Newsletter – December 2020

Greetings from the desk of the Pastor!! With the election a fading memory – and a holiday of giving thanks under our belts, we now turn our eyes to Christmas. But for Christians, one day to celebrate the birth of Christ isn’t enough – we need a whole season that we call Advent. Of course, Advent is not five weeks of Christmas all day everyday – but rather, it’s a season of getting ready. Preparing ourselves for the greatest news this world has ever seen.
                I don’t know about you – but I really resonate with the whole theme of advent this year. “Waiting for good news” has become like a professional hobby of mine. I feel a sense of understanding as I think about the nation of Israel, living in darkness and oppression – waiting for news of a savior who will set them free. Perhaps I’m being dramatic to take nine months of waiting for a pandemic to be over and compare it to 400 years of Israel waiting for a savior (or perhaps it’s because 9 months can FEEL like 400 years for some of us).
                But here’s something that’s interesting – when Jesus came into the world, he was not what anyone expected. Many thought the savior of the world would be a warrior who came in and destroyed their governmental oppressors – the empire of Rome. But instead he came as a baby in a manger, who grew into a man who focused on teachings about self-sacrifice and love. He taught his people that true freedom is found in giving ourselves up and loving others as God loved us. The answer to what they truly needed was not what they expected.
                I think about our world right now, and I can’t help but wonder if we are looking for salvation in the wrong places. A vaccine would be wonderful, annihilating a virus would be fantastic, economic recovery and social return to some semblance of normal would be very welcome. But what if that’s not what we need? What if God is teaching us something unexpected right now? What if the good news of salvation and peace for the world came and it had nothing to do with the government or the economy or hospitals or vaccines? What if the best news the world has ever heard is still that baby in the manger?
                Isn’t that a little confusing? How could a baby be more important than a vaccine? How could a dirty baby in a food trough for cows be more important than lifting government restrictions? How is the baby in the manger an answer to prayers for salvation? The world has been very loud lately. The news has screamed for our attention with the volume knob at 11 for basically this entire year. But the real answer, the real source of salvation has never changed. This baby in the manger is God come to earth, come to save us. Not just our world, our life on this earth and all the problems we think are so important, but come to save our souls for eternity with Him. I think hope is something we build during this season of waiting for good news. As the song goes, “it’s not good news – it’s the best news ever!”
                I’m very excited to announce our brand new sermon series that will begin on November 29. The series is called “The Living Chrismon” and the inspiration comes with a little story. Last year, I was standing on the stage during the Christmas season, and I realized that one of the Christmas tree ornaments exactly matched the tattoo on my left arm. I was very excited, and pointed it out to a friend standing nearby. Then I found another one. A different ornament on the tree that exactly matched the tattoo on my RIGHT arm. At the time, my dear friend laughed and made a joke – “you should do a sermon series on all your tattoos.” I laughed at the time, but the idea stuck in my head. (don’t worry, we’re not going to do a sermon series on my tattoos).

However, I did a little research and I found out that those “ornaments” on t he tree are actually called Chrismons (which stands for Christ-Monograms). Then I discovered that almost every symbol in our worship space has a story. Every piece of worship and every beautiful decoration has a way of pointing us to Jesus. So for this season of advent, we are going to explore the symbols all around us, and match them with the pieces of the Christmas story we all know so well. My hope is that not only will we learn the deeper meaning behind what we see in our worship space, but that those symbols will show us more of who God is and that will help our worship grow deeper as well.

The Living Chrismon

11.29.2020           Chi-Rho                                Luke 1:39-45, 67-75

12.06.2020           Triquetra                             Matt 2:1-12 and Luke 2:8-20

12.13.2020           Ichthus                                 Matt 2:13-23 and 10:34-42          
12.20.2020           HIS                                         Luke 1:26-38 and Luke 1:46-56

12.24.2020         Do We Stop At Symbols Luke 2:1-20
I’m really looking forward to this series, but until then – I’ll “see” you on Sunday,

Pastor JJ

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