Happy Christmas ! Just a few thoughts and reminders as you begin this special week ….
Thank you so much for the kind Christmas gift you presented us with yesterday at church. I am touched and blessed by your kindness and encouragement. Thank you for this expression of your love to us. What a wonderful service we enjoyed together, too ! Thanks to Keely, Laura, Jeff, and others who molded together such a wonderful children’s choir. I’m looking forward to hearing them again some time !
A Celebration of the Life of Jesus
Ever feel like your Christmas season was just missing something ? For me, it’s often the fact that the busy-ness of the season actually takes me away from what it’s supposed to be all about. I find the busy schedule crowding out times of meditation on God’s Word where the meaning of the season is divinely communicated to us. And since I, like some of you, am hurriedly trying to finish out my year-long reading of the Bible (some minor prophets and the book of Judges to go), I find I’m not spending much time in the Gospels where Jesus’ story is told.
Let’s take time for Jesus on Christmas Eve ! Let’s celebrate His life – maybe not in a loud way, but in a quiet, thoughtful way, listening to and reflecting on His story. He is what Christmas is all about ! After that, we’ll share with each other around some cookies and hot drinks the special love He has given us for Himself and for each other.
That’s tomorrow from 10:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. The church will be open all day, and we’ll worship the Lord through the reading of the Gospel of Luke at 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:30 p.m. There will be special music, refreshments, time to pray and visit. The church will be a warm, focused place of good worship and good fellowship that day. Come find that thing that’s missing in your season !
Christmas Greetings from Florida and the Caribbean
Janet Snyder is part of Emmanuel’s strong team of national and international missionaries. She is based in Florida, along with Bev Huff, her ministry partner, and she teaches and trains adults in the islands of the Caribbean how to reach children with the gospel. Janet sends these greetings to the Emmanuel church family :
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year ! What a special time of the year. Thinking of you as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.
Thank you for your faithful support and encouragement in so many ways. You help train teachers and reach children in the Caribbean.
Have a blessed 2014 !
I hope that’s an encouragement to you ! We are blessed that God has given the Emmanuel family a heart to meet needs both near and far. Thank you for your compassion for the world around you this year ! I hope we can continue to be such a conduit of God’s love to all people next year !
Congregational Meeting, Sunday, January 5, immediately after worship. All are welcome to attend. Members, your attendance is very important at this meeting.
Staff (Ministry Team Leaders) Meeting, Sunday, January 12, immediately after worship. Ministry leaders, if you can bring to the meeting as much of your team’s thoughts and plans for the first semester of 2014, we are going to try to coordinate activities for January – June of next year. Thank you !
Adult Sunday Morning Classes begin again January 5 at 9:00 a.m.
Discovering Christ and My Church Family 101
Gospel of John
Personal Thoughts on the First Day of Winter
On Saturday (first day of winter, and it looked it !), I got something I hadn’t had in a long time – a nap ! I was once so used to a weekend nap, either on Saturday to be rested up for Sunday, or on Sunday afternoon to recuperate. Not so much any more.
I propped my feet up in front of the heater and set my stack of four books next to the recliner. The house had been cleaned – bathroom, thanks to Betsy, and family room (where I was), thanks to me ! The few Christmas decorations were up (Betsy and Esther), although a tree was still missing (maybe still time to get one Monday or Tuesday ?). I had received a letter from the IRS in the mail at lunch time stating that the thing they thought was a problem on this year’s tax return, they still thought was a problem. It felt good to put life on pause for just a few minutes.
My mind and spirit were feeling like taking on parts of the following books :
Every Day Is a New Shade of Blue, by David Roper
A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller
A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis (second time through this year)
and the Bible …
… but, as you might expect, when I got about three fourths of the way through the first page I started doing what I had really come to do along – sleeping !
My mind wandered in and out some sort of dream that kept trying to get started, but also to questions of where the year had gone and where I’m going in life. Grief is work, and while I was resting, my heart was doing a little grief work and assessment of where life stood just four days before Christmas. Three or four thoughts and questions rose to the surface :
First, it has been a long year. Frankly, I am eager for it to come to a close. January will allow us to turn the corner, and February and March will be, in some ways, like going home, as we connect back to Diana and those precious days we spent together a year ago. I have inwardly wondered if it’s strange that I might be looking forward to this one-year anniversary, but then I read something a parent of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing said today on the 25th anniversary of that terrible event. Her child – a U.S. college student – was killed in that bombing, and this weekend she joined others in Lockerbie for a memorial to the victims. She recounted how peaceful and comforting that place had become to her — like coming home as it reconnects her now to her son. I look forward to honoring Diana’s life and homegoing through the memories we will have in January and February.
Second, the three younger children and I have a milestone to be proud of. With the completion of a few quizzes and tests Saturday, we finished our fall semester of schooling. At times over the past years, I’ve wondered why it was that people I knew seemed to have such interesting hobbies but I had few or, really, none. I finally figured it out – school has been our hobby and takes up just about every minute of “free” time I have. I wasn’t ready to give it up when Diana passed away, and I’m glad I didn’t. Our school times have drawn the four of us very close together, and it has been rewarding – after a couple of difficult years due to Diana’s illness – to see the kids really knuckle down and excel in their studies. We laugh, cry, pray, sing, and learn together. Every morning begins with time in the Bible, then a few chores done to the very loud playing of “The Pennsylvania Polka.” Go figure. It’s our own version of the movie “Groundhog Day” which is kind of what our life feels like anyway without Diana.
The rest of the family are passing their own milestones too : Billy is keeping up with his goal of straight A’s at Hermann High School ; Betsy finishing her first semester at Columbia International University ; Andrew doing some writing for school publications at CIU ; Annie serving her church and the school through music ministry ; Emma and Jason celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary. There has been a lot of good about 2013, … but bittersweet.
Third, what will we become ? Life is so different now, and I am different too. Still a missionary and disciple-maker at heart, I still wake up each morning with the sense of “Where is the Lord leading me today ?” It’s not as clear-cut to me as it used to be, and I’m missing my ministry partner who could also spot where the Lord was and was going. Maybe a part of His leading right now is just to work on me. Since Diana’s passing, I’ve become aware of so many blind spots I had in my life. Blind spots in my relationship with my children, blind spots in my relationship with her – things I thought I knew but didn’t really, frustrations that were of my own creation but which I often blamed on her. How wicked I really am, when you dig down deep enough. And how many more blind spots must I still have !
Which takes me back to my reading and the few pages I did read when I awoke from my nap. From Every Day is a New Shade of Blue, by David Roper, pages 53-55 :
When we turn to God, He is there to greet us. He has been there all along. “The Lord is near to all who call on him” (Psalm 145:18).
But you say, Why would He want me ? He knows my sin, my wandering, my long habits of yielding (to temptation). I’m not good enough. I’m not sorry enough for my sin. I’m unable not to sin.
Our waywardness doesn’t have to be explained to God. He’s never surprised by anything we do. He sees everything at a single glance – what is, what could have been, what would have been apart from our sinful choices. He sees into the dark corners and crannies of our hearts and knows everything about us there is to know. But what He sees only draws out His love. There is no deeper motivation in God than love. It is His nature to love ; He can do no other. “God is love” (1 John 4:8) .
Do you have some nameless grief ? Some vague, sad pain ? Some inexplicable ache in your heart ? Come to Him who made your heart. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
To know that God is like this, and to know this God, is rest. There is no more profound lesson to be learned than this : He is the one thing that we need.
The Lord is my shepherd. Shepherd – the word carries with it thoughts of tenderness, security, and provision, yet it means nothing as long as I cannot say, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
What a difference that monosyllable makes – all the difference in the world. It means that I can have all of God’s attention, all of the time, just as though I’m the only one. I may be part of a flock, but I’m one of a kind.
It’s one thing to say, “The Lord is a shepherd” ; it’s another to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Martin Luther observed that faith is a matter of personal pronouns : My Lord and myGod. This is the faith that saves.