Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus!
When you have a truck, you're everybody's friend! This is a truth I learned all too well as a young adult living in Atlanta. Whenever a friend or a friend of a friend or - let's be honest - even someone I barely knew was about to move from one apartment to another, I'd get a call - "You have a truck, right?" The answer always seem to obligate me to a day of labor for no pay other perhaps a couple of slices of pizza at the end. Oh well, that's the cost of having a truck, I suppose!
When Christmas time came, it didn't matter that I had a truck or not - all that mattered was a I had a vehicle at all. The fact that I was one of the few folks around who drove back home for the holiday meant I was around long enough to be called on to give several friends a ride to the airport for their own journeys home. As Christmas day approached, I would get the calls - "You have a car, right?" Holiday traffic in Atlanta meant one thing - extreme gridlock. I eventually learned my way on the surface streets and alleyways to get back from the airport to my home quicker than taking the congested interstate. Of course, that quicker route took me through some of the rougher neighborhoods that I would have normally avoided. I was always struck by the poverty that surrounded the communities, the scrawled graffiti on every wall, the litter blowing down the sidewalk, and the painful stares of the homeless and the alcoholics. While I saw all of these things on daily basis in my travels throughout Atlanta, I rarely saw so much of it all together, and it saddened and overwhelmed me. It was not a part of how I understood life. Still, there was something else about those neighborhoods that jumped out at me. There was a spirit about the people who lived there that all that poverty could not overcome. People walked down the streets talking with one another, they came in and out of stores, they went to the church on the corner for Bible study, they lived in a light that no amount of darkness could overcome. In a way, those neighborhoods - on the surface so different from where I spent most of my time - were the same mixture of sadness and hope that fill all the world. They just opened my eyes to what I failed to see in the places I became accustomed to.
Each year, as I would make those trips taking friends to the airport and return by this route, I was reminded of why Christmas matters. Christmas matters because Jesus came to a world that needed him and needs him still. If all were merry and bright, we would not need Jesus, but as it is we are in desperate need of one to save us from ourselves, to give us strength in the face of adversity, to instill in us a hope for the future, and to shed light in the darkness. No matter what neighborhood we live in or what circumstances fill our lives, we need Jesus to bring light in the midst of the darkness that surrounds us. And so as we await Christmas, we join the church throughout the ages in saying, "Come, thou long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free!" May you remember why we - why you - need Jesus and see the light that he is shining into the world!
Blessings on the journey, Jim
God's Christmas List
What would be on God's Christmas list? What did the prophets tell us God wants, and what was God up to just before the birth of Jesus? We are exploring these questions as we prepare for the coming of Christmas.
Last Week's Sermon Snippet: Peace
(Isaiah 11:1--9; Luke 1:57-80)
The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of the peace that God wants to bring to our world - where the wolf and lamb can lie down together in peace, the lion eats straw like the ox, and a little child leads them, where no one hurts or destroys on God's holy mountain. What a world that would be! Unfortunately, we live in a world so far removed from that kind of peace. There are wars, acts of terror, violence in the streets, and people languishing as they seek to find a better place to make a safe home. There are plenty of people offering easy answers to these problems, but the problem of world peace is so much more complex than that. Where can we even begin? What can we possibly do to make a difference and help make the gift of peace a reality in our world? It starts with the little things we do. Simply choosing to be kind - even when we don't want to or feel like it - is a way we invite peace into our lives and spread the gift of peace among God's people. With Christmas coming this week, we will have plenty of opportunities to show kindness even among our families and communities. There are folks we know who have hurt us, whom we have hurt in turn, whom we hold a grudge against. What difference might it make if we forgave them and showed them kindness this week? Surely, it will not create world peace overnight or fix all the world's problems, but it would be the first step in cleaning up a mess seemingly too big to tackle. May there be peace on earth, and may it begin with us!
Looking Ahead: Light and Life (Christmas Eve) and One Last Gift (December 27)
As we finish off God's Christmas list, we find the greatest gift that God wants to share with us and for us to in turn and share with others. Join us Christmas Eve as we celebrate the "Light and Life" of Jesus Christ! Then this upcoming Sunday, as we prepare to say good-bye to the Christmas season, its bright lights, beautiful songs, and wondrous joy, we will discover "One Last Gift" we can give to God this year!
Christmas Eve Service
Join us on Christmas Eve at 7 pm for a service to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ! We will celebrate with singing, communion, and candlelight.
We will also offer a home-cooked Christmas dinner - ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, potato salad, and more! - before the service at 5:30 pm. We will need volunteers to help serve and clean up. We will offer an activity for kids between the dinner and service!
Christmas Eve Offering for Others
This year, our Christmas Eve Offering for Others will go to support the World Service Fund of the United Methodist Church. Through this fund, we support the work of our missionaries and our church's desperately needed mission work across the world. Their work focuses on developing Christian leaders for the world, creating new churches and renewing existing churches to bring in new people, engaging in ministry with the poor, and stamping out killer disease of poverty by improving global health. Thank you for making a special gift to God during our worship service this Christmas Eve!
Bible Blast 31
Kick off your New Year right with Bible Blast 31 - a one-month reading program to learn about God's story from Genesis to Revelation! By reading about one chapter a day - give or take half a chapter - you will hear the story from Creation to Community to Covenant to Church. Reading plans are available at the church and will be made available on the church website. Look for more details to follow!
Living in Community
This Week at Port Church
Wednesday, December 23
Thursday, December 24
5:30 pm - Christmas Eve Dinner
7 pm - Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service
Sunday, December 27
9:30 am - Worship: "God's Christmas List: One Last Gift"
11 am - Sunday School Cancelled - Join us for a time of fellowship following the service!
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!