Tuesday 16 January 2018

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. – Isaiah 30:15

 

When things do not go as we expect, we often work harder, thinking the harder we work the better things will be. When challenges confront me, rather than working harder, I am learning that it is best to slow down, calm my spirit, quiet my mind and listen for God. Misdirected hard work can be destructive and exhausting. In our frenzy to make things right, we can make things worse. As challenges, disappointments, and failures confront us, Jesus calls us to turn away from our busyness, quiet our minds, calm our spirits and trust that God is with us giving us wisdom, and showing us path forward.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Monday 15 January 2018

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. – 1 John 4:19-20

 

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life working to show God’s love to the world by loving all his sisters and brothers. Dr. King’s life teaches us that the best way to live out our faith is by seeing all people – regardless of color or creed – as brothers and sisters. As Dr. King said, he wanted people to be known not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character. Martin Luther King Jr. loved all people so faithfully because he was filled with the presence and love of Jesus Christ – Love in human form. When we do whatever it takes for the well being of our brothers and sisters, we will honor Dr. King and show God’s great love to the world.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Saturday 13 January 2018

See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice.Each one will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. – Isaiah 32:1-2

 

Throughout yesterday’s windy rainstorm I thanked God for the shelter of my home. The best way I know to show that Jesus reigns over my life is by being a shelter for others from life’s winds, storms and droughts. When we take time to lovingly listen to someone, so we really hear what they are saying; when we offer faithful friendship to someone even when it inconveniences us; when we take time to sit with someone and offer them our support, God works through us to be their refuge. Offering that care revives their spirits, brings joy to our souls and shines the warming light of God’s love into their lives.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Friday 12 January 2018

19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. – Acts 26:19-20

 

While on his way to terrorize and arrest Christians, Paul is literally knocked off his horse by Jesus who says, “Why do you persecute me?” The vision transforms Paul, leading him to travel the known world sharing the good news that faith in Jesus gives us repentance and new beginnings. Repentance is turning to God and away from everything that takes us away from God. When we turn to Jesus by inviting Him to shape our thoughts, inspire our passions, and lead us to live lives that show His love, we become different people. Sometimes the change is huge. Much of time the difference is small but wonderfully significant. Always the result is joy!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Thursday 11 January 2018

The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. – Isaiah 25:8b

 

When my children were little and got hurt while playing outside, or became upset about something at school, or experienced the pain of disappointment they would come to Lisa or me with tears running down their cheeks. Gathering them in my arms and giving them a hug, I would hold them. Then I would take a tissue and gently dry their tears while assuring them that everything would be alright. Whenever we are hurting, Jesus gathers us in His arms, holding us close to His heart and assures us that everything will be alright.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Wednesday 10 January 2018

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines. – Isaiah 25:6

 

At the center of every special gathering is delicious food. When God brings full restoration to the world there will be a wonderful celebration. At the center of this celebration will be the most delicious dinner ever offered in the history of creation. Until that day comes, Jesus gives us a foretaste of this great feast through the delicious foods He creates for us to enjoy. Each time we taste something that fills us with delight, we are tasting the love of Jesus. When we enjoy delicious food, we are tasting God’s promise that He is with us and that Jesus giving us all the strength and joy we need as He works all things together for good.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Tuesday 9 January 2018

You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. – Isaiah 25:4a

 

We all experience times of poverty, need and distress in our lives. Sometimes the poverty is economic. Sometimes it’s physical or emotional. We also have days when we feel poor in spirit. Whenever we experience poverty, whenever the stresses of life are scorching our spirit, Jesus is our refuge and our shelter. God brings us refuge and gives us shelter in wonderfully creative ways. The 1972 Chevrolet Caprice my Granny gave me was my God-given refuge. I lived in a small house with four siblings and lots going on. My Caprice was my quiet place where I could sit by myself, listen to music, and feel God’s presence. Whenever we are poor, God always offers us a place of refuge where Jesus brings us restoration. Even in a 1972 Chevy Caprice!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Monday 8 January 2018

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. – Isaiah 25:1

 

God has wonderful plans for us. Sometimes we can easily discern God’s design for our lives. Sometimes God’s plans are not as clear as we would like them to be. When discovering God’s plan for your life seems like an impossible task, be assured that over time the plan will become clear because, God is faithful and never forgets us. God works through people we trust, the Bible and His Spirit to show us the way we should go. Jesus wants us to experience the wonderful things He is doing for us and through us. So, if God’s plan for your life is clear, follow the plan. If it’s not, rest in God’s faithfulness until you discover the direction in which you are to travel. Always remember, God has wonderful things planned for you!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Saturday 6 January 2018 – Epiphany

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. – Matthew 2:11

 

Today is Epiphany. Epiphany means revealing. The story of the Magi bowing before Jesus is the story of Epiphany. Through the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn in the Pisces section of the sky on 29 May in 7 B.C. God reveals to the Magi that Jesus will be born in Bethlehem. Seven months and 900 miles later through a “star” (which is an angel) God reveals to the Magi the house where Jesus is staying. God loves revealing Himself to us, and will do whatever it takes to be sure that we experience His presence in our lives. My Grampa, Gil Hanse, was born on Epiphany. “Remember the 6th,” he would always say. Jesus revealed Himself to me through Grampa. Who is one person through whom Jesus reveals Himself to you? Praise God for that person!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Friday 5 January 2018 – 12th Day Of Christmas 

27 Moved by the Spirit, he [Simeon] went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, – Luke2:27-28

 

We celebrate Christmas on 25 December and for the eleven days that follow. But Christmas is not limited to a specific day or season. Christmas happens each time experience the presence of Jesus. Simeon experiences Christmas 32 days after Jesus’ birthday. Excitement, gratitude, and joy fill Simeon’s spirit as he lovingly greets his Messiah by taking Jesus in his arms. Holding God fills Simeon with peace. While we celebrate Christmas on 25 December, Christmas happens for us each time we have a life-enriching experience with Jesus. Christmas Day is past. But Christmastime – Christ’s presence with us is here forever.

 

Affectionately,
Pastor Ric

 

Thursday 4 January 2018 – 11th Day Of Christmas 

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. – Luke2:25-26

 

I knew I was a grownup when the four weeks leading to Christmas went from being the slowest weeks in my life to the quickest. Children feel like Christmas will never come – like the wait is eternal. Grownups feel like Christmas comes too quickly. I would like more time on the lead-up to Christmas not so I can get more done, but because I love Christmastime. I love spending four weeks singing about, reading about and celebrating God’s great gift of Jesus. Simeon spent most of his grownup life waiting for Jesus. The Holy Spirit promised Simeon that he would live to see Jesus. Christmas may come quickly, but there are things for which we are waiting. What are you waiting to experience and enjoy? Offer your waiting to God. The wait will end when you least expect it!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Wednesday 3 January 2018

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”) – Luke 2:22-23

 

This past 3 November, on the night of my 51st birthday, my dad told me that after he received word of my birth (he was in the army) he dedicated me to the Lord’s service. I thought my call to pastoring came to me on the night of my twelfth birthday. Little did I realize that it began on my birth day. Exodus 13:2,12 calls parents to dedicate their firstborn to God. On this first Wednesday of the New Year, what do you need to dedicate to the Lord? Each of us has people, concerns, dreams, worries, fears, projects and adventures that we need to dedicate to God. Offer your people, concerns, dreams, worries, fears, projects and adventures to Jesus, and He will work in them and through them to do surprising, wonderful and amazing things.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Tuesday 2 January 2018 – Ninth Day Of Christmas  

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – Luke 2:22

 

Thirty-three days after giving birth to Jesus, Mary goes to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to be purified from the bleeding she endured while giving birth to Jesus. The thirty-three-day wait is detailed in Leviticus (the third book in the Bible) chapter 12. Mary and Joseph are faithful Israelites who carefully follow the Law of Moses. There is a wonderful purity about new things. Newborns, new cars, new homes, and new years. While we are not new, Jesus is always renewing us. Jesus makes us new by clearing away our old wrongs, our worn-out perspectives, and our rundown ways of living life. Jesus purifies us by giving us new beginnings (forgiveness), new perspectives (joyous hope) and new assurance that He is with to us meet every challenge and He will shoulder every burden with us.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Monday 1 January 2018 – Eighth Day Of Christmas – New Year’s Day

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. – Luke 2:21

 

