Merry Christmas, Church!

You Are BelovedThe Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, CEB)

It just dawned on me that this would be our last newsletter for 2014. It is so hard to believe that we are approaching Christmas again and another year is about to end. We already have to write 2015 on some paperwork and it feels awkward. Where has our year gone? Can we look back on 2014 with any sense that we have accomplished what God asked of us?

I was just having a conversation this morning in our weekly prayer gathering about how remarkable it is that God managed to send Jesus to us, into a world that would not receive him; and continues to find ways to work God’s plan through us – in spite of us. It is truly a Christmas miracle that God manages to push us, pull us, and drag us forward into the Kingdom and good things keep happening. It certainly is not through our own strength and power.

That is what I want us to consider today – the true Christmas miracle. The presence of God in Jesus Christ who makes his home among us is the most miraculous truth of Christmas every year. At the risk of sounding like a trite greeting card, Jesus really is the “reason for the season.” In the midst of all the busy-ness we make for ourselves between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Jesus finds a way to settle in with us and offer us a bit of peace. This got me to thinking about some of the ways in which I felt God’s presence in our church this past year.

In January a group of us went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was the perfect way to begin our year by walking where Jesus walked and learning more about the lands of the Bible. God was present with us, guided us, and brought us home safely.

In March we celebrated 100 years of Methodism in Sand Springs with several activities, including a visit from our Bishop Robert E. Hayes, Jr. It was a joyous time to reflect on the past and plan for the future as we saw how God had been present and moved through the life of this church through the years. It was also a time to celebrate that our church was born from the foundations of two wonderful congregations who are now one in Christ as SSUMC.

This summer also marked a serious time of crisis for our congregation as we faced a financial crisis that necessitated difficult decision-making and challenging sacrifices. God was present with us throughout the months of this ordeal and brought us through with hope for a brighter future.

This year our Thanksgiving Dinner Ministry served 1200 meals, setting a record. Dozens of volunteers from this church and from the community participated in this event – an event that could only be possible with God’s presence in the middle of it.

Our Helping Hands Ministry has been working hard to establish its niche and many wonderful projects were accomplished this year. They have partnered with Restore Hope, Sand Springs Community Services, and the Tulsa Regional Food Bank to provide goods and services that help the needy in our area. We believe that God is calling us to continue to grow this ministry and we pray for God’s leading every day. If not for God’s miracles, this group could do nothing.

Through all of this, our church has welcomed six new families and three individuals this year. We confirmed seven youth and we have baptized eight individuals. We are so blessed that God is leading people to us so that we can live out our call to be light and salt.

So, in the middle of all that is going on right now as we gear up for Christmas services, and Linda and I get ready for family gatherings, I do find some peace in recognizing the Christmas miracles that come to us throughout the year. My message for Christmas Eve is called “Connecting the Dots.” It’s about recognizing Jesus in the Christmas bedlam and seeing the true Christmas miracle as something that comes to us every day. It’s about connecting the dots from that tiny baby Jesus, born in a manger, to the glory of the Resurrected Jesus whose Holy Spirit lives in us and through us every day.

Linda and I want to thank you for the wonderful year we have shared in ministry together and for all your prayers and support. Through everything we have faced, we have felt God’s presence in this church, and counted on God’s Christmas miracles. We wish you the best that God has to offer and pray you sense God’s presence in your life.

Merry Christmas,
Pastor Don and Linda