Closer to family, closer to God

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Really? In 2020?

Yes, I believe we can actually follow these commandments from 1 Thessalonians 5 even in 2020. Three steps can prepare us to grow closer to God during this Advent and Christmas season.

First, we should acknowledge the pain and suffering our world has experienced. People have died, have lost loved ones, have lost jobs, have suffered from isolation and have suffered economically.

Add to that a heightened awareness of racism and a conflicted election season and we are experiencing a level of difficulty unprecedented in our lifetimes. Nothing I write here should ignore the hard parts of this year. We are all tired and many of us are not sure how best to serve Christ in these uncertain times. This is not easy.

Second, we have to have a larger frame of reference. God is still God, and God will guide us through our current difficulties. Christians have been through hard times before and God will continue to guide us. A careful reading of Scripture and proper attention to church history can reassure us that God is at work among us even now. Our foremothers and forefathers have done this before and so can we.

Third, we should look around for the opportunities for blessing that God is placing before us in the midst of our difficulties. While many of us are missing the blessings of in-person worship, online worship has allowed many people to participate with churches that were previously inaccessible. Many of our churches are reaching new people and expanding their evangelistic outreach.

In a similar way, living in our pandemic can allow us to grow closer to family and closer to God.

We can grow closer to family if we simplify our schedules this year. Many of us are used to traveling and lots of hustle and bustle for the Christmas holidays. But friends, it looks like COVID-19 and socially distancing will slow us down this year, with many of us celebrating a little closer to home and closer to family. That could be a good thing.

Slowing our pace of busy-ness can allow us to focus on the spiritual meaning of Christmas. More reading of Scripture, more singing the songs of faith, and more focus on Christ can all deepen the spiritual impact of this season. This might give us all an opportunity to shift our time and actions towards the Christ child. It can be an opportunity to move in closer towards God. A time for us to deepen our faith and connect in new ways with God’s sanctifying grace.

Even in the difficulties of this crazy year we are called to rejoice, to pray and to give thanks.

“For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

May you have a blessed Advent and Christmas!

 

Grace & Peace,

Bishop Scott J. Jones

 

As we move into this Advent season we invite you to join us in our devotional series "A Closer Christmas" 

Beginning in December, new devotionals will be added below through Advent until Christmas.

Please share with your friends via the buttons at the bottom of the page or by sending a link to: https://www.txcumc.org/a-closer-christmas


The role of the ugly donkey in the nativity

By Rev. Jill Daniel

Family Joy at Christmas! That’s what the ad in the church supply magazine promised if I purchased their lovely nativity set with stable. I was so excited when the UPS driver delivered it to the church office that chilly November afternoon that I went home early to start decorating...

 

Isolation, fear and uncertainty oh my!

By Rev. John Wayne McMann

My church is scary-movie-creepy in the dark. I learned this by experience on my first Sunday in my appointment. When my senior pastor was forced to quarantine because of a possible COVID exposure, I was asked to preach for him the Sunday before my appointment was to begin...

 

How to peace out in 2020

By Rev. Katy Sabayrac

One Tuesday morning, a first grader named Tommy came to our virtual learning center at Westbury United Methodist Church and put his backpack down at his table. Doesn’t seem like something I’d remember months later except for the fact that he then laid down on the floor and started to cry...

 

Celebrating Christmas differently, but truth remains the same

By Rev. Wendy Heinemann 

My Mom always made Advent and Christmas the most magical time for my brother, sister, and me. During Advent, Mom read us special stories she’d collected over the years. Those treasured stories captured my imagination with the meaning and joy of Christmas and culminated with Dad reading from Luke on Christmas Eve...

 

Waiting and hoping in uncertain times 

By Rev. Tabitha Mock Rankin 

The Rankin littles have started their countdown to Christmas! Christmas has become one of our topics of discussion on the way to school each day. It is amazing that they are wise enough to measure “how many days until Christmas comes,” by paying attention to the things that are happening around them... 

 

Our heavenly home sweet home

By Rev. Patrick Evans

I often dream of my childhood home. It is as though my mind is grounded in the place where I grew up. My dreams consist of events happening today, but in the setting of my childhood home. I guess there truly is no place like home, so when Jesus’ disciples needed comfort, he appealed to their connection with home...

 

Christmas stress, let’s make 2020 different

By Rev. Robert Besser

Normally, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I get overwhelmed with so much running here and there in order to accomplish my list of tasks:... And when Christmas day finally arrives, I’m exhausted and I say to myself, or even out loud, “why do I allow myself to get so worked up over all the things that I placed upon myself?  Next year I promise it will be different.”...

 

Saying yes to the best

By Rev. Lataya Simpson

It was Christmas Eve and my sweetheart, Johnnie, called for on an unexpected date. Though I had much to do I immediately said yes. We were going to the museum, the same one from our first date. I wondered with excitement if he was planning to propose...

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

By Rev. Kip Gilts

There is a meme going around of the manger scene that some see as two T-Rexes fighting over a table saw. I guess it all depends on how you look at it. I have found the same thing to be true when reading the Bible. For years I viewed John 14:6 as a verse of demarcation that identifies who’s in and who’s out in the kingdom of God, but recently I have come to discover it to be a verse of embarkation inviting Christ followers into a life-long relationship of deeper desires and deeper answers...

 

Testing positive for COVID in a negative 2020

By Rev. Nicole Boddie

In early March, when there was talk of suspending in person worship in every church, our church made the decision to go ahead and suspend in person worship. We felt this was the responsible thing to do for our two churches, to separate ourselves from other people, and crowded places. This decision forced me to grow in areas that I had put off for one reason or another...

 

A stress filled 2020, but we still have Christmas wonder in our eyes

By Pastor John Thomas

On the birth of Christ Bonhoeffer says: “All Christian theology has its origins in the wonder of all wonders, that God became man.” I get that. I’m a Dad. And I see that wonder of wonders every day in the eyes of my children, especially at Christmas... 

 

How the Grinch got Christmas

By Pastor Dr. Todd Jordan

The Grinch does not live at the top of Mount Crumpit. He lived on a back street off of College Avenue in the west end of Beaumont. I know this because I met him my senior year in high school...

 

A messy manger, smelly shepherds and the Christ child

By Mary Lou Reece

I love Christmas! I love everything about Christmas. I love the cookies, the decorating, the cabinet party, the office parties, Sunday School parties, get-togethers with friends.  I even sometimes love the shopping! AND I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Advent activities at church, and Christmas caroling. My list of Christmas LOVES is endless… 

 

Christmas celebration or survival

By Rev. Irv White

I love to hear the song, “Over the River and Through the Wood” during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. I’ve never forgotten it because it stirs up special memories. When I hear it, it reminds me of my childhood and the family gatherings we had at my grandmother’s house at 312 Thompson Street in Hopkinsville, Kentucky...