A Story About People Making It Work

Good morning!

I have two sermons to post this morning – the first is my Christmas Eve sermon.  We pre-recorded a lessons and carols service and then had a livestream at 8PM.  The sermon is from the livestream.  Both services are linked below!

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 24, 2020

Luke 2:1-20

A Story About People Making It Work

A couple of weeks ago I was preaching out of the Book of Joshua and I talked about the fact that the story of God is a story about people.  In the case of that scripture and sermon,  I was talking about the fact that the story of God is a story about those people making choices; the choice to follow God, the choice between right and wrong, etc.

That phrase – “the story of God is a story about people” – is one that has really stuck with me this year, particularly as I have borne witness to the ways in which members of this congregation have stepped up and been the church throughout this pandemic.  A closed building has meant absolutely nothing to a group of people who refused to let anything but God’s love win this year.

A group of people who sent cards and thoughtful care packages.

Who made phone calls and socially distanced outdoor visits.

Who sewed masks and surgical caps.

Who offered drive-thru meals and hosted an entire auction and bazaar marketplace online.

Who suited up in as much PPE as Amazon Prime could deliver during Homeless Awareness “Day” so it would be possible to panhandle safely and still raise money for local organizations working with marginalized people in our community.

Who distributed 150 “peace be with you” lawn signs to people in our town and surrounding towns.

Who stood in front of the church in both warm sunshine and cold rain to serve the sacrament of Holy Communion to people from the safety of their cars.

Who gathered every single evening at 9PM for a time for a time of prayer.

Who recorded some of the most beautiful and moving music in their homes for our weekly gathering music and special services.

Who made videos and assembled craft kits so our children could still participate in Church School.

Who logged into Zoom meetings in order to conduct church business even on those days when they were really kind of over the whole Zoom thing.

Who participated in our reimagined trunk-or-treat-turned-candy-crawl so our kiddos could trick or treat safely.

Who kept worship simple, yet accessible.

Who proudly watched the Rehoboth Fire Department hang a banner high above the doors to our building which reads, “300 Years” – knowing that while we are celebrating our history this year, we are also writing a pretty significant chapter of it.

The story of God is a story about people.  And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they’ve got, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surround them.

Tonight we gather in this virtual space to tell one of the greatest stories that has ever been told.  It is a story about hope, peace, joy and love.  It is a story about light – that perfect light – that bursts forth into the darkness.  It is a story about the revelation of our incarnational God – Emmanuel, God with us.  It is a story about grace being found in the most unexpected ways and places, like in an innocent child, born in a humble manger.

But it is also a story about people.  And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they had, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surrounded them.

And so as I was reading the Christmas story this week, there was one verse that really brought me back to this idea that the story of God is a story about people making it work with whatever they’ve got.

And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

“Wrapped him in bands of cloth.”

When he came into this world, the Prince of Peace was not wrapped in the finest linens and laid in a cradle that had been hand-carved out of rare and lavish wood.  No; he was wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger.

It was what they had.

And it was enough.

The Christmas story is a story about people.  And it is a story about those people making it work with whatever they had.

And it was enough.

It was enough to bring Jesus into this world.  It was enough to proclaim to the world that God’s light would overcome the darkness.  It was enough to be a harbinger of redemption and healing.  It was enough to hold with care a broken world as the angels said, “Do not be afraid.”

It has been one heck of a year.  Our world has been turned upside down and then dropped on its side and then left to kind of roll around and around and around and we are all kind of collectively waiting for it to settle back on its axis.

But here is the absolutely remarkable thing about this church – about these people who are telling God’s story right now.  When the world was in absolute chaos and we were lysoling our groceries and searching for toilet paper and trying to figure out how to live our lives and do our jobs and educate our children in a world that was – and, in many ways, still is – completely foreign to us, this church did not stop.  This church – the people that make up this beloved community – used what they had to respond to God’s call.  They made it work.  You allhave made it work this year.

And it has been more than enough.

The story of God is a story about you.  And it is a story about y’all making it work with whatever you have, despite the seemingly impossible circumstances that surround you right now.

