We pray. We study the Bible. We make friends. We tell our stories. We give ourselves away in generosity and service.
A PERSONAL PRAYER
Today is your day. It is a wonderful and amazing day. You made it. You gave it to me as a gift. And what is most important – you are going to go through it with me. That, in and of itself, is the root of my joy. So I will rejoice, today. I bet we have some great stuff today, you and I – some laughter, some fun, some sharing of hearts, some striving together to make a difference in the world. And you will be right there during all of it. It will be so great for us to do this stuff together. And we might have some moments that aren’t so good—some heartbreak, some loneliness, some obstacles, some regrets and mistakes and challenges. And you will be present in the midst of these moments, too. And I will rejoice in your presence there, too, because if I have you beside me and underneath me and in front of me and inside me, we can handle anything together.
O God, forgive me for not seeing you with me no matter what, and rejoicing in your presence. Show me how to share you with others, that they might rejoice too.
KEY VERSE FOR THE WEEK:
“And Mary said, “my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” Luke 1:46-47 Read the Scripture passage for this Sunday’s message here.
QUESTIONS FOR CONVERSATION:
When have you felt joy in a “no matter what” circumstance? Who has re–gifted joy to you, by example or reframing?
SOME THOUGHTS TO SHARE
I am really excited this year about our 2016 Christmas offering, which focuses on zero to five learning. We are supporting the Collaborative for Children, Legacy Community Health, and UT Health to work with young moms and child care centers, giving them the training, tools, and books to promote learning for these young kids. By the time children who live below the poverty line reach the age of four, they will have heard an average of 30 million fewer words than other children, creating a deficit in brain development that is difficult to make up. Each dollar spent on zero to five learning saves $8 later on. We believe this is so important. If you would like to help support this project, envelopes will be in the pew/chairs on Sunday, or you can give online here.
Put on your calendar our Christmas eve services, all of which you can find here. Also, note that on Christmas day and New Year’s Day, St. Luke’s will have no Encounter service, and only one traditional service at 11:00 am in the Sanctuary. The Story Houston will have only one service at 11:05. There is no Sunday School on these days.
This Sunday morning, December 11, we continue our Advent series on “Regifting Christmas.” This week, we will talk about regifting joy, in a message entitled “The China Plate.” How would you define the difference between joy and happiness? … between joy and pleasure?
I hope you are following our Advent devotional prayers and activities. This week, don’t miss:
- Encounter worship community’s Christmas Cantata at 8:45 on Sunday, December 11
- The Rob Landes Concert and Family Sing a–long on Sunday, December 11 at 4:00 pm, with children’s choirs, and a cocoa party afterwards (along with a live donkey, of course).
- Our Gethsemane campus hosts Christmas Around the World with a holiday potluck at 5:30 and Carol sing at 6:30 on Wednesday, December 14.
- The Story Houston’s Travelers Christmas Eve Service on Thursday, December 15 at 7:00 pm in The Story building.
Our website will give you more information about all our Advent and Christmas activities
Sunday, December 11
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed” Luke 1:39-48
Eternal God, Father of Light: give us eyes to see the Christ Child pushing back the darkness in our world. Make us people of belief rather than people of certainty, for it is in believing that we find the true joy of Christmas. Amen.
Monday, December 12
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11
Lord, you have graciously given us the gift of your son, the Messiah, who gave his life to redeem us from our sin. In his life, he taught us how to live for you and for one another and how to love each other divinely. Through Jesus, we find great joy and peace regardless of our circumstances. Let us not be afraid to tell the Good News and help others find joy in you also. Amen.
Use only Christmas mugs for all of your drinks today.
Tuesday, December 13
Hear, you peoples, all of you; listen, O earth, and all that is in it; and let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple. For lo, the Lord is coming out of his place, and will come down and tread upon the high places of the earth. Micah 1:2-3
Dear Heavenly Father and Maker of our Joy, thank you for your word and promise to return to tread upon the high places of the earth. We anxiously await your return and look forward and pray to receive your holy blessings and undeniable and everlasting Joy and Love. Lord we pray for our remaining time here on this earth and ask you to watch over us and to protect us. We praise you for the gift and promise that we will ultimately leave our earthly bodies and earthly ways, and ultimately join and walk with you in eternity! Amen. —Prayer by Jim Hogan
Make a date to go caroling with friend or family and spread Joy.
Wednesday, December 14
For the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
Dear God, this time of year is when we get crazy. There is so much to do and we beat ourselves up because we may or may not want to do it all, but we know we should be saying no to things and leave more room for the things that are holy to us. Help us to not fight the crazy times but to see you at work in it. Help us to feel your joy as we go about our day. Help us to see your joy as we spend time with the people you have put us in community with. Help us to feel the love and joy you have for us that is so great, you gave us the gift of your son, the joy of your heart. Help us to see the joy in finding this quiet moment to stop and tell you thank you. Amen. —Prayer by Faith Ayers, Encounter Worship Leader
Talk to a loved one about their favorite Christmas memory.
Thursday, December 15
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11
Loving God, you are all that we need, and in you, we are complete. Help us to focus on you and your unending Joy this Christmas season. Let us unwrap your gift of eternal salvation and experience your full Joy, and then, send us out to regift your perfect love and unending Joy. Amen.
Regift Joy and “pay it forward” in line somewhere today. Pay for the person behind you (works best in a drive-thru)
Friday, December 16
Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. Peter 1:8-9
Heavenly Father, let us trust in what we do not see. During this Christmas season, I pray that true Joy would come into this world and help many find peace. Thank you for Jesus and the joy and peace that flood the hearts of all that know him. Help me share this joy of knowing Jesus to all who are in my path. Through you, let me rejoice in everything. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. —Nicole De Los Santos
Jump in the car and head out to see Christmas lights. Turn your radio to a station that plays Christmas music and sing along.
Saturday, December 17
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Gracious God, Even in anxious times, we have hope. And even when we struggle, we remain hopeful. For you are always healing, always creating, always restoring, and always loving us. What joy we have in knowing that! We love you and pray this is Christ’s holy name. Amen.
—Prayer by Katie Montgomery Mears
Invite another family, or friends, to come over in their pajamas or sweats to watch a favorite Christmas movie and share a Christmas treat.