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
The most used word in this time of year we call the Christmas Season is the word "gift." Most of us will spend a great deal of time in coming weeks frantically searching for gifts, trying to find the right gift for the right person at the right price. God gave the first and best Christmas gift, the gift of his son Jesus.
The days leading up to Christmas are some of the most beautiful, exciting, and meaningful days of the year. A fair amount of anxiety and worry is also produced, I’m afraid. The Advent season has long been seen as a time of preparation and anticipation, but Advent too, has fallen prey to cluttered schedules, distractions, “to-do” lists, obligations, and many of us find that we miss out on the very sacred opportunities that are available to us.
During this season of Advent 2017, even as our thoughts turn to gifts, shopping lists, and our own wish lists, we as a community of faith, will be exploring the gifts God gives us in the coming of the Christ child. Reflecting on passages from Isaiah together each Sunday, we will consider what it means to receive and
open those gifts as we unpack the theme, “Christmas Gifts to Open.”
I ran across a story of a man who received a Christmas gift 49 years ago, and still hadn’t opened it. Imagine that! How would you feel if you gave someone a gift to express your love and you found out later that they had not even bothered to open it? I suspect that this is what much of the world does with God’s Christmas gifts. So often, God’s Christmas gifts will remain unopened and un-received. A gift is not a gift until it is opened.
I look forward to opening the gifts of vision, peace, song, and presence with you each Sunday during Advent worship. Christmas is not about the gifts and the gift-swapping. It is about THE gift, God’s Christmas gift to us all. I invite us all to open our hearts and minds to receive God’s greatest gift this year, to allow Jesus to be born anew into our life. I pray for each member and friend of MHBC, a very joy-filled, and meaning-full Christmas!
Grace and Peace, Joel
“I Wonder as I Wander” has always been a very meaningful Christmas carol for me. It was discovered by John Jacob Niles who spent many years wandering around the Appalachian Mountains in search of the origins of folk songs. On a cold day in December in North Carolina, he heard the sound of a little girl singing a song.
This was a song that was new to Niles, and when she finished he asked her where she had learned the song. She explained that her mother had taught it to her, just as her grandmother had taught it to her mother before her. Niles wrote the words to this beautiful carol in a small tablet, and they stayed with him for a long time, for in his mind they were deeply spiritual, thoughtful, and contained in a profound way, the joy and wonder of Christmas. Just before the beginning of WWII, Niles introduced this song wherever he could and those who heard it were in awe. Until his death, Niles searched for the source of the carol but he never did find the author. He concluded that the little girl was an angel sent to deliver a message of the wonder of Christ’s birth.
To me the words capture the wonder of Christmas; the wonder of a star and of a young woman and young carpenter who received wondrous dreams and angelic visitations. I see in the Christmas story the wonder of Incarnation, of angelic choirs filling the night sky with songs of promise and praise. I see the wonder of lowly shepherds becoming the first witnesses to God’s salvation, and the wonder of the Magi bearing wondrous gifts to a small child who would be king.
Advent begins on Sunday, November 27. Advent is often thought of as a countdown to Christmas. Each Sunday we will light the candles of our Advent wreath, remembering how our celebration of the arrival of the Light of the World draws near. We will also anticipate that one day, he will come again. Our Advent theme this year is “The Wonder of Christmas.” We will explore the wonder-filled aspects of the Christmas story and reflect on the wonder of God’s great love for us, a love made real when we share it with others.
I encourage you to join us each Sunday as we embrace and celebrate the wonder of Christmas, believing that because of God’s great love and light in Jesus Christ, anything is possible! Oh, the wonder of it all! He is here, among us, beside us, with us, and for us. I pray for each and every member and friend, a joy-full, meaningfull, and wonder-filled Christmas!
I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die,
For poor ordinary people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
In Christian love, Pastor Joel
Pastor Joel Hawthorne