A Word from Our Pastor 2009 December Christmas Message

Christmas message and letter

A Word from Our Pastor

In the weeks to come, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus, how his
life brings us hope and teaches us about the possibilities for our
own lives. For centuries, the church has described Jesus’ mission
— and through him, our mission in the world — by using this
famous passage in Isaiah:

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me [Jesus] because God anointed me.
God sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of God’s grace, a celebration of
God’s destruction of our enemies, and comfort to all who mourn.

To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets
of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of
a faint spirit. . . (Isaiah 61:1-4, but the passage goes on to
describe more wonderful things).

It is so easy to be overwhelmed by our own problems that we forget
the great calling we as Christians have been given. We are supposed
to “preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce
freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. . .” Perhaps we don’t
do these things because we are too worried about our own troubles.
Even though we hear occasional reports that the economy is improving and generally, “things are turning around,” that doesn’t seem to be true here in California. We are concerned about the needs of our children, grandchildren, friends. . .do we have the time and energy to preach good news to the poor, especially when we don’t feel we’ve got much good news ourselves???

It is in these moments that faith becomes so important. When we feel
inadequate, when we feel there is so little we can do (because we
don’t have “enough,”) that is when we learn that our strength, our
hope, all our resources come from God.

The great mission given to Jesus — and to us — is not a huge burden
that will cripple us if we try to fulfill it. If we tell ourselves
we cannot do it, and do not even try, we will never discover the
miracle of faith. Rather, if we commit ourselves to this work of
bringing wholeness and healing into the world, God will help us. When we take the risk of committing ourselves to moving forward, giving of ourselves and what we have to others, even if we do not at that moment have the resources we need to finish the job, God will step in and empower us, will give us what we need to fulfill our mission.

In this advent season, as we think about the gift of Jesus in our
lives, I hope you will take a risk of faith. Share what you have.
Commit yourself to something that is not just about you and your
family and close friends: move out of your “comfort zone,” and reach
out in a significant way to someone or something that is not familiar
to you. You will find in yourself — as well as in others — a
praising heart instead of a faint spirit (Isaiah 61:3).

–Rev. Naomi
Christmas letter

Dear Friends,

The evangelist Luke wrote down the birth stories of Jesus, so that
we might understand that momentousness of that occasion:

Our God is merciful and tender.
He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us
And to shine from heaven on all those who live in the dark shadow
of death,
To guide our steps in the path of peace. . .
(Luke 1:78-79)

“. . . To guide our steps in the path of peace.” It is both a
beautiful portrayal of who Jesus is and a beautiful promise. How
inspiring to know that every day, we are being taught to walk in the
ways of peace — in prayer, and by our friends, family members,
mentors, the things we read and see — all of these are sources for
us to help us make our lives shine with the light of peace. As we
live under the dark shadows of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, let us
pray that God’s gift of peace in our hearts — and in the hearts of
all who are God’s children — help to heal us of irrational fears
and hatreds.

May this holiday season be full of the blessings of peace,

Rev. Naomi Southard

P.S. We encourage you to attend our Christmas Eve Service, at 7:30
p.m. on Saturday, December 24. It is truly a wonderful service in
which we remember the shepherds of the fields who see the star of
Bethlehem and the glory of the manger, and close with the candles of
“Silent Night.” The service is full of music, excitement and drama,
for both children and adults.