Category Archives: Advent Conspiracy

12.28.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

I particularly appreciate the introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ with which Luke begins in the first 4 verses. This introduction helps give me context for the entire book. Theologians conclude that “Theophilus” is most likely a Roman official who has been converted to Christianity. Luke asserts that he is writing an “orderly account” so that the Theophilus “may know the truth” about those things which the had been heard.

Luke is writing to set the record straight.

Luke recognizes that there are many stories about Jesus and that there is a need to be clear about the truth of Jesus.

The situation is not that much different today. There are many who are willing to make claims about Jesus – no shortage of stories. However, we are called to seek the truth and in this case the truth about Jesus. The four gospels found in the Bible contain the clearest picture of the person, life and work of Jesus Christ. This is where we find the truth about Jesus. This truth is good news of great joy for all people.

Will you share the story and truth of Jesus with someone this week?

    12.26.09 Saturday Insights from Pastor Andrew Conard

    I am amazed by this story of the magi or kings who come to visit Jesus. They recognized an unusual star in the sky that represented the birth of a new king. They could have stayed near their homes and worshiped from afar. However, it is likely that they traveled hundreds of miles over many days to find Jesus and worship fully.

    When I consider a journey like this it is most often to take a vacation or to see family. It is unlikely that I would undertake a journey without being clear where I am going or who I am going to see when I arrive. It is much less likely that I would bring significant gifts to someone that I have never met!

    This is the story of the magi. They traveled a long distance, brought significant gifts and bowed down to worship a baby. It is an unusual act by the standards in our culture today, however they begin to make sense when considering who it was that they had come to worship. Jesus being born is God coming to earth as a human. The creator of the entire universe comes to us as a baby. The way that the magi orient their life around Jesus begins to make sense. In what ways will you seek to follow Jesus?

    Prayer: Jesus, your birth is an incredible event that changes the world. I confess that I do not always understand how to best follow you. Strengthen me to follow after you today and each day. Amen.

    12.25.09 Christmas (Friday) Insights from Pastor Karen Lampe

    The Gift of Yourself
    As Christians, Christmas is the day you may have opened gifts in celebration of Christ’s birth. Today, I’m pondering another kind of gift—the gift of ourselves, when we give our time, our passion, and our commitment as we work for a more just, compassionate world. 
    For me on this Christmas day, as I read the passage, Matthew 1: 18-24, I’m thinking of the main characters of the story.  Both Mary and Joseph, it seems to me, were giving of themselves to bring comfort and salvation to a world that needed deliverance.  Mary, though young and fearful, did her part in serving God as the mother of Jesus.  Joseph trusted the message from his dream that this baby would deliver redemption and hope.  Neither Mary nor Joseph knew quite how they fit into God’s plan, nor could they have known what difficulties they would have along the way.  But their trust and faith in God’s path was unwavering.  For they knew that God was asking them to commit themselves to something larger and more important than they could ever imagine.
    The most important character is Christ who the scriptures say, “will save the people from their sins.”  Commentaries interpret the word “save” to mean “deliver,” and the word “sins” to mean “unjust acts.”   So if Christ came to deliver us from doing or being compromised by unjust acts, it seems there is a call on our life to offer ourselves as we work for justice. 
    As I think about Christ being born this day, and the gift he gave of himself, I wonder what I can do to create a more just world?  Mary, Joseph and Jesus were all willing to do their part; what can each of us do? 
    This work is not easy.  Usually it means that we must intercede and go the extra mile.  What is really on my heart is the need to try to do all we can for the children of Kansas City, as well as the children of Africa and Afghanistan.  There are places that we are asked to go to try to create a more just world.  It will mean getting out of our comfort zones in big ways.  But the payoff is big.  Salvation comes to all people as we strive for a world where education, food and clean water are available.  Salvation for us means deliverance from our self-serving petty choices.  Salvation for the impoverished and hungry means the ability to be sustained by Christ’s love and be able to share the blessings with others. 
    Today, on this Christmas Day, let us all pray that Jesus might be born into all of our hearts, that we might be strengthened to do whatever it takes to create a more just world.   Are we up to the tasks?

