When I think of all that happens in November and December, the word that comes to mind is preparation. Preparations for dinners, guests, traveling, gifts, parties, concerts. But, as I think about all that we prepare for, I hear a word underneath, gratitude. Am I grateful for the opportunity to be with family & friends around the table now and throughout the year? Am I grateful that I can travel to see family & friends? How can I stay focused on what is important and practice gratitude as a spiritual discipline? How can I prepare again for the coming of God-with-us? What preparations do we need to make to be prepared for the coming events?
Our stewardship emphasis this year has been about preparing to take steps into the future. Thankful for what God has done in our lives, eager to take some next steps into God’s future for our ministry together, we have been invited to step up our financial commitment as an act of faith as we prepare our people to grow and our ministry to expand. Our stewardship now is preparing us for God’s work in us and through us in the coming year. Thank you for being part of the preparations and living your faith through your financial generosity and your time and talent that is so evident throughout our ministry. I am thankful for all the ways we can continually prepare ourselves for what God will do through us next.
In preparation for Advent and Christmas, our theme this year will be “A Different Kind of Christmas,” based on resources written by Pastor Mike Slaughter of the Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church. In our worship and education, we will look beyond the allure and deception of the consumer Christmas to discover the true joy of living and giving like Jesus. We will consider what we could do this year to avoid the traps and discontentment of consumerism, and the debt that always follows close behind. How might we follow the call of God in the birth of Jesus to live generously and fulfill God’s mission in the world as we Expect a Miracle, Give Up on Perfect, know Scandalous Love, understand Jesus’ Wish List and live into 2013 By a Different Road? Our focus during Advent will take us far beyond words to the way we live our faith and tell the real story of the season. Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, not ours.
This Advent includes a faith challenge: Turn gift giving into a spiritual practice. Make a donation to our food pantry in an equal amount to what you spend on gifts. If you can’t do that, make a tithe of 10% of all the money you spend on gifts. Make Christmas about giving that will change the world through the food we give away and the lives we touch. Make Christmas different.
To prepare for the good news of Christmas, we have resources available to help us all keep Christmas from being hijacked this year. A daily devotional guide called “A Different Kind of Christmas” is available for families to use during Advent. Our weekly adult studies (Wednesdays, Thursday & Sundays) will use a DVD & program based on Mike Slaughter’s “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday.” Our children and youth will explore age-appropriate studies of the same theme. This church-wide emphasis will prepare us all for the coming of God once again into the world so that we can join God’s gift to the world. Ultimately, this is the purpose behind of all of this preparation, from Stewardship to living grateful lives to taking the journey through Advent – to join God’s work of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. That will happen as we take the steps that nurture, grow and deepen our faith.
Thanks for all of the preparations and for the journey ahead that we share in faith and ministry together.