Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sing We Now of Christmas

"The Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:20)

“Sing we now of Christmas, Noel sing we here
Sing our grateful praises to the maid so dear.
Sing we Noel! The King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas Sing we here, Noel!

From the Eastern kingdoms come the wise men far
Bearing ancient treasure following yonder star.
Sing we Noel! The King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas Sing we here, Noel!

From the distant mountains hear the trumpet sound
With angelic blessings on the silent town.
Sing we Noel! The King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas Sing we here, Noel!

Come let us surround him on this magic night
Gather here around him wondrous babe of light.
Sing we Noel! The King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas Sing we here, Noel!”

[--Traditional French Carol, The United Methodist Hymnal #237]

May the joy of the Christ-child born in Bethlehem be yours as you continue to celebrate Christmas this year! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mary's Dream

"Mary treasured all these words [of the Shepherds] and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

“I had a strange dream, Joseph. I'm not sure, but I think it was about a birthday for our son. The people had been preparing for it for six weeks by decorating the house and buying new clothes. They'd gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts. It was peculiar, though, because the presents weren't for our Son. They were wrapped in beautiful paper and tied with lovely bows and stacked under trees. Yes, Joseph, a tree, right in their house -- with branches decorated and full of glowing balls and sparkling ornaments. And there was a figure on the top of the tree -- an angel I think.

Everyone was laughing and happy and all excited about the gifts, and they gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration, He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus -- not to be wanted at His own birthday party. I'm glad it was only a dream, though. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real.”
[–By Lloyd D. Lance]

As we prepare for Christmas, let’s remember the true “reason for the season” – as you make plans for your holiday family celebrations, don’t leave him out! Make plans to focus on him by attending worshiping Christ on Christmas Eve at church with your family and friends.

We’ll have three candlelight worship experiences to help you do just this: 4:30pm service especial for families with children; 8:00pm traditional service with Christmas message and Holy Communion; 11:00pm Lessons and Carols with Holy Communion. Finally, don’t forget to celebrate Jesus on Sunday December 29th and Sunday January 5th with our regular service schedule.

Worship Christ this Christmas! And always remember that God loves you and do, too!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!


“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’” (Luke 2:13-14)

“Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise;
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored; Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come, offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail, the heavenborn Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die,
Born to raise us from the earth, born to give us second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

            [--Charles Wesley, 1739, The United Methodist Hymnal #240]

Today our music and worship arts ministry reminds us to celebrate the coming of the Christ-child through music during their annual Christmas Cantata.  Whether or not you can sing personally, I pray that you will have a song in your heart this holiday season for the coming of Christ in your life as you celebrate as the angel host did 2000 years ago!  Remember, God loves you and I do, too!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas Mission Offering

"[You are to] do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life" (1 Timothy 6:18-19) 

The following is a copy of a letter from myself and our Finance Chairperson Judy Jones that our whole congregation will receive by mail this week (if not already).  I share it again in the interest of encouraging your participation...

---------------------

Dear ECUMC Family & Friends,

These are challenging yet exciting times in our personal lives, in the life of our country and in the life of our Church as well.  When we read the newspaper, watch TV or surf the internet, or even review our investment statements we are often getting bad news.  So, let us instead share some incredibly good news about how your investment in God’s work through your church enabled us to achieve its mission in 2013.  Your gifts have enabled us to…

****Reach over 350 people each week through our three principle worship services, Wednesday Night Supper, and other opportunities for fellowship and networking  GATHERING to embrace God and others

***Impact over 400 people weekly through 40+ small groups and community ministry resources, including continued significant growth of our Lighthouse Academy Daycare Center… GROWING in faith, hope and love

***Welcome 55 new members and over 175 regular guests (topping 1000 members for the first time in our history), and be in ministry to over 500 people weekly through various local church mission ministries, and to even more through special opportunities like Mountain T.O.P., annual Great Day of Service, M.U.S.T., and others  GOING into our world to serve and share Jesus

Consequently, the Christmas season is an ideal time for us to pray about ways we can share in year-end giving that will make a real difference in people’s lives:

(1) First, regarding our 2013 General Ministry Fund, we celebrate your faithfulness this year that has enabled us to stay “in the black” nearly all year long.  Thank you!!!  But even if you are up to date on your annual financial commitment, don’t forget that now is a great time to make additional gifts in order to take advantage of current tax laws.

(2) As one idea for this, we are excited to continue the new ECUMC Christmas tradition of designating offerings collected at our Christmas Eve services as a Christmas Mission Offering. This year the focus of that offering will be Family Promise of Cobb County, a new ministry with which we will be partnering in 2014 to help eradicate homelessness here in our own community – the ministry is described in the attached brochure HERE.  We ask that, in the spirit of Christmas, you prayerfully consider giving “over and above” your general fund tithe or gifts to this special offering during one of our three Christmas Eve services (or before if you won't be in town).  Please mark your checks/envelopes “Christmas Mission Offering”, or donate online HERE.

Thank you for your faithfulness in praying for, attending, serving in, and giving financially to His Church this year.  We trust that God will honor your faithfulness as you continue to grow in His kingdom.  We wish you, your family, and all your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2014!

 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A D V E N T

"Behold, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple...” (Malachi 3:1)

For many Christians today, the idea of seasons of the Christian year is a new thing. But the church has used them for nearly 2000 years to remind us of spiritual realities that often get lost in our secular and pagan world. For example, many of you may already know that in the Christian calendar, the four weeks prior to Christmas Day are considered a season separate from Christmas.

Known as “Advent” (from the Latin adventus, which means “coming”) these four weeks celebrate and remind us of aspects of faith which are related to but definitely distinct from Christmas. Advent is one way we can remember the true “reason for the season” by being pointed to and prepared for the various “comings” of Jesus in and through time:

(1) In The Past ...as a babe in Bethlehem. We listen to Old Testament prophets who promised a coming Messiah

(2) In the Present ...as the one who comes and meets us in our hearts and lives today

(3) In the Future ...as the one who will come again to make all things new and to establish His kingdom upon the earth once and for all.

During this season, we use the colors blue (representing hope) and purple (representing royalty) to remind us of the hope that Christ brings as our reigning King, and light an Advent wreath to remind us that we wait for the coming of Jesus, the “Light of the world.”

This year at East Cobb UMC, our celebration of Advent can help us understand the true meaning of Christmas, and prepare our hearts for the Christ-child. It will be a great time to invite friends and neighbors to church, as well as a good time to get back to church yourself! So don’t miss out on how God wants to bless you as we begin celebrating Advent on December 1st! I’ll see you then! Remember, God loves you and I do, too!