Countdown to Christmas.

November 28th, 2014 by

santa-claus-2014-macys-thanksgiving-day-parade

Black Friday.

Small Business Saturday.

____________

Cyber Monday.

Giving Tuesday.

 

Just a cultural reminder that Christmas is coming. Our civic liturgy for the season’s inauguration begins annually at the conclusion of the Thanksgiving Parade, when Santa and his entourage let us know that the Feast of Thanksgiving is meant to feed and fuel us for the celebrating, decorating, entertaining and shopping to come. The TV litany of 1960s stop-motion reindeer, Snowmen and Mickey Rooney Kringles quicken the pace as commercials for recipes, automobiles, and hugging families in the snow bring us to the brink of the Feast.

“You can’t wing Christmas. Procrastination is not part of the holiday spirit. Christmas requires preparation.”


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The Human Touch

November 21st, 2014 by

rp_Invite-to-Church-Invitee-Front-300x231.pngThis won’t surprise you. Automated customer service can be tedious.
“Press 1 for this. Press 2 for that. Our menu has changed.” I have learned that if you purposefully mumble your responses or just sit quietly, you are transferred to a real person faster.

Most people don’t prefer automated interactions. And the more important something is, the less helpful automated seems.

If you ask people how they came to the church where they worship now, the overwhelming majority will answer that they were invited there by someone.
Someone with a voice and an invitation. Someone who knows where to sit. Someone to answer a question or direct them to the donuts. Someone to give them a ride.

Christmas is a great opportunity to give someone an invitation. As we prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we are telling the story most familiar to people who haven’t been to church in a while. There are opportunities to hear the Christmas story, sing carols together, and share good food and fun with others.

We know it isn’t always easy. They might say no (this year). They might say yes (this year)!

To help us all give this gift, we are designating Sunday December 7th to invite our friends to church. The Sunday service will include simple explanations of the liturgy, and will allow us to share the upcoming opportunities this Advent season.

To assist you, in your Christmas card, there are 2 postcards. One is a calendar of events for you to put on your fridge. The other is an invitation to give to a friend. We have more invitations for those of you with more than one friend. But we are asking everyone to invite at least one friend to church on this day.

You can also invite them to other events going on through December. Take Home a Tradition and Caroling in Oak Forest next weekend on November 30th, Lessons and Carols on December 7th, and Fezzywig’s Christmas Party on December 14th. These events are all different ways to prepare to celebrate the joy of Christmas.

Pray and ask the Lord where your friend will best see Him, and then invite your friend to come along. And, if you are here at New Covenant because someone invited you, tell us who took the risk and asked you to come along. And tell them thanks.

God’s message of salvation was not automated. He sent a person. He still does.

May God Bless You Richly,

Father Christopher +

Revisiting the Unquenchable Lamps

November 14th, 2014 by

tornado“It’s my life isn’t it?”
Danny and I sat on the front step watching the black line grow on the horizon – a tornado warning had been issued and he wanted to be ready. I had a Bible of some translation in my hand, he a pistol of some caliber in his. Danny had been buried in a basement of a strip center when the last tornado blew through town and that wasn’t going to happen again. He was 16 now but his father’s death of just a couple years before, he jumped off the Ohio River Bridge, was still burning in his heart. Suicide, why not? “It’s my life isn’t it? “Well, actually, no it’s not, Danny,” or something like that, I responded. “You have been bought with a price, it’s not you who live but Christ in you – it’s not your life, like it or not.” I’m pretty sure that is not an exact quote, but it was what was in my mind that spring afternoon. Danny is alive and well today, still living a life, I trust, not his own.

When I thought of the oil in the lamps of the bridesmaids in last week’s sermon, I realized it had to be Christ in us, not our lives alone that kept the lamps lit. As Isaac of Nineveh said in the seventh century, “There is a love like a small lamp, fed by oil, which goes out when the oil is ended; or like a rain-fed stream which goes dry, when rain no longer feeds it. But there is love, like a spring gushing from the earth, never to be exhausted.” The wise virgins are in touch with the inexhaustible river. So the oil is continuously replenished rather than consumed.

It seems to me that we experience this oil as light, life and love. Light, in that it is about seeing. The life in that it leads to eternal life. And love, well, this is a wedding feast! (You can hear the sermon on line…) The thing that still strikes me is that where we tap into this source of light, life, and love is in the presence of our Lord in us, Christ in us, not we who live but Christ who lives in us. His presence. And the way we nurture this presence is through transformation, which is the focus of we are about at New Covenant!

And so we push into transformation every way we can – through God’s word, through training in spiritual exercises, through relationships in community, and inviting the Holy Spirit to be present. Whether it is in solitude, in worship, or in acts of compassion, we say, ‘how else are we known as your people?’
One last thought is that what we want to do is to keep as little as possible between our Savior and us. What gets in between us? You name it – distractions, fear, good times, or bad times. You fill in the blanks. Will we be ready when the bridegroom appears?


 

Nothing Between My Savior and I

Time takes its toll, weather makes its mark, man creates disaster.
The tombstones stood, some tall, mighty, and gleaming;
Yet others warm and crumbled under the weather of the days gone by.
These are monuments of lives that had past:
Soldiers and Chiefs; Widows and Orphans.
Presidents and Heroes; Homeless and Crippled.
But of these lives, what remains?
A symbol of their peace, joy, and glory;
A recollection of their achievements, recognitions, and accomplishments;
Or the crumbled stone of a lonely, hardened life.
Further still what forgoes of these deaths? –
That is only known by The Master and His servant.
For in his death he has left the way so that
Death does not have its sting.
Through the struggles of life, the pressures of long days;
The happy times and the sad;
The good times and the bad;
We all set for ourselves a symbol of who we are.
When it comes to be set in stone,
Will it read
“Nothing between my Savior and I?”
by A.J. Buffington