The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Give Until It . . .

IT WAS THE CALL FOR SACRIFICIAL GIVING. The challenge was for us to “give until it hurts.

Whether it was on the field of sport, or in the offering plate, we have been called to give sacrificially, that is until it hurts either our body or a pocketbook. It is a great speech for both college locker room and church lectern, but is really how we are to give?

I suppose the impetus for this sacrificial giving is found in the Heavenly Father’s giving of His Son, Jesus to be the complete atoning sacrifice for our sins. And yes, they both did more than “give until it hurts.” But, the motive behind their giving is more than just sacrifice. Their giving was prompted by their love.

The Apostle Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It was the love of God for us, His creation, which motivated Him to give. The Apostle John famously reminds us that, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Again, it was God’s love that moved Him to give His only Son. Sure, sacrifice was involved, but love was the gift. What do you expect from the God who is love?

This Christmas what is our impetus for giving? Should it not be to reflect the great love of God? Yes, from time to time we may be called upon to give until it hurts, but let us always give because we love. Perhaps we should rewrite the “challenge” given above. Maybe it should read, “Give until it’s love, and then give some more.

May God’s love, joy, peace and hope be His great gifts this Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

NOEL

THE FIRST NOEL, THE ANGELS DID SAY, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. Say what?

What is a “noel” and why are the angels saying it? A little online research will tell us that “noel” has a few possible meanings. It could be the title of episode #32 of the television show, “The West Wing,” or the Micmac Indian name for when “ice cakes float freely.” It could have even referred to the medical research term used when the highest dose in a toxicity study results in no-observed-effect level (NOEL), though I sincerely doubt that one.

All kidding aside, “Noel” derives from the Old French as the word for Christmas. It most likely finds it roots in the Latin natalis, meaning birthday, as in natalis dies Domini "birthday of the Lord". So, there you have it, the angels were declaring a Merry Christmas to the first community of celebrants, the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem.

This first Christmas greeting was one of “good news of great joy that would be for all people.” The good news that a Savior had been born, the Messiah they had historically hoped for, the One who had been promised through the Prophets, was now here. Yes, this was truly good news of great joy! News that would travel throughout the country-sides of history unto our own day, when we too join with the heavenly host in proclaiming a Joyeux Noël!

May your Noel be filled with His joy!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Christmas Moment

CHRISTMAS IS FILLED WITH SPECIAL MOMENTS. The “moment” I am referring to is different for each of us. It might be bundling up to go sing Christmas carols or enjoying a special Christmas-time meal with family and friends. It might a night of adrenaline rush shopping at the local mega-mall or a trip to Crest Ranch to select the perfect Christmas tree. Whatever that “moment” is it is just not Christmas without it.

My Christmas moment comes on Christmas Eve, and I guess you could say it is a culmination of moments. It begins with a family meal of soup in bread bowls followed by the final preparations for the Christmas Eve service, the filling of Communion cups and the lighting of scores of candles. It finds its focal point in the re-telling of the Christmas event and the gathering of fellow-worshippers around the Lord’s Table. It is punctuated by a family car ride through the Christmas-lit houses in Scotts Valley and finds its finale in the hanging of Christmas stockings and making sure all are tucked into bed with sugarplum dreams in their heads. But…my most special moment is yet to come.

My true Christmas moment comes late in the evening, when all is quite. The woodstove is radiating its warmth and the lights on the Christmas tree cast a hazy glow throughout the room. All is quite. All is still. All is peaceful. It is the moment I wait for, dare I say that I long for, in each Christmas season. It is the moment between moments. It signifies the end to the pre-Christmas rush, and stands as a quite sentinel awaiting the unpackaged joy of Christmas morning. It is the peace between pieces. It is a moment that reminds of the first Advent night. The moment the Child was born, and the angels declared “Peace.”