material possessions that may break or become useless or unsatisfying.  We’ve talked about the busyness; what happened to have yourself a merry LITTLE Christmas?  While we can enjoy the culture celebration, we must be a people who celebrate the reason for the season.  We celebrate the gift of God with us and if God is with us, who can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?  Nothing!

 

So as we examine this gift of a strong foundation, Christmas reminds us that it is within our family, our church, and our God.

 

Into Our Experience

 

The Christmas story is about family.  Matthew and Luke tell us about Jesus’ family.  They went to Bethlehem to be counted with family in the census. The Bible also gives us the genealogies of Jesus through the parents and so in a way, the Bible brings home a message that Christmas is about family.

 

One of the popular Christmas songs has been I’ll be home for Christmas, even if only in my dreams.  Marjory and I found out the truth of that song in our first years in Nebraska.  We considered it too far to travel with young children and winter conditions.  That was a time when we paid for long distance, but even a 20 minute phone call is not the same as being there.  We all realized that we were missing something so after two years of this, Marjory’s parents made the trek each year until we moved to St Louis and then here, when we did the traveling.  For many of us, celebrating Christmas with our family is something we look forward to and/or have fond memories of.

 

However, celebrating Christmas with immediate family may not be possible for you or someone else for whatever reason.  Our good news is that we always have our church family.  There is a reason we use the terms brother and sister and the family of God as we talk about our relationships within the church.  The bible says that Jesus calls us brothers and sisters.  We use the family construct to talk about our relationship with God through the church.

 

When we had those two Christmases without immediately family in Nebraska, we had our church family.  We shared our birthday party for Jesus, were invited for a meal and to use a long distance plan.  But our church family was and is much more than a substitute for missing family at Christmas.  Our church is an integral part of our celebration of Christmas.  We are brought together for worship services and activities.  Through our two churches, we will have celebrated this season with a women’s breakfast, a cantata, a candlelight service in addition to our individual church activities. We are brought together and are reminded that Christmas is much more than a seasonal event.  Ultimately, we realize that the gift of the church is a strong foundation in our lives.  It helps us to choose to serve the Lord.

 

And that is our third idea that our foundation is in God.  That was Joshua’s message: trust in the Lord.  Joseph and Mary each testified that they would trust in God.  When we build a house, it has to have a strong foundation.  Our strong foundation is based on faith or trust in God.  The scriptures proclaim that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ.  Christmas surrounds us with this proclamation that we can trust in God because Jesus came.  When you think about it, the foundation of our faith was laid in the Christmas story.  John puts it in these familiar words:

NIV John 1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

NIV John 1:14 ¶ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

Our thought to meditate on this week is how is the gift of Christmas a strong foundation in your life?  You will find answers as we celebrate Christmas with family, the church, and with God.  Amen!

 

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