Pastors know that at Christmas and Easter, they’ll see people they won’t see for the rest of the year, so they try to deliver a captivating message.
This year, everyone has been affected by the economy.
For the 15 million Americans out of work, and the million who lost their homes last year, the story of Mary and Joseph sleeping in a stable hits home.
The poor live on the margins of society, and Thursday night the Rev. Brian Collier, pastor of The Orchard, a United Methodist congregation, will speak of how Jesus became the ultimate outsider.
“He was born in an obscure town, to an unwed mother, and the shepherds are the first to hear of it,” said Collier.
The Rev. Forrest Sheffield also noted the poor social standing of the shepherds in his sermon Sunday.
“They were ostracized by their community, considered to be liars and thieves,” said the pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo.
“The fact that they received the announcement shows that the ground is level around the cross.”
Sunday, the Rev. Scott Nowlin, pastor of New Life Church in Tupelo, used Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan to talk about belonging, and how outsiders can defy expectations.
“The Samaritan was reviled, not even a full-blooded Jew, but he had enough God in him to give the gift of compassion,” he said.
Also on the proverbial outside are the 3,000 children in Mississippi’s foster care system, so in his Christmas sermon Sunday, the Rev. Sam Shaw of Hope Church talked about the importance of adoption, both literally and figuratively.
“I spoke about how God adopts us, spiritually, as we see in the theology of Paul, and related it to several examples of people in our church who’ve experienced the joy of adopting children,” he said.
For churches that follow the Western liturgical calendar, the season of Advent, the four weeks leading up to the birth of Christ, ends on Christmas Eve, at which point the 12 days of Christmastide begin.
Ministers in liturgical churches wear purple during Advent, the same color they wear during Lent, which leads up to Easter, signifying that Jesus’ birth is linked to his death and resurrection.
“It’s always, essentially, the death and resurrection that we’re celebrating,” said the Rev. Tom Lalor, pastor of St. James Catholic Church in Tupelo.
That’s the message he’ll preach during his homily at tonight’s Midnight Mass. It’s essentially a message of hope.
“It’s all over the Eucharistic Prayer,” said Lalor. “Any time we celebrate a feast in the church, we should be ‘Eastering.’”
That sense of hope is what Bishop Clarence Parks tried to convey Sunday at Temple of Compassion and Deliverance in Tupelo.
Parks used Genesis 3:15 to talk about the “first prophecy of Christmas,” and how it foretold light entering a dark world.
“Christmas has become so commercialized, but in a bad economy, maybe we realize that it’s compromised our joy,” he said.
“I told people to give the gift of kindness, to sit down and eat a meal with someone, or play a game of Monopoly. To bring joy back to the world.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal