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Author: admin

Advent 2018 – Tuesday, December 25

This time of year is the only time we ever hear the beautiful carols of Christmas proclaiming the truth about Jesus and his birth. I have great childhood memories of caroling—singing Oh Holy Night!, Silent Night, Away in a Manger and all of the other beautiful songs that are imbedded in my mind.

Little did I understand that God was using that method to teach me about himself and so begin a lifelong journey of faith. In Romans we read that “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” We experience Christ through hearing and storing scripture in our memory whether through reading or through song.

My mother (96) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years ago and we have watched her die before us as her memories vanish. However, though she cannot remember the simplest things, she recites the Lord’s Prayer perfectly and can sing many of the Christmas carols without hesitation.

The season of Christmas and all of the beautiful sounds we associate with it reminds us of how intermingled our faith is with our memories. The music of life is always around us but we are most aware of it at Christmastime.

Merry Christmas!

Judy Morgan, elder

Advent 2018 – Sunday, December 23

The Sounds of Christmas

Having just visited a foreign country, the notion of the sound of things is very present to me. The Chinese language, a Muslim prayer call, a Thai TV commercial—they all sound so strange and inaccessible and they leave me a stranger standing on the outside of a wall with no apparent door through which to pass. Of course, to those on the inside, these sounds are so close and familiar so as to be indiscernable; woven into the everyday fabric of normalcy.

As a Christian, often I find that the sounds of Christmas, of the Christian faith, are too close. Songs of celebration speak of a Holy night, a Savior’s birth, the coming of a King who rules the world “with truth and grace,” the “Lamb of God” and the “Lion of Judah.” To me, standing inside this Christian edifice, these words and phrases pass unimpeded through the filters of my mind; barely recognized for what they represent. To one on the outside, they must seem as foreign as a Thai menu or a Chinese wedding.

Perhaps a helpful activity this Christmas would be to step back and listen to the sounds of Christmas with new ears. Allow yourself to be a foreigner again. And perhaps the good news message of hope that first landed on the ears of the shepherds and literally changed the world will stir your heart, liven your step and embolden your heart to live with strength, beauty, love, grace and hope.

Rob Schmidt, worship

Advent 2018 – Saturday, December 22

A reflection on the feel of Christmas.

When I think of the things that my sense of touch tells me about Christmas, many things come to mind. Let’s list some of them:

  • The feel of evergreen needles as you decorate the tree
  • The crinkling of paper as a gift is opened
  • The feel of the outline of an ornament as it is placed carefully on the tree
  • The sticky feel of a candy cane as the wrapper is removed
  • The numbness of my fingers as I hang the last light on the roof of the house
  • The feel of the straw as a manger scene is put in place

In the proper setting at this special time of year these all remind me of the Christmas story and the tremendous impact it has on our world and on my life personally. As our sense of touch this Season reminds us of Christmas let’s pause and express joy in the Reason for the Season. Perhaps it will even happen as you handle a gift that you are considering buying for someone you love, and you remember the Great Gift we were given.

Paul Wardlaw, elder

Advent 2018 – Friday, December 21

Recently my son and daughter-in-law rescued a puppy from a nearby shelter. After a couple weeks, they realized the dog was deaf, apparently from contracting parvo in her early months. This was not as great a challenge as you would think, since the dog’s other senses were more acute, and she typically stayed close to her owners. Their greatest revelation was that, lacking the ability to respond to voice commands, the dog learned by observing her owners.

Our children are in their twenties now. As I look back at my parenting efforts and the resulting positive impacts on my kids (thank God!), I realize they learned far more by watching me than by listening to me. Much of the energy I burned crafting a verbal message apparently paled in comparison to their observing how I conducted myself in various situations, how I treated others, spoke on the phone, etc. While I’m certain both words and actions work together to create the strongest impact, a living example is often more powerful than the message.

God provided many lessons through intermediaries in the centuries leading up to Christ and sometimes revealed himself through impossible deeds. Eventually, He saw the need to show us what holiness and love looked like: Jesus Christ. Perhaps the most powerful lesson we have received is revealed by his actual presence as his Son in human form.

Like many of you, I sometimes struggle with what to “say” when presenting my faith to others. This lesson provides comfort that ears and eyes will open up as people see Jesus in my visible actions. My prayer is that I always remain attuned to what God wants to accomplish through me today, if only by example.

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”

Kevin McDonald, elder

Advent 2018 – Wednesday, December 19

Do you remember learning of Helen Keller, the deaf and blind heroine of the early to mid-20th century? One of her habits that might not be tolerated in today’s society was to touch and feel (and I mean really feel) the face of the people she met. Feeling someone’s face was her way of learning to speak and to discover what someone looked like; it didn’t matter if you were the President or a pauper. Unlike a physical touch, our faith depends on a different kind of feeling, for we believe in Christ even though we cannot physically feel or see him.

As we celebrate Christ’s birth during this season, we will experience a multitude of feelings. Sure, we can physically touch our loved ones, the tree, and the gifts, but Christ’s birth is something to be experienced and believed, not touched physically. Christ’s birth, like our faith, is something we feel spiritually in our hearts, not physically in our hands. The Bible has multiple verses about faith without seeing, but consider this quote from Helen Keller: “the best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched—they must be felt with the heart.” This season, fill your heart with God’s love and let others feel his love through your verbal and physical encouragement: a gentle touch, a kind word, a simple favor. Of course, a gift they can physically feel is always appreciated too…

Rob Strode, elder

Advent 2018 – Tuesday, December 18

We can approach Christmas feelings from numerous viewpoints…

Can you just imagine the feelings of Mary?

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1)

She most likely felt fear, excitement, confusion and many other emotions. Her response is worth pondering… “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

And later, Mary “sings” a song expressing her feelings in response…

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.”

As I reflect on how Mary’s world changed so quickly and eternally over the next 33 years, I think of the feelings she must have had before his birth, and as she heard his teaching, saw the crowds following him everywhere, witnessed his numerous healings, the miracles at the wedding in Cana, and his death upon the cross and his resurrection from the tomb.

Our lives, like Mary’s, are filled with times of amazement, great joy, unexpected news, as well as significant loss, pain, disappointment, trials, loneliness and death. Out of this mix of feelings and emotions we, as believers, can celebrate that we have a Savior, Christ the King, who put all of our feelings at rest. He gave his life on an unspeakably cruel Roman cross that you and I might know real life and purpose and meaning. Understanding this truth and experiencing life this way gives me great joy and subjects all other “feelings” to his Amazing love for me.

An old hymn expresses my feeling of gratitude in this season of Christmas:

Satisfied, by Clara T Williams (1875)

All my life I had a longing
For a drink from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.

Refrain:
Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through His blood I now am saved.

As to my own feelings, as I reflect on Christmas and God’s gift of his only Son for sinners like me, my feelings are deeply moved with praise, thanksgiving and the desire to follow him more closely.

What are your feelings this Christmas?

Don Wolf, elder

Advent 2018 – Monday, December 17

THE “FEEL” OF CHRISTMAS

Do you remember the pure wonderment and joy of Christmas as a young child? The unmitigated magic of Christmas that made you wake up your parents at 4:00 AM to tear open presents because your once-a-year incredible happiness could not wait? Why can’t you feel that same energetic joy anymore? Is there a void in your life since you lost the “magic?”

I have many excuses: It’s a busy and stressful time of year. I have many bills and obligations to pay. I have all sorts of this-and-that which must be done before Christmas!

Christians in the Western world have a tendency to rank “sin” in degrees of severity. I have not remotely overcome this problem in my life, but the definition of “sin,” for me, has become “anything that keeps me from growing a closer relationship with God.” Who do you know who is feeling lonely, marginalized, and abandoned this Christmas? Who has faced physical or psychological obstacles in their life this past year? Who do you know who doesn’t have “faith” who you could be praying for? I confess, I often miss obvious opportunities right in front of my eyes….

The shame and honor culture of Jesus’ day hedged bets on their children’s “value” by waiting to adopt them according to how influential and successful they became—and, therefore, how much they “honored” their family. In Matthew 10, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

Can you still feel the joy you felt as a child on Christmas morning after years of secular ridicule and skepticism? My prayer for myself, my family, Dillon Community Church, and the people of faith (or no faith at all) who may be reading this is: “Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the glory and grace of God bring meaningful peace, rest, and restoration to you this Christmas and into the New Year; may we all receive Christ-like love into our hearts as we move into 2019.” For Polar Express fans, can you still hear the bell? It exists, just not the way you originally thought…. Merry Christmas.

Bruce Butler, elder

Advent 2018 – Sunday, December 16

In an age of stimulation through social media it seems that human beings have lost the importance of actual relationships. People obsess over the posts that get them the most “likes” and often forego physical connection with a person for the anonymity of the Internet. People are losing the impact of a gentle hug or the commitment of a firm handshake instead attempting to reach out through a text message. We’re more “connected” than ever before yet lacking an essential aspect of human communication: touch.

During the holidays we often seek that lost physical connection and travel thousands of miles just to spend a weekend being able to embrace the ones we love. We are seeking an experience that helps us *feel* the importance of the holiday season.

A warm hug from Mom, a pat on the back from Uncle Joe or a kiss on the cheek from Grandma, these things allow us to share the actual gift of the season: togetherness through gathering and touch, just as Christ intended.

Julie Andrews (and Mitch), children’s ministry director

Advent 2018 – Saturday, December 15

All of us experience our world through our senses and one of the most powerful of these is our sense of smell. How many times have you thought, “this smells like Grandma’s kitchen” when walking by Cinnabon in the mall or “this smells just like rain” on a humid day? We all know what a dental office smells like and also the whiff one gets when driving up the hill by the dump.

Do we all recognize a common “Christmas smell?” Those in charge of enticing us into stores sure think so. Mulling spices, scented candles, peppermint, hot chocolate, evergreen all waft through the air tempting us to come in. All of these odors (real and chemically induced) are associated with personal experiences in our life that we relate to.

Are we as skilled at recognizing the “fragrance of Jesus”—the One we celebrate this time of year? Maybe not so much. 2 Cor 2:15-16 describes that odor, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life.” Our deep desire should be that we would give off the aroma of Jesus—the “fragrance of life” not only at Christmas but all through the year.

Judy Morgan, elder

Advent 2018 – Friday, December 14

I’m sure I could come up with a list of at least 25 of my favorite smells at Christmas! But the one that triggers joy and brings a smile to my face is the scent of citrus, or to be more specific, the scent of GIANT oranges!

As a child, we were lucky to be able to spend time with our Grandparents who lived close to each other in the Midwest. One Grandfather was a Minister, and Christmas was one of his favorite times to preach. We always stayed with them on Christmas Eve to attend candlelight services together as a family.

My Grandmother would leave for church separate from the rest of us, staying back to fill our Christmas stockings (this as her way of playing Santa). We received all kinds of practical items… a comb, toothbrush & toothpaste, small packages of toiletries, a pair of socks, maybe some Hershey Kisses, etc. But the best and most unique item was always a giant, fragrant, juicy, sweet orange. Once we awoke the next morning, we knew that it was CHRISTMAS!!!! We could smell the aroma of the oranges! Combine that smell with the scent of fresh cut pine, a steaming cup of cocoa, and cinnamon toast for breakfast… what joy, life was simple, life was good!

Reminiscing about Christmas traditions with my Great Aunt, she explained the significance of the oranges. Growing up during the Depression money was tight and they were only able to purchase certain fruits. Most were scarce and quite costly! In their stockings were placed the giant, fragrant, juicy, sweet oranges (along with practical items). The pleasant citrus aroma filled the damp and cold air, they knew it was CHRISTMAS! A simple, fragrant and refreshing treat in the dark of winter.

The Advent season celebrates Christ’s simple birth in a manger, bringing us joy and refreshing our souls in the midst of darkness. A promise of abundant life in him—experienced with all our senses! Perhaps this Christmas we can offer others the pleasing aroma of Christ, sharing the simple gift of salvation and a good life!

2 Corinthians 2:15, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Psalm 103:5, “He satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”

Cindi McDonald, elder