Christmas Eve 2018

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On Christmas Eve, we will celebrate the final gift of an advent-urous life - one that gives us a vision of a Kingdom that looks radically different as we celebrate the birth of Christ. This is going to be an incredible couple of days! In the midst of what can be chaos and stress, we can hear the voice of God offering peace and presence - truly God amongst us - Emmanuel.

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An Advent-urous Life: Peace

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What an incredible week as we conclude Advent and look forward to the celebration of Christmas! This Sunday, we'll learn how an advent-urous life leads to peace. Mahatma Gandhi is often credited as saying, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with it." This quote can't be linked to him directly, but different versions have been shared by many famous leaders including Ronald Reagan who had his own spin saying, “Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to cope with it using peaceful means.”

Whoever is defining peace, one thing is clear...peace isn’t a denial of difference or a spiritual denial of the world in which we live. Peace is more than a denial of conflict. The Advent story of Christ coming into our world reminds us that peace is possible even in the midst of what feels like incredible strife and conflict. This week, Pastor Sarah will examine how Mary’s very identity and the manner in which Jesus was born help point to the possibility of peace. This type of peace stands in contrast to the peace that was offered by Rome and continues to be offered by simply stomping out conflict. Advent-urous peace is an invitation to look beyond conflict with a different kind of vision. On Christmas Eve, we will celebrate the final gift of an advent-urous life - one that gives us a vision of a Kingdom that looks radically different as we celebrate the birth of Christ. This is going to be an incredible couple of days! In the midst of what can be chaos and stress, we can hear the voice of God offering peace and presence - truly God amongst us - Emmanuel.

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An Advent-urous Life: Joy

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Advent-urous living requires us to look at the world with a different view. It requires us to be open to how God is working even when things don’t look as we had hoped...and even when it's sometimes difficult to see how God is working at all. On the first Sunday of Advent, we talked about how advent-urous living requires us to have hope even when it appears the darkness is winning. Last week, Scott Erickson helped us see how advent-urous living requires us to see the Love available to us even in the times when we don’t feel lovable or feel like loving others. In this message, we'll take our advent cue from the angels as they speak to the shepherds in Luke’s Christ birth narrative. Though the shepherds have a sense of fear (as one would seeing the heavens open and celestial beings appear), we are told that they are assured that this message is one to bring great joy. It is easy to get joy and happiness confused, isn't it? Happiness is situational, but joy is something that exists at a deeper level and requires us to tap into the hope and love from the last two weeks. This week, Pastor Sarah is going to spend time looking at how advent-urous living can help us experience joy and share that joy with others even in the midst of a difficult season.

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An Advent-urous Life: Love

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This week, we're honored to have artist Scott Erickson at First United to talk about the Advent-urous life of Love. In a time when everything is available at our fingertips, it can seem that if things take time to flourish and grow...maybe it’s not true at all. This season of anticipating Love can teach us that Love is always at work, never withheld, and ultimately the joy that is present to us in this season.

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An Advent-urous Life: Hope

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In this message, we begin the Advent season and a new series called The Advent-urous Life. If you're new to this whole “liturgical year” concept, the church calendar was developed to help us set a new rhythm of life. No matter what stage of life we are in, the liturgical calendar can help us get out of our ruts and set a new rhythm.

Advent is the season of waiting in anticipation of Christmas and the beginning of the new church year. Waiting isn't always easy - especially if you've been in a season of waiting for a long time! Advent seeks to help us have a three-fold way of looking at the world (past, present, and future) as we wait for what is to come. Truthfully, if we're listening to the news and hearing of another scandal, it can be hard to see how the Kingdom of God is breaking through into this world. Yet, we are a people of hope. This week, we talk about how Jesus can help us hold onto and experience Hope even in the midst of painful waiting - and sometimes disappointment. Join Pastor Sarah as she shares how an Advent-urous life is a life of Hope!

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23 and He: Rahab

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What does Jesus' ancestry tell us about how the early Christians understood his identity? If Jesus is God in human flesh, then what can we learn about how God comes to us from Jesus' genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew? Rahab, one of the most unlikely members of Jesus' genealogy, helps us get a long way in answering these questions and more. Message by Tim Storey.

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23 and He: Josiah

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As we continue our series on the genealogy of Jesus, Pastor Sarah Heath looked at the interesting story of Josiah, an 8 year old boy who became king. Can you imagine knowing your career from the time you are 8? Before Josiah, there are a long list of kings who have made big mistakes and let power get the best of them. For Josiah to be a faithful leader, he will have to redefine what a king looks like and make massive reforms to how religion is engaged. We may not hear a lot about Josiah, but we have him to thank for scriptures being gathered into part of the Torah. He himself will not live to see how his faithfulness will impact an entire people group, but his legacy becomes part of Jesus’ genealogy and is a backdrop for how Jesus is able to bring a new way of engaging faith. This week, we look at how Josiah’s life can be a lesson in faithfulness beyond what we see finished. All of these stories are preparing us for the celebration of Jesus' birth!

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23 and He: Ruth

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Have you ever come across a long list of names in the Bible and you just stop reading? All those hard-to-pronounce names can be overwhelming, right? We may be tempted to skip over the genealogies, but they're in there for a reason. If we dig a little deeper, we notice certain names are included while others seem to be left out. Oftentimes, the people mentioned have surprising stories! Before we move into the Advent season, we're going to take some time to look at Jesus' genealogy and why Matthew, in particular, includes certain names. These stories are scandalous and maybe not the relatives you think would be mentioned. We all have relatives we may not admit to knowing or sharing genetics with! This week, we start with Ruth. Why does Ruth’s story effect who Jesus is? And, how is Matthew helping us better understand Jesus by knowing where he came from?

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Do You See What I See?: What Is The Radical Way of Jesus?

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Jesus began his public ministry by reciting these words from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor." Each time we take communion together, we read this passage as a reminder of Jesus' mission. In this message, Pastor Sarah wraps up our vision series by asking the question, "How can we (the community of First United) live out this radical way of Jesus? What are we being called to do in our cities, workplaces, and homes to bring good news, release the captives, and set the oppressed free?" This can be a daunting task, so we will talk about practical ways we can begin tackling this important call.

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Do You See What I See?: What Are We All Afraid Of?

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As we've been engaging the First United vision over the past few weeks, we've been asking questions...
What is most true about God? God is love.
What is most true about me? I am loved.
What do we all need? Genuine relationships.
In this message, David Trotter helps us ask…what are we all afraid of? You may be surprised by the answer!

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Do You See What I See?: What Do We All Need?

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No person is an Island. We've all heard that before, right? Maybe you’ve seen movies like “Castaway” that show how desperately we need people, but sometimes we forget just how valuable deep friendships truly are. This week, as we continue discussing why First United exists, Pastor Sarah talks about why we are created for deep, authentic, transformational relationships - so much more than just having people around us. Paul used the metaphor of the body to describe how we are to be in community with each other. Each body part relying on the other. In this digital and busy age, it's so easy to have surface relationships, and church can just become one more thing we do each week. If we're truly going to live out our call to be the people of God, it is going to demand that we take a step further and allow ourselves to be known and know others. Listen in , and hear why we need you...and you need us!

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Do You See What I See?: What Is Most True About Me?

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As a community, we are diving into why we exist and where we think God is taking us. We are taking time to catch the same vision of what our community is about and asking, “Do you see what I see?" If you missed last week, I invite you to listen to the podcast and catch up. Last week, we looked at what is most true about God...that God is love. In this message, we are talking about what is most true about all of us and why that changes the way we see the entire world around us and how we move and act in the world. We're going to spend some time looking at the familiar section of scripture (Romans 8:35-39). What implications does this have for us as individuals and as First United? Lets see if we can all catch the vision together!

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Do You See What I See?: What Is Most True About God?

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Over the past two years, First United has gone through a renovation in many ways. Through emerging leadership, countless volunteer hours, and generous financial supporters, we've literally paved the way for newcomers to join this unique community where "no one belongs here more than you."

This Sunday is an important day in the life of our church. Pastor Sarah shares a vision statement that our Leadership Board has prayerfully developed as they collectively sense God's unique direction for First United. Our hope is that this series will further unify us as a church and inspire us to keep loving our community.

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Follow The Leader: A Leader Is a Catalyst

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If you grew up in the church you probably knew the story of Zacchaeus and the catchy song... “Zacchaeus was a wee little man.” His story can be so familiar that we miss out on its scandalous nature. A tax collector encounters Jesus and finds that there's room for him in the Kingdom of God. This is a powerful story about stepping away from comfort and toward something completely new! After having this powerful experience, Zacchaeus doesn’t just stay in the tree or even in his home. He becomes a force for good in the world. A real leader doesn’t just leave us where we are but is a catalyst for the Kingdom that has offered us grace. This story is almost too risky for us to have children sing about it! The story of Zacchaeus invites us to be fully seen and to become catalysts for change in the world.

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Follow The Leader: A Leader Helps Define Purpose

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This week, we continue our series on leadership as modeled by Jesus. As a reminder, Jesus shows us that good leadership is about seeing people based on their potential, not by the names they have given themselves or been given by others. Good leadership takes pain and transforms it into possibility. This week, Pastor Sarah Heath looks at the conversion story of Paul to see how a life lived in the way of Jesus requires us to move from what is comfortable, to what has the power to help many. Paul will learn there must be movement in his life after encountering Jesus. A good leader helps us see where we are is not where we should stay. Even if we don't think of ourselves as leaders, we are all being invited into something more!

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Follow The Leader: A Leader Knows Our Faults

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Have you ever realized you messed up and were afraid to address it with the person you wronged? Making mistakes is part of the human condition, and frequently, our reaction is to avoid dealing with it. Often, a hidden shame begins to grow and that shame can paralyze us from moving ahead in life and realizing our full potential. The right person (or leader) can help us move past our shame and move toward a more authentic life. This week, Pastor Sarah will look at a time when Jesus helped people address their own shame - empowering them to move forward in their own lives, while also impacting the lives of those around them.

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Follow The Leader: A Leader Restores Dignity and Identity

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Leadership development seems to be a buzz phrase lately. No matter your stage of life or type of work, you're probably being offered leadership development to help you become a better leader. From mentorship to apprenticeship, it seems like we're all looking to follow a good leader and become someone worth following ourselves. But, what is healthy leadership? If we say we follow Jesus as a leader, how does he teach us to be a good leader and follow healthy leaders as well? Join Pastor Sarah Heath over the next four week as we learn how Jesus leads by example, so we can become better leaders while also discerning who is worth following.

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Across The Room: A Conversation on Addiction

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With 12 years of sobriety, Chris Logan, CADC-II, ICADC, is the Program Supervisor at Simple Recovery, an intimate, client-centered licensed addiction treatment center that distinctively treats addiction and co-occurring disorders in Huntington Beach, California. His experience as both a counselor and case manager has equipped him with a uniquely powerful way to connect with each client. Chris oversees the residential and outpatient programming, providing one-on-one support to clients in early sobriety and overseeing the clinical programming at each facility.

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Across The Room: A Conversation on Human Trafficking

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Amber Davies, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been the Director of Clinical Programs at Saving Innocence since 2014. Amber began her career working in group homes and alongside law enforcement in a juvenile diversion program before becoming licensed in 2011. Her professional roles include a therapist for foster youth, a professor of social work education and Team Leader, managing teams both locally and in Australia. As a part of Saving Innocence, Amber oversees a team of advocates, trains front line responders, service providers, and foster/ resource families in the best practices of working with Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) and youth. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Westmont College, and a Master of Social Work degree from CSU, Long Beach.

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Across The Room: A Conversation on LGBTQIA Beyond Inclusion

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Justin Massey is a program associate for Equality California responsible for organizing Southern California Pride events and supporting the organization's healthcare, immigration and safe schools initiatives. Prior to joining Equality California, Justin worked as an independent political campaign consultant for local progressive candidates in Orange County. He is active in local politics and non-profit organizations including as a board member of the Orange County Young Democrats and an active partner of the LGBT Center OC. Justin graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science from Wheaton College in Illinois, where he came out, began his LGBTQ activism and started the first-ever LGBTQ student group at the school which was ranked in 2011 by the Princeton Review as the "#1 Least LGBTQ-Friendly Campus" in the nation.

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