Mary and Joseph officially name their son Jesus on the eighth day of Christmas. How wonderful that in 2018, our eighth day of Christmas and New Year’s Day occur on the same day that celebrates Jesus’ christening. Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name “Joshua’, which means “the Lord saves”. Jesus is the Lord who saves us. Jesus saves us by working through the bad and good we experienced in 2017 to bring about something wonderful in 2018. Jesus saves us by using this new day of the new year to heal us, forgive us, and bring us new beginnings, new opportunities, new peace and new adventures. Jesus saves us by assuring us that while the future events we will experience are uncertain, our future is wonderfully certain because whatever happens Jesus is with us – forever!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

30 December 2017

19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:19

 

A brutally difficult ninety-mile donkey-back trip south from Nazareth to Bethlehem while she is nearly nine months pregnant. Giving birth in an animal stable to a baby boy fathered by God. Receiving a visit from shepherds only hours after delivering Jesus. Mary had a lot going on in her life. Rather than complaining, or becoming bitter, Mary gathers her precious memories which, to her are treasures and ponders them in her heart. Mary lingers over each memory and its meaning for her. We are nearing the end of our 2017 journey. Whether we have felt Him, or not, Jesus has been with us throughout every moment of the past twelve months. Please take some time to gather up your memories, and ponder them in your heart. Jesus will use the good memories to fill you with gratitude, and Jesus will redeem your painful memories to bring you strength. I am grateful to Jesus for the year we have enjoyed together.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

29 December 2017

17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. – Luke 2:17-18

 

It’s always fun to share great news! After Lisa said “Yes” to my proposal of marriage, I told everyone! When we closed on our first home I shared it with anyone who would listen. The shepherds experience the extraordinary when they come face to face with God in the flesh. In their excitement they share the great news with everyone! “Go Tell It On The Mountain” is a wonderful Christmas Carol capturing the shepherds’ excitement. “Go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere; go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

28 December 2017

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. – Luke 2:16

 

Hurrying off to find Jesus requires faith and courage. These shepherds have never left their flock unattended. Remember they are raising perfect sheep for the Temple. Trusting in the angle’s words gives the shepherds courage to leave their fields and look for Jesus. The shepherds risk everything because they expect to find Jesus. It’s not long before they find Jesus – not many stables are lit at night. These shepherds find The Good Shepherd (who will do anything for His sheep – even become one of them) lying in a manger. Finding Jesus requires us to have faith and courage – faith to trust God’s promise that we will find Jesus, and courage to leave whatever it is that keeps us from Jesus.

 

Affectionately,
Pastor Ric

 

 

27 December 2017

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” – Luke 2:15

 

Years ago, my dear friend Karen Loveland gave me the album “James Galway’s Christmas Carol”. My favorite song is “The Shepherd’s Pipe Carol” by John Rutter, which helps us to experience the joy with which the shepherds said, “Let’s go to Bethlehem!” When my oldest daughter Ashley was a child we’d sing the song together in the car.” What a wonderful time!  As the song closes with the words, “Angels in the sky brought this message nigh, dance and sing for joy that Christ the infant king was born this night in lowly stable yonder, born for you in Bethlehem.” my eyes well with tears of gratitude to God our Father for His Christmas gift of Jesus. Jesus’ birth gives us many wonderfully small gifts that make our lives so rich: shepherds traveling to Bethlehem, who inspire John Rutter to write a song, that I discover from Karen, who gives me a cd to play that creates a beautiful experience for my daughter and me, which shows Jesus great Christmas love. God is so very good! Enjoy this wonderful song and celebrate the wonderfully small gifts Jesus gives you.

 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search

q=james+galway+shepherd%27s+pipe+carol&qpvt=james+galway+shepherd%27s+pipe+carol&view=

detail&mid=BE5CD52A5ACFFAF690A3BE5CD52A5ACFFAF690A3&FORM=VRDGAR

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

26 December 2017

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:20-2

Snow on Christmas Day. What a wonderful Christmas gift! Watching the world being covered in a soft blanket of white on Jesus’ birthday leads us to the angel’s conversation with Joseph: “You are to give him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Jesus comes to rescue us from everything that harms us. That’s amazing love. While watching the snow come down on Christmas Day I kept thinking of the beautiful Christmas carol, “Love came down at Christmas, love all lovely, love divine. Love was born at Christmas. Star and angels gave the sign.”

