Saturday, December 31, 2011

Something More Than Time

It’s just a few hours away from the start of a new year, 2012 to be precise.  On an evening like this there’s always a bit of excitement in the air.  Times Square is beginning to fill up with those who seek the excitement of the crowd. Others are getting together with friends and family members for more intimate dinners celebrations. Some of us will be in churches, welcoming the new year with prayer and thanks to God.  Unfortunately, some will be alone.  But wherever we may be, when the clock strikes twelve it will feel as if we have reached another mile marker within our lives, as well as within the history of our world. 

For some people the turning of the new year will mean leaving regret behind and making new resolutions. For others, it is an opportunity to believe and hope for better times. Still for some, it may simply signify just another tick of the clock, one more cycle in the earth’s rotation around the sun.  But, is there anything deeply significant about the turning of another year?  After all, in the end it’s really  just one more sunset and sunrise. Is it not?

The writer of Ecclesiastes sensed that there was something a bit frustrating about the marking of time. He found it frustrating that life appears to be so circular, one season following another and then repeating the pattern again and again. One year is followed by just another year which is then followed by another, and so forth.  Yet, it was the movement of time that actually pointed him to something beyond time.

In the midst of his frustration with time, he wrote: “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 – NIV)  That is, the marking of time—even the marking of a new year—is an opportunity to see the hand of God at work within time.  And, it is an opportunity to be honest regarding our longing for something that is beyond time.  Thus, the stepping into a new year become for us a moment to acknowledge that God has created us for something more than that which we can experience here in this life. He has created us for that which is beyond time, namely, his eternal self.    

Tonight we will welcome in another year. We will mark the passage of time.  As we do, let’s give thanks for the fact that God at work in our lives within time.  But, let’s also look forward to the eternity God has planned for us beyond time, realizing that our end goal is an eternity spent with Him.

Happy New Year! 

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, December 23, 2011

God With Us

For this week's Pastor's Devotion, allow me to share with you a quote from Max Lucado's book, "God Came Near" which I used recently in one of my sermons: 

"It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment that was like none other. For through that segment of time a spectacular thing occurred. God became a man.  While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived.  Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

God as a fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The creator of life being created.

God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother. 
God had come near. No silk. No ivory. No hype. To think of Jesus in such a light is—well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.

But don’t do it. For heaven’s sake, don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out."  

As we remember all that God has done through us through the coming of Jesus, let us worship Him with joy!  Jesus is "God with us!" 

Have a blessed Christmas!  

Pastor Tim Harris 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Pre-Lit Christmas Tree

This year I needed to buy a new Christmas tree for our home.  Since it’s been quite a number of years since I had to buy one, I went to a few stores looking to see what kind of trees the stores had and what the pricing was like. (Of course, I’m talking about an artificial tree!) To my surprise, wherever I went, just about all the trees already had lights on them.  When I first saw them, I thought I could never buy a pre-lit Christmas tree. After all, part of the process of Christmas is taking out last year’s lights, untangling them, seeing which ones work and which ones don’t, throwing away half of them, buying new ones, and then struggling to get them evenly spaced around the tree.  (Wow, that sounds exhausting!) 

After visiting three stores, I finally gave in and bought a pre-lit Christmas tree.  When I got it home, I put it together (it was just three pieces), shaped the branches, and plugged it in. And, what do you know? The tree lit up with just the right amount of lights, all perfectly spaced—no mess, no tangled lights!  I don’t know that I will ever go back to my old routine. 

Unfortunately, our lives are not as neat and clean as my pre-lit Christmas tree.  We constantly  struggle to make sense of the everyday events of our lives.  We work to untangle our situations, trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t, often realizing that the things we’ve counted on need to be scraped.  We fight to enjoy just a little bit of light, yet so often we find ourselves surrounded by the darkness of pain, sin, and circumstances that confuse us. 

But that is exactly why Jesus was born.  He came to untangle our mess, to help us in our struggle, and to bring us light.  In fact, he came to be our light!  The Apostle John wrote of Jesus’ coming, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness…The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:4-5, 9—NIV)

You don’t have to be as perfect as a pre-lit Christmas tree.  All you need to do is put your trust in Jesus.  If you will, he will come into your life, help you with your struggles, and shine his light into your darkness.  And, his light will become yours!  

