Scripture: Psalm 98:4-7
Shout triumphantly to the LORD, all the earth! Be happy! Rejoice out loud! Sing your praises! Sing your praises to the LORD with the lyre— with the lyre and the sound of music. With trumpets and a horn blast, shout triumphantly before the LORD, the king! Let the sea and everything in it roar; the world and all its inhabitants too.
Thought for the Day: Do you have your party hat on, or are you like me, and will be in bed by 9:30pm with hopes that the late night fireworks don’t keep you up? However you choose to recognize and celebrate the coming of the new year, be safe and mindful of others who may not be thinking as they should. In Psalm 98, I love the idea of us bringing our voices and instruments to a celebration that is already underway – the very creation that is already making music to honor God. Let us recognize the rhythm of creation – from season to season – from birth to death to rebirth. Creation continues along its way, and at certain times, we pick up our instruments and join the band. As we move into a new year, may each of us be more mindful of creation’s invitation to join the celebration of life that is happening every moment of each day.
Prayer: O Lord our God, we sing your praises. We join the sea and all the creatures of the earth as they honor you with their existence. Amen.
One Service Sunday – 10:30am
Scripture: 1st John 3:18-19
Little children, let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.
Thought for the Day: There are many things for which I hope – some personal, some communal. Today, as we stand at the cusp of a new year, I find myself hoping for a slave-free world. It is estimated that there are currently 50 million people in the world who are held as slaves, and another one billion who are in situations where they could easily find themselves enslaved. Of course, this is not simply a problem in some faraway land where people are uneducated or immoral (that’s sarcasm by the way). It is happening right here in our country, and right here in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Our church has heard Chris Baker from INK180 speak on the subject, and coming in about a month, a survivor of trafficking, Theresa Flores, will bring her ministry to Cypress Creek Christian Church in advance of the Big Football Game. Her ministry – S.O.A.P. (Saving Our Adolescents from Prostitution) – will be at our church on Saturday, January 28. The programs will consist of: 1. An education piece; 2. Wrap bars of soap with information on how to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline; 3. Deliver these bars of soap to hotels across the city. I hope you will sign-up, and invite others outside our church to participate. May I suggest that showing our love and concern in this manner is one of the ways we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence.
Prayer: When our children are exploited, Lord of All, we cannot hide or pretend such things do not exist. Make us your instruments of rescue, change and transformation. Amen.
Next Two Sundays
One Service Sundays
Scripture: Ephesians 4:22-25
You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.
Thought for the Day: These are marvelous words to reflect upon as we approach a new year. Could this be God’s challenge to us for the new year? Coming out of an election where falsehoods were more common than truth and people degraded their neighbor’s humanity without a second thought, could God be setting the bar high for us and telling us to stretch? I know there is work needed within me as I’m sure there is work needed within you. Let us be about the work of putting away the former things that are not of God to give room in our lives for the things of God that will allow us to live as members of one another.
Prayer: Assist me, Gracious Lord, as I put away what needs to be put away and take hold of what needs to be held close. Amen.
THIS SUNDAY – ONE SERVICE
More Information Coming…
Scripture: Lamentation 3:20-24
My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Thought for the Day: I should probably just allow this passage to speak for itself as it is rich and powerful, yet let me point out how the author believes God is the source of all his problems and troubles. Earlier in the chapter, the author speaks of being under God’s rod, like a child being punished. Could it be that the struggles and pain experienced are nothing more than the consequences of our actions or the sinful choices of others? A friend of mine was serving as a chaplain in a hospital where they saw a lot of gun violence, and he made the observation that many family members would hear the news of their loved one dying and they would say, “What have I done that God would punish me this way?” Do you really believe God was punishing the parents or siblings? Or was God the one who was fully present in the hospital room, allowing the steadfast love of the Lord to bring healing and newness every morning.
Prayer: My soul continues to bow down before you, my Lord. May your mercies never cease and may they greet me anew each day. Amen.
PRAYING FOR OUR TRADITIONAL CHOIR
AS THEY HEAD FOR PRAGUE THIS WEEK
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:10-12
The LORD proclaims: When Babylon’s seventy years are up, I will come and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the LORD; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope. When you call me and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.
Thought for the Day: Life is full of endings. Some of them are actually good, but many of them are difficult, painful and the source of great grief. We are approaching the end of the year, and though a few weeks back I did remind you that technically each day provides new opportunities, there is something symbolic about a new year. This coming Sunday will be New Year’s Day, something that does not occur but every 7 years. It will provide us an opportunity to enter the new year with our spirits focused upon God…something that I hope will continue for us all.
As I ponder these words from Jeremiah, I am mindful of a community that felt as if it was looking into an abyss. Though many were physically healthy, there was a feeling that life was over…nothing new was possible. According to Jeremiah God listens, especially to the heartfelt cries of those who feel stuck and hopeless. And though God doesn’t wave a magic wand and change things in a matter of seconds, God is at work attempting to make our endings into new beginnings. Most importantly, know that God is listening…and know that the One who is listening has made gracious promises to us that will shape history toward the plans of peace and hope.