    Merry, Merry Christmas!  May God bless all of us with courage to give the best gift: ourselves.

    12.22.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Karla Woodward

    In this text, the Old Testament prophet Isaiah writes a poetic hymn of thanksgiving, probably announcing the birth of a noble prince in the eighth century BCE in which it was written.   It is a sign of hope; a child has been born and the birth is being announced with joy!  After a time of great darkness where it seemed God had been silent, a light had pierce that darkness, shining into the world with peace, joy, authority and justice. 

    These words of Isaiah speak to us today in this season of Advent, as they seem to point forward to the birth of Jesus Christ, saying, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Might God; Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” 

    On Christmas Eve, we celebrate the birth of God’s Incarnate One, the Word of God, a child born to pierce the darkness of sin and give us all a great light of hope, peace and joy.   Celebrate the announcement of this joyous birth this year by worshiping at a Candlelight Christmas Eve service.  As the candle light is passed through the room, remember that this light of Christ can pierce the darkness in your life!

    12.19.09 Saturday Insights from Pastor Steven Blair

    Do you have a favorite concert?  My favorite was a recent Dave Matthews Band concert.  The concert’s power came from the music and its ability to draw me in to sing.  And when I sang, something happened that shook at my foundations and left me feeling lighter.  I felt a release from stress, worry, struggle that made me feel free.  This was my concert experience, no doubt similar to yours.  

    While these concerts are great, they are only shadows of the concert that took place in that prison.  I imagine Paul and Silas’ cell being turned into a concert hall.  I see Paul and Silas singing songs about Jesus and God’s Love until their voices threatened to fade.  That prison cell was the site of a courageous hope that our God is a deliver and when they sang, the chains fell.  Paul and Silas felt lighter after singing than they did before.                

    Christmas celebrates God loving the world so much that he gave us his only begotten Son.  A good portion of the healing of Christmas comes from singing (and believing) in the songs.  So use this Christmas to sing out and sing loud.  Turn your kitchen or car into a concert hall.  Sing about the goodness of this God until your voices threaten to fade and your chain begin to fall. 

    – Rev. Steven Blair

    (prayer sung to “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”)
    I love You, for what You have done
    I love You, for what You have done
    I love You, for what You have done
    Thank you for Jesus

    12.18.09 Friday Insights from Pastor Michael Maroon

    Never more profound is the statement, “you are what you eat” than when it is understood within the context of the Last Supper. 

    I remember back in 2005 when I was discerning my call into ministry.  I was struggling with choosing God’s will for my life over my own will.  This struggle lasted months (really my entire life) until one day in worship when I went up to receive communion.  As I took the bread that represented the sacrificial body of Christ and dipped it in the unfermented wine that represented the blood of the new covenant, I was moved by the sacrifice that Christ made with me (and you) in mind.  As I ingested this sacrament, grace washed over me and I had a powerful desire to honor God’s sacrifice by striving to live out God’s will for my life.  In my silent prayer time, I uttered, “OK God, whatever it is you are calling me to do, I’ll do it.”   All of the concerns and hang-ups I had around the idea of a life of ministry went away as I joyfully connected with God in a very profound way.  Even though I constantly miss the mark, I try to honor Christ’s sacrifice each day as I strive to embody his love to those God places in front of me.

    As we ingest the bread and the unfermented wine, we are making an intentional statement about who we are and whose we are as we invite God’s grace to transform our hearts through this sacrament.  Hopefully we become more and more like Jesus Christ as we continue to participate in this meal.  Christ provided us with the very best bread through the grace that came into this world through his death and resurrection.  What better way to honor this sacrifice than for us to celebrate this Christmas by offering our own ‘very best bread’ for others as we seek to make Christmas less about our will and desires and more about a world in need of Hope.  Next week, we will remember and relive the birth of Christ and the bringing of hope into the world.  As we all continue to participate in the Advent Conspiracy, may we reflect on the sacrament of Holy Communion as an example of how we can make it more about Christ and the people Christ desires to bring hope to.  May we become what we eat – let us truly be the body of Christ.

    12.17.09 Thursday Insights from Rev. Wendy Lyons Chrostek

    Have you ever noticed that even if you are having a crummy day, if you put on some clothing that makes you look good, you suddenly feel better?  It’s always amazed me how my clothes can have such a big impact on how I feel inside.  I can remember in high school, when my boyfriend and I broke up, my mother told me to put on my favorite outfit the very next day.  I didn’t even want to get out of my pj’s much less, get dressed and go to school, but suddenly when I did, I felt better.  And when I went on a job interview, I was told to dress for success.   I put on my favorite outfit yet again, and I felt confident. I ended up getting offered the job as a hostess in a restaurant that day, not the job I had applied for, but what ended up being a great fit.   Even now, I pay a lot of attention to what I wear, because I know that it can affect how I feel and ultimately what kind of an impact I can make.  It’s important to wear professional clothing, so as to respect the people I encounter, but for me also to be able to have an expression of my personality in my choices, so that I feel like myself.

    Regardless of whether or not we realize it, our outward appearances, the clothing that we wear, can have such a tremendous impact on our inward self.  Now, take that image, and apply it to today’s scripture passage – “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Sometimes we just don’t feel like being kind – we have had a rough day, maybe even a rough week, and people have been just downright rude to us.  But, like Pastor Adam spoke about on Sunday, if we can find it within ourselves to try and bring joy to others, we suddenly are filled with joy ourselves.  And it’s hard to be patient standing in the checkout line when we’re late to work, but we’re really only making it worse on ourselves and those around us when we let that emotion spew out.  If instead, we make a conscious effort to be patient, and put things into perspective, we will probably drive safer when we get in the car and arrive to work with a much more positive attitude than had we felt rushed and impatient.  Finally, loving someone when you haven’t felt loved back is quite a difficult thing.  But I can’t help but remember my little puppy dog, Ellie, when it comes to this – she truly has unconditional love.  When I walk in the door, she wags her tail, jumps up and down and is absolutely thrilled to see me – even if yesterday I was frustrated with her for doing something she shouldn’t she still loves me, and it makes me love her all the more.

    While our outward appearances may impact how we feel, our outward expressions of emotions and actions influence our inner being even more.  That’s what the Scripture is talking about.  Helping us to do what we can to be compassionate, kind, humble, meek, patient and loving people.  Not because it is always easy, but because when we do, we are blessed as well as offering a blessing to others.  During Christmas, many of us rush to the stores to find that perfect sweater or new pair of pajama pants, wanting to bring joy to the lives of those we love.  But, what if instead of just giving them this type of clothing, we also make a conscious effort to put on clothing of our own – to have compassion for those who are not as fortunate as we walk past the Salvation Army volunteer ringing the bell, to be patient in line as we purchase these items, and to write a note accompanying the gift telling them just how much we love them.  It is my prayer that this Christmas, you’ll begin to pay just as much attention to emotions you express as the clothing you wear.

    12.16.09 Wednesday Insights from Pastor Penny Ellwood

    Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem”

    These verses stand out strangely in their context. The book of Zephaniah is bad news piled on more bad news for the first two full chapters. And then all of a sudden, here almost at the end of the book, is this burst of rejoicing. Why?

    God has judged his people – but after his judgment lies a day of joy, in which God’s scattered people will return and be restored to relationship with Him. The prophet Zephaniah reminds the children of God that He has not forgotten them and that even though they will be punished for their sins, God will bring restoration to them.

    This is a good message for us in these times as well.  Even when we feel deserted, alone, at the end of our rope- we are reminded that we are not, God is in our midst.
 Zephaniah repeats it two times so we can’t miss it. 
“The Lord your God is living among you” :15, 17. The promise made to the Hebrews was that God would dwell among them and that He would be their God and they would be His people — Immanuel—God with us.

           These people still in the midst of their trials are told to rejoice; to sing and shout aloud. Joy in the midst of where you are right now might sound nearly impossible.  It’s been a difficult year for many of us, we’ve experienced losses of all kinds.  And, if our gaze is only on our circumstances or limitations, then we’d be correct. But what we’re going through now is only temporary, not the final word. We belong to a great King who is always with us, always fighting at our side. A king who takes delight in us and rejoices over us with joyful songs.  

    Nothing can take the presence of God away from us. Christ is with us so we can live with joy, knowing and trusting that we are always in good company and that we are safe and secure in his arms no matter what troubles, sorrow and hardships we face. This is worth singing for!

    12.15.09 Tuesday Insights from Pastor Karen Lampe

    Have you ever danced around your kitchen?  For me, one of the things that gives me a surge of joy is just to dance around our kitchen and family room areas to songs of all sorts.  Sometimes I try to sing to whatever music is playing.

    Whenever I’ve been in Africa, one of the best parts of their worship is the singing and dancing.  No matter what language, the tune of “Jesus loves me” is known throughout the world.  We all dance and sing in our native languages to the tune, and it is pure joy.

    The psalmist in Psalm 98, encourages everyone to “Sing a new song……burst into jubilant song with music….let the sea resound…..God has made salvation known.”

    As I ponder these words and images of our African friends, I recall our common bond of a love for God expressed in ways that builds bridges.

    As you sing (or dance) in public or private, do all to the glory of God.  I would invite you to pray for those whose hearts may need to be lifted by dancing and the singing of songs both in America and in Africa.   The gift of music will no doubt help all of us reclaim the everyday joy that Jesus came to give.

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    Prayer for today:  God of All, thank you for the gift of song.   Allow this gift to be freely given and shared in the weeks before and after Advent that there might be celebration of the birth of Jesus.  For all those who might be in the midst of grief, depression, or challenge allow help us to extend your joy with care, that their spirits might be lifted.  All this in your Son’s name.  Amen.

    12.14.09 Monday Insights from Pastor Lisa Holliday

    One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy.”  Though the Scriptures hold no account of a drummer boy, I picture the possible scene every year around this time.  I imagine a small boy slowly approaching Jesus who is lying in the manger.  The child is a bit timid, unsure and certainly quite humble. He had been told he would be traveling to see a newborn King.  He was to bring his finest gift to lay before this very special baby.  I wonder about the thoughts that must have run through his head.  “A gift? But I don’t have any money!”  “Why would a king want to see or hear from me?”  “What is so special about this baby that we would travel this far to see Him?”

    However, with deep wisdom, the little boy didn’t allow his questions and concerns to stop him from experiencing and worshipping the King.  Somehow he chose to set his own thoughts aside and praise the King with everything he had—his drum, his music and himself.  He may have felt intimidated, inadequate or even slightly fearful, but he trusted this special little one to accept the praise and worship he had to offer.  And as he gave the best he had, I can only imagine how the boy must have felt inside when that infant King smiled.

    Today’s passage in Isaiah encourages us to trust God and not be afraid; to celebrate God as our strength and our song; to exalt God and praise God’s name.  We are called to worship by singing and shouting aloud as we rejoice in God and God’s glorious works.  Like the little drummer boy, we are to set aside our thoughts and feelings of inadequacy and lack of importance and instead rejoice in, honor and give thanks for who God is and all God has done.  This Advent season, give God the best of what you have and who you are, no matter what that is. Trust God to accept the praise and worship you offer.  And as you do, celebrate the smile of the King. 

    – Lisa Holliday, Minister to Children and their Families