When things first shut down back in March, there was a really strong mindset and narrative surrounding what we were missing and what we could not do.  And while that is still there (I really miss hugs!), I also think that, at some point this year, our mindset changed from what we could not do to what we very much still had the ability to do.  Our narrative shifted from what we were missing to what we still had available to us.

The story of God is a story about people making it work with whatever they had; and at some point this year we just started to make it work with whatever we had, whether it was an iPhone streaming Easter worship to 300 people or a simple card in the mail to let someone know they were being thought of.

And we did a lot with what we had.  In so many ways, as a congregation we moved mountains this year and we illuminated the glory of God’s light, love and grace in ways that really made a difference in people’s lives.

There is a lot about Christmas this year that I am having a hard time with; like so many of you, I am sure, it has not been easy for me to get into the spirit this year.  Despite the decorations and the music and the snow and the significant number of cookies I have consumed (thank you to everyone who has dropped them off), it just has not really felt like Christmas.

And yet I am more inspired by this story than I think I ever have been before.  I am inspired by the way that it did not take much to bring Jesus into this world.  I am inspired by the way Mary used what she had under very humble and somewhat trying circumstances to care for Jesus.  I am inspired thinking about the ways that we, as a community have lived out this very same thing this year – using what we have under very humble and somewhat trying circumstances to serve God and to love and care for one another.

And so on this Christmas Eve in the year of our Lord, 2020, I invite you, too, to be inspired.  Be inspired by Mary and Joseph and the ways in which they used what they had to bring Jesus into this world.  Be inspired by the ways this story teaches us that a lot of really good and lifechanging ministry can be done with actually very little.  Be inspired by the ways in which we, as a community, have used what we have to continue to do church and to love one another and to serve God.  And be inspired by the ways in which God is continuing to call us to use what we have to proclaim the Good News.

Because it is enough.

When the angel of the Lord appeared before the shepherds, they said:

‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’

It was not much.

But it was enough.

And it continues to be enough today.

So friends, may we have the ingenuity and the creativity of Mary and Joseph as they welcomed their son into this world by wrapping him in bands of cloth.  May we, too, continue to look for opportunities to serve in simple and humble ways.  May we remember that the story of God is a story about us and about what we are doing with what we have.

And may we trust that what we have is enough.

Any may those around us, like the shepherds who ran with haste to the manger to see for themselves what God had done, see what God is doing in our lives and in our church.  And may they glorify and praise God for all they see and hear.

Merry Christmas, friends.  Our cries for Emmanuel have been heard!  God is with us.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

This Magical, Malleable, Life-Changing Story

Hi friends!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas!  Here is my sermon from our 9PM service on Christmas Eve.

Happy New Year!

Enjoy …

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve Sermon

This Magical, Malleable, Life-Changing Story

My two-year-old loves watching this show on Netflix called Spirit, which is an adorable animated show about a girl and her two friends who live on “the frontier” with their horses.  My husband and I can’t quite figure out where “the frontier” actually is or what time period the show is set in, but between the one-room schoolhouse, the telegrams and the lack of cars and phones, in many ways (even though you are watching the show through a streaming service on one of your smart devices) you certainly step back into a simpler time when you watch it.

And, to be quite honest, in this crazy world that we are living in, sometimes “simple” is exactly what I need.

A few weeks ago, we were all watching one of the Christmas episodes.  At the end of the episode, it is Christmas day and the main character, Lucky, and her friends ride their horses to the church in town; as the arrive, they can hear the sound of people singing and they run inside and join the worship service.  The episode ends with everyone standing, holding lit candles and singing together, Angels We Have Heard On High.

They are all smiling at each other and embracing one another.  It is simple, but it just seems so perfect and festive and filled with the true spirit of the season.

I looked at my husband and said, “I wish there was a way we could do that at church.”

“Do what?” he asked.

“You know – have a simple little service like that.  Just invite everyone to come to church and hear the Christmas story and sing Christmas carols and light some candles and just be together in the spirit of the season.”

