Present

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It was an uncharacteristically warm day in November that my neighbor and I commiserated on a walk around our village. Both of us, you see, were approaching days of reckoning you might say: For my neighbor, the second anniversary of her beloved mom’s death. For me, the 10th anniversary of my beloved sister’s succumbing to cancer.

But while we both experienced, nay, re-lived the sad events leading to our losses, we each maintained that our losses were, in fact, experienced daily, not just on the anniversaries that we so obtusely celebrated.

Which brings this writer to Advent and Christmas.

The candles are in the windows, the firs in the corner a-glow with glitz, the church takes donations for turkeys and poinsettias and parents shop frantically in-store and on-line.

Christmas time is here. Children await it with anticipation. And on that day and its eve, lit candles will glorify God in sanctuaries throughout the world, ribbons will fly through the air as our kids tear through presents and joy will appear as tinsel dangling from the tree.

But while we await this celebration of the birth of the Savior of the World, let us know that God is present each and every day already. He is here already. As Christians, we know it.

Like the memory of a loved one that does not appear only on the anniversary of her death, the Savior of the World resides in us, not just on the anniversary of His birth.

For if we belong to Him, the old self has already died and the new self lives! He lives!

When we begin each day in God’s Word; when we gather in Jesus’ Name for prayer groups and Bible studies; when we prepare a meal for a sick friend or help a stranger in distress; when we praise Him as we sit down to dinner; when we plea to Him for answers and resolutions to life’s many problems, He is already here and He hears.

And so, it is not about the anniversary but about the love living in our hearts, a supernatural love, not just on the 25th of December, not just during the waiting season called Advent, but about Him who already lives in us, Whom we love and Who loves us each and every day of the year.

May we rejoice in Jesus as we recount the circumstances of His birth, His life, His sacrifice!

Marian Falkenstine

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Waiting for my Delivery

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Just one more gift. That’s all I’m waiting for. I ordered it so that it would arrive by Christmas, but its not here yet. The confirmation email says it will arrive by 12/24, but every day that passes I begin to doubt.  I keep clicking on the tracking number hoping that I will see those three little words “out for delivery”. I pause at the sound of every passing truck, hoping that my awaited package will arrive. It’s December 23 – Only 2 days left for it to arrive. Waiting is hard.

In Luke 2, we meet Simeon. A devout and righteous man who was told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he saw the promised Messiah. We don’t know how long he waited, but it appears it was a long time. But one day when led to the Temple by the Spirit, Simeon met a young couple who had brought with them their new born son. Simeon knew this was the one. The one he had waited for.

Simeon faithfully believed that that which was promised would come. A Messiah, promised deliverance and salvation. He rejoiced and blessed the child saying:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

What have you been waiting for this year?

A restored relationship?

Physical or emotional healing?

A new job?

Getting out of debt?

finishing school?

pregnancy?

As you wait, rest in the promise of God’s salvation. Rest knowing that our Emmanuel, (God with us) is here. Rest in the truth that our Prince of Peace sustains us. Rest knowing that the end of the story has been written. God’s timing isn’t always our timing, but His timing is always perfect.

Wait is that a UPS truck I hear?

Steve Dallwig

The Ever Present Jesus

jesustokyoA few weeks ago, the Chairman of the Missions Committee at Chapelgate and I were privileged to spend a few days in Japan meeting with various church planters all over the country. Japan is a country where less than one percent of population professes any sort of faith in Christ. In fact, the dominant religious beliefs in Japan are Shintoism and Buddhism. Yet even in a place where Christianity is so completely foreign the Gospel is bursting into the lives of people because of God’s work through the local church. The churches that Chapelgate partner with in Tokyo are reaching their communities by starting new churches throughout the city. What these church planters have found in their efforts is that the Japanese people are deeply spiritual and the threads of that are written all over their culture.

Believe it or not, the Japanese people celebrate Christmas. One of the churches in Tokyo, Grace Harbor Church, is reaching the community through a Christmas party with food and music. While we were in Tokyo we could see Christmas lights, ornaments, and green and red colors decorating storefronts. We could go to Starbucks and buy a bag of their Christmas blend, which isn’t available until after Thanksgiving in America.

As we were walking around Tokyo, signs of Christmas were everywhere yet something was missing. It was strange not to see any mention of Jesus until we were taken to the Sky Tree Tower. The Sky Tree Tower is sort of like the Inner Harbor of Tokyo. It is where you want to take visitors who are new to Tokyo. The Sky Tree Tower is the tallest tower in the world and at night it lights in the green and red colors of Christmas. The complex around the Sky Tree Tower is set up like a Fall Festival with picnic tables for eating, booths selling pretzels and, of course, plates of fresh sushi. As we were looking at the decorations we discovered that covering the tops of these booths were some plastic wise men, farm animals and, yes, a manger with the baby Jesus. It was odd but this plastic ornament served as a reminder to us that Jesus is always present no matter where we are, where we have been or what we have done. In the incarnation, Jesus relentlessly pursued us with his whole affection and he has promised to make all things new.

It’s because Jesus is present in our lives that we are freed to celebrate like the wise men who when they saw the star leading to Jesus “rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.” Rejoice, rejoice Jesus has come!

Patrick Allen