Rejoice Greatly (Luke 2)

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Sermon Series:
For Unto Us A Child is Born, Messages Inspired by Handel’s Messiah

Message 2 of 4: Rejoice Greatly
Scripture: Luke 2:8-20
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 12/22/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida. Click Here for a video of the entire worship service, including the message.

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field and Glory to God
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion

At the end of the first part of Handel’s Messiah, the text shifts from mostly quoting the prophet Isaiah to the more familiar Christmas story found in the New Testament.

So what text is chosen first?

  • Caesar Augustus calling for a census?
  • Mary and Joseph, the human heroes of the story?
  • Herod, the villain of the story?

Nope. Charles Jennens, who compiled the scriptures which make up Handel’s Messiah, chose the story of the shepherds.

Who from the Christmas story most inspires you? Why? I usually choose Mary, the first and best disciple, and I usually gloss over the shepherds. I thought of them as side characters. I often don’t even read their whole story. I stop with the angels singing to them.

But this year, they’ve captured my heart thanks to Handel’s Messiah.

In Messiah, a solo soprano acts as the narrator and angel of the Lord for this part of the scripture…
Luke 2:8 In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

 A choir acts as the heavenly for this part of the text
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

The choir is followed by a solo soprano doing vocal gymnastics in an incredibly difficult and exuberant version of Zechariah 9:9-10. Is the soloist the prophet rejoicing that the Old Testament promises are in the birth of Christ? Or maybe it’s a shepherd or angel overcome with excitement.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is the righteous Saviour, and He shall speak peace unto the heathen. Rejoice greatly.

How will you receive the coming of Christ? Will you receive Jesus with great joy?

How is your Christmas season going? I’ve never been so absent. I had the chance for some vacation with husband. Pastors never take a vacation in December, but this year it was the only time we had between Ed’s jobs. I got back from vacation and then got sick. Multiple days in bed. How about you?

How are you receiving what is meant as “Good News with Great Joy”?

Receive with Fear– The angel says, “Do not be afraid” (aka I’m not going to hurt you) because their appearances are so surprising, startling, unexpected. That’s how many experience this season, fear-full because the feelings and triggers are surprising, startling, and unexpected.  Everything feels out of control.

Receive as an interruption, and intrusion- I’ve got to watch the sheep. Let me get back to work. Bah humbug. It’s all a bother.

Receive as a chore/burden– Now there’s even more on my to-do list. I’ve got to find someone to watch the sheep. Then I have to walk all the way into Bethlehem in the dark. Then I have to search for a baby in a food trough.

Are you open to receiving the Good News of Christmas with Great Joy? Not great happiness. Not great success.

The angels do.  They are lighting up the night sky with their celebration, flooding it with singing and worship and the promises of God.

Mary does. Her celebration is quieter. She treasures it, ponders all in her heart. You could have both public celebrations and private wonder.

The shepherds do. I imagine them as big balls of enthusiasm. Like frat boys- rough and tumble, out in the middle of the night doing their thing in the dark, caring for the sheep. The angels come and they say, “Yea, let’s go!”

Enthusiasm- en theos, God with and God within, full of the Spirit

ENTHUSIASTIC, JOYFUL CELEBRATING
Dancing on the cruise ship – They danced all day long. Line dancing, cha cha lessons, Zumba, dancing before and after dinner. We’re the people of God, why aren’t we dancing?

Lisa, did you dance? No, I watched from the balcony and smiled. I don’t do that. I don’t know-how. I don’t want to make a fool of myself. I missed out worrying about what other people think. Be a fool for Christ and rejoice.

Choir singing outside of Publix- Christians in the wild singing the Good News. People are singing along and smiling. There’s a joy and eternal quality to the sacred songs which is different than the secular songs.

Lisa Elyse Christmas headbandsThe bright, sparkly Christmas headband my mom and sister made me for Christmas. What would it be like to wear it every day between now and New Year’s?

I’m going to do it. I’m going to let my little light shine. I’m not going to be embarrassed my Savior is born and born again in me. I’m tired of being an incognito Christian. In camouflage, in hiding. This is our season. This is our story. It’s time to dance and sing, celebrate and rejoice. We have no reason to be ashamed of celebrating our Lord.

MORE ABOUT SHEPHERDS
One idea is that they were special shepherds who raised the sheep to be sacrificed in the temple, which was only about 4 miles away. They had a special cave they used for birthing sheep. A spotless male lamb would be quickly wrapped in bands of cloth and laid in a manger till it calmed down and could be with its mother.

If this is true, when they heard the angel describe Jesus’ birth they knew exactly where to find Mary and Joseph, in the birthing cave. They knew exactly who Jesus was- the Lamb of God. The way Jesus was wrapped foreshadows his burial clothes for he would be the sacrifice to save us all.

This is beautiful and theologically rich. But what if they were just regular ordinary shepherds going about their regular ordinary tasks? Shepherds who are lowly, uneducated, migrant workers, dirty jobs kind of people, not the most trustworthy. What if this is who God chooses. It sounds just like God.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.

The shepherds are full of enthusiasm. They don’t overthink it. They don’t over plan it. They are fully present to God and the Good News.

17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News. The first to see the long-awaited, long-promised Messiah. The first to affirm Mary and Joseph who were probably feeling and thinking so many things.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds are the first to hear the Good News.
The first to see the Messiah.
The first to affirm Mary and Joseph.
The first to share the Good News.
The first to rejoice- glorifying and praising God.   

And so, beloved of God, let the shepherds inspire you to receive and rejoice
Rejoice with an indescribable joy.

Inexpressible. Unspeakable.
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy.

Loose. Liberated. Boundless.

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth, of a living hope
A joy anchored in The Imperishable, The Eternal.
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you.

Destined for you.
Sanctified, sprinkled, and saved for you.
By the Merciful One. The One Who is With You.
Receive and Rejoice!
~ Receive and Rejoice, by Lisa Degrenia

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Receive and Rejoice © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Rejoice Greatly- A Devotion for the Fourth Week of Advent and Christmas based on Handel’s Messiah

rejoice mountain people jump

Rejoice Greatly
Readings and Reflection for the fourth week of Advent and Christmas Eve and Day

SONGS FROM HANDEL’S MESSIAH:
There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field and Glory to God
Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion
Hallelujah Chorus

SCRIPTURES to read this week:
Luke 2:1-14
Zechariah 9:9-17
Revelation 19:1-8

REFLECTION QUESTIONS for this week:

  • Belly laugh with someone. Look for laughter and multiply it this week.
  • What do you need to do or not do in order to rejoice with all your soul this Christmas?

PRAYER:
Receive and Rejoice!
Rejoice with an indescribable joy. Inexpressible. Unspeakable.
A joy greater than words
A great and glorious joy. Loose. Liberated. Boundless.

Receive and Rejoice!
A joy worthy of new birth, of a living hope
A joy anchored in The Imperishable, The Eternal.
Undefiled and Unfading

Receive and Rejoice!
This joy was chosen for you. Destined for you.
Sanctified, sprinkled, and saved for you.
By the Merciful One. The One Who is With You.
Receive and Rejoice!
~ Receive and Rejoice, by Lisa Degrenia

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Rejoice Greatly
A Devotion for the Fourth Week of Advent
based on Handel’s Messiah © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

The Visitation- Christmas Reflections for Mary and Elizabeth (Luke 1)

old and young hands

Mary entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
– Luke 1:40

There They Stand
There they stand
breathless
belly to belly
the maid and the elder cousin
full of grace and truth

John leaps for joy
Covered in the flesh of Elizabeth
Unborn, yet already at work
In the wilderness of her womb
He will not wait to make the Way known

Elizabeth extends her arthritic hands
One wrapping Mary in welcome
The other in blessing
Encompassing the inexperienced traveler
in affirmation of faith

Worship overwhelms worry
In the sanctuary of her solace
Mary is safe enough to sing

Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said… The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
– Luke 1:38, 49

As You Have Said
Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

Our Steadfast Savior
Mindful of our frailty
Looks on our lowliness
and responds with greatness
Great grace and Greater grace
for us and for all

