Boxing Day and Giving

Central,

The day after Christmas, in British tradition, is called “boxing day.” Originally, it was a day on which a Christmas box, with a small gift or gratuity, would be given to the servants and other poorer people who worked all year but go largely unnoticed – and may not have received much for Christmas. Who are the unseen, unnoticed people who go about their tasks and are often ignored and overlooked? Can we treat them with care and compassion? Let’s make it our business to make boxing day an all year event. Let’s be givers and not takers! Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

As we come to the end of this 2017 would you please consider giving a SPECIAL YEAR-END GIFT TO CENTRAL. As has been previously communicated our financial offerings are presently 8% below our ministry expenses. This is not sustainable and we are praying for a miraculous increase in the financial support of Central’s General Fund. Will you join other members of Central and give a special year-end gift so we can we can start 2018 on a solid financial foundation. 

Gifts of cash, stocks, checks and credit cards are gratefully received and accepted. All year-end gifts need to be postmarked by December 31 if you want it to be tax-deductible for 2017. Thank you for your prayers and considering this important request.

Please email our Financial Administrator at Kris.geslin@clcelkriver.org or contact her at 763-441-2363 if you have any questions. I hope you had a blessed Christmas!

Paul

Come let us Adore Him

“And the Angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” – Luke 2:10-11

I invite you to take a few minutes to prepare your heart for the celebration of JESUS’ birth by listening to and watching ADORE HIM by Kari Jobe as we come to the end our Journey to the Unexpected. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUCD-GXObac

The honor of your presence is requested as we gather to adore our Savior on Sunday, December 24 and Monday, December 25. Please note the times of our worship above.

In Christ’s Name, WELCOME!

Paul

Make Christmas Strange and Still Her Little Child

MAKE CHRISTMAS STRANGE!

It is said familiarity breeds contempt. That is a real danger when it comes to Christmas. We often miss the significance of Christmas because we domesticate the familiar story. As we prepare for Christmas this week can we take time to reflect on how surprising and unexpected Christmas is? How might you prepare during this final week of our journey to the unexpected? Vinita Hampton Wright gives 3 hints that can help us prepare for Christmas.

Listen to whatever clues you’re given. For instance, angels told the shepherds to look in a certain town and a certain kind of place. They even mentioned swaddling clothes. It helps to listen to what others have said about Jesus—from the accounts in the New Testament Gospels to the testimonies of people here and now who have encountered him. 

Let go of preconceived notions. One reason some very important people did not recognize the Christ Child is that they weren’t expecting a child, and they certainly weren’t expecting a child from the working class. So . . . assume that, even with the information you have about Jesus, there is SO much you do not know about him. Allow yourself to live with these gaps and questions.

Open your life to whatever path God shows you. Consider Mary. She said yes to mystery which must have been pretty frightening. Joseph didn’t know what the future held. The shepherds, the wise men, and later, the disciples all opened their lives to new paths, relinquishing their own plans and trusting that God’s path would lead to life.

Last Sunday at the 9:30 and 11:00 worship many of us were moved to tears by Jarae Ehrs interpretative dance of “Still Her Little Child” by Ray Boltz. I encourage you to follow in the steps of Mary and open your life to whatever path God has for you! Listen, watch and be blessed by this video from last Sunday.

I look forward to celebrating the birth of JESUS with you!

Paul

Christmas Can Be Brutal

Central,

We sing ‘Tis the season to be jolly!’ BUT for many of our family, friends and neighbors it is not a time to be jolly. What about those who cry out? My wife died last week. My daughter is gripped by depression. I was just told it’s malignant. My Dad died this year. I am so lonely. 

CHRISTMAS CAN BE BRUTAL! For many people, those who battle depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder or addiction, or profound grief, or a great many other things, it’s brutal. For so many it is a time of darkness. Actually, we all bear some darkness. During Advent the days are getting shorter and shorter, the darkness longer and longer. Into such darkness, Christ comes.

Kathryn Green-McCreight in her book, Darkness is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness tries to explain to those who seem to always be joyful how dark the darkness can be, and how there are no easy answers or quick fixes. She then reflects on the way God is present, not just when we feel better or get cured, but simply there, in the dark, where it is still dark. God is there, beside us, beneath us, around us, within us. This is what Christmas is about. 

