Epiphany Sunday/January 1, 2020
Just these lines, my friends …
… to say Merry Christmas. According to the church liturgical calendar the season of Christmas is here. Joy has come. May you have 12 full days of goodness and laughter. Don’t rush onward. Make space. Allow yourself time to give to things that are a delight (and naps count!). Jesus has come near. In this Holy Light, the darkness recedes. Revel in the wonder.
The Sunday after Christmas day (this year December 28), traditionally known as Low Sunday, was a special one as well. Our music was beautiful and inspiring, and I preached from Romans 8:28, “We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
I mentioned that God has a standard different from ours for measuring success. Ask yourself these questions to see how successful your 2019 has been:
- Are you closer to God today than you were a year ago?
- Does prayer play a more central role in your life than it did at the beginning of 2019?
- Have you grown quieter and deeper and stronger in your spirit before God than you were at the beginning of the year?
- Are you more grateful, more compassionate, more loving and more caring than you were a year ago?
You can watch the whole of the service here.
One of my favorite verses in Luke’s portrayal of the birth of Jesus is Chapter 2 Verse 19, “And Mary remembered all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
The word ‘ponder’ in the Greek language means to mull over, to reflect, to contemplate. I like that word. We don’t do enough of it. We’re so driven, so busy, so distracted that we don’t often take time to ponder. One of my favorite Christmas songs is called I Wonder As I Wander. I do that from time to time when hiking trails.
These days after Christmas are a time for pondering. It’s a time for reflecting on the meaning of the Incarnation not just in Bethlehem but in Matthews. How is Christ laboring to bring about hope, peace, joy and love in and through our transforming community? How has our experience of the One, Jesus, who has come, changed and shaped us for mission and ministry in the days ahead? What difference does it make? As I wonder about these things, I also feel a deep sense of gratitude.
I am thankful to be a part of a community like Matthews United Methodist. I am grateful for the staff community and lay persons who love God and seek to pattern their lives according to the great commandment: that is, “to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.”
What a joy-filled Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve! I am still basking in the glow of the hundreds of candles raised together to declare “… the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it” (John 1:5). I pray that God continues to fill your life with the unique peace and love that comes only from the promises discovered through the birth of our King!
By the way, you welcomed nearly 3,000 beautiful people into worship at 7 different worship experiences on Christmas Eve. The coordinators, greeters, ushers, musicians, Advent candle families, acolytes, Communion servers, nursery workers, facilities crew, and other volunteers all shared in the welcome of the newborn King. There was a spirit of joy and peace in the house! You could feel it!
I am thankful for the grace of God that I’ve seen at work in you in 2019, and I’m confident the living Christ will continue to deepen and widen our mission in the days ahead.
Pondering Grief and Loss During Advent and Christmas
Since December 1, within our Matthews United Methodist community we’ve lost some great saints of God. Two of these enormous losses in December were Larry Cauthen and Dot Black. Read here Poppy’s Rules to Live By written by Larry, and read here a poem written by Dot’s granddaughter, Olivia, titled I am from. As you read, you’ll see the kind of shoulders that we stand which have contributed so deeply to the life we know together today.
Anne Lamott once wrote about grief by saying, “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”
Ecclesiastes 3:2 says that “…for everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die.” Maybe there is also a time to dance with a limp. Maybe it’s a sign that you have loved and been loved.
If you will, please consider putting an “X” on the calendar for these upcoming dates:
- Marriage Course beginning on Friday, January 10 – This course is for any couple, whether you’ve been together for one year or sixty-one years, and whether you feel you have a strong relationship or are struggling. Enjoy a date night for seven weeks with a romantic dinner for two, practical talks that are fun and informative, time to talk alone as a couple, no group work and free childcare. Friday evenings, Jan 10- Feb 21, 6:30 – 9:00 pm, led by The Couples In Christ Marriage Ministry. Cost: $75.00 per couple. You can register here.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend on January 19-20: I hope you’ll participate in some of our activities. You can click here to see a schedule.
- Leadership Connection on Saturday, January 25, 8:30 am in The Commons: Church leaders will gather to prepare for 2020. All are welcome to participate. Please click here to register. Immediately following, our Charge Conference will to meet to set our pastoral salaries and budget for 2020.
This Sunday (January 5) in Worship
I hope you can join us this Sunday (January 5) for one of our morning worship services in the Sanctuary. Pastor Paul has a wonderful message planned for us, titled “Insiders, Outsiders and Magi” from Matthew 2:1-8.
I’m am grateful and honored to be your pastor.
I Continue to Count My Blessings, as your
Pastor and friend,
Dr. Charles (Chuck) W. Wilson II
Did you know that one of our former pastors, Jack Brown Yarbrough died on Christmas Eve? Rev. Yarbrough served Matthews United Methodist from 1976 to 1980. We are profoundly grateful for his outstanding, faithful service.
Did you know Larry and Melinda Jones founded Feed the Souls Food Pantry, a community-based food pantry that provides canned goods, hygiene and perishable items? The Pantry is a ministry of Bethel United Methodist Church in Midland, NC, and on Saturday, December 14, they served 102 families.
Did you know that our Scouts prepared and set out all the luminaries for Christmas Eve? It was wonderful to be welcomed by the sight of the candlelight leading us to the Manger in the Courtyard. Thank you to everyone who made this possible!
Did you know that 11 members of the New Directions Weekend Adult Class helped inspect and process shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child?