Lenten Series Sermons 2015

towerHey Guys,
I have posted through Lent 5. Check back to this post to see Palm Sunday and Easter. (Please forgive me for being slow and late in posting this series.)
Fran

Background: See my explanation of our Lenten Series for the outline and plan.
I hope those of your reading this blog have figured out that many people have their fingerprints on it. This Lenten Series idea comes through my newest church buddy Pastor Joe Genau of my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Joe came to me with this ‘crazy’ idea…“I’ve got this huge trunk. It’s been my dream to use it…” And so the conversation exploded from there. We looked at the lectionary; we looked at other sites and readings about Packing Away the Alleluia; we looked at the kids in our congregation; and together we decided to get our kids ready for Easter by having them plan for the celebration, helping them figure out what we will need on that joyful Easter morning. I’m so excited about this series collaboration…and so excited about Pastor Joe including these kids in the worship of our Lord every Sunday. Love me some crazy!

This post here has all the Sunday sermons for the series (eventually). My church began Lent at an Ash Wednesday service that included a children’s sermon noted below. Since I’m such a slacker and did not post that sermon beforehand, you may want to adapt the First Sunday in Lent sermon to cover that object. Feel free to rearrange/substitute objects to fit your worship. Our point is to mark this Lenten Season as a time to set aside the important things we will need for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter so that we will be ready and new and special on that day.

for Ash Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Ash Wednesday
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 51:1-17
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND Alleluia streamers with bells attached to small dowels. You’ll want to have many of these streamers on dowels so that on Easter you can pass them around the congregation.

Good evening!

It’s kind of strange to be at a worship service at night in the middle of the week. But it’s also kind of cool!

I know that you all know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful special day. We say Alleluia! and Christ is risen! and The Lord is risen indeed! This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. We are now in the time before Easter. This is called the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we get ready for the big celebration that is coming. Easter is bright and colorful and loud. But Lent is dark and gray and quiet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet.

Our Bible story tonight reminds us that we must prepare ourselves to praise God. We pray so that we may ready for what God puts into our hearts.

This Lenten Season we will be putting away the things we will need for our Easter celebration so that we will be ready and feel new and be special on that day. Tonight we have these streamers that you guys made in Sunday School last week. Each streamer says Alleluia! This is an important word for Easter Sunday. It is one word that lifts many praises to God. And to remind us that it is a special important Easter word, we don’t let ourselves say this word during the Season of Lent. We save it. But notice we have many streamers that have “this” word on them. Not one streamer, but many…one for you and you and you and you and you and all of them out there and everybody. Because on Easter we need everybody’s voice to praise God. So now I’ll place the streamers in our trunk. They will be here ready for us to unpack on Easter and use to lift many praises to God.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, February 22, 2015
First Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 9:8-17; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big mysterious celebration of Easter AND the baptismal pitcher or other baptismal object.

Good morning!

The sanctuary looks a little different today. You notice that the paraments are now purple. And we have this big trunk at the front of the church. We are now in the Season of Lent. Lent is the time we prepare for the big celebration that is coming. You know about Easter. Easter is a big, bright, joyful celebration. We say Christ is risen and The Lord is risen indeed. This big celebration is coming but it is not Easter yet. Lent is a time when we focus on getting ourselves ready for the celebration, but we don’t celebrate just yet. On last Wednesday night, we began our preparations for Easter by packing away the streamers that you guys made. I wonder if you remember the special Easter word that is on the streamers. Let us whisper this word now. (Alleluia.) We don’t use this special Easter word during Lent. By keeping this word silent during Lent, it will make this word extra loud and joyful on Easter.

Today we are packing away another item that we will need for our big Easter celebration. This is our baptismal pitcher. You guys help Pastor Joe each week by carrying the pitcher full of water and pouring it into the font during the prayer. You do this to remind all of us that we are claimed by God, that we are all God’s children.

In our Bible story today, we hear about Noah and his family in the Old Testament going through the great flood. We also hear about Jesus in the New Testament being baptized in the river. These stories of water remind us that as the children of God, we go through the darkness of water, and we come out into the light of God.

Today we pack away the baptismal pitcher. We will not use it during Lent. This gives us time to be dark, and gray, and quiet. Then on Easter, we will unpack the pitcher. You will again pour the water. We will celebrate anew coming out of the darkness and into the light; we will rejoice anew that through the love of Jesus, God claims each and all of us as His children; we will shine anew with the brightness of God’s flowing love.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 1, 2015
Second Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the processional cross. (Fortunately ours comes apart into two pieces so it will fit in the trunk.)
bonus: We are considering a added wonderment of scattering sand around the entrances to the church. This will be an extended metaphor of Genesis 22:17. Not addressing this during the children’s sermon, but possibly in the adult sermon and/or Sunday School.

Welcome!

We are in the Season of Lent. We are preparing for the big, joyful, mysterious celebration of Easter, but it is not Easter yet. We are packing away the things we will need for our celebration. We have already loaded the trunk with those streamers with this Easter word that we do not say during Lent. We have placed our baptismal pitcher in the trunk awaiting the light at the end of the Lenten darkness. Today we will pack away our processional cross. I know…you must be thinking, ‘How is that going to fit into our trunk?’ Engineers are smart; the cross is made so we can take the top part off the pole and it won’t get damaged while it is packed away. And now, you are probably wondering, ‘Why pack away the cross?!’

In our Bible stories today, we are reminded that God has made a covenant with us. God has made a promise to us. Through Jesus, we have life eternal; through Jesus, we will always live with God. The cross is a symbol of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The cross is also a symbol that we no longer fear because we are always with God.

Each Sunday as the choir comes into the church, our acolyte carries the processional cross. This reminds us that we are each followers of Jesus, carrying a cross of resurrection and life. We will not be packing away all of our church crosses, just this big processional cross. Then on Easter, we will unpack it. We will again lift high our cross. We will again proclaim the love of Christ. We will again adore His sacred name. With brightness and joyfulness. We will be Easter people remembering anew God’s covenant and promise of life to us. God is with us always.

And so I place the cross in our trunk. It is kind of odd to pack away the cross. But we are not getting rid of it; we are not forgetting it; we are preparing the things we will need for the great celebration to come. We are allowing ourselves a time of darkness, so that we can shine in the brightness of Easter.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 8, 2015
Third Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Psalm 19:1-14 (verse 10)
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND a clean, empty doughnut box. (We have doughnut time after the service; we will continue this time of fellowship through Lent, but with another treat; I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces on this Sunday.)

Uh oh. I can see the excitement on your faces that I am holding a doughnut box. And now I can see the worry on your faces as you remember that during this time of worship we are packing away the things we will need for our big, joyful Easter celebration. Yes. You are right. Today we pack away the doughnuts. Just so you will know: this is an empty doughnut box. And just so you will know: I am sure there will be some sort of treat after the service.

And just so you will know: I wonder too why do we have to pack away the doughnuts???

The Bible is full of stories that speak to us of God, stories that share wisdom and hope and faith and love. And today’s story from Psalm 19 reminds us that God’s Word to us is sweeter than honey.

Each Sunday after church, we enjoy a time of fellowship, talking and eating doughnuts. This time of fellowship, of sharing God’s love with each other and reflecting on God’s Word to us, is very important and special. Today, to show we understand how special God’s Word is and how special our fellowship time together is, we are packing away the doughnuts. We will continue to have our fellowship time, but to give a little darkness and quiet in that time as we are in the Season of Lent, we will skip the doughnuts. And then on Easter Sunday, the doughnuts will return! We will spend our Easter fellowship time rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus and the celebration of God’s Word, tasting the doughnuts that like God’s Word are as sweet as honey.

I place this empty doughnut box in our trunk. The box is next to our streamers with this Easter word we do not say during Lent. It is next to our baptismal pitcher and our processional cross. We are in the dark and quiet Season of Lent. We are preparing ourselves for the big, joyful mystery of Easter. The celebration is coming, but we are not celebrating yet.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 15, 2015
Fourth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: John 3:14-21
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the Christ Candle.

Good morning!

Light is a big part of our worship service. Each Sunday, the acolytes bring the light into the church and  light our candles; and at the end of the service, they carry the light out into the world. The light is a symbol and a reminder that Jesus is the light of our lives. Through Jesus, there is no darkness. Through Jesus, we let the light of God’s love shine to those around us. We sing the song, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Our Bible story today says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only son; Light has come into the world; and whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.”

On Easter Sunday, we will start our celebration by lighting a new candle: this candle. This Christ candle is larger than our other candles. It is marked with the cross and the Greek letters alpha and omega, reminding us that Jesus is the beginning and the end. We use this candle throughout the Easter Season and on other special occassions. Lighting this candle on Easter will end our Lenten Season of darkness.

Then of course! We need to pack this candle away so that it is ready for our big, joyful Easter celebration. We place it here in our trunk next to the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the doughnut box. We know that this Lenten time of darkness and quiet will end. We will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and we will run with gladness. The celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

for Sunday, March 22, 2015
Fifth Sunday in Lent
Year B
lectionary focus: Jeremiah 31:31-34
props: Your trunk or other container for ‘packing away’ the things we will need for the big, mysterious celebration of Easter AND the big, fancy Bible. We have a big, fancy Bible that stays on the lectern; during the children’s sermon we will take it from there to place in the trunk.

Welcome!

Before we start, I need to get something important. I’m going up here to the lectern and get an important book. I’m taking the big, fancy Bible. And I am sure you can guess what we are going to do with it. Yep, we are going to pack away the Bible. We’ve been surprised by some of the things we have packed away in our trunk for the upcoming big, joyful Easter celebration. But the Bible?? Don’t worry; our readers will still have a Bible to read our stories. But we are packing away this one for Easter because the Easter story is so big and so joyful that we need the big, fancy Bible for Pastor Joe to read.

I want to show you today’s Bible story. It is here, in the Book of Jeremiah. We read that God says, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” You know, it really doesn’t matter how big the Bible is or how fancy the binding or lettering. The important thing is that these stories are the Word of God to us. Through our Bible stories, God is telling us how to live; God is writing His word on our hearts. And that word is love.

Easter is the greatest story of love. And so on Easter, we will celebrate in a great big way and we will read this greatest story of love from the big, fancy Bible. For now, we place it here in our trunk to be ready with the streamers, and the pitcher, and the cross, and the candle, and the doughnuts. Soon we will unpack the trunk. We will shout with joy and run with gladness. The Easter celebration is coming but it is not time to celebrate yet.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Be with us
during the dark and quiet of Lent
as we prepare ourselves
for the bright and joyful
Easter celebration.
We love you.
You love us.
Amen

**

***Palm Sunday and Easter coming; Please check back.***

Lenten Series 2015

IMG_3415Looking for Lent options? We are crafting a Lenten Series. (See the sermons here.)

Building on ‘Burying or Packing Away the Alleluia,’ each Sunday, we will add to our trunk special objects that we will use on Easter Sunday. Our phrase is ‘a big celebration is coming, but we are not there yet.’ We are looking forward to Easter remembering that we are Easter people on a journey with God. (And yes, we will key on the Revised Common Lectionary for each Sunday.)
I hope those of your reading this blog have figured out that many people have their fingerprints on it. This Lenten Series idea comes through my newest church buddy Pastor Joe Genau of my church Edgewood Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Joe came to me with this ‘crazy’ idea…“I’ve got this huge trunk. It’s been my dream to use it…” And so the conversation exploded from there. We looked at the lectionary; we looked at other sites and readings about Packing Away the Alleluia; we looked at the kids in our congregation; and together we decided to get our kids ready for Easter by having them plan for the celebration, helping them figure out what we will need on that joyful Easter morning. I’m so excited about this series collaboration…and so excited about Pastor Joe including these kids in the worship of our Lord every Sunday. Love me some crazy!

Here is our outline:

Ash Wednesday: Pack Away the Alleluia Streamers
We have a large packing trunk that will be kept at the front of the church and draped in purple. At this first service, we will place many streamers with the word Alleluia. Yes, we need more than one, as it is not THE Alleluia, but YOUR Alleluia that we need on Easter.

1st Lent: Remembering our baptism, we pack away the baptismal pitcher.

2nd Lent: Remembering our covenant with God, we pack away the processional cross.

3rd Lent: Remembering the sweetness of God’s word, we pack away the doughnuts. Yes, this might be impossible! After worship each Sunday, we have fresh, warm doughnuts; today we will pack them away and not have them until Easter Sunday. (I’m sure there will be some other option…but we know this will get the kids’ attention.)

4th Lent: Remembering God’s grace, we pack away the Christ Candle.

5th Lent: Writing God’s word on our hearts, we pack away the big, fancy Bible.

Palm Sunday: Remembering that through the joy of the Palm Sunday parade and the darkness of Holy Week, we look to the light of Easter and pack away Pastor Joe’s white stole.

