While I write on this morning in which my spirit is once again reawakening to the real presence of the One Who is alone steadfast, faithful and true to me and you, I am reminded of the saying, “April showers bring May flowers.”

 
 

The thought comes to mind that somehow or another the passing of the seasons is meant for us to experience the journey of faith through the passage of time in ways that would bring us closer in our relationship with God. Even when rain showers down upon our lives, though we might not regard it as a blessing at the time, the Lord God almighty is able to turn and uses them for good in our walk with one another in Christ.

 
 

The writer of wisdom in Ecclesiastes (3:1) tells us:

 
 

There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

 
 

In all things taking place under the sun, God works for the good of those who love the Lord, who are the called out ones according to God’s purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 
 

As April showers would bring May flowers in this season of Easter through Pentecost, I also find myself reminiscing of times before when I might recall past celebrations of graduations, commencement exercises and wedding ceremonies at springtime. A renewing perspective of theological reflection and familial experience embraces me in these latter days as I bear witness to my eldest child graduating from college, a daughter’s confirmation in faith, the baptism of a precious little one to preside over, a niece and Godchild’s move from secondary education toward matriculation in her undergraduate studies, and a friend and relative’s anticipated vows of promise together in the covenant of marriage.

 
 

It is, for me it seems, amidst the transitions of life and ministry in the Lord that events transpire in a way that can make any sense. Through the ebb and flow of our lives lived for the glory of God in Christ, we are continually transformed by the power and presence of God the Holy Spirit who is ever conforming us to the image of Jesus. (Romans 8:29; 12:2)

 
 

As I await the next season of call for the glory of the Lord, and bid one another farewell upon the upcoming transition in ministry at this time and place under the sun, excerpts of lyrics in the song “Sunrise, Sunset” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick echo within my soul.

 
 

Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play? 

I don’t remember growing older

When did they? 

 
 

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly flow the days

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as we gaze

 
 

What words of wisdom can I give them?

How can I help to ease their way? 

Now they must learn from one another

Day by day

 
 

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears

 
 

The Lord be with you and yours in these seasons under the sun through the passing of the years

 
 

In Christ,

Pastor Rex

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As I write this in the first few days of the Lenten equinox, words come to mind at the sight of the ground before me…. oh so slidingly slow for freshly fallen spring snow….

 
 


 
 

The thought of slipping on by smoothly across the surface from one season of transition to another conjures up images of uncertainty over potential pitfalls along the path forward on the journey in the way of faith. It really is for me in my experience a pilgrimage calling for ever increasing trust in the Lord our God in the face of seemingly impossibly difficult situations. To prayerfully entrust one another on this road of witnessing God’s great faithfulness and goodness toward us as children of the Lord is a wonder for us to behold and is precisely what we are called to in these latter days, and unwaveringly so.

 
 

As we approach the most holy of holy weeks in our tradition of worship through millennia of Christian practice, particularly from our reformed heritage, I am personally challenged and comforted at the same time by sovereign grace manifested in the passion of the Christ. To reimagine, if we would or could, what Jesus the Holy and Anointed One must have been going through and how Christ the Lord was feeling at the time of the week preceding his crucifixion is in a sense beyond the pale. The myriad onslaught of emotions in moments of utter desperation experienced in the midst of the Christ event must for some have been overly overwhelming.

 
 

And yet, even as I continue writing and riding on, the brightly enlightening rays of the sun are shining through whatever grey clouds there may appear to be in the skies of cumulus soaring in the upper stratus above. A so-called silver lining may yet present itself in the process of the enduring pilgrim’s progress toward the golden glory of the eternal realms.

 
 

The apostle Paul puts it in this way in the letter of love to the saints in Corinth.

 
 

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NRSV)

 
 

With every trial and tribulation traversed in transition, the traveler whose triumph is totaled in the way, the truth, the resurrection and the life is continually transformed as led by the Spirit of Christ Jesus the Lord our God.

 
 

May this be the blessed experience of the holy in our midst who are deeply loved in Christ, always and forever

 
 

In God’s grace and peace,

Pastor Rex

Whether it’s Moses or Matthew, Joshua or John, Solomon or Stephen, Saul or Paul or Peter, Job or James, or Jesus, witnesses of faith in Scripture embody and live out their faithfulness as living examples to and for us of persons who show unto others the way of the Christ. The way of the journey in faith, however, is not always, if ever it seems, straightforward. Its approach or experience in navigating through life’s events and various callings are fraught with the challenges and difficulties faced by such leading witnesses along the path of a faith-filled pilgrimage.

