A Journey of Christmas with Joy in Hope by PASTOR MARK LOVE St. Peter’s Lutheran Church I loved the old Calvin and Hobbes cartoons during the Christmas season. During the days leading up to Christmas, Calvin’s thoughts and hopes became more and more haunted by Santa’s rule of gift giving: “If you’re good, you’ll get lots of toys and, if you’re bad, you’ll get nothing.” Trusting in the words, “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake,” the ever in trouble, ever self-absorbed and self-serving Calvin is worried about Santa’s judgment. Knowing his guilt and mischief, Calvin tried anything that would enable him to be judged as good. In a Sunday spread of Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin is dreaming, and he sees Santa consulting with his elves about Calvin’s past year. As the panels of the cartoon flow, Calvin’s case grows worse and finally Santa declares, “I’ve made my decision,” and the dream ends. Calvin awakes as if from a nightmare and says with a frightened and horrified look, “I can’t take it.” For Calvin the days before Christmas were a long journey down the corridors of his life toward the day of judgment. It’s said that humor is born of tragedy and hard times. What made Calvin’s dilemma so humorous to me was all the creative ways he would think of to try and receive a good judgment. First, Calvin wanted his friend Hobbes to be his attorney pleading extenuating circumstances. Second, he would try to do all kinds of good things to prove he was good, but that lasted only as long as the next temptation. Third, he would try to reason away Santa’s ability to know about all the bad things he had done. As troublesome as Calvin and Hobbes‘ journey to Christmas may be for them, this journey is a joyous one filled with hope for all who believe in Jesus Christ. The angel proclaims, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling […]
Angel Messages by MARCIA HUFSTADER member, Third Church of Christ, Scientist “Angels we have heard on high,” the words from a well-known traditional French carol, are words we can all claim today and every day when we are hopeful, faithful and listening for God’s messages. In the carol, the angels were telling the shepherds about “Christ the Lord, the newborn King.” This newborn King showed us the way to heal. We can hear that message, too, ultimately the message about the healing power of the Christ that Jesus so clearly taught throughout his ministry. “Angels: God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect; the inspiration of goodness, purity, and immortality, counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality.” This definition Mary Baker Eddy gives in her primary book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” has been so helpful to me as I listen for guidance in relationships, employment, direction—in everything. Because we are all God’s children we are spiritual, so those “spiritual intuitions” are natural and specific to what our needs are at every moment. We can feel the inspiration of goodness and follow it. The inspiration of purity, as a result of God’s love for us, naturally counteracts any action that could be harmful to anyone, including ourselves. These angel messages, of the healing power of the Christ, continue to be with us here today. What Jesus taught us is timeless. We can’t be separated from the lessons that he so unselfishly gave the world. It’s the divine Principle that underlies the function of the universe, including man. We can utilize this Principle as surely as we can utilize the principle of mathematics. The laws that Jesus taught, starting with loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as thyself, lead us all in the right direction. God’s angel messages will speak to all of us and lead to the same healing power that Jesus taught. We just need to be willing and expectant.
The Gift of Peace by PASTOR ROBERT ECKERT Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church As translated in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, the first two verses of Psalm 133 go like this: “It is truly wonderful when relatives live together in peace. It is as beautiful as olive oil poured on Aaron’s head and running down his beard and the collar of his robe.” That second part of the quote, about olive oil on Aaron’s head, doesn’t necessarily say much to us these days. For the writer of the Psalm, however, it was a beautiful thing. Aaron was a high priest, and pouring aromatic oil on a person dedicated to religious service was a common ritual back in the day. The writer of the Psalm is telling us that just as there is a sweet perfume from the oil that consecrates a priest, family harmony is fragrant and holy. These verses come to mind during a time of year when relatives living together in peace can be a rare commodity. Movies and sitcoms abound that poke fun at the antics of dysfunctional families during the holidays. For comedic effect they exaggerate our foibles and idiosyncrasies, but the underlying truth of how we pick and jab at those closest to us can be harsh and painful. Do you dread going to see Aunt Millie? Are you happy that your brother has to work Christmas morning because he’s so cynical that he takes the fun out of everything? Is Grandma likely to be her bitter, critical self? Is this any way to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace? The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah are frequently quoted during the season of Advent. He’s the one who coined the phrase “Prince of Peace.” He also looked forward to a time when “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (NIV). That’s a picture of relatives living together in peace and then some! Want to give a gift that will last this Christmas? How about the gift of peace? How about greeting Aunt Millie with a sincere hug, or taking some cookies to […]
What Gift to Give? by PASTOR MICHAEL CISLER North Kent Bible Church Here we are again, sneaking up on Christmas. Maybe you have already started your Christmas shopping or maybe you won’t do so for another three weeks. Either way, take a moment to consider what gifts you give to others and what gifts they give you. In Isaiah 58, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah concerning what He desires in fasting. Fasting had turned into a practice that was more about other people seeing our fake righteousness, than the desire that God had for it from the beginning. In this chapter, God talks about wanting people that are involved in loosening the chains of injustice, setting the oppressed free, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, and meeting the needs of those in need. In Isaiah 58:10 it says, “…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Now what does this have to do with Christmas gifts? Are there people in your life for whom it is difficult to find just the right gift? Are there people in your life who just love whatever you give them? Have you ever considered replacing some of those gifts with gifts that could help others in need? What if, rather than buying a $30 sweater for a sibling, you donated that $30 in their name instead. It is amazing what $30 can do to bless those in need. North Kent Community Services can turn $30 into an astonishing amount of food to give to our neighbors who may need some assistance. In fact, through some organizations a donation of $20 can buy enough food to feed 100 orphans in Malawi, Africa for an entire week. I think now is a good time to begin talking to others with whom we exchange gifts for Christmas. Consider encouraging them to give to others in need in your name. Consider giving to them a donation to others in need in their name. “…and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise […]
Thankful by PASTOR RON AULBACH BridgeWay Community Church Johnny Carson may have said it best: “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” Now, I hope that isn’t true for you. Beyond giving thanks for turkey, stuffing, banana cream pie, uncle Eddie’s unique personality, and a competitive Lions team, we need to be thankful for all ways we’ve been blessed. As easy as it is to say, “Be a thankful person,” there are real enemies that rob us. The first enemy is isolation. We were created for community and God says it is not good for us to be alone. When we isolate ourselves, we lose the connection we were created for and we forget how wonderful the people around us are. So, make time during these holidays to have coffee with an old friend or to call a relative you miss. Another enemy is busyness. The schedule can be so full, that getting through the day is all we feel like we can do. We’re told, “Busy people get the most done.” So we over commit and instead of being thankful, we resent our busy lives. As tempting as it is, resist the need to fill the calendar. Use the extra time to pray to God, and thank Him for the life you’ve been given. Finally, guard against the enemy of entitlement. It’s so easy to think that people are here to serve us. “I deserve it!” I order my coffee at Starbucks, where my addictions are most satisfied, and how do I respond? Am I thankful for the person who got up much earlier than I did to make it? I may have paid for it, but does my heart express with words how thankful I am? Followers of Jesus Christ should be the most thankful people anyone ever meets. God gave of His son, so that we might have eternal life. So “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and have a wonderful holiday season.