Friday, November 28, 2014

Simply Put

From the Advent Newsletter

THE CHRISTMAS MESSAGE of hope and salvation for the whole world and so wonderfully proclaimed at Christmastime is needing to be proclaimed these days, as much as at any time in the world’s history.

The seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany work in tandem. Advent is a season of anticipation and hope for the fulfillment of God’s promise in the Christ-child. Christmas is a time of joy as we celebrate the birth in time of the Son of God and as we welcome Jesus to walk with us on our journey of life. Epiphany is a season of realization, when we proclaim the faith that has been entrusted to us and allow that faith to take a real hold on us.
Statistics show us that many people will go into significant debt because of the pressure they feel to celebrate Christmas with tastes, trinkets and trips. Even though they know that the Church has never endorsed or proclaimed that this is what Christmas is about.

Others will say that Christmas is all about the children. Yet the Gospels clearly say that the birth of Jesus is about every child. Christmas is about every man, woman and child. The Christian message is for the whole world. The Bible says that Jesus was sent into the world because God so loves the world. The message we proclaim is relevant to the whole world.

It might seem that the message is not getting through. St. Paul’s Church might even be a bit of an unusual case right now. We are, in many ways, holding our own, whereas the Christian Church in North America is on the decline. However, the surveys are showing that there is no drop in percentages of people who believe in God. That tells me two things: first, the Church is not fully addressing the needs and interests of the spiritual journey people are on; secondly, and this is the really Good News, God manages to break into people’s lives despite the Church’s failures.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, people expect of the Church the same sorts of things we expect of ourselves: truth and integrity; joy and celebration; faith and knowledge; inclusion and justice; forgiveness and love. Clearly, St. Paul’s is living into these things. We are becoming what God wants us to be. It all leads us to one basic realization: Christian is a verb. Christian is an action, it is something a person does. Sure, those actions stem from beliefs, knowledge and experience, but simply put, a Christian is a person who acts on the belief, knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of the world.

Worship is not a pointless or meaningless action. Worship plays a key roll in the formation of the individual into the fullness of Christ. Worship helps integrate our mind, body and soul with the Spirit of God. Worship give us joy, giving us an opportunity to celebrate, sing, laugh and cry. Worship helps us remember the teachings of Jesus Christ and encourages us to put his teachings into practice. Worship give us community, a group of people to help guide us, celebrate with us, and hold our hand when needed. Worship helps bring us into community with God. The worship of the gathered community is a place of welcome and no matter how long we’ve been away, or even if we’ve never attented, we will be welcomed home, like a long lost son or daughter. Worship is the place where we learn what it means to be a host, welcoming everyone into the presence of the Holy Spirit and the community of Jesus Christ.

Together, these Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons are wonderful times for all of us to renew our commitment to God in the joy and celebration of the worship service.

Please take a look at the list of events we’ve planned for these seasons of  Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and come to any or all of the exciting programs that are offered by St. Paul’s Church community.

The clergy, staff, wardens and Parish Council of St. Paul’s Church join me in wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and joy in the New Year. v

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