Maundy Thursday: The trunk will be closed and draped in black.

Easter Sunday: Now the trunk is open, draped in white, and filled with flowers and streamers and possibly balloons and other symbols of joy. Our service will begin with Pastor Joe and two acolytes processing to the front. Joe will unpack the big, fancy Bible. Flanked by the acolytes and their lit torches, he will read a portion of John 20:1-18 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” Joe will then invite the children to come unpack the trunk with the special objects we need for our Easter celebration. Our hope is this will involve much running (as on the first Easter) with children taking the baptismal pitcher to be filled, carrying fresh hot doughnuts to the narthex, stationing the processional cross at the start of the choir line, lighting the Christ Candle at the front of the church, and passing out the many Alleluia streamers (which are on thin dowels and have bells tied to them) to all the children of God. Now that the children have helped us, we will begin our celebration of the big mystery of Easter. Later in the service, the children’s sermon will follow a traditional Easter sermon.

A more formal script coming soon…

Peace,
Fran

Lean Downstream

IMG_1966Our guest preacher has gone rogue and is using a different text!
for Sunday, February 1, 2015

lectionary focus: Isaiah 43:16-21
prop: canoe paddle

Good morning!

This is a canoe paddle. This is used in a canoe on a lake or a river. On a lake, the paddle helps you get the canoe from one place to another. But on a river, the paddle really just helps you steer because the flowing water of the river does most of the work of moving you downstream. And as you go downstream in a river, there are some places where there are lots of rocks and the water piles up in a big, frothy mess. These are called rapids. And they can be kind of tricky to get your canoe to go through. When I was learning to canoe, my husband, Mr. Bill, taught me how to handle the rapids. You lean forward towards the rapid. See if you lean forwards in the canoe you put the weight in the front and the canoe just swooshes through the frothy water easy peasy. If you get scared and lean away from the rapid, you put the weight in the back and water will spill into the canoe and flip it so that you go through the rapid and the rocks in the water and not safe and dry in the canoe. While this leaning forward makes sense, it can actually be hard to do. Our instinct is to lean back, to get away from the scary, big, frothy mess of water. But the way to get through this difficult thing, is to get through this difficult thing. The plan, the adventure, the fun, all happens when we lean forward.

In our Bible story today from the Book of Isaiah, the people of God are not canoeing on a river. But they are facing a big, difficult, scary mess. They have been working hard in a strange land. And they’ve gotten whiney. They want to lean away; they want to turn back. But the Prophet Isaiah reminds the people that even in the dry wilderness, God is there. God is doing a new thing for His people. God is making a way for them to go…but God’s people need to trust Him; God’s people need to lean forward.

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in difficult places. We want to turn around. We want to go back. We think that behind us is safety and comfort. But know this: God is with you always. And God is leading you to new and better things each day. God is making a way for you through the difficult things. God has chosen each of you and God is calling each of you to trust Him and to lean forward.

Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
Thank You
for the adventures
in our lives.
Help us
to trust You
and to lean forward
that we may go forth
in Your world.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Advent Series: Highlighting the Chrismon Tree 2014

Advent Christmas 2014
Year B
Highlighting the Chrismon Tree

The Chrismon Tree is a relatively new option for sharing the story of God’s love. Started in 1957 by Frances Kipps Spencer at the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia, the tradition caught on and spread quickly…long before the Internet! This year, our church is using the parts of the Chrismon Tree to help us slowly prepare for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. For more details on the history of the Chrismons, see the Ascension Lutheran Church Chrismons Ministry.

For other details on ornaments and symbols, see these sites:
Chrismon Customs
and Chrismon Symbols

And so here are 4 sermons for Advent and 1 for Christmas Eve/Christmas Day:
1st Sunday in Advent–Nov 30Mark 13:24-37–Wrapping the Chrismon Tree’s base with a tree skirt
2nd Sunday in Advent–Dec 7Mark 1:1-8-Ornaments will already be on the top ¾ of the tree; children will hang ornaments on the lower branches
3rd Sunday in Advent–Dec 14John 1:6-8, 19-28–The lights (yes, strung before the 2nd Sunday but not lit) will be turned on during the children’s sermon
4th Sunday in Advent–Dec 21Luke 1:26-38–The angel treetopper will be on the tree
Christmas Eve–Dec 24Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5–Christ is Born!

