Next Tuesday night people all over the world will count backwards and then blow noise makers and kiss. Kind of weird behavior when we take it out of context...
None the less, most people give special significance to the changing of the calendar. It provides an excuse to change our behaviors, dream new dreams, and generally "start over".
Some of us have a hard time looking forward with joyful anticipation. Looking backwards is more comforting when we focus on "the good 'ole days". After all, when we look backwards we can focus on the good times (usually with some selective memory adjustment that conveniently forgets the less-than-perfect details). I'm a part of a few nostalgia-focused groups on Facebook that are a lot of fun and bring to mind warm memories of a "simpler time". However, I'm pretty sure that if I actually time-traveled back to those days I'd come to realize that they weren't quite as "good" as I remember.
So we are left looking ahead with anticipation of what's yet to come. Although we can sometimes be beaten down by our circumstances and pessimistic about what the future holds, scripture gives us every reason to be optimistic since God is on our side.
"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
Our hope lies in our confidence that God is always present and at work in our lives and using the circumstances we go through for our growth and benefit. That can only be experienced as we fully trust and follow Jesus. We can't know what the future year of 2014 holds, but we do know that God holds the future - and it's a future full of hope!
As I think about the coming year, I believe that God has some wonderful things in store for CCC and each of us. I hope you'll be able to join us this Sunday, December 29th, as we look ahead to the future with the promise that God is doing something brand new.
One of the things that Tami and I have come to love about life in the Methow Valley is all of the sunshine. In fact, we've become pretty spoiled by the ability to count on the sun shining brightly for at least part of almost every day of the year! Even though it's been cold, there's something that warms me (at least emotionally) when I look out at the beauty of sun reflecting off of the snow.
I have friends and relatives who live in Nome, Alaska, and they're currently experiencing 20 hours of darkness in between their 4-hours of daylight. I'm sure that there are times when the never-ending night must really take it's toll on them! When the darkness goes on and on and on it's hard to keep going.
A little over 2000 years ago the Israelites were deep into one of those never-ending nights. Hundreds of years had passed since the prophets had given them the promise of a Messiah who would bring hope and establish a kingdom that would never end. It was a great promise, but ... how long is someone expected to wait before they understandably give up hope?
It was into that weary, dark world that Jesus appeared - bringing heavenly light and the accompanying hope of God's presence that brings forgiveness and salvation.
But we sometimes feel the darkness is just too much for us to handle. There's no escaping the bad things we experience from living in a fallen, sin-filled world. Whether we're innocent victims or suffering from the results of our own selfish choices, we find ourselves curled up in the corner praying for the light that seems like it will never come.
Hold on! Hope is on the way! The promises of the prophets not only point to Jesus' first incarnation, but they remind us that He is with us in our darkness and that the new and glorious morning will come!
I hope you'll be able to join us this Sunday, December 15th, for the 3rd Sunday of Advent and our celebration that the Good News that was proclaimed by the angels is true today!
The people who walked in darkness
It's a difficult balancing act: offering our abilities to God while remaining humble. I've known many talented musicians and preachers over the years who aren't able to find the middle ground. They either come across as "aren't I something?" on one extreme or think so little of themselves that they are barely even willing to share their gifts.
Having a gracefully humble attitude is important. The Bible is full of encouragements to be humble in your attitude towards God and other people (Psalm 18:27, Matt. 5:5, Eph. 4:2, Phil. 2:3). But sometimes we end up thinking so little of ourselves and our abilities that we feel we have nothing to offer.
Have you ever asked a group of little kids, "Who can draw?" Every hand will shoot up into the air and they'll ask, "What do you want me to draw?!" Ask a group of adults that question and you'll only have a few respond in the affirmative. The same goes for singing, dancing, and any number of things. Life tends to rather quickly cut us down and make us overly self-critical.
This brings us to this Sunday and our Advent series, "Carols". On Dec. 8th we'll take a look at the well-known Christmas song "The Little Drummer Boy". Everyone has something to offer to Jesus and everything that we offer to him is joyfully received by him! The bulk of our service will feature the children and teens of our church bringing their gifts to Jesus. It's going to be a wonderful experience and I hope you'll be able to be there.
But let's not forget that God has created and shaped you to honor him with your gifts and abilities, as well. How can you use your ability to organize, problem-solve, market, bake, repair, etc. to glorify God? You can't say that you have nothing to offer! And Jesus is waiting to smile at you (pa rum pum pum pum... you and your drum).
Thoughts about living as a Jesus follower and life at Community Covenant Church