What Can I Give Him, a sermon for Christmas Eve

The Nativity by Gari Melchers
The Nativity by Gari Melchers

Offered Saturday, 12/24/22 at Coronado Community United Methodist Church, New Smyrna Beach Florida.

We bring ourselves to the Christmas story.  

In 1872, Christina Rossetti brought herself to the Christmas story and wrote a beautiful poem called Heaven Cannot Hold Him. You might know it as In the Bleak Midwinter.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

We bring ourselves to the Christmas story. Where Christina Rossetti lived in England, the winter was cold and it snowed. In the time of year when Jesus was born, it wasn’t cold or snowing in the Holy Land. If so, the shepherds would not have been out in the fields with lambs and sheep.

If you ever have the chance to go to Bethlehem, I encourage you to do so. It’s a moving and complicated place. It’s not very far from Jerusalem, just a couple of miles. There’s a wall built around Bethlehem. In some places, it’s an electric fence and in others is a 26-foot-tall concrete barrier. You’re forced to pass through checkpoints with armed guards to enter and exit Bethlehem because it’s Palestinian territory. Some of Bethlehem’s residents refer to their home as the world’s largest open-air prison because their travel is severely restricted.

There’s a beautiful place, really my favorite place in Bethlehem, called The Shepherd’s Field. There’s a system of caves all over the area. When it became too cold, or when it became too dangerous, the shepherds would bring the sheep into these caves. It was a place where the shepherd could literally lie across the threshold of the cave so that sheep would be inside and trouble would be outside. The shepherds were the door, the gate. In Bethlehem, you can visit one of these caves.

When Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem there’s no room in the guest room. There weren’t any hotels like there are today. There were guest rooms in homes, and they were already full because of the census.

Mary and Joseph weren’t finally offered lodging in a stable or barn. It was probably a cave. In that cave, there wasn’t a wooden manger. The place where they would put the hay or feed for the animals was usually a worn or carved spot in the rock of the cave.

After the long journey and no guest room and the bearing and the birthing, Mary and Joseph are exhausted. This is one of the reasons why I love Gari Melchers’painting of the nativity. Mary’s getting some much-needed rest and Joseph looks overwhelmed by this little, tiny, special child.

I imagine them asking the question, “What can I give him?”

What can I give him who’s God with us?

What can I give him who’s God in the flesh?

What can I give him?

How can I be the mother of God?

How can I be the foster father of God?

What can I give him?

We think a great deal about gift giving at Christmas time. What can I give my loved ones to show them how much I care? What can I give my coworkers? What can I give my neighbor? What can I give the postal worker?

What do I have to give? There are times in our lives when it feels very full, and we have something to give. Last year at this time, our first grandchild had just been born. I have a picture of her a couple of weeks old in front of this Christmas tree. She’s now a year old.

Last year saw us moving to New Smyrna Beach. Last year saw us buying a house. Last year saw our younger daughter married. Life was very, very full and it felt like I had something to give.

This year is different. My father died at the beginning of September after a decade of suffering from Alzheimer’s and then hurricane Ian hit. So many folks in our area lost everything. We had folks saying, “I wish the storm had taken me.” We had folks saying, “I never dreamed I would be starting over at this point in my life.” Months later and they’re still wrestling with contractors and permitting and insurance and trying to figure it out.

At the beginning of September dad died, and at the end of September hurricane Ian hit, and at the beginning of November, my mom died. She had cancer. Then hurricane Nicole hit and then last week my husband was in the hospital for five days. He’s here tonight and we’re grateful.

Sometimes it feels like I have something to give and there are times when it feels like I have absolutely nothing to give. I am spent. I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed.

I don’t know where tonight finds you. If you are feeling full like you have much to give or if you’re feeling empty. Wherever you are, it’s okay. You’re wanted and you’re welcome.

This year, I read a prayer from a friend and it said “let my wound be your manger.” That’s what I’ve been holding on to to give to you tonight. Sometimes we feel full, and we have much to give and sometimes we feel empty and we feel like we have nothing to give, but what we’re really celebrating at Christmas is our God who gives. Our God who gives and gives and gives and gives and comes. Who makes a home with us in the midst of Roman occupation, in the midst of not enough room, in the midst of pain and birth, in the midst of wondering.

Tonight, you may be saying, “Jesus, I can give you my heart because it feels full.” I invite you to also say, “I can give you my heart because it’s broken, because it’s wounded, because it’s wondering.” God smiles at this gift too because it’s honest.

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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 services on YouTube.

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

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.

Four Prayers for All Saints Day Based on Hebrews 12.1-3

Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU on Pexels.com

Opening Prayer for All Saints Day
Jesus,
You are The Way, opening the path
You are The Truth, clearing the clutter
You are the Light, blazing the trail

You run
You endure
For the sake of joy
To set joy before us
and in us

Inspire us to keep running
To run remembering joy is our strength
Inspire us to remember and endure

Opening Prayer #2 for All Saints Day
Jesus, Pioneer and Perfector of Faith
Your race comes with a cross
A course of blood and tears
Mocking and piercing

Help us take up our cross and follow
Disregarding shame (that ancient enemy)
In you, it falls by the wayside
Tired scraps on the breath of new life

Help us remember and endure
Help us take up our cross and run
We’ll sit down with you in the next life
Not this one
Amen

Prayer: Help Us Run
Heavenly Father,
You surround us with great and good companions
With witnesses who run the race before us
Now cheering us on
Inspiring us with their courageous faith

Help us run with perseverance

Blessed Jesus,
Pioneer and Perfector of our faith
You blaze the trail
You endure the cross
You disable its shame and ours

Help us run with perseverance

Holy Spirit,
You companion us and supply us
with witnesses running beside us
Churning up the dust of this well-traveled path
Encouraging us with the steady beat of their beautiful feet

Help us run with perseverance
Daring, Enduring, Alive with Hope
Amen

Prayer of Confession for All Saints Day
Run beloved, run
Lay aside every weight
Every worry
Every excuse
Every inner critic shouting against inspiration

Lay aside the sin that clings so closely
Every self-serving motivation
Every self-medicating choice
Every weak thing you’ve trusted more than God

Lay them aside and run
Run beloved, run
Run with perseverance the race
Looking not to the dust, but to Jesus
The Pioneer and Perfecter of your faith
Look not to the right or to the left
Look to Jesus
Focus
Follow

The congregation is invited to offer their own prayers of confession

Run
Run remembering
You are forgiven
Joy is your strength
Run remembering
Our Jesus, who endured
So that you may not grow weary or lose heart
For your strongest step is yet to come

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Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Opening Prayer for All Saints Day © 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, www.revlisad.com

Opening Prayer #2 for All Saints Day © 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, www.revlisad.com

Help us Run © 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, www.revlisad.com

Prayer of Confession for All Saints Day © 2022 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia, www.revlisad.com

Making Room, A Christmas Prayer Poem based on Luke 2.1-7

change sheets
Reading: Luke 2:1-7

She gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
– Luke 2:7

Prayer: Making Room
No room in the inn
I can understand this
There’s only so much space
And it’s already taken
It’s simple
Factual

But your blessed Word says more
No room for them in the inn

Them
Joseph and Mary are them
Unlike me and mine
Suspicious strangers
With complicated needs

I can’t bring them in
No time
No room

I won’t bring them in
Give them access to all I have
All I’ve worked for
All I love

It isn’t wise
It isn’t safe

The stable is for them
Stay there
Over there
that hidden place
that place in the back
that place for animals
away from where I live
not here with me and mine

But
I want Jesus
and
Jesus is them

There’s no room for him
if there’s no room for them

That’s who Jesus is
That’s what Jesus does
He makes room

Born in a stable
making room
for the humble and the homeless

King of kings
making room
for the rich and the royal

An outsider
making room
for those who’ve been
turned away
left out
rejected

An insider
making room
for the distinguished and established

A laborer
making room

A wise teacher
making room

A refugee
making room

making room
making room
always making room

That’s who you are Jesus
That’s what you do
You make room

You’ve even made room for me

Now make room in me
Open me
Awaken me
Release me
To do what you do
To make room

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Prayer: Making Room  © 2014, updated 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Do You Hear What I Hear? A Devotional Based on Beloved Christmas Carols

Songs of Christmas 1110 x 624The Christmas Story is full of singing. Over the centuries we’ve continued to celebrate with songs of our own, songs born from the joy of Christ’s coming.

This holy season, to prepare our hearts again for the coming of Christ, the congregation of Coronado Community United Methodist Church in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, will reflect on the poetry of these meaningful songs.

You’re most welcome to join us. Just CLICK HERE to download the free resource guide. Our journey will begin Monday, November 29, and continue all the way to Epiphany, January 6, 2022.

Some songs will be old friends. Others will be new. May their beauty and power draw you close to Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, the Risen King. – Lisa <><

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Do You Hear What I Hear, the Songs of Christmas © 2021 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this compilation for personal devotions.
Do not publish this work in any form.