December 19, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 51

Christmas Messages from Petersburg's Ministers

Luke 2:13, 14

Luke 2:13, 14: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

After receiving Jesus as my Lord and Savior in 1973 I began a journey of revelation I never expected. Like any other human on the planet my ideas don’t always match God’s. I assumed the declaration of this phrase concerning Jesus was all about world peace. Even Jesus followers had their own ideas as they were being discipled by Jesus the Messiah. 

They due to prophecy pictured Him coming as a conquering savior like Moses or Gideon or David to rid us of our oppressors then let us get on with our lives.

 Imagine the disillusionment they felt when He was crucified, then after the resurrection goes off again and leaves them seemingly to fend for themselves before an audience of witnesses that probably recognize them as, 'one of those' Jesus followers.

Yet it happened all according to the perfect plan of God and so in that, I find there are treasures of truth that only are exposed through seeking and digging.

The peace the angels declared is found in the restored relationship God provided by this Lamb of God, this newborn King and all He fulfilled for us.

The Hebrew word translated 'peace' is the word shalom. It is a powerful word in truth in that it reveals God’s desire to bring order to chaos not so much in the world governments, but in the individual, then through the individual to their world around them, meaning home, and then wherever you are.

Shalom is a blessing of heavenly desire that requires a heart to receive it. Though it is God’s desire for the world to receive shalom, yet it is at the choice of the individual. 

I found this peace as one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit that are released into the heart of the person filled with the Holy Spirit.

It is so powerful even oppressive governments have not been able to stamp it out. Why? Because it is a supernatural promise from a God who keeps His promises. 

In Colossians 3:15 the apostle Paul encouraged us, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which you were called in the body; and be thankful.” The implication is to let God’s peace act as the umpire of your heart. The catch is, He first must have access, which only you can give. There is truly only one Prince of Peace, He is not in the White House or some man-made seat of government but requires the throne of your heart.  

Pastor Lloyd Thynes

Bethesda Fellowship

Make Christ the

center of celebrating

Charles Dickens, the English novelist, left us with a poignant reminder of what the Christmas season is all about in his memorable short story — “A Christmas Carol”. Returning to a dark home on Christmas Eve Ebenezer Scrooge is confronted by the ghost of his long-time business partner, Jacob Marley, who brings to Ebenezer’s mind the wasted years and missed opportunities that had been the pattern of their lives. Scrooge tries to ease the tension and comfort his old partner by saying, “You always were a good man of business, Jacob.” Jacob, who in death is able to see more of the purpose of life than his mortal partner, impatiently leaps to his feet, wrings his hands and cries out, “Business? Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were, all, my business.”

Unknowingly, we too may have become as short-sighted as Scrooge by allowing the commercialization of Christmas to drown out its true meaning and significance. In so many ways, Christmas is becoming less and less about Christ and more about parties, marketing and gifts. Perhaps the most important gift we can give ourselves and others is to see that Christ is once again the center of what we celebrate.

The Apostle James said, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep [ourselves] unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27) As we reflect on the Savior this Christmas season, let us remember what Christ’s life was all about — as he dedicated himself to the needs and the concerns, not of himself, but of those around him. Honoring Jesus Christ as we celebrate His birth, and reflecting His teachings and His values in our encounters with one another will bring us the peace and joy that He promised us.

John Bringhurst

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Give your sins to Jesus

As I was doing my other Christmas shopping, I got the hint from the Holy Spirit that God wanted something from me that was unique. I was reflecting on what was uniquely mine and I had difficulty discerning what it might be. I was looking for that which is of my own making, which I did not receive from God. If I am honest with myself all that I have received and continue to receive comes loving from God. Starting with the gift of my life, every breath, every new morning, every friendship and all my talents and abilities are God’s gifts to me.

I was stumped. Everything that I am is God’s gift, so what could be this uniqueness that the Holy Spirit is prompting me give back to God?

I realized that it was my sinfulness, because sin in alone is my unique creation. God does not create sin or suffering. It is me who injures others and receives injury because of sin. In the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy there is a practice of place our sins into the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because He is most desirous of them. God the Father sent Jesus to save us from our sins, to heal our wounds and ease our suffering. Jesus ministry is to invite us into the divine life of the Trinity now and for eternity.

I knew that Jesus came to save us from our sins, yet did He really want me to give Him my sins and suffering? The angel said to Joseph in a dream, “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21) In the Communion Rite we pray, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world” three times and “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.” The more I prayed and investigated this issue I came to realize that Jesus is most desirous of my sin and suffering. It is the only part of me that I created myself and is the most appropriate gift to give back to Jesus.

Before you open the gifts under your tree, take a moment to confess your sins to God, giving Jesus the gift he most desires.

Fr. Thomas Weise

Pastor, St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church

One Light – Jesus Christ

I love Christmas lights. So much so, that I have become a bit of a Christmas tree light snob. I only allow white lights on our Christmas tree, with a steady glow, no blinking! I’m serious!

But what