Christmas Sunshine

Welcome to the Christmas edition of Sunshine newsletter. Sunshine is a free publication distributed to 8-9 Senior Communities in Western New York and Central Florida. Pastor Janice Burnett, Rob Keller and I, invite you to share this material for free with anyone you know in long term care. You may also contact me at Revpete51@gmail.com to get on our mailing list to receive our PDF version. This is our Christmas Eve edition which signals the beginning of my Christmas weekend break from blogging. I would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and thank you for your input, encouragement and the great posts I have had the chance to read all throughout 2021.

One Stitch at a Time by Peter Caligiuri

For you formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalms 139:13 ESV

My Mom loved to knit gifts for people, and year after year, stitch by stitch she made many beautiful blankets, sweaters and socks. When the Bible tells us that God chose to knit us together, it reminds me of my mother’s patient stitches creating one knitting project after another. I picture God working together our tiny strands of DNA to form each of us, one stitch at a time. When the Bible tells us that Jesus was made just like us, we might think it means that He looked like other men. But we need to remember that God’s knitting project began when Gabriel first came to Mary. How startling to think that Jesus left His position in heaven and became a single thread of life inside of Mary. Though His birth was announced by angels and commemorated by the gifts of the Magi; Jesus still was still knit together in the same way as the rest of us. Some of us struggle with letting go of even our smallest privileges. But imagine that for nine months the Son of God let go of the glory of heaven as stitch by stitch He was knit together. He quietly waited nine months in Mary’s womb till the day God finished His last stitch. Then He opened His eyes, took His first breath and became God’s gift, knit just for us and given for the salvation of the world!

O Little Town of Bethlehem by Philipp Brooks

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in

Christmas Eve – Pastor Janice Burnett

Merry Christmas! It is Christmas Eve, and it is the season to express our holiday greetings, isn’t it?! We have talked about the Hope, the Peace, the Joy, and the Love of God. Now we are going to talk about Jesus – the presence of Light himself! On Christmas Eve in church services around the world – and perhaps in your faith tradition – lighting candles has always been important. Many churches have the tradition of having candles burning in the sanctuaries as a reminder of the number of years that have passed since the birth of Christ, or in memory of those who have passed away. Some have said that the lighting of candles represents the light of Christ.

John 8:12: I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

Regardless of what the tradition, having candles on Christmas Eve is a beautiful one. Having that light takes away the fear of what is unseen. Think about what happens when we lose our lights during a blackout. We depend so automatically on the electricity being on all the time – but if it goes out for any length of time, panic begins to set in. Jesus himself IS THE LIGHT of the world. He came to earth to be light – not just to bring light. You know me as Pastor Jan – short for Janice. My family called me Jannie growing up. And, we also had nicknames for each other. Was it the same for you? I don’t know you personally, but your family members and the people around you do. Names have meanings and they say that my name Jan, means God’s favor. I’ll take that any day, wouldn’t you?! In the time of the Bible, the meaning of a name was very important, and in fact, Jesus Himself had several different names. Jesus said that He is the Light but there was another name given to him in the Bible. That name was Emmanuel given to Him by the prophet Isaiah long before He was born – Emmanuel means “God with us” Then seven hundred years later an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream with the news that it was time for Emmanuel to come.

Matthew 1:22-23: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” - which means “God with us.”

This Christmas Eve let’s remember that Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. He was born that holy night more than 2,000 years ago to be with us and bring us salvation and He is still with us today. He has given us His presence today – and every day that we open up our hearts and invite Him to be born in us today!

Merry Christmas from all of us here at The Sunshine Newsletter - Pastor Janice Burnett, Rob Keller, Sue Hyson and me (Peter Caligiuri)
May God bless you and keep you all through the year!

Two Turtle Doves

And to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:24 ESV

This morning I was thinking of how, Mary and Joseph had heard from angels and watched shepherds and wise men kneel before Jesus, but when they came to the temple to dedicate God’s miracle child, they offered only the sacrifice of the poorest of the poor. Though they were not ashamed to come to Herod’s golden temple with their babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, sometimes I wonder why God chose two doves for their offering.

Think how different it might have been if God had picked a princess or the wife of a wealthy merchant in place of Mary. But God chose a young peasant girl from Nazareth to be the mother of His Son. He specifically selected a poor village for Him to grow up in and a simple carpenter to provide Him a home. No place on earth was too humble for the Lord of the universe to visit and no offering too small for Him to treasure. And maybe it is like when I tell my grandchildren, “One cookie isn’t enough! You need another so there will be one for each hand!” Maybe God chose two doves so that they would have something in each hand to give Him. So, if you wonder what you have to give God this Christmas, think of Mary’s turtledoves and then come with whatever He puts in your hands.

Watching Pennies

And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Mark 12:42-43 ESV

Last week we had just finished our Christmas caroling time at a nursing home and began to pass out some large print Christmas devotional books as our gift to the residents. Most of them lit up with smiles and thanked us for the book, but when one of our volunteers came to a table in the back, the lady reached out and slipped three one-dollar bills into their hand. Despite urging her that she didn’t need to pay for our gift, she insisted, “No please take it! I want to give something!”

That dear lady not only reminded me of the widow in today’s verse, but she also showed me that longing to give is a basic desire of every heart. Some of us, unfortunately, have had that desire dampened by people who have taken unfair advantage of us. But Jesus never mentioned anything about how well the two little coins she contributed, were spent. What mattered to Him, was that the love she gave with, made the gift precious. None of the rich guys who went ahead of her and made a big deal of their offerings had impressed Jesus. But the small sacrifice that she eagerly gave with a pure heart was a treasure to Him. That also reminded me that whether we have gold, frankincense and myrrh or just two pennies, God sees more than pennies, and He is watching our hearts today!