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Angels among us

little angelImagine this announcement in the church newsletter:

Angel visit planned
Several of God’s angels will be visiting next week, and we need a few people willing to have dinner with them Monday, Dec. 19. The dinner is graciously provided by Whole Foods, so don’t feel you need to prepare Angelfood Cake, wings or anything of the sort. Just show up to help serve at 6 p.m. A few of the newer angels have requested some Christmas stories after dinner. (They like to hear our voices.) Feel free to bring a puzzle or board game, too. Angels get really excited this time of year and have lots of energy, so join us at 7 p.m. if you can help entertain the angels.

If this appeared in the church bulletin, you would probably wonder who had been slipping eggnog into the staff coffee creamer. But if you think about it, it’s a pretty good application of the message found in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”

We have been handed an unbelievable invitation to sit down with some very special IHN guests next week. To pass the butter to some children of God. Hang out and play Apples to Apples with angels. Read Christmas stories to a heavenly throng.

How does that compare to the other holiday invitations on your fridge?

Join WOW in welcoming our special guests Monday, Dec. 19, at 6 p.m. for dinner. It really is being catered by Whole Foods, so you don’t need to bring food. After dinner, settle in with some of the younger children and your favorite Christmas story books, or bring a puzzle or game to play with older kids. WOW will also provide families with Christmas cards and postage stamps so they can send notes to friends and extended family. Your contributions of cards and stamps would be helpful.

The angels are coming. What will your RSVP be?

God’s scandalous love

Flickr photo by Zen Me

submitted by Rhonda Balser

Christmas is the heralding of a God who pursues us so relentlessly as to come to earth in human form to be with us.  The incarnation is the revelation of our scandalous love affair with the world, and God’s persistent striving to bring us back to him.

What God wants from us for Jesus’ birthday and every day is love.  God desires that we return God’s scandalous love with our own, demonstrated by how we treat those in need.  God is not oblivious to the fact that one child dies every four seconds of a hunger-related cause or that as many as seven will die by the time you finish reading this page.  God also knows that more than 14 million AIDS orphans were reported in 2008 worldwide.  God also knows that one child dies every forty-five seconds from malaria which could be prevented by a simple mosquito net that costs less than ten dollars.

Only when we realize how far we have strayed from the one who loves us so deeply and unconditionally can we respond in radical faith.  And when we passionately pursue God as our defining life center, then everything else will be rightly ordered.  Though we may not deserve it, God showed us mercy by sending us his son to show us the way home.  Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby in humble, scandalous circumstances to redeem and restore broken places and broken hearts.  That is the love we celebrate at Christmas and it is that kind of love that we are called to show in return.

Excerpts from Christmas is not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus by Mike Slaughter Abingdon Press © 2011

 

Week 4 Challenge – Think of one person in your life who has either disappointed you deeply or hurt you in a way that you need to forgive them, and pray that God would help you.  Commit to praying for them this whole week.

Giving up on perfect

submitted by Rhonda Balser

Our Christmas traditions have sanitized the Jesus birth narrative by removing the event from its biblical and historical context.  Jesus was born in a stable, a cave where animals were kept.  And where there are animals there is also dung which in turn brings flies.  The setting of Jesus’ birth was not sanitary and it doesn’t get better from there.  Jesus spent his earliest years as a refugee in Africa escaping the genocide that Herod was committing in Judea against children aged two and under.

In turn the Gospel of Luke makes it indelibly clear that walking in the way of Jesus is neither safe nor predictable.  Sometimes we have the idea that when we do right, wrong is not supposed to show up.  And if we are faithfully following Jesus, then life isn’t supposed to get messy, but it does.

God’s love and favor on us doesn’t mean that the path of faith is going to be neat and predictable.  Life gets messy, but in the midst of your mess – God shows up.  No matter what you are struggling to overcome, no matter what life issues have come your way, God promises to show up.  Christmas is God’s vivid reminder that amid the uncertainty, God shows up to bring peace, purpose, joy and wholeness.

The Holy Spirit is with you right now to be your helper through any situation, including the messy ones.  When life isn’t making sense, the power of God will be a shadow over you!  That gift, however, is often experienced in pain and suffering.  Just remember, God’s promise may be delayed but it will not be denied.

Life is not about staying safe and living comfortably.  The call to follow Jesus is a call to give your life to him and to join God’s mission in healing the souls of the world.  The real rewards are found in the joy and peace that we experience through serving others in Christ’s spirit.

