A Word from the Pastor: Season of Giving
One Sabbath, Jesus went to a dinner that was hosted by a prominent Pharisee. And Jesus—being Jesus—had a way of upsetting the social and cultural norms of his day. Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
And that was pretty counter-cultural back then. And it’s still pretty counter-cultural today. When we think about throwing holiday parties, we automatically think about inviting our family members. “Whose turn is it to host?” Even among families, there is an economy at work: I will host the dinner if you bring the food. Or some arrangement like that.
And when it comes to gift-giving, we likewise think about showering our kids, grandkids, and loved ones with extravagant presents. The latest technology (which will quickly become obsolete) or the newest toys (which will quickly be discarded). But let’s be honest: Whose kids or grandkids actually need more stuff? For that matter, do any Americans need more stuff? Our ideas about gift-giving come from a previous age in our history when people didn’t have as much stuff, and that idea is amplified by advertisers who want us to be good consumers.
But in both cases—gift-giving and hosting dinners—Jesus recommends something different and radical. Invite those who really need food and friendship. And give to the poor who really, actually need stuff.
In another place—when Jesus was offending people by telling them to love their enemies—he said, “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Which is shocking still. But this is how we imitate God: by being generous to those who don’t deserve it and by lending without counting the cost.
And this may be unusual for me, but I want to give specific ideas for changing up your usual family-oriented gift-giving season. There are three options that would help us to be more like Jesus, our generous Lord:
- World Vision’s Gift Catalog (https://donate.worldvision.org/giftcatalog): Did you know that you can buy a goat for a needy family in another country for just $80? And that goat will give milk to that family for years to come! And did you know that you can fund a water purifier for just $50? Because it’s hard to go to school or really do anything else if you are sick from drinking dirty water!
- Church World Service’s Best Gift Catalog (https://cwsbestgift.org/): Did you know that you can provide an acre of sweet potato vines in Kenya for just $140? Or a dormitory room for a girl in Kenya for just $100? For comparison, the American Girl 2021 Winter Princess Doll costs $250.
- Kiva (https://www.kiva.org/): Kiva operates year-round, making micro-loans directly to entrepreneurs in other places. One frustrating thing is that official funding from our government rarely makes it to those who need it most. But Kiva cuts out the middleman and empowers people directly. So, make a loan to someone who is trying to improve their lives!
I challenge you to do Christmas differently this year. Don’t just buy a bunch of stuff that will end up in a closet or at Goodwill. And don’t just have parties with the same people. But reach out. Give to those in need without expecting anything in return. And provide a meal to those who can’t pay you back. And you will be repaid in full in the resurrection of the righteous.
The Life of Our Church
Online or In-Person Services
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Christmas Eve Service
Our friends at First United Presbyterian Church have invited us to worship with them on Christmas Eve at 6:00 p.m.
Read Through the Bible in 2022!
We are making plans to read through the Bible in 2022 as a group project. We will read separately through a plan and then meet weekly to discuss what we have learned. Stay tuned for more information.
Bring your Bible and a friend. Every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. We will be studying 2 & 3 John and Jude this fall. Then we will begin the book of Revelation in the New Year.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries
ABWM will meet on Wednesday, December 15, at 1:30 p.m.
Our deacons will gather after worship on Sunday, December 12.
Annual Congregational Meeting and Potluck
We will have our annual meeting and potluck after worship on Sunday, January 9, 2022. Bring something delicious to share with our church family. If you have contributions for the annual report, please submit them to Luella by January 2.
Retired Ministers and Missionaries Offering
We will receive the RMMO on Sundays, December 12 and 19. The RMMO goes to support retired church workers and their spouses. To learn more, visit https://www.abc-usa.org/rmmo/.
Church Choir Rehearsal
Our church choir will rehearse on Fridays, December 3, 10, and 17, at 3:30 at the Highfills’. Bring a friend!
Atlantic Food Pantry
Please remember to support our local food pantry, either directly or by dropping off goods here at our sanctuary.
Cass County Choral Society
The Choral Society’s Christmas program will be Tuesday, December 21, and Wednesday, December 22, at 7:00 p.m., at the First United Methodist Church building (800 Poplar Street) in Atlantic. The concert will feature Christmas carols, solos, handbells, a Christmas cantata, and refreshments provided by the United Methodist Women. Admission is a free-will offering, and the proceeds will be split between the Choral Society and the Atlantic Food Pantry.
Sharing God’s Word with the Nations
Please keep praying for the Smith family. They are in Africa, beginning their work as translators for God’s Word into a new language. You can find updates on their work on Facebook: “Smith Family Translates.” They also have a newsletter that is available on their Web site. Subscribe for regular updates.
We celebrate the Lord’s Supper every first Sunday of the month. We will be observing it next on December 5. And if you are watching worship on YouTube, you are certainly encouraged to participate at home with your own elements.
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