 
 

In our reading of the scriptural narrative, we find each of these and other leading characters at one point or another facing failure in some form, if at least from a worldly, if not otherwise biblical, perspective. In view of this, a number of typically conventional sayings come to mind. Among these are the following:

 
 

“If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.” “God helps those who help themselves.”

 
 

While on the surface these sayings might seem to make sense on their own, we may upon further examination find them inherently contradictory in contrast with each other and actually nonsensical even within themselves, especially when delving into them more deeply in the light of the Word of God which exposes their folly and fallacy. More and more as I grow in my experience in the journey of faith as a student of God’s Word, I find many such common sayings inadequate, if not actually antithetical to the gospel in the biblical account(s).

 
 

We who are seeking to be disciples of the way, the truth, the resurrection and the life in Jesus Christ are at times too quick and easy to adopt or become adopted by such insidious ideas in the world surrounding us. If we are blessed, we may discover a deeper awareness of ourselves being so readily acquiescing to the wily ways of this world in which we are called to live, but not be of it.

 
 

Rather than giving in, subscribing, surrendering and/or becoming submitted to the so-called wisely popular notions of the world around us, we would do better, beloved, in the way of the Word as the apostle Paul writes in Romans (12:1-2), urging us in view of God’s mercy, to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God in a reasonable way through loving acts of service with a worshipful attitude in the Spirit of the Lord. As Paul urges us on:

 
 

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

 
 

Other verses from Scripture come to mind as well. “I am the vine, you are the branches… apart from me, you can do nothing.” (Jesus in John 15:5) “God is our refuge and strength. A very present help in time of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

 
 

If I were to begin attempting to rewrite, reform and reformulate the more worldly saying(s) listed earlier above in the light of Scripture, it might go something like this:

 
 

If at first you don’t succeed, don’t be afraid to “fail” and “fail again” as you learn along the way, always falling on your knees to pray and pray again and again, keeping on keeping on in the way of faith. Indeed, if at first you don’t succeed, read and reread and heed the Word. The definition of insanity is thinking you can succeed in being and/or becoming a faithful witness without or apart from God. God actually helps those who ask God for help!

 
 

All the more to and for the glory of God, in this Lenten season, as well as forever and always, toward being and becoming faithful witnesses, may we remain and continue in the Lord,

 
 

Pastor Rex

SENTENCES OF SCRIPTURE

1 Year A B C

Matt. 4:4

One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

    

All silently gather. Any procession should be in silence.

CALL TOWORSHIP

Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Ps. 51:1–17

Let us return to the Lord.

God is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and abounding in love.

Have mercy on us, O God,

according to your unfailing love.

Wash away our iniquity;

cleanse us from our sins.

The sacrifice acceptable to God

is a humble spirit.

A broken and contrite heart

God will not turn away.

“Even now,” declares the Lord,

“return to me with all your heart.”

With open hearts

we call upon the name of the Lord.

Let us worship God

Come, Let Us Return

PRAYER OF THE DAY

Let us pray.

After a brief silence, the following prayer may be said:

1 2 Year A B C

Gracious Almighty God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust the breath of life, creating us to serve you and neighbors.

You despise nothing you have made and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Call forth our prayers and acts of tenderness, and strengthen us to face our mortality, that we may reach with confidence for your mercy… Create in us new and contrite hearts, that truly repenting of our sins, and acknowledging our brokenness, we may obtain from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness; through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. [208] Amen.

Turn Our Hearts

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Isa. 58:1–12; Ps. 51:1–17

O Lord, you are gracious and merciful,

slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

You have called us to return to you with all our hearts.

Forgive us, for we have been slow to share with the poor,

but quick to point the finger and pass judgment.

Even when we do not withhold from those in need,

we hope for some reward or recognition

for doing only what we ought to have done.

Hide your face from our sins, O Lord, and blot out all our iniquities.

Do not cast us away from your presence,

and do not take away your Holy Spirit.

Restore to us the joy of your salvation, and sustain in us a willing spirit.

Create In Me a Clean Heart

PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION

Let us pray.

After a brief silence, the following prayer for illumination may be said:

God our helper, by your Holy Spirit open our minds, that as the scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may be led into your truth and be taught your will, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Open the Eyes of My Heart

GOSPEL READING and REFLECTION Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

Open Our Eyes

INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF THE LENTEN DISCIPLINE

The following or similar words may be spoken:

Friends in Christ, every year at the time of the Christian Passover

we celebrate our redemption through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Lent is a time to prepare for this celebration and to renew our life in the paschal mystery. We begin this holy season by acknowledging our need for repentance, and for the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If ashes are used, the following may be said:

We begin our journey to Easter with the sign of ashes.

This ancient sign speaks of the frailty and uncertainty of human life,

and marks the penitence of this community.

The minister continues:

I invite you, therefore, in the name of Christ, to observe a holy Lent

by self-examination and penitence, by prayer and fasting,

by works of love, and by reading and meditating on the Word of God.

Let us bow before God, our Creator and Redeemer,

and confess our sin.

The people may kneel or bow down.

Silence is kept for reflection and self-examination.

PSALM 51        Psalm 51:1–17 is sung or said.

Psalm 51:1–17                 Tone 7; PH 195, 196; PS 48

R
Change my heart, Oh God, make it ever true, Change my heart, Oh God, may I be like You

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; *

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness *

and cleanse me from my sin. R

3 For I know my transgressions, *

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned *

and done what is evil in your sight.

And so you are justified when you speak *

and upright in your judgment.

5 Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth, *

a sinner from my mother’s womb. R

6 For behold, you look for truth deep within me, *

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

7 Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure; *

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

8 Make me hear of joy and gladness, *

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins *

and blot out all my iniquities. R

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, *

and renew a right spirit within me.

11 Cast me not away from your presence *

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

12 Give me the joy of your saving help again *

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit. R

13 I shall teach your ways to the wicked, *

and sinners shall return to you.

14 Deliver me from death, O God, *

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation. R

15 Open my lips, O Lord, *

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

16 Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice, *

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

17 The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit; *

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. R

LITANY OF PENITENCE

Let us pray.

Holy and merciful God, we confess to you and to one another,

and to the whole communion of saints in heaven and on earth,

that we have sinned by our own fault in thought, word, and deed,

by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength.

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We have not forgiven others as we have been forgiven.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We have not listened to your call to serve as Christ served us.

We have not been true to the mind of Christ.

We have grieved your Holy Spirit.

Have mercy on us, O God.

We confess to you, O God, all our past unfaithfulness:

The pride, hypocrisy, and impatience in our lives,

we confess to you, O God.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways and our exploitation of other people,

we confess to you, O God.

Our anger at our own frustration

and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,

we confess to you, O God.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,

and our dishonesty in daily life and work,

we confess to you, O God.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,

and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,

we confess to you, O God.

Accept our repentance, O God, for the wrongs we have done.

For our neglect of human need and suffering

and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,

accept our repentance, O God.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,

and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,

accept our repentance, O God.

For our waste and pollution of your creation

and our lack of concern for those who come after us,

accept our repentance, O God.

Restore us, O God, and let your anger depart from us.

Favorably hear us, O God, for your mercy is great.
[209]

IMPOSITION OF ASHES    

Eight years ago this week in January, my family and I were moving in to our new home in New Castle, Indiana. It was in the midst of downright frigid, subfreezing (if not subhuman) weather that I remember the movers from New Jersey unloaded the truck while whipping winds walloped anyone exposed to the external elements of that wintry day. And, if being subjected to that kind of “welcoming” environment wasn’t enough, it was at the same time necessary to keep the front door open with the crosswind gusts rushing in, especially during the challenge of maneuvering our Steinway grand piano from the cold outside into the not-so-warm house inside.

 
 

We were trying hard as we could to help effect our move into the new place expeditiously, but it was all too easy to become overwhelmed by the seeming immensity of the task remaining before us. I marveled then at the tenacity of the workers doing the work of helping relocate a large family of eight in the bleak midwinter of the Midwest.

 
 

From the time of the kings of old in ancient Israel, there comes to mind a verse which the Spirit brings for my continued reflection in the Word this month.

 
 

“Don’t be frightened by the size of the task. Be strong and courageous and get to work for the Lord my God is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.” 1 Chronicles 28:20 (TLB/NRS)

 
 

These were words from King David speaking to his son Solomon who would be the king presiding over the building of the temple in Israel. The plans for the task at hand were vastly enormous! So many grand and intricate details and logistics to comprehend and oversee were to be passed on from one generation to another that the next mighty moments in Israel’s worship of the Lord their God would be manifested, embodied in the building of a temple for the majesty and glory of God to be known and witnessed all the more into the future.

 
 

This is not unlike what some may be facing in our own day and time of these latter days. Even as the wisdom given from on high to King Solomon came to bear upon the way of building the temple for the Lord God almighty in the ancient days of Israel, the writer in Ephesians (5:16) exhorts anew the reader and hearer of the New Testament to wisely make “the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

 
 

Beloved, this is indeed no time to minimize our pledge to the gracious and almighty Lord our God, of whom it is said by James (1:5) that to those needing wisdom who ask God, “gives generously to all without finding fault.”

 
 

The Lord Jehovah Jireh our God is always and for ever our provider. The Lord will provide for everything we need in order to accomplish the task given us in these days. He’s at our side until every last detail is completed. Will we act faithfully in a way “worthy of the calling [we] have received” (Ephesians 4:1) by renewing our pledge to Christ and his church? As the Word is proclaimed in Revelation (4:11, 5:12), he is worthy to receive all glory, honor, blessing, and power.

 
 

In a loud voice they sang:”Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

 
 

Courageously yours in Christ,

Pastor Rex

PREPARATION

O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

From the rising of the sun to its setting
your glory is proclaimed in all the world.
From Where the Sun Rises

One or more of the following is said or sung:

this or another prayer of thanksgiving

Blessed are you, Sovereign God,
our light and our salvation,
to you be glory and praise for ever.
You gave your Christ as a light to the nations,
and through the anointing of the Spirit
you established us as a royal priesthood.
As you call us into your marvelous light,
may our lives bear witness to your truth
and our lips never cease to proclaim your praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.            
Hope of the Nations


O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him, the Lord is his name!

Low at his feet lay thy burden of carefulness,
high on his heart he will bear it for thee,
comfort thy sorrows, and answer thy prayerfulness,
guiding thy steps as may best for thee be.

Fear not to enter his courts in the slenderness
of the poor wealth thou wouldst reckon as thine:
truth in its beauty, and love in its tenderness,
these are the offerings to lay on his shrine.

These though we bring them in trembling and fearfulness,
he will accept for the name that is dear;
mornings of joy give for evenings of tearfulness,
trust for our trembling and hope for our fear.

O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Bow down before him, his glory proclaim;
with gold of obedience, and incense of lowliness,
kneel and adore him, the Lord is his name!        
J S B Monsell


This opening prayer may be said

That this evening may be holy, good and peaceful,
let us pray with one heart and mind.

Silence is kept.

As our evening prayer rises before you, O God,
so may your mercy come down upon us
to cleanse our hearts

and set us free to sing your praise
now and for ever.
Amen.                
Every Time That We Are Gathered


Refrain:    You created all things, O God,

and are worthy of our praise for ever.

 

You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power.
(Refrain)

 

For you have created all things,
and by your will they have their being.
(Refrain)

 

You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain,
and by your blood you ransomed for God
saints from every tribe and language and nation.
(Refrain)

 

You have made them to be a kingdom and priests
serving our God,
and they will reign with you on earth.
(Refrain)

Revelation 4.11; 5.9b, 10

To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might,

for ever and ever. Amen.

 

You created all things, O God,
and are worthy of our praise for ever.
        
Above All Others

 

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

These scriptural verses are to be used throughout the time

after Epiphany (from the Baptism of the Lord through the

Transfiguration of the Lord) as a repeating, seasonal “envelope”

around the Prayer of Confession for the day.

Though darkness covers the earth,             Isa. 60:2

and thick darkness the peoples;

the Lord will arise; God’s glory will appear.

 

That this evening may be holy, good and peaceful:
we pray to you, O Lord.

 

That your holy angels may lead us in the paths of peace

and goodwill:
we pray to you, O Lord.

 

That we may be pardoned and forgiven for our sins and offences:
we pray to you, O Lord.

 

That there may be peace in your Church and for the whole world:
we pray to you, O Lord.

 

That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit,
in communion with all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ:
we pray to you, O Lord.

 

Arise, shine; for your light has come!             Isa. 60:1

The glory of the Lord has risen upon you.

 

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

 

Almighty and ever-living God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth,

hear our prayers for this congregation and community.

Strengthen the faithful,

arouse the careless, and restore the penitent.

Grant us all things necessary for our common life,

and bring us all to be of one heart and mind

within your holy church;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

 

The Response here may be sung after each of the following petitions:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer… when I call, answer me… Come and listen to me.”

 

In peace, let us pray to Jesus our Lord,
who ever lives to make intercession for us.

 

Savior of the world,
be present in all places of suffering, violence and pain,
and bring hope even in the darkest night.

Inspire us to continue your work of reconciliation today. R

 

Lord of the Church,
empower by your Spirit all Christian people,
and the work of your Church in every land.
Give us grace to proclaim the gospel joyfully in word and deed. R

 

Shepherd and Guardian of our souls,
guide and enable all who lead and serve this community
and those on whom we depend for our daily needs.
Grant that we may seek the peace and welfare of this place. R

 

Great Physician,
stretch out your hand to bring comfort, wholeness and peace
to all who suffer in body, mind, or spirit.
Fill us with compassion, that we may be channels of
your healing love. R

 

Conqueror of death,
remember for good those whom we love but see no longer.
Help us to live this day in the sure and certain hope of
your eternal victory. R

 

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

 

Open prayer may be offered and silence is kept.

The Collect and Lord’s Prayer follow.

 

AN EVENING COLLECT

Lighten our darkness,
Lord, we pray,
and in your great mercy
defend us from all perils and dangers of this night,
for the love of your only Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Amen.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER


From Where The Sun Rises

 

Hope Of The Nations

Every Time That We Are Gathered

Above All Others

O Lord, Hear My Prayer

  • Jacques Berthier
  • Taizé (France)

http://daily.commonworship.com/prayers/prayers.html

http://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-worship/worship/texts/daily2/morneve/morning-and-evening-prayer-in-seasonal-time/epepiphany.aspx

http://www.thepresbyterianleader.com/Content/Site116/Basics/56990BookofOcca_00000010726.pdf

http://bookoforder.info/Book-of-Common-Worship.pdf

As I recently shared in reflection upon the smile of a dear saint’s service of witness to the resurrection and the life, I was led to search for the word “smile” in various translations of the Holy Scriptures. One collection of three consecutive verses from the Bible caught my eye.

 
 

Job 9:25-27 (NIV1984)

25 “My days are swifter than a runner;

    they fly away without a glimpse of joy.

26 They skim past like boats of papyrus,

    like eagles swooping down on their prey.

27 If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,

    I will change my expression, and smile,’

 
 

Here, the Old Testament character of Job presents us with one whose relationship with God is replete with conversations which depict the height and depth of human suffering for one whose plight in life is faced with challenges that strain much of his dialogue with the very Lord of the universe.

 
 

As swiftly passing by the days of life may run their course, seemingly flying away without even as much as a glimpse of joy, skimming past like fleeting boats of papyrus as Scripture tells us, not unlike eagles swooping down upon their targeted prey below, we are presented with a choice in the wake of this Advent season of Thanksgiving and Christmas following into the New Year ahead. We are given occasion to choose what kind of attitude we may respond with whatever life may bring our way. Come what may, we can adapt in the midst of our situation(s) by deciding to adopt an attitude of gratitude, or give in to griping, begrudging and complaining.

 
 

Despite the potentially debilitating predicament of Job in the Bible by which he could have easily denounced with deep despair his sordid, sobering situation in utter despondency, he instead gives remarkable consideration to saying, “I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile”! 🙂 While the rest of the passage provides greater context for this statement in which we find Job in further ruminations, lamenting his sorry state of late, the chapter ends with a telling turn of phrase from another translation.

 
 

Job 9:33, 35
(NLT)

33 If only there were a mediator between us,

    someone who could bring us together.

35 Then I could speak to him without fear,

    but I cannot do that in my own strength.

 
 

The Scriptures of the New Testament tell us that we have indeed been given a mediator in Jesus Christ. In the apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy (2:5) we read, “there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus” whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. The book of Hebrews (9:15; 12:24) refers to Christ as “the mediator of a new covenant”. Jesus himself embodies the love of God that drives out all fear as expressed so affectionately in the Johannine accounts (John 3:16) and letters (1 John 4:8,18). Because of Jesus the Christ, we can have close conversation with God in prayer without being afraid as we approach the throne of grace. But, as Job points out, we cannot do this in our own strength. Only by grace can we do so. As Paul wrote to the Philippians (4:13 CEV), “Christ gives [us] the strength to face anything.”

