Pastor Linda Settles
Faith that Moves
Theme for 2023: Faith Forward – The Year of Extraordinary Faith!
Are you still dwelling in that Christmas glow? Or should I say the Christmas hangover? You packed so much into the weeks and days ahead of Christmas that the day itself seems like a blur! It went by so fast that you didn’t really get to enjoy it, but as long as everyone else did, you’re happy.
Now, it’s time to turn the page and bring in a whole new year! Exciting isn’t it? A year full of opportunities, a blank page waiting for you to start writing on it. And while our problems from 2022 won’t have disappeared, the possibilities of something new beckons to us.
Maybe you’ve got a new journal for 2023 or a new book of devotions (by the way, don’t forget to pick up your new Upper Room devotion). Or maybe you’ve resolved to exercise more in the coming year. There’s something about the ending of one year and the newness of the next year that instills hope in us.
The word “resolution” has many definitions, one of which is to determine to do something. You resolve to lose ten pounds, to be kinder to people, or to go back to school. But there’s another definition that speaks to me: a measure of the sharpness of an image; the ability to distinguish parts of an object, or sources of light.
A long time ago, there were some astrologers who distinguished a certain star. This star’s resolution was clear and crisp, and it was far brighter than any other stars. It stood out on its own. And it caused some astrologers from the east to set out on a journey.
Over the years we have referred to these magi as the three wise men, or the three kings. Psalm 72 speaks of kings bringing gifts and bowing down before the king of righteousness, and some scholars think that started the tradition of calling them kings. But Matthew’s gospel does not seem to be preoccupied with who they were, but with what they did.
These wise men reacted to the action of God breaking into human history. They saw the Savior’s calling card!
In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.”
All they had to go on was a star! But this star was the one they had heard of, the one that signaled the birth of the Light of the world! And they had to follow it. These magi were seeking something they knew nothing about, but the pull was so strong they had to go. Can you imagine? They were drawn to this incomparable light in the sky, and all they knew was that it was signaling the birth of the king of the Jews. So, they did what any wise person would do, they followed it.
…and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen in the east, until it stopped over the place where the child was.
By now, they had been traveling for a couple of years. Weary, but driven. Tired, yet excited. Wondering, yet seeking. Because when the Light is seen, when a glimpse of what is possible is given, when God’s love for Creation comes into clear resolution, there’s only one proper response. And it was their intent from the beginning, the very reason they left the comfort of their homes…
10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold,
frankincense, and myrrh.
The first thing they felt was joy and the first thing they did was worship! The Light had been revealed, the Savior had been born indeed! They followed the light to get to the Light. Their faith moved them in the direction of Jesus. And all they could do when they saw Him was to worship Him.
And while the shepherds were the first to see Jesus, and they no doubt spread the word in their communities, these men were from far away lands. The gospel, the good news of Jesus, was about to be taken out to the world! Jesus the Light of the world!
This Sunday is Epiphany Sunday, which is significant because after the season of Advent, a time of waiting for the arrival of the newborn King, then comes Epiphany, which signals the manifestation of the Light, the brilliant appearance of Jesus incarnate to the world.
Epiphany means “the light shines forth” or “the light is made manifest.” So yes, it is a wonder that God became flesh in a unique and powerful way, something that our human minds cannot comprehend. But it is also a wonder that it was seen by astrologers who so believed that this was the star, that they followed it. You could say that their faith moved them to follow the star.
Church, does your faith move you to go where the Lord leads you? Maybe you’ve felt the pull of serving. We have so many opportunities for you to follow that pull. Or perhaps you’ve felt the nudge of the Spirit to pray for someone. Don’t let shyness stop you! The magi went through all kinds of obstacles (including Herod!), all kinds of weather, and they didn’t let anything stop them from moving forward in their faith. May we do the same. Don’t let anyone or anything, including yourself, stop you from moving forward in your faith. Jesus is calling you into 2023 with a new resolve, a new attitude, a new determination to live out your calling. May it be so!
I invite you to join us for worship this Sunday, as we celebrate Epiphany Sunday! We will also begin a new sermon series, based on our theme for the year - Faith Forward: The Year of Extraordinary Faith! This Sunday’s message is: Faith That Moves. You can worship in-person or you can also join us online at 10:00am. For online worship go to www.umcgt.org.
Bach Concert on Sunday, January 15 at 3:00pm. Come and hear this glorious concert of truly gifted musicians, and the amazing things that our new organ can do!
CDF Survey Extended to January 8! As part of the Green Trails church’s participation in the Children’s Defense Fund cohort, each congregation is being asked to complete an anonymous survey on the ministries of your church. Please click the link and complete the survey at your earliest convenience. Here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/UnitedMethodistGreenTrailsCDF
If you would rather do a paper copy, you can pick one up at the Welcome Center and drop it off at the church office during business hours. This will also help us to get a finger on the pulse of our church!
Charge Conference for 2022 in 2023! The charge conference that we normally have in October has been scheduled (by the district) for January 7, 2023 via Zoom. This is when the church recognizes the change in leadership on the Leadership Board and the Nominations & Leadership Development Team (NLDT), as well as other reports on property and lay ministry. The conference starts at 10:00am that day, and the Zoom link will go out when we receive it.
WOW Returns! The Word on Wednesday Bible study will start back on Wednesday, January 11. We kick off with a time of fellowship and potluck dinner at 5:45p. If you have questions on the potluck, please contact G-Gay Harris. If you want to come for the Bible study only, that begins at 6:30p and ends at 7:30p. One of the classes will be on Christian Virtues, led by Tim Felthouse. Let’s move our faith forward by studying the Word together!
Our Christmas gift to you! Looking for some good, wholesome content for the kiddos and grandkiddos? Looking for something to spark your marriage, or help with parenting skills? How about a good old study on a book of the Bible? We’ve got that and then some! It’s a program called RightNow Media. It’s like a Christian Netflix for Bible study, with so many options for your viewing pleasure. And it’s our Christmas gift to you! That’s right, you can click on the link below, create your own login, and enjoy thousands of titles. You can even do a watch party with friends! From Max Lucado to Jennie Allen to Andy Stanley and Bibleman! There’s something for everyone in your family. Enjoy!
Faith Forward Challenge A brand new year is on the horizon. A great time to challenge yourself to do something new. So, I have a challenge for you. I’m calling it Faith First because the goal is to put God first in our lives by:
First 15 – use the first 15 minutes of each morning to engage in:
GRATITUDE 5 minutes being grateful
RENEWAL 5 minutes reading
WORSHIP 5 minutes in prayer and meditation
First Day – spend the first day of the week in worship
First Fruits – increase your generosity of time, talent, & treasure
What a way to start your year! In fact, we could start our meetings with First 15, start Sunday School with First 15…get it? Set the tone for the day or whatever the activity is, by spending the First 15 minutes with God. Then spend the first day of the week in the house of God with the people of God. And may I encourage you to consider God first, before we plan our time, talent, and giving elsewhere. When God is our priority, things begin to change! Moving forward in faith by putting our Faith First! Take the challenge!
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!
2 Corinthians 5:17
Happy New Year!