The Family Christmas Tree

The Family Christmas Tree

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by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 12/18/14

"I want to see my family!" Logan said. I hated to tell him that they had just left. The party was over. For seven hours last Saturday, nearly every family member who bears his last name was present. The Halls were decked in the usual way: Christmas ham, smoked turkey, homemade dressing and desserts. Logan's uncles and cousins and his very own "Big Mama" prayed for the family for which they were thankful. Presents were opened and thank-you’s proffered in return.
 
So I wasn't surprised that Logan still wanted to see his family. But he kept pointing up. He was pointing to the wall where we have begun to collect Christmas cards. There, one by one, Logan picked up the Christmas cards and declared that this is his family. Yes, the first few were from the family tree, but many more were from our family of faith. They too were declared family, though not by a toddler’s proclamation, but by the Christ child’s birth.
 
Some of you may be tired of my benediction, but for others it is just sinking in. If we are indeed sons and daughters of God, then we are, in fact, brothers and sisters in Christ—a part of the family tree. Looking back at the beginning of the Gospels, we find the genealogy of Jesus. The first chapter of Matthew begins with Jesus's family history, a part that we usually just skip over. Spiritually speaking, if you began with the first verse of Matthew, you could trace the tree of our family of faith from your name all the way back. Do you want to see your family? Look around. Look around beyond the beautiful cards that mark your mantel or refrigerator door. Look around in the pews that surround you, and look beyond them to the people in our city and world who have their own places in the family of God.
 
Join us on Christmas Eve, as Christians around the world gather to await the Christ child's birth. Come with your family. Invite a neighbor or friend. Be here when we light our candles and raise them high into the night, singing praises to God the Father and Christ, his only begotten son. Be here as the Holy Spirit of God moves like wind through the branches of our own family Christmas tree.

When Christmas Gets Derailed

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When Christmas Gets Derailed

By Carol Brown

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 12/11/14

My Christmas has been derailed. I was moving along at a pretty good pace, checking things off my list, and feeling satisfied with my progress. Over Thanksgiving weekend, I made a good dent in my Christmas list by clicking “Place My Order” on Amazon, Steve hauled all the Christmas boxes down from the attic, and I decked the walls, mantel, and tables with Christmas decorations. During the first week in December, I put the finishing touches on plans for the Elf Workshop, began preparations for the Family Night Christmas Party, and ordered my family’s Christmas cards.

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Claiming Joy

Claiming Joy

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 12/2/14

Stewart Brandon, a quiet kid, always hated singing Christmas carols. It wasn’t because he hated Christmas. It wasn’t because he hated singing. It was because of all the attention that his big sister received during the season, or at least it was the attention that she feigned receiving as the whole congregation stood to sing, “Joy to the World.”  Stew could never understand why there was no “Stew to the World,” as his sister grinned ear to ear as “her” hymn was sung. She literally claimed joy as her own. If only joy could be so easily claimed in all circumstances.

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks for Thanksgiving

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/20/14

Thanksgiving is both a Christian practice and a holiday. I love Thanksgiving—the turkey, the family gatherings, the parade. It is a great day that happens once a year that requires planning, hospitality and love.

Good Ole Poncho

Good Ole Poncho

by Cass DuCharme

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/13/14

Poncho, our church’s Live Nativity donkey, died last week. He was 50 years old! Poncho had been in our nativity for the past 15 Christmases. One year, he even starred in the show and told the story himself about the angels, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, and the Wisemen. Well, he did have a little help from Jeff Browne, of course.

Telling God's Story

Telling God's Story

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 11/6/14

NANOWRIMO, the term sounds technological. Like the name of a new iPod. It sounds like a word from another language. It is not. Na-No-Wri-Mo is an acronym that stands for National Novel Writing Month. For years, want-to-be-novelists have accepted the challenge of crafting their own stories. Truth be told, every year I have a fleeting impulse to dive in myself.  The competition provides the necessary provocation for aspiring amateurs or hardened professionals to finish their projects or try something new. All work on the quick-written and often quick-witted novels must begin on November 1. A complete draft must be completed by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. That is, 50,000 words in thirty days. For some of you, telling your own story, even in print, is more than you can handle and the idea of a daily word count might be downright terrifying.

Saints and Sinners

Saints and Sinners

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters eNewsletter, 10/30/14

On Sunday, we are reflecting on the saints and sinners in our lives. Which is to say, we will be reflecting on the church and the community, who, throughout time, have passed on the faith while dealing with their own virtue and vice. We will name the dear saints who have passed from our midst in the last year, those who have joined the wider community of the church already at home in Christ with God. They remain a part of us and we of them. One community, a great cloud of witnesses to the power of God to create, redeem, and call us to new life in a community of saints.

Julian of Norwich lived in the 14th century and published what is regarded as the oldest surviving book penned by a woman in the English language. Her book, Revelations of Divine Love, bears the marks of English mysticism of the time. She wrote about good and evil and the power of the love of God, expressed both in the passion of Christ and the in the nature of God as Trinity. Widely regarded as a saint, she felt that she was a sinner like the rest of us.

“First comes the fall,” she wrote, “then comes the recovery from the fall, both are the mercy of God.”

We would do well to learn the wisdom here. Saintly folk need to remember that they are sinners like the rest. Sinners must know that no matter where you are in life, there can be the grace of recovery again and again.

Consider the Season

Consider the Season

by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters, October 2014

Seasons change. We have enjoyed the changing of the seasons here in Middle Georgia. The leaves are falling and so are the temps. The orange of fall with lovely pumpkins matches the orange of the Mercer Bears. Neighbors are lighting fire pits and shopping for holiday treats; it’s time to prepare for a new season.