Friday, December 20, 2013

Waiting For Christmas

I can still remember what it was like as a child waiting for Christmas to arrive. The anticipation was, at times, almost unbearable.  It would begin with the Sears catalogue arriving at our home. My siblings and I would go through the toy section and begin to circle those items that we were hoping we would find under the Christmas tree.  The Christmas decorations would begin to come out and be put around the house. The tree would go up. Soon the whole house began to feel like Christmas—which only increased the sense of anticipation I felt inside.    

Christmas Eve was always a tough one. I remember going to bed and hearing my parents downstairs rustling wrapping paper, going up and down the basement steps, and doing all the things parents do to set things up for Christmas morning. When Christmas morning came, we (that is, my siblings and I) always woke up much too early, often having to wait a bit before going downstairs to the tree.  Finally permission was given and we would gather around the tree and open up the gifts that had been set there the night before. At that moment, the waiting was over. Christmas had arrived! 

If you think about it, the first Christmas was filled with anticipation.  So many people many were waiting for its arrival—that is, waiting for the birth of the Savior.  For nine months Mary and Joseph awaited the birth of the miracle child that Mary was carrying in her womb. From the announcement of the angel through the long trek to Bethlehem, this young couple was waiting for the child’s birth. 

But, not only were Mary and Joseph waiting for Christmas, a whole nation of people were waiting.  Through years of suffering, exile, domination by foreign rulers, and all kinds of injustice, God’s people had been crying out for a Messiah to come. They had been holding onto the promises spoken through the prophets. They were waiting for the day when a Savior would be born.  They were waiting for Christmas.

Then it came.  He arrived. The Savior was born.  So, the angels declared to the shepherds who apparently had been waiting, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 – NIV) Eight days later, when Simeon, the old man in the temple, saw the baby Jesus, he cried out, “…my eyes have seen your salvation....” (Luke 2:30 – NIV)  In other words, his waiting was over!  Christmas had arrived for him and for the whole world!

Christmas has arrived! Our Savior has been born!  He is Christ the Lord!  This Christmas Season let’s celebrate that fact that the waiting is over.

Have a great day and a blessed Christmas! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas In Low Gear

At this point in the month of December, the Christmas season is obviously in high gear.  The Christmas cards are coming and being sent. The gifts are being bought and wrapped. Dinner plans are being made. Churches and homes are being decorated. Choirs are practicing. Offices are having their parties.  People scurry here and there trying to squeeze Christmas into whatever time they may have left at the end of their workday.  Yes, it’s Christmas in high gear! 

As many of you know, I love the Christmas season.  I love putting up the tree and decorating the house. I love listening to Christmas music. I even enjoy some of the shopping. But, I know from experience that if we are not careful, when Christmas gets into high gear, we can get so caught up in all the stuff we need to do for Christmas that we can easily neglect the reason why we are doing it. We can spend so much time, energy, and thought on our Christmas lists, to do lists, and menus that we lose sight of what this celebration is really all about.  Sometimes, we need to slow down—go into “low gear”—and, take time to reflect on why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. 

I want to encourage you today to put Christmas into “low gear” every so often this season. Take time to rest and reflect. Take time to pray. Read through the Christmas narratives found in the gospels. Sit and enjoy the lights on a Christmas tree. And, as you do, give thanks to God for the greatest gift we could have ever received, Jesus the Son of God sent to be our Savior!

To help you put Christmas into “low gear” today, I offer this old Christmas hymn to you. It’s one of my favorites that few churches sing anymore. I want to encourage you to find a quiet place, maybe in front of a Christmas tree, and reflect on it’s lyrics.  And, I pray that the words repeated at the end of the first few verses will ring in your heart throughout this season: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee.” 

“Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne” by Timothy R. Matthews

1.         Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown,
            when thou camest to earth for me;
            but in Bethlehem's home there was found no room
            for thy holy nativity.
            O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
            there is room in my heart for thee.

2.         Heaven's arches rang when the angels sang,
            proclaiming thy royal degree;
            but in lowly birth didst thou come to earth,
            and in greatest humility.
            O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
            there is room in my heart for thee.

3.         The foxes found rest, and the birds their nest
            in the shade of the forest tree;
            but thy couch was the sod, O thou Son of God,
            in the deserts of Galilee.
            O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
            there is room in my heart for thee.

4.         Thou camest, O Lord, with the living Word
            that should set thy people free;
            but with mocking scorn, and with crown of thorn,
            they bore thee to Calvary.
            O come to my heart, Lord Jesus,
            there is room in my heart for thee.

