Potsdam United Methodist Church
Where we let Jesus shine! Where we invite, love and nurture ALL!
Sunday Worship
11:00am Service
Pastor Heidi R. Chamberlain
Information info@potsdamumc.org

Crown of Beauty

Listen to the Sermon or the Entire Service

December 28:

Call:       Luke 2: 22-40
Reading:    W&S #8
Text:       Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3
Closing:    Galatians 4: 4-7

            Crown of Beauty

In a normal week,
    Having selected the scripture, hymns, prayers, and message title some weeks before
I begin thinking and praying about the Sunday scripture
        On Monday or Tuesday.

Then on Wednesday and Thursday
I start to review approaches
        To bring the text alive and make it meaningful to the people in the congregation

Finally, on Friday and Saturday,
using the answers I have received through the prayer and thought processes,
and the approaches that seemed best,

I draft, edit, and rewrite my manuscript

On Sunday morning
    I tweak it some more.

But this has not been a normal week.
    With company at the house,
With the Christmas Eve service,
With traveling to Chittenango on Christmas,
With pastoral care responsibilities throughout the week,

I began to actively read, pray, and think about this message,
Yesterday morning
    And even then, I did so with little energy.

Based on my normal week,
    This message should be ready for you in another three or four days
    So I guess that I ought to
Let you go home now
And have you return on Thursday or Friday
    When the normal process is completed.

But we can't count on everything being normal
    Life requires adjustments and flexibility.

We touched on that Wednesday night,
    When we noted that the week of the first Christmas
Was not a normal week either
Especially for Mary
    Who in her ninth month of carrying the child
    Took a multi day trip to give birth in a stable.

If she could do that, then I knew that I better adjust
    and I had better be flexible in what I had to do as well.

The lack of normal preparation time was, however, particularly challenging because,
when I looked at the scripture from Isaiah, I said to myself,
        "Why did I pick this scripture?"
        "Why did I ever think that I could bring it alive?"
    And "What does it have to offer our congregation
            On the Sunday after Christmas?"

It may have been my low energy level,       or
It may have simply been God's way of making me grow,
But I struggled with those questions.

Only to end up smiling.

For in my struggle,
    I came to see
    That the words with which I struggled
were exactly what we needed to hear
- on the Sunday after Christmas
    When tired worshipers come together, saying
        "At last it was Christmas."
        More with relief than enthusiasm."

For the pressures and requirements of the season
    Can often lead us,  or let us slide into,   bad habits.

The text that challenged me comes from the third part of Isaiah
    The part that was from the period when the Persians allowed the exiles to return.

While in exile,   they had been propped up by Second Isaiah
    With promises for the future
And Reassurances that God was and would be with them

And now that they were back in Jerusalem
    They had thought everything would be "hunky - dory"

But instead, they ended up struggling
    The job was bigger than they had expected
    The resources were less than they had anticipated
And to top it off,
        The Jews who had remained
        Were not thrilled to see them.
They began to get discouraged.
    They needed some more propping up;
    They again needed to be reassured
that God was indeed with them.

And so, Third Isaiah spoke these words
    [61:10 - 62:3]

I will greatly rejoice and exult
    For God clothed me with the garments of salvation
    And covered me with the robe of righteousness.

Well, on Christmas
    God clothed and covered us
By sending the righteous savior
And so,     like Isaiah told the returned exiles
He now tells us
that we are expected to rejoice and exult.

Isaiah also proclaimed
    "You shall be   a crown of beauty     in the hand of the Lord
    and a royal diadem in the hand of your God."

Those returned exiles were expected to be
    The crown of beauty and the royal diadem
    That would demonstrate to others
        That God is king
and that they were the king's blessed subjects

You and I, as persons who have received the gift of Christ
    Are likewise expected to be the crown and the diadem
        That demonstrate to others that God is king
            And we are God's blessed subjects.

So, You and I have, in the coming of Christ,
        Been blessed by salvation and treated with righteousness
And therefore
    You and I are to rejoice and exult
And You and I are to lead lives that demonstrate that God is king.

In short, you and I are supposed to be
    Joyous and grateful
And you and I are supposed to lead
    Lives that reflect that joy and gratitude.

The Christmas season is supposed to be a time
    When that joy and that gratitude
        Fuel our lives  and the lives of others around us.

Now, we might not think
    That we need the same propping up and reassurance
    that those who returned to Jerusalem needed.

But all too often
    The pressures of the Christmas season produce
Complaining,    selfishness,    and irritation.
    Which like joy and gratitude can be contagious.

We need only to look at our own lives this past week

How many people have irritated us?
How many people were the subjects of our complaints
    Whether expressed or not?
How often did we allow ourselves to experience joy?
Did our sour looks outnumber our smiles?

Have we spent the week focusing so much on the negative
    That it has undercut the positive
    And removed the joy from our lives and the lives of others
Did we lead lives and have attitudes that reflected
    That God is king        And we are God's subjects?


Do you like the answers you gave yourselves?
    I am not entirely comfortable with mine.

Today is an unnamed Sunday
located between Christmas and Epiphany,
It is a time when we reflect on the gift we received
And how we are to use it.

Isaiah tells us how to use it:
By allowing our joy and gratitude to triumph over weariness and negative attitudes
    By being something that is a whole new image for us:
crowns of beauty
            that enable others to recognize
            and want to embrace God.

Today is also the Sunday before New Years Day

The lesson Isaiah taught 2,500 years ago;
     To the discourage returning exiles
And teaches today to us
    Deserves a place among the resolutions
        we make before returning to be together
        and keep throughout 2015.

And now I wonder why I ever struggled with my call to share these words
    Or with the question as to what the words offered
        To this congregation
        On the Sunday after Christmas.