And we have another song! To go with our theme, we have adapted O Christmas Tree into O Chrismon Tree. Verses are provided below with their appropriate Sunday or you can see all of them together by clicking here. Thanks to Jill and Bill and Amanda for your musical help!

*

for Sunday, November 30, 2014
1st Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Mark 13:24-37
prop: Just the bare Chrismon Tree, no ornaments, no lights, nothing. Have a tree skirt for this sermon. You might also have a real pine branch for illustration purposes if your church tree is artificial.

Welcome!

We are now in the Season of Advent, the time when we prepare ourselves for Christmas. Christmas is such a big joyful mystery that we take a whole month to prepare! This year, we will spend the 4 Sundays of Advent talking about our church decoration known as the Chrismon Tree. Wait? Don’t I mean Christmas Tree? No, our church tree is called a Chrismon Tree. Everyone say after me: Chrismon Tree (Chrismon Tree). The first Christmas trees were used over 500 years ago, and we decorate the ones in our homes to celebrate and share our family’s traditions. The first Chrismon Tree was created just over 50 years ago. A woman named Frances Kipps Spencer wanted to make something new out of an old tradition, so she decorated a tree for her church to celebrate and share the old and new story of God’s love for each of us. Mrs. Spencer named this a Chrismon Tree, adding together the word Christ with the word Monogram which are letters showing ownership; so a Chrismon Tree is a tree belonging to Christ.

But now I’m sure you are wondering why the tree isn’t decorated? Ahhh…first things first. As we said, the Season of Advent is the time we prepare for Christmas; and because Christmas is such a big joyful mystery we take a whole month to prepare…and we take a whole month to prepare so we can prepare slowly. Not slowly like we sit around doing nothing, but slowly like we take time to appreciate each step of our preparation.

Okay, but that still doesn’t explain why the Chrismon Tree is not decorated! Again, first things first. Let’s just look at the tree. Honestly, our tree is an artificial tree…that means it is not a living tree that grows outside. But it is a model of a real kind of tree, a real tree known as an evergreen tree. Do you hear that description? Ever. Green. Evergreen trees have these small pointy greens leaves; and evergreen trees hold these green leaves all year long, unlike other trees that lose their leaves each fall and are bare through the winter. We use evergreen trees at Christmas to remind us that God’s love for us is unchanging. God’s love for us is very old, and yet God’s love for us is also new. God has loved us, God does love us, and God will love us. Always.

And so on the First Sunday in Advent, we have placed the tree here in the front of the sanctuary to remind us of God’s unchanging love. We start decorating our Chrismon Tree by wrapping this blanket (tree skirt…whatever your terminology) around the base of the tree. Our Bible story today tells us to be ready. We have set the tree, the foundation for our Advent Chrismon Tree. Christmas will be here soon; but the first Christmas has already come. God’s love for us is unchanging; it is forever and ever.

Next Sunday we will see how this story continues.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this First Sunday in Advent
we are reminded
that Your love for us
is unchanging,
old and new,
forever.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1 for Advent 1
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

**

for Sunday, December 7, 2014
2nd Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Ornaments of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Mark 1:1-8
prop: Prior to this Sunday string the lights (but they won’t be lit until Advent 3!) and hang the ornaments on the top ¾ of the tree. (Do not place that angel treetopper…that’s for Advent 4.) Have child-friendly ornaments for the children to hang during the sermon. As each church has different ornaments, you will need to choose the ones you have to highlight in this sermon. [Sites with ornament meanings: Chrismon Customs and Chrismon Symbols] This is the time to explain where your church got your ornaments: are they homemade by someone still in your church? or from long ago? a child’s grandparent? Share what the symbols mean as well as the personal stories of your ornaments. Prepare a time during Sunday School to share the different symbols and meanings.

Welcome!

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. We are slowly preparing for the big joyful mystery of Christmas! I’m sure you are noticing that our Chrismon Tree looks a bit different this Sunday. Last week on the First Sunday in Advent, we had just the bare tree here. We learned that we use a type of tree called evergreen to remind us that God is old and new; that God has always loved us and will always love us. God is unchanging.

