2019-12-24 “A Christmas Homily”

A Christmas Homily 

Christmas Eve Service 

December 24, 2019 

Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC


Texts: Micah 5:2-4, Luke 2:1-10, John 1:1-18 

Sermon Title: Jesus, the Light of the World 


Are you a person who is really good at reading maps or following directions so that you are actually able to arrive to the place you want? I must confess that I am terrible at following directions and I almost always get lost. I think I get this from my dad. I can remember going with Him to visit someone who was sick form our church and we circled around this person’s neighborhood for almost an hour. It was only after we begged Him to call home and ask my mom for the woman’s telephone so that we can call her, was it that we were able to find this woman’ s home. 


Well, I’m basically the same way. Even when I follow google maps I am apt to get lost. Well, tonight we are reminded of those who traveled toward Bethlehem and the roads that they took toward that destination. The Christmas story presents us with three different groups of people and their three different roads they took.  


In the Gospel of Matthew we have the magi who took the road of scholarship and inquiry. After studying the sky and using their abilities to interpret the movement of the stars, the Magi arrive to Bethlehem. Their guide was the star. 


In Luke we have a group of shepherds who are minding their own business, doing their daily job of taking care of their flock and probably just hanging out in the hillside. In the midst of their nightly routine they are interrupted by an angel and then a host of angels all proclaiming the birth of Jesus and announcing what this birth will mean. The shepherds thus go to Bethlehem in a dramatic, heavenly revelation. 


But we also have Mary and Joseph who travel to Bethlehem out of family obligation, so they travel as a family going about the business of life. 


Isn’t it interesting that although all of these people traveled by different roads, under different circumstances, they all reach their destination, which is Bethlehem? 


Today the question may be by what road will we take to arrive at Bethlehem? For some it may be the road of scholarship and inquiry, for others it will be in the form of a family which is surprised to hear God’s word in the midst of daily life. Others will come to Bethlehem as a result of a dramatic experience. Which ever the road you take, God is still calling you to Bethlehem. 


And once at Bethlehem what will we encounter? We can not hear the story of Christmas with out noticing the scandal in which it takes place. After all, think about the condition in which Jesus was born. Jesus was born in a feeding trough, basically on the rode, not in a glorious palace or even a comfortable home. He was born to a couple who wasn’t even married yet but who was engaged to be married. Those who came to visit him were shepherds, who at that time were considered to be the lowest of the low, despised, lazy, shifty characters.  


Now God could have come in great splendor and majesty. By entering in this humble form, God identifies with the lowly and the oppressed, the homeless, the poor. It was among them that God could do the divine work. The story of Christmas then is both an announcement of hope and a call to humility. For there is room for everyone in Bethlehem: the poor, the despised, the brokenhearted, the imperfect. There is room there for you and for me. 


But what do we do once we arrive to Bethlehem? Do we go in great haste to meet the baby Jesus? Do we testify to God’s greatness and wonder in our lives as the shepherds did to everyone they met? God is still calling us to Bethlehem, toward His light.  


 In fact, in the Gospel of John we read that Jesus IS the light of the world. The challenge for us is how we are going to testify to this light? How are we going to share Jesus, who is the light of the world with everyone we know and meet? 


What I love about a New Year is that it gives me an opportunity to start all over. To use the perspective I have learned during the past year and to start fresh. 

When we start this New Year we can do so knowing that Jesus was born in order so that we would know his light, in order so that we would receive him over and over again, in order so that we can share with others who He is. We can do so, by honoring those we live and work and play with. We can share the light of Jesus by loving our neighbor, weather they are rich, poor, white, brown or black. We can share Jesus’ light by being kinder to ourselves and not trying to fit a false image of perfection. We can share the light of Jesus by forgiving those whom have wronged us. There are so many ways that we can testify to the light of Jesus. After all, let us remember that Jesus came for ALL. As the angel told the shepherds, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for ALL the people.”  

All people are on their own paths to Bethlehem. Those paths may take strange turns and twists in the rode, we may feel exhausted and perhaps even alone but He is illuminating our path, He is WITH us on our way toward Bethlehem. 

Therefore, let us go to Bethlehem to worship the Jesus who although came in the form of a helpless baby is our savior and a king. Let us go in the confidence that he will light our path and in the assurance that we do not go there on our own but together, with one another and with Him. 

So tonight, when you share the light of Jesus with the one sitting next to you, I invite you to tell that person that Jesus is the Light of the world! And when you do this, remember that Jesus is with you as you travel to Bethlehem! 


2019-12-22 “Homily”

December 22, 2019

Fourth Sunday in Advent-Love

Matthew 1:18-25

Sermon Meditation

Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC



            Everyone has a favorite Christmas movie, don’t they? Which is yours? Mine is a very silly one. It isn’t at all the sentimental kind like, “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special” which I happen to own and like very much. No, my favorite Christmas movie is “A Christmas Story” about a 9 year old boy who is hoping that he will be given a bb gun, called a “Red Ryder Carbine Action Two Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle”. All through the movie he schemes on how to convince his parents of this Christmas gift. You see, the problem is that his parents and everyone else he mentions the gift to, tell him that the bb gun would be a terrible thing for him to want for Christmas because he can, “put his eye out that way.” Well, I won’t tell you if he gets his Christmas gift he’s wishing for or not (in case you’ve never seen the movie before). I will tell you however, that toward the end of the movie, right before the boy’s father has an opportunity to eat the turkey he’s been so anxiously waiting for, a group of dogs come into their house and attack the turkey and eat it all up. The kitchen is left in shambles and the turkey is all gone. The family is forced to have their Christmas meal in a Chinese restaurant. So in this movie, not everything comes out quite exactly the way the characters in the movie want them to. No, what we see are all sorts of mayhem, chaos and silliness. Therefore, it isn’t the kind of movie that depicts a “Christmas that works.”

            Now I know that we have all been trying very hard, just like we do every year to make this Christmas “work” for us. And for some of us, it probably has been. But I imagine that for the majority of us it has been let’s say, “less than picture perfect.”

There were stores that did not have that last item you just needed to get for your son. There was the traffic to get through, the countless cookies to bake, the ribbons to keep away from your pets or small children. There were the distant family relatives that you never hear from except during this time of the year, for which you HAD to send a Christmas gift.

Then there are some of you who have been dealing with much more stressful situations, like serious family illnesses. Some of you have been mourning the deaths of loved ones in very acute ways during this season. Others of you have been dealing with difficult financial situations.

            Today, I want to remind you, however, that our picture “imperfect lives” does not determine Christ’s love for us. In fact, I also want to remind you that this Savior who came to us in the form of a baby boy did not come to us in a picture-perfect situation, either. He came during a very hostile political environment. His life was in danger before he was even able to speak, because he was seen as a threat to the king at the time. He was born to a young couple with no money and no home. Yet, in the midst of all that less than picture-perfect first Christmas, Christ did survive and did grow up in order to save us from our sins.

            So, while your Christmas dinner might not be picture-perfect, or while some of you might be dealing with some real sadness this Christmas, remember that God who came in the form of a human, lived among us as Jesus the Christ, because He wanted to know us, love us, and save us. Thus, let us remember that this God who loved us so much to live and then die and be raised up from the dead, came so that we might have eternal life with Him. Jesus the Christ, did all of this, despite our imperfect lives, our flaws, our hurt, and our pain.

You see, His love is not limited to who we are. It is about who He is. Now, let us go out to celebrate with our families, our enemies, the widow, the orphan, the less than perfect people that we know, with the kind of love that is Christ-like; kind, forgiving, patient and generous. Let us worship this Savior who loves us no matter what and who calls us to follow Him no matter what. Amen!


2019-12-15 “Mary’s Song of Joy”

“Mary’s Song of Joy”

“The Hoy of the Lord is Our Strength”

Luke 1:46b-55; Isaiah 35:1-6, 10

Rev. Elizbeth Aguilar

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC


We love Mary, don’t we? We love her obedience, her “pondering everything in her heart,” her faithfulness to God and to Joseph….But I love her bravery, too. I hope you all heard or read Mary’s words very carefully.


Now, I am not sure if I were her if the first thing I would do after hearing that I am going to give birth to a baby although I am not wed- is to break out in this song.


But why? Why was Mary about to do so? Because she knew that her strength came from the joy of the Lord.


And that’s what I want us to focus on today. That OUR Strength comes from the Joy of the Lord.


This is the third Sunday in Advent and we Are focusing on Joy. But as I reflected on it, it dawned on me how important it is that we not focus on joy as merely a feeling but on it being a gift that comes from God, that MOVES us beyond a feeling.


You see, when we FOCUS on Jesus, who IS the source of our joy, the circumstances in our life- no matter how hard they are, do not overwhelm us.


Does God want us sad, consumed with worry, or anxiety? No.


Think about it- had Mary focused on her circumstances she might as well have broken out in a loud cry instead of a song. For a woman to be unwed and pregnant meant that her fiancé would have had to break up with her and she could have been stoned to death- that was the severe punishment for a woman in that predicament.


So, had Mary been focused on her situation of being an unwed pregnant woman, she would not have been able to go on.


But instead, she kept her focus on what she knew- which were the promises of God through scripture.


And she knew that by focusing on those promises found in scripture, she would be strong through out her pregnancy. It wouldn’t matter if the town folk would talk badly about her. It wouldn’t matter that she was poor and unsure of her future. What mattered to her was that God would make a way for her and her family and for the promise of God to come to fruition for the WORLD, THROUGH her!


How many times do we focus on our circumstances instead of on the JOY that God gives us? How many times do we forget that the SOURCE Of our strength COMES from the Lord?


Now, I’m not saying we should ignore our problems and bury our heads in the sand- no, of course, not! I’m not talking about being an irresponsible person.


I’m talking about keeping our gaze on Jesus because He WILL make away where there is NO way! He IS the Source of our strength.


If there is anything I want you to remember about today’s message it is this- that the Joy of the Lord is our strength!! And that when we keep our focus on Jesus our problems do not overwhelm us. (Nehemiah 8:10)



2019-12-1 “Waiting in Hope”

First Sunday of Advent

December 1, 2019

Waiting in Hope

Luke 1:5-25


To remind us all what Advent is about- it isn’t just about putting up lovely decorations or beginning to make our lists of gifts we want to purchase. (As fun as those things are.) Advent is much bigger than that. It has to do with the past, the present and the future. It is a special period (4 weeks) when Christians wait and prepare, but for what?

We wait not only to celebrate the past- when Christ came into the world. But we also wait and prepare for our Savior’s return. We do so not passively but actively, for we wait in hope in God!

The task for us this Advent season then is not just to focus on what all is wrong with the world and with our own lives but to place our hope in Christ; hope that God will restore all things in God’s time.

As an example of waiting in hope (and not in vain) is this story of how these elderly servants of God (Zachariah and Elizabeth) chose to wait. They had been barren and to remind ourselves- for a woman not to have had children, specifically a son, was something seen as sad and negative. The family name and land were passed on from generation to generation. Sons often followed in the profession of their father’s. Sons were seen as the barer of the family blessing that he, in turn, would one day pass on to his children.

Zachariah and Elizabeth, though, had not waited their whole lives in vain. We know from the reading that Zachariah was a priest and had been praying to God not only for the needs of others but for his, as well. We know this because when the angel appears to Zachariah he tells him that God had heard his prayer.

This should give us hope right away- that God hears our prayers. We don’t just  say empty phrases to the air when we pray. We pray in hope and assurance that God will work it out in God’s special time and will for us. We pray to a living God who loves us and is actively working things out on our behalf.

So, Zachariah and Elizabeth waited for God to act somehow in their lives by serving God as leaders in their community.

We must do the same- we must wait for God to act in our own lives and in the ways we chose to serve others- our family, our neighbors, our co-workers and even strangers. When you chose to forgive your spouse or your child, you are serving God. When you chose to do the right thing, even when it isn’t expedient or popular, you are serving God. When you chose to love someone you disagree with, you are serving God.


But back to hope- Elizabeth’s and Zachariah’s hope and faith in God did pay off. Despite her bareness and his lack of a child to pass on his name and blessings to- they did not give up hope. They hoped in God and in doing so God not only listened to their prayers but also grants it by allowing them to give birth to someone who would become an important prophet and for-runner of Jesus, the Messiah.

Now, there had already been 400 years of “silence.” Meaning there had not been any prophets speaking for God in 400 years. The fact that an angel comes to tell Zachariah that he will give birth to a son and that his role will be that of a prophet must had indeed surprised him to no end. As a devout Jew and as a priest, he would have understood the significance of a prophet.

We know the consequences of Zacheriah’s unbelief. He is struck mute by the angel. I personally don’t believe that God is in the business of striking us mute but I do know that our belief or disbelief have real consequences.

When we chose not to believe in God we give up on hope. Consequently we become doubtful, fearful, and very focused on ourselves.

I once knew a young woman who left her faith tradition for many years. During those years many bad things happened to her. She lost her way, her faith, and her identity, even. Once she was able to return to God she found herself again and her life began to take shape and meaning. She was reunited with her family and her life changed around.

God does not want us to be hopeless people. God wants us to be people of hope. Because hope is a powerful force and when we act in hope, we do not only save ourselves but we save those around us.

Our mood is lighter. We are happier. We are more generous. We forgive more easily. We desire and work toward the best in others. We want and work for justice for our brothers in sisters who are hurting. Why? Because our hope is not placed on ourselves but on God.

If I placed my hope on myself I would be in trouble, for, I know I fail, all of the time. But when I place my hope in God, I know that anything is possible and good things begin to happen.

May we be a people of hope in the Lord; pointing others to this God of hope. Sharing with others the amazing things that God has done in our lives in order to give others hope. May we be a people of hope now and always. Amen.  



2019-11-17 “Stewardship”

Sermon for Stewardship Sunday

“For God All things Are Possible”

Matthew 19:16-26

Rev. Elizabeth Aguilar

Community Congregational Church of Chula Vista, UCC


Isaiah 43:19- “I am about to do a new thing now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Friends, today is the culmination of a month- of Stewardship focus. You’ve heard from Rev. Victoria, Ruth Jones, and myself, preach about various teachings of Jesus about money and giving. It has been mentioned that money was the topic that Jesus spoke about the most. It has been reminded to us that placing our trust in God to provide for all things including our every day needs allows us the space to trust God with our money. Ruth reminded us that indeed where we have our treasure there is our heart.

Today’s scripture reading is a very well-known story of Jesus with a young rich man. I chose it b/c I have always found it to be a challenge. And b/c I’m a sucker for challenges…! Here we are!

The part that always stumped me was that this rich young man had already done many things that the Jewish law would have required of him, as a good Jewish man.  I imagine that when Jesus lists all the things that is required and the young man is saying, “yup, been there done that”, that if I were him, I would have felt quite proud of myself. After all, some of us like lists that we can check off. Don’t we?

But Jesus knew that this young man needed to be challenged further and so he says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.”

You see Jesus knew that the young man hadn’t actually put his faith in God first. He knew that the young man had been approaching his faith as a series of litmus tests that he had to pass. Not as a way of life.

Jesus reminds us this morning that putting Him first pays off.

We read also that it wasn’t just the young man who was perplexed about possessions and priorities… In fact, Jesus went on to say that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples go to Jesus with a follow- up challenge, (whether out of dismay or out of wanting to understand) and say, “Then who can be saved?” And then Jesus famously answers, “for mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

And you see, friends, there is the good news. Jesus wasn’t in the business of discouraging people. He was in the business of Encouraging people, instead!

He is saying, do what you can. Try to put me first and when you feel it is impossible, let God take care of it.

We are people of faith. And 129 years ago, this church was founded when a group of Christians wanted to have a place of worship. It seems to me that they certainly had their priorities straight.

We’ve just heard the names of those who have been members here for 50 years OR MORE! They certainly knew where to put their priorities, as well.

This morning, we are reminded that when we put Christ first, all things come into right order.

This does not mean that all of our angst goes away. All of our questions about life and death, about relationships, and our crazy world all go away. No, the questions remain. The struggles remain as well.

However, what ALSO remains is Christ’s presence with us. We are NOT in this ministry work alone. We are Not in the thing called life, alone, either.

Christ walks with us, encourages us even now, reminds us of our priorities, reminds us of HIS love and then calls us to still follow him.

The theme for this month’s stewardship campaign was Isaiah 43:19- “I  am about to do a new thing now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The prophet Isaiah was encouraging the people who were held in captivity in Babylon, away from their home land, that God WOULD make a way for them.

As we move forward into our 130th year of existence here in Chula Vista, God tell us that God will make a way for us. God is still active and alive. God is still reminding us to put God first. God is still lovingly challenging us to follow Him b/c indeed it is worth it.

This morning, as we are about to collect out offering and then place our pledge cards into the basket. May it be done as an act of faith. If you are giving for the first time- then God bless you. If you have increased the amount of giving, God bless you. If you have decided that you want to serve and re-commit yourself then God bless you.

God is and wants to do a “new thing” here, through you and me. Not just in this sanctuary and in the various rooms of our lovely church, but in our lives and in our homes and in all the places we find ourselves. Because we are modern day disciples, we are called to serve and service includes giving!

May we give joyfully this morning as an act of faith. May we be reminded that God DOES make ALL things new and that indeed what we may think is impossible, isn’t for God!

Let us stand on these promises and as a way of giving God thanks for being a God who comes through on His promises let us respond to God generously. Amen.