The gifts have been opened and the feast has been shared. All the hurried weeks of shopping and planning and preparation are over. Families have come together for gifting and reunion, some good and others maybe not so good. Christmas is over. At least that’s what the world would have us believe. But for us Catholics, Christmas only BEGINS on Christmas Day. For us, Christmas lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on Sunday, January 8. It’s not just a single day, but an entire liturgical season. And when Christmas is celebrated over weeks instead of just one day the enormity of the Incarnation can begin to be experienced.
Christmas is about new beginnings. In the birth of Christ, God’s plan for our salvation begins to unfold before our eyes. What was foretold throughout the Old Testament as the coming of the Messiah is now an historical fact. Christ is our new beginning. Our hope for heaven has come to a manger in Bethlehem. God has a face and a name. He has a mother and a foster father who love Him beyond measure and who will, in just a few weeks, be forced to flee into Egypt with Him when King Herod sets in motion a plot to have Him murdered. But in those first few days, it’s just Joseph and Mary and Jesus together --- the Holy Family.
And I think maybe family is what these late December days should really be about. We look at the baby Jesus and we see His innocence and His dependency. Just like any baby, He reaches out for warmth and food, for comfort and for love. He is as captivated by the shepherds and their lambs as He is by the famous Magi and their expensive gifts. Everyone is welcome in His nursery. Right now, as we look upon Him, we don’t see the trials and sufferings yet to come, we see only the newborn and His family.
In the Holy Family of God we see everything a family needs. We see Mary, whose sinless heart humbly found perfect favor with the Lord and below that heart, made room for the Messiah to enter into time and become one of us. Today in America 40% of all our babies aren’t allowed to be born at all, but are aborted by their mothers. Many young women, finding themselves as Mary was, pregnant and unmarried, are pressured by their boyfriends or their family to abort their child. St. Joseph heard God’s message and stood by Mary and her baby. He loved the Lord and he loved Mary, in that order. He put his own concerns at their service and was rewarded with the Son of God. Both Mary and Joseph centered their lives on Jesus and though suffering came to them as it comes to all our families, they grew together in love and in faith.
Every Christmas is another visit to Bethlehem to enter into the newness of Christ. It’s an opportunity to look within our own families and see if we have our priorities straight. Do we pray and worship together every Sunday? Do we regularly encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Confession? Do we keep Christ at the center of our decision-making? Are we making sure our children are educated in the Catholic faith? Do we support the Church financially and the pro-life causes of adoption and foster-parenting? The Infant Jesus calls to us in His innocence. He asks us to stay a while with Him in the manger tonight and to keep watch over Him with His family. He doesn’t ask for gifts or tribute, just your time and attention. Just to be with Him. Just to love Him. And He’d love it if you brought your family with you.
“Let the stable still astonish: straw, dirt floor, dull eyes, dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen:
Crooked, crumbling walls;
No bed to carry that pain, and then, the Child.
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry in a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: “Yes, let the God of all the heavens and the earth be born here, in this place?”
Who but the same God, Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms of our hearts and says,
“Yes, let the God of heaven and earth be born HERE---in this place.”
----by L.L. Fields
Charlotte McGuffey, Salem Baptist Church
I hope everyone had a nice Christmas and enjoyed spending time with family and friends. Most of all, I hope you attended church somewhere on December 25 because, after all, Jesus is the reason for the season. Without him, there would be no Christmas. I hope our children and young people are being taught this at home as well as at church.
Research has shown that a child’s religious beliefs at age 13 set the tone for their life in most cases. Are you satisfied with your child’s Christian training?
At a special called business meeting on December 21, our church voted to call Rev. Josh Hollifield as our interim pastor. He served as youth director at Salem from 1996 to 1998 and has since been called to preach the gospel. We welcome Josh and his wife, Jennifer, and their four children to our fellowship.
Pete Ware spent several days in Greenville, South Carolina visiting with Matthew, Jody, Natalie and Nicholas. He loves time spent with the grandchildren and playing with them.
Jennifer Kenner spent last weekend with Jane and Bobby Daniel and family recently.
Our prayer list: Loma Hullender, Jack Leigh, Bill Davidson, Mary Eslinger, Randall Hale, Kay Rhymer, Dana Cornelison, Holly Stockburger, Paul Tatum and Carolyn Tatum, Valerie O’Brien, Fae Ensley, Elizabeth Elliott, Hubert Ashley, and many others.
Reba Payne and April Kenner visited with Charles and Linda Forester on Sunday afternoon.
Marie Massengill and Lori Massengill spent Christmas week visiting Marie’s granddaughter, Kristin Hooper, and family in Oklahoma. Marie couldn’t wait to be with those great-grandchildren, Raley Marie and her baby brother.
Why Attend Church Regularly?
Because – God Expects It – Hebrews 10:25.
Because – Faith Requires It – Romans 10:17
Because – The Inner Man Needs It – 1st John 1:3.
Margie Stringer, North Whitfield Baptist
The Christmas season has come and gone and we’ll soon start a new year and I’m hoping for a better one. This last year has about wore me out.
Pray for Connie Norman who had surgery on her shoulder on Wednesday and came home that night and is in a lot of pain. It will just take time to recover. We will miss her Christmas cooking.
Pray for Francis and Debbie Joplin. They really need your prayers.
Dennis Killian preached on last Wednesday night and did a fine job.
Bro. Larry Keaton is at home after heart surgery. Pray for him he can’t do anything but sit around and take it easy.
Bro. Stringer and I visited my sister, Mildred, on Thursday and she insisted on taking us to Richard’s for lunch. We enjoyed it very much. I really was glad to see Emma there.
We were sorry to learn of the death of Gene Beasley who passed away after a long illness. We didn’t know about it until it was to late to go. I hope the family understands. We loved all of them.
Keep praying for Jerry Dean and Francis Krans, Gary Bridges, Jerry Allen, Daisy Quarles, Jackie and Annie Mae Terry, Norma Headrick, Elizabeth and Wanda Mathis.
I appreciated all my cards, especially the one from Dale Eslinger. He said he fell back in the summer and broke his ankle. I hope your doing good now and Pray for his mother too.
Thanks for all the prayers for my boys, they are doing much better but still have some bad days but the Lord has spared them another year.
Thanks to Kathryn Bryson and James for bringing us a banana nut bread loaf for Christmas and two or three jars of canned stuff. She has done this for years. Bless her heart.
We will be having a watch service on Saturday night at 7:30. We will have three groups of singers, Pete Reed and his singers, Earl Roberts and the Sonlight Quartet and other church singers and two or three preachers, Bro. George Witt, Jeremy Fincher and Craig Westbrook.
Happy Birthday to a granddaughter, Tori Johnson on Dec. 23. She was 17. Happy belated Birthday wishes to Jeff Greeson on Dec. 18. He was the big 50. Also pray for him, he was in the hospital and I believe he had two stents. Jeff you need to slow down and take care of yourself. We love you.