This Sunday we will begin and end our worship in DARKNESS! In between these times of darkness, we will hear the scriptures, carols and songs that tell us of Emanuel, God with us. As we gather for the Service of Lessons and Carols may we know again what Christmas is all about. 

Is it not the story of when love crossed over and cast aside both crown and throne to live beside the common man? You can listen to the song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPM3TEzYpGg.

I look forward to being with you this Sunday at 8:15, 9:30 or 11:00!

Paul

Christmas is a time of…

Central,

CHRISTMAS IS A TIME OF GIVING and we have all found that it is more blessed to give than to receive. 2017 has been an amazing year at Central. Our mission of MAKING DISCIPLES OF JESUS is to give everyone the gifts of hope, love, joy and peace. Our mission will continue to serve anyone who needs it, but we can’t do this without your ongoing financial support. Last night the Church Council met and is asking members and friends of Central to join them in praying that God will increase the financial support of Central.

Our fiscal year began July 1, 2017 and after the first five months our giving is 8% below our expenses. We have had to use money from the reserve fund to cover some of our operating expenses. Please consider giving a SPECIAL YEAR-END GIFT TO CENTRAL to help us grow our giving. Gifts of cash, stocks, checks and credit cards are gladly accepted. With the end of 2017 just days away, I hope you will respond with a special year-end gift. If postmarked by December 31, your gift is tax-deductible for 2017. 

Thank you for you prayerfully considering this important request!

On behalf of the Church Council,

Paul Johansson

Advent Candle 2 – When Love was Born

When Love Was Born!

When Jesus wanted to zero in on what was most important and really matters, he said “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” It is a command, and it’s worth reflecting on the fact that love can be commanded – so love isn’t a fleeting emotion you feel or don’t feel; it is something you really are able to be and do! But there is the future hint in “You shall love.”

Maybe you don’t think you love God and neighbor just now, but within your heart, soul, strength and mind there is the possibility of love.

God had a choice when God created everything. God could have insisted on God’s will always being done. We could have been puppets, unable to do anything except God’s bidding. God chose not to be in control in such a way because God decided to seek our love – and you can’t control love. Love always requires the giving up of power. You have to wait and let the other love you – or not. God constantly isn’t loved. But God risks the heartbreak. God invites us, and pleads with us, to love God and each other. The reason? 

The very marrow of God’s being isn’t power or law or even greatness. The core heart of God is love, unfathomable love, unending love, unlimited love – and it is this love that fashioned the universe with all its magnificence and beauty, and it is this love that wove you together in your mother’s womb and has been behind, beneath, above and before you for every breath you have taken. The only conceivable reply to such love is … love.

Evidence of God’s love is all around you, and inside you – and God’s need for your love is inside you too. All your life you’ve needed, sought, and been downright desperate for love. God made you this way as an echo of God’s own heart. You are your loves; your identity is that you are beloved – by God and others. Love doesn’t shield us from suffering, but love can and will take it. God suffers over our broken world, and God suffers our busy, presumptuous taking God for granted – but God can bear this, because God loves. When we get the mercy, we will love God.

If you recall falling in love: love is reckless, love doesn’t count the cost or keep score. Love is like a flame that consumes our very lives. Love loves with every fiber of our being. Deuteronomy 6:4 says we are to love God with heart, soul and strength. Jesus added a fourth: mind. How do we love God and neighbor?

Contemplate God, your life, other people – and begin now to be attentive for signs of love: some will be like old friends, some barely detectable, some only now emerging, with the deepest love for God maybe nothing more than a dream, or a prayer. Pray for love. That prayer itself is love.

To prepare your spirit for worship this coming Sunday I encourage you to take time and listen to “When Love Was Born” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKSU9Dbxvrw and read Luke 3:1-18.

Paul

P.S. Hope to see you at Night In Bethlehem tomorrow from 4:00 – 7:00PM

Happy St. Nicholas Day and NIB Invitation

Central,

Happy St. Nicholas Day! St. Nicholas was born in Patara, an area that is part of present-day Turkey. He lost both of his parents as a young man and, as a devout Christian, he reportedly used his inheritance to help the poor, needy and sick. Eventually he served as bishop of Myra, a city that is now called Demre.

After his death, the stories of his gift-giving, miracles and work for the poor grew and spread to other parts of the world. Several sources state St. Nicholas is believed to have died on December 6, 343. Eventually St. Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus.

As we ‘Journey to the Unexpected’ this Advent-Christmas season may we remember the true meaning of this season. It is all about giving! God giving us the gift of JESUS and we giving to our neighbors, locally and globally.

I HOPE THAT MANY OF YOU WILL journey to the NIGHT IN BETHLEHEM this Saturday from 4:00 – 7:00PM. Come and see the live goats and chickens and if you have a chance visit the beggar at the well! There will be food, shops and activities for all ages.

In Christ’s NAME, Welcome!

Paul

Teresa of Avila and Journey to the Unexpected

Central,

How will we begin the “JOURNEY TO THE UNEXPECTED” this Advent? I invite you to join me in praying a prayer from Teresa of Avila. Teresa was born in in Spain in 1515. She lived most of her life in a convent until her death in 1582. She was often sick but she became a brilliant theologian and has been a model of faith for many.

To prepare for your Advent journey I encourage you to pray Teresa’s prayer these next few days. She prayed: “Govern all by your wisdom, O Lord, so that my soul may always be serving you as you will, and not as I may choose. Do not punish me, I beg you, by granting what I wish or ask, if it offends your love which should always live in me. Let me die to myself, that so I may serve you: let me live for you, who in yourself are the true life.”

 Remarkable, isn’t it? Instead of praying “Lord, please answer my prayer,” she asks God not to answer her prayer if it is in any way out of sync with God’s love and desire. She also desires to serve God – as God wills, not as she might choose. And finally, she asks to die to herself in order to live.

God loves to write amazing stories, and if we are willing to take an unfamiliar path, He will write a story with our lives this Advent. Teresa of Avila gives us an example of how to begin the JOURNEY TO THE UNEXPECTED.

Hope to worship with you this Sunday!

Paul

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the Forgotten Christmas

Central,

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest shopping days of the year in the United States! If early estimates are correct, this year is going to set new records for purchases. Strangely, after spending billions of dollars, our culture defines today as #GivingTuesday. For 24 hours people are being asked to grow in generosity and giving.

#GivingTuesday is a good reminder to all of us about what the Christmas season is all about. It is all about giving – God gave us the greatest Gift of all – JESUS! As followers of Jesus can we demonstrate Christ-like love to people in need all around the world? 

There are three things I encourage you to do on #GivingTuesday;

  1. Watch the video ‘FORGOTTEN CHRISTMAS’.
  2. Give a special gift to a mission that serves and loves the ‘LEAST OF THESE’.
  3. And for those who have not yet offered their 2018 Financial Promise please email Financial Administrator at Kris.geslin@clcelkriver or call her and let her know what your 2018 Financial Promise is to support Christ’s work in and through Central. Or you can offer your PROMSE CARD at worship this Sunday.

Let’s grow as generous and giving disciples of JESUS!

Paul

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb

Central,

The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb” is a book that I read earlier this fall. The authors of the book believe that North American followers of Jesus today have fallen prey to the seductions of worldly power in contrast to the way of Jesus. Considering all the women who have courageously come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and abuse I have returned to the book and reflected on its timely message.

At the heart of sexual harassment and abuse is power. Scripture offers us an image of a dragon and of a lamb in its understanding of power. The way of the dragon is the way of the world, to have power over the other. The way of the lamb is to know and understand that power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor 12:9). Power in the Christian life is discovered in one place and one person alone. The place is ‘weakness’ and the person is ‘Jesus’.

In his book, “The Gravedigger File”, Os Guinness argues that the church will become its own gravedigger as it continues to uncritically incorporate the values, ideologies and techniques of the world. Too often the church abandons the way of Jesus and operates according to the values, ideologies and techniques of the world. Jesus not only undermined this; he recalibrated what it looks like.

This Sunday is Christ the King Sunday and we will live in Matthew 25:31-46. What does it mean to be a people who walk the way of the lamb as opposed to the way of the dragon? Bonhoeffer in “Life Together” gives us a clue when he writes, “What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God.”

Paul

P.S. If you have not yet done so please offer your 2018 Financial Promise this Sunday. You may place your promise card in the Globes during the reception of our tithes and offerings.