One of the things I appreciate most about Montgomery Hills Baptist Church is our rich tradition of worship. I am grateful for our “balanced” style of worship that allows us to use traditional hymns as well as more contemporary choruses and praise songs, and grateful too, for Cheryl and Jonathan and our praise team, and all those who lead us in worshipping God.
Our worship in January begins with a celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany is a rather strange sounding word I suppose. It comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation or showing forth.” Epiphany marks the day on which the Magi, (or Three Kings, or Wise Men) following the light of a star, arrived in Bethlehem, bowing in worship before the Christ child.
Of course, a number of legends have grown up around this story. We don’t really know how many kings there were. We read of three gifts given so we assume there were three kings, but we don’t really know. There is no mention of a manger. In fact, the Bible speaks of the Magi entering a house, and their visit may have been as much as two years after Jesus’ birth.
The Magi were outsiders. They did not “belong.” They were Gentiles, not Jews, but they acknowledged by their worship and gift bearing that this child was Lord not only of Jews, but Lord of all people. The journey of the Magi speaks to us of God’s all inclusive love, and proclaims God’s salvation to all people. To be sure, Christ’s church can and must do better in mirroring such love.
Many call them kings; others say they were priests, still others say astrologers or astronomers. Whatever their vocation, Lee McGlone says, “They represent that noble spirit of curiosity that searches for truth and goes the distance to find it, and having found it, recognizes its deity and bows in worship and praise.”
The Sundays after Epiphany also afford us the opportunity to reflect on the acts and deeds of Jesus that reveal and show forth the power of God. We will consider for example, his baptism in the river Jordan; we will unpack his first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, where Jesus supplies that which is running out, the wine. And, we will retell the story of Jesus going back to his hometown of Nazareth to preach. That didn’t end so well.
Peter Bohler once said to Charles Wesley, "If I had a thousand tongues, I would praise Jesus Christ with every one of them." Wesley was so impressed by that statement, that he wrote the matchless hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise."
Well, we may not have a thousand tongues to sing every Sunday, but we can all glorify God, thank God for his blessings, pray for the needs of others, listen to the Word read, sung, and preached, respond in faith, and testify to what God has done for us. Please join us each Sunday in January. “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice!”
Blessings, Pastor Joel
The 12th chapter of John relates a story in which some Greeks approach Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus and make a request of him: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." They wanted to learn more and know more about Jesus. Some saw Jesus as a teacher, some a healer, and some a prophet, some as a miracle worker, some as a warrior, and some as a political leader. People were drawn to Jesus.
So it has always been. Century after century, in every part of the globe, people have made the same request, and I pray it is an everyday prayer in our lives even now; ”We wish to see Jesus.”
There will be ample opportunities to try and see and worship Jesus as we move through the Advent and Christmas seasons together. Advent is that four week period of preparation for, and anticipation of, the coming of the Christ child into our hearts and lives. As part of our preparation this year, our theme is “We Wish to See Jesus,” a theme that we believe will speak to the spiritual hunger within so many hearts and lives today.
Each Sunday in Advent we will be lighting the candle of hope, peace, joy, or love, on our Advent wreath. Let there be light! And, there is something new added to our traditions, as we share in our first ever “Hanging of the Greens” worship celebration. We invite you to join us on December 5, for a Christmas dinner at 6:00 pm, followed by the “Hanging of the Greens” worship at 7:00 pm. It will be a very meaningful night as we read God’s Word, pray, listen to the music of our children, light our Chrismon tree, and prepare our sanctuary and our hearts for the coming of our Lord.
There are yet more opportunities to see Jesus. On December 9th we will participate in a Multicultural Christmas concert at 3 pm at the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring. On December 16th Our Sanctuary Choir will be presenting the Cantata “Christmas Presence” during the worship hour. Again this year we will be caroling at Holy Cross Hospital on December 18, at 7:00 pm. And as usual we will celebrating Christ’s birth at our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service on December 24, at 7:30 pm.
I believe we will also see Him, as we share his love with others. We will be packaging another 10,000 meals for the hungry, participating in the Angel Tree and Glad Tidings ministries, and will receive the World Mission Offering, which supports missions and ministries the world over.
Christmas may be “the hap, hap, happiest time of the year”, but if we fail to see Jesus, and reflect on his coming among us, it is just another event on the calendar. So this year, let us open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to the living God. Come and worship. Come and serve. Come and see Jesus. I pray for each of us and all of us, a joy-full and meaning-full Christmas.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I learned Jane Marshall’s great hymn of gratitude in seminary: What gift can we bring, what present, what token? What words can convey it, the joy of this day? When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, what song can we offer in honor and praise?
These are good questions, and we will attempt to answer them on the Sundays leading to November 18th, our Commitment Sunday. This is the date we have set aside to consider our financial commitments to the Lord for 2019. Our theme is, “What Gift Shall We Bring?” Yes, what gift shall we bring to God who has blessed us so richly as individuals and as a Church? Will we be willing to allow our stewardship to reflect our discipleship?
We live in an extraordinarily material and consumer oriented society. We always want more, and new, bigger, and better. Many believe that happiness lies in material wealth and surrounding ourselves with a lot of stuff. It has been said that 40% of the American people spend 110 percent of their annual income each year. Yet all of this spending and possessing leaves us dissatisfied and empty. At root, these are spiritual issues, not financial issues.
When we become followers, or disciples of Jesus Christ, we are invited to share all that we have and all we are. How then will we respond and allow God to use us and our resources for the good of others? During my November messages, I will be leading us to consider what it means to be generous. Generosity is a personal act of worship where we express our gratitude to God and experience God’s blessings and joy.
Look for an estimate of giving card enclosed with your newsletter, and I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you will respond to the invitation to share what God has provided for you for the ongoing mission of Montgomery Hills. There will be a designated time in our worship on November 18th when we bring our commitment cards forward to have our intentions consecrated.
God has done, and continues to do, remarkable things through us and with us, things that I believe really matter in the lives of others. Your prayers, participation, and gifts are keys to helping us advance further on the pathway of discipleship. Through your gifts, you will be a part of changing the lives of children and youth, ministering to those in need, and welcoming others into the embrace of Christ. Thank you for all that you do to make possible the ministry of Montgomery Hills! You are making a difference here!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne