Blog Space of Rev. Adrian J. Pratt B.D, pastor at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, Ellicott City, MD

Monday, December 24, 2018

Anybody Home?

Last week our Pre-christmas service took the theme “Wow!” (sermon here). After the craziness of Christmas comes that quiet week when we await the arrival of a New Year. Life slowly turns back to some form of normality and we start to think about the future. For anybody involved in the ministry life of a church Christmas (like Easter) can be a little exhausting! People’s expectations can be difficult to predict at any time of the year, but during the churches special seasons, it seems everybody has their own traditions and ways they would like things to be done.

This year here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we are using the week in between Christmas and New Year to look at an often glossed over part of the ministry of Jesus, namely His boyhood. Scripture gives us only one account, in Luke2:41-52, of any things that Jesus did as a child.

In many ways He seemed to have been a lad who fulfilled all His parent’s expectations of Him. So when the family took a trip to Jerusalem they were not expecting Him to go walkabout. In fact they trusted Him so much that it was only when they were well on their way home that they even realized He was missing. They are worried. They set out looking for Him and find Him in the temple, asking questions of the religious teachers and astounding them with His knowledge of the ways of God.

When His parents take Him to task for His actions, He appears a little confused. He seems to have thought that they would know exactly where He was. “His mother said to Him, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety. "He said to them, "Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?"

His parents really did not comprehend what He was saying to them. They were simply relieved that they had found Him. Jerusalem, then as now, wasn't the safest place for a 12 year boy to be left unattended. Yet Jesus appears to feel safe and completely at home. He describes the temple as “My Father's house.” We witness in His young life a deep connection with God and a dynamic sense of purpose.

For many of us, we can go through our whole lives never really feeling at home. At home with ourselves. At home with God. At home with each other. Yet when we come together as a community to worship God, our perspective can be drastically changed. We see each other through different eyes. We know ourselves to be beloved children of a heavenly parent. We catch a glimpse of possibilities that had previously been hidden from us.

One of the traditional things to do this time of year is think about New Year’s resolutions. On the basis of this passage a great one to make would be, “2019 is the year I will seek to find my true home in God's love!”


May 2019 be a homecoming year. To God be the glory!

The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Wow!

 

Luke 1:37-55 tells us about Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. It was a ‘Wow!” moment. It causes Mary to break into song. “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior!” Life brings along ‘Wow!’ moments to us all.

As we approach Christmas, reflect on some of the “Wow!” moments in your own experience. Think about your earliest Christmas memories, your first job, your first kiss or your first car. Remember those times that have taken your breath away. An unexpected surprise. A precious gift. A milestone that has helped you be who you are today.

Think of the way people around you have blessed your life and helped you through the difficult times. Be thankful for the mentors, the teachers, the family members and friends… who often never realized they were having such a profoundly positive influence on your life.

Above all be overwhelmed for a moment as you consider God’s greatest gift… Jesus Christ. Consider the influence that small baby in the manger was to have, the lessons He brought that have changed the world for the better, the teaching He gave that we still strive to follow.

Think on His sacrifice and the promises Scripture makes regarding His death securing our salvation. Reflect on the mystery of His resurrection and the empowering of the Holy Spirit that can be born into your daily life.

And, as you reflect, pause for a moment to consider the ‘Wow!’ factor in all of the blessings that God has invested into our lives. It’s Christmas.

Here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we have a number of special services to mark the season.

December 20, Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m, we have a "Winter Solstice Service of Remembrance," a time to recall those we have loved and lost and seek comfort for the difficult memories the season can sometimes evoke.

Sunday December 23rd will be an Advent themed worship service at 10:00 a.m. Christmas Eve we have a service of “Lessons, Carols and Candlelight” at 7:00 p.m. in the sanctuary and at 11:30 p.m. a “Christmas Communion” service in Hebron House.

For some Christmas music... the Mormon Tabernacle sing “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Christmas Blessings to you all!

Prayer. “Lord, You truly are an awesome God. Thank You for every blessing that has transformed my life and shaped my destiny. Help me never to take such things for granted, but out of thankfulness may I seek to be a means of blessing and joy to others. Amen.”

Rev. Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wild West Christmas

Last week here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian we celebrated the second Sunday of Advent and took the theme “Outlasting the Energizer Bunny. (sermon here). This coming Sunday, December 16, will witness the annual miracle of the Christmas Nativity play.