Today the tree is hung with ornaments. Notice that they are all white and gold. White for purity. Gold for the Glory of God. Notice that they have different symbols. These ornaments tell the story of Jesus. [We see ornaments with stars…like the Star of Bethlehem. We see the Shepherd’s Crook…like the shepherds who came to Baby Jesus, and how we call Jesus the Great Shepherd. We see the Dove…Jesus brings Peace to the world. We see the Heart…Jesus loves us and God is love. We see many different crosses…we celebrate the birth of Jesus but also His continued life through Easter! The cross on this ornament is called the Jerusalem Cross and it was stitched by Cherry’s grandmother before Cherry’s father was even born!]

I wonder if you have noticed that only the top portion of the tree is decorated with ornaments? That’s because we want you to help! Each of you can come get an ornament to put on these empty branches down low. The symbols may seem unknown to you…but during Sunday School we will explain what each one means. Then you will know what part of the story of Jesus’s Church you have helped share!

Our Bible story today shares the message of John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus who helped prepare the way for Jesus to share God’s love. The ornaments of our Chrismon Tree continue to share the message of the Church, telling us about Jesus and His love for us.

And I see you noticed that there are lights on the tree…but they are not lit. Remember, we are preparing for Christmas slowly. We will see what is next on the Third Sunday of Advent.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Second Sunday in Advent
we hang the ornaments
showing symbols
that share the story
of Your love
for us.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 2 for Advent 2
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

***

for Sunday, December 14, 2014
3rd Sunday in Advent
Year B
The Lights of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: John 1:6-8, 19-28
prop: the lights on the tree…flip the switch during the sermon.

Welcome!

Today is the Third Sunday in Advent! We are getting closer to Christmas! The Chrismon Tree looks almost totally decorated! Almost, but not quite. Advent is a time that we prepare slowly for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We began our journey with the bare Chrismon Tree, reminding us that God is unchanging and loves us always. Last week, we placed the ornaments of white and gold that tell the story of Jesus and His love for us. Today our Bible story continues sharing about John, the cousin of Jesus. The words used say that John came to announce that Jesus is the Light.

And so I wonder if you can figure out what we are going to add to the Chrismon Tree today? Right! It is finally time to light the lights! Zach will you push the button, please? Ohh. Ahh. The tree was already beautiful but the lights make it shine. And this shining makes the beauty extend out into the room. Like John in the Bible, the lights of the Chrismon Tree remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World. When we have Jesus in our hearts, we shine God’s love out into the world.

Light shines fast, but we are preparing slowly for Christmas. I’m afraid I can’t imagine what else we can add to the tree!

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Third Sunday in Advent
we light the lights
proclaiming
You are the Light.
Help us
to shine Your love
everywhere
all the time.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 3 for Advent 3
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

****

for Sunday, December 21, 2014
4th Sunday of Advent
Year B
The Angel Treetopper of the Chrismon Tree
lectionary focus: Luke 1:26-38
prop: the angel treetopper (already placed)

Welcome!

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We are so close to Christmas that it may seem time is speeding up, but remember, we are preparing slowly for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We want to appreciate each step along the way.

We began our season with the bare Chrismon Tree, reminding us that God is old and new and unchanging. On the Second Sunday of Advent, we added the ornaments symbols of the story of the Church and Jesus and God’s love. Then last week on the Third Sunday, we finally lit the lights proclaiming Jesus as the Light of the World! But what about today? I’m wondering if you notice anything different about the tree? Yes! At the very top! There is an angel!

In our Bible story today, we hear about Mary learning that she will be the mother of Jesus. Mary gets this news from an angel. When the angel first appears, Mary is a little surprised. I think I would be pretty stunned to meet an angel, too. And then to learn that God is calling her to such an important job! But the angel says, “Fear Not! God is with you.” This blessing gives Mary the strength to respond with joy and she says, “I am the servant of the Lord!”

God calls each of us to do important jobs. And sometimes we all just need to stop and remember: Fear Not. God is with us. And so, atop our Chrismon Tree, we have an angel reminding us that God is always with us and that we do not need to fear what God calls us to do. Like Mary, we can joyfully be servants of the Lord.

After we pray, we will sing our Advent song…(This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it; then lead the children in the chorus and verse of O Chrismon Tree.)

Dear Lord,
On this Fourth Sunday in Advent
we hear the angel
Fear Not!
and we know
that You are with us always.
Amen

And now O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 4 for Advent 4
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

*****

for Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Christmas Eve
Year B
lectionary focus: Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5
prop: the Chrismon Tree

Welcome!

And so we have spent the past four weeks taking a slow approach to Christmas. We have slowly decorated the Chrismon Tree as we have slowly prepared for the big joyful mystery of Christmas. We started with just the bare evergreen tree, reminding us that God is old and new and unchanging. On the Second Sunday in Advent, we hung the white and gold ornaments with their symbols of the Church and Jesus and God’s love. On the Third Sunday, we finally lit the lights, shining the beauty out into the world and reminding us that Jesus is the Light. This past Sunday, we topped our tree with the angel, hearing again the words “Fear Not! God is with you!”

So I wonder if our tree is finished? A little over 50 years ago, the first Chrismon Tree was decorated in Danville, VA, by a woman named Frances Kipp Spencer. She said “a tree was never finished until someone came to see it and have the story of Christ explained to them through the ornaments.”

So I wonder if our tree is finished? I wonder if we can do more?

Tonight is Christmas Eve. Tonight we hear the story of the birth of Jesus told from the Old Testament to the New Testament. And in all these stories, we hear one of my favorite lines. After the angels appear to the shepherds in the fields telling them about the Baby Jesus, the shepherds head to Bethlehem. The Bible story says, “They went with haste…” Those shepherds, those regular guys, did not move slowly. They went quickly; they hurried to do what God called them to do. Tonight is Christmas Eve. We have prepared slowly, but now it is time for us, too, to go with haste, to hurry to do the important job God has given us. It is time for us to hurry and share God’s love.

Say after me:
Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
It is Christmas! (It is Christmas!)
Heaven comes to Earth! (Heaven comes to Earth!)
God loves us all! (God loves us all!)
Alleluia! (Alleluia!)
Amen! (Amen!)

And now we will sing all of our verses of O Chrismon Tree:

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

Verse 2
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

Verse 3
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

Verse 4
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

Verse 5 for Christmas Eve
Christmas Day Christ has His birth,
A time when Heaven comes to Earth.

******

Merry Christmas!
We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

O Chrismon Tree!

IMG_3743Advent 2014
Year B

I’m still working on the Advent sermons, but we have crafted the new verses for our theme song–changing O Christmas Tree to O Chrismon Tree. Here they are so you can see if you like! (Please feel free to make suggestions.) Our choir master is going ahead and introducing them to our children…

For more information on our Advent sermon series…see this post.

Chorus
O Chrismon Tree, O Chrismon Tree
Helping share God’s story.

Verse 1 for Advent 1 (We explain the tree itself.)
Branches green the whole year through
Show us God is old and new.

Verse 2 for Advent 2 (We explain the ornaments.)
Ornaments of white and gold
Are symbols of the Church of old.

Verse 3 for Advent 3 (We explain the lights.)
The lights are lit and shining bright!
Remind us Jesus is the light.

Verse 4 for Advent 4 (We explain the angel.)
The angel sits atop the tree
Says Fear Not to you and me.

Verse 5 for Christmas Eve (We celebrate!)
Christmas Day Christ has His birth,
A time when Heaven comes to Earth.

Check back for more information…

We are not Christians alone.
My mission is to share, inspire, and encourage.

Advent is Coming!

IMG_0388Year B
November 30-December 24, 2014

Three weeks until Advent!
I am working on an Advent Series and will post it shortly (possibly in bits and pieces).

Here is where we are headed: this year during our children’s sermon time, we will focus on the Chrismon Tree! Right, I said Chrismon Tree, not Christmas Tree. See here for an explanation of this relatively new church tradition. Last year, we had such fun building the creche with the Year A lectionary, and lighting the Advent candles goes best with the Year C lectionary; we are excited to see that the Year B lectionary fits nicely with the Chrismon Tree. Not every church uses a Chrismon Tree, so you can refer to my previous series for Advent Year B. But if you have a Chrismon Tree, think of how your church might highlight it to share God’s story. Below is a draft outline. We are also working on crafting O Chrismon Tree from the traditional song O Christmas Tree. (More later as rhyme and meter are settled!)

We are stressing SLOW. Our choir will do the anthem (one of my all time favorites: Lord, Before This Fleeting Season by Jindra/Larson… “let me remember to walk slowly…go less, stay closer to home, kneel more”), and so we will slowly decorate the Chrismon Tree over the 4 weeks of Advent.

To keep from being too complex during the children’s sermon, we will light the candles of the Advent Wreath during another portion of the service so we don’t need to refer to the wreath during the children’s sermon.

