"And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7 NRSV)
We've had a few babies born in our congregation over the last few months. They're all amazing, awe-inspiring, and beautiful little humans that call us back to the innocence and sweetness of God's good creation with just one little yawn or smile.
None of those babies was placed in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Jesus' birth didn't go as planned, at least not the way Joseph and Mary had planned. As Beth Moore tweeted the other day, "Every woman who is 8 ½ months pregnant wants to write their own commentary to The Bible as soon as they learn Mary had to walk 80 miles, suffering under the same conditions." Sometimes, it turns out, the times that are supposed to be the most joyful become harder to endure.
I'd like for you to keep in mind those this Christmas for whom the most wonderful time of the year stares them in the face as the bleak midwinter. For those who go without. Without family. Without a loved one. Without money. Without a home. Without food. Without God. Without. As a church, you once again have responded amazingly by blessing so many children through the angel tree, but here are a few other tools for those that feel 8 ½ months pregnant, hoping joy comes at any point, and those caring for them.
1) Get a Stephen Minister. E-mail Pastor John Thornton (firstname.lastname@example.org) and talk with him about what it looks like to have a confidential, one-on-one caregiver assigned to help you walk through any transition you're facing.
2) Go to a Blue Christmas service. Of course, you are more than welcome to attend any standard Christmas Eve celebration, and my hope is that you know you're surrounded by loved ones at Creekwood at any given hour, but Blue Christmas services are designed for a more intimate crowd, using language that honors those experiencing loss and grief during the holiday season. I would recommend First United Methodist Church of McKinney's service this Sunday, December 17, at 3pm.
3) Ask for, Contribute to, or Refer. No one will know you're in pain if you don't tell anyone. Vulnerability is at the heart of salvation, and so please ask for help in any way that you need it. We have a fund called "Brother's Keeper" that people contribute to for emergency situations of financial need within our Creekwood community, and there are resources such as Allen Community Outreach, Family Promise, and The Assistance Center of Collin County. On top of physical needs, Stephen Ministers, pastors, small group friends, and trained therapists can be invaluable. If you're not someone hurting, contribute to and support these ministries, and refer your hurting friends to them.
4) Right Now Media. While this might be more of a plug for the Christmas gift we're giving to you, for those without peace, purpose, or meaning, you might be able to help them through the engaging tools on Right Now Media. Simply go to this link, and follow the steps to sign up: http://creekwoodumc.org/ministries/adult-ministry/right-now-media/
Thank you for being such a warm, welcoming, missional, and loving congregation. I am incredibly proud of the number of people we are able to share God's love with each week, and am confident the influence of Creekwood goes further into other lives more than I'll ever know.
PS - For our financial update challenge, I had challenged us to meet our full budget for 2017 by December 21st, which was a $150,000 gap between where we were and square. We've done a great job of closing the gap in 2 weeks, so we're now just $100,000 away with 1 more Sunday and 9 total days to go. Let's finish this year strong to ensure 2018 is our strongest year of ministry ever!