Christmas Day service was abbreviated--35-40 minutes--warm,receptive,and pungent with Christmas Spirit. Tonya, a local music teacher, led worship. She proved to be a breath of fresh air as a full congregation sang vigorously and joyfully before Tonya introduced Pastor Sparks sermon with her solo.
Without repeating the lyrics of her song, I was moved with Tonya's level of engagement in her song. It was apparent to us in the pew that she was standing alone with God, carrying on a conversation with Him through the lyrics of her song. We were blessed as she simply overflowed--choking back her tears, even ‘tho I had difficulty putting all of her broken lyrics together (being without my hearing aids).
It was a tender and touching moment as Jim stepped forward to deliver his Christmas Message on “Jesus the Immanuel”. Without repeating Jim, he reminded us that had God thought we needed a king, an educator, or whatever, God could have sent that person. What he did, in fact, was to send us a Savior--we needed forgiveness.
A quick glance at Christmas 2011 could reveal the greatest need within humanity is forgiveness. Picking up on Tonya’s tears and brokenness in worship, Jim recognized tears have always been part of the life drama of failure, renewed efforts, transformation, and new opportunity. I have to confess he jerked me up short--thinking perhaps of the whiteness of the fresh snow, the cleansing of a new and fresh start, concluded with the double entendre (with which he sat down): “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”
We stood to our feet, singing ” with renewed understanding, “Joy to the World.”
…the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King…
Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
…No more let sin and sorrow grow / Nor thorns infest the ground / He comes to make his blessings flow…
He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love…
George grew up going to camp meeting in South Dakota, the son of a Wesleyan Methodist pastor. That was what they did. George was also a WWII Bomber Pilot, a churchman, a history professor, a politician. At the core of George is a man acquainted with suffering. He invested his life trying to lift others, and suffered depression from his inability to help his alcoholic daughter, who died in a parking lot falling-down-drunk--the result of a colt-45 at 13 (drink, not gun).
George is a man who has learned to rise above personal depression, as well as the destructive elements that ruin so many lives today. His words reaffirm the spirit of this day--Christmas 2011:
“This is not the time to hide in the shadows or to surrender. This is the time to step out and to step up. This is the time for us to heal our nation’s rifts and to deliver on her promise as we see it: a republic that is good to all. It is not for nothing that I will go to my grave believing that ours is the greatest country on earth.”
Merry Christmas from Warner’s World … for his name shall be called Emmanuel, meaning God with us (cf. Matthew 1:18-25) … walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com