The end of November, can you believe it? This year has surely flown by. Hopefully all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration this past week and enjoyed time with friends and family. Thanks to all of you who made last weeks community meal a great time and helped make this event a success.


As we end one holiday we immediately start preparing for the next one. My girls are counting the hours until Christmas morning. I guess most of us did that when we were younger. It was and still is my favorite time of year. I love the lights, the songs, (even the silly ones), I love the decorations and the overall spirit that this time of year brings. 


We have seen a year filled with anger, with protests, with division, with outright ugliness and that is sad. As people of faith, as ones who have a hope in something and in someone who is so much more, it is often hard to grasp why things have to be so chaotic. The truth is it does not have to be this way, it is an absolute choice. All who become involved in such things do so by choice. As an adult I decide what upsets me and how I respond. As a responsible adult, I process my response as to how it will not only affect me, but those around me.


I was asked by a friend who does prison ministry not long ago what I would do if an inmate asked for a favor and that favor would violate ethics and what have you. My immediate response to him was that I would say no. My next response was that while I have personally placed many people in jail, I have never had any desire to stay there. Making a foolish choice would not only hurt me, but indeed in this situation it would hurt the inmate as well and his life is already a mess, why add to it? My point: we are given the ability to think and we should use that and give thought about what we do and say. 


This time of year can be joyous, cheery, bright, etc… but on the other side of that it can be very depressing to those who feel that none of these things apply to them. When I was on patrol, there was not greater time of year for suicides and self-harm than during the holidays. It was very sad to witness. Although I have not done that work for a long time now, I am sure this statistic has not changed much. 


We can easily be sidetracked with all the splendor, all the sights, sounds and wonder of the holiday season. However, let us not forget those who are struggling to find joy and peace. May we enjoy all the extras, but at the same time never lose sight of what it all means. We were given the greatest gift of all. We were given grace, mercy, forgiveness and we were given these things by God. It was not some cheap trinket from the Dollar Tree, but we received a gift from God that has eternal value. 


We, I’m afraid, do not always stop to think about that. We, most often, take it for granted. I say that not to be critical or even judgmental, but rather, to make a point. I love Christmas, Thanksgiving, just simply the whole season. The colorful leaves, the brisk air, the sight of your breath when you come out in the morning, the lights when houses start to be decorated, the wonderful food and treats that seem to find their way around us, the gatherings, family time, the general spirit of what it all brings. However, while all of that is great, what is even greater is why it all happens, what it all means and it so often gets lost in the chaos. 


God gave thought for each and every person that would ever live and He said: I LOVE THEM. His love was and is so real, so strong that He said, words are not enough. He determined that words could not show love, but rather action would be needed to make that point. In that moment, the greatest gift ever imagined was decided upon and each and every one of us are the recipients of that gift, if we so desire. Can you or have you given that much thought? 


Many will stress over these next several weeks about finding gifts and not getting enough stuff or missing the sales or whatever the case. But, in the midst of all that stress and frustration we forget that fact that we have been given the greatest gift we could ever receive. We rarely think of sharing this wonderful gift with others. We may even think that such is not enough or be fearsome that someone would be disappointed that our gift was not in a colorful bag or box with a bow. However, when we think of giving someone freedom, the ability to truly enjoy life and have it more abundantly, to share with them that God will forgive them and never remind them of any failures, what an awesome gift it really is.


Today we begin a journey that will take us all the way back to Bethlehem and the promises that His birth brought as well as all the life changing things that took place with this incredible event. Each week will bring us one step closer as to what it all means and how it should impact us and all those around us. I am honored to deliver what the Lord has given me to share. I pray it will be a blessing to you all. 


Until we meet again


Pastor Andy