12-19-2019 – e-News

As I write this note Christmas is just 6 days away! 6 days!
Like you, I’m sure this time of year is always filled with a number of unique and special tasks and events: Christmas choir concerts, parties and family gatherings of one kind or another, open houses – ours is just 3 days away! Gifts are exchanged. Tons of cookies are baked and wonderful food is shared. Smiles and generosity can be seen all around us.
Like the song says, it may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but it can also be stressful or even hard.
Yesterday, a friend of mine got a bad report about his heart. Another friend is going through radiation treatments. Still another is having surgery tomorrow. And that’s not nearly all of the difficulties I know folks are experiencing this year. Many will be thinking and praying through hard news over Christmas and beyond.
Later today, I am going to write notes to many friends I know who have lost close loved ones this year. I know that losing people is nothing new. I also know that the first holiday season after that loss can be especially difficult. None of that is new information. However, I learned first-hand what that was like when we lost my Mom a little over a year ago. Anyone who is going through a season of grief we will be feeling an emptiness this year.
It’s at times like these that we have to hold both realities at the same time: the wonderful happiness with the people and events we experience and the heavy burden of the pain and loss we still bear. It’s not always easy to do both, but I am learning more and more that God gives us the strength to do just that.
We have been talking about that very thing this entire Advent season, remembering that our Almighty God became small and vulnerable, so He could open the door of our spiritual prison cells from the outside … with hope, love, joy and peace.
We talked about the hope of Jesus that makes it possible for us to say YES in Him even when our circumstances say NO. That is how we can trust that we will have victory over sin, healing in our relationships and redemption from the bad choices we have made.
We talked about how God loved us enough to make every effort to send His Son to save us. Having received that wonderful love, we want all of Jesus and we want others to have all of Him too.
We talked about how only God has the power to make something dirty and dead alive and beautiful again. And because that is true, there is only one possible response: JOOOOY!
This Sunday we are going to talk about peace, which is not a natural achievement, but a supernatural gift. When received, it will produce and inner calm and equilibrium no matter the circumstances of life. Amazingly, that peace with God even makes it possible to have peace with ourselves and pursue it with others.
Knowing and experiencing those truths helps to ground us in the reality we live in – good or bad, happy or sad. It helps us be true to everything in our lives, truly celebrating on the one hand while also being able to still be honest about our losses on the other.
I hope these promises from God will anchor you this Christmas!
With much love! Pastor Jim
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