Embrace the Darkness

Embrace the Darkness

Published December 4, 2019

The Second Sunday of Advent/December 4, 2019

Just these lines, my friends …

… to say thank you to Pastor Paul for getting us off to a beautiful start to the Advent season. His sermon and Holy Communion were straight arrows for our hearts. You can watch the Sunday worship service here.

A very special “thank you” for all of you who have placed a financial commitment for 2020 in the Joash Chest. This past week was the last day it will be open for Sunday worship, but you can still send your commitment to the church office or submit it online. We’ll make sure it is placed in the Chest. If you need to make your 2020 financial commitment online, you can do that here.

The 30-Day Gratitude Challenge

We have concluded the formal part of our 30 Days of Gratitude. So many of you have let me know, though, of some holy moments you had along the way. Here’s a note that I received from Carol Hoffman:

“I want to share a fun experience I had while I was waiting for a doctor appointment at the Duke Eye Center on Friday.  I was seated at a table writing thank you notes when three ladies approached the table and announced that they would be joining me.  It is interesting to note that there were several empty tables available to them.

As they sat down, their leader was holding a stack of letters and told her friends that they needed to add personal notes to them.  As I moved my stationary to make room for them at the table, I mentioned that I was writing thank you notes as part of a 30-day gratitude challenge at our church.  

They were very interested in the challenge and started asking questions.  After I shared some information about the challenge, they quickly decided to do this within their sorority.  When a fourth member of their group arrived to tell them they needed to be in a different waiting area, they left already planning how they would implement the challenge.  Their first decision was that the notes should be handwritten.

This entire encounter lasted less than five minutes.  It brightened my day and I hope it brightens yours.”

The Darkness

In an essay published in Time magazine titled, In Praise of Darkness, noted theologian Barbara Brown Taylor says, “We Christians have long had an aversion to the darkness.  From earliest times, Christians have used darkness as a synonym for sin, ignorance, spiritual blindness and death. Visit almost any church and you can still hear it used that way today.”

It is a notion that is reinforced during Advent and Christmas, with scriptures that we often hear this time of year, related to the birth of Jesus: “Arise, shine, for your light has come,” Isaiah proclaims. “In him was life, and his life was the life of all people,” says John. The shepherds and the magi followed a star in the night sky. The recurring message of Advent is this: Darkness is bad, light is good. Get out of the darkness, and follow the light.

But Taylor reminds us that our task is not to avoid the darkness, or escape the darkness, as if it were possible. “It is only in naming and embracing our darkness that we can draw closer to the light of God’s grace.”

For you, that darkness may take many forms:

  • This may be the first Christmas you will observe without that special loved one by your side.
  • You may be facing financial hardship and uncertainty about your future.
  • You may have a haunting anxiety over health concerns and a rough year of treatment ahead.
  • You may be heartbroken about what is happening in our nation and world.
  • You may be feeling the strains of broken relationships, broken promises or broken dreams.
  • And you may be tempted to escape or avoid that darkness this Advent.

Instead, may I invite you to name it, claim it and allow God to meet you in the midst of it.

Every Sunday during Advent, we will have the opportunity to gather with others who are struggling in the darkness of their lives, in order to name the dark sadness and shadowy pain within our own lives. And then, on the other side, we will be able to discover the light of Christ. Not despite the darkness, but in the midst of it.

Barbara Brown Taylor invites us to a different kind of Christian spirituality, one that is truer to our own reality, and full of the grace of God: “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”

Blessings to you during Advent, as you discover God in the dark.

Finishing 2019 with Love and Gratitude

The ministry of worshipful giving is not the burden of a few, but rather the privilege of every single person in our transforming community of hope and grace called Matthews United Methodist. As we’re approaching the last days of 2019, consider these questions: Have you given what you budgeted?  Have you given sacrificially and faithfully? Does your giving reflect love and gratitude? Please help us all you can to finish strong.

Remember that there are several ways you can give:

  • Give directly on the next four Sundays (December 8, 15, 22, 29).
  • On Christmas Eve, our offering is designated for several special mission project, but if you would like to give to the general budget, please make sure you write “budget” in the memo line of your check.
  • Direct giving (through your bank).
  • Online giving available via our website.
  • Text your gift to 704-885-5982.
  • Mail directly to the church office.
  • You can come by the Church Office and leave your check. The office will be closed on December 25-27, but will be open from 9 am to 5 pm on December 30-31. After regular hours, contributions can be placed in the drop box in the door across from the Welcome Center. To be counted toward your 2019 giving, please leave your contribution by 5:00 pm on Tuesday, December 31.
  • If you are traveling during the holidays, you can opt to send your giving directly to the church office. As long as your giving is postmarked by December 31, it will count toward your 2019 giving.

If you have any questions about your year-end giving, you can contact Leigh Ann Fesmire or Lynn Robertson at our Church Office. Remember, all donations are tax-deductible.

Upcoming Dates

If you will, please consider putting an “X” on the calendar for these upcoming dates:

  • Advent Worship: Many of you have read John Kralik’s book, A Simple Act of Gratitude, in preparation for these days. I’ll be referring to the book on most Sundays between now and the end of the year. If you’d like to pick up a copy you can do so by clicking here. You might even consider it as a Christmas gift for a loved one.
  • Children’s Nativity in all our morning worship services on Sunday, December 22:  One of the highest moments of worship every year for us at Matthews United Methodist is watching our children act out the Christmas story. Bring your family and friends. There is holy magic in these moments.
  • Christmas Eve at Matthews: At Matthews, we believe that the Church should be FOR the community … FOR the world, and just like every Christmas – we’ll be giving 100% of our Christmas Eve offering to help local and global organizations. Join us this Christmas Eve for one of seven services filled with familiar Christmas songs, hot chocolate and Christmas cookies with friends and family, and a powerful reminder that God is FOR us. Click here for more information.

This Sunday (December 8) in Worship

On Sunday (December 8) at 8:15 am and 11:00 am, we have special seasonal music planned for you. Also, I will carry us further into our Advent worship series, Count Your Blessings. The scripture lesson for the sermon is Luke 1:26-38, and the title is YOU Have Found Favor with God.

This Sunday, is our second Sunday into the new church/liturgical calendar year. We call the season Advent. My prayer is that these weeks will be deep and rich and that we will find ourselves renewed in the sure presence of God. I hope will not miss a single Sunday during this Advent season.

I’m Counting my Blessings,

Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II

Did you know that Matthews United Methodist was nominated for the Matthews Chamber Community Service Award? Winners will be announced at the Annual Chamber Gala on December 12.

Did you know that you can take your picture with the Nativity in the Courtyard from now through the end of the year? The scene makes a beautiful backdrop for a Christmas Card or special keepsake print!

Did you know that RightNowMedia.org has a resource library with dedicated Advent content that is FREE for you? Utilize family devotions or dive deeper into a personal study as we commemorate the birth of Christ with hope and anticipation.