Look Beneath the Glitter
The contrast is striking. On the one hand, there is the glitter of Christmas, which often goes up early in November (sometimes even in October!) and starts coming down the day after Christmas because people are ready to move on. Sadly though, no amount of glitter can change what’s beneath it: beautifully decorated houses filled with addictions, dysfunctional families, life-threatening illnesses, depression, meaningless jobs, hopelessness, and mean-spirited character.

On the other hand, there is the birth of a child to an unmarried woman that goes almost unnoticed in a dirty stable far away from her family. The stable is filled with the mess and muck of animals, yet it glows with divine love. The child’s birth does not try to cover up real life, but rather fundamentally transforms it. This event is not just another holiday party, but the incarnation of the Christ child who has come to save us with the gift of abundant and eternal life.

We are inextricably tied to both the Christmas of glitter and incarnation. Yet all too often, the Christmas glitter sparkles so brightly that it’s hard to see into the stable and all it means. The point is not to get rid of all the things that make Christmas wonderful, although I am annually tempted to do just that when we have to take down, pack up and store it all. Rather, it is to look beneath the glitter of Christmas and see the most beautiful sight in the world: God who is so passionately in love with us that he became one of us to give us what we have to have but can never get on our own.

Yes, the contrast is striking. The Christmas glitter always fades, falls off and blows away. The Incarnation is eternal, beautiful and our ultimate hope.

Merry Christmas!
Bishop Gary Mueller, Vice-President
General Commission on UM Men

“Just a Reminder What
Christmas Means to Us”
We are approaching the epoch of Advent and Christmas—a time for us to reflect and think what Christmas means in our Christian lives. During Christmas time, we exchange gifts and cards to each other. When I was growing up, I asked that question many times. “Why do we have to exchange cards and gifts?” Gifts are traditionally exchanged around the Christmas tree on December 25th. The answer was not very clear to me. 

It took me a while to start to understand the theological significance of exchanging gifts during Christmas time. It was a similar time Jesus spoke of divinity and humanity, of eternity and temporality, of life and death. Advent and Christmas go together. It’s the time to prepare for the coming of our Lord Jesus. Preparing for the coming of our Lord is a theological mandate for us to embrace. It is our ethical life. Yes. It is who we are! We are preparing and waiting for this great exchange.

The difference between our exchange and Jesus is that we need to be acquainted with or know someone to exchange gifts with at Christmas. But Jesus exchanged his divinity and humanity while still keeping His divinity for all and to all. Divinity takes on humanity, restoring the image of God implanted at creation but despoiled by sin. Here is the ultimate exchange Christmas exemplifies, that God became like us that we might become like God. God accepted death that the world might gain life. Enduring the gift that no one will choose to receive or accept, 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. It is not something that we deserve; we just receive it by the grace of our Lord Jesus.

With this spirit of giving and exchanging, I am asking my brothers and sisters to join us to the 175th anniversary celebration of this wonderful facility that God gave us as a place to worship him. We believe in God’s abundance and our ability through that trust, to provide the resources that will allow our beloved Church to do great things! May God bless the souls of our brothers and sisters who went before us who had supported this Church for so long, and for those still here who continue to guide us in support of this Church. It is an opportunity for each of us to continue supporting our Church, by making a choice to give that can make a difference.

You are invited to un-wrap the gift of the joy of giving in response to all that we have received. It will require a choice. You may, in fact, have to give something up in order to make this commitment. But I want to challenge you to listen to your heart and consider this discipline for the next year and see if you don’t see a change-in yourself, your walk with Christ, and in the community around you. You are a congregation of generous people; otherwise, our Church would not have continued for 175 years. 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. Let us not be discouraged and continue doing the work of the Lord.

Rev. Louis Telcy

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Giving Thanks
There is a hymn often sung before Thanksgiving that I suspect we all know. It goes:

    Now thank we all our God
    With heart and hands and voices,
    Who wondrous things hath done,
    In whom his world rejoices;
    Who from our mothers arms
    Hath blessed us on our way,
    With countless gifts of love,
    And still is ours today.

Do you know the story of that hymn? Sounds like it was written under ideal circumstance, doesn't it. As a matter of fact, it was written by Martin Rinkart, a German minister, right after the Black Plague had swept his town and carried away one third of the population, including two members of his own family. He had just buried his youngest daughter when he wrote it. He came back from the funeral, which he, himself conducted, sat down at his desk in that now nearly empty house, and penned the words.

Not even tragedy could shake his faith in the eternal Goodness..."Now thank we all our God...". As we approach this season of gratitude in the midst of loss and fear and exhaustion from the ongoing demands of living in the midst of a global pandemic, may God's Goodness and Grace permeate the grief and weariness and bring comfort, peace and a grateful heart that is ours as Christ's beloved to you and to your family.

Of all the things I am thankful for, I am thankful for each of you!

Clarke Campbell-Evans
District Co-Superintendent
Gulf Coast District

Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans