January 2023 Message From Pastor Gary “A New Year”

Well, it looks like we made it to 2023!

One aspect of our Christmas holiday season which I genuinely enjoy is how friendly people can be. As I walk through town, a smile, a hello, and a “Merry Christmas” can sure lift one’s spirits. This past Christmas I found most people to be amazingly friendly; I must have heard “Merry Christmas” at least 12 times between church and Pattie’s restaurant one morning. But yesterday, as I walked uptown for breakfast, I could not believe the difference a week makes. I got the normal hellos, but I could not believe how miserable some people looked as they headed into the post office or reluctantly allowed me to cross the road in front of their car.

It seems that nothing packs up and leaves town quicker than the Christmas spirit!
One question we all need to think about is: “What is next?” In this new year, where do we turn our focus? Just listen to what Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:3-4a:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world [emphases added].
And in verses 11 and 12:
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all thing according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory [emphases added].

Paul is setting forth his great theme of the mystery revealed: Christ’s salvation extends beyond Judaism to include all peoples. We are all members of the same body.
These scriptures also makes us think. . . ok, Christmas is over. . . . .there must be more,

What is next? Of course there is something more if we are open and receptive to His word. Well, God is beginning (or has begun) to make clear to us His divine purpose in the world, the plan of the ages, and how we are a part of it. God has not left us alone to our own devices, nor are we left without meaning or direction for our lives.

We are here for more than our own comfort and pleasure. We are a part of God’s great enterprise of redemption, reconciliation, and the healing of God’s broken world.

The secular trappings of our Christmas holiday season have faded away. Old Christmas trees are easily found lying on the sides of the roads (except for that one family who will try to make it to February, no matter how many needles fall off). Bulbs and all that other stuff are back in their protective boxes, and soon will be back up to the attic, packed away for another year.

Are you also packing your Christmas spirit away in one of the boxes? Well, don’t; you will need it, so go back and get it.

The spirit of Christ is something we all need to keep alive and well in our families, homes, and worship, and, more importantly, in ourselves throughout the upcoming year.

We represent Christ in everything we do, as individuals and as a united church!

Our church has been called out and sealed by the Holy Spirit. We have no meaning apart from our calling by God. We are not here for our own pleasure; our lives are not our own. We do not use God to make our own plans come true, or our own lives richer, healthier, happier, or more prosperous, rather, we are used by God to, among other things, heal, mend, and reconcile. At the beginning of a new year and on the eve of the Epiphany season, Paul’s message demands that we ask the questions, “How big is our God, and what is God’s purpose for us and for our church?”

Our God is big enough to choose us, to use us, and to protect us.

God’s plan is to sum up all things in Christ. This means that, for each individual Christian, there is no satisfaction or meaning for our lives unless we are doing what we were chosen by God to do! So, in this new year, let’s set our hope on Christ, asking Him to grant us His guidance and His vision for our lives and for our church, that we might live for the praise of His glory.

In Christ, Pastor Gary

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