Light in the Darkness…

The Epiphany (Manifestation of the Lord) marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas (January 6). The Epiphany is an ancient celebration of the Church that predates the first official celebration of Christmas. Originally The Epiphany focused on the nativity, incarnation, and baptism of Christ. Thus, to this day the principal day of celebration for the Eastern Orthodox Church is January 6, not December 25.

However, today the focus of Epiphany, for the Western Church, is on the Magi (Three Kings), the gifts they gave to the Holy Family, and the light that lead them. Therefore, the principal symbol of The Epiphany is the star proclaiming the light that dispels the darkness. It is the manifestation (Epiphany) of the light of Christ to the Gentiles (represented in the Magi) that John talks about in his Gospel: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:4-5)

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan in their book, The First Christmas, write:

“Archbishop Oscar Romero, a twentieth-century Christian martyr killed by the powers that ruled El Salvador, once said that we are called to be Easter Christians in a Good Friday world, in a world still ruled by Herod and Caesar. So also we are called to be Christmas Christians in a world that still descends into darkness. But Good Friday and the descent of darkness do not have the final word – unless we let them.” (p. 243)

It is our choice to embrace the gift of light in the midst of darkness this Epiphany. As we remember God’s gift of light, through the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus, we embrace the fact that we are “Christmas Christians in a world that still descends into darkness”. We stand firm on the promise that the darkness will not overcome the light of Christ. Consequently, we too like the Magi, bow in homage presenting ourselves in love, and with joy commit ourselves to the work of God’s kingdom on earth.

Resolve to live joyfully in 2016 as we celebrate The Epiphany. My prayer is that you and I will embrace the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness and chaos that whirls around us!

In Christ,
Doug

Where’s Jesus?

I hope everyone had a peaceful and joyful Advent and Christmas season in celebrating the birth of our savior Jesus, the Christ!

Have you ever had fun with a Where’s Waldo photo illustration? It’s a series of children’s books created by the English illustrator Martin Handford. The books consist of a series of detailed double-page spread illustrations depicting dozens or more people doing a variety of amusing things at a given location. Readers are challenged to find a character named Wally (Waldo) hidden in the group. Wally’s distinctive red-and-white-striped shirt, bobble hat, and glasses make him slightly easier to recognize, but many illustrations contain red herrings involving deceptive use of red-and-white striped objects. Later entries in the long-running book series added other targets for readers to find in each illustration. The books have also inspired a TV show, comic strip, and a series of video games.

In our lesson this Sunday from the gospel of Luke Chapter 2:41-52 instead of asking “Where’s Waldo” we might ask; “Where’s Jesus?” In our story he’s lost in the crowd going to Jerusalem for the Passover. He’s only 12 years old and his parents have no clue where to find him. Can you believe they have lost the Son of God? How did this happen? Where is he? Will they find him?

Come and worship with us this Sunday as you hear the message titled: “Finding Jesus.” You may or may not be surprised where He is found or what he is up to in the story. Frankly, Jesus is a lot easier to find than Waldo. Jesus doesn’t play hide and seek with us. He is right where He is supposed to be “in his Father’s house.”

Lastly, it’s my hope after the service today you will be inspired or challenged to make “finding Jesus” more of a priority in your life as we start the New Year.

In Christ,
Pastor Dave

Hope!

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Simeon was “righteous and devout . . . and the Holy Spirit rested on him” (Luke 2:25); consequently Simeon lived in hope. Upon seeing the infant Jesus, he praised God, with what we now call the song of Simeon:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Simeon’s song is our song in these waning days of Advent as we prepare for God to break through the darkness of our world. Making final preparations for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ birth, our waiting and preparing is grounded in hope. Modeling the hope of Simeon we:

  • Are confident that God’s peace is our peace.
  • Trust in God to bring healing and wholeness (Salvation).
  • We expect a Theophany (Theophany: a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses); we expect God to be revealed in our lives.

Hope is not a wished for reality. Hope in the Bible, Simeon’s hope, is expectant, and implies a confidence in God’s preferred reality that is to come. The hope of Simeon is the same hope that kept Moses going as he lead the Israelites to the promised land. It’s the same hope that kept the Disciples going after Jesus’ death. It’s the same hope that keeps you and me going in the dark days of life. It’s a hope that is grounded in the fact that it is God who created you, it is God who sustains you, and it is God who reveals God’s will to you; and it is a light illuminating the path you travel.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms, praised God and sang a song of Hope for all ages. As we travel these final days of Advent may Simeon’s song of hope facilitate God’s light and love breaking anew into our lives on Christmas! I look forward to seeing you in church on this fourth Sunday of Advent, and on Christmas Eve!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Hospitality and Connecting Ministries

Hope!

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Simeon was “righteous and devout . . . and the Holy Spirit rested on him” (Luke 2:25); consequently Simeon lived in hope. Upon seeing the infant Jesus, he praised God, with what we now call the song of Simeon:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Simeon’s song is our song in these waning days of Advent as we prepare for God to break through the darkness of our world. Making final preparations for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ birth, our waiting and preparing is grounded in hope. Modeling the hope of Simeon we:

  • Are confident that God’s peace is our peace.
  • Trust in God to bring healing and wholeness (Salvation).
  • We expect a Theophany (Theophany: a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses); we expect God to be revealed in our lives.

Hope is not a wished for reality. Hope in the Bible, Simeon’s hope, is expectant, and implies a confidence in God’s preferred reality that is to come. The hope of Simeon is the same hope that kept Moses going as he lead the Israelites to the promised land. It’s the same hope that kept the Disciples going after Jesus’ death. It’s the same hope that keeps you and me going in the dark days of life. It’s a hope that is grounded in the fact that it is God who created you, it is God who sustains you, and it is God who reveals God’s will to you; and it is a light illuminating the path you travel.

Simeon took Jesus in his arms, praised God and sang a song of Hope for all ages. As we travel these final days of Advent may Simeon’s song of hope facilitate God’s light and love breaking anew into our lives on Christmas! I look forward to seeing you in church on this fourth Sunday of Advent, and on Christmas Eve!

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Worship @ 11 Update

On Monday evening our greeters, ushers, and liturgists gathered for training and an information update. A detailed green handout, “Questions and Answers: Worship @ 11”” is available at the Welcome Center if you would like more information. A general update follows:

Vision: To reach more people for Christ by adding another option for Sunday morning worship.

First Service: January 24, 2016 in the sanctuary

History: After summer conversations in homes of members in 2014, our pastors cast a vision in the fall of 2014 which included the formation of a worship task force. The task force was asked to evaluate our current worship offerings and to seek ways that we could reach more people for Christ through worship. Congregational input gatherings were held in June to consider their proposal. The Servant Leadership Board voted unanimously to move forward with this new worship initiative.

Order of Worship: Prayers, scripture, a time for children, preaching from the senior pastors, and music will be included.

Music: Chris Schaljo, the director of “The Gift,” our instrumental and vocal team, will bring leadership to music incorporating contemporary Christian music, jazz, blues, and gospel music.

All are welcome: People of all ages are invited to “Come as you are;” dress up or dress casual.

Multi-media capacity: Two screens will be installed, the hardware casing mounted on the outside walls of the sanctuary. Professional engineers and architects have designed a way to carefully incorporate multi-media use in our beautiful sanctuary while the cross, altar, and stained glass windows remained unobstructed.

Servant Volunteer Needs: People to assist in set-up, sound and light crews, Power Point and camera operation are a few of the current needs. Please contact Chris Schaljo for details: cschaljo@hpcumc.org

May God open our hearts and our doors, working through servant volunteers, musicians, our members and staff so that new people will be welcomed into God’s house and experience the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ.

How a Charlie Brown Christmas almost wasn’t

A Charlie Brown Christmas, by Charles Schultz celebrated its 50th anniversary on December 1, 2015. If the television producers, however, would have prevailed in the drama behind the scenes, it may not have aired at all. Lee Mendelson, the executive producer of CBS network remembers the response when network executives first viewed the rough cut in November of 1965. They hated the show for two reasons: “It was slow” and “You can’t read the Bible on network television.”

Thankfully, Schultz won the battle. The simple cartoon, which intentionally embraced the true meaning of Christmas and invites viewers to turn away from materialism, had an astounding audience of 50 percent in the first year. It went on to win both an Emmy and a Peabody award. Pop Culture experts today confirm that it is now an icon and that its strength is its back to the basics approach. (cited from Bill Nichols, USA Today, “The Christmas Classic that almost wasn’t”)

This Christmas, I invite you to come back to the basics. Take time to read the second chapter of Luke this month and savor the timeless words of promise:

“For to you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.”

Friends, Jesus is not a dusty, dead character from history. He is a living Savior who has been born for you: One who wants to save you from your grief, your broken relationships, your worry and anxiety and fill you with peace, the peace the angels announced that first Christmas over the town of Bethlehem:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven…..and peace on earth.”

Come back to the basics this Christmas; come and worship our newborn King.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Something for Everyone!

My sister Dianne has traveled the world for work, currently living in Shanghai, China. Dianne also loves to shop, wherever she may find herself, never passing up an opportunity to make a purchase, or two, or more. Dianne’s house could be a museum and her closets are full. Therein lies the Christmas gift dilemma, what do you get someone who has everything?

I’m sure I am not alone in asking this question. Indeed, I would like to believe that most everyone reading this article is faced with a similar dilemma. At Christmas, what do you get someone who has everything? How about saving the lives of children?

You are invited to participate in Hyde Park Community’s Alternative Christmas Giving. Hyde Park Community U.M.C. has offered “Alternative Christmas Giving” for a number of years. This year Alternative Christmas Giving donations will go to help eradicate malaria from the continent of Africa. By participating in the Alternative Christmas Giving program, a $10 donation will purchase a mosquito net, and save the life of two children.

According to recent statistics 430,000 of the reported 584,000 malaria deaths were children under the age of five. Every 60 seconds a child dies in Africa. The United Methodist Church has partnered with secular and sacred institutions to eradicate malaria from the continent of Africa; The United Methodist Church has committed $75 million. The Global Community effort involves a four-prong attack on malaria: Prevention through the use of bed nets, providing access to diagnostic tests and medicine, draining standing water and improving sanitation. Treatments ensuring clinics and hospitals have the diagnostic tests and treatment needed to save lives. Education Health care workers are trained to go door to door in remote communities to deliver and install bed nets and teach people how to use and care for the nets properly. Communication, using technology to reach millions with life-saving information about malaria.

What do you get that person that has everything? The eradication of a disease from a continent. You can make your donation to the Alternative Christmas Giving program in the Welcome Center Sunday mornings, or by stopping in the office during the week. With each gift you will receive a card that can be sent to the loved one being honored. May God bless you this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.

In Christ,
Pastor Doug

Extraordinary Giving this Christmas Season!

As the Christmas season approaches and begins to ascend into full swing merriment, we would like to invite you to partner with us, in the spirit of giving, to support the Global Outreach ministries that we have here at our church.

We have a strong history of faithfully providing for our global partners in meeting the various needs that they have. We invite you to prayerfully seek in giving an extraordinary gift this Christmas season to the Global Outreach Ministry Partners at Hyde Park Community UMC.

In giving to our Christmas offering for Global Ministry Partners, you will be supporting:

The Samara United Methodist Church and the Volga District of Eurasia Central Conference, Russia.
The United Methodist Churches in Chemnitz, Freiberg, Plauen, and Augustusburg, Germany.
Faith Academy, Haiti.
The Henrys in Asia Minor.
The Henderson Settlement and Red Bird Mission, Kentucky.

Our specific goal for providing for the needs of all of our Global Ministry Partners is $60,000. With your generous support we will provide leadership training, education for those in poverty, supplies and staffing resources for health needs, as well as training and care for those who need support.

You can make your donation to the Global Ministry Partners by writing your check to Hyde Park Community UMC. Please use the enclosed envelope or mark your check Christmas Global Offering. Bring it with you to church or mail it to the church office. To provide the most assistance to our partners, we will use your gift where it can do the most good by combining it with the gifts of others to fulfill the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Your faithfulness in giving above and beyond this Christmas season may save the life of a person in Africa from malaria, enhance the lives of children in Haiti, provide a Christ-centered place of worship amidst predominantly atheistic surroundings in Russia and Germany, or help to maintain the health and wellness of Americans who have followed God into full-time missions in Asia Minor. Keep Christ at the center of your Christmas and into the New Year. Join us and be a part of making a difference.

In Christ,

Rev. Doug Johns & Sarah Putman
Co-Senior Pastor/Community Ministry & Global Outreach Ministry Assistant