 

Affectionately,
Pastor Ric

 

Christmas Day 2017

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin′i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. – Luke 2:1-7 (Revised Standard Version)

 

Merry Christmas! Today we celebrate the moment in history when God the Son came to us as a human being. God’s birthday changes the world for the better forever. Jesus is born to us at Christmas to bring us gifts of unconditional love, forgiveness, new beginnings, hope, peace, healing, and the deep happiness that comes from knowing God loves us so much that He will do anything for us – even become one of us. As Charles Wesley writes in my favorite Christmas Carol, “Hail the haven-born prince of peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth. Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Saturday 23 December 2017

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. – Luke 2:16

 

The shepherds hurry from their fields and find Jesus lying in the manger. Christmas is all about finding Jesus. A manger was the last place anyone expected to find Jesus. But a manger is the best place because everyone is welcome at a stable feeding trough. This Christmas you will find Jesus, because Jesus wants to be found! Through carols and silence, through decorations and bare space, through lights and in darkness, in busyness and stillness, with family and friends and during times when you are alone you will find Jesus. Christmas is God the Son saying to us, “I will do whatever it takes to make it possible for you to find me, because I love you.”  As celebrate Christ’s birthday, we will find Jesus because our Risen Savior who comes at Christmas lives within our hearts!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Friday 22 December 2017

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” – Luke 2:15

 

The shepherds were last place people. They were the last to be thought of, the last to be thanked, and the last to be invited anywhere – if they got an invitation at all. Last place people have a special place in God’ heart. This is why the shepherds are the first ones to receive a personal invitation from God to go to Bethlehem and meet Jesus. Where in your life do you feel like you are in last place? This Christmas Jesus is coming to the place in your life that feels like last place to bring you healing, give you strength and assure you that you can do all things in Jesus who is your strength.

 

Affectionately,
Pastor Ric

 

Thursday 21 December 2017

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 

When I was a child, I was always amazed at the sight of our Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Gifts from Santa Claus were pouring out from under the pine boughs. Do you remember that wonderful vision? How amazing it must have been when the shepherds saw hundreds of angels filling the nighttime sky and singing “Glory to God in the highest!” Christmas is filled with amazing moments because God’s great gift of Jesus is amazing! In his “Gloria”, composer John Rutter helps us to experience that amazing night when a great company of angels celebrate Christ’s birth before the shepherds. If you have a few minutes please enjoy the first movement of John Rutter’s “Gloria”. You can cut and paste this into your search bar, or do a search for “Gloria” by John Rutter.

 

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=john+rutter+gloria&view=detail&mid=6CD640ADB990403E1C266CD640ADB990403E1C26&FORM=VIRE

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Wednesday 20 December 2017

12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12

 

The Lord’s glorious, mighty and magnificent angel shares with lowly, lonely, forgotten shepherds the great news that if they go to an animal stable in Bethlehem they’ll find God in a feeding trough. Jesus is born in a stable so that anyone and everyone could come and be with Him. Christmas is so special because, Jesus’ birthday celebrates our God who can be found in the most mundane of places – an animal stable, a parking garage, the basement. The great sign that Jesus loves us is this – we shall experience the warmth, strength and comfort of His presence in the supermarket, in traffic, and in many other unexpected places. Each time we feel Christ’s presence in an unexpected place, we are experiencing Christmas.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Tuesday 19 December 2017

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. – Luke 2:9-10
 
Getting a job we thought was beyond our reach. The man or woman of our dreams saying “Yes!” to our proposal of marriage. Our hearts filling with warmth with the assurance that Jesus loves us. These are joyous good news moments in our lives. “I bring you good news that will cause great joy,” the angel tells a group of shepherds who are used to receiving only bad news. Good news permanently changes our lives for the better. Through Christmas, God the Son says, “I love you enough to become one of you. I love you enough to rescue you from everything that keeps you from experiencing my love.” Jesus loves you! This is good news that gives us deep happiness that is resilient and permanent.  
 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Monday 18 December 2017

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. – Luke 2:8-9

 

