Enjoy these pictures of our gorgeous sanctuary through the eyes of our children!
As we travel through this season of Advent, we anticipate the celebration, the light of the birth of our Savior…. I hope you enjoy this meditation by Chris McAlilly and find it as meaningful as I have.
If today you are sitting in darkness, standing in the shadows of the hospice ward, sobbing in the corner of some caustic room, shuddering somewhere out in all that cold, you could go on and numb yourself with holly jolly sentimentality- you could escape into the eggnog.
But the Church offers a different way.
Advent begins in the dark.
Advent doesn’t deny the darkness, it gives you permission to embrace it.
It encourages you to look into the heart of darkness and take an unflinching inventory.
It insists that you see the darkness, not just in everyone else out there, but in each human heart, in yourself.
Advent doesn’t deny the darkness. It gives you permission to lament it, but it insists that you don’t give into despair.
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn fro on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Advent isn’t for quitters. Advent is for those who recognize that in the darkness, in weakness, in waiting, in the cold….that’s where you come to appreciate the light, the heat.
Maybe this year, really try Advent.
Embrace the darkness.
Wait for the light.
One of the joys of the Christmas season is the daily trip to the mailbox decorated with greenery and an almost gaudy bow. With anticipation, the mailbox is opened hoping that there will be Christmas cards from family and friends from near and far. A handwritten letter, note, or even a Christmas card may seem archaic in this technological age, but amidst the junk mail and especially at Christmas, we anxiously look for the envelopes with a Christmas stamp and the address written in cursive.
If a card can bring such joy to us at Christmas, just imagine the exhilaration the church at Thessalonica must have felt when they received Paul’s loving letter. They must have first breathed a sigh of relief, for the letter assured them of Paul’s safety and wellbeing. (As Paul spread God’s word, the journey was often fraught with peril.) As the letter was read, Paul’s words affirmed their newfound faith, and as a loving pastor and mentor, his words gave them hope and renewed their resolve. The letter, no doubt, was read time and time again.
In this epistle, it is evident that Paul’s love for this church is most sincere and truly heartfelt. He does give advice to these early Christians living in a pagan world, but his exhortations resonate with love. Paul admonishes the congregation to behave, but he tempers his admonishments by urging them to practice forbearance and forgiveness of others. He implores the members of this congregation to pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is still relevant to churches in the 21st Century, but today’s Christians do not have to wait for a courier traveling the Appian Way to deliver the good news. Paul’s words can be found in the New Testament. As we worship together as a congregation this Advent Season, may Paul’s words resonate in our hearts. The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.
While walking to my car after attending a cheer completion last Saturday in downtown Jackson, I noticed a very strong and rather unpleasant odor. I knew it was a familiar smell but just couldn’t place it. Then it hit me! Mud, wet grass, and soccer. Because of the large crowd attending the competition and full parking lots, people were parking in a wet muddy field nearby. The mud and wet grass were physically present but the soccer was an association of memory. That smell, both bad and good, reminded me of stinky, wet boys and uniforms but also of wonderful family times.
What about Christmas smells? What “smells like Christmas” to you?
Real Christmas trees? Cookies and cakes baking? Cinnamon? Peppermint?
Have you ever wondered what the first Christmas smelled like, there in the stable with the animals and hay? How did the Garden of Eden smell? Or what smells of spring flowers greeted Jesus on that first Easter?
Smells can remind us of things that are real….as real as the love of God which sent Jesus from the manger to the Cross and the opening of the tomb.
Thank you God for all the good aromas we smell and for His love that is good and real.
It is hard to know if we are hearing or reading the “The Word of God” unlessthe Bible is being read. When we do so, we can easily say without hesitation,“Thanks be to God.” Otherwise, we find ourselves thinking long and hard to decide if anything we are hearing or reading merits our attention. We can easily dismiss what does not fit into our view of the way life ought to be. We run the information we receive through all the filters of our cultural and socio-economical background to make sure it fits into our belief system. We even do this with the Bible. It has been said we, “Cherry pick the verses of the Bible to validate our beliefs.” We are suspicious of others interpreting information of any kind whether it is politics, theology, climate change, race relations, sexual issues, immigration, economy, or any of the issues of life we have already categorized into our systems of beliefs as being the only way to understand them.
This all begs the question of who are those meeting qualifications for receiving God’s word? Having to be careful about being “Politically correct”, not being “Inflammatory”, or just not “Rocking the boat”, are these some concerns we should have about being in a position for God’s word to come our way?
To get some perspective, the names Tiberius, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip,Lysanias, Annas, and Caiaphas represented the power of the state and the influence of established religion in their day. The word of God bypassed all of these and “came to John son of Zachariah in the wilderness.” If John is “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:” and if this means God’s word was searching for the alienated, the disenfranchised, and the dispossessed, then we would do well to identify our own wilderness during this Advent season, connect with our fellow strugglers, and listen for the word of God coming our way so that, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
May we be thankful for ALL our many blessings this season, especially the ones we take for granted!
Used with permission and special thanks to Forest Hill Church, Charlotte, NC.
“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
It’s here. The hustle and bustle has started. May we all take time this season to be still remembering that the God of Heaven and Earth is ultimately in control. And may we find incredible peace in that knowledge.
Take time to read or re-read The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell. It’s the story of a young
boy of Jerusalem, who arrived in Heaven at the age of “four years, six months, five days, seven
hours and forty-two minutes.” He had a hard time being as angelic as the other angels in
Heaven. According to this children’s story, each angel was planning a gift for Jesus who was
about to be “born of Mary, of Bethlehem, of Judea.” The Littlest Angel couldn’t match the other
angels with their angelic gifts for the Christ Child.
The Littlest Angel thought about composing a hymn of adoration but he was “woefully wanting
in musical talent.” Then he thought about writing a prayer that would be the first prayer ever to
be heard by Jesus, but he was “lamentably lacking in literate skill.” Finally, he decided upon a
box, containing his treasures that only a small boy would love (a butterfly, a sky-blue egg, two
white stones, a limp, tooth-marked leather strap worn as a collar by his dog). After the fact, the
Littlest Angel decided that his gift had been blasphemous compared to all the beautiful gifts of
the other angels.
According to this story-
“Then, suddenly, The Voice of God, like Divine Music, rose and swelled through Paradise!
And the Voice of God spoke, saying, ‘Of all the gifts of all the angels. I find that this
small box pleases Me most. Its contents are of the Earth and of men, and My Son is born to be
King of both. These are the things My Son, too, will know and love and cherish and then,
regretful, will leave behind Him when His task is done. I accept this gift in the Name of the
Child, Jesus, born of Mary this night in Bethlehem.’”
A story, yes, but a wonderful reminder that Jesus was both human and divine and, therefore,
understood both the pleasures and pains of life on earth as well as the will of His Father and His