Our 5th Advent/Christmas together

Our 5th Advent/Christmas together

Today is Thanksgiving Eve, 11/27, it is snowing, and I have been working on the last little bits of our Thanksgiving Eve service for this evening and looking getting some final things together for the Advent and Christmas Season. 

I realized (as I am sure you can tell from the title of this post) that this is our 5th Advent/Christmas season together.  I will have been here 5 years this coming summer, but we celebrated our first Christmas/Advent a few months after we got here, so this is number 5.  I suppose, like anything, the number 5 of anything is a bit momentous.  In the history of both our congregations, my getting to 4 1/2 years in the call puts me hear longer than 85% of most of the pastors who have served our churches in the last 130 (Geeseytown) or 212(Newry)  years. So that is kind of neat. 

It also made think about where we are and where we are going.  I think we have been doing pretty well since we started this journey together in 2009.  Let me share with you something that amazes me about you as a parish.  We are small and there aren't a whole lot of us - we know that. But what so pleases me and continues to surprise me is our parishes ability to respond to need and to reach out to our community and to our world.  What I think is exciting is that we are able to do that in spite of our size.  We are a group of people who think it is important to serve and to give and to help wherever we can.  We do this not because we just think it is the right thing to do, which it is, but because we follow the example of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the one who demonstrates for us that we are to care for those who need help.  You may remember the passage in Matthew 25 when Jesus reminds us that as we do unto the "least of these" we do unto him.  We are called to serve and give and help.  Because Jesus Christ gave, and saved.  We who have been claimed by this Jesus, are therefore called to share and give as we can and as we are able.

What I am so very please with is that we do this in so many ways.  I hope that one day I am able to sit down and calculate how many hundreds (if not thousands) of quilts and blankets have gone out of our parish to help comfort and warm people in parts of the world that we will never see.  I wish we knew how many tons of food have been donated to the food banks and food programs at St. Vincent De Paul, ARW, Claysburg, and Williamsburg.  I know that we have helped give Christmas presents to over 50 children in the last few years working with our gifts for foster children.  We also support Project S.O.S, Camp Sequanota, the Domestic Abuse Shelter, The Hershey Medical Center Ronald McDonald House, CROP WALK,  the Children's Miracle Network, and we help with living expenses for Pastor Chaks.  That is a lot.

Now some people would say, how can you do all of that.  The answer, I hope you realize isn't because of us.  It is because Christ Jesus calls us to be people who help and give and do.  That is it.  We are not the ones who are truly doing the work here - but it is the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, and the leadings of our Lord Jesus that give us the chance and the opportunity to help.  I don' t think there is anything better than that.  I told the Joint Council last week that people from around the Synod ask me how we can do so much - the answer is that we don't - but Jesus does and he lets us be a part.

There is always someone hurting, there is always someone who is in need, there is always something that need help or somebody that need that little boost to get through the day.  God provides.  We get to help.  Do you realize, that in being people of grace, and charity who give and help - you are doing what your Heavenly Father the great and powerful God who made heaven and earth wants you to do?

When we help and give and serve, it is that we are finally getting on board with what Christ calls us to do and to be.  Jesus is always reaching out and taking care of those in need, and he gets us and lets us be a part of what he is doing. 

You have amazed me over these last 4 1/2 years.  What I am seeing now is that you are coming up to me and saying - "Hey Pastor, can we try this?"  You know that my answer is usually, go for it!

The thing I can also share with you is that currently we are undergoing a review of our ministry here in the congregation.  You may remember that in the early part of the summer you helped answer the question "What Would God Have us Do?"  These surveys brought some good ideas, but also are helping us to see where our hearts are for  ministry in the congregation.  This, we hope, will help to focus our mission work, but also to help us see where we might need to go.  What we hope this will do is focus us so that we can more deeply dive into certain projects and make a difference in our communities.

As we go into this 5th Advent Season together, I hope that we can continue to seek to serve to help and to give.   We get the chance to be a blessing to others, and in your work, you are (whether you know it or not) and example to other churches in our community and in our synod.  You are showing them what is possible when people care.  I thank God for you, and I pray that our Lord Jesus will continue to lead us all to be formed into people who share his love and reflect his light to the entire world.

God's blessings be with you now and always

Pastor Mike

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