When we look at the angels decorating our homes, churches and the stores at Christmastime, it’s hard to understand why the shepherds were terrified. During the reign of the good and godly King Hezekiah, the Assyrians sought to annihilate Israel. Hezekiah prays to the Lord. God sends an angel who in one night kills 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. So when an angel appears before the shepherds they are scared to death! This is why the first words the angel speaks are, “Do not be afraid!” Is there anything filling you with fear today? Please hear God’s angel saying to you, “Be not afraid.” Because Jesus comes for us at Christmas we have nothing to fear. After all, if God’s angels are powerful – how much more powerful is our God Jesus who loves us so much that He comes for us at Christmas.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Saturday 16 December 2017

19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all. – Luke 6:19

 

Presidents, celebrities, royalty – we love seeing them in person and we love touching them.  My Great Grammy Hanse went to see Billy Graham in the early sixties and touched him.  It meant the world to her.  Touching someone famous is exhilarating but not healing.  As Jesus grows in fame, people want to touch him because healing power flows freely from him.  That healing power was part of Jesus from the day he was born.  Jesus comes into the world at Christmas so that God can be touched and healing can be given.  Please take time this Christmas to touch Jesus and receive the healing that He has for you.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Friday 15 December 2017

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. – Luke 2:8

 

Most shepherds commuted to work, spending their shift with the sheep and then going home. But the shepherds Luke describes in his Christmas story are different. These shepherds lived with their sheep. Their work was their life. Unlike ordinary shepherds, they raised sheep for temple sacrifices. These sheep had to be perfect. Perfect sheep require constant care and complete commitment. Because they lived with their sheep, these shepherds could never go to the temple to be close to God. And no one cared. They were overlooked by the world. But they are very special to God. If they cannot get close to God, God will come close to them. Whenever you feel unappreciated please know that you are very special to God. This Christmas Jesus is coming close to you because you are His priceless treasure.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Thursday 14 December 2017

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:6-7

 

Ninety miles from home, lying atop a straw bed on the floor of a Bethlehem garage filled with sheep, goats and chickens, Mary gives birth to a boy. Mary’s first Christmas takes place far from home, without her family, in a drafty, animal-filled garage. Christmas comes in a stable. Jesus enters our world in ways and at places where we least expect Him. If the first Christmas happens in an animal garage, where will Christmas happen for us this year? In a traffic jam? Behind a snow shovel? Where we work? At the kitchen table? With someone we love? With a stranger? Christmas – Jesus being born in our lives – will happen in usual places because Christmas happens everywhere!

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Wednesday 13 December 2017

While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for the baby to be born – Luke 2:6

 

Looking out on a back yard filled with leaves and listening to the Friday forecast predicting four to six inches of snow, I knew I’d be spending my day off raking and bagging leaves. Whether or not I was ready for it, the snow was coming. Whether or not we are completely prepared for it, Christmas comes. Before Joseph can secure a room and prepare a warm and safe bed for Mary, Christmas arrives. I am so glad that Christmas comes to us no matter how prepared or unprepared we may be. That Jesus’ birthday celebration shows up regardless of our state of readiness is a beautiful sign of God’s gracious love for us. We don’t earn Christmas. We receive Christmas.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

Tuesday 12 December 2017

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. – Luke 2:1,4

 

Mary is nine months pregnant when she and her fiancé Joseph travel ninety miles south from Nazareth to Bethlehem. For three long days the couple endure a difficult trip of crossing rivers, sleeping on the ground, and suffering blistered feet. Imagine being nine months pregnant and riding for three days on a donkey! Whenever our life journey is difficult and painful, Christmas assures us that God is with us to give us the strength and perseverance we need. As the Christmas carol “It Came Upon The Midnight Clear” declares, “And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow, look now! for gland and golden hours come swiftly on the wing. O rest beside the wary road, and hear the angels sing!”

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric

 

 

Monday 11 December 2017

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. – Isaiah 11:1

 

A great tree towered over East Main Street, Meriden in front of the August Curtis Cultural Center. Sadly, the tree was dying and needed to be cut down. Sitting in my office I watched the great tree’s demise. Only the stump was left. But as the weeks passed something wonderful happened – shoots began springing from the stump. It looked like life had ended for that tree. But looks can be deceiving. On the first Christmas a baby is born in a stable to a working-class family. This baby is our God who brings us new hope, new love and new life. No matter what our Christmas will look like – Jesus is present, bringing us new perspectives, new hope, new healing and new life.

 

Affectionately,

Pastor Ric