Pastors Message
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8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
The Meaning of Christmas
We are approaching the Christmas season. It is a time for us to reflect on what Christmas means in our Christian lives. It is a time when we exchange cards and gifts with one another. Growing up, I did not understand the theological significance of exchanging gifts at Christmas time. Now, I understand that we are celebrating the fact that Jesus exchanged his divinity for humanity, his eternity for temporality, his immortality for death on the cross. The gospel story is really the story of Jesus’ Great Exchange.

The difference between the Great Exchange and our gift giving at Christmas is that we need to know or at least be acquainted with someone in order to exchange gifts with them. Jesus gave his divinity as a gift to all persons even to future generations yet unborn. Through Jesus, divinity takes on humanity, to restore the image of God implanted by creation, but despoiled by sin. Here is the ultimate exchange that Christmas honors: that God became like us so that we might become like God. God accepted death that the world might gain life. Jesus accepts the ultimate gift of death in order to give us everlasting life.

Friends, we need to continue using this wonderful gift that God gives through Jesus Christ with an attitude of gratitude. The gift is not something that we deserve; we receive it by the grace of our Lord Jesus. In that spirit of giving and exchanging, I am beginning to ask my brothers and sisters to join us in believing in God’s abundance and our ability, trusting in His grace, to provide the resources that will allow our church to do great things!

Our church stewardship isn’t just about the church—it is about you and me. It is an opportunity for each of us to grow by making a choice to give a gift that can make a difference. Stewardship is an invitation to discover the joy of giving in response to everything we have received.

Stewardship is a choice. You may, in fact, have to give something up in order to make a stewardship commitment. So I want to challenge you to listen to your heart, and consider this discipline for the next year. See if faithful stewardship doesn’t make a change in yourself, in your walk with Christ, and in the community around you.

I know that you are a congregation of generous people. May you give generously to the church’s ministry and mission this coming year. As you give, may you know the joy of giving and the satisfaction of knowing what an important presence this church is in Riverview.

Pastor Louis Telcy

Advent Anticipation
As we enter the season of Advent, we know it’s a season of preparation, anticipation, expectation and waiting. Most of us, if honest, don’t enjoy waiting. We get impatient waiting at traffic lights, in grocery store lines and we impatiently wait for websites or videos to load on our computers or devices. Who has time to wait? We have a destination even in Advent season. We want to get to the beloved candlelight Christmas Eve services. Candlelight Christmas is important and deserves our energy and focus. I also wonder what else GOD has in store for us each week of Advent. We can be so focused on our destination that we miss the wonders of the journey.

I pray as Advent unfolds, the Holy Spirit reveals to us new insight and experiences we can share with others. As we light the candles of HOPE, FAITH, JOY and PEACE may we be inspired afresh and anew.

Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, O Israel!

I pray we enjoy the wondrous journey of this Advent season.

Candace M. Lewis, Superintendent
Gulf Central District
My Favorite Nativity Set
Every year as I unwrap my favorite nativity set from its storage box, I inevitably spend a few moments reflecting while I put all the figures in their proper places. Quite frankly, and somewhat surprisingly, it’s always a bit depressing because it causes me to remember how often Jesus remains stuck in the manger as a benign and sentimental figure who seems to have little to offer our broken world today.

But I don’t remain depressed for long because the words of Matthew’s Gospel figuratively shout out, “This baby born to Mary is ‘Immanuel, God with us’.”

This is the joy of Christmas. God is so passionately in love with humanity that God decides to risk plunging into the messiness and muckiness of life to give us what we absolutely need but can never get on our own.

That is why I pray you will be filled with the true joy of Christmas that comes from knowing you do not have to find God in order to convince God to give you something. God already has found you and offers you amazing grace.

I’ll continue to stop by my favorite nativity set every day for the next several weeks until I put it away for another year. But more importantly, I’ll let it remind me of the eternal truth that God’s Christmas gift to us comes in the most unlikely of ways––through Jesus, an infant born of Mary, a carpenter from Galilee who was an itinerant preacher for just three years, and the Son of God who died on a cross for the entire world.

I hope you’ll find some time to stop by your nativity set and be reminded, too.

Merry Christmas!
Bishop Gary Mueller, Vice President
General Commission on United Methodist Men