Excerpts from Christmas is not Your Birthday: Experience the Joy of Living and Giving like Jesus by Mike Slaughter Abingdon Press © 2011

This Week’s Challenge:  Focus on helping someone you know struggling in life and/or faith and commit to praying for them, asking them how you can help, and following through with help and encouragement.

You are a miracle worker

Submitted by Rhonda Balser

You are a miracle worker.  Really, who told you that?!  Whoever said that must be talking about somebody else, not me.

Interestingly enoug,h God seems to say that about each of us.  According to Mike Slaughter in Christmas is Not Your Birthday, “Miracles don’t just happen; they are born through labors of pain.  The dictionary defines miracle as a visible interruption of the laws of nature, understood by divine intervention and often accompanied by a miracle worker.  In other words a miracle is a unique event in the world that God does through people like you and me.  That’s right – you are God’s miracle worker!”

God works in us and through us to bring miracle’s into the world.   Every one of us has the potential to be part of a miracle.  Are you ready to be part of a Christmas miracle this year?

This Week’s Challenge:  Pray about and then write down 1-3 ideas or
thoughts that you feel might be God initiated dreams for you to pursue in
helping change this world for God’s kingdom.

See last week’s challenge.

Rhonda and Brenda at the inaugural event in 2009

Save the date! The Third Annual WOW Christmas Tree Skirt Party
and Birthday Bash for Jesus will be held Friday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m. This could very well be the only invitation you receive to wear your tree skirt this season, so put Dec. 9 on your calendar now.

We have some new details and surprises this year. We’ll share those a little closer to the date so you don’t wear yourself out looking forward to this shindig. But here’s a hint: You will want to pack your purse with spare change and maybe a few small bills that night. Do we have a deal for you!

Phone a friend and invite her to be part of this special WOW tradition. Here’s a phone script for you (stolen from the first tree skirt party invite, but with the new date included so as not to confuse your dear friend any more than she will already be):

Though you may feel a bit like Mr. Grinch,
Snatch up your tree skirt; it’ll be quite a cinch.
You’ll need it to wear to the WOW Christmas bash
You can “bring it back later,” with a can of “Who hash.”

Be it handmade or store bought or crocheted by Granny,
Ball-fringed or sequined or something uncanny,
We want to see it and learn of its story,
So pair it with boots and show us its glory.

Belt it or rig it up just like a skirt.
You’ll look divine as you nibble dessert.
As a strapless mini or an evening shawl,
You’ll have the whole WOW group shouting, “Oh, my, ya’ll!”

So don your skirt on 9 of December,
At 7 p.m., a night to remember.
Pick up a goodie or a slice of roast beast,
And bring it along to add to the feast.

At Kim H.’s home we’ll gather to nosh,
Examine our skirts, decide which ones are posh.
And what happens then? Well in WOW-ville they say,
Our tree skirt memories grow three sizes that day.

Beth Moore

Looking for a way to work some spiritual development into your busy life, but time is an issue for you?  WOW has
just the study for you!  Join Nancy Dickerson for a Beth Moore video series on Thursday nights at 7 p.m. throughout November and December.

Each session is a stand-alone lesson, so come every time or just once. No worries. This series includes four in-depth messages from Beth Moore as broadcast on LIFE TODAY’s “Wednesdays With Beth” program. No book to buy and no homework!

Topics include:

  • A Fight Worth Having – Nov. 10
  • The Captivity of Activity – Nov. 17
  • Overcoming Insecurity – Dec. 1
  • The Alabaster Box – Dec. 8

For more information, please contact Nancy Dickerson at farplacegrl5@yahoo.com.

Contributed by Rhonda Balser

Christmas Is Not Your Birthday!  I am sure by now you have heard that phrase around Soapstone a time or two in the past few weeks.  Gosh it seems early to be talking about Christmas doesn’t it?  I expect the local big box to be pushing Christmas on me in October but not the church.  What is going on here?

Twelve women gathered on Oct. 25 to discuss Mike Slaughter’s Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Experiencing the Joy of Living and Giving Like Jesus to figure that out.  We discovered we really do need to start talking about Christmas in October if we are going to succeed in changing how we experience Christmas this year.

WOW invites you to join our conversation about transforming not only Christmas this year but also ourselves.  For the next five weeks, we will post a challenge based on Slaughter’s book.

This week’s challenge:  Ask those closest to you, whether friends, family, parents or children, what they would change about the Christmas holiday and why.

Talk about how that question was received in the comments section below. Were you surprised by some of the answers?