By the time you read this, many people will have moved on from Christmas. The decorations will be taken down, the cookies will be eaten, the company will have left. The stores (other than the return lines) will be back to normal. All of that is good, and means that we are returning to our “normal” lives. It’s hard to stay in the Christmas spirit into January when all of the decorations began to bombard us in October or earlier!
But I want to encourage you to linger a little while longer at the manger. We celebrate all of the events of Christmas at the same time—the birth, the star, the shepherds, the wise men… Wait, the wise men? I don’t know when they arrived, but it wasn’t the night Jesus was born. They had to travel once the star appeared, and the star showed up the night of Christ’s birth. For us today, traveling from Asia to the Middle East is not a long journey via airplane. It can be done quickly, but probably not in one night. But the image we have is of a long caravan with camels. I’m no scholar of camel-travel, but I think it would have taken quite a while for the Magi to get to Bethlehem.
Regardless of when they showed up, we celebrate what their arrival means for the world. Christ’s birth was not just for the Jewish people to whom He had been promised. He came as the Savior to everyone. That is what we celebrate on Epiphany, which, like Christmas, is not just a day but a season. In fact, the 12 days of Christmas are the days from December 25 through January 6. Go ahead, count them. The season of Epiphany then lasts until Transfiguration Sunday, right before Lent begins. So we continue to celebrate the birth of Christ and His coming for the whole world right up until we begin to contemplate for 40 days WHY He had to come: our own sinfulness.
I’m not saying you need to leave the tree up until March. If you’ve got a real tree, that might prove impossible. We don’t need the decorations in order to celebrate anyway. But in your prayers, in your worship, in your time with God, remember that this Baby in the manger came for you, for the person next door, for everyone in the world.
Once again, I would like to thank all of you who have generously supported me finically with my education this past year. You are a blessing to me. I praise God for you for making this dream possible for me and for the future mission of our congregation!
On behalf of the staff, thanks for your awesome Christmas gift to us all. We love you and love serving you! You all truly make it a joy to work and serve in this place!
Also, please join me in thanking God for His blessings to our congregation in 2018 including 49 new members, generous donors and tithing, all of our many, many outreach ministries, and wonderful love, support, and encouragement from our district and our district president for our leadership, elders, you, our ministry team, and me, and for the ministry and mission we are doing! We also join with the churches of our district in praising God for our new, loving, and supportive president, Rev. Michael Newman! All in all, as we look at where we have come, there is no doubt God is blessing us. We are very healthy (praise be to Jesus), and great and mighty things are being done. The reality is, a healthy church is not based on policy, rules, regulations, traditions, meetings, or even numbers. It is based on the love, outreach, and people being served with Jesus’ love. This past year thousands, yes that is right, (with all of our food-related ministries, our farmer’s market, our seminars, trunk or treat, pumpkin patch and so much more) thousands of people have experienced Jesus because of you. This is the mark of a living, breathing, healthy church. You have made and are making a HUGE difference. Praise God for you! Job well done, good and faithful servant. I love and cherish you all.
God bless your 2019! I cannot wait to see the awesomeness God has in store for us this year!
In the shadow of the cross,