Encouragement From The Word

Are you ready?

The kids will be finished school today.

Maybe, you’ll be finished work today.

Christmas is coming.  Are you ready?

Well, I still have baking to do, and a turkey to buy, and presents to pick up for…

No, are you ready?

Despite what the culture teaches us, being ready for Christmas has less to do with making sure the tree is decorated and the table is set for dinner than with making sure your heart is prepared.  That’s what the season of Advent has been all about.

This coming week, we will celebrate the birth of the Son of God in a hewn-out cave behind a Bethlehem motel.  But it’s not just about an historical commemoration.

The nod to the newborn Jesus lying in a manger is vested with its deepest meaning when his birth in Bethlehem is replicated in our lives.  As we plead in one of the old Christmas carols:

          O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;

          Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.

When Jesus is born in us, that’s when his birth in Bethlehem’s stall becomes most meaningful, and when we are truly ready.

Let Christmas be significant for you this year.  You still have a few days to get ready!  Invite Jesus to be born in you.  It’ll be like being born again.

Wait a minute, I’ve heard that somewhere before…oh, right:

I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3, NLT).

Christmas has the most meaning when Jesus is alive in our hearts.

If you’re looking for a place to worship the newborn King this Christmas, I invite you to join me at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton.  It would be awesome to see you.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in Nobleton 2019

Encouragement From The Word

Celebrating by giving

In some cultures, I’ve learned that when an individual is celebrating a milestone of some sort, the individual gives gifts to those who have helped him or her to achieve the milestone, rather than the common North American tradition of others bringing gifts to the individual.  I’ve come to appreciate that.

This year, our church decided to try that approach.  We are celebrating our 60th ICG14anniversary of ministry and service to our community, so last Wednesday evening, we borrowed an idea from a friend of mine, and hired an ice cream truck to roam the streets of town for an evening.  We stopped at a seniors’ residence, a soccer pitch, and a community park – and for any passersby as we journeyed along.  People were expecting to have to pay for the ice cream.

But they didn’t.  We did.

Why? We did it to invite our community to celebrate with us, and to get the word out that serving Jesus and having fun can be compatible.

We weren’t preaching to anyone.  We told them St. Paul’s was celebrating its 60th anniversary by giving away ice cream cones.  The driver/server of the ice cream truck was so thrilled at what we were doing that he told everybody he gave a cone to where the church is and what time worship begins!

Will this result in higher attendance?  Possibly, but not likely.  That’s not really why we did it.  But if our act of kindness to our community planted a seed or two, it will have been successful. You never know what opportunities may come about down the road because we offered an ice cream cone on a warm evening, in Jesus’ name.

Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” (Romans 12.11, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

The Long Weekend After Ascension Day

Most of us are looking forward to the long weekend that starts later today.  (In Nobleton, the Victoria Day weekend marks a special time as a community, when we celebrate on Monday with a parade through the streets of town, followed by a ‘fun fair’ at the community centre, and an amazing fireworks display in the evening.)  Everybody knows that it’s a long weekend.  But if I asked you what yesterday marked, would you know?

Many of you would know that yesterday was Ascension Day, the day marked by Christians to celebrate the time, forty days after the resurrection, when Jesus ascended into heaven.

Ascension Day is not the most popular feast on the church calendar, but it is an important day.  It underscores the importance of Jesus’ birth, teaching ministry, death, and resurrection.  Without the ascension of Jesus, who “sits at the right hand of the Father” according to the Apostles’ Creed, his role as our one true Intercessor would be missing.  Without the ascension of Jesus, the promised Holy Spirit would not have come to dwell within us as happened at Pentecost, ten days after Jesus ascended.

The disciples were baffled, of course, since they thought the resurrection was the end of the story, and that their ministry with the Lord would carry on as before the crucifixion.  But that was not God’s plan.  No, Jesus assured the disciples that God had another plan for kingdom ministry.  It would be done through them:  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8, NIV).

At this, Jesus was taken up into heaven, and his friends stood there, agape, staring up at the sky.  It took a couple of heavenly messengers to remind them of what Jesus had said, and to assure them that he would return, one day, as he had ascended.

With that, the book of Acts continues to retell the unfolding story of the life of the early church, beginning with the appointment of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot, and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the gathered believers.

That same commission, given to the first disciples, is given to disciples today, as well:   “you will be my witnesses.”  Ascension day reminds us that we are called to carry on the work of Christ in the world, sharing his truth and compassion with people locally (Jerusalem), in the region (Judea and Samaria), and all around the world (to the ends of the earth).

Ascension day reminds us that the mission of God in the world is ours to carry out, under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit.  That’s why I love the Nobleton tradition of celebrating Victoria Day as a community, because it allows me to be a witness for Jesus in our town.  And that’s a start.

What will you do this weekend, or next week, to be a witness of Jesus where you are?