“The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish” (John 1:14).
Hello. The month of December marks the season of Advent, the four Sundays prior to Christmas. Advent is designed to bring the community of faith on a adventure of faith… It starts with the promises foretold and then builds each week toward the mystery and celebration of God becoming human when Jesus moved into our neighborhood! This year could be the beginning of a new family tradition for you. As you read these words, let’s consider how Advent can be a truly remarkable and life-changing ADVENTure of faith. It all starts with…
Grace and gratitude. Yes, Grace and Gratitude are two essential attributes of a thriving community of faith. In fact, more than attendance, giving, and budget, the measure of a thriving community of faith is the measure of:
1) How God’s Grace impacts the community of faith, and
2) How the congregation’s Gratitude impacts the community at large.
Measure these impacts, and you can determine if a community of faith is thriving, or barely surviving, or even dying.
Each day offers ample evidence of God’s abundant blessings. You represent one of those blessings, too! I hope you enjoy the holiday season ahead. We recognize that many of us, along with our families, neighbors, and communities, face challenges and stresses, especially during the holidays. I hope you utilize your networks of connections that ensure your safety, wellness, and vitality. Pray for, and check-in on, neighbors. Give generously to community projects. Invite others to share hospitality at your table, or invite them to worship, or an event. Consider ways to remind others they are not alone this holiday season.
Two Christmas Eve Services— This Christmas, we have two inspiring Christmas Eve services, both held in our Worship Center. Plan to attend with your family and friends. At 10:30 a.m., you are invited to participate in our Morning Christmas Eve Service for the entire family. At 5:00 p.m., join us for our beautiful Candlelight Christmas Eve Worship Service. Experience your favorite Christmas music, Scripture readings, and a message about Jesus’ incarnation. Find out how our live’s can be more energized and purposeful through fresh expressions of the familiar Christmas Story.
As we celebrate 303 years of mission, we continue to learn and grow and make new connections with neighbors of every age. Thank you for the ways you help God’s Grace have impact in your life, and how you express Gratitude with impact on the community! Thank you for your continued support of Cold Spring Church through your participation in worship, prayer and financial gifts, volunteering in mission, and serving in leadership, What you do matters as together we see God do even more amazing things beyond our wildest imaginations! Impact, not effort, matters most.
Caring Compassion— From time to time, we face adversities of health, finance, relationships, crises, and pain. Across the street, across the nation, and around the world, poverty, injustice, violence, abuse, bad behaviors, and persistent oppression affects millions of people. I am grateful for the gifts that our community of faith represents that expresses God’s love and abundance. I celebrate the ways we are working to address our communities’ challenges with more and more of what I call Farming Events— transformational events that are designed to create connections between the community of faith and the community at large. Our hospitality, generosity, worship, witness, and collaborative community work have planted seeds and increased our capacity to show God’s love. Thank you!
Merry Christmas From Our Team—Along with our staff (Jayne, Judy, Scott, Chris, and Bob), our leadership team (session), and our caring team (deacons), I thank you for the privilege of serving greater Cape May with you. We are committed to surprising and delighting you with the spiritual and community resources you need to be a blessing With impact where God sends you every day. I offer prayers of gratitude for you, your families, and the communities we serve all year long.
May you experience God’s Grace, and express Gratitude this Advent and Christmas season!
On the ADVENTure with you,
The Clerk’s Corner, by Rob Riehl, clerk of session, ruling elder
“A Powerful Gift”
Sometimes I wonder what gift can I give this year to someone special in my life. What can I give that they don’t already have? What do I think they need? Better yet, do I know what he/she really wants? What can I give that will be an unexpected surprise? What can I give that is different and yet thoughtful? What can I give that conveys the message that I have carefully chosen the gift they have desired? What gift can I give that shows that I care? These are among the familiar questions we ask ourselves about gift-giving at Christmas.
The true plight of Parker Johnson, the six-month old child born with a cancerous tumor –and not expected to survive –was a lesson about the power of a special gift. It was a gift that confounded medical science seeking a logical reason, caused some to “scratch their heads ( or chins )” in amazement and wonder, and still others instant jubilation for a blessing received! For those who believe, it was the power of prayer; for those who disbelieve, it just had to be “something else”! For those who prayed, it was an answer for a miracle; for those who doubted, it was mere chance or “luck” ! For the cause of these reactions was the undeniable fact that the collective prayers of individuals and church congregations for this baby Parker, his tumor reduced by 75 per cent which, in turn, allowed certain surgical procedures to now be done with the prognosis being favorable for his survival. How could this terminal case be suddenly reversed? For those who believed in the power of prayer, it was an affirmation; for the scoffers and sceptics, it was inexplicable !
