Rejoice Greatly (Luke 2)

Sermon Series christmas messiah 1110 x 624

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.

Heavenly Worship (Revelation 5)

worthy is the lamb

Heavenly Worship
Scripture: Revelation 5
Notes from a message offered, 5/5/19 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Do you have a book of the Bible you avoid?

  • Leviticus – What happened to the story in Genesis and Exodus? It’s law and how to build the tabernacle.
  • Numbers- It’s a census
  • Joshua- Full of blood and genocide
  • Job- Very hard to read. Doesn’t seem fair.

How many of us avoid Revelation? It’s weird, mysterious, hard to understand.

All Scripture is God-breathed. We need all of it. We don’t have to avoid any of it. We can hear from God there.

Revelation 1-5

  • Revelation 1 is a vision of the powerful, victorious Christ
  • Revelation 2-3 are 7 letters to the 7 churches which were located in what is modern-day Turkey. All 7 letters were read by all 7 churches even though they are addressed to specific churches. They traveled together as a bundle. They are also letters to us, the current church, on how to be faith-full.
    • Jesus Christ is to be your first and only love
    • Following Jesus comes at a price. Discipleship is costly. You will suffer for your faith.
    • Choose truth over error/falsehood
    • Choose right relationship (righteousness) with God and others over evil
    • Don’t be a hypocrite. Your inner life should match your outer words and actions.
    • Jesus opens a door of opportunity to share the Good News in every time, place, and circumstance, no matter how hard the times seem
    • Stay awake, alive, afire, wholehearted in following and sharing Christ (not lukewarm)
  • Chapters 4-5 describe the heavenly throne room and worship in heaven
    • The One, True, Living God is seated on the throne surrounded by 4 powerful, divine creatures. On both sides of the throne is seated 12 elders- 12 to represent the 12 tribes of Israel (Old Testament) and 12 to represent the 12 apostles (New Testament).
    • There’s light, singing, and worship. It’s glorious!

Revelation 5

  • Scrolls of the ancient world were folded accordion-style (like a map) with seals on each fold. 7 seals meant the document was important, like a will. The scroll represents the will of God. It is in the right hand of God- the hand of power and authority.
  • Who is worthy to fully release the will of God into the world? Only Jesus Christ!
    • The Lion of the Tribe of Judah
    • The Root of David (covenant with David fulfilled)
    • The One who Conquers
    • The Lamb of God (who takes away the sins of the world)
    • The Slaughtered, Wounded One (by his stripes we are healed)
    • The One Who Is Worthy
    • The Resurrected One
  • The number 7 is used over in over and over in the book of Revelation to represent fulfillment, completion.

Heavenly Worship

  • The first response to the releasing of God’s will in the world is worship
  • Go to Revelation as a Word of hope for a persecuted people and you will find God
    • When, O Lord, will your will of peace, justice, goodness be released in the world?
    • When, O Lord, will your will of no more sin, no more pain, no more night, no more death be released in the world?
    • It will be released because the Lamb has conquered!
  • Worship 1- the 24 elders and 4 living creatures making music, bowing down, holding the prayers of all the faithful.
    • The fulfillment of the Great Commission (proclaim to all the world)
  • Worship 2- the elders and living creatures are joined by too many angels to count. All are singing with full voice.
    • Their song includes a list of 7 things the Lamb is worthy to receive: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, blessing. You are worthy to receive it all.
  • Worship 3- The worship of all creation echoes the words of the angels.

We get a chance to experience a taste of heavenly worship in the here and now. We’re practicing. What do we do in heaven for all eternity after we die? We worship, we sing, we pray, we fellowship (every tribe, every language), we feast. No more separation between us and God and us and each other.

Come to worship. Come and gather. Come and hear the story. Come and sing. Come and pray. Come be together. Get a little taste of heaven. We need it.

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

Ash Wednesday Worship Resources and Sermon Starters

ash wedensday with palms

Repent and Return
This confession was inspired by a passage from Pauses for Lent by Trevor Hudson and the traditional Ash Wednesday reading from Joel 2.

Modern Ash Wednesday Service
A simple, fresh combination of modern visuals, ancient scripture, the imposition of ashes, and the haunting song O So So.

Blended Ash Wednesday Service
Classic scriptures, hymns, and the imposition of ashes come alongside music by Chris Tomlin and Gungor.

Ash Wednesday: The Terrible, Marvelous Dust
Jan Richardson offers a beautiful and grace-filled perspective on God at work in us and our world. The post includes an original work of art and blessing.

Dust and Ashes
Steve Garnaas-Holmes offers reflection and prayer on the many meanings of the imposition of ashes.

Two Pockets: Healthy, Faithful Perspective
A reflection based on a parable by the well respected and beloved Polish Rabbi Simcha Bunim. “Every person should have two pockets. In one, there should be a note that says ‘for my sake was the world created.’ In the second, there should be a note that says, ‘I am dust and ashes.’”

Lenten Art: Reflecting Dust
A multimedia piece to inspire the creation of your own works of art for the season of Lent

Ash Wednesday Prayer Experience
A set of four interactive prayer stations designed for use on Ash Wednesday. They could, of course, be used anytime when the themes for self-reflection and prayer include our mortality, our sorrow for our sin, and re-commitment to living in alignment with God’s holy will.
Prayer Station 1
Prayer Station 2
Prayer Station 3
Prayer Station 4

Poem: We Need to Linger

holy week primitive cartoon adapted
Before we get to Easter, we need to linger:
in the vulnerability of the basin and the towel
at the remembrance and promise of the table
in the struggle and betrayal of the garden
in the shadows and shouts of injustice
at the bloody brutal beautiful cross
in the silence of linen and spices and death

For without these, the empty tomb is empty

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Poem: We Need to Linger © 2000 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
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.

Jesus, the Coming Messiah- Son of God and King (Psalm 2, Luke 1)

Jesus, The Coming Messiah
Jesus, The Coming Messiah: Advent Readings from Old Testament to New
December 7: The Messiah as Son of God and King
Readings: Psalm 2; Luke 1:35

Psalm 2:10-12a The Voice
So leaders, kings, and judges,
be wise, and be warned.
There is only one God, the Eternal;
worship Him with respect and awe;
take delight in Him and tremble.
Bow down before God’s son.

Luke 1:35, The Voice
The angel Gabriel to Mary
The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also as the Son of God.

Prayer
Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son
Beloved
Wanted
Offered
Vulnerable
Long awaited child of promise

Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son of David
Born to a specific people
A specific culture
A specific time and place
A long awaited covenant fulfilled
For them and for all

Hallelujah to Jesus!
You are the Son of God
Eternal Word made flesh
Fully Human, Fully Divine
Humble servant, King of Kings
The most marvelous mystery of God’s
Unending, Ultimate, Unconditional Love

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

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Thank you for setting aside times this Holy Season to seek the One we celebrate.

Jesus, The Coming Messiah is an Advent Bible Reading Plan highlighting the Old Testament prophesies and passages which Christians see fulfilled in Jesus.

As you read each passage, consider how this description of Jesus the Messiah reveals his character, motivation, and purpose. How does this description inspire you to trust Jesus and his promises? How will you apply and share what you have discovered? I look forward to your comments.

If you’re in Sarasota, please drop by Trinity United Methodist Church for one of our seasonal events or services or just to say, “Hi.” You’re always welcome and wanted.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas! – Lisa <

The Messiah as Son of God and King © 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please leave a comment for information/permission to publish this work in any form.