What if All the Kids Had Coats? 4.0

Five years ago, a young girl came into our church, followed by her brothers. All of them were shivering, because like the last few days, central Virginia was experiencing a cold snap. [We all know it’s warmer now, but we know the temperature will drop again, and fast!] Her family couldn’t afford coats so the boys were in short and longsleeves, while the little girl, Savannah, had a spring weight hoodie. I lay awake that night asking myself and God, “What if all the kids had coats?”

Since 2014, the ministries of my previous church, Blandford UMC, and my current one, Wesley United Methodist Church, have served as the hubs of generosity for people from Georgia to Rhode Island, and all over Virginia. We have put brand new coats on approximately one hundred children each year.

And then this summer, I found myself challenged by Matt Maher at a concert in Richmond. He played on the idea of the Big Hairy Audacious Goal which Mike Slaughter had called a Big Hairy Audacious God Dream, and said if your church could do what it was doing without help, then it wasn’t a big enough dream.

Thanks to the generosity of friends, church members, and strangers, reaching one hundred kids has become … easy. So over the next two weeks, our church extended the offer of brand new coats to two more elementary schools. We have no idea how many more kids that will mean. One hundred more? Two hundred more?

But if you’re reading this, I pray you’ll share it. And if you read and feel called to get involved, I hope you’ll reach out. There are some necessities in life – food, water, shelter – and the truth that no child (or adult) should be without a coat.

So I’ll keep praying, and writing, and asking the question until the Kingdom of God comes upon the earth – “What if all the kids had coats?”

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Skittles on Mars

In the year 2123, with the Earth facing overpopulation, Mars Inc. agreed to fund an expedition to colonize … Mars, with the stipulation that in all future establishments, Skittles would be prominently displayed for all to eat. Over time, it became apparent that children born on Mars were colorblind until they turned 18. This complication was rarely a hazard, except for the fact that green Skittles were found to be toxic to children, not adults.

The Martian government moved swiftly to address the problem. Some officials proposed for an outright removal of all Skittles from the Martian colony; others proposed that the green Skittles be imprinted with a different symbol, like a “G.” Ultimately, it was determined that the green Skittles should be manufactured under stricter guidelines, and separated from the red, yellow, orange, and purple ones.

But periodically, a disgruntled Skittles employee would mix in a batch of green Skittles with the other, safe colors. Here and there, around the Martian colony, classes of Martian children and occasionally adults who were caught unawares were killed. The disgruntled employees were regularly held accountable, but the problems continued over the years.

As the casualties piled up, the Martian government found themselves under intense criticism. Children whose classmates had passed away called for the removal of green Skittles; the parents of dead Martian children appeared on news shows and at marches, calling for regulations. But the connection to Mars Inc. kept the government stalemated, and Skittles proponents argued that removing green Skittles would reduce the value of the other Skittles, that those who were opposed to green Skittles were really aimed at removing all Skittles.

The divide continued to grow, and children kept dying.

How would you lead the Martians in a healthy conversation about Skittles?

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License Plates & Beggars

I pulled up to the line already in place at the stoplight, and immediately saw the older gentleman begging by the side of the road.

“Homeless, Need Help” read his plain sign, no explanation or details given to the reason for his presence outside the local shopping center.

I looked away, realizing that I didn’t have any food or water in the car that I could give him, reminded of my decade-old decision to not give money to strangers. Tangible goods, yes, but money? Money always seems problematic and often more trouble waiting to happen. I never want to enable a habit.

Then the license plate of the car in front of me came into focus. “Jesus Saves” (roughly) it read, reminding me of the driver’s understanding that Jesus of Nazareth was Savior, Lord, God, and King of the universe. Amen, right?

That driver was focused on their turn sure to be coming soon at the light, staring straight ahead, and now, so was I.

And then the words of I John 3:17 flashed roughly through my mind, like a gut punch. The words in my mind weren’t as poetic as the words of that epistle, but the meaning was the same: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

The narrow expectation of what I normally do were confronted by a verse brought to mind, in stark contrast to a license plate that I firmly believe to be true. Could I believe the license plate and not help this man? I actually had cash (a rarity)…

I got out of the car (yes, I put it in park) and dashed over to hand the man a few dollars. He seemed grateful, but in the moment we made contact, I was convicted of all the times I ignored the nudge. I think I needed to give up those bills more than that man needed them. Who really was the beggar?