Here is a truth that I learned not too long ago that I will share with you: “Everyone is fighting a battle that no one else knows”. That profound thought alone compels me to realize that everyone –including myself– needs the gift of prayer. We easily say “I will pray for you” or write “You are in my thoughts and prayers”, and then due to our delay we often forget –and perhaps later regret! The “business of life” gets in the way and so the offered prayer is not done and the blessing lost. Realize that time is of the essence for most prayers to be effected. “Who knows? Your prayer gift may influence, re-direct, heal, reconcile, or save someone immediately! And as long as you know and God knows, that’s all who really needs to know!
Have you ever considered the biblical truth that God has given us humans, made in His image, a most special gift –a gift that no other created creature on earth has been privileged to possess: the gift of prayer ! We are the only earthly beings who have been granted the means to communicate directly to our Creator —we can converse with God ! He is never too busy, pre-occupied, out-of-town, or asleep on the job. No matter is considered insignificant, silly, or stupid. He can handle all things; nothing is impossible to Him. We are not told to leave a voice-mail, be placed on “hold”, or need to make an appointment. We have instant contact with God –at any time we want and in any place we may be. He is never unavailable to us ! We have an innate “wireless connection” with God; He created us to be in communion with Him –all the time! Anyone who believes in the awesome power of prayer can access this infinite resource. For God reads our hearts; He knows our level of belief. God hears all prayers and answers all prayers —according to His Will and in the fullness of His time. We do not always understand ( or accept ) God’s ways, but He certainly knows our ways ! God is not a “vending machine”; He doesn’t negotiate “quid pro quo” transactions. Therefore, we unconditionally place our faith, our trust, and our hope that God knows what He is doing –that He really is in control !
Think about which gift can last a lifetime; which gift has eternal value; which gift has unlimited power to change the mind and transform the heart of someone in desperate need? Which gift is both free and yet priceless? What gift do you suppose I am describing? It is the gift of prayer ! God has given you, dear reader, the gift of prayer. Especially at Christmas, the gift-giving season. can you give this gift to someone ? Is there someone you know who could use a thoughtful prayer from you? Who comes to mind that the Holy Spirit has placed upon your heart right now? Time may be of the essence; do not procrastinate (and then forget ). Will you give someone this powerful gift of prayer –and do ir right now? God will bless this prayer request !
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
The violent massacre of worshipping neighbors at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas November 5th, All Saints Day, was shocking and overwhelming news. But sadly, it was all too familziar to Americans in that it occurred only five weeks after the Las Vegas mass murders, and many other similar events before that. We learned that children and adults were among the 26 dead, with over 20 wounded. Cold Spring Presbyterian Church and The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) extends its deepest condolences, prayers, and its support to the congregation, its families, and the entire community of Sutherland Springs as it begins to deal with this trauma.
This devastating act reminds us of how fragile and frail human life is when exposed to gun violence and the often associated social and mental health issues that may be underlying and remain untreated in the lives of the perpetrators. Our prayers go out to the congregation and community, and everyone impacted by this tragedy. But prayers are not enough.
When I was a pastor in North Philadelphia, I observed first hand how gun violence destroyed families, took the lives of children, and devastated communities. Our congregation on Ontario Street knew it had to act so with other community partners and law enforcement, we collaborated to create a gun violence prevention program that became an effective model for us, and for other cities, too. I wonder what we might be led to do in our communities now?
This week in Louisville, the Presbyterian Church General Assembly Stated Clerk, the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson II, wrote in a pastoral letter that it is long past time for a “national conversation” on gun violence as a “moral and ethical imperative that demands the action and engagement of people of faith.”
Remember that faith without action does not amount to much. People of faith must engage. But to do so requires us to connect with our neighbors every day of the week. So let’s pray, yes. Let’s make sure we shine the clear Light of Christ and provide a safe place for even more life-affirming and engaging activities for people of every age especially as the holiday season begins.
For 303 years we have cared for this community. We have a solemn responsibility to re-double our best efforts in caring through our worship and mission. We learn once again from our sisters and brothers in Sutherland Springs, our work in the name of Jesus is needed more today than ever. I welcome your thoughts, and especially your acts of love, as we mourn with those who grieve, and work with all others for justice and peace.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).