The 12th chapter of John relates a story in which some Greeks approach Andrew, one of the disciples of Jesus and make a request of him: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." They wanted to learn more and know more about Jesus. Some saw Jesus as a teacher, some a healer, and some a prophet, some as a miracle worker, some as a warrior, and some as a political leader. People were drawn to Jesus.
So it has always been. Century after century, in every part of the globe, people have made the same request, and I pray it is an everyday prayer in our lives even now; ”We wish to see Jesus.”
There will be ample opportunities to try and see and worship Jesus as we move through the Advent and Christmas seasons together. Advent is that four week period of preparation for, and anticipation of, the coming of the Christ child into our hearts and lives. As part of our preparation this year, our theme is “We Wish to See Jesus,” a theme that we believe will speak to the spiritual hunger within so many hearts and lives today.
Each Sunday in Advent we will be lighting the candle of hope, peace, joy, or love, on our Advent wreath. Let there be light! And, there is something new added to our traditions, as we share in our first ever “Hanging of the Greens” worship celebration. We invite you to join us on December 5, for a Christmas dinner at 6:00 pm, followed by the “Hanging of the Greens” worship at 7:00 pm. It will be a very meaningful night as we read God’s Word, pray, listen to the music of our children, light our Chrismon tree, and prepare our sanctuary and our hearts for the coming of our Lord.
There are yet more opportunities to see Jesus. On December 9th we will participate in a Multicultural Christmas concert at 3 pm at the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring. On December 16th Our Sanctuary Choir will be presenting the Cantata “Christmas Presence” during the worship hour. Again this year we will be caroling at Holy Cross Hospital on December 18, at 7:00 pm. And as usual we will celebrating Christ’s birth at our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service on December 24, at 7:30 pm.
I believe we will also see Him, as we share his love with others. We will be packaging another 10,000 meals for the hungry, participating in the Angel Tree and Glad Tidings ministries, and will receive the World Mission Offering, which supports missions and ministries the world over.
Christmas may be “the hap, hap, happiest time of the year”, but if we fail to see Jesus, and reflect on his coming among us, it is just another event on the calendar. So this year, let us open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to the living God. Come and worship. Come and serve. Come and see Jesus. I pray for each of us and all of us, a joy-full and meaning-full Christmas.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
I learned Jane Marshall’s great hymn of gratitude in seminary: What gift can we bring, what present, what token? What words can convey it, the joy of this day? When grateful we come, remembering, rejoicing, what song can we offer in honor and praise?
These are good questions, and we will attempt to answer them on the Sundays leading to November 18th, our Commitment Sunday. This is the date we have set aside to consider our financial commitments to the Lord for 2019. Our theme is, “What Gift Shall We Bring?” Yes, what gift shall we bring to God who has blessed us so richly as individuals and as a Church? Will we be willing to allow our stewardship to reflect our discipleship?
We live in an extraordinarily material and consumer oriented society. We always want more, and new, bigger, and better. Many believe that happiness lies in material wealth and surrounding ourselves with a lot of stuff. It has been said that 40% of the American people spend 110 percent of their annual income each year. Yet all of this spending and possessing leaves us dissatisfied and empty. At root, these are spiritual issues, not financial issues.
When we become followers, or disciples of Jesus Christ, we are invited to share all that we have and all we are. How then will we respond and allow God to use us and our resources for the good of others? During my November messages, I will be leading us to consider what it means to be generous. Generosity is a personal act of worship where we express our gratitude to God and experience God’s blessings and joy.
Look for an estimate of giving card enclosed with your newsletter, and I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you will respond to the invitation to share what God has provided for you for the ongoing mission of Montgomery Hills. There will be a designated time in our worship on November 18th when we bring our commitment cards forward to have our intentions consecrated.
God has done, and continues to do, remarkable things through us and with us, things that I believe really matter in the lives of others. Your prayers, participation, and gifts are keys to helping us advance further on the pathway of discipleship. Through your gifts, you will be a part of changing the lives of children and youth, ministering to those in need, and welcoming others into the embrace of Christ. Thank you for all that you do to make possible the ministry of Montgomery Hills! You are making a difference here!
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Many years ago, I was a candidate for the position of Pastor of another church. I met with the search team for an interview. They grilled me with a large assortment of questions and I can’t say I remember many of them. But one that has stayed with me for many years was this: “What is your thing? Every pastor has a thing. What is your thing?” I had to think about that a minute. But the questioner was right. I did have a “thing”. My thing then and now was encouraging every member to use their God-given gifts in ministry.
You have probably noticed that I currently have another “thing”, and that has to do with inviting others. Out of an authentic love for Jesus and for others, we take the initiative to invite, welcome, include, and support those who are new to our fellowship, and help them grow in faith as they become a part of our church. I remind us all, that at some stage in our lives, we too were strangers to the faith. We belong here most likely because someone invited us, encouraged us, or made us feel welcome. Jesus once said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Imagine what would happen if we lived and served as if we really believe that.
I notice, and I hope you will too, two upcoming events in October that members and friends can invite others to attend. Movie Night is on October 19, and we will be offering the highly acclaimed film “I Can Only Imagine.” Come and bring a friend! And, once again this year, we will be providing “Trunk or Treat”, our version of “Trick-Or-Treat” on October 28th. Decorate your trunk and come and help the boys and girls in our church and community to have a safe and fun evening. Invite the boys and girls you may know to attend!
I also invite us to encourage a friend, relative, acquaintance, or neighbor to worship with us in October. Some are just waiting to be invited. What a wonderful privilege it is to offer the hospitality of an invitation to someone we know. Maybe they will respond, maybe they won’t, but at least we have tried. At least we have been faithful. And one never knows. The invitation we make may be the beginning of a turn-around in someone’s life, just the movement toward blessing and fulfillment that some man or woman, boy or girl may have been longing for.
You have no doubt heard it before. Most new church members, when asked, reveal that they came to church for the first time because someone invited them. Herein is one of our most powerful possibilities for church growth. We are here to make disciples. Our purpose, as Bill Easum once put it, “is to invite people into the story of God’s love; we invite people to find new life by giving life away to others.”
Please pray for your church. Tell others about Montgomery Hills! Invite them to worship. Better yet, bring them to worship with you. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is contagious. As we continue on into the fall season, I encourage us all to put Jesus Christ first in our lives.
In Christ, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne