Beloved Church-in-the-Garden Family & Friends,
I greet you with the joy of Jesus Christ as we enter into the season of reflection of what the Incarnate Word means for us. I hope that this month is full of appreciation and thankfulness of what God has given us by entering humanity’s story. Indeed, this is the time of year when we can get sidetracked on the consumption of the season while forgetting the name of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ has come, and Jesus Christ will come again. So, I implore you all to cling to Christ and the revelation of the One who would come to make us the children of God and to be a ransom for our sins.
The Christmas season can be a time of joy and fun for families. But for some it can be a time of high anxiety, depression, and sadness. While society and culture create images of abundant gifts, extravagant items, and happiness that look to be enduring, the reality for many is that we are hard pressed to afford the necessities of life, let alone gifts, while realizing that the consumption high we get does not lead to sustained joy, and happiness is a fleeting notion. Yet there is a way out of the malaise that the commercial season promotes. The answer is thankfulness. For us who believe ourselves to be Christians, in this season, we need to be thankful for what God has done in our lives. Namely, that Jesus Christ came and inserted the Divine directly into the human condition. Moreover, because of Jesus Christ, we are now able to be called the Children of God.
Therefore, because of God’s great love for us we are able to celebrate with gratitude and adoration for all that God has done in our lives. We are able to appreciate whatever we have knowing that all good things come from the Lord. The blessings of God are many and when we realize how the blessings of presence versus presents are the real joy of this season, we can do nothing but be thankful for family, friends, loved ones, and those who we encounter in our lives.
I say this intentionally, as often we are prodded to compare our blessings against someone else. This is not the way of Christ. We are blessed, not over and above anyone else, rather because God blesses all and everyone individually has a blessing from God. Blessings are both communal and individual. We need not look at others’ circumstances or stories to realize the blessings that we each possess. More than that, we all can be a blessing to someone else! God’s gift of Jesus Christ is that Christ is a blessing to us all. When we model the work of Christ we can recognize the blessings that we are and be a blessing in a variety of ways to others. Recognition of this kind would be the gift that all humanity could use. In this season, whatever our religious beliefs may be, we can all be a blessing to someone else. I pray that we all will be a blessing to someone in this season and realize that Christians, in particular, need to be thankful for all that Christ means for humanity.
As we end the calendar year, allow me a brief moment to reflect on a tremendous year as pastor of the Church-in-the-Garden. Given all that this year has been, I am amazed what God is doing in our church. No one is immune from the highs and lows of life and this church, intersecting with society and the lives of its members and the community, is no different. I am grateful we can take life as it comes and bring our burdens and cares to the throne of Grace and hand it over to Jesus Christ. Through our ups and downs, all our members, friends, and visitors continued to worship together in spirit and truth.
Our Board of Ministry worked tirelessly to ensure the church and its ministry moved forward and the mission upheld. I am grateful for a Board of Ministry that loves the Lord, is committed to doing the work of the church, and supports the pastor. Thank you.
To the Church-in-the-Garden Voices of Praise under the leadership and direction of the Minister of Music for Worship Jeff Bolding, every Sunday, week after week, month after month, the Voices of Praise and the music ministry play and sing the songs of worship with your God-given talents and your true love for God. The Spirit of the living God is invoked every time you all lift up their voices. Our worship is better because of your witness and God is glorified with your voices and the application of your many musical talents. Thank You.
This year we took a major step with our Audio/Visual team and the Evangelism and Communication Ministry. We added new members and are gearing up to offer new media and content for our website and media accounts in the very near future. I am thankful for those who labor every Sunday to make our audio and video system and overall media content accessible to others. We are at the beginning of our journey and your work helps in bringing people to Christ. I am excited about the future. Thank You.
To all who do give of their time and talents to the church and may not think that the pastor is unaware of your labor, I want you to know that I see more than you know and that I am extremely grateful to you (You all know who you are!). Please know that even more than my respect and gratitude, the Lord knows your heart, sees your service, and blesses your faith. Thank you and well done!
I would be remiss if I did not inform and invite you to our special Christmas Eve Service led by our youth and young adult ministry on December 24, 2018 at 7:30pm. Please come worship with us and be blessed by our youth and young adult ministry.
Lastly, as we close out this year I make an end of the year appeal for a donation to support the mission and ministries of the Church-in-the-Garden. Your tax-deductible gift, big or small, is greatly appreciated and goes an awful long way to continuing the work that we are doing at the Church-in-the-Garden and all that we have planned for next year. Please give!
With the grace, peace, and love of Jesus Christ I pray the blessings of our Savior on you and your family in this season of thankfulness and the celebration of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.