Here it is only six days from Christmas. I don’t know about you, but I just haven’t even seen it coming.
I wonder – in addition to all the personal and family preparations we’re involved in for the holidays – are we remembering to reach out to friends, neighbors, and family with an invitation to the Gospel, the real meaning of Christmas ? Are we praying for the redemption of those we know ?
I was struck again personally by that thought the other evening when a person from Hermann who (to my knowledge) I’ve never met approached me and asked me if our church was having a Christmas Eve service next week. I explained to her that, yes, we have planned an Open House all day on the 24th with times of very simple worship at 10:30, 1:00 pm, and 4:30 pm. She made a mental and verbal note of those three times, thanked me, and moved on. (I still can’t remember her name, … but I’ll be looking for her !)
How easy it is to forget – in the midst of the material and “feelings” side of Christmas – that this is the time of year in which we remember and announce God’s extremely relevant, strategic, from-before-all-time plan to redeem human beings. May this announcement be a priority for us in the days ahead.
How can you take part in that ? Sometimes it takes a bold, or simple yet creative move on your part. As I think back to opportunities I’ve had in the past, these come to mind :
At times I’ve been asked to share a few words … or a prayer … at a family gathering. You may be asked this too ! Plan ahead – even rehearse in your mind – what you would say at that moment.
At times in the past, Diana and I have included a Gospel tract such as “The Four Spiritual Laws” or other in a Christmas gift we’ve given. There are some of these available at the church. You may think your friend or loved one will just blow that off, … but you might be surprised at the seed that may be planted for the future.
Certainly, plan on coming to the Christmas Eve Open House on December 24th, and pray about someone who has time that day and would benefit from coming with you. Our time together will be informal, relaxing, yet meaningful. Cookies, good music, the reading of the Christmas Story and other Scriptures.
Also, this coming Sunday morning’s worship is going to be a key Christmas message taken from … yes, you guessed it … the book of Ruth. Ruth chapter 3 is the highlight of Ruth’s story – it explains how Ruth’s life was redeemed and, ultimately, how ours can be redeemed. “Ruth’s Request” is the title of Sunday’s sermon, as Ruth approaches Boaz and asks him to be her redeemer. It will be a powerful time, especially for your friend or loved one who is needing to understand the real meaning of Christmas.
We can still use a few readers of Scripture for the Open House on the 24th at all three times of worship. If you would be interested in ministering through the reading of God’s Word that day, please sign up this Sunday, or let me know by email, so you can practice your part ahead of time. Thanks to all who have signed up ! Cookies would still be appreciated too for the 24th ! Several of you have signed up – thanks ! We would welcome the addition of other cookies to the day’s festivities.
Been thinking …
I guess if there’s a single message God has impressed on my heart this week, it has been about prayer. I am a strong believer that God works through a praying people. I’ve experienced it in my own life, and we’ve experienced it at Emmanuel. What great time Christmas and the New Year are for renewed praying ! Certainly, as we enter advance into God’s plan for transition at Emmanuel, we must be vigilant in our praying !
The Apostle Paul’s description in Ephesians 6 of the Christian as a soldier wearing spiritual armor ends with a call to real praying !
In all your petitions pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray for all Christ’s men and women. And pray for me, too, that I may be able to speak the message here boldly, to make known the secret of that gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains (Ephesians 6:18-19, Phillips Bible).
E.M. Bounds, in his writings on prayer, elaborates on this part of our service to the Lord and to people :
The description of the Christian soldier given by Paul in the sixth chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians is compact and comprehensive. He is depicted as being ever in the conflict, which has many fluctuating seasons – seasons of prosperity and adversity, light and darkness, victory and defeat. He is to pray at all seasons, and with all prayer, this to be added to the armor in which he is fare forth to battle. At all times, he is to have the full panoply of prayer. The Christian soldier, if he fights to win, must pray much. By this means, only, is he enabled to defeat his inveterate enemy, the devil, together with the evil one’s manifold emissaries.
I love two or three key thoughts in that paragraph —
The Christian is always in the conflict.
The conflict has fluctuating seasons.
The Christian soldier, if he fights to win, must pray much !
“Praying with all prayer …” is how Paul puts it. I wonder how much we realize these things. I wonder if we are fighting to win … the spiritual battle for our world.
Bounds goes on :
It cannot be stated too frequently that the life of a Christian is a warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest. It is a battle, moreover, waged against invisible foes, who are ever alert, and ever seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the souls of men. The life to which Holy Scripture calls men is no picnic, or holiday junketing. It is no pastime, no pleasure jaunt. It entails effort, wrestling, struggling ; it demands the putting forth of the full energy of the spirit in order to frustrate the foe and to come off, at the last, more than conqueror. It is no primrose path, no rose-scented dalliance. From start to finish, it is war. From the hour in which he first draws sword, to that in which he doffs his harness, the Christian warrior is compelled to “endure hardness like a good soldier”
(2 Timothy 2:3).
And then, as if to give encouragement in that difficult calling of being a soldier of the Lord, the following promises were part of a one-on-one discipleship study I was part of yesterday. God gives amazing and eternal promises in regard to prayer.
He will answer.
“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
He will give.
“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him !” (Matthew 6:11).
He will meet our material needs.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
“No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).
He will meet our needs for guidance.
“I will teach you and instruct you in the way which you should go ; I will counsel you with My eye upon you” (Psalm 32:8).
He will meet our spiritual needs.
“Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
He has never given up on those who seek Him.
“For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).
He is dependable.
“Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock” (Isaiah 26:4).
He is good.
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him” (Nahum 1:7).
Let’s let God’s promises and faithfulness spur us to devotion to Him and to His work of redemption !
Hope to see you soon !
Sunday morning adult study in Acts, 9:00.
Sunday worship – Ruth 3 : “Ruth’s Request,” 10:15.
Christmas Eve Open House, December 24, 10:30 am – 5:30 pm (worship at 10:30, 1:00, and 4:30).
Concert of Prayer / Congregational Meeting / Volunteer Appreciation Banquet for the entire church family, January 4.
New adult and children’s Sunday morning classes starting January 4.
Thanks to all who attended and participated in the congregational meeting last Sunday !