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Monday, November 1, 2010

The Advent Conspiracy for My Family

By Rob Phillips

With the Advent season coming up I thought I’d share my family’s approach to making Advent more what we consider “Christ Centered” as opposed to self centered.

Last season many of our church families participated in a study called “The Advent Conspiracy” which championed what many of us (notice I didn’t say you?) have often said about trying to take the commercialism out of the Christmas season and have more focus on the “reason for the season”. I don’t know about your family, but we normally do a poor job of this, after saying all the right words we immediately rush out and spend more than we can afford for family and friends in a way placing an unsaid burden on them to reciprocate.

This year we will be trying something different. While still providing for my son and assorted family member kids, we’ve asked our co workers, family and friends not to spend money on presents for us, rather if they feel they need to do something to make a donation in our name to Compassion International or Centro Christiano. In turn we’re asking our normal gift list to let us know their favorite charities and we will be either giving checks with the charity’s name on them, or contributing directly . . . one example is an orphanage that is near and dear to my wife’s mother, her gift will be a support check for that location. The money Miga and I would normally spend on each other will be split between our advent group’s child in Bangladesh and our Spanish church Centro Christiano.

So this year, instead of burdening our loved ones with gift receipts and the task of standing in return lines for stuff they mostly didn’t need or want, or burdening them with the contest of “did we spend enough or too much money on a gift”, we will spend Christmas with our kids opening presents and the adults sharing family time together.

Hmm, “Rob you left out the God part!” . . . oh yeah! We will also be doing home reading of the Birth of Jesus from the Gospels and Isaiah, and praising our savior in his house, for the celebration of his day, with song and celebration along with our home church family. I don’t want to confuse the Gospel with family values stuff, but I am sure God is pleased whenever we turn our focus from ourselves to others in His name.

Rob Phillips

God's Love at Christmas

This Advent we are going to hear a story. It’s a love story. But don’t worry, it’s not a mushy love story, it is a true love story. It’s the story of how much God loves you.

The story is called “God’s Love at Christmas.”

Once upon a time, actually, at the beginning of time, when God made the world, there was a man named Adam and a woman named Eve. God loved them dearly. He made them. He gave them food, animals, a beautiful garden, and each other. They loved God.

One day Satan, slithered into the garden. He did not love Adam and Eve. He did not love God. He did not want Adam and Eve to love God either. So, he tricked them into disobeying God. They took a bite from fruit that God told them not to eat. They acted like they didn’t love God.

But God still loved them dearly, and He had a plan. Adam and Eve were in trouble. They sinned. They were going to die. Their sons and daughters would die. Their sons’ and daughters’ sons and daughters would die. Their sons’ and daughters’ sons and daughters’ sons and daughters would die . . . all the way down to you and me, and my sons and daughters, and someday your sons and daughters.

But God loves us dearly too. God did not want us to die. God’s love was working to make us free. Free from sin and free from death. God sent forth Jesus, His only Son, whom He loves dearly.

St. John wrote, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). Jesus was born to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus “paid all I owed” through His birth, suffering, death and resurrection and so “set me free.” Because of Jesus, God’s Son, coming to save us, everyone can joyfully say, “God loves me dearly, Loves even me.” (LSB 392) Please join us throughout the season of Advent for our worship services and our home groups/Bible studies as they are all based around this wonderful truth of God's love for us in Christ at Christmas!

Remembering the Past, Anticipating the Future: Part 2

Excerpts from Pastor's Sermon

On October 31st we celebrated our congregations 25th Anniversary. It is always wonderful to look back on the past and remember what God has done for us. It is our past that shapes our present and informs our futures. Just think about the Lord's Supper. When we receive the body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine we do it in remembrance of Christ's past sacrifice on the cross for our sins. The benefits of that sacrifice (the forgiveness of sins, the promise of Christ's presence, strength for our faith) are then given to us when Christ comes to us in that present moment in the meal. And, this informs our future! We know that our future in eternity is secure because here in this meal Jesus is giving us the salvation He won for us on the cross. The past shapes our present and informs our future.

The church is always at work with these three periods of time in mind. We do everything in light of the past. We work hard in the present to do the kingdom work God has called us to so that we may leave a faithful legacy for the future. All of these, the past, present, and future are always at work in the hearts and minds of those who believe in the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

This means, then, that we as a congregation cannot allow ourselves to get stuck in the past. Rather, we must celebrate what God has done in the past for our church and honor it by seeing what God desires for our church in the future. As we look back on God's work in our midst and see where he has brought us, we must ask where He is taking us in the future? What is God's plan for our church and how can we adjust ourselves to make sure we are on board with what He is doing?

I cannot say that I know the future for our church. But, I can say that God has a glorious future for our church. Looking back, we can see the wonderful things He has done. Looking at us now, He has built us up and equipped us with many gifts. All of this, I believe, He has done so we might faithfully and prayerfully seek how we are to utilize these gifts for the furthering of His ministry in Moorpark.

As we look into the next year we see the Lord giving us many wonderful and exciting opportunities. We will begin to have more serious conversations about a building expansion, we will continue to work with Centro Cristiano Hispano on establishing and Lutheran presence in the Hispanic community, and we will be working with a few other congregations through Cures and Connections to find out how we might increase the impact of the Gospel in our little corner of God's creation.

The one thing we know for sure as we look to the future of our church is that there is one thing that will not change, and that is God's love for us in Christ Jesus. God does not change how He feels towards His chosen people, you and me. He loves us through the blood of His Son and has sent His Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts and in our midst. With so great a salvation and so loving a God who has given us so much and is giving us so much, we can boldly move forward as a congregation knowing that this same God will continue to give us so much.

Pastor Bob

Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email