 
 

My hope and prayer for you and yours, and for all of us in this New Year in the Lord, is that God would gift us with renewed capacity of strength imbued upon us in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Blessed with certain temerity of resolve and determination toward the better future God has in mind for us, may we forge ahead into the New Year knowing that God is smiling on us with wisdom and favor from on high.

 
 

Numbers 6:24-26

The Message (MSG)

24 God bless you and keep you,

25 God smile on you and gift you,

26 God look you full in the face

    and make you prosper.

 
 

Pastor Rex

‘Twas the week before Christmas but nobody knew,

No stockings, no ornaments, no gifts or good news.

All the world had lost hope; all the people felt fear.

Now listen; I’ll tell you why Christmas came here.

Has your heart ever had a big secret to share?

A surprise no one knew that you planned with much care?

Did it tickle your tummy? Were you so excited?

God, too, has a mystery; and we’re each invited.

From long, long ago our God knew what we’d need;

In the Garden of Eden, He planted the seed.

Like a scavenger hunt, He left hints through the years

How to find His great gift, Who was soon to be here.

(the Narrator in What God Wants For Christmas excerpted from FamilyLife)

 
 

Around Christmastime, one of the rituals in which our family has participated in years past was that of opening up our storage boxes containing Christmas tree ornaments. We would take things out of their containers and then consider out loud together how we might specifically trim the tree for the occasion at hand. We would at times set the scene beforehand and build the experience up as a great and wonderful adventure to unearth things from the past. What wonders we might find in the vast numbers of various possibilities of trimmings awaiting for us to rediscover amidst the sea of boxes large and small all spread out across the living room floor!

 
 

While our practice of this yuletide rite may seem simple and ordinary enough to reenact, there was for us in this blessed event a special aspect that served as an opportunity for us to be drawn closer to one another in Christ at Christmas. In this case, it involved not only the physical task of finding and putting the various ornaments in place upon the tree, but the mental, spiritual and emotional exercise of remembering the significance of each piece and its association with a particular treasured memory in our common journey(s) of faith together.

 
 

One remembrance comes to mind of a Christmas prior to our having children when we as a couple had but only a few ornaments to choose from. Among the precious items laid out on our apartment’s beautiful hardwood floor was a Christmas tree ornament from a previous trip to a place out west where we had spent some time by the ocean. Melissa and I loved to walk along various coastlines and visit lighthouses by the sea. It was on one of these our earlier travels when we discovered she was bearing the first seed of our blessed union. Little did we know, that seed would be the first of six blessings for us to bless others with from above.

 
 

I was recently asked why it is that in our annual Christmas Eve Service of Lessons & Carols we first include narrative readings from near the beginning of the Old Testament book of Genesis—the account of Adam and Eve. My initial response was that according to the Holy Scriptures, Jesus Christ is referred to in the New Testament as the second Adam. That is, “Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come,” (Romans 5:14) however sinned; whereas Christ, who was, and is, and is yet to come again, instead obeyed. As we may read further in Paul’s letter to the saints in Rome:

 
 

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brought condemnation upon everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness makes all people right in God’s sight and gives them life.

Because one person disobeyed God, many people became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many people will be made right in God’s sight.”

Romans 5:18-19 (NLT)

 
 

Along with my first responsive inclination, Jesus is also referred to at the beginning of the Bible as the seed of the woman, Eve when God addresses the serpent:

 
 

“And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed ; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Genesis 3:15 (NAS)

 
 

Because of both the first and second Adam, and especially God’s seed of the woman, Eve in Christ who sets us free from sin and the enemy of our souls, we beloved are delivered to be “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” from above (John 1:13). Jesus, God’s Seed of Christ in Christmas celebrates us as God’s own dearly loved ones, even as we celebrate the Christ child at Christmas. May the truth and reality of our spiritual identity be made more so evident for you and yours this Christmas.

 
 

In Christ Jesus,

Pastor Rex

 
 


 
 

Don’t Forget to Change Your Clocks!

  
 

Daylight Savings Time Returns to standard time…before going to bed on Saturday, November 3, remember to turn your clocks back one hour!