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Christmas Offerings

A year ago on this date, our family went to a Christmas party for pastors and their families. After the party we went into the sanctuary of the host church and just sang Christmas carols and worshipped our Lord Jesus. When we were getting ready to leave, adults started talking and visiting, and little Miss Elizabeth got bored (quickly) and started looking around. We hadn’t taken an offering that night, and she’s been in worship enough to know we usually “pass the plates.” So when she saw the empty plates, she walked around giving folks a chance to give to Jesus. 
So many people expect the church to meet their needs; MY kind of music, MY kind of ritual or casual style, MY pastor ‘feeding’ me. But our granddaughter, still a month before we finally were allowed to adopt her, had caught one of the keys of real worship: Real worship is about what we bring to church to GIVE to God. Clear back to Old Testament times we read how the people worshipped by taking an offering to give to God (a bull, a lamb, a bird, some of your grain perhaps). Other than that, you would bring your praises and singing, your prayers, and a heart that was ready to listen for God to speak in your heart. And then worship continued as you went home and lived for God according to His ways as much as you were humanly able. 

As I look at this picture of our granddaughter/daughter with her attempt to mimic the missing piece of worship that night (in her eyes), I am reminded that as we approach Christmas and as we approach any Sunday worship gathering: What gift am I giving to Jesus? How about you? What will you give him?

Give him your teachable heart. Give him your listening ear. Give him your excitement and praise and joy. And yes, give him whatever physical or financial offering you feel he’s leading you to give. And there’s one more thing you COULD give… Give him the one silent, unspoken, often unrecognized gift you can offer: the gift of giving God your time by simply being present. That’s often one of the hardest parts because there are lots of good activities and good groups that decide to make competing programs, practices, and fundraisers at the exact same time as the time your church has worship services. For you to give your time is truly a sacrifice. Which is how worship started so long ago. 

What will you give Jesus this year for his birthday? Give him your best!


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Best Birthday Gift-The Gift of Presence

Today, in my genealogical blog, Mixed Genes, I highlighted a landmark from the past; namely, the Haynes’ Store in Sharon Center, PA. As I wrote the little bit of narrative to accompany the pic, I found myself reliving Halloweens when we would go to Grandpa and Grandma Haynes’ place, attached to their store. Halloween meant receiving a handful (or two) of penny candy from the store, or after they had sold the store and moved into a trailer on my Grandpa Mix’s farm, it would be Chicken-in-a-Biskit crackers.

Grandma Haynes (Laura Vivien Meacham, but always called Vivien) taught me how to do a game from her childhood in the 1890’s; cat’s cradle. She also taught me how to play the card game FLINCH. She helped inspire me to get involved in genealogy, when she would tell me stories about her parents and grandparents. I especially liked the story of how her grandmother, Nancy Ann (Foy) Meacham came over to America from Ireland on a ship and all that she had to do. (You can read more about Nancy Ann Foy here).
HOWEVER, my favorite memory of all is when I turned 8 years old in 1970. It was the first birthday party that I remember having and I believe the first one ever where I could invite someone other than close relatives.

This picture of me, excited as all get out, surrounded by my great-grandpa and great-grandma. Looking at the photo now, I STILL can feel the excitement and joy of that day. I’m sure they gave me a gift to unwrap, but it is their presence I remember, not the presents.

And I remember that one of the names prophesied about Jesus was that he would be called “Emmanuel;” which literally means “God is with us.” I think that’s why my favorite saying from Jesus is ” I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He gives us the gift of presence!

OK, so this day has been a serious walk through memory lane. But it’s memories like this that help me remember the extreme importance of being there to witness my son in a first grade Christmas play where he just says two lines of about 15 words. And going to Little League practices, and on and on and on. It’s simply the gift of being present that makes the difference. A shared memory. A present of time.

And now, I have a grandson who just turned two just last week. He calls me “Poppop.” His mom, my daughter, is very conscientious and attentive, for which I’m thankful. My wife and I had that role when she was in our home. But now, like my grandparents and great-grandparents did with me, I’m the grandpa, and one of my roles is to be a giver of gifts, like my grandparents and great-grandparents were for me.

And the very best gift I can give is the present of presence.

AND… by the way, I AM present in this picture behind the camera.

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