November 30
Advent 1
scripture– Mark 13:24-37 (Keep awake!)
focus: We open Advent by explaining that this is a season to move slowly and prepare for Christmas. Not slow in sitting around doing nothing, but we take time to be intentional.
prop: While the sanctuary will be decorated, the Chrismon Tree will be bare. Children will gather around the tree…which will have NO ornaments or lights. Discussion will focus that we are moving slowly this Advent. We bring in the tree and wrap its base with a tree skirt (yes, a la Linus and Peanuts), setting the foundation for our Advent Season. Yes, we want to get everything decorated and finished…but this year, we are moving slowly.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 7
Advent 2
scripture– Mark 1:1-8 (Good News!)
focus: To go with the scripture, this Sunday we will highlight the ornaments of the tree. The top ¾ of the tree will have ornaments (lights will be strung, but not lit until the 3rd Sunday). Children will have the opportunity to place child-friendly ornaments on the lower branches during this sermon. The ornaments tell the story of the Church throughout time using various symbols.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 14
Advent 3
scripture– John 1:6-8, 19-28 (Bear witness to the Light!)
focus: The Lights! Today we light the lights! These lights remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World!
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 21
Advent 4
scripture– Luke 1:26-38 (Fear Not!)
focus: The Angel appears to Mary saying, Fear Not! Did you know that every time an angel appears in the Bible, they say Fear Not!? God is with us always. The angel tree topper will be at the top now.
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

December 24
Christmas Eve
scripture– Luke 2:1-14 (15-20); 1 John 4:7-9, 16b; John 1:1-5
focus: We have been moving slowly during the Advent Season, but now Christmas is here. We will be like the shepherds and make haste to see the Baby Jesus!
Echo Prayer
Song O Chrismon Tree

and Bonus! Epiphany (Jan 4 or 11?)
We will still have the Chrismon Tree, and I hope to get the youth to participate in that children’s sermon, leading the kids in singing The Trees of the Field song…as we go out with JOY from the children’s sermon!

The Nose Knows

IMG_1341for Sunday, September 14, 2014
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time
14th Sunday after Pentecost
Proper 19
Year A
lectionary focus: Matthew 18:21-35

Welcome!

Some things in life are called Once in a Lifetime. They are so special we get to do them only one time: a school play, Prom, an amazing last second football win, a trip to Paris.

But have your ever noticed how chores are never done? We empty the dishwasher one day, and we have to empty it again the next. We make up our beds, then sleep in them and have to make them again. Every week we have to take out the trash. Every month we have to pay the bills. Chores are chores because we have to do them over and over and over again. When I was a kid, one of the most annoying things about chores was being “reminded” to do them. My mom would say, “Don’t forget to put your dirty clothes in the laundry.” And my sister would say, “It’s your turn to clear the table.” And in my family, we would respond to these “reminders” by placing our finger on our nose. Can you put your finger on your nose? Doing this (finger on the nose) was our silent way of saying “I know” because “know” like we know something (point to your brain) and “nose” like on our face (touch your nose) sound a lot alike. “Yeah, yeah, I nose that. You don’t need to remind me.”

Sometimes I feel like touching my nose when I read our Bible Stories. Yeah, yeah, I nose this story already. But we tell these stories over and over because they are special and important, too special and important to forget, too special and important to tell only one time.

And to add to our over and over of over and over, today’s Bible Story tells us that we must forgive over and over. We all nose we are to share and be nice and say sorry and it’s okay, but today the disciples ask Jesus just how many times do we have to forgive someone. They want to know if there is a limit. If we are ever done forgiving.

And Jesus says no.

Forgiving is something that we do over and over, but forgiveness is not a chore. We forgive again and again because each time it is an opportunity to experience something special. Forgiving others makes us feel better. Forgiving others brings us closer to each other. Forgiving others brings us closer to God. Forgiveness is such a big mystery that there is no limit. Forgiveness is an Over and Over Lifetime Event.

We certainly nose that God forgives each of us over and over, and today we are reminded again in a story we already nose to let others nose that we forgive them.

This time as we pray, when we say the word know, be sure to touch your own nose. Will you pray with me? (This is an echo prayer: the leader says a line and the children repeat it.)

Dear Lord,
We are thankful
that we nose
You love us.
We are thankful
that we nose
You forgive us.
Help us
to let others nose
that we love them
and that we forgive them.
Amen

We are not Christians alone.