A digital version of this week’s bulletin and sermon.

Gathering

PRELUDE

CONGREGATIONAL WELCOME

CONFESSION & FORGIVENESS

GATHERING SONG           “O Jesus, I Have Promised”       red book # 810

GREETING

KYRIE                                                                                                 red book # 157

CANTICLE OF PRAISE                                                                  red book # 167

PRAYER of the DAY

Word

JOSHUA 24:1-2a, 14-18

PSALM 34:15-22

EPHESIANS 6:10-20

JOHN 6:56-69

SERMON            “Christmas in August”           Pastor Chris Halverson

Christmas in August

You may remember back a month or so South Plainfield held it’s 3rd annual “Christmas in July.” Paintings of Olaf the Snowman from Frozen adorned shop windows, good old St. Nick made a surprise appearance… in general we as a town came together to celebrate some parts of Christmas in July instead of December.

Well, today we have a similar opportunity. Today’s readings all point us to the basic, blood and guts point of Christmas,
that God has been born to us,
Emmanuel, God with us…
Christmas is about the scandal of particularity!
God made flesh, in a particular man, in a particular time, in a particular place.
Yes, today we read about the scandal of particularity—and in so doing we are celebrating Christmas again. Just as there was Christmas in July, today there is Christmas in August.

Let us pray.

In order to frame the scandalous particularity we proclaim this day, let’s think briefly back to Christmas…
The stories we tell—Joseph and Mary and Angels and all the rest… and for that matter the stories about Rudolf and Red Rider BB Guns, and the time Uncle Hank embarrassed the whole family but made it up to everyone with a soulful ballad from the old country.
The songs we sing—the Christmas carols, the Choir gathered at the Old Danish home around Tom’s homemade wine, the hymn sing the Sunday after.
The Decorations—Advent Candles, Wreaths, Poinsettias, Trees with Tinsel, maybe torn down by little terroristic cats.
The meals—Turkey and stuffing, yams and pie and Figgie Pudding, Seven fishes the night before…

Yes, the particularity of Christmas: Stories, Songs, Decorations, and Meals… So too the particularity we find before us today.

The specific story of Joshua, remembering how God has acted, brought God’s people out of Egypt, protected them along their sojourn to freedom, defended them and brought them to a land that became there own.
This is not some universal story of a god doing good things in general, but Our God acting against oppression and bondage, a special story for a special people—a particular people chosen by a particular God.

The specific song of Psalm 34—a weird one, about God’s body parts—a God with eyes and ears, a face and an astonishing closeness. A God embodied in the world—yes Metaphorically, but a face that points to God’s closeness with us, eyes and ears that can hear our cries and see our lives!
Not some God that steps away or does not care, but a God intimately involved and concerned with God’s people. God for us and with us!

The odd decorations we wear upon ourselves—the very actions and attributes of God, putting on God’s truth and righteousness, his peace and faith, his salvation and spirit, holding tight to the very Word of God!
Not some far away and far out deity acting in theory but not in fact… When God acts, those actions become so real that we can wrap them around us, the character of God so solid that it is our sure defense.

That meal Jesus tells us about! The bodily-ness of it all, the icky intimacy of eating Christ’s flesh and drinking his blood. A call to abide with him, to reside with him, to follow him all the way to the end.
Not some Gnostic escape from the flesh, from the world in which we live, not a pie in the sky savior—but one you can sink your teeth into—literally… one who isn’t about escape, but instead about staying put where you are and finding life there with Him!

So yes, in stories of specificity, songs sung about the face of God, decorations made from God’s actions, and a holy Meal of the flesh and blood of Christ, we are confronted with Christmas in August.

And this means so much. God is with us in one particular human being, Jesus—and since then He’s been entering into our personal peculiar particularities every since.
God’s story sanctifying our story.
God’s song the tempo our life.
God’s reality wrapping us tighter than swaddling clothe.
God’s banquet in Christ Jesus’ flesh making us Holy and his blood making us drunk on his divinity!

God in the newborn baby’s cry, the mother’s joy and the father’s worry.
God with a toddler clinging to her uncle’s neck as they wonder at the meteor shower.
God lazing in the sun, back to an old sad poplar, just taking in the goodness of the day.
God with us hungry by a restaurant dumpster, waiting for the day-old-bread and bagels to be deposited.
God in the hospital with a man quarantined and questioning the meaning of life.
God joyfully smiling at the wedding banquet and clapping at the family reunion.
God a solemn sentinel in the nursing home and a mourner when things fall apart.

God entering into the thin places between heaven and earth, making holy the particulars of our lives.
God, on this particular day, celebrating Christmas in August.

HYMN of the DAY           “Have You Thanked the Lord?”       red book # 829

APOSTLES CREED

PRAYERS of INTERCESSION

PEACE

Meal

OFFERING

OFFERTORY           “As the Grains of Wheat”

GREAT THANKSGIVING

A MOMENT OF THANKFUL REFLECTION

LORD’S PRAYER

COMMUNION SONGS           “Lamb of God”

Also, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”, red book # 492, red book # 474

Sending

BLESSING

ANNOUNCEMENTS

SENDING SONG           “Thanks Be To You”

DISMISSAL

POSTLUDE

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