Archive for Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25, 2020 . . . Christmas Day

“A Child is born to us . . . Wonderful Counselor…Mighty God…Eternal Creator…The Long-Expected One of Peace.”  ~~~Isaiah 9:6

“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” ~~~ Luke 2:19

We have been most fortunate in this “Shelter In Place…Covid 19 Year”, to be able to walk our dogs in our neighborhood three times a day.  Each walk grants us an opportunity to experience some kind of ‘newness of life…encouragement of live with health, beauty, and grace…an opportunity of shalom’!

The ‘street art’ has been amazing; yards that have been brought back to life, bear-hugs in the window, signs that remind us to be kind, to thank one another—especially those on the front line of service, a call to respect one another in our diverse land, black lives matter, life is precious, and the amazing chalk drawings that have been created! Hopscotch…untold animal creations…and this Christmas Tree. 

In the silence of that oh holy night so long ago … we remember the most amazing life that was born.  In the midst of a census…a couple forged untold danger and found respite in a cattle stall.  A young mother gave birth to a child who would grow up to be persecuted for his belief.  Yet his parents taught him to care for all…not just for some.  That night…in the midst of intolerance…love was truly born!

We celebrate that night in the midst of our own tragic circumstances.  May we remember that LOVE is the greatest equalizer on earth.  Without Love…life is not worth our breathing.  Remember that first breath of life that Christmas night … the pain of Mother Mary…the anxiety of Father Joseph…the warmth of the Light of God.  May we never forget.  May LOVE ALWAYS WIN.  May our fractured world find healing. 

May you be touched by the light of that Christmas night … and may you reach out to your neighbors far and wide with that warm light of love.  Give Thanks … Be Grateful … Let Love Guide Your Every Gesture.  And be the Love of Jesus God intended you to be from the very beginning.

Prayer for Christmas (Johann Rist, 1641; translated by Fred Pratt Green, 1986) :  Come, dearest child, into our hearts, and leave your crib behind you!  Let this be where the new life starts for all who seek and find you.  To you the honor, thanks, and praise, for all your gifts this time of grace; come conquer and deliver this world, and us, forever.

Jay P., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:   ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’   John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.   I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”~~~Mark 1: 2-4,7-8

John the Baptist has always intrigued me.  Here’s this guy, alone in the wilderness, living off the land and connected to God in ways we can only dream of.  I connected to him immediately because, as a young man, my only two passions were God and the wilderness.  I have always felt God’s calling strongest out in the mountains.

I remember one solo trip with my dog, Jazz.  We were in the Dinky Lakes Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We were off trail, just wandering, focused on God and His creation. There was a stretch of time that God and Jazz and myself were One in Spirit, connected like never before.  I was on top the mountain.  As I came to look around me afterward, there were crystals everywhere, hundreds of them, laying on the earth around me.  Were they there before my “One in Spirit” time?  I don’t know.  I don’t connect crystals with spirituality necessarily, except for the fact that they are an exceptional part of God’s creation, reminding us of His beauty. I didn’t take a single crystal from that mountain, considering it a sacred place.

The three years before that time were hard years.  I had been laid bare and raw.  But I feel God used those years to help me “Prepare A Way” for Him to enter into my being in a way that I could never doubt or forget.

John tells us to “Prepare A Way” – that we need to make a way for the Lord in the world, but it has to start inside ourselves first. Preparing a way for God’s peace and joy and love in our own hearts helps us to understand what we have and need to share with others to begin a “preparing of the way” in them.   We are called to set ourselves “apart” from the world.  That comes just by allowing the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts.  Imagine being “apart” from the world as much as John was.  Would you eat grasshoppers and fight the bees and bears off for the honey?  But people “flocked” to him to be baptized and to hear him speak.  He even got to baptize Jesus. Wow! That’s got to be worth a few grasshoppers.    John, what a guy!

Prayer for the Advent Day:  Help me, O God, to be prepared for your light, and to share your gifts each and every moment.  Amen.

Rick Z., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Thursday, December 17, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. ~~~Matthew 2:10-11

2018 Gilroy UMC Christmas Toy Gift Project!

When I was a little boy, Christmas was the day to receive gifts that I wanted. I received a lot of toys; robots, cars, Legos, etc.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, Christmas became the day to give gifts, too. As time goes on, I am able to give more gifts than the gifts I receive. Especially, it is a great joy for the church to give gifts together through the Christmas Toy Gift Project, like the wise men did at the first Christmas.

This year, I have a kind of “Christmas-ful thinking”, even if some people might regard it as a “wishful thinking”. What if we can give a gift of a day-off to all first responders on Christmas? Then, they can have a Merry Christmas with their loved ones. What if we can give the gifts of Vaccine and treatment to all who are sick because of COVID-19? What if we can give the gifts of homes and jobs for the homeless? What if we can give the gift of Peace on the divided Korean Peninsula? Then, it might be a wonderful joy to all of us!

While waiting for the Christmas of 2020, I am thinking of giving even the gifts that I cannot purchase or that I cannot give by myself. How about you?

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  God of this Advent Season, I offer thanks for my ability to be a spiritual example of faith for others.  By your grace, I pray!  Amen.

Hwapyoung K., Gilroy United Methodist Church

Live Nativity 2019

Merry Christmas! 2016 // ¡Feliz Navidad! 2016

Experience it in a new way at
Watsonville First United Methodist Church
// Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Watsonville
Sunday Worship 10:00 am, Christmas Eve 5:00 pm