Friday, December 29, 2017

A Week After Christmas!

It’s a week after Christmas
And all through the house
Not a carol is playing
By a man or his spouse

The cookies are eaten
The children are gone
The lights are still shining
But, not for too long

The church pews are empty
The stores are less full
The gifts are returned
There’s a soft gentle lull

Some are relieved
Others are sad
Everyone’s tired
Many are glad…

Glad it’s all over
It’s time to move on
Into the New Year
The job is now done

But, the meaning of Christmas
That child in a stall
The babe in a manger,
He’s still with us all!

His star still shines brightly
The angels still sing
We join them in chorus
 Good news they yet bring!

Yes, the holiday’s over
But, Jesus still lives
He fills us with joy
His grace he still gives.

His love’s everlasting
His salvation is strong
So, let’s celebrate Christmas
All the year long!

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! 

Pastor Tim Harris 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Joy and Sorrow at Christmas

This Christmas is a little different for me than most. With the passing of my mom this past Sunday and her funeral service yesterday, it seems the joy of Christmas has become mixed with the sense of sorrow and grief that I am yet feeling over her death.  Although I will continue to celebrate Christmas—after all, it is still the remembrance of our Savior’s birth—in the back of my mind and recesses of my soul there is a twinge of pain. 

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.  For countless people, the Christmas season is not always a season of joy.  Many, as they gather around their dinner tables, will be struck by the fact that their child, parent, loved one or friend is no longer there to celebrate with them. Others are feeling the pain of loneliness or the emptiness that seems to surface during a holiday season such as this.  Some will find themselves in hospital rooms, some in nursing homes, others in prisons—not exactly places where one plans to celebrate Christmas. 

If you think about it, the Christmas story is one that is a mix of joy and sorrow. Yes, there was the joy that a Savior, the Messiah, had been birthed into our world. It’s no wonder that the angels lit up the sky, that shepherds left the manger rejoicing, that the magi offered their gifts.  The birth of Jesus was filled with “good news of great joy.”  Nonetheless, the story of Christmas was wrapped in the pain of Roman oppression, the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the lack of an adequate place for the birth of this baby and thus, his birth in a stable. Mary and Joseph would, for the rest of their lives, be questioned regarding their integrity—after all, who would have really believed their story? Then there was the sudden flight to Egypt to save this baby’s life. Finally we know in retrospect, the whole story points in one direction: towards a cross!

Yes, the story of Christmas is one that is filled with joy, a joy that we must not miss. It’s a joy that we must capture and allow to inspire our faith. But, we must not gloss over the pain and sorrow that is mixed with that joy, for if we do we fail to understand the full meaning of Christmas. For surely this One who was born on Christmas was born as “a man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3) who is able to sympathize and empathize with us in all of our weakness (Hebrews 4:15). He came as a Savior who knew how to weep, who felt deeply for those in need, and came alongside those who were grieving. Jesus, that child in a manger, was God taking on flesh and thus taking on the pain of our world and feeling our sorrow, all to let us know how much he truly does love us; all to make a way of salvation for we who were lost in our sin.  

So, today as I approach this Christmas just after the loss of my own mother, I am determined to yet celebrate the birth of a Savior who understands my sorrow, walks alongside of me in my grief, and who has promised us a kingdom wherein there will be no more tears, sorrow, pain, or death. And, I want to encourage you to do the same, no matter what is taking place in your life. After all, Jesus is God with us in both the joys and sorrows of life!  So, let’s celebrate our Savior!

Have a great day! And, Merry Christmas!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Little Miracles of Christmas!

We all love the movies about miracles that take place at Christmastime.  I can’t wait to once again watch this year the most famous of all, “Miracle on 34th St.”  But this year as I was decorating the outside of our house with Christmas lights, I felt like I had my own little miracle of Christmas.

Last year, just after the Christmas season was over, I took a trip to Nicaragua.  While I was away, Kim took down the outside lights. It wasn’t until one day in August, as I was working on the lawn, I discovered that the little blue spruce at the very front of our lawn still had its strands of lights on it.  Kim hadn’t seen them there.  I decided since we were only a few months away from Christmas, and since they weren’t visible to anyone, I would just leave them and replace them when the time came to put up the lights for the season.  However, as I was putting up our lights a couple of weeks ago, before taking them off the tree, I decided to plug them in to see if they just might work. Much to my surprise they did! They actually lit up!  I called it my own little miracle of Christmas! 

To some of you, all of this is really no big deal.  Maybe you leave your lights up on your house all year long, expecting them to work when the time comes.  No matter.  I just want to enjoy the moment, as I understand it.  After all, I think that there are all kinds of little miracles that take place around us that we tend to overlook—especially at Christmas.  

My little "miracle of Christmas!" 
Here’s some of the little miracles of Christmas that I see around me:  The sense of good cheer that one finds as they’re out and about during this time of year, in spite of the hectic pace and the crowds; an extra sense of generosity as people not only buy gifts for one another but donate to charities and churches and people in need; the beauty of lights decorating neighborhoods, stores, and trees; the look of excitement on that child’s face as they’re opening up their gifts on Christmas morning. The list can go on. But, what other time of the year is like Christmastime? To me, it’s truly a time of little miracles. 

And so it ought to be as we celebrate the “littlest” miracle of them all.  Don’t’ get me wrong, the coming of Jesus in to our world, the incarnation of the Son of God, was an incredibly big miracle—and one of utmost importance. And yet, his coming was also a little miracle in that he came not as a king, not with pomp and circumstance, and with no huge celebration. He came as a child, a little baby, born to a humble couple, in the lowliest of settings.  The Son of God came as the little miracle of Christmas—which was and is a truly great big deal!

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”  (Isaiah 9:6 – NIV)  “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 – NIV)

Let’s keep our eyes open for the little miracles of Christmas. Most of all, don’t miss the most important “little” miracle of them all: Jesus!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Face-to-Face Encounter! (Shopping Online Vs. Shopping In a "Real Store")

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house. The Christmas tree is up.  The lights are on. The Christmas music is playing.  And, the packages are showing up at the front door!

Yes, I’ll admit it: I did a bunch of shopping on Cyber-Monday.  That’s right, Monday night I got on my computer and shopped at Amazon and on a bunch of other websites.  After all, for the diversity of things I bought, it was not just about better prices but about the time it would have taken me to go from store to store, look through the shelves, try to get a salesperson to find an item for me, etc.  It’s true, shopping online can be not only a means of saving money, but also saving time and energy.  Yet I find, there is something missing.

For me, Christmas shopping is meant to be an experience. There’s something about getting out with the crowds, talking with a salesperson, chatting with that person behind you while standing on line. There’s something about shopping in person and being with the people around you—even if it’s just complaining about the weather or how long the line is.  There’s something about having a face-to-face encounter with real people in a real store.  (That’s why I’ve saved some shopping to do in real stores in the week to come.)

If you think about it, that’s what Christmas is all about: a face-to-face encounter--real people meeting a real God!  When God wanted to communicate his great love for us, he didn’t send us a message through a third party like an angel.  He didn’t create a new form of technology or write it out in the stars. Rather, God sent his Son, “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3).  As the Apostle John put it, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) and “God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son.” (John 3:16) Or, as the Bible says, Jesus is "Emmanuel," that is "God with us!"   Jesus, God’s Son, came that we might hear from God himself; that we might have a face-to-face encounter with God.

In an age when social media, online shopping, and the incredibly fast pace of our society keeps us locked up in our homes behind our screens, let’s not forget the importance of being with each other—i.e. having face-to-face encounters with one another. More than that, let’s remember that Christmas is all about God himself coming to us in a very personal way. Through Jesus we have been given the opportunity to have a face-to-face encounter with God!

Have a great day!

Pastor Tim Harris

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Honorable and Faithful Service!

This past Monday evening, my father’s brother (i.e. my uncle), George passed away at the age of 92.  He was the uncle who was always a bit of a mystery, a bit eccentric, and at times even a little intimidating.  Since his death, I learned that he served in the army just after the close of WWII.  Previously, I had heard that he couldn’t serve during the war because of a disability.  I did not know, that he was sent to Europe after the war. 

As I was going through his papers and cards, I found his discharge paper, better called his, discharge card.  Apparently, back then the army would take the discharge paper, shrink it down, and laminate it so that the veteran had it as a card to carry in his wallet.  A the top of the card it says, “Army of the United States Honorable Discharge.”  On the back I found out all kinds of details—e.g. he trained in Aberdeen, MD, was an army truck driver, was “separated” at Fort Dix, served from September 27, 1945 to January 27, 1947.  And, he received two medals: an “Army of Occupation Medal” and a “WWII Victory Medal.”

What touched me the most were the words I read on the front of the card, words that almost brought me to tears:  “This certificate is awarded as a testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service to this country.”  If you knew my Uncle George, you would know that he was a man who struggled with his lot in life.  He never achieved the things he seemed to have wanted to achieve; he never married and had a family of his own; in many ways he seemed to feel as if he were an outsider.  In fact, the words on this card may have been the only words of commendation he heard throughout his adult life.  Yet, they are probably the most significant of all. “Honest and Faithful Service!”

Although I would not have initially thought of these words in regard to my uncle, as I reflect back on his life, I realize his “Honest and Faithful Service” was seen not only in the way he served his country, but as well in the way he took care of his parents and never-married sister; the way he faithfully did his job at the NYC Parks Department; the decision he made to go into a nursing home, even though it cost him his life savings, so that, as he said, the family would be forced into helping his sister Catherine, doing for her what he knew he himself could not do for her.  It was a strategic and sacrificial move on his part. It was part of his “Honest and Faithful Service.” 

Someday each of us is going to receive our own discharge papers from this life.  We will all be “separated” from our life here on this earth. When that day comes, I wonder will we receive an “Honorable Discharge?” What will our papers say?  I would want mine to say, “Honest and Faithful Service.”  Or, as Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  (Matthew 25:23 – NIV) 

Thanks, Uncle George for your “Honest and Faithful Service!”

Have a good day!

Pastor Tim Harris