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Advent | Christmas | The Polar Express

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Read | Luke 2:1-20

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed,[b] who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Most of us have heard the Christmas story. We think about the manger and a perfect and peaceful scene that has been the nativity most of our lives. But when we lean in, when we take a closer look, the wonder of Christmas isn’t in the artificial peace of tradition but the gritty reality of a teenage couple welcoming their child into a world that was already threatening his existence. The real wonder is that this really happened.

When I first saw the Polar Express (which was only a couple weeks ago!), I was immediately struck but how intense it was, whether it was the ominous conductor, the boy from the other side of the tracks trying to get on a little late, or the train sliding across cracking ice, it was stressful! I had seen enough of the story to assume I knew what to expect but it was so much more real and wonderful when I took the time to watch it and soak in the tension that was present in the story.

Christmas can become something that we feel pressured to make into perfect family traditions and tranquil memories but what if the wonder God wants for us this Christmas is more intense, more risky and more real? What if the wonder of Christmas for you is taking the chance on that relationship, that conversation or expressing the grace and forgiveness to someone who doesn’t deserve it and can never earn it back from you?

That’s what’s so wonderful about the first Christmas two millennia ago; we couldn’t earn it and yet it’s because of that fact, not in spite of it, that God sent His Son to earn it on our behalf. His love motivated our relationships and we can reflect the same kind of love because of Him in the lives of those around us. Will you take the chance this year to not only experience Jesus’ love for yourself but to extend to others as well? Whose Christmas depends on it?

 

in Church

Chick-fil-A is closing!

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Have you ever wanted Chick-fil-A on a Sunday? My guess is that unless you’re a vegetarian the answer is yes but you know you can’t ever have it on a Sunday, the business isn’t open anywhere that day of the week. But for the Chick-fil-A just a few blocks from us they will be closing at the end of this month to remodel for a couple months - it’s a big deal! People are genuinely concerned for how they’re going to survive without it. How frustrating will it be when you want that sweet tea, chicken sandwich and waffle fries to drive right by a Chick-Fil-A that you can’t get into?

Kidding aside, it’s an inconvenience but we’ll all make it through (and we’ll have Chick-fil-A at Movie Night on the 25th). What’s really tough though is that we have a problem this fall too. We have people that drive by on Sundays and there simply isn’t a spot for them to park and they keep going. As a matter of fact, with more than 90% of people around us not going to church we definitely DON’T want them to get the message that we don’t have room for them.

As a part of becoming an inviting family we believe in making room for people to be a part of our weekend gatherings and Sunday morning is prime time. We are going to continue to explore the best ways to fit people into our parking lot but we are not in a spot (yet) to add parking spaces. This is where I need your help - did you know that we have a Saturday night service?

Saturday night attendance is an incredible way to help us increase Sunday morning parking availability. I know that you have a routine and a schedule but if you can commit to coming on Saturday nights for September and October you will be literally letting people in on what God is doing at Eastern Hills and immediately helping us and you become an inviting family.

It’s one thing to be inconvenienced with chicken but it’s something so much greater to unintentionally turn people away from the hope and the help that might make the ultimate difference in their life and family this year.

Please pray and plan on helping us with this over the next couple months.

Grace and peace,

Phil

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