A New Year’s Resolution

This is the time of year when people take time to make resolutions to make themselves better for the New Year. When you are thinking of ways to make yourself self better add one more thing to your list this year. Make a promise to yourself that once a week, or once a month, you will make someone else’s life better–Go out of way to help someone. There are so many ways you can do this in the year 2008.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Smile or wave to someone you do not know
2. Visit a shut-in or visit nursing homes
3. Volunteer at a soup kitchen
4. Volunteer to help out at church in a place where most people would not
5. Send cards to military or people in nursing homes
6. When going through the drive thru, pay the bill of the person behind
7. Send card to missionary
8. Think of something that would brighten up some else’s life
9. Give blood ( I know Dale and I are scared of this one)
10. Give to Salvation Army money ( I am sure they would not turn it down — like they say need knows no season)
11. Sponsor a child in a third world country ( World Hope will help you there)

I know that we are willing to do these things at Christmas time but we need to be doing all year long. If everyone does his or her part during the year, there would not be a greater need at Christmas.

We’re Back!

No, Pam and I haven’t fell of the face of the earth. No, we weren’t abducted by aliens. But we were in a place that had no high-speed internet and for some reason Blogger wouldn’t let me on while we were at my mom and dads. We have just returned from a wonderful Christmas vacation. Pam’s mom has made good progress since we last saw her and the rest of Pam’ family is doing well. Not only did I get to see my mom and dad, but I also got to see my brother and his family. It was good to have everyone at home for a few hours. Here are a few pictures.

My mom and dad’s Christmas tree

The family eating lunch.

My brother and his oldest daughter.

Mom and dad’s grandchildren

Me and my daughters got to sing at our home church, Trinity Wesleyan in Allentown. It was a great time. I even got to play with the worship band. My childhood and teen friend, Jim plays drums for them.

Weekly Lectionary Reading

1st Sunday after Christmas
Dec 30, 2007

Psalm 148
Isaiah 63:7-9
Matthew 2:13-23
Hebrews 2:10-18

Why did Jesus come to earth as a baby — a frail human baby? The writer of Hebrews sets it up for us.

17 Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. 18 Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.

Jesus came to be “God with us” — Emmanuel. No wonder the psalmist and the prophet are so joyful. They were confident that God was with them and would be with them. Jesus came as a baby to be God in the flesh or God with skin on. What a comforting thought.

Reflections on 2007

This is a great time to reflect on 2007. I think it is important that we reflect on our lives from time to time. If we do that, we can see the growth in our lives and we can see places in our lives that we need to change.

It has been an interesting year in my life – I was very sick earlier this year. Dale might want to go more in depth at a later date. As I look back at not only the major decisions but also the everyday decision I have done this year, I have seen a growth in my life.

One of best decisions I made this year was to make friends with a young mother named Niki. We spent quite a bit of time together, most of it at a café in the Virginia Museum of Nature History here in Martinsville. Most of the time was spent just talking about nothing important. I tell people that Niki was my sanity. Those who know her laugh when they hear that. It was in those times with Niki that I remembered why Dale and I are in ministry. Sometimes you can you’re your focus on why God called you. It was a place and time that I did not feel like I was being judged. Also she liked talking about that military as much as I do.

I have tried new things this year. Dale and I were taken to Japanese restaurant. It was the first time I have ever eaten Japanese food – it was very good. We got to live on a military base for a few days this summer, where I was yelled at by MP. I have started helping Dale with this blog, learned to like yogurt, live without chocolate and McDonald’s fries.

This year our oldest daughter went off to college and we are learning how to live with an adult child. There are times when I do make mistakes.

Then there are those moments where I should have stopped and think before I said something or did something — like the time I lost my Marines t-shirt. I took some time to look for it but I also went off the wall because I thought one of the girls took it. After Anna found it in the basement; I apologized to the girls.

For the most part I think I have done well this year and I know there are still some things I need to work on in the year 2008. Have you taken time to reflect on the life that you lived in the year 2007?

The Twelve Days of Christmas

I know it sounds like the name of a popular Christmas tune, but there really are 12 days of Christmas. Christmas (contrary to popular opinion) begins on December 25 and ends on January 5. Which is cool, because since we have moved away from home many years ago, we have always had several Christmas celebrations, most of them after Christmas day. The Voice has a great article on the season of Christmas, and I wanted to share a few excerpts from the article on the 2nd day of Christmas.

Among all the festivals and holidays of the Christian Church year, Christmas remains the most observed and most popular. Of course, much of that popularity, especially in the West, is due to the commercial promotion of the holiday. In many Protestant churches through the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Christmas was noted but not really celebrated. While observed in some church liturgies, there was very little in the way of gift giving and family celebration that marks the season today. In fact, until relatively recently, in the middle to latter nineteenth century, Christmas was a regular work day. In many areas of the world today, it remains a comparatively insignificant holiday even among Christians. Still, the Christmas story captures the heart in a way that transcends all the commercial hype.

While we most often think about Christmas as a single day, it is actually a season of the year. In its popular sense, it extends four weeks before Christmas Day and for two weeks after. However, the time before Christmas is a special season called Advent, comprising the four Sundays before Christmas Day. While the entire season of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany can be seen together, they each have distinctly different roles in the Church year. The term “Advent” means “coming” and is a season of expectation and hope, the time of waiting for the coming of the Messiah that is celebrated at Christmas. This time of waiting symbolizes the waiting throughout the Old Testament for the new act of God that would bring deliverance to his people. For Christians this season of expectation also symbolizes the waiting in anticipation for the Second Coming of the Christ when he will return and restore all things (see The Season of Advent).

Contrary to advertising campaigns that tout Christmas as beginning with Advent (or Halloween!), the actual Christmas Season in most Western church traditions begins at sunset on Christmas Eve, December 24, and lasts through January 5. Since this time includes 12 days, the season of Christmas is known in many places as the Twelve Days of Christmas. January 6 is usually celebrated as Epiphany, although it carries different significance in various church traditions.

Christmas Night

Nativity of the Lord – Proper III
December 24 & 25, 2007

Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98

Hebrews 1:1-12
John 1:1-14

We finished our Lessons and Carols service last night with this verse. I’ll share it without commentary:

1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

6 God sent a man, John the Baptist,
7 to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8 John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. 9 The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

10 He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. 11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. 12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

Nativity of our Lord

December 25, 2007

1 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. 7 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Christmas Eve Traditions

As has been the format for the last several years, today I worked at Radioshack till mid-afternoon. Pam and the kids went to McDonald’s for lunch.

Then we gathered at the church at 5 for our lesson and carols service. After wishing the congregation Merry Christmas, we came home and had our traditional Christmas Eve snack. On Christmas eve, we also have the children open up their presents to each other and to mom and dad. Mom and dad also exchange presents.

To cap off the night, we watched “Miracle on 34th Street” together. After the movie, Pam and I put out the gifts from “Santa.” It is fun that all the kids still go along with this. Yes, we have taught our children that there was a real person named St. Nicholas and he was a benevolent person, doing good and giving gifts to those who couldn’t afford it.

Tomorrow morning the traditions continue, as we will wake up early, before the sun comes up and open presents and then have dad’s famous breakfast scrambles. (It’s a Rachel Ray recipe, but the kids love it.) I’m looking forward to a resting day and spending it with the family. It has been a great day!