Sermon: Simeon, Anna, and Expectation

IMG_3101“It Takes a Village: Simeon, Anna, and Expectation”

(November 29, 2015) Jesus was born into a community, a context, a village, and the people in that context and community are important. The prophets– from those of old like Jeremiah, to those contemporary and near-contemporary with Jesus like Simeon and Anna– expressed the people’s longing for Jesus, and his fulfillment of God’s promise. How do we serve as prophets today? (Jeremiah 33:14-16Matthew 3:1-6Luke 2:25-38)


Our advent theme is “It Takes a Village,” as we look at the people surrounding Jesus.

Advent Worship Series- It Takes a Village


Our Advent theme is “It Takes a Village.” We are recalling the Nigerian proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Jesus was a child– a remarkable one, but still a child– and the people in his village, his neighborhood, his context, were important in understanding how and why his birth and life changed everything. 

Sermons in the series: Simeon, Anna, and Expectation (11/29) – For the Love of Joseph (12/6) – Hope Unexpected (12/13)

This theme is communicated with a beautiful altar display, created by Cathy and Terri M-B. Each week, the service begins with a sacred dance, choreographed by Chris T. and Jen W. (dancers pictured in the photo are Crystal D. and Justin B.– they are dancing “Joseph Dearest”). The dancers then also light the advent candles. 

IMG_3251The sermons in this worship series focus on different people in Jesus’ “village.” We began with the prophets– prophets of old like Jeremiah, and prophets at the time of Jesus, like Anna and Simeon, each of whom was eagerly awaiting God’s Incarnation and God’s justice. We ask ourselves, how are we called to be prophets today– to be those who hold out hope in the face of the violence and injustice in our world? We shine a light of scrutiny upon this violence and injustice, but also the light of prophetic expectation. 

Next, we celebrated Joseph and his radical decision, when her learned of her alleged infidelity, first to divorce Mary quietly, and then not to divorce her at all but to join with her in marriage, and to raise their child together, even naming Jesus as his own son. Such love breaks barriers and shatters the conventions and expectations of the world. Where are we called to love like that in the world today– to forgive and draw in those who have wronged us, or those whom society preaches are unworthy of love? 

Our look at Jesus’ village continued with the powerful women of Jesus’ family– Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth. Here we see two people who, in the eyes of their world, are worth little to nothing. Too old or too young, too barren or too inexplicably pregnant, and certainly too female to be holy in the eyes of others, nevertheless, Mary and Elizabeth rejoice together that through them and their children, God lifts up the lowly and humbles the haughty. We too are called to break free of the narratives that we’re not good enough to be God’s servant people, and proclaim hope in unexpected places and through unexpected means, maybe because of our unique positions, sufferings, and circumstances. 

Finally, we await with unbridled, childlike joy the Word proclaimed through children and children-at-heart in our intergenerational Christmas Drama of the Nativity. Jesus’ village usually included people living together in family and tribe groups that spanned generations, a practice all but absent in our so-called modern world. If we can live with child-like joy and wonder, and if we can live as beloved community of all ages, perhaps we too can continue to be the sort of “village” into which Christ is born again and again. 

A Letter to NH Governor Hassan

friends, hug, b+wOn Monday, Governor Maggie Hassan (NH), issued this statement through her communications director: “The Governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.”
As a concerned citizen, as a Christian, as the New England Annual Conference chair of the Conference Board of Church & Society, I wrote this letter to the Governor, signed by twelve United Methodist clergy in New Hampshire. An abbreviated version will also be appearing in the Valley News in the next few days. The letter is being sent by mail, and by a link to this post, to the Office of the Governor. 


Dear Governor Hassan,

As United Methodist faith leaders in the State of New Hampshire, we write to urge you to reconsider your position, which calls upon the federal government to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees within the United States and, by extension, our state.

We want to thank you for your deep concern for the safety of the residents of the U.S. and of New Hampshire in particular. As one of our elected leaders, it is clear that you take your responsibility to public safety seriously and thoughtfully, and you are to be commended for that.

There comes a time, however, when the cries and the suffering of our siblings in the human family cannot be ignored or denied; our response cannot be delayed or deferred. Recognizing the unity and interdependence of humanity, we are obligated to respond from the greatest parts of ourselves, not from the fears which would restrain us. These are the very fears on which terrorism seeks to prey.

It is fear that would check our compassion, fear that causes us to withhold our welcome. As a nation, our process for screening and evaluating those seeking amnesty as refugees already is thorough and arduous. Halting the resettlement of refugees to re-examine that process, at this moment when the need is so great, is a fear-based reaction that delays justice—and justice delayed too long becomes justice denied.

But fear does not have the final say. There is another way: the way of love. Love drives out fear. Loves sees the children and adults fleeing violent regimes as our own children, parents, siblings, friends. Love moves individuals to open their homes, schools to open their classrooms, faith communities to open their piles of donated clothing and household goods, and yes, government bodies to open their borders. Love refuses to sleep at night in the “Land of Opportunity” while huddled masses of people yearning to breathe free are held back behind miles of red tape. Love refuses to enter a season of celebration—of community, of family, of the presence of the Divine with us—while those most in need of that embrace are told there is no room for them at any inn.

As we prepare in our communities for even the possibility of receiving refugees, we find in fact that we are drawn closer to one another—faith communities, service organizations, public institutions, and individuals work collaboratively to extend hospitality and welcome in our homes, towns, and regions. The people of New Hampshire are strengthened by this work, not diminished. We are at our best, strongest, most resilient, most connected, and most compassionate selves when we are working together for the good of others.

Governor, we hope and we pray that you will continue your deep care for the well being of the people of New Hampshire, and will extend that same, unrelenting compassion and passion for justice to those who are not yet among us. We hope that you will be moved by love beyond the fears pressing around us, and will boldly lead our State in wise, thoughtful, open-hearted welcome to those refugees who seek, like all of us, to live in safety and peace.


Rev. Rebecca Girrell
chair, New England Conference Board of Church & Society
pastor, Lebanon United Methodist Church

Rev. Dr. David Abbott, New Hampshire District Superintendent,
New England Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

Pastor Marilyn Ayer
pastor, Chichester United Methodist Church

Rev. Sharon Baker
pastor, Moultonborogh United Methodist Church

Rev. Casey Collins
pastor, Milford United Methodist Church

Rev. Virginia Fryer
pastor, Bow Mills United Methodist Church

Rev. Tom Getchell-Lacey
pastor, First United Methodist Church of Gilford

Rev. Barbara Herber
United Methodist clergy, retired, Gilford

Rev. Philip Polhemus
United Methodist clergy, retired, Meredith

(and 3 other active and retired United Methodist clergy in the state of New Hampshire)

Signing this online version:

Rev. Geisa Matos-Machuca
pastor, First United Methodist Church, Manchester


Worship Series – Enough

cover3The worship series for October and November was “Enough,” by Adam Hamilton. We looked at how we can discover joy through simplicity and generosity.

Sermons in the four-part series are my take on the topics and prompts by Rev. Hamilton.

Sermons in the series: Dreams and Nightmares (10/25) – Wisdom for the Prodigal (11/1) – Cultivating Contentment (11/8) – Defined by Generosity (11/15) 

Sermon: Defined by Generosity

cover3“Defined by Generosity”

(November 15, 2015) It’s silly, really, to think that we could live our lives free from the fear and worry around money. But God calls us to joyful, almost laughable, leaps of faith in freedom. (Genesis 18:1-15Mark 12:38-44)

This is a four-part series by Adam Hamilton called “Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.” The sermons are my take on the topics. You can hear the rest of the series too:

Sermon: Cultivating Contentment

cover3“Cultivating Contentment”

(November 8, 2015) The Shaker song reminds us that it is a gift to be simple. How do we find this gift? (Philippians 4:8-13, Luke 12:13-21)

This is a four-part series by Adam Hamilton called “Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.” The sermons are my take on the topics. You can hear the rest of the series too:

Sermon: Wisdom for the Prodigal

cover3“Wisdom for the Prodigal”

(November 1, 2015) Much like the prodigal child, we want instant gratification. Can we tap into the wisdom of self control and create better, more faithful lives for ourselves? (Luke 15:11-32)

This is a four-part series by Adam Hamilton called “Enough: Discovering Joy Through Simplicity and Generosity.” The sermons are my take on the topics. You can hear the rest of the series too:


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