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Showing posts from December, 2016

The Spirit of Christmas

Luke 2:1-20
December 24, 2016, Christmas Eve
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

These past four weeks, we’ve been contemplating the story of Scrooge alongside the story of Christmas – the gifts of peace, hope, love and joy. Both of these stories are familiar, and both have much to teach us. So tonight we will consider the tale of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and we will hear again the story of the birth of Jesus.

Let’s start with the fictional character – Ebenezer Scrooge. He was “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” And one night he was visited by four ghosts – his old partner Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. Each one of these spirits has something important to show Scrooge. And because of what he sees, Scrooge is transformed. He goes from “Bah! Humbug!” to “God bless us everyone!”

We know Scrooge – we’ve all met a Scrooge or two. Maybe we wondered how he was so successful, maybe wondered if she …

Remembering the Future

Revelation 1:4; Luke 4:18-19; Romans 8:4b-17
December 18, 2016
First Presbyterian Church Sterling, IL
Christina Berry

We have three brief readings today, all from the New Testament. Fittingly for the theme of worship today, we begin with the end, a single verse from the first chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation. As you know, we Presbyterians understand this book not as a prediction of rapture and the end times, but as a prophecy and promise of the return of Christ, bringing not tribulation and Armageddon but a new heaven and a new earth. This particular verse calls to our attention the eternal past, present and future of Christ. Now that you’ve heard an introduction five times longer than the actual scripture, listen for the word of the Lord in

Revelation 1:4:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come.

The second reading is from Luke’s gospel, a brief excerpt from a sermon Jesus preached in his hometown synagogue. The sermon was well receive…

Keep Your Eyes Open

Deuteronomy 15: 7-11
Matthew 2: 1-18
December 11, 2016
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Our scripture readings for today may be a bit unexpected, given the joyful time we’ve just had with our children’s program. The first reading is from Deuteronomy, the “second law,” that is, the second giving of the law to the Israelites as they entered the Promised Land. This reading comes from a section of Deuteronomy that is about “regulations concerning the sacred division of time.” That cycle includes observance of Sabbath, the giving of the tithe, the remission of debts, the manumission of slaves, and the care of those who are poor. Let’s listen for God’s word in Deuteronomy 15:7-11, from the Common English Bible:

Now if there are some poor persons among you, say one of your fellow Israelites in one of your cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, don’t be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward your poor fellow Israelites. To the contrary! Open your hand wide…


Isaiah 9:2, 6; Luke 2: 8-14
December 4, 2016
First Presbyterian Church, Sterling IL
Christina Berry

Again today we hear scripture of prophecy and fulfillment. The prophet Isaiah assures the people that the light of God will break through the darkness of their time, and that the source of that inbreaking will be a child who is the light of the world. In the gospel reading, we hear the familiar story of the shepherds, living out in the fields with their sheep, whose dark night is illuminated by the appearance of an angel – a messenger from God. Of course, they were terrified. But the angel, as angels do, reminds them not to be afraid, because the message from God is a message of hope, of light in the darkness, of an event that will change everything, even the way we understand and interpret our past. Let’s listen for the good news of prophecy and fulfillment in Isaiah and Luke.

Isaiah 9: 2, 6
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darknes…