The Candy Cane Sermon, Luke 2.8-20

The Candy Cane Sermon
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20

Offered Sunday, 12/25/22 at Coronado Community United Methodist Church, New Smyrna Beach Florida.

God is constantly speaking, reaching out with wisdom, encouragement, and invitations. Yet, many of us have trouble hearing from God. We’d like an angel with a clear message. Well, maybe not, they’re fearsome. How about a classic red phone hotline?

There are classic spiritual practices to help us hear from God. One is Visio Divina –             Latin for sacred seeing. Visio as in vision. Divina as in divine.

When practicing Visio Divina, we allow our hearts and imaginations to look at something deeply while listening for what the Holy Spirit has to say to us. You may have practiced this before without even knowing it. Have you ever stopped to watch a sunset, investigate a flower, or ponder a beautiful piece of art?

Psalm 19:1-4 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world.”

There are four main movements to Visio Divina – Attention, Connection, Invitation to Action, and Prayer.

Attention – Let’s say you’re looking at a sunset. What specifically about the sunset captures your attention? A cloud formation? A color? The speed of the sunset? The wind?

Connection – How is what you’re noticing making a connection for you. It could be a connection to a situation you’re struggling with, a line from scripture, an attribute of God, an answer you’re seeking, etc.

Invitation to Action – How will your day be different because of this experience? Do you hear the Spirit inviting you to start or stop something, to say or not say something?

Prayer – Continue the conversation with God.

VISIO DIVINA – A CANDY CANE

Fun Facts:

  • Guess how many candy canes are sold in the US annually? 1.76 Billion
  • Candy canes are said to have originated in the 1670s at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany. The choirmaster gave sugar sticks to the boys’ choir to keep them quiet during Christmas services. They were eventually bent so they could be hung on Christmas trees.
  • It’s thought a German immigrant debuted the treats in Ohio in 1847.
  • In the early 1900s, the red/white stripes were added along with the peppermint flavoring. A real candy cane is white with alternating red stripes, a bold stripe alternating with a stripe of three strands.

Find a real candy cane and spend a few moments looking at it deeply. Since it’s delicious, you could also enjoy tasting it. What captures your attention? Where is it making connections? As you quiet yourself and open yourself, are you hearing any invitations?

Last week, I spent time with a candy cane making a list of items that caught my attention. It was more a mental exercise than a spiritual practice. As I practiced an actual Visio Divina with it today, the sweetness caught my attention. This reminded me that God wants good things for me and the world. God is working for good. I heard an invitation to allow myself to trust God even more as I make my way into the new year.

I’d love to hear about your experience with the Holy Spirit speaking through a candy cane. Leave a comment below.

1. The Color White – lamb’s wool, Lamb of God, purity, holiness, sinless, cleansing, virgin birth. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” The song Jesus Paid it All says, “sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow.”

2. The Color Red – blood, sacrifice, Passover, crucifixion

3. Stripes – flogging. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his stripes we are healed.”

One Stripe – We believe there is One True Living God, no others. This is confirmed in the Ten Commandments and in the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. And as for you, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

Three stripes – Trinity, the Magi brought three gifts to baby Jesus

4. Mint – In the time of Christ, horsemint was used for medicine and tithing. It grows wild, with large course leaves. Horsemint does not taste like peppermint.

5. Sweet – Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

6. Shaped like the letter J for Jesus. My friend Macon said it reminded him of a fishhook. Jesus invites us to leave our nets and to follow, to be his disciples and “fish” for people.”

7. Shaped like a shepherd’s crook – Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Jesus sits on the throne of his ancestor David, who was also a Shepherd. The lowly shepherds were told of the birth of the Messiah, not those with power, money, and position.

8. The candy is hard – God’s promises are solid, a steadfast and strong foundation.

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You and those you love are welcome to worship with us in person on Sundays at 9:30 AM and 11:00 AM. You’ll also find recordings of our 9:30 AM service on YouTube.

© 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them

adult beautiful blur casual

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

I’m in a Bible study right now which asks me to read multiple chapters of the Bible per week. To help me finish the work, I began listening to a recording of the passages I was to read. It started as a practical solution but has become a favorite way to read the Scriptures.

The benefits I found:

1. Pacing
A great recording moves through the Scriptures at a steady pace. I better understand the grand sweep of the passages. It also keeps me from getting distracted or sleepy.

2. Pronunciation 
The reader knows how to pronounce every difficult name and location so I learn how to pronounce them as well.

3. Enjoyment
Listening to a gifted reader is delightful. It reminds me of being read to as a child. It makes reading the Scriptures feel communal rather than lonely.

My favorite Scripture recording is available free of charge through BibleGateway.com.

  • Go to their site or app
  • At the top of the page type in the Scripture you want to read
  • Next to the Scripture, change the translation to New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
  • Press search. It will take you to the Scripture.
  • Just above the Scripture, you’ll see several options including sharing or printing the Scripture. To listen to the Scripture, click the audio icon on the far right. It’s that simple.

This translation is read by celebrated actor Sir David Suchet. His reading style is simple, soulful, and engaging.

Blessed reading!

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Why I Listen to the Scriptures as I Read Them
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures

speak lord listening

Do have trouble hearing God speak to you through the scriptures? Have you ever read the Bible and the words feel distant- like they were meant for another person in another time?

Hear this Good News-

  • You’re not alone. Many struggle with this.
  • You’re not slow. It takes time and practice.
  • You’re not getting the silent treatment from God for whatever reason you’ve invented. God is already reaching out to you. God already knows you, loves you, and yearns for a relationship with you. God wants to speak to you and with you through the scriptures.

On to the tips!

1. Use a modern translation
The King James Version is beloved and beautiful, but its like reading Shakespeare. It’s a challenge. Try using a modern translation like the New International Version (NIV), New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), or my new modern favorite, The Voice.

2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you
This may seem obvious, but its a gift often left unopened. God wants to be heard and is ready to help.

3. Eliminate distractions
Find a quiet place. Read the passage slowly, prayerfully, out loud, three times.

4. Insert your name into a scripture
Many passages are well suited for this. You simply replace some nouns with a blank for inserting a name.

Let’s try it with John 3:16-17. Read the passage. Now read it again inserting your name into the blanks. How did the experience change?

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

For God so loved __________ that he gave his only Son, so that __________ who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn __________, but in order that __________ might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17, NRSV

Now let’s try inserting your name into a longer passage, Psalm 23, NKJV.

Psalm 23
The Lord is __________ shepherd
_________ shall not want
He makes __________ to lie down in green pastures
He leads __________ beside the still waters
He restores __________ soul
He leads __________ in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake

Yea, though __________ walks through the valley of the shadow of death,
__________will fear no evil
For You are with __________
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort __________

You prepare a table before __________ in the presence of __________ enemies
You anoint __________ head with oil
__________ cup runs over
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow __________
All the days of __________ life
And __________ will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever

BONUS- You can also insert the names of other persons as a way of blessing them, encouraging them, or praying for them.

What other scriptures would be great for inserting a name?
What other tips do you have for hearing God speak to you?

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Four Tips for Hearing God Speak to You Through the Scriptures
© 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.