This week’s Reading:
John 8:31 -38 & Psalm 19
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
This Week’s text: True Discipleship: Life in the Vineyard
Don’t forget! Annual Meeting 9:15 AM jan. 27th Bay Middle School
[15:1] “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
(John 15:1-11 ESV)
This week’s Passage: Luke 3:18 – 27
 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.”  Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”
 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one,  saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”
 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.  But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:18-27 ESV)
As I look back over the past couple days and the wonderful celebration on Sunday as we welcomed our covenant children into the Christ Church Community – I was struck by the rich doctrine of our Baptism / Membership Covenant, as well as the challenges of “getting off of the mouse wheel” in contemporary parenting. I encourage you to ask yourself the following questions, borrowed from Rev. John Yate’s book, “For the Life of the Family”
1) Which of the promises from Covenant challenge you as you said them this past week?
(look at your bulletin to refresh your memory)
2) What activity (ies) in your life might you “shed” in order to go deeper in your relationship with God as a family?
3) Can you relate personal experiences from your own life or from the experiece of your own children or others whom you know in which baptism, confirmation or admission to Holy Communion have been especially meaningful?
This week’s text: The Baptism of Jesus
 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,  John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.  But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,  added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
(Luke 3:15-22 ESV)
Looking at yesterday’s text in Matt 2 where the Wise Men arrive in Betlehem to worship the young boy Jesus, we learned 4 points that deal with the wisdom of the World & the Wisdom of God.
1. The Wisdom of the World is Dated, and the Wisdom of God is eternal.
2. The Wisdom of the World is Shallow & Superficial, where the wisdom of God is Deep & Lasting.
3. The Wisdom of the World is Inadequate, The Wisdom of God is Completely adequate for our daily lives!
4. The Wisdom of the World is Narrow & Exclusive; The Wisdom of God is for all!
Which one of these points challenges you the most, and / or do you find yourself being drawn to the Wisdom of the World?
On Fridays, I post some of the more interesting articles I’ve come across throughout the week to highlight what’s happening in the church, country, world, sports, and in culture in general.
USA – Divided GOP House approves Senate ‘fiscal cliff’ planHIGHLIGHTS OF ‘FISCAL CLIFF’ BILL
Highlights of a bill approved Tuesday by the Senate and House aimed at averting wide tax increases and budget cuts scheduled to take effect in the new year. The measure would raise taxes by about $600 billion over 10 years compared with tax policies that were due to expire at midnight Monday. It would also delay for two months across-the-board cuts to the budgets of the Pentagon and numerous domestic agencies.
World – Christianity ‘close to extinction’ in Middle East
Christianity faces being wiped out of the “biblical heartlands” in the Middle East because of mounting persecution of worshippers, according to a new report.
Culture – A Brief Review of Les Mis
Ever since the trailer for the new Les Misérables movie made the rounds online, I’ve been highly anticipating this film. Last weekend, Corina and I went to see it. We were not disappointed, but we were surprised in ways different than expected.http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/01/02/a-brief-review-of-tom-hoopers-les-misrables/
Dying Regrets and New Year Reflections
Church – A fascinating post over at Tim Brister’s blog—see what you make of the list of regrets—and I’m interested in which one resonates with you the most and whether you have any additions to the list. Oddly, this first rather “romantically expressive” one is the one with which I most resonate.
Sports – Wild Card Games this weekend as the NFL playoffs begin
The Feast of The Epiphany
Matt 2: 1 – 8
[2:1] Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,  saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;  and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.  They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.”
Today, being the 9th Day of Christmas and many of us are back at work / school I write to encourage you to continue your Christmas Celebration as you reenter your vocation! We have the wonderful knowledge this season that God is with us!
Far from being simply an alternative to the way in which Christmas is currently celebrated in our culture or an antidote to post-Christmas ‘let down,’the understanding of the early history and traditions of Christian celebrations can unite God’s people with the true focal point of the Christmas season.
 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
(Galatians 4:4-5 ESV)
Far more than giving gifts or holiday feasts, the joy of Christmas is that God came near to us in Jesus Christ. In the words of Margaret Manning of RZIM, “The Incarnation affirms that matter matters as God descends to us and adopts a dwelling made of human flesh.” Far from a let down, we have the opportunity in the Christ Church Community to be lifted up and united to God through Jesus Christ. This makes today a continued celebration – won’t you join me?