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Saturday, December 10, 2011

International Nativity Sets

Some of my favorite decorations to put out for the Christmas season are the nativity sets.  Early in our marriage Kim and I made sure we had a nice nativity set to be used as part of our annual Christmas tradition.  Through the years, we have added to our collection with various sets.  Some of my favorite are those that come from various parts of the world.  Although we don’t have too many of them, we now have sets from Peru, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bethlehem, Israel. 

As I look at our international nativity sets I am reminded of the fact that when Jesus came to this earth as a baby he didn’t come for just one particular group of people or one particular nation.  He wasn’t born into this world to save a few select people.  Rather, he came because, “God so loved the world….” (John 3:13)

When the angels announced the birth of Jesus, they proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:14 – NIV)  Notice they didn’t proclaim peace and goodwill to the Jews or to the Romans or to any other particular nation or group of people. Rather, the peace and favor of God was being extended to all people. 

One Christmas song says,
Some children see Him lily white; the infant Jesus born this night 
Some children see Him lily white with tresses soft and fair 

Some children see Him bronzed and brown the Lord of heav`n to earth come down 
Some children see Him bronzed and brown with dark and heavy hair

Some children see Him almond-eyed; This Saviour whom we kneel beside 
Some children see Him almond-eyed; With skin of yellow hue! 

Some children see Him dark as they; Sweet Mary`s Son to whom we pray 
Some children see Him dark as they; And, ah! they love Him so! 

The children in each different place; Will see the Baby Jesus` face 
Like theirs but bright with heav`nly grace; And filled with holy light! 

O lay aside each earthly thing; and with thy heart as offering 
Come worship now the infant King; `tis love that`s born tonight! 

Words and Music by Wihla Hutson and Alfred Burt

The sentiment of the song is true.  Jesus came for each and every person, no matter the color of their skin or their nation of origin. God has loved us all. Thus, each of us is called to respond to him with faith, praise and worship.

This Christmas remember: no matter who you are or where you have come from, Jesus came for you! 

Have  a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Music

Now that our Christmas tree is up and decorated, I play almost only Christmas music in the house throughout the rest of the month.  Of course, the radio and the stores began playing Christmas music a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving Day – all in the hopes of getting us into the Christmas shopping mood.  But, the first Christmas music I heard was in Nicaragua!

It was October 31st when I arrived in Managua. After leaving the airport, we drove to one of the malls to get lunch at the food court. In the middle of the mall was a huge Christmas tree decorated like the nicest trees we’d see in our malls. Not only that, but our standard Christmas music playing!  The next day, we went to a supermarket in the small city of Leon. The supermarket had snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, little Christmas trees for sale (artificial evergreen!), a section called “stocking stuffers,” and again, American Christmas music playing.  That’s right, in Nicaragua I was listening to “White Christmas,” “Let It Snow,” and “Sleigh Ride”—all in English!   I wondered, did anyone understand the words or the meanings to the songs, after all, they don’t get snow in Nicaragua –i.e. no white Christmas or sleigh rides.  (By the way, they did also play “O Holy Night” and “Away in a Manger”, again mostly in English.)

Whatever we think about the Christmas songs that are being played or when, where, and why they are being played, I believe that it is only appropriate that the Christmas season is filled with music. After all, the very first Christmas was filled with what we might call “songs.” 

Mary sang, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  (Luke 1:46 – NIV) Zechariah sang, “Praise be to the Lord, the God Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.” (Luke 1:68 – NIV) And, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 – NIV)

Truly, God has given us something to sing about—something that goes far beyond the snow that the season may bring or the family gatherings we may enjoy. The reason we sing  and fill Christmas with music is the fact that God has sent us a Savior! Jesus has come bringing us light, life, peace, joy, forgiveness…and we could go on and on.

This Christmas, let’s rejoice and sing, filling our homes and souls with lots of Christmas music. 

“Joy to the world the Lord is come!”

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris