Today is Christmas and it is also my wife Linda’s birthday.
I woke up relatively early, about 7 a.m. Linda was already up. I went into the kitchen to wish her a happy birthday. She screamed in surprise. She had forgotten that it was here birthday. She forgets that it’s her birthday every year because she is just thinking about Christmas.
I went into my office to study for awhile before church. Linda went to take a shower. A few minutes later I heard a crash and another scream. The sliding shower door had jumped its track and fallen into the shower.
I got the shower door back on but in the process my mind went into a time warp. I went back into my office to resume my study of the Roman–Parthian Wars that overlapped the period of Jesus’ life and the growth of early Christianity. I thought I had over an hour and a half before church when I really only had fifteen minutes. I was surprised and still not dressed when Linda came in to tell me that it was time to go.
So we were late, but we did get there for the last song of the worship service at New Hope Evangelical Presbyterian Church. One of the main reasons that I wanted to go was because Rick Dougherty had told me he was giving the sermon. He is one of the elders but normally doesn’t preach so I was eager to hear what his message would be.
I wasn’t disappointed. Rick spoke about giving. Giving is a part of Christmas. Rick brought out that the idea of giving permeates the scriptures. In the beginning, God filled the heaven and the earth, he filled the earth with life and gave it all to Adam and Eve. Rick cited from sources that there are 14 different Hebrew terms for giving. The first used in Genesis is נתן, which in English is Nathan and means “given.” Nathan is the name of Rick’s son.
That got me to thinking about my own first name, John. I realized that John is a form of Johnathan which comes from the Hebrew יְהוֹנָתָן (Yonatan) meaning “God has given.”
That fit right into Rick’s sermon. God gave us creation, God gave us life, God gave us the power to choose, because by choosing we become co-creators of our reality and share in God’s creative nature. We have abused our power to choose and separated from God, but then God gave his son to redeem us. And the Holy Spirit bestows upon us the gifts (χαρίσματα του Αγίου Πνεύματος) necessary to do Our Father’s work.
Rick concluded by referring to Jesus prayer for his disciples in John 17 saying that Jesus spoke of those who believed in Him as God’s gifts.
He ended by saying, “Think about that the next time you go Christmas shopping.”
Obviously a synopsis in three paragraphs can’t do justice to a sermon laced with powerful ideas, but I truly felt that the Holy Spirit has inspired Rick to help lead us into the truth.
Afterwards, Rick, Alex Munroe and I shared insights and ideas inspired by the sermon. There’s never enough time to explore all the salient points. I was so enriched by the spiritual food, I didn’t even get over to eat any of the cookies, which is rare.
We left at noon, just in time to go over to Grace Bible Community Church for their annual Christmas meal.
We were welcomed by Mrs. Penny Winkelman, the wife of Pastor Henry Winkelman. The dinner is an act of love performed by the entire Winkelman family. One of their adult sons Jeremy, had the idea four years ago to host a dinner for people in the community that had no place to go for Christmas. For the past four years they have been performing this service.
The Winkelmans have nine children. I’m not sure how many grandchildren, but the kitchen and the serving tables were full of Winkelmans cooking, serving, and delivering a delicious Christmas feast of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams with marshmellow, green beans, and two kinds of cranberry sauce. For dessert there was a choice of pumpkin or apple pie.
Altogether, the Winkelmans served approximately 50 dinners to people in the church dining hall and delivered several dozen more meals to shut-ins in the community. They also gave a Christmas present to every person who came.
I had just heard a sermon on giving and now I saw giving in action. We met many friends at the two gatherings, joyfully sharing spiritual and physical nourishment. Many friends wished Linda a happy birthday as we participated in remembrance of the birth of Christ.
Merry Christmas everybody and a Happy New Year. May the Peace of God that passeth all understanding be with you. May God guide our individual hearts and our leaders and may God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.