Happy almost New Year to you! The end of 2016 is fast approaching as is the promise of all that is new in 2017.

I’m pleased to report we had an amazing celebration of Jesus’ birth over several days. There was beauty and variety in the ways we celebrated from puppets to candlelight, from choirs to a praise band. In and through everything, God spoke and was glorified. A baby is born, the light shines.

Like most years, 2016 can leave us wondering about many things. I’m reminded in the re-reading of John Ortberg’s book, God Is Closer Than You Think, the most frequent promise in Scripture is “I will be with you.” This is good news.

We know the world can be confusing, chaotic, challenging and just plain hard. We suffer loss and get wounded. Yet, God promises I will be with you. Beauty and hope are still around us. This is good news.

Ortberg tells us spiritual growth, in a sense, is simply increasing our capacity to experience the presence of God. He goes on to list several foundational truths for his life with God:
– God is always present and active in my life, whether or not I see him.
– Coming to recognize and experience God’s presence is a learned behavior; I can cultivate it.
– My task is to meet God in this moment. I’m always tempted to live outside the moment.
– My desire for God ebbs and flows, but his desire for me is constant.
– Every aspect of my life is of immense and genuine interest to God.
– My path will not look quite like anyone else’s. And, straining and trying too hard do not help.

As we journey together into 2017, I hope and pray God’s presence is fully alive to us. To help us cultivate his presence, we’re offering new groups and classes for everyone along the spectrum of spiritual growth. Watch this link to learn more, https://vimeo.com/196142814. I invite and challenge you to jump in! Let’s learn to recognize, experience and cultivate God’s presence together.

In closing, another thought and a promise. Frederick Buechner writes, “There is no event so commonplace but that God is present in it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not…because in that last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

When God himself came to earth, his redemptive name was Immanuel—God is with us. When Jesus left, his promise was to send the Spirit so that “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” This is Good News. See you in worship New Year’s morning!

Pastor Jim Mason

© 2017 Schweitzer United Methodist Church
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