Prayer: When my current circumstance presents an end, I turn to you, Mighty God. May the faith you provide through your love give me reason to see what simply is not currently visible to my eyes. Amen.
Scripture: Luke 2:8-9
Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
Thought for the Day: I think the shepherds’ reaction is exactly how most all of us would react in a similar situation. And even if it is not angels with wings and halos, when we feel the tug of God in such a way that we know our lives will be forever altered, there is fear and trepidation…or at least there should be. I know that God’s Messengers always offered the reassuring words, “Do not fear,” but faith can bring about fear. That fear is not a fear of God, for God is always gracious and generous. The fear comes with what faithfulness might require – and not so much a fear of what we can see, but fear of what we are not yet able to see. What might be required if I take another step in faith?
Prayer: Take me by the hand, O God who called forth shepherds, and lead me to a place where I am both inspired and prepared to become your witness. And even if I find myself a bit anxious about the tasks you set before me, let me rest in the knowledge that you are forever loving. Amen.
Continue The Christmas Celebration
We are just beginning
The 12 Days of Christmas
Scripture: Luke 2:6-7
While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Thought for the Day: Good Morning! And Merry Christmas! This morning is a special day. It is Christmas morning, but it is also Sunday. This is unique, and for that reason, I hope you will find the time to worship this day. Make it a sabbath amidst all the silliness and celebration of the day. Make it worshipful as you weave your way through discarded wrappings and wadded-up ribbons. At 10:30 this morning, we will gather in the Centrum at Cypress Creek Christian Church for worship. Join us if you can…join us for a time of thankful prayer and praise. Join us as we come together as followers of a child whose life on this earth began in a stable some 2000 years ago. From my family to you – God bless you on this day!!
Prayer: Merry Christmas, Jesus! Thank you, Lord! Make today a day of true transformation in my life, home and in all the places where I might go. Amen.
WORSHIP THIS MORNING
Come as you are…
Scripture: Luke 2:5
He (Joseph) went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.
Thought for the Day: It is Christmas Eve and the holy family is on a long dusty journey to Bethlehem, birth and bliss. Too often we depict this journey as sanctified and pure, pleasurable and serene. However they were traveling – walking or riding or a combination of both – it would have been tiresome and rough for anyone, but for a woman who was pregnant in her final few weeks, it had to have been miserable. The only hope was that it would soon be over. I like the nativity scenes I have around the house, but I imagine there was a lot of dirt and sweat upon the bodies of these travelers – they were preparing to become a family miles from their home; they were about ready to receive a child into a world of great unknowns; they were taking on responsibility beyond the usual parents – as they continued to process what divine messengers had told them. This is the Nativity (birthplace) of God. It sounds very real and down to earth…and I’m guessing that’s exactly what God wanted.
Prayer: Make our hearts, O Lord, the nativity of your gracious gift. This is our prayer and request this Christmas Eve. Amen.
SEE YOU TONIGHT
Scripture: Luke 2:4
Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.
Thought for the Day: Bethlehem literally means House of Bread. We think of bread as something very basic. Bread is common, and often viewed as a delivery device for sliced meat or a burger. In the days of Jesus, bread was common, but common because it was the staple of those who were common. Among most all folks, there wasn’t a separate plate for your roll and butter. Bread might be everything a person had for the day. Scripture places the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem for more than one reason, but for a first century listener to the Gospel Story, there would have been layers of Good News – the One who is the bread of life comes into the house of bread for those who depend entirely on bread. Suddenly those who felt common, unnoticed and of no value, heard an alternative story that would have been a source of great joy.
Prayer: Bread of Heaven, continue to feed all of humanity with your life-giving message of hope and love. Amen.
See You Tomorrow Night
Scripture: Luke 2:2-3
This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.
Thought for the Day: Like yesterday, the stage continues to be set for the drama that is about to happen on this holy setting. It is interesting to go to a play and to see the backdrop, props and lighting that are used. I have, though, attended a few plays where there was practically nothing on the stage except the actors. With vivid language, they described the nonexistent setting. Within 15 minutes, I was there – fully engaged – seeing everything that was intended to be seen. The author of the Gospel does something very similar in the telling of Emmanuel’s birth, yet in this case, the words are rather slim in numbers. The setting is created in our imaginations by all the paintings, nativity scenes and movies we have seen. Within our minds, every single detail is present. With that said, mine probably looks a little different than yours. Does that make one right and the other wrong. I don’t think so. In the end, the questions that should be asked are: Is your story life-giving; is it breath-taking; is it a source of joy; is it real and meaningful for you in this moment in life?
Prayer: Lord, however we picture this marvelous story, we seek to know you and your marvelous work that stretches from an ancient point in history to this very moment. Amen.
Don’t Miss Saturday and Sunday