My husband gave me kind of strange look and said, “Isn’t that what you do on Christmas Eve?”

“Well yeah, but I also preach,” I explained to him.

“Well you don’t have to,” he pointed out.

Oh, the Christmas Eve sermon.

The funny thing is that clergy put a lot of pressure on themselves to preach the perfect sermon on Christmas Eve, because it feels like the stakes are high.  And yet, not to downplay the preacher’s role in all of this, sometimes I am not sure that it is actually necessary; because this story really preaches itself.

The Christmas story is a story where magic is real, where hope is alive and where love wins, over and over and over again.  It is a story where light shines and stars guide us along our journeys.  It is a story where grace is uncovered in the most unexpected ways and places – with a baby in a manger, God made flesh in the world.  It is a story where ordinary people are called by God to do extraordinary things.  It is a story where we can see ourselves in the characters that are all playing different, but equally important roles.  It is a story where journeys are long, but not taken alone.  It is a story where angels appear in those moments when we need them most.  It is a story where promises are kept and prophecies are fulfilled.  It is a story that begins a Gospel where peace prevails and death does not have the final word.  It is a story where lives are changed – not just by what has already happened, but also by the way God is still at work today.

It is a story that is simple – but oftentimes is exactly what we need.

If you think about it, the really cool thing about the Christmas story is that it, in this one moment in time – this Christmas holiday – it is told countless times around the world in so many different forms and languages.  Whether it is being carefully read from scripture at a candlelit church service or narrated by our middle and high school students while chaos ensues during our annual Christmas pageant, it is timeless.

For 2,000 years, the Christmas story has stood the test of time.  Over and over and over again, it is has proclaimed this beautiful truth that God’s promises have been fulfilled – that our cries for Emmanuel, God with us, have been heard.

The Christmas story has this crazy and malleable way to touch us, no matter where we are on our journey through life.  Whether we are young or old, hearing it for the first time or reciting it along with the liturgist – this story can inspire us.  Whether we come to this space tonight with a joyful heart or a heavy one, this story can surround us with hope.  Whether we think we have answers or still have a whole lot of questions, this story can give us wisdom.  Whether we have had a really wonderful year or a year that we would rather forget, this story can remind us that God is always with us – and that we are not alone.  Whether we want to soak up every word that is spoken or let our minds wander off to daydream about other things, this story will give us something to think about.

And so, as you listen to the Christmas story tonight, I invite you to sit in its simplicity – and let it be for you exactly what you need it to be in this moment in time.  Let it inspire you, let it give you hope, let it give you wisdom, let it remind you that you are not alone and let it give you something to think about as you leave this space tonight.

As you sing the familiar carols, join your voices not only with those who have gathered here tonight, but with the millions of people around the world who are singing these same carols – and with the multitude of angels who sang them first.

As you light your candle at the end of worship, watch as even the smallest of flames can illuminate even the darkest of spaces.

It might be simple, but in this moment, it might be all that we need.

I invite you now to settle in.  Because you are able to hear one of the greatest stories that has ever been told.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.

Preaching in Pumps Podcast Artwork

God Has Things Under Control

Here is my Christmas Eve homily!  I love the last paragraph, “Tonight we put our to-do lists down, we shake off any of the lingering stress we might be feeling over the holidays and we stop trying to create magic; because God has taken care of that for us.  God has created magic in this story.  And it does not matter how we got here – tonight we are all in Bethlehem.  And we are about to witness something amazing.” – I think these words ring true today, as we journey towards the cross and Easter.

Enjoy …

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Sarah Weaver
Rehoboth Congregational Church
Rehoboth, MA
December 24, 2019

Christmas Eve Homily

God Has Things Under Control

On Saturday afternoon, I asked my 18-month-old, Harrison, if he wanted to make cookies for daddy.  He excitedly said yes and I sat him on the counter and started pulling stuff out of the pantry and cabinets.  I think I had this magical picture in my head of the two of us in the kitchen together, me measuring out all the ingredients and him pouring them into the bowl, together creating a magical Christmas memory.

Because that is what we try to do during this season, right?  We create magic; we hang lights, decorate trees, bake festive treats and throw fabulous parties.  We make this season – which, in this part of the world is otherwise dark and cold – magical.

Of course, sometimes in life, especially with toddlers, the magical picture we have in our head doesn’t always pan out to reality.

And about 20 minutes into our magical baking experience, after I had asked him about 19 times not to stand up on the counter, he accidentally knocked over a decorative glass bowl that was full of Christmas ornament balls.  It hit the ground and glass went everywhere.

And I mean everywhere.

Now, the question of why I had a decorative glass bowl full of Christmas ornament balls on the counter while I was baking with a toddler is irrelevant to the point of the sermon.

As calmly as I could, I picked Harrison up off the counter and brought him in his playroom.  Then I picked up the cat and put her in the living room.  Then I got the piece of glass out of my foot that I had stepped on in the process.  And then I started to clean up all the glass.  While I swept and steamed the kitchen floor, Harrison stood at the gate to his playroom, shaking it and sobbing hysterically because he wanted to be in the kitchen. And on the other side of the kitchen, the cat pawed at the gate in the living room, meowing relentlessly because she wanted to be fed.

At that particular moment in time, I had a few choice words for Christmas, none of which I will repeat from the pulpit.

And then my phone buzzed.  I received two text messages from a friend and colleague of mine.  I had actually seen her earlier in the week; she is recently ordained and was kind of frantic because the white stole she had ordered to wear on Christmas Eve hadn’t come it yet and she needed to borrow one of mine.  When she stopped by to pick it up, we were joking about some of the road blocks we had both stumbled over, both as pastors and as moms, to get to Bethlehem this year.  I glanced at the texts; the first one was really long and since I had glass all over my floor I skipped to the second one that simply said, “But God has things all under control …”

Now it turns out she had forgotten to pick up her robe at the drycleaners and they were closed, but she managed to track down the owner of the drycleaners at home, who showed kindness and compassion and met her there after hours so she could pick it up and have it for the weekend and Christmas.  But I did not know that all the time.  All I knew was that I was surrounded by pieces of broken glass, a toddler crying and a cat meowing and the message I saw was, “But God has things all under control.”

As I looked down at the glass that was still all over my kitchen, I realized she was right.  It was because of our brokenness and the chaos that we lived in that God came into our world in the first place.  God did not enter a world that was perfect, God entered a world that desperately needed to be saved.  God came into this world not because we are strong, but because we are weak; not because we have all the answers, but because we still have a lot of questions; not because we are whole, but because we are very much broken.

And that is the real magic of Christmas.  It is not about the perfect decorations or gifts or traditions (or cookies).  It is about remembering that no matter where we are on our journey through life – if we are healthy or if we are sick, if we are happy or if we are sad, if we are organized or if we are one shattered decorative bowl away from chaos, if we feel whole or if we feel broken, God is with us.

Our cries for Emmanuel have been heard.

You know how I had this magical picture in my head of this Christmas cookie making process?  The more I think about it, the really magical part about Christmas is that it does not matter how we get to Bethlehem – whether we skip joyfully from one fun tradition to the next or whether we manage to find every pothole to fall into along the way – we all get there together.  And, there waiting for us – in a manger, in the form of a beautiful baby boy – is Emmanuel, God with us.

Tonight we will hear one of the most magical stories that has ever been told.  A story of hope, a story of love, a story of hospitality, a story of perseverance and a story of grace.  This is a story that invites us into its narrative; a story that is very much still being written in our own lives every time we tell it.  This is a story that illuminates the darkness of a cold winter’s night.  This is a story that reminds us that no matter what we are going through in life, God is with us.

Tonight we put our to-do lists down, we shake off any of the lingering stress we might be feeling over the holidays and we stop trying to create magic; because God has taken care of that for us.  God has created magic in this story.  And it does not matter how we got here – tonight we are all in Bethlehem.  And we are about to witness something amazing.

Thanks be to God!
Amen.