They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Matthew 14:17-18 ESV
After Christmas people who we missed seeing on the big day sometimes stop by unexpectedly and more often than we would like to admit we do some quick re-gifting, though – we try to avoid that label because it is associated with someone who is a cheap-skate. However, in the Bible Jesus often practiced re-gifting. In today’s verse, for example, Jesus took five loaves from the disciples, who got them from a small boy and then gave them to five thousand hungry people. Later, Jesus took the disciples who His Father had given Him and gave them to the world. Last of all; Jesus took the life which the Father had given Him, and He gave it to us on the cross.
In this year ahead we will all be “gifted” with time, talent and treasure. None of these things belong to us. All we have is just passing through our hands. How we “Re-Gift” what we have received has the potential to feed the hungry, bring comfort to hurting people, and give friendship to those in our world. We need to each ask ourselves what we can unashamedly re-gift every day. May God bless you as you share your gifts in the 365 days of the year ahead!
While we sat together in our favorite restaurant after the Christmas Eve service it was hard to imagine (or even remember!) that we have celebrated 48 Christmases together. Through both the wonderful and the most difficult times God has shown us that He is good. He has been faithful and because He chose to come to Bethlehem, He has been with us.
But God with us is only good news because of grace. If He came only with justice then Emmanuel – God with us- is very bad news indeed. But He came to seek out and save us if we will only stop running and allow ourselves to be found. So, Merry Christmas and may His grace reach down to wherever you are and remind you that He came for you as well. Nothing more important was on His agenda that first Christmas morning and nothing matters more to Him today than your soul and your heart. He is our Emmanuel – God with us – both now and always!
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!