November 29, 2021

A word from our Pastor,

I trust that you have all had a great time of celebrating Thanksgiving. Some of you were traveling as we were. Some hosted family and friends from afar. Whatever your situation, I trust you spent some time reflecting on all that you have to be thankful for. If you know Jesus as your Savior, you can celebrate thankfulness every day all year. Salvation is an amazing gift.

But Thanksgiving often signals the kickoff of the Christmas season. How do you feel about Christmas? Are you celebrating every day? Do you love hearing and singing the Christmas Carols? Do you get stressed at this time of the year? Is it all about the parties? Maybe it is about the family gatherings.

I know some Christians who feel that we should not celebrate Christmas. For them, the Easter celebration is what matters. All of this attention to Christmas is a distraction from the work of Christ. They often claim that the Bible doesn't celebrate the birth of Jesus so we shouldn't either.

Then we have those who have completely lost the message of Christmas. They have stolen the real meaning of the Christmas tree, the candy canes, the gift giving, and all the other symbols of Christmas. They have made Christmas about Santa Clause and eliminated the Baby Jesus.

There are still others who get caught in the struggles of loss at this time of the year. For some it is the first Christmas without a loved one. For others it is yet another reminder of those they have lost that were the ones who made the season so special.

I want to help us all focus on the Christ of Christmas this year. During our Advent readings and candle lighting, I hope that you will get caught up in what Christmas is really about. These readings are designed to take the ministry of Jesus on earth, the coming return of Jesus, and the initial advent of the Lord, and connect them together.

If Jesus had not been born, he could not have died and been raised for the dead. The birth of Jesus was so profound that God sent angels to the shepherds (the least of these) and also to the kings and wise men (the greatest of these). God celebrated the birth of Jesus and so should we.

But Jesus wasn't just born, he lived. The 33 years that Jesus walked the face of the earth changed history. He showed what a life should look like. He upset the religious leaders. He healed the sick. He forgave the sinners. Jesus wrote a new chapter in the history of the world and set a new standard for life.

Jesus did not just live. Jesus died. He wasn't deserving of death, for death is the result of sin. Jesus had no sin. But he took upon himself the sins of the whole world. He was born so he could die. And he died to bring us forgiveness and reconciliation with God. He bore our sins on the cross.

Jesus died and was buried, but he did not stay in the grave. Jesus was risen from the dead. He overcame death and hell. And he did it all for us. His resurrection gives us the hope of our resurrection as well. Just as Jesus could not be held by the grave, it also will not hold us. We will be raised to walk in newness of life.

But there is a final step in this work of Jesus Christ. He will come again. He will come as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He will sit on His throne for all eternity. And we will worship Him. We will stand with Him. We will bow at his feet. We will celebrate for all eternity.

So take time this year to focus on the completed work of Jesus at Christmas. Take time to set aside, all of the stresses of the season. Take time to remind yourself and all those around you what Christmas is truly about. Celebrate the birth of a baby in a manger. He is worth celebrating, not for being born but for what was accomplished because he was born. And celebrate what is yet to be accomplished. If he didn't come as a baby he couldn't come back as our King.

Praise God!

 

-Pastor Gary

Wow! What a service we had yesterday. The Holy Spirit sure invested in guiding us throughout the morning. He is always with us, especially when we gather for worship. But sometimes the manifestation of His presence is overwhelming. That was the case yesterday.

 

It is such a joy to serve the Lord in a church that so many people are well connected with the Lord. I am not just speaking about salvation but also about growth in our relationship with Him. This leads to committed service to Him and the people around us as well.

 

I know that yesterday as we worked through 1 John 1:5-10, I was speaking to many who have already understood and adopted that teaching into their own lives. I am aware that so many in this congregation have vital and growing spiritual walks with the Lord. But I know from my own experience that it is easy to allow what we know to be true to become intellectual alone with little practice of the truth.

 

I believe that God in His infinite wisdom brought us all a reminder of truth yesterday. I believe that many, including myself, needed to understand just how important our intimacy with Christ truly is both to us and to Him. And He showed us that even the simplest of sin in our life that is not dealt with puts us on a path away from Him.

 

I count it a joy to walk this path with all of you this week. I started my day praying the very things I encouraged you to pray. I then prayed that each of us would recognize the significance of this commitment. I prayed that we would all experience a fuller and more complete walk with the Lord this week. I prayed that each of you would have an ever-deepening desire for intimacy with the Lord. I believe that He will answer these prayers.

 

Do something special this week. Remember the challenge to memorize 1 John 1:9. Also, be encouraged to spend that 10 minutes. But do one more thing. As you see what God is doing through this in your life, write it down. Celebrate how God is specifically working in your life by immortalizing it in the written word. Then share it with others. Encourage one another by sharing what God is doing in your life. Even share it with those who don’t know Christ. It may be just what they need to move a step closer to receiving the Lord.

 

I know that God is working. I want to hear the specifics about how he is working on your life.

 

May God richly bless you today and throughout this week.