Signs of the Season

If you missed out on the Children’s Christmas Program last night, you missed out on a LOT of fun, and awesome, entertaining, worship with the youth and children of Marshfield Christian Church. All of the kids did an awesome job, and many thanks go to the many, many adult helpers who made the evening such a resounding success.

As I was looking through the programs again this morning, however, I noticed one glaring omission. Ashley Crawford, our director and coordinator, didn’t list herself in the program. While her humility is touching, I simply cannot let all of her hard work go unrecognized! So, please join me in taking a moment out of your holiday festivities this season to give Ashley a big “THANK YOU!” for all of her hard work in making last night’s program a resounding success.

In addition to missing out on some very nice performing by the youth and children, you also didn’t get the chance to hear Joseph Stewart read the Christmas story to us from Luke. You missed out on some beautiful piano playing by Kaelynn Thompson (I think we’re going to have to ask her to play again!) And (if I may say so) Kaia Ruth played a very nice rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” on the trombone. There may even be a trombone quartet in our worship sometime in the future!

The fun-ness (you really had to be there…) didn’t stop in the sanctuary, but spilled over into the Fellowship Hall with cookies, punch and coffee! Thanks go out to the many elves who worked to provide the refreshments and to turn the space into an inviting environment for fun and celebration. It was great to set out extra tables and chairs for all the guests!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the special guest who took time out of his busy schedule to stop in and give gifts to the children. When Jolly Santa entered the room you certainly knew it! The excitement in the young children’s faces seeing Santa Claus really lit up the room. He handed out some very nice presents filled with candy and fruit and visited with all the little girls and boys.

But Santa didn’t stop there, even some of the older girls and boys took pictures with jolly old Mr. Claus. Especially smile-inducing was when Flora Phillips sat on Santa’s lap for some pictures! See, if you weren’t there, you really missed out on some good times!

And there are still several more holiday celebrations to come this season. In addition to our morning worship services next Sunday night we will have our annual “Longest Night” service. This quiet and deeply meaningful service is a time for us to acknowledge that the holidays bring more than joy and presents into our lives. They also remind us of those who are not present at our celebrations. All the joy and festivities have a tendency to heighten our awareness of our grief as well. So, I invite you to join with me in bringing those sorrows and that grief to God, as we open our hearts to receive the gift of Christ.

And, last (but certainly not least) we will have our annual celebration of Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. Join us as we sing those familiar Christmas hymns and hear again the story of the birth of Jesus. What Christmas season is complete without gathering with friends and family to sing “Silent Night” while surrounding the sanctuary with the light of candles and the glow of loving faces greeting our savior once again? I truly hope you’ll join with us in worship during this most special time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Still a Dream…

It has been over 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic speech. And if we have learned anything from the news from Ferguson, it is that his dream is still just that, a dream. As I searched my heart for something to say, trying to find some glimmer of hope in all this mess, I ran across these words by Benjamin Watson. I share them with you, because I believe they are as inspired as those of Dr. King. As I read these words again they still impact me deeply, I pray they will help to transform your heart as well during this season of waiting and hoping for God’s love and presence.

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At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self-defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Benjamin Watson