I need my faith to be more than a slogan, or given how poorly I drive, a license plate.


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Stu Garrard’s Words From the Hill

Stu Garrard (or Stu G) was once the guitarist for a ‘little’ worship band called Delirious? for its twenty-year run from The Cutting Edge Band to Delirious? (circa 1992-2009). Now residing in Tennessee, the musician-turned-humanitarian finds himself musing on the teachings of Jesus and how they should intersect with his soul. In his debut book, he turns his attention to The Beatitudes Project, specifically called Words from the Hill.

In Words from Hill, Garrard recounts the stories of people he has met through the years who have struggled with some aspect of applying their beliefs and the love of God to real life. Tracking through the pattern of the Beatitudes, Garrard tackles the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. At times, he’s hitting on the orthodoxy of each verse from Matthew 5; at other times, he’s showing us a different side of Americana via his Englishman-in-Nashville perspective.

Some of the stories Garrard tells are parable-like in nature; some are practical. I’ll give examples of each from two of my favorite stories he tells. The first one comes from the chapter “Mourn: The Grief of Change,” where he shares the story of a village that has a communal reaction to mourning. On the night of a person’s death, every neighbor changes something about their house (externally) so that the next morning, when the mourning neighbor awakes, they can see that their loss has changed life for everyone else, too. It’s not mourning in isolation but recognizing that we’re in this together.

Later, in “Hunger or Thirst: Blessing or Requirement?” he talks about being an Acts 2 church (an aim of mine as a pastor), and how the church saw that making life for single mothers ‘doable,’ that rides were a must. Church of the City pastor Darren Whitehead (in Franklin, TN, but originally from Australia) saw that to tangibly support “widows and orphans,” that helping them have a car to get to work, the doctors, school, etc. was a necessity not a frivolous want. So his church has made that a specific ministry of their living out the Beatitudes.

Whether it’s practical or intellectually inspiration, Garrard’s book is full of stories like these that provoke us to see the Beatitudes differently, and to consider how we can engage that life Jesus talked about in the moments that we live.

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Steve Berry’s The Lost Order

In the nineteenth century, the Knights of the Golden Circle existed to bring wealth and power to southern, slave-holding states. When the abolitionist movement increased in power – and ultimately, the Civil War commenced – the KoGC sought to raise funds to overthrow the federal government. Having lain dormant for years, the Circle is drawn out by a fraction element who want to acquire their long forgotten cache for their own uses. This collision of the two sections of the Circle draws the attention of astute agents of the Justice Department, namely Cotton Malone, in Steve Berry’s twelfth novel in the series.

While Malone works with Cassiopeia Vitt, his longtime handler Stephanie Nelle is sidelined and ex-President Danny Daniels is given a more prominent role than in previous Berry novels. Here is where the book became slightly muddled for me: as an ‘a-political,’ I find the impact of the decisions made by secret societies more interesting than the way Berry wanted me to be engaged in the way the one side of the Circle would use the funds to change political operations of Congress. For me, the National Treasure aspects were always more interesting.

While we have grown accustomed to Berry’s principal characters, the fact that Nelle could be taken out opened up a more interesting, tense understanding of the action; it’s like watching Luke lose a hand in Empire Strikes Back and realizing that the good guys can actually get hurt and die (not just the old ones, Obi Wan). The stakes in The Lost Order are higher because of it, adding a level of suspense and danger that exceeded the previous books. Still, it ultimately seems to spin its wheels a few times (and certainly gives the impression that old, ex-presidents are stripped of their powers completely). If Malone and Daniels are who we have grown to believe they are, I imagine they’d have stopped the Circle long before the end of the novel.

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Christmas Eve Sermon: Don’t Be Afraid (Matthew 2:1-12) (7 p.m. Wesley)

Sometimes, Christmas can be less than God intended it to be. Sometimes, we fail to see the beauty of Jesus’ birth, God with flesh on incarnate in our world. Sometimes, all the stuff of Christmas can get in the way of actually celebrating Christmas.

In 2008, Jdimytai Damour was assigned to work the Black Friday morning shift. He was a part-time seasonal worker in Long Island, NY, whose job was to man the front door when the store opened in on that morning at 2008 at 4:55 a.m. But that morning, the door malfunctioned, the crowd become incensed,the people surged, and the door crashed down on Damour. While the majority of the crowd went over or around him, pinning him down, three of those nearly two thousand people tried to form a barricade around him. How many of them were good people? How many of them were Christians? Only three of them could see that their Christmas activities didn’t trump their Christian beliefs that day.

Hundreds of people missed the point, which is ironic, isn’t it?

In the Greek of the New Testament, the most frequent word used for sin is “hamartia,” which literally means “to miss the mark.” Like an archer setting out to shoot a target who fails to hit the bullseye, hamartia means that we have failed to follow what we should, that we have failed to follow the marks laid out before us by Jesus’ example and teaching. But sin isn’t just something we can put on someone else – we must recognize that sin is something we must wrestle with ourselves and together.

As Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

Following the path matters, but we must first identify the way.

In our Scripture today from Matthew 2:1-12, it says that Magi – or wise men, astrologers, or kings – showed up seeking a king they had heard about and pursued from the East. They naturally go to the resident king and ask about the new king – a bit too proactively, maybe. But they followed the star and they pursued the vision for the king they were seeking.

Herod sees the Magi’s arrival as the chance to smell out and destroy a would-be usurper, a potential rival. He thinks he can set these Magi up to do his dirty work, to get rid of an enemy. So the Magi keep following the star – and they come to a house with a child inside. While this is part of our Christmas story, we understand that it would truly have been several years after that first Christmas, as the Christmas story rolled into the experience of people even after the fact.

These wise men – three, thirty, three hundred? – come and present gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These wise men celebrate the birth of a miracle child, of a king honored by the arrival of a star – not the typical happenings for a typical day. But having been warned in a dream – they avoid Herod and go home a different way.

Here, our three kings have an interaction similar to those individuals in the stories we’ve studied in our Do Not Be Afraid Series – Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. The voice of God – here, called in a dream, while before it was via an angel – showed up and told the wise men to avoid the things which society (and maybe common sense) would have pushed for: to be afraid of Herod.

Instead, the wise men were inspired by God to move differently, to not be afraid. They were expected to do one thing, to succumb to power and privilege and fear, and instead, they obeyed God and went home by another way.

While the wise men went home having been moved by what they saw – and we assume, forever changed – the world around them wasn’t immediately different. Caesar Augustus still led the Roman infestation of Israel and Judah, the poor were still poor, the abandoned  didn’t even know that the God of the universe had come down as a newborn baby.

Fear still existed and evil still appeared to have the upper hand. And yet, we will sing, with candles lit,

“Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright,

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child!

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace!

Sleep in heavenly peace!”

But all is not calm; all is not bright … yet.

Mary births the Son of God; Joseph accepts this son as his own; the angels pursue the good news that is delivered to them in the field that night. The wise men witness this Son of God and go home with the good news to tell others that Jesus has come.

It’s still dark out there, right? But something changed that night.

That first Christmas, people who were afraid stopped being afraid. People who were poor and powerless and struggling with their place in the world found that God cared, that there was purpose, that the future was bright.

This Christmas, all is still not calm – it is not bright for everyone. In the midst of this service, we will celebrate candlelight – the fact that it is dark around us but that we, the people of faith, represent millions of tiny points of light.

By ourselves, our single candles do not seem to do much to break into the darkness, to break apart the darkness, but together …

Together, our candles are strong. Together, our candles illuminate our own faces with light left over to shine onto the next person, to help them see a little better, to push back some of their darkness.

Together, we illuminate by community through the life of Christ.

Together, we are called to stand as one.

For peace.

For love.

For community.

Against the darkness, with our little bit of light.

Together, we can choose not to be afraid. Together, we can choose to seek God’s will above the will of the world, and the powers that threaten to derail us from being who God calls us to be.

We can be more. We can choose to live without fear. We can still follow the star.

We can do more than shake our hands and pray; we can move.

If we’re going to learn from the wise men’s search, we’re going to have to dig deep and remember that what we expect isn’t the same thing as what God’s looking for. We need to recognize that God is playing from a different set of rules; God is focused on different things.

When God sent Jesus to be born in a manger, to an unwed mother and a homeless carpenter, he set up for all of time that Jesus lived in the real world, not a fantasized picture of what life looked like.

When God sent Jesus, he reminded us that Immanuel, which means “God with us,” isn’t just a cute bumper sticker, it’s the reminder that God made himself like us and with us to understand what life is really like for us.

God wasn’t willing to let people say, “well, you don’t know what it’s like!”

God sent Jesus into a world of people who were seeking something, anything, to hold onto to show us that we are not alone, that God is here, and that God wants to be with us. Littered through the Scriptures are reminders:

The times that Jesus asks his audience, whether it’s an individual or a group, “what do you want me to do for you?”

The offering up of his body and blood on the cross, after sharing the Last Supper, when he says, “this is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19).

The reminders from the apostle Paul that “if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)”

Too often, we come to church and Christmas, and we’re expecting the wrong thing. We’re seeking temporary happiness or immediate financial security that seem to wear off before the Super Bowl; we’re looking for love and peace of mind in all the wrong places, like failed relationships and jobs we don’t really like. We’re not changing the things that matter but pursuing a difference by running after the wrong things.

And then the wise men show up, strangers in a strange land, who realize there’s something different here.

Sometimes, we have to recognize that what we’ve been looking for isn’t what we’ll find, but that it’s better. That the unexpected is actually exactly what we need.

We can either be the wise men or we can be Herods, we can be Scrooge or Bob Cratchit. We can be full of wonder and pursuit and purpose, or we can be stuck on ourselves, and our fears, lusts, and expectations. We can strive for the sacred or be stuck in the mundane. It’s not a pretty contrast, is it?

I encourage you to reflect on the story of Jesus’ birth. Maybe you’ve heard it a million times and it feels like the same old trite story. Maybe tonight is the first time you’ve heard about the baby Jesus in context. Either way, hear the good news:

The God who created the world, created a unique you for a unique purpose. Because we don’t always do what we should, we find ourselves separated from God and from who we are meant to be. Because God loves us so much, he sent his one and only Son to live our life, to teach us a better way, and to die on the cross so that all the things we shouldn’t have done are dead and gone. And we can be who we were meant to be, uniquely, as a blessing to others in relationship with God.

Somehow, the wise men figured out that their lives were different, that they met the sacred in the life of this young child. And they worshipped. We worship a lot of things, like money, and power, and beauty, and fame. We worship ourselves and put what we need high above everyone else. We worship getting by and getting ahead, instead of recognizing that the great God of the universe wants us to see ourselves as we really are.

Like a child. Like his child.

And he wants us to love him like a child loves a parent or grandparent, and knows that it is loved in return.

You matter to God. You are loved, redeemed, cleaned up, turned around, picked up, tested, saved, made whole, put right, and FORGIVEN.

All because of the sacred in the little child that the wise men went searching for. All because God wanted love to grow between you and him.

I don’t know what you came seeking tonight, but I hope you find more than you expected. I hope that you recognize, like the folks on the Westjet flight, that there’s more in store for you than you can imagine. That God wants to love you and make you whole, and give you what you need, right now.

This Christmas, I hope you recognize the path that God has called you to, the stars God puts in your life to follow. I hope that you can see in the midst of the turmoil you find yourself in, in whatever darkness you see in the world, that the light still shines.

That God still shows up in expected places.

That people who are wise still seek.

That the angel still shows up, with the voice of God whispering,

“Do not be afraid.”

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Christmas Eve Sermon (DNBA): Do You Wonder? (Matthew 2:1-12) (5 p.m. Wesley)

Do you wander? Do you wonder?

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that “not all who wander are lost.” Think about that for a minute. Are you willing to wander or are you someone who has to know exactly where you’re going and exactly how to get there?

I admit that personally, I am most interested in the route from point A to point B. I don’t wander enough – and I think (unfortunately) it impacts my wondering.But – and this may surprise you coming from the pastor – I am still seeking. I still want to understand better what Christmas and Christianity are all about.

U2 wrote the following, and it speaks to my search for what is true, for where God is, in “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”:


I have climbed highest mountain; I have run through the fields, only to be with you.


I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls. Only to be with you.


I believe in the kingdom come, then all the colors will bleed into one. Well, yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds, and you loosed the chains, carried the cross, of my shame. You know I believed it.

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…

Consider the wise men with me. Think about their importance to our story – what they add to the otherwise short birth narratives included – just narrowly – in the gospel story. Think about their wandering – and their wondering.

To be clear, I don’t mean what we popularly believe, that there were three of them because of the number of gifts (and because they’re commemorated in We Three Kings of Orient Are) or that they arrived at the same time as the shepherds. Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but we’re always getting our translations mixed up, aren’t we?

Reminds me of this story:

In a small southern town there was a “Nativity Scene” that showed great skill and talent had gone into creating it. One small feature bothered me. The three wise men were wearing fireman’s helmets.

Totally unable to come up with a reason or explanation, I left. At a “Quick Stop” on the edge of town, I asked the lady behind the counter about the helmets. She exploded into a rage, yelling at me. “You Yankees never do read The Bible!”

I assured her that I did, but simply couldn’t recall anything about firemen in The Bible. She jerked her Bible from behind the counter and ruffled through some pages, and finally jabbed her finger at a passage. Sticking it in my face, she said, “See, it says right here, ‘The three wise men came from afar.

Who or what occupationally they were isn’t as important to me. Maybe they were astrologers, or mystics, or some kind of combination of science and religion. Whatever their occupation was, they had seen a star that was of epic proportions and they knew that whoever the star shone for was important.

These were the best of the best of the East: the smartest, the brightest, the most intelligent, the most forward-thinking. Maybe they were traveling by camel, maybe not– we know the Cadillac hadn’t been invented yet, so what else could a bunch of wise guys be driving around in?

Speaking of wise-guys, A mafioso’s son sits at his desk writing a Christmas list to Jesus. He first writes, ‘Dear baby Jesus, I have been a good boy the whole year, so I want a new…’ He looks at it, then crumples it up into a ball and throws it away. He gets out a new piece of paper and writes again, ‘Dear baby Jesus, I have been a good boy for most of the year, so I want a new…’ He again looks at it with disgust and throws it away. He then gets an idea. He goes into his mother’s room, takes a statue of the Virgin Mary, puts it in the closet, and locks the door. He takes another piece of paper and writes, ‘Dear baby Jesus. If you ever want to see your mother again…’

Okay, let me stick to the script here. We know the wise men were looking, and we know they were willing to go. But what else?

We know that these men were not Jewish, not God-worshipping in the way that we or the Jews would’ve expected, and their travel was totally based on the signs they had seen and the star they had followed. They were scientifically, practically, searching, not out of religious fervor. Worship for them was human-to-human, honor and gift-giving, not holy religious wonder. These men were practical – not necessarily religious

The wise men travelled many miles from the east to track down this “king of the Jews,” to come and worship him. Many miles… to worship.

We can only definitively know that the wise men were:

1- Not Jewish because they didn’t know that Bethlehem was the place to look

2-From far away because they were from ‘the east.’

3-Not satisfied with the life they lived…

because if they had been, they would not have come. If they had everything they needed, everything they knew to be important, then why would they have travelled to Bethlehem to find this king of the Jews? If all of their questions could be answered where they were, then why would they go?

What were they missing in their lives that made them go searching, to go follow a star, to a place they’d never been with people they didn’t know?

While we bounce that question around for awhile, consider that they also say they’ve come to worship a king. Up until they arrive, we have an understanding that God has divinely caused Mary to be pregnant with a baby who will be full of the Holy Spirit, and we know from Joseph’s vision that he will save his people from their sins. But the wise men understood that this person, this Messiah, wasn’t just a prophet; he was a ruler.

Now, we might get it mixed all together, this Messiah-savior-king-prophet bit, but for a bunch of out-of-towners to show up in Jerusalem and ask where the “king of the Jews” was going to be, that was taking it to a whole new level. Because there had been heroes, and prophets, and miracles before, and the wise men would’ve heard of those people, maybe even met them. There was something different going on here.

So, these wise men show up and tell King Herod, the puppet king the Romans had in place, that there was a threat to his kingdom. But there wasn’t just a threat to Herod, there was a threat to the status quo. Because the people in Jerusalem are upset by this news, too. They don’t need another Messiah, they don’t need another king. Every person who steps up out of line causes the Romans to get angry, and kill some Jews. The people of Jerusalem would just as soon lie low. They are satisfied.

The people are satisfied with how things are– they have settled for oppression and less than. They have figured out how to survive, how to live the way they do, and the habits they have developed have gotten them this far. So why change? (Isn’t that how we are sometimes, settling for okay or mediocre rather than “the best”?)

Herod needs to figure out what the 411, the truth, the information, about this child-who-would-be-king is, because it’s a threat to his applecart, and he knows he could be dethroned and killed if the Romans get upset. Herod is challenged by a prophecy; he’s a Jew who should’ve known what was going on with the prophecy, but instead of being excited about galactic change, he’s worried about how it will affect him right now. So he puts the wise men up to being his spies, and tells them to track down the baby, and says he wants to go worship it, too.

We can see that the wise men keep going until they find the house where the child is, and that they are overjoyed. Their journey in searching is over. They have followed the directions to the end of the treasure map. They proceed to worship Jesus, and to present gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The wise men have been seeking something that they couldn’t find anywhere else. They have been pursuing the truth and the sacred, and they find it here with Mary and with baby Jesus. And they recognize that they are not supposed to report back to Herod, and they go home without going back through Jerusalem.

They came from the east, and they followed the star, and they found the sacred in a place unexpected.

I believe the wise men came seeking the amazing, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they knew would be unlike anything that they’d seen before. I believe they brought their best: the gold, frankincense, and myrrh were not cheap, Dollar Store gifts, but the best of the best. And I believe that what they experienced that night was so amazing that it caused a group of men who were trained to seek the kings and kingdoms of the world, to change their direction and defy King Herod.

I believe they encountered the sacred, and their worship came from commonplace gift exchange and status seeking, to a mind-blown, wonderful eye-opening experience of the divine.

I think that these wise men thought they were pursuing a king who would need some advisors, that they thought they were headed to a royal court. The wise men didn’t know exactly what they were looking for but when they found it, they knew it. I’m sure they were looking for a palace, something impressive, something spectacular, powerful, and intense.

And they found a baby. I don’t know what made them recognize that this was it but they knew it when they found it.

When they discovered Jesus and worshipped him, they knew that their previous expectations of Herod were faulty, and they literally changed direction. Their attitude and behavior was altered by the seeking and finding of the sacred.

The wise men wondered. Then they wandered. But as J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all who wander are lost.”

These wise men had purpose. They knew who they were. They didn’t let the evil king control them. They didn’t let their fears stop them. They let God transform them.

They joined a host of people who were changed by the arrival of Jesus. Mary, Jesus’ mother, who found out she was pregnant before she was married. Joseph, who discovered his fiancee was pregnant, but who was called to be her caregiver and the father of her child. The shepherds, who were called out of the fields to be the sharers of this good news (which we’ll get to next Sunday). And finally the wise men who came the farthest, sight unseen, to worship at the feet of this homeless king.

So, I’ll ask you, why did you come here tonight?

“What did you come here looking for?” “What are you looking for in life?” How will you know when you find it?

There’s no star hanging over the church to light the way. In fact, the parking lot isn’t even that well-lit! But you came because you thought you should be here or someone who is cooking your dinner brought you here, right?

I wonder what happens if when we go seeking, whether it’s money, or pleasure, or happiness, or fame, if we found Jesus instead, if that would make a difference. The world says that we should go looking for bigger and better and more impressive, and when the wise men came seeking the once-in-a-lifetime ruler to end all rulers, they found a poor carpenter’s son, a young child with nothing to his name.

I pray that you will engage your sense of Christmas wonder, of childlike desire, of spirit-filled generosity, and fully-engaged participation. I pray that you will seek God with all your heart because the great God of the universe wants to have a relationship with you.

And when you realize that, I hope you’ll choose to “go home a different way.”

I hope it will change what you think about, what you focus on, what you want for your life…

I pray that it will change the things you worry about and what you fear…

I challenge you to let it change how you face today and tomorrow.

I pray that you will take heart, in the words of the angels who came to Zechariah, to Mary, to Joseph, to the shepherds, and to the wise men, and now come to you and me, that you’ll embrace the best that God wants for your life.

Wonder. Have faith. Move forward in God’s love and purpose. Seek the truth. Make changes, be change. Love one another.

Even in the darkness – do not be afraid. Instead, wonder.

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