Monday, December 31, 2012

Lots of Little Steps

I remember when my children were taking their first steps.  It was so exciting to see them finally get up on their feet and wobble across the room.  With each step we would cheer.  The excitement in the room was almost uncontainable.  Of course, as quickly as they got up, they would fall onto their bottom or bump into something that would knock them to the floor. But, it wasn’t the falling we concentrated on, it was the walking—even if it was only a few steps. 

Over the next few weeks there were lots of “ups and downs,” literally!  As our son or daughter would begin to make their way across a room, something would knock them off balance and down they would go.  Sometimes we would take them by the hand and lift them back up to their feet. At other times, Kim or I would watch with amusement as they figured out on their own how to get back up.  In the end, the point wasn’t about how far they could walk at any given moment, but that each time they got up they would take one, two, or even three more steps forward.  In the end, it was the lots and lots of little steps (with a whole bunch of falls in between) that got them to where they wanted to go. 

As we move out of one year into another, what is it we cheer about?  Few people can actually point to and celebrate a bunch of great big steps in any given year.  Those are usually few and far between.  And, I’m sure we have all had our share of falls. The truth is, our lives are most often made up of lots of little steps—with a lot of falls in between. But, to draw a little bit closer to my wife and kids; to learn how to do my job with a bit more skill; to grow a little bit deeper in my walk with God—each of these are small steps forward that are worth commemorating and celebrating.  We make a mistake if we only celebrate the big steps, or fail to celebrate because we’ve experienced a few bumps and bruises. Rather, just a little bit of progress in each area of our lives is worthy of celebration.

As you look back over 2012 and prepare for 2013, don’t concentrate on the falls and the bumps and bruises of this past year.  And, don’t look only for the big steps in order to celebrate.  Rather, take note of the little steps you have taken—steps that have moved you just a little bit further along in your journey with God and with the people around you.  And, give thanks to God for being there by your side each step of the way. 

Psalm 37:23 – “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, and He delights in his way.”  (NKJV)

Have a blessed New Year! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas in the Midst of Darkness

If you live here in the Northeast, you know today is a pretty dark and dismal day. It’s raining with a terrible wind blowing. It feels like the sun never rose this morning. It’s fitting weather for the one-week anniversary of the killing of twenty children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.  As one commentator put it earlier today, “It’s as if tears are falling from the sky.” 

I find it almost ironic—and even a bit difficult—to think that while so many families in Newtown are burying their children and loved ones, the rest of us are preparing for Christmas.  It feel as if there is a bit of a disconnect that, while some are weeping from such a depth of pain, others are shopping, baking, and holding Christmas parties.  It’s hard to think that such a tragic and horrendous event took place at Christmastime.  Yet, there is also something consistent about it.  After all, Christmas is a reminder of how dark our world really is and why it is we needed the Light to come. 

The coming of Jesus is referred to as light breaking into a dark world.  The Apostle John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it...The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:5, 9 – NIV)  Jesus came specifically because our world is dark and needs change.  Our world needs light.  We need light.  Jesus came to bring hope to those who could see no way out their darkness; to those whose tears made them unable to see anything beyond their pain; to those whose sin, as well as the sin others had inflicted on them, had left them separated from God and with wounds too deep to heal.  Jesus came because our world has been overrun by sin and thrust into darkness. 

When writing about the long-term affect that Jesus’ coming would have on our world, the author of the Christmas Carol, “Joy to the World!” put it this way:
No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;

He comes to make His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found…

Through Jesus, the blessing, healing, and salvation of God is now flowing into a world that has been under the curse of sin and plunged into darkness.  His light is breaking into our darkness.  One day, there will be no more darkness, only light.  This is the hope that Christmas brings to those who are living in a very dark world.

So, this Christmas let’s pray for those who find themselves in the midst of darkness and pain, especially the families of Newtown, Connecticut. And, let’s share the good news that the Light has come, through the person of Jesus Christ.

Have a great day and merry Christmas!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 14, 2012

Waiting For Christmas Cookies

One of the highlights in our home during the Christmas season is Kim’s baking, especially the cookies.  Some years she may try one or two different cookies, but every year there are some cookies that are standard fare for our family. Two of my favorites are the Greek butter cookies called, kourambides, and the Scandinavian almond bars.  Each one goes perfectly with a cup of coffee.  And, each one seems to make our house seem just a little bit more like Christmas.

So, about this time in the Christmas season I’m looking forward to coming home one day, being met by a delicious aroma at the front door, and finding Kim by the oven pulling out a tray of Christmas cookies.  I’m looking forward to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when I can finally sink my teeth into any one of the cookies that have been baked for the holiday.  Yes, I am waiting for my Christmas cookies.  Actually, I’m looking forward with great expectation and anticipation to my Christmas cookies.  I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but I think I really mean that!

On the first Christmas, however, the people of Israel were waiting for and looking forward to something much greater than cookies.  They were looking forward with great expectation to the coming of the Messiah, the One who would be their savior.  Their eyes were watching for the signs of his coming.  Their hearts were longing for his arrival and the salvation he would bring. It is said of one man, Simeon, that, “He was waiting for the consolation of Israel…(and) It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Messiah)” (Luke 2:25, 26 – NIV) And, then it happened.  Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple.  Simeon’s eyes caught sight of the baby.  And, Simeon exploded in praise saying, “ eyes have seen your salvation, which have prepared in the sight of all people….” (Luke 2:30 – NIV)  Simeon’s waiting was over.  The longing of his heart had been met. He had seen his Messiah! Salvation had come!   

Christmas is a season filled with waiting, anticipation, longing, and expectation—for cookies, for gifts, for family gatherings and candlelight services.  But most all, Christmas is about how God has met our deepest longings and brought our waiting to an end.  The Messiah, the Savior--our Salvation--has come.  We can know him. We can experience him.  Through him we can receive forgiveness of sin and the hope of life forever with God, our heavenly Father!

So, as you wait for Christmas day and all the fun, festivities, and cookies that go along with it, remember that through the coming of Jesus our waiting has been brought to an end.  You and I don’t have to wait for another time or another season.  Salvation is here and his name is, Jesus! 

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Gift of My Dreams

I remember as a kid the incredible anticipation leading up to Christmas morning.  Once we got through Thanksgiving Day, everything became focused on Christmas. After all, that was the day we would wake up early, make our way down to the Christmas tree and find a whole bunch of brightly wrapped gifts under the tree—gifts that weren’t there the night before.  And maybe, just maybe, there would be under the tree the gift of my dreams. 

One year it happened. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gifts my parents gave me on other Christmases, but I’ll always remember one gift in particular.  At the time it was the gift of my dreams.  As I made my way down the long wooden staircase my heart was pumping, wondering whether or not it would be there. I was almost afraid to look. As I peaked towards the tree, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  There in the corner behind the Christmas tree there it was: a Flexible Flyer sled!  It was the best sled that a kid could have--red steel runners, great steering capability, and it was fast!  It was the sled every kid at the time wanted.  It was the perfect gift! It was the gift of my dreams! (In fact, the sled is still hanging in my dad’s garage!)

The New Testament writers write about the gifts God gives to us.  They refer to the gift of God’s grace, the gift of eternal life and the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Each one we might say is a gift of our dreams. After all, what could be better than knowing the grace of God, receiving the eternal life of God, and being filled with the Holy Spirit?  There is no better gift than having God at work in our lives to save us, restore us, help us, and lead us into life with him forever.  And all of this has been made available to us by means of the Gift of gifts: Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.  

So with the Apostle Paul I say today, “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 – NIV)  God has given to us the gift of our dreams! 

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris