Sports and Sabbath continue to play with each other from early childhood sports teams all the way to grown people playing games they learned as children. Read more…Read More
We can all add our reasons for this slide, and I ask only that you will allow me make some very general assumptions for the sake of our thought and conversation. Read more…Read More
There is no tangible gift or popular sectarian movement that will ever replace the love of God for us and our need to receive and express this love to each other. Read more…Read More
If our culture suffers from purposeless life and a haphazard direction we might wonder what changes should take place in order to reverse this dilemma. Read more…Read More
This is a hard question to answer. Read more…Read More
Exceptional leaders and individuals are an ever present source of inspiration. Read more about one of our own…Read More
Pentecost is a Group Event. Read more…Read More
This is a fantastic article from the Greensboro magazine, “1808” that includes outreach services provided by many churches in the area including us, West Market Church! Take a moment to read about all of the many ways area churches are reaching out...
Help a grieving family in a time of need. Read more…Read More
This parable teaches us that we are not to bury our giftedness in the ground awaiting heaven. We are to work to glorify God with our talents, to reach out to others who have no talents, and to grow in faith in this life. Read more…Read More
By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor
On a cold day in December, a mother gave birth to a baby boy. Have you heard that story before? The story has been heard so many times that it appears to be old and warn out. We are too familiar with that story.
At the mall I saw a window display of three giant teddy-bears. The large male was dressed as Joseph, the smaller female was dressed as Mary, and the baby bear was in a manger, of course! If there was once a grand mystery around the Incarnation, it has long since been fully explained as three jolly bears now witness to everything we need to know. This scene is plump with emotionalism and sentiment and lacking in hope or power. This is actually very bad news.
How can a cuddly teddy bear help us to deal with our pain? How can cloth and stuffing help us with the slam of heartbreak, the tail lights driving away from a home in a just-broken family, the numb face from horrible news from a medical test, the threat of war, a pink slip on an anticipated regular day at work, or a family member being ripped away from us by eternal death? Everyone wants a “just my sized God,” fluffy and approachable without those negative commandments or transforming expectations. Then, once we get God down to teddy-bear size, we find God is powerless. A reduced God is no God at all. God cannot be less than us…but has to be more than us.
Maybe none of this is true. Maybe a giant hand spun it all into motion and then left. Maybe the horror of a thousand declining centuries will never be made right because we cannot do it and there is no power out there that can help us. Maybe the raw material of this visible life is all there is. Maybe the stars truly are far and cold.
On a cold and star-pierced night, a frightened girl in a strange city gave birth in a stable. When she carried her baby into the temple a few weeks later an old man stopped her to say, "This child will be a sign that is spoken against and a sword will pierce through your own soul also!" This is the promise of God, the heart-aching worry of a new mother, the dire life that would be lived by this child, and the sacrificial power, in our stead, to save us.
In the heart of that mother is born the greatest and most self-sacrificing earthly love in unbelievable and mystifyingly fragile blooms of a hope that could never be imagined or created on our own. This is the day of our powerful hope in Christ Jesus.
Lord, I will give allegiance to You and will trust in the power of the Savior, Jesus Christ, as I humbly bow on this great day and faithfully give thanks for Your sacrifice and hope…for me…and all those I love. I believe in the fragile blooms of hope. Amen.
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By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor
This is the Annunciation. Mary, a common woman, takes center stage this time of the year. Mary is venerated by some Christians, ignored by some Christians, and misunderstood by other Christians. At times, Catholics have transformed the peasant Jewish teenage girl into an otherworldly queen. At times, Protestants and Evangelicals have pretended that she never existed, or they have missed the truth that she was the first disciple, that she displayed radical faith and trust in God.
Mary hears the call of God and she responds. She models faith, obedience, servanthood, discipleship, and hospitality.
Mary has been told that she has found favor with God. The Power of the Holy Spirit will come upon her. She will give birth to the Savior. She questions how this can be. She is told that nothing is impossible with God! An ordinary woman has been told that she will do something extraordinary.
Once there was a man sleepily watching a Sunday football game on TV when his children invited him to experience a play they had put together. He came up from his slumber to witness his older son, an obvious Joseph with a broom handle and a robe, his daughter, an obvious Mary with a pillow under her shirt, and the youngest daughter adorned with all the jewelry she could find. The youngest proclaimed that she was all three wise men and that she was bringing “gold, circumstance, and mud!”
The father did not correct her but took some time to reflect on the truth of this proclamation. God loves us for who we are: our gold ~ where we are at our best, our circumstance ~ where we are right now, and even in our mud ~ where we are when we are most human. Mary tells us that God can take our gold, circumstance, and mud and make something glorious with it.
Almighty God, Teach us that what is impossible for us is possible for you. Give us courage to hear this great teaching at Christmas. Amen.
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By: Jill Alventosa-Brown, Pastor of Congregational Care and Older Adults
As a child I’m sure I made promises to my friends that were, shall we say, less than heartfelt. At times I may have even made promises to my brothers in order to get what I wanted. How easy it is for us to say, “I promise I’ll call,” or “I promise I’ll come see you…” to friends and family; acquaintances near and far. And they usually respond, “I hope so!” Sadly, both parties are fully aware that such promises have an air of flimsiness to them and the likelihood of them being fulfilled is questionable. We have good intentions, but our follow through is often weak. In today’s scripture, Mary is promised in marriage to Joseph. Such a promise had meaning and consequences which depended on the character of each party fulfilling their obligation. Yet even that promise is weak when compared to the promise that the angel Gabriel delivered to Mary. ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!’ That may sound rather frightening at first, but Gabriel makes it clear that this is a promise Mary will be able to hang on to—not just in the moment, but for the future as well. Still, Mary wondered what it all meant. We don’t hear the questions running through her head, but Gabriel senses them and offers her another promise, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.” This is a robust promise which only God can offer to us. The conversation continues between Mary and Gabriel, but it has been established that the generator of this promise, the Most High God, will keep the promise now and through all the days of Mary’s life. The promise of Advent is that God favors us and chooses to become like us in order that the image of God might be restored in us.
Gracious God, we are grateful for your promise to us of salvation and life abundant in Jesus Christ. Help us to fulfill our promise to let Christ be born in us once more this Advent season. In the name of Emanuel, God with us, we pray, Amen.
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By: Erin Althaus, Director of Children's Ministry
With Christmas just days away, I bet you have presents on your mind. Either you are finished with your shopping or still trying to come up with some ideas, we are all in the thick of buying gifts right now. I don’t know about you but I have a really hard time keeping the gifts that I buy secret. Its so much fun to pick out something for someone then hide it until Christmas. But sometimes I can quite stop thinking about that perfect gift that I’m waiting to give. I’m like a kid in a candy store obsessing about the present and wanting so badly to just give it to them right now!
Today’s verse reminds us that we have Good News to share. This Good News was a secret whispered by the prophets for ages and fulfilled when Jesus came to us as a baby and lived among us. He ate with sinners and loved those that no one else did. He healed the sick and cared deeply for the broken. His world is an upside world where the first is last and the last is first. And we know that he came to save you and me. We are the sick and the broken and the lost. He came to give his life for us that we could be worthy to spend forever with God.
This Good News is so amazing and so hard to believe. It’s the perfect gift! That someone would love us so much that they would die for us so we would have eternal life. But this Good News that was once a secret is not anymore. We don’t have to keep it to ourselves! In fact, we need to share the Good News with everyone we love, know and meet.
So don’t worry about having to keep this secret, in fact, spread it like wildfire.
Loving God, Please give me the courage and excitement needed to spread your Good News. Amen.
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By: Ginger Shields, Director of Family Ministry
Today's scripture is the second part of Mary's Magnificat, the song of praise to God that she expressed while visiting her cousin, Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. In the first part of Mary's song, she praises God for the things He has done for her, a most humble and lowly servant. In this second part, she exalts God's greatness and the mercy that He shown to people in generations past and in generations to come. Many. Generations.
The words of Mary are prophetic. Have you ever considered the influence Jesus has had on so many generations? Our calendar is based on Jesus' birth; Jesus and his followers are the most frequent subjects for art in the world; the Bible is currently the world's best-selling and most widely distributed book; recent studies using complex algorithms and database analyses have shown that Jesus is currently the most significant historical figure of all time. Two-thousand years after his death, he is still making headlines. He is still influencing generations.
Can you imagine if Mary knew what we know now? It's expressed beautifully in these lyrics from the familiar Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know?
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM.
It's hard to come to grips with the majesty, power, mystery and magnitude of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Let us worship God--all his holiness and mercy--as Mary did in response to being chosen as Jesus' mother.
Lord, we praise your holy name. Generation after generation, you love us and show mercy, even though we are undeserving. We thank you. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
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By: Debbie Taylor, Director of Outreach
Blessed – an often overused word meaning divinely favored, or as in Mary’s case, sacred or holy. We sometimes say we have been blessed, but earthly prosperity is not a mark of God’s blessing. Has anyone been quite as blessed as Mary? The birth of her son upended the ideas in the Old Testament of what was hoped for. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth? Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God? Where is the earthly reward for all our suffering? We are looking for that reward here on earth, not this new way of thinking about blessed. Will we allow ourselves the space at Christmastime to be divinely blessed? We know there is something special in the air, it’s a mystery but it is still felt. On Christmas Eve we raise our candles in the darkness and sing the words of Silent Night. There is the feeling of awe in the candlelit church. We have been divinely favored by the sacred and holy.
Lord, help us to stop during this busy season, to find opportunities to witness the divine, and feel how truly blessed we are to know you. We give thanks for the miracle of your birth, and the gift of hope that it brings. Amen.
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By: Alice Ann Johnson, Director of Music and the Arts
Love Came Down at Christmas
Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus,
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token;
Love be yours and love be mine;
Love to God and neighbor,
Love for plea and gift and sign.
(United Methodist Hymnal No. 242)
The above poem by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was written in Time Flies: A Reading Diary as her entry for December 29, 1885. The word “love” appears 11 times, twelve if the word “lovely” is included in the count.
The poem is based on 1 John 4: 7-11: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Our scripture for today, Psalm 89: 1-4 begins “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever…”
Let us remember this as we sing our carols this Christmas.
Dear God, thank you for the love you have sent to your people. In this season of love, help us to love others as you love us. Amen.
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By: Lauren Cook, Family Ministry Logistics Coordinator
We recently moved to a new house and wow, what a stressful process. It was a little embarrassing realizing how much “stuff” we have acquired over the years. Moving yourself means you have to pick up, pack up, and unpack every single thing that you own. The process seemed like it would never end, and it actually hasn’t yet. After we moved, everyone would ask “How is the new house? Does it feel like home yet?” We moved our stuff and ourselves into a new house but, I quickly realized that our home never changed. We never left it because, our home is where we are all together with God. This house was our home from the moment we all slept there the first night. My home is where my family is and where we are with God, the house is just the shell keeping us warm and dry.
In today’s passage from 2 Samuel, God tells David “I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have destroyed all your enemies before your eyes. Now I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth! And I will provide a homeland for my people…and I will give you rest from all your enemies.” God is promising David that his house and kingdom will endure forever. These words were repeated in Luke 1:31-33 when the angel Gabriel said them to Mary. This promise was finally fulfilled when Jesus was born.
Dear Lord, thank you for always keeping your promises and for being with us wherever we are. You are our home. Amen.
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By: Pam Strader, Pastor of Program Ministry & Pastoral Care
“I baptize you with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:26.
John the Baptist wanted the people to be ready. He was there to prepare the way of the Lord. He told them that the reign of God was at hand, and called them to repent and be baptized. “Be ready,” he says. “Make the path straight for the Lord.” The One they were awaiting was coming. The Messiah was at hand. Baptism was the starting point. It was just the beginning of preparing for God to be at work in their lives through this amazing hope called the Messiah. During Advent, we are also to be in preparation. While we decorate houses and bake cookies, there is more to be done. Are our hearts ready? Are our lives ready for Christ to come? Do we heed the call of John to prepare for the coming of the Lord? As the baptism of John was a cleansing to prepare for the coming of the Messiah, what are you doing to cleanse your heart and life for the birth of Christ this Advent season?
Give to me O God your wisdom for my life. Open my eyes, ears, and heart to help me discern what you would have me to make straight in my life to prepare for the coming of Christ. Baptize me with your Holy Spirit that my path may be straight and my life made whole through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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By: Dan Martin, Senior Pastor
I had a great-aunt who lived next door. When I would bring a new friend home she would call us to her presence on the front porch or in her front sitting room where she would immediately ask my new friend, “Who are you?” Her question was not as rude as it may at first appear for she was only trying to know who their family was and where they had come from. Identity to her was important and allowed her to have a bridge into their identity not only by name but also by family.
Throughout the Holy Bible names are important. Isaac has the name of “laughter” having been born of an elderly woman. Jacob, the “grabber,” became Israel, “he that walks with God.” John the Baptist became known with an action verb by a name self-imposed as “the one crying in the wilderness.” Our names are declared as a name known by God at our Baptism. We become known to God and to God’s people with a name that means something. Our very name becomes a witness to the grace of God as we move from having just a name to a place of having a name known and blessed by God.
When Moses became the bearer of the Ten Commandments he inquired as to the name of God that he might be able to tell the people from where the Commandments had come. The Lord instructed that “I Am who I Am” as YHWH would be the name. God knew that a true name would have given added and undeserved power to the created. We do not know God’s name…but we know God…in the incarnate Son by the name of Jesus, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.
God knows your name and God knows you. You are a Child of God, called with an action verb purpose, sacramentally consecrated at the hand of God, fully entrusted to the merciful grace of a Savior who is fully known. In Jesus, we fully know God, and through Baptism, God fully knows us.
God, fully know us and reveal your purpose to us. Hear our prayers, lead us into discipleship, call our name frequently, and teach us the full saving grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen