The ad promised: “35 flavors of milk shakes.” So, my wife and I decided to drive to the curb-side service restaurant and order hot dogs and milk shakes. My milkshake was peanut butter, chocolate fudge. Perfect, even on a cold wintry day. After the server delivered the order to our car, we noticed several empty tables, so we decided to enjoy our meal outside.
2020 started fast and furious with one crisis following another. Devastating fires throughout Australia. A series of earthquakes in Puerto Rico. Potential war with Iran. Continuing Impeachment drama in our country. The United Methodist Church I love and serve is likely splitting into two denominations over LGBTQ+ issues. In addition, my community and people in the churches I serve experienced serious illness, emotional difficulties and heartache. It’s enough to ruin anyone’s attitude.
Isaiah 6 reminds us: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (6:8) We all have our opportunities to serve God in a variety of ways. But some of those ways involve possible hardship, sacrifice and danger. May the rest of us stand ready to offer encouragement and support.
Each person faced multiple problems of low income, attending school, leading a church, maintaining a family life and trying to spend personal time with God. In any other profession, this would be a formula for disaster. Yet, each one was passionate about the future and their relationship with God.
For many, Jesus doesn’t seem that close anymore. Are people attending church to celebrate the birth of Jesus or merely out of habit? As pastors, are we still excited about the God who called us into ministry or are we preparing our professionally organized message with all the right words but none of the passion?
The stress and burdens of day-to-day living often become a long line of real-life suitcases. We can carry two or three, maybe even six or seven but as stress and burdens increase, our capacity to carry the load diminishes. Eventually, we must ask for help. Christmas can bring additional stress and burdens to an already full load.
“Confess and Repent?” What a depressing way to think about Christmas. Aren’t those terms outdated? Today we prefer: Codependency, Dysfunctional, Fetish, Psychosis, Neurosis and other fancy sounding names. Why go back in time? Yet every year during Christmas and Easter, pastors talk about a prophet named John the Baptist and his emphasis on confession and repentance. Why?
In 1971, I had a lot in common with a little roadside stand, Pierce’s Pitt Bar-B-Cue. We were both just beginning, and our future success depended upon so many factors. Looking back, I realize the reason we are both still around is because of the support we received along the way. Now, I encourage youth to become a visible part of our worship services. I pray they will receive the same sort of encouragement that changed my life.