Before starting, the meeting host should print out enough copies of this page (click on green printer icon above) for everyone in the group.
After general introductions, word of welcome and review of guidelines for small groups the meeting host will:
1. Invite someone to read the daily devotion printed below aloud.
2. Read the following introduction to the full text aloud:
Rev. Emily Heath takes on the annual holiday busyness that keeps even faithful church members from coming to church Christmas Eve. No matter how much you think you have to do, she says: "Come anyway." Will you be willing to re-arrange your to-do list to include Christmas Eve services this year?
3. Read the full text again (below): Luke 13: 31-35
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." 32 He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me,[c] ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. 33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.' 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when[d] you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
4. Take a minute or two for silent contemplation.
5. As a group, reflect on the following questions (remember to refrain from cross-talk):
What word, phrase or image jumps out at you from this reading? Everyone shares without commentary.
What’s God saying to you in this passage? (remember to refrain from cross talk)
What is the call to action for you and/or for our faith community? (feel free to engage in group conversation when discussing calls to action).
6. Close the meeting by praying the Lord’s Prayer together.
Too Busy for That
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to Jesus, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you." He said to them, "Go and tell that fox for me, 'Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.'" - Luke 13:31-32
As good excuses go, hearing that someone wants you dead ranks right up there at the top.
When Jesus gets tipped off to Herod's plan for him, everyone expects him to take off running. But he doesn't. Instead he tells them to tell that "fox" Herod that he's got more important things to do.
"Listen, I've got demons and cures here . . . come back in three days".
Jesus is good at reminding us not to let the things that want to, literally and figuratively, dictate how we use our time. And that's a great reminder around Christmastime.
Every year, in every church I have served, at least one faithful church member comes to me to let me know they won't be at Christmas Eve worship.
"Going out of town this year?" I ask.
"No, just way too much to do," they respond.
They then proceed to tell me about how many family members are coming, about the big turkey they are cooking the next day, about the presents waiting to be wrapped, and about how stressed out they are about all of it. They'd love to be at Christmas Eve worship, they tell me, but they don't feel like they can take the time.
"Come anyway," I say. Come, first, because your house guests will understand, and maybe even want to join you. And, if they don't understand, well then, they can just deal with getting their turkey an hour later the next day. You're here every Sunday morning, so I know this matters to you, and going to worship God on one of the holiest nights of the church year is not an act of selfishness.
If Jesus could make Herod wait, you can make your brother-in-law, and every other old fox you know, wait too. Stick a bow on the hard-to-wrap present. Take the elaborate Christmas Eve party down a few notches. Because you are way too busy welcoming Emmanuel, God-with-us.
God-with-us, help us to never be too busy for you (even if it means Christmas dinner is late).