From the Pastor…
New Year's Resolutions. Do you make them or avoid them? Do you break them or keep them? Several years ago I resolved to take better care of my body. I planned to floss my teeth every day, do my sit-ups and back exercises regularly, not eat as compulsively, eat better food and lose weight... By May of that year I was flossing my teeth, at least once a week. I did sit-ups at least three times – total! I only ate compulsively once or twice a day and gained close to 10 pounds. Now my only New Year’s Resolution is not to make any resolutions!
Why do we fail at New Year’s Resolutions? Is it because we are too busy? Are we unrealistic in setting our goals too high? Do we just need to be more disciplined and try harder? All of those may be factors but the real problem is that we are human. We are finite creatures who are controlled by sin. As Paul says, “I do not do what I want, but do the very thing I hate... In fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me." (Romans 7:15-17) Most of us want to do good, and keep our resolutions, but apart from Christ we are incapable.
The good news is that our failures are not the final word! We are given a second chance. And a third, and a fourth. We are forgiven whenever we fall short of our goals or God's desires. Each New Year, each new day, each moment we are given new opportunities to start over. The one who came to us during the Christmas season is also the one who sits on the throne of heaven and says, "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5) That includes you and that includes me. Every day God makes us into new creatures.
Our New Year's resolutions may or may not work, but thanks be to God that He resolved to love us so much that we get a second chance, every time we don't live up to our hopes or God's desires.
FROM OUR PASTOR…
“The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most in the town. After all, the inn was full, all the beds taken… Soon all the customers would be stirring and there would be a lot of work to do.
One’s imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about their welfare? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Perhaps someone raised the subject. But, at best, it was raised, not discussed. There was nothing that novel about them. They were, possibly, one of several families turned away that night.
Besides, who had time to talk about them when there was so much excitement in the air?... No, it is doubtful that anyone mentioned the couple’s arrival or wondered about the condition of the girl. They were too busy. The day was upon them. The day’s bread had to be made. The morning’s chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred. God had entered the world as a baby.”
“They were too busy.” These words from Max Lucado hit me right between the eyes, kicked me right in the gut, and yanked on my heart, shouting, “Pay attention!” I’m writing this in the mad rush of the week, preparing for an interment, a sermon, several committees, Sunday school, a session meeting, and a variety of other pressing needs, added on top of the activities of my kids and house projects and planning to be away for a week… I’m too busy. My guess is you could say the same thing.
Will you, will I, be too busy and miss the good news of Jesus birth? Oh, I’m sure we will celebrate Christmas, joining in the mad rush to decorate our homes, go to all the parties and worship services, buy all the presents… Will we be so busy that come Christmas Eve, after the worship services, after finishing putting together and wrapping all the gifts, we will collapse in bed, sleep as long as our kids will let us, rush through the opening of gifts so we can rush to prepare a big meal, after which we will crash, and start up the next day with the same mad rush? Will we miss the good news of the incarnation, of God’s presence in our lives, simply because we are too busy to sit and listen, in the silence, for God’s word to us, too busy to stare in wonder at the beauty of Christmas lights or even better at the twinkling stars on a cold, crisp, and clear night, too busy to do nothing but listen to some of the wonderful Christmas music, too busy to read with open hearts and minds, the Christmas prophecies and story (Isaiah 9:2-7; Isaiah 11:1-9; Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2; John 1:1-14)?
Is that your plan for Christmas? I doubt you will intend your Christmas to be like that, but it might happen. If we miss Christmas because we are too busy, we will miss the true message of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection: All of our activities, all our busy-ness, really don’t matter. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love. It is free. It is a gift, wrapped in the package of a helpless little baby, born in a manger 2000 years ago, and still living in our world, and in our lives, today.
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