Advent Study Week 3

Be Transformed this Advent Season!

In Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas, best-selling author Adam Hamilton examines the names of Christ used by the gospel writers, exploring the historical and personal significance of his birth.

A small group at the church is studying this book for Advent. We want to share the experience with others. Each week we will post questions from the previous study so you can follow along. Our prayer is that you’re able to find joy in this Advent Season in a time of uncertainty.

Blessings,
San Jose First UMC

Incarnation Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas book art

WEEK THREE

Question 1:

“I do not believe that God sent the coronavirus, but I do believe he is with us in the midst of this pandemic, doing what God always does—comforting, leading, consoling, and wringing good from the adversity and pain. There will be plenty of silver linings from this frightening turn of events. Even now, in the midst of the pandemic, the world has changed in so many ways for the better. There is tragedy and death, but there is life, hope, goodness, and love.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (page 90)

Where are you noticing God “wringing good” from the pain of the ongoing pandemic?

Question 2:

“This is what we mean when we speak of the Incarnation: God took on flesh and entered our world as a human being. It is clear in scripture that Jesus is not merely God wrapped in human flesh—God in a body. He became human in Jesus. He experienced what we experience as humans. In Jesus, God experienced temptation, love, hunger, joy, fear, friendship, grief, doubt, rejection, a sense of abandonment by God, and death. He wept, he bled, he suffered, he died. There is something profoundly moving about God actually knowing what we are experiencing as humans.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (page 102)

When was a time you found special meaning and comfort in God having become human in Jesus Christ?

Question 3:

“Matthew begins his Gospel telling us that Jesus is ‘God with us’—Emmanuel. At the end of his Gospel, he recounts Jesus’s final words to his disciples, ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28:20). It is not just that God was with us in Jesus, but that Jesus continues to be with us. He is still Emmanuel. And because I believe he is with me, I live differently; I have peace, I find strength, I live seeking to walk with him.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (page 109)

How do you live differently because Jesus was and continues to be “Emmanuel”?

Sermon Audio December 13

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: John the Baptist…again.

Sermon Audio

Blue Christmas: A Service of Lament, Hope, and Healing

blue lights on a Christmas tree

Blue Christmas Service
Sunday, December 20, 7:00pm on Zoom

For many people, Christmas is a difficult and painful time of year. The joy of the season can magnify feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression. The pandemic has resulted in unimaginable losses this year — loss of life, loss of jobs, loss of day-to-day routines, loss of activities, loss of visiting with friends, loss of pre-covid church, loss of spending the holidays with family, and many other losses. Local, national, and global problems can contribute to feelings of anger, despair, and hopelessness as well.

Blue Christmas is a time to acknowledge such pain, sadness, and grief in a sacred space that reminds us we are not alone. Join us for an intimate Zoom Blue Christmas Service with prayer, readings, music, and candle-lighting as we support one another with compassion and understanding, opening our lives to hope and healing.

The Zoom link will be sent in an email. To get the Zoom link, email us or join our email list if you aren’t already receiving our emails.

Christmas Message from Pastor Gerardo

Winter is closer to us every day. The darker days affect people in various ways, some suffering from depression. I do not like short days, because it makes me feel that I have less time. But on the other hand, I like the cooler weather.

This year has been very difficult for many, and we already want it to end. This pandemic is affecting the world with death and worries. Many people are losing a family member or friend or we realize that a neighbor or a relative has contracted the virus. Also, the fight to contain the spread of the disease is greatly affecting economic affairs of many families and businesses. Both large corporations and small businesses have experienced layoffs of employees or closures of their companies. Many are bankrupt because of these closures. Many part-time and full-time employees have stopped working for months, and others have already lost their jobs. Rents, bills and debts do not wait, and many people are forced to get more loans to maintain their businesses. All of our lives are affected by the limitations imposed on hotels, restaurants, beauty salons, barber shops, gyms, shops, and even grocery stores. This is not just in America, it is worldwide.

Apparently 2020 has also been a very bad year for the planet. Fires have devastated at least 5 western states in our country and flooding has caused damage in the central states. Southern Mexico and Central America have suffered with the floods caused by Hurricane Lota. Results of these catastrophes have cost billions of dollars and further overwhelmed hospitals. Populations of many countries across the globe are divided by political and social differences.

Certainly it is a very dark and difficult year. One of my brothers posted a question on Facebook asking why do we celebrate Christmas if we are not together. That made me sad, and surely others think the same. My mother used to say that it is always darkest before the dawn, and that there is no evil that lasts forever; however, nobody can resist it.

christmas lights in the shape of a christmas tree

I have noticed that many people are already putting up their Christmas lights and decorations. I’m glad to see this, since we must not lose faith and hope that we will soon come out of this crisis. We have to start thinking about what we have done wrong. What does our planet want to tell us regarding the circumstances that we are going through? Also, we need to value our family more, since life is very short. We need to rethink our values, since living with vanity is useless; youth and money are fleeting. We must focus more on God, love Him above all things, and allow His will to enable us to love one another as He loves us.

This Christmas Eve we must prepare ourselves with prayer and meditation to do things better for ourselves while still thinking about others. We can ask God that on Christmas Eve, the Baby Jesus will be born in our hearts and transform us from within. We want to become more like Him, full of light, humility and compassion for others. But above all we pray that we never lose the hope, peace, joy, and love that God offers us.

Pastor Gerardo Vázquez

Advent Study Week 2

Be Transformed this Advent Season!

In Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas, best-selling author Adam Hamilton examines the names of Christ used by the gospel writers, exploring the historical and personal significance of his birth.

A small group at the church is studying this book for Advent. We want to share the experience with others. Each week we will post questions from the previous study so you can follow along. Our prayer is that you’re able to find joy in this Advent Season in a time of uncertainty.

Blessings,
San Jose First UMC

Incarnation Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas book art

WEEK TWO

Question 1:

“I’m reminded of someone who once said to me, ‘Why do Christians spend so much time talking about sin?’ For some people, it feels like sin is the only thing they hear about in church. I want to be clear: if all you ever hear about in church on Sunday is sin, you’re probably in the wrong church. But if you never hear about sin in church, you may also be at the wrong church. The good news of Jesus is not that we’re sinners, but that he is our Savior. But we can’t appreciate his role as Savior if we don’t know we need to be saved.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (pages 51–52)

How would you respond to someone who asked, “Why do Christians spend so much time talking about sin?”

Question 2:

“My experience, after forty-two years of being a Christian and attempting to walk with Christ daily, is that I am still tempted to think, say, or do things God does not intend. But when I turn to Christ, I sense his strength, his help, and his deliverance. He has transformed, and is transforming, my inner desires. We call this sanctification—the process by which the Holy Spirit changes our hearts and minds so that we become the people God intended us to be.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (page 59)

When was a time you were aware of the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work in your life?

Question 3:

“Love came down at Christmas to a stable in Bethlehem, to two poor parents and a handful of night-shift shepherds. That love would be evident in the way he healed the sick, forgave sinners, welcomed children, fed the hungry, and cared for his disciples. But nowhere was that love more clearly seen than on the cross as he hung there, saying, ‘This much. God loves you this much.’”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (pages 75-76)

Who has shared the message of God’s love for you in an especially meaningful way?

Sermon Audio December 6

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: The Good News of Advent

Sermon Audio

Advent Study Week 1

Be Transformed this Advent Season!

His parents gave him the name Jesus. But the prophets, the shepherds, the wise men, and the angels addressed him by other names. They called him Lord, Messiah, Savior, Emmanuel, Light of the World, and Word Made Flesh.

In Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas, best-selling author Adam Hamilton examines the names of Christ used by the gospel writers, exploring the historical and personal significance of his birth.

This Advent season church families will come together to remember what’s important. In the face of uncertainty and conflict, Christians reclaim the Christ Child who brings us together, heals our hearts, and calls us to bring light into the darkness.

Now more than ever, we invite you to reflect upon the significance of the Christ-child for our lives and world today!

A small group at the church is studying this book for Advent. We want to share the experience with others. Each week we will post questions from the previous study so you can follow along. Our prayer is that you’re able to find joy in this Advent Season in a time of uncertainty.

Blessings,
San Jose First UMC

Incarnation Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas book art

WEEK ONE

Question 1:

“This season puts into perspective all our political wrangling. … While our politics have divided us, Advent should bring us together, uniting us around the newborn King and his life, message, ministry, death, and resurrection. … Advent beckons all who consider themselves Christians—regardless of whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or Independents—to come to the stable and there fall on our knees as the shepherds surely did, yielding our allegiance, our hearts, and our will to the newborn King.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (pages 17–18)

How are you experiencing unity among Christians, despite their political differences, this Advent?

Question 2:

“We live in that period between the triumph of Easter and Christ’s triumphant return when he makes all things new. We see a world where suffering still occurs, where darkness seems to reign, where the kingdoms of this world seem to have the upper hand. We continue to live as followers of the King whose kingdom is not of this world, but breaking into this world through his followers—through us.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (page 38)

How do you believe Jesus’s kingdom is breaking into this world through your community of faith?

Question 3:

“Today, nearly a third of the world’s population claims Jesus as their King. Far more have been influenced by the things he taught, the values he espoused, the life he lived. I don’t believe it is an overstatement to say that he is the single most influential person to have walked this planet. For those who count him as King, as I do, we awaken each day recognizing that our highest allegiance, our deepest devotion, and our greatest commitment is not to country or political party or even to family, but to Jesus the Christ, our King, whose kingdom is the climax of human history.”
— Adam Hamilton, Incarnation: Rediscovering the Significance of Christmas (pages 38–39)

What do you consider the most significant measure of Jesus’s influence on the world?

Sermon Audio November 29

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: When the Sun Darkens

Sermon Audio

Sermon Audio November 22

Pastoral Reflection by Rev. Jeffrey D. Hall entitled: Echoes in Eternity

Sermon Audio

Thanksgiving / El Día de Acción de Gracias

Thanksgiving is one of the holidays in North American culture that I like the most, because it is a celebration of gratitude to God for what was received during the year. Or as they say, it is the harvest of what is sown.

I am not going to write about the history of this tradition; you know it well, because it is yours. I will write about how we Hispanics live it in this great country. For me it is very satisfying to hear that people share with those who do not have what is needed: the pumpkin pie, the corn bread, the champagne, and above all, the baked stuffed turkey. The whole family gets together. Members travel from different states to be present that day with their loved ones, and everyone prays and gives thanks to God.

Painting of the first Thanksgiving meal

Hispanics/Latinos are embracing this celebration with great respect as God is present in united families. Some Mexicans do not know how to cook the traditional delicacies, so we use our own recipes and cook foods such as pozole and tamales, and our beverages are punch and tequila. We do not try to change the traditions, but because we don’t know how to cook turkey in the oven, it turns out very hard and dry. So, in order not to fail, we eat our own dishes. The important thing about this date is not the food, but rather being together, and, united as a family, giving thanks to God for what we have received from the fruits of our labors.

The pandemic has changed our lives. For everyone’s safety many families will not meet this year, so that the virus does not spread further. We want to be healthy and alive for next year. So, traditions will be set aside. I know that many will call their families by phone or video to greet each other or visit during virtual dinners. It is sad, but we should not be discouraged; instead we should thank God that we are alive. We can be heartened by sharing with those around us.

This year I want to thank the members of First Church and the Methodist women for their donations, making it possible for the families in El Maguey to have food on their tables in these difficult times. For them it is a blessing and also for you, since they are doing what God likes: helping and loving our neighbors as ourselves. On Friday November 13th in El Maguey, Cristo Vive distributed 120 grocery bags for families in need. It is a blessing and a reason to thank God and you.

This coming Thanksgiving Day I recommend that you do not stop celebrating, either alone or in company. You have to thank our Lord Jesus Christ for His love, protection and blessings.

Today we celebrate that God is good and always will be. We thank God for being our Heavenly Father, He has provided bread in the home and has given strength to each one in the family to continue achieving dreams. Thank God for being the light in the midst of the darkness of hardships. In difficult moments He has been our comfort. Thank God for his blessings and for the happiness He brings to our hearts.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

Happy Thanksgiving Day!
Pastor Gerardo Vázquez-Padilla