I’m writing this when it’s still in the thick of the Advent season, with Christmas right around the corner. We’re probably all still wrapping presents, playing Christmas Carols and completing our decorating. And we’re looking with anticipation to the joyous times of celebration with our family and friends…even if those celebrations have to be virtual this year.

But when this newsletter arrives, we will have already moved on to the New Year. We will have put the new clothes into drawers and finished off the Christmas cookies. And we will start the long process of taking down the tree and the strings of lights, and packing away all the decorations.

But there’s one thing that we seem to put away this time of year that we shouldn’t: Emmanuel. Matthew’s Gospel shares the words of the prophet Isaiah: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel”—which means, “God with us.” It’s important for us to
understand that God came to be with us in the Person of Jesus, the Word Made Flesh.

But even more important is that God IS with us; God’s presence continues to be with us, every minute of every day, and will be with us on into eternity. The name Emmanuel doesn’t just tell us “God With Us”; it tells us that God is always with us. May we live in that truth, not just at Christmas but all through the year.

But another thing happens at this time of year. Not only do we put away the Christmas things, we also look back at all that has happened in the year just past – the things that have changed, the things we’ve
accomplished, the struggles we’ve gone through and the joys that we’ve experienced. For many people, it has been a difficult year, with financial problems, struggles with health and conflicts in relationships.

And for others, it’s been great: joys abounding, great achievements, memorable milestones. Most people, I imagine, end up somewhere between those extremes. Whatever the past year has brought, the Apostle Paul reminds us to continue looking ahead to what God has in store for us. In his letter to the church in Philippi, he writes:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! (Philippians 3:12-15, Message)

So as we are off and running, as individuals and as a congregation… Let’s ask ourselves some questions:

-What can we do to honor Christ?
-Where are the places where the need is greatest?
-Who are the people we can help the most?
-How can our congregations be the most effective?
-And, are we ready to commit ourselves totally to being focused on Jesus, making Him our goal?

Christ continues to reach out to us, God beckons us onward, the Holy Spirit empowers us: how will we respond?

Off and running with you,
Pastor Nikki