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord
God of power and might
Heaven and earth are full of Your glory
It is as you have said

Your mercy extends
Floods and Flows
Through time and place
Through need and pain
Body and Soul to
Soul to Soul to Soul to…

You show true strength
Bringing down those who bow the knee to no one
Scattering those who set up their own kingdoms
be it castle or corporation
Revealing it to be ashes
and emptiness

You show true strength
Lifting up those bowed low
Face in the dirt
Bearing the weight of excess and greed
Buried beneath crushing injustice

You show true strength
Raising up
Filling up
Faithful, Covenant Keeper
Remembering and
Re-membering

Revel and Rejoice
Praise and Proclaim
Magnify
Glorify
Adore

It is and will be
as You have said
Holy, Holy, Holy Lord

Click Here to read the scriptures for these reflections, Luke 1:39-56

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There They Stand © 2010 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
As You Have Said © 2014 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
Please leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Learning to Pray- Three P’s for a Richer Prayer Life

Praise Proclaim Promise

The longer I seek God, the more there is to find. It seems I get my head around one aspect of God’s character and another mystery appears. I feel the welcome of God’s tenderness and patience. Then I start discovering the rest of God’s protection and encouragement. Next, it’s learning to walk in God’s strength and guidance.

But what am I to do with God’s transcendent power and holiness and glory.
What am I to do with WOW?

“Wow means we are not dulled to wonder. … Wonder takes our breath away and makes room for new breath. That’s why they call it breathtaking.”
– Anne Lamott in Help, Thanks, Wow

To wonder, to WOW, is to be alive. It’s having eyes to see and hearts to thrill and souls quickening to respond. It’s Isaiah overwhelmed by a vision of God seated on the heavenly throne. (Isaiah 6:1-8). It’s Moses encountering God in a burning bush, a presence so near and divine he must remove his shoes for even the ground is made holy. (Exodus 3:5-6)

WOW is also found in small things, like the tiny toes of a baby or the stillness of a deep blue night, or a belly laugh spewing mashed potatoes across the diner counter.

The “size” of the inspiration doesn’t matter. What matters is how it awakens us. How it connects us to being fully alive. How we pause to acknowledge the One who makes it possible.

Classically, acknowledging God in this way is called praise. It’s often accompanied by proclamation and naming/claiming God’s promises. (3 P’s)

Don’t let the fancy church words intimidate you. Your acknowledgment doesn’t have to be profound or formal. It’s as simple as finishing a sentence.

Finish this sentence. God, you are… 
This is how we praise God. We acknowledge who God is by naming God or an attribute of God. This can come from the scriptures or you can create it yourself.

God, you are the Light of the World. God, you are King of Kings. God, you are mighty. God, you are loving. God, you are near. 

Now finish this sentence. God, you have…
This is how we proclaim God’s power, goodness, and blessing. It’s a form of testimony, of bearing witness. It may be something you read in the scriptures, saw in the news, or heard from a friend. It may be something you witnessed firsthand.

God, you have heard the cry of the needy. God, you have made a way in the wilderness. God, you have brought me healing and hope.

Finish this last sentence. God, you will…
This is how we claim God’s promises. We’ve acknowledged who God is and what God has done. Now we acknowledge that God will continue to be God and will continue to work all things for good. The promises of the scriptures and the testimonies of others are for you and for all.

God, you will never leave me. God, you will hear the cries of my heart. God, you will walk with me all my days, you will raise me to new life now. God, you will lead me home to heaven. 

David Crowder in his book Praise Habit sums it up this way.
Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your hands and let them clap of His goodness. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to ground, trembling with life and awareness that we are found by a holy God.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas, dear ones. In the comments, share how you’re finishing these sentences. May these simple sentences bring you fully alive now and all year long. – Lisa <><

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This is the third in a series of posts on Learning to Pray. Click here for the first post, God, Please Help. Click here for the second post, Thank You, God.

Learning to Pray- God, You Are © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
by Lisa Degrenia (www.revlisad.com)
You are welcome to use this work in a worship setting with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Enough, a Thanksgiving Message (Psalm 23)

Sermon Series enough 1110 x 624

Enough, a Thanksgiving Message
Scripture: Psalm 23
Notes from a message offered Sunday, 11/24/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

When you think of the word “enough” what comes to mind?
a. Enough = Too Much. Something that’s bothering you that must stop.
Pat – “I’ve had enough of this moving”
Jo – “It’s what I tell my three dogs when they bark nonstop.”
Song: No More Tears/Enough is Enough (Barbara Streisand, Donna Summer)

b. Enough = Too Little. Enough always tied to the word never.
Fanci – “Enough is a word that … has a connotation of power, because [the one] who has enough holds power over [the one] who does not.”
Scarcity. What you need is unattainable.

Song: Never Enough from The Greatest Showman
All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough, never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough, never be enough

Psalm 23:1
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.    

It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t want things, long for things, work for things. It means I shall not “be in want.”

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. The Lord is my shepherd, there is enough.

c. Enough = Peace, Satisfied, Contentment. I have enough. There is enough.

Where do you find yourself with the word “enough.”

As I read the psalm, listen to all the things God provides

Psalm 23 (NRSV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
Your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Notice all the things God provides
Verses 2-3, rest for body and soul
Verse 3, guidance and wisdom beyond knowledge
Verse 4, companionship. God’s abiding. We are never alone, never forsaken.
Verse 4, God protects
Verse 5, daily needs, every good gift
Verse 5, healing, blessing, and calling
Verse 6, goodness and mercy, now and forever

I Have Enough = Contentment
Trust there is enough- It’s a key that opens everything. This is a very different narrative than the narrative of our consumeristic culture.
enough time
enough love
enough money
enough talent
enough food
enough opportunity
enough grace

Richard Rohr Quote
Once you move your identity to that level of deep inner contentment, you will realize you are drawing upon a Life that is much larger than your own and from a deeper abundance. Once you learn this, why would you ever again settle for scarcity in your life? “I’m not enough! This is not enough! I do not have enough!” I am afraid this is the way culture trains you to think. It is a kind of learned helplessness. The Gospel message is just the opposite— inherent power.

I can trust I have enough (contentment) because I trust that God is enough (commitment). Everything the world tells you will be enough, that will make it so you are enough and have enough, will fall short of God and will fall short of your need.

The Lord is my Shepherd- I have made that commitment. You are the Shepherd and I am the sheep. I’m part of Your flock. Read Psalm 23 again, counting and emphasizing the references to God.

When we read Psalm 23 in this way, we hear the Psalmist’s praise of God and commitment to God. God, I trust you. I have enough because you are enough.

This leads down to our core identity. I am enough. I am enough that the Lord is my Shepherd. I can’t earn it. I can’t buy it. I am enough because God delights in me and says I am enough. Our identity and value and access to grace itself all a gift. This dispels the scarcity that there isn’t enough and I’m not enough.

Read Psalm 23 again, counting the personal references, all the things that are true about you. God is enough and I am enough. Both these truths are equally proclaimed in this incredible Psalm.

This Thanksgiving, remember this.
I have enough = I am Content
God is enough = I can make a Commitment to God because I trust God
I am enough = God says so and it’s now my Core Identity

When we remember this we are re-membered. All the brokenness comes together.

Ann Voskamp on Facebook
All the brokenness in the world begins with the act of forgetting — forgetting that God is enough, forgetting that what He gives is good enough, forgetting that there is always more than enough to give thanks for.

Though we forget, though we’re prone to chronic soul amnesia, You never forget us, You never abandon us, You never give up on us.

You have written us, our very names, on the palm of Your hands, written even me right into You — though we forget, You re-member us, You put us and the broken bits and members of us back together again. We are re-membered in You — You who engrave Your love letter to us right into Your skin…. right into Your beating heart.

In the name of the only One who ever loved us to death and back to life again… In Jesus’ name… Amen.

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Enough, A Thanksgiving Message © 2019 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Leave a comment for information and permission to publish this work in any form.