5.         When heav'ns arches shall ring and its choir shall sing
            at thy coming to victory,
            let thy voice call me home, saying "Yet there is room,
            there is room at my side for thee!"
            And my heart shall rejoice, Lord Jesus,
            when thou comest and callest for me.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  (Luke 2:11 – NIV)

Have a great day! And, enjoy the season! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Charlie Brown Christmas

This past week, for the first time in quite a number of years I caught the last part of Charles Shultz’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  It was amazing to see how a Christmas special that I grew up with is still airing each year. More than that, it was incredible to realize how the message of that simple story, with its very simple animation, is still so applicable today. 

The story is about Charlie Brown’s search for the real meaning of Christmas. Throughout it, he is trying to get past the commercialism of Christmas as symbolized by a lot filled with aluminum pre-lit Christmas trees. The tree of his choosing was what we have come to call, “A Charlie Brown Tree”—i.e. a little, natural, almost barren and sickly looking tree.  Although everyone initially laughs at Charlie Brown for his choice of trees, the real meaning of Christmas comes out as Linus quotes the Gospel of Luke account of the nativity story and eventually Charlie’s little tree is decorated and becomes a tree of beauty.  The story ends with all the kids standing around the little tree singing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing!” 

There are two main messages that come through “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  The first is that the real meaning of Christmas is not found in our popular or secular spins on Christmas.  Linus had it right when he pointed Charlie to Luke’s gospel and quoted the nativity narrative.  As much as we might enjoy our cultural celebrations, stories, and songs that surround the Christmas season (and I personally do enjoy them), we must never forget that the real meaning of Christmas is found in the Gospel message that tells us of God sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior—the One who saves us from our sins.

The second message is just as important, and tied to the first. It’s what we call, the message of redemption. The Bible shows us that just as Charlie’s sickly little tree was turned into a tree of beauty—a tree to be gathered around and celebrated—through faith in Jesus our lives can go from being barren, sickly, and filled with sin to lives filled with beauty and life—his beauty and his life! Jesus is able to turn our lives into lives of celebration!

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” reminds me of Isaiah’s words, as he wrote about the coming of Jesus, the Messiah: “…He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…to comfort all who mourn…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” 

That’s what Jesus came to do in your life and in mine.  Charlie Brown, that’s the real meaning of Christmas!  This year, let’s remember that’s why we celebrate Christmas!

Have a great day! 

Pastor Tim Harris

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Day Before Thanksgiving

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse…actually it is kind of quiet here at our home, at least for the moment. Kim is at work for the first half of the day. The two college students who’ve come home for the weekend, are still in bed, maybe just beginning to wake up. I’ve been at my computer studying and preparing for the weekend. And, it’s pretty grey and rainy outside. Oh, the dog has been sleeping all morning, as well (but she usually does!). 

It’s the day before Thanksgiving! That means the roads will be filled with cars trying to get to their next destination and the airports will be filled with passengers waiting to board their planes. The supermarkets are full of Turkeys and stuffing and cranberry sauce—all of it quickly flying off the shelves—and, filled with people pushing their carts, getting all their last minute items, and standing on long lines. 

It’s the day before Thanksgiving so, people are in a hurry to get home and begin preparing for the next day’s meal. The house needs to be cleaned, the pies need to get in the oven, the stuffing needs to be prepped.  There’s so much to do on the day before Thanksgiving. 

Yes, it’s the day before Thanksgiving. The anticipation is building for the reunions with family and friends. Many are looking forward to sitting down at a table filled with food and indulging in foods that they eat possibly just once a year.  Some are looking forward to going to getting up early and going to a parade or to the local high school football game. Some anticipate cheering on their favorite team via the television. Everyone’s thoughts are on tomorrow. After all, it’s the day before Thanksgiving.

But, what will actually happen on Thanksgiving Day?  Yes, there will be the parades and football games, the reunions and the meals. There may even be a quick word of “Grace” before the meal. But, will there be any “thanksgiving?”  Will anyone actually remember to give thanks? 

Maybe on this day before Thanksgiving, we should begin to plan and prepare for how we will actually give thanks to God once Thanksgiving Day arrives. Maybe today we ought to find a way today to prepare our hearts for a true moment of gratitude to our heavenly Father, the One from whom all good gifts come. 

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (Colossians 3:17 – NIV)

“You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. (Psalm 118: 28 – NIV)

Have a great Thanksgiving Day! And, a great “day before Thanksgiving!” 

Pastor Tim Harris