A Snow Day!

Snow Day!!  Oh, I loved those two words when I was a kid.  The opportunity to turn off the alarm, roll over and sleep until I wanted to get up.  It was a wonderful gift.  This past Monday was a snow day for most kids in lower Michigan.  The various school district names scrolled across the TV screen all Sunday night into Monday morning as kids (and teachers too!) got the day off.

Snow Days are a surprise, they are a gift in the middle of the usual routine.  It’s a regular week and then the snow piles up and we get a day off, a break we hadn’t planned on.

As I was watching Monday’s snow day unfold, it got me thinking about Christmas and the coming of Jesus into the world.  I mean think about it, while there was anticipation, while there were indeed prophesies and promises, life was going on pretty much the way it always had.  People went to work, politics were politics and the Temple activity carried on as it always had.  But then, as Luke tells us, one night, into the usual routine of caring for their sheep, some shepherds receive an announcement from angels in the heavens.  A remarkable star shone in the sky and wise ones took time off from their usual routines to follow that star.  And the Good News ─ he had been awaiting for many years ─ came to a devout man named Simeon.

So, what I’m wondering as I enjoy this opportunity to work at home ─ rather than drive to the meetings I would have been attending had they not been cancelled due to this snow day ─ is what Christmas surprises are in store for us this year?  What is it God wants to show us, to help us see, to enable us to experience this Christmas?  My guess is that whatever it is will not show up on the crawler at the bottom of our TV screen!  We will need to look for it.  We will need to pay attention so that we don’t miss it.  But I do believe that God does want us to receive a gift this Christmas.  God wants us to receive the precise gift that God has for us whatever that may be.  And God knows what that gift is.

It may be a fresh vision for our ministry. 
It may be a new awareness, a deep reminder of just how much God loves us. 
It may be the gift of another snow day so we can rest! 

But whatever it is I pray that we will receive it, that we will find in it the gift God intends, and we will be blessed.

Peace,
Bill

P.S.  This will be my last Castings for 2016, so have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!

Sharing the Message of Hope

I just sent a picture of myself at 21 months of age in response to a request from Mark Doyal.  He is doing something with it for the Full Cabinet Christmas gathering next week.  It should be fun.

As I looked at the picture, I thought about the 59 years or so that have passed since my father snapped that photo.  All the experiences and events, the feelings, joys and sorrows along the way.  For the most part I have been blessed.  I have always had food to eat and a roof over my head.  I have always had people who have loved me and cared about me.  I have been blessed in so many ways.  And I’m grateful to be at this point in the journey.

Some people I talk to wish for earlier days.  They long for times past.  They wish for days when things were different, before specific decisions were made or their physical body changed.  And while I wouldn’t mind being 30 pounds lighter as I was some years ago, or perhaps being able to get up from a sitting position on the floor with a bound instead of a groan, I really wouldn’t want to go back to any age in the past.  As I have said many times, “I accomplished that age!”  And life in this moment, while different, has much ─ so much ─ good in it.

Contemplating this from a personal perspective got me thinking about our churches.  So often I hear people in congregations talk about former days.  They talk about the way things were with a kind of wistful longing.  And I get the fact that many of our churches are not what they once were.  I get that for many of us the struggles before us now are significant, and making the shifts we need to make to be effective in today’s culture is tough.

But friends my advice to us all is engage the now!  The past is never coming back and there are people in every one of our communities who need to know the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s rich love for the world and for them.  There is no better time of year for us to share the message of hope than this season of Advent and Christmas.  I hope that all of us are strategically looking at ways we might reach out and share Christ’s love with our communities.  I hope all of us are praying for opportunities to invite our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members to a Christmas Eve service or some gathering where they might encounter the message of hope God offers at Christmas.

We, as the body of Christ, can spend our time looking back at what was and wishing we were younger, stronger, or whatever, OR we can appreciate that we continue to possess a message of hope that the world desperately needs and then find new ways to offer that hope and love to all those within our sphere of influence.  That’s still our calling, and we can do it!

Peace,
Bill