Tag Archives: Christmas

Big Jim Is Coming!

Scripture: Matthew 3:1-12 (Good News Translation)

1 At that time John the Baptist came to the desert of Judea and started preaching. “Turn away from your sins,” he said, “because the Kingdom of heaven is near!” John was the man the prophet Isaiah was talking about when he said,

“Someone is shouting in the desert,
    ‘Prepare a road for the Lord;
    make a straight path for him to travel!’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair; he wore a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from the whole province of Judea, and from all over the country near the Jordan River. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan.

When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to be baptized, he said to them, “You snakes—who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send? Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins. And don’t think you can escape punishment by saying that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these rocks and make descendants for Abraham!10 The ax is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire. 11 I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. He is much greater than I am; and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. 12 He has his winnowing shovel with him to thresh out all the grain. He will gather his wheat into his barn, but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out.”

 = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Imagine, if you will, the Old West of America’s past. There is this rider coming into town as fast as his horse will carry him shouting: “BIG JIM IS COMING! BIG JIM IS COMING!”

People scurry about and run away, and within minutes the town is basically empty. It’s a ghost town, except for the barkeeper over at the saloon.

At the exact stroke of 1:00, there is this huge, mean-looking man who walks through the door of saloon. As he gets to the bar, he looks at the barkeeper and gruffly says: “Give me a whiskey!”

The poor barkeeper is scared almost out of his senses, but he grabs a bottle of whiskey and hands the whole bottle to the guy. The man bites off the top of the bottle and  downs the entire contents in one swallow.

The barkeeper ventures over and timidly asks: “You want another, mister?”

The guy looks up in astonishment and replies: “Are you kidding? I gotta get outta here! Haven’t you heard, BIG JIM IS COMING!”
You know, John the Baptist was looked at the same way as the man at the bar in that story.  People thought HE must be the Messiah that they had been waiting for centuries. But he was just the precursor… a forerunner. Sort of like seeing the previews before the feature presentation at the movies… you can get a glimpse of what the future movie will be about, but you cannot see the whole thing right yet. THAT was who John the Baptist was. Prophetic scripture says John’s purpose was to PREPARE THE WAY FOR THE LORD!

In 2004, when the Olympics came to Georgia, the whole city got a facelift. Bridges were repaired. Blocks of dilapidated buildings were razed and new structures were built. Roads were repaved. Entire buildings were repainted.

WHY?

Because “company was coming.”

We do that too when really important company is coming to our homes right?

Well, that’s what John the Baptist was doing. He came to help the people of God of the first century get ready for company. God Almighty was coming in human form: Jesus.

He called them to prepare by repenting; reexamining their spiritual walks, their spiritual lives.

Their ancestors had been set free from slavery to Egypt back in the days of Moses and brought into the promised land through the Jordan River by Joshua. But since that time, they had turned their hearts and become enslaved to sin. John offered them the chance to renounce sin as their master and re-enter the Jordan as a symbol of re-entering the promised land. Once again, to leave their enslavement in the waters of the Jordan.

Now, I realize, that many are wondering why I’m preaching about John the Baptist before Christmas. Because it’s ADVENT, the time of waiting, the time of preparation. And also because, even though Christians the world over are spending almost a month pretending that Jesus hasn’t been born yet, the truth is that he was born over 2000 years ago and grew up and John the Baptist prepared the people for his coming to the Israelites of his day. And then Jesus ministered to them and died for them and was raised to life for them to be their Savior, their Lord, their Master.

He died for US and was raised to life for US to be OUR Savior, OUR Lord, OUR Master.

That’s the real message of Christmas isn’t it? That’s the real message of HOPE! Not that Jesus is a powerless little baby that WAS a long time ago. NO, but rather Christmas is about how that helpless baby grew up, showed us how to live, and then died for us, was raised to life by God, ascended into Heaven and IS STILL ALIVE EVEN NOW! AND HE IS THE LORD!! He’s no longer helpless and all we have to do is feel the joy of new life and new birth. Rather, we are called into relationship with the grown up, crucified, resurrected, and ascended LORD!

And the time of waiting, for US, isn’t to see Him come as a baby in a country 10,000 miles away in an insignificant little town in a third world country. The truth is that we wait for HIS RETURN to the earth, not as a baby, but as Lord, as the Coming Conqueror who will put an end to sin and death, fear and suffering and pain. We wait for His coming.

The question for us is the same question John the Baptist was asking: Are you prepared for the soon coming of the Lord??

But more too… Are those around us prepared? It wasn’t enough for John to be prepared, for he surely was. He wanted to see his fellow countrymen and women prepared as well. How about us?

Are we prepared for Christ’s return? Are we ready to see Him, either in His second coming or by going to Him through death?

How about our families? Our friends? Our co-workers? Are they prepared? The Bible doesn’t have much of a pretty picture for those who are not. This is important stuff… ETERNALLY!

Before Christ came into his ministry as deliverer and savior, God sent John to prepare the way. Before Christ comes again, before our fellow workers, friends, and families met Christ, God has sent you and me as the modern-day John who warns others: “Are you ready?”

 – – – First preached at Spartansburg & Parade Street UMCs Dec. 6, 1998 – – –

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Dreading Christmas?

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and you shall call his name Immanuel.”

—Isaiah 7:14

Christmas is almost here again & people are pretty much doing one of three things: they’re looking forward to it, ignoring it, or dreading it. If you’re one of the ones looking forward to the holiday, you probably are one who has some very specific memories attached to Christmas from your own past. And it seems the day just can’t get here fast enough. (Just ask any 7 year old!)

It only takes a mild case of procrastination for one to ignore Christmas: “I’ll worry about Christmas when I get done with these other things.” And of course, you never get done with the other things in time. So this action eventually turns into dread.
For those dreading it, I suspect it may be financial. These are tough times. Yet Christmas is still coming.
But some that may be dreading Christmas have a much deeper reason than just finances. You see, there’s been a story going around for a while now that Christmas is actually a celebration of JESUS. And for those who, for whatever reason, hate Christianity and anything to do with Jesus, the Christmas holiday becomes almost a horror. You have to hear that name. The songs of old talk about the ‘new born king’ who is laid ‘away in a manger’ bringing ‘Joy to the world’ are just too much.
Often, these are the people who push aside the “Christ” of Christmas and opt for some “Happy Holidays” instead. And in the past seventy years or so, our society has even developed a whole canon of ‘Happy Holidays’ music so that Christmas can be celebrated without all that Christ talk. So now we hear the music of White Christmas, of Rudolf saving Santa, of Frosty and his magic hat, of grandma in a hit & run accident with a reindeer, of chestnuts being cooked by a fire, of a kid who wants teeth as a gift, and of another kid who’s misbehaved so much that he expects nothing for Christmas. And there’s even a few that are so suggestive that I’m embarrassed to even write about them.
What on earth do these songs have to do with Christmas? Very Little. And Lots. They have very little to do with the gift of a savior given by God Himself; sending his one and only son to live and die and be raised again.
But they also have a lot to do with Christmas because the savior who was born came to a world that wasn’t Christian and didn’t really even realize how much they needed a savior. They didn’t know God. They didn’t even know that they didn’t know him… let alone care.
The gushy, warm feelings of imagining a peaceful land without war is about as close to heaven as many people can ever get. In fact, without Jesus, it is as close as ANY of us could ever get. But with Jesus in our lives, we CAN know the peace of God.
Besides, the influence of Jesus Christ on the world around us is still pretty pervasive. Courts and marketplaces may have walked away from many of our earlier, Christian practices as a nation, but people the world over still know Christmas as a day of peace and hope, whether they know Jesus or not.
The first Bible passage I quoted, from Isaiah 7:14, is in the midst of God delivering Judah’s King Ahaz from an attack by a foreign army. God tells the king he’s going to deliver him from his enemies and he allows the king the privilege of a special sign as proof that God will keep his promise. Ahaz tells God “No.” He doesn’t want a sign. But the Lord gives him a sign anyway, so that everyone will understand that it was GOD ALMIGHTY who really rules and reigns. God’s sign describes a young woman who will give birth and have a miraculous son. And it goes on to describe how the birth, and life, of that child will be a reminder of God’s care for his people in Ahaz’s kingdom. In fact, whoever that little child was in Ahaz’s day, he didn’t grow very old before the enemies of Ahaz were no longer even nations! The child’s name was Immanuel. His name literally meant “God is with us!” Every time Ahaz (or anyone else) said this child’s name, they were reminded how much God was with them and how he had delivered them from their enemies. What a reminder! What a gift! What a gracious and loving God!
And yet, like so often in Scripture, God had a double meaning in that sign of the child. Yes, it referred to someone that Ahaz would have been able to see in his day (if not, then God would have been a liar). BUT God also was looking ahead to another day when another young woman, this one an actual virgin, would conceive and have a baby who would also be called Emmanuel… the very one that would save us from our sins.
And that second child, Emmanuel (from Greek) or Immanuel (from Hebrew) was truly more than just a reminder that God was with us… He literally was GOD WITH US!
In the midst of our day in and day out stuff that happens, even when it seems so ungodly and even hostile or painful, God is still with us. When the finances are tight, when the neighbors cause trouble, when things aren’t going well at work, God is still with us.
And, like Matthew did with a verse in Isaiah written to a king about an invading army, God will take seemingly unimportant things from our pasts and our surroundings and open up spiritual truths to us… helping us to see that God really is here with us at all times and in all places if we’ll turn to him.
And so it is that the world feels the ‘warmth’ of the season and celebrates as best as it can with “Happy Christmas’ and ‘Feliz Navidad,” and yet doesn’t realize that there’s more to the story. But as they see that story and peace exhibit itself in our lives, then they too will want what we have… and they won’t just have to imagine.

“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” —Matthew 1:23

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Finding Comfort After Sandy Hook

Twas’ the Night Before Christmas – A song for Sandy Hook Elementary

  Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38,
when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.
Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say…….
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
“This is heaven.” declared a small boy.
“We’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”
When what to their wondering eyes did appear,
but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.
And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King.
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.
And as if He could read all the questions she had,
He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below
He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,
“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”
“May this country be delivered from the hands of fools”
“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”
Then He and the children stood up without a sound;
“Come now my children, let me show you around.”
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran;
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
“In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”
Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

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Diary of a Demented Snow Shoveler

OK… usually I have written almost everything I have posted, but I got this anonymous joke from a friend and just busted out laughing! For those who live in Southern climates, and wonder WHY do all those northern folks travel south (or why the birds do, for that matter), then this ought to serve as your explanation. In my neck of the woods we only get to the 10 or 15 degrees below zero (F) temperature here, but the rest is THE SAME!

ENJOY!!!

Subject: Diary of a Demented Snow Shoveler



December 8 – 6:00 PM


It started to snow. The first snow of the season and the wife and I sat for hours by the window watching the huge soft flakes drift down from heaven. It looked like a Grandma Moses print…. So romantic, we felt like newlyweds again. I love snow!


December 9


We woke to a beautiful blanket of crystal white snow covering every inch of the landscape. What a fantastic sight! Can there be a more lovely place in the whole world? Moving here was the best idea I’ve ever had! Shoveled for the …first time in years and felt like a boy again. I did both our driveway and the sidewalks. This afternoon the snowplow came along and covered up the sidewalks and closed in the driveway, so I got to shovel again. What a perfect life!


December 12


The sun has melted all our lovely snow. Such a disappointment! My neighbor tells me not to worry- We’ll definitely have a white Christmas. No snow on Christmas would be awful! Bob says we’ll have so much snow by the end of winter, that I’ll never want to see snow again. I don’t think that’s possible. Bob is such a nice man, I’m glad he’s our neighbor.


December 14


Snow, lovely snow! 8 inches last night. The temperature dropped to -20. The cold makes everything sparkle so. The wind took my breath away, but I warmed up by shoveling the driveway and sidewalks. This is the life! The snowplow came back this afternoon and buried everything again. I didn’t realize I would have to do quite this much shoveling, but I’ll certainly get back in shape this way. I wish I wouldn’t huff and puff so.


December 15


20 inches forecasted. Sold my van and bought a 4×4 Blazer. Bought snow tires for the wife’s car and 2 extra shovels. Stocked the freezer. The wife wants a wood stove in case the electricity goes out. I think that’s silly. We are not in Alaska, after all.


December 16


Ice storm this morning. Fell on my butt on the ice in the driveway putting down salt. Hurt like heck. The wife laughed for an hour, which I think was very cruel.