It has been my experience, that no matter how prepared or unprepared a church may be for this annual event, there is always an element of surprise and wonder when it all actually comes together. Families and their children are so stretched between the many events and seasonal happenings, that even finding a time to rehearse is a major accomplishment.

On the day, those involved sometimes feel that herding cats may have been a more realistic enterprise than coordinating exactly who does what and wears what and takes the different parts, particularly as it always seems there are numerous last minute changes. A major player comes down with a seasonal bug, a family's travel plans change and now all their children want a part, the costumes for the angels have mysteriously disappeared and nobody knows where they may be. Organized chaos.

Our script this year has a Western theme and features characters such as “Wild Bill Hiccup” and “Claire the Calamity Kid.” And of course there will be much singing of carols and appearances by Joseph and Mary as we celebrate a very special birth. There may well be shepherds and wise folk... you just never know!

When you consider what Scripture tells us about the very first Christmas, the chaos that surrounds the annual Nativity play can remind us that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, from a human standpoint, was certainly not a carefully orchestrated affair.

An unexpected census. The disruption of having to travel across the country to register in your home town. An imminent birth. No room at the Inn. Bedding down for the night and placing a new born baby in an animal's feeding trough. Shepherds traveling through the night talking about hearing angels songs and welcoming a Savior. Wise guys from afar bearing gifts. Crazy!

Yet from a heavenly perspective the timing was perfect. This was how the Savior was to be born. This was when the Savior was to be born. This was where the Savior was to be born. God planned it. The angels announced it. Every nuance of the story reflects God's concern for those that the world often fails to see. What appears to be just another birth in some random corner of creation turns out to be a revelation of God's glory.

My Christmas prayer for all the Nativity presentations that will take place in sanctuaries across the globe is that they may achieve the same purpose. That they may reveal afresh the love of God. As it says in the script of our particular play... “Y'all have a very merry Christmas, ya hear?”

For some seasonal music a children's choir sing “Away in a Manger.”

God Bless.

Rev. Adrian J Pratt B.D.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Outlasting the Energizer Bunny


The Christmas season. So much to do! Extra responsibilities to deal with. It is easy to become exhausted by it all. Last Sunday, on the first Sunday of Advent we were thinking about “Looking Down the Road.” (sermon here). On the second Sunday of Advent we'll be thinking about about Isaiah 40:1-11, and taking as a theme “Outlasting the Energizer Bunny.”

My adapted version of Isaiah 40 verse 8 reads; "The Grass Withers, the flower fades, the energizer bunny eventually runs out of gumption; but the Word of our God will stand for ever."

Our mortality cannot be avoided. The clock keeps ticking. Even the energizer bunny has a battery that eventually dies. How do we build stuff into our lives that has a lasting quality? Here's a few suggestions gleaned from Isaiah's words of wisdom.
Welcome life’s seasons. We are all just passing through this life. We need to make the most of every step of the journey. Embrace every stage of life for what it is! Each season carries its own special beauty. Every day brings its particular challenges. We recharge our batteries by acknowledging that “This is the day that the Lord has made."
Build on God’s Word. According to Isaiah the only thing that really lasts for ever is not the Energizer bunny, but the Word of God. There is all sort of stuff we can build our hopes on, but a lot of it ultimately leaves us flat. When we seek to apply the principles of God’s Word to our daily lives then it really makes a difference.

If we seek for our lives to be molded by the teaching of the One, who came to us as a baby in a stable in Bethlehem all those centuries ago, then we are allowing principles and forces and dynamics, with eternal reverberations, to shape who we are and what our life will be and where our lives will take us.
Accept the empowering of the Holy Spirit. We are not called to make this journey alone. Jesus promised His disciples that He would send His Holy Spirit to be their helper and their guide. We fall and fail time after time. By God’s love we are forgiven and renewed. By God’s Spirit our batteries are recharged and... we… saved by grace through faith… can outlast energizer bunnies!

For some music, the Advent Carol “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” sung by Red Mountain Music.

Prayer: "
Lord in this season of Advent we can become over tired and down hearted. Our strength and patience can run out. Help us to take the time to build into our lives the eternal principles of Your Word and to turn to You for the renewing power of Your Holy Spirit to refresh and renew our lives for Your Service." Amen.
 
Rev Adrian J Pratt B.D