How often do we hear and say the words yet Truly take it to heart? I don’t mean to say that we are without the Joy of Christmas and the Hope of the New Year, but rather perhaps we fall a little short on the true depth of Spirituality that God offers us through the Gift of Christmas and transformative Power of His Spirit for us in the New Year. God is our help in ages past and indeed our hope for years to come.
Christmas Day has now passed. 359 days remain until the next, or at least at the time of publishing this. You’ll have to do your own math on the day you read this. December 25 the marks a celebration of an event; The Nativity of Christ. This singular event is a multi-faceted one – It is proof of God’s love for us and His faithfulness to His promise to us. It marks the establishment of His Kingdom on Earth. It shows how far He will go for the sake of His people. It is the provision of a savior Who frees us from our sin, from death, and from the tyranny of the devil. It is the gift of our Lord and our Shepherd to teach us, to guide us, to provide for us and to lead us on our way with Him ever by our side. It is in Him that we have been “recreated” in His image, and granted fellowship with Him. He is truly “Emmanuel”
So, you can see that this “day” of Christmas is intended to provide for us and in us a “Spirit” of Christmas that is a life-time passion and existence. This is where all too often, our hopes for a better New Year go awry. We look for a better body, a better life, a better relationship, a better “fill-in-the-blank” and yet we go into the new year with all these hopes and dreams and our same-old-selves. We focus on our abilities, rely on our willpower, or worse, we rely on the humanity and goodness of others to make us whole. We forget our human nature and the human nature of others.
The Apostle Paul has told us that he had found the secret of contentment in all circumstances. Isn’t that the essence of what we desire for ourselves and our families and perhaps even for our nation and the world? Contentment – Our world teaches to find contentment by changing our circumstances; Paul shows us that the secret is in changing our attitudes towards our circumstances. Trusting our happiness on the sinful nature of man and his world is folly. Trusting our happiness on the time-tested truthfulness of what God offers us, gives to us, and wants for us, is wisdom. In these perpetual days of languishing through national and world events we are awakened again by the Word and Promise of God of a Divine Peace that sustains us and restores our joy even in the midst of pandemics and economic woes.
You can doubt me. You can doubt Paul. You can even doubt God, but have you truly tried life as God desires for you? Try it! What have you got to lose? Learn what God wants for you and submit your will to His and see what transformation can occur. Yet to do so requires an act of faith and a commitment.
Put aside for the moment what you think you know about God and God’s desires for your life and take time to find out truly what God says to you about himself and His will. Read and study His Word. Pray for guidance. Ask questions. Listen to your pastor. Discuss with your family, friends and most importantly, your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be in Church fellowship and receive the gifts bestowed weekly at every service. (Yes, God’s means of Grace are available in online services!) Let the Holy Spirit take you and guide you and follow Him along the path and into and beyond 2022 and all that the year will bring. God knows the path and all the obstacles and all the dangers and every difficulty and change in circumstance. Who better to guide you and lead you? But God cannot lead if we choose not to follow.
Herein lies that secret of contentment. Not in ourselves but in God’s purpose in and for us as His people and as His church.
To that end, my encouragement to you all is a simple one. I ask that each of us reflect once more upon our vision as His church in Shelton and ask ourselves “How are we doing? What am I doing? Am I doing what I can to show and share the Grace of God to the people of my community?” It is important that each of us work together and support one another to be the church in Shelton in actions outside our sanctuary worship, and to be a compassionate source of comfort and blessing to those around us.
I am pleased that Stephen Ministry is active again with Hank returning to the helm. More events are planned for here at our campus. And in spite of Covid we continue to be a presence in the community through several ministries.
My personal passions are the preschool, the military, Sanctity of Life, and the youth of our community. I do appreciate the generosity and support that many of you have shown to these ministries, but I do not expect everyone to have the same passions as I do, however I do encourage you to find a ministry that does speak to you and your passions and get involved! If we are not yet doing it, we can, with your leadership, begin to do so.
I do also strive for and insist that we be a congregation that communicates with one another, works with one another, and welcomes help and ideas from all our membership and family affiliates; especially our newer members. New ideas, new energies, can bring about great change.
As for me and my goals, they are the same as for any pastor: Proclaim the Gospel, teach the Word, administer the sacraments, forgive and retain sins, rebuke and admonish and encourage and empower the saints, comfort the sick and the dying, bring peace to the grieving.
I will say also that I love, respect, and appreciate the elders and their counsel to me and to the people of Mount Olive. They are there for you and deeply committed. As we move closer to our centennial, I am hopeful and optimistic about what our future as a congregation can be, ever thankful for the sure and certain knowledge of what each person’s future is in Christ. How will God find us and what will He say to us in 2026? "Our God, Our help in ages past, Our hope in years to come.”
May God Bless you and yours this coming year and always unto eternity.