December 17


Still way below freezing. Roads are too icy to go anywhere. Electricity was off for 5 hours. I had to pile the blankets on to stay warm. Nothing to do but stare at the wife and try not to irritate her. Guess I should’ve bought a wood stove, but won’t admit it to her. I hate it when she’s right. I can’t believe I’m freezing to death in my own living room.


December 20


Electricity is back on, but had another 14 inches of the white stuff last night. More shoveling! Took all day. The stinking snowplow came by twice. Tried to find a neighbor kid to shovel, but they said they’re too busy playing hockey. I think they’re lying. Called the only hardware store around to see about buying a snow blower and they’re out. Might have another shipment in March. I think they’re lying. Bob says I have to shovel or the city will have it done and bill me. I think he’s lying.


December 22


Bob was right about a white Christmas because 13 more inches of the white crap fell today, and it’s so cold, it probably won’t melt till August. Took me 45 minutes to get all dressed up to go out to shovel and then I had to pee. By the time I got undressed, pee’d and dressed again, I was too tired to shovel. Tried to ire Bob who has a plow on his truck for the rest of the winter, but he says he’s too busy. I think he is lying.


December 23


Only 2 inches of snow today. And it warmed up to 0. The wife wanted me to decorate the front of the house this morning. What is she, nuts? Why didn’t she tell me to do that a month ago? She says she did but I think she’s lying.


December 24


6 inches of snow was packed so hard by the snowplow that I broke the shovel. Thought I was having a heart attack. If I ever catch the idiot who drives that snow plow, I’ll drag him through the snow by his hair and beat him to death with my broken shovel. I know he hides around the corner and waits for me to finish shoveling and then he comes down the street at a 100 miles an hour and throws snow all over where I’ve just dug out! Tonight the wife wanted me to sing Christmas carols with her and open our presents, but I was too busy watching for the snowplow.


December 25


Merry Christmas! 20 more inches of the white slop tonight – Snowed in again. The idea of shoveling makes my blood boil. Man, I hate the snow! Then the snowplow driver came by asking for a donation and I hit him over the head with my shovel. The wife says I have a bad attitude. I think she’s an idiot. If I have to watch ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ one more time, I’m going to stuff her into the microwave.


December 26


Still snowed in. Why did I ever move here? It was all HER idea. She’s really getting on my nerves.


December 27


Temperature dropped to -30 and the pipes froze; plumber came after 14 hours of waiting for him, he only charged me $1,400 to replace all my pipes.


December 28


Warmed up to above -20. Still snowed in.. The wife is driving me crazy!!!


December 29


10 more inches. Bob says I have to shovel the roof or it could cave in. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. How dumb does he think I am?


December 30


Roof caved in. I beat up the snow plow driver, and now he is suing me for a million dollars, not only for the beating I gave him, but also for trying to shove the broken snow shovel down his throat. The wife went home to her mother. Nine more inches predicted.


December 31


I set fire to what’s left of the house. No more shoveling.


January 8


Feel so good. I just love those little white pills they keep giving me. Why am I tied to the bed?

Thanks, Norm!!! I’m STILL laughing!!!

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Wrong Motives, Right Attitude

Yesterday was the day that a devotional I wrote for the Western PA-Germany United Methodist Partnership’s Advent Devotional Book was featured. I wrote the English version and one of our German UM’s translated it into German.
Wednesday 15th December

Numbers 24: 2 – 7, 15 – 17

Today’s passage records the last of the prophet Balaam’s attempts to earn respect and rewards from the king of the land. All he has to do is pronounce a curse against the children of Israel as they finish their journey towards the promised land. Twice now, Balaam sought an omen that he might use as a curse, but both times Scripture states that “God met with Balaam.” (Num 23:4,16). Each of those encounters results not in a curse, but in a blessing. The king is angry and Balaam agrees to try again.

So King Balak waits while Balaam prays, again looking for something he might say to bring a curse on the Israelites and bless King Balak’s forces. But this time, we read in Numbers 24:2, the spirit of God literally comes upon Balaam. What proceeds from the resulting pronouncement is even more than a blessing, it includes a prophetic picture of how God would one day bring the blessing of the coming Messiah upon the earth through these Israelites. Balaam sees the Messiah as the “Star” and a “Scepter” who will ultimately reign over all … even King Balak’s lands and peoples.

In spite of his wrong motives, Balaam was aware that it was a path to utter failure if he misrepresented his God. How about us? In our lives, how well do we represent our God? We claim we know the Messiah and he’s coming again soon. Do people around us see that in our lives, or do we merely represent ourselves and our own ways? This Advent, as we prepare ourslves anew for Christ’s Second Coming, let’s make sure our lives, our actions, and even our words, are such that those around us can see his “Star” rising in our lives.


Dayton D Mix

Pastor First United Methodist Church in Reynoldsville, PA, (USA)

 
 – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Mittwoch 15. Dezember

4. Mose 24, 2 – 7 + 15 – 17

Die heutige Bibelstelle handelt vom letzten Versuch des Propheten Bileam, Respekt und Belohnung vom König des Landes zu bekommen. Er braucht nur einen Fluch gegen die Kinder Israels am Ende ihrer Reise ins gelobte Land auszusprechen. Zweimal schon hat Bileam einen Spruch gesucht, der ihm als Fluch dienen könnte, aber beides Mal heiβt es in der Schrift, „Und Gott begegnete Bileam.“ (4. Mose 23, 4,16). Jede dieser Begegnungen führt nicht zu einem Fluch, sondern zu einem Segen. Der König ärgert sich und Bileam ist bereit, es aufs Neue zu versuchen.

Deshalb wartet König Balak, während Bileam betet und wiederum nach etwas sucht, was er als Fluch auf die Israeliten und Segen auf König Balaks Truppen aussprechen könnte. Aber dieses Mal heiβt es in 4. Mose 24,2 dass der Geist Gottes auf ihn zukam. Die daraus entstehende Verkündigung ist mehr als ein Segen, denn sie enthält die prophetische Verheiβung, dass Gott eines Tages durch das Volk Israel den Segen des kommenden Messias aller Welt schenken wird. Als „Stern“ und „Zepter“ sieht Bileam den Messias, der schlieβlich über alles herrschen wird — selbst über König Balaks Länder und Untertanen.

Trotz seiner falschen Beweggründe war sich Bileam bewuβt, dass er den Weg des völligen Versagens einschlagen wird, falls er eine falsche Vorstellung von seinem Gott gäbe. Und wie steht es mit uns? Wie gut stellen wir in unserem Leben unseren Gott dar? Wir behaupten, wir kennen den Messias und seine baldige Wiederkunft. Erkennen unsere Mitmenschen das in unserem Leben, oder stellen wir uns lediglich selbst und unsere eigenen Wege dar? Wenn wir uns in dieser Adventszeit erneut auf die zweite Wiederkunft Christi vorbereiten, dann sorgen wir doch dafür, dass unser Leben, unsere Handlungen und selbst unsere Worte so sind, dass unsere Mitmenschen Seinen „Stern“ in unserem Leben aufgehen sehen.

Dayton D Mix
Pastor First United Methodist Church in Reynoldsville, PA (USA)

Here’s the full devotional book. [click here]

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SCROOGED!

Some lessons and reminders for Christians in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

PASTOR’S ANNUAL CHRISTMAS LETTER 2010

As we have approached our annual celebration of Christmas, I’ve been preaching a different kind of sermon series: following the themes and storyline of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic, A Christmas Carol.

We see ourselves in Ebenezer Scrooge, for we are all sinners like him. In the book of Romans we read “There is none righteous, no, not one… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom.3:10,23)

In chapter one, we see Scrooge in his counting house with his miserly, mean, grumpy, “HUMBUG” attitude. Once home, he has a vision of his long dead partner, Jacob Marley, who had mastered the miserly, mean, grumpy, “HUMBUG” attitude long before Scrooge made an art of it. Marley, it seems, is there to warn Scrooge that the eternal punishment he’s getting for his sins, is also Scrooge’s fate unless he changes.

Scrooge gets to see Christmases long ago when the Ghost of Christmas Past comes to visit. The joy and love of Christmas rushes back to his mind and his heart. He also gets to see how little choices back then, one at a time, have set up his lot in life in the present. By the end of the second chapter, Scrooge begs the spirit to stop revealing these heartbreaking memories. His regret is overwhelming. He has learned repentance.

Chapter three is where he meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him how Christmas is celebrated by others. He sees them simply enjoying one another and thanking God for His blessings. Scrooge then realizes that even the most destitute who celebrate the birth of Christ are far richer and more blessed than he is. And, while seeing Christmas in the home of his underpaid clerk, his heart is broken by the plight of little, crippled Tiny Tim. Scrooge, who had just learned the cost in relationships of his past choices, has now opened up his heart to this precious needy child. He has learned to love.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, in chapter four, silently points towards Scrooge’s own future. Scrooge learns that Tiny Tim has died because of the lack of money needed to provide the medical care. Scrooge realizes that his lack of compassion even to the one worker he has, has indeed been a major factor in the boy’s death. He is heartbroken. Then Scrooge eventually ends up in the cemetery looking in horror at his own headstone. Again he pleads that he might be given a chance to change things and make different decisions. He has learned of his need for a new start and the need to show compassion whenever you can.

The final chapter of this short little book shows Scrooge as one who has been forgiven and granted a chance to make different choices. He is literally a changed man. He starts Christmas by buying gifts to give and then going to church to worship the Christ of Christmas. He continues to live for many more years. Through his financial support, Tiny Tim does get the care he needs and he does NOT die. In fact, Dickens lets us know that Scrooge becomes like a second father to the boy.

What will it take for us to come to an awareness of our own sin, a desire for repentance, and the opening of our hearts even more in love for those around us? We all need to realize our sin, repent, and show compassion. He confessed his sin & was forgiven.

First John 1:9 reads: “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…”

This Christmas, I pray that each one reading these words will willingly reexamine our lives & hearts, so that we may be like the changed & forgiven Scrooge.

I also want to invite you and your family to join us on Christmas Eve as we, like the altered Scrooge, worship Christ together as we celebrate his birth.

Pastor Dayton


Christmas Eve service starts at 7:00 on Dec. 24th… Come & Worship With Us!

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JOY to the world???

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” —Isaiah 9:6a

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Even the world around us seems to be a little kinder & a bit more thoughtful. Yet I am also aware that a very real part of the Christmas story is remembering how King Herod was nervous about the rumors that there was a baby king out there somewhere, so he ordered that any baby boy be killed immediately. And hundreds of mothers and fathers found their joy over new life turned into the depths of despair and grief over fresh pain. Christmas wasn’t joyful for them. (Matthew 2:16-18)

This year, even as our family celebrates Christmas with Joshua who is growing more excited every day, we also feel the sting of pain as we miss loved ones who’ve died in the past few years. For me, this will be the first year without my mom.

Many others have had these same feelings we’re experiencing. Christmas isn’t the same anymore because a husband, a wife, a parent, a child, or even a close friend is gone now and the holiday is now a stark reminder of what is missing in our lives. We miss our loved ones. We’re not sure if we even want to decorate or celebrate or even go to church… because it hurts too much. Can we bear that much pain? Do we have to? What do we do? How can we walk through this time of joy and peace, when we feel neither? What do we do about the loneliness? What about the questions and the doubts?

As Christians, we turn to the Bible, where we read: “My help comes from the Lord.” (Psalm 121:2)

But how can that help come? In the times of grief and sorrow, it may be nice to hear how good God is, and how helpful He can be, but deep down, we need to know how He’s going to help us!

First, we can expect to find God’s help as we go to Him in prayer. Jeremiah 29:13-14 reminds us that if we seek God, we WILL find Him. If we want to know His help and His comfort, we have only to ask & He will be with us. In fact, that’s what it means when we call Jesus, Emmanuel: “God Is With Us.”

Secondly, we can expect to find God’s help through the words He’s already spoken… in the Bible. For it is in the Bible that we read words like these:
“He heals the brokenhearted & binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4)
“I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

The third way we can expect to find God’s help is through his people. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are expected to “rejoice with those that rejoice & weep with those that weep…” (Romans 12:15). God, through his people, weeps with us, even as we grieve… As we surround ourselves with friends and family, even though it might be painful. As we continue to celebrate important times, with important people. As we talk together and weep together about our loved ones, our memories, our doubts, our fears, and our feelings. And a funny thing will begin to happen as we remember together, and weep together, and walk through our grief together… the loneliness will begin to heal and the weeping will eventually turn to rejoicing.

This year, a part of the message of Christmas, for me at least, is a fresh reminder that God wants to be with us… If we’ll let Him. We need to intentionally surround ourselves with God’s people, His Word, and with prayer… For “unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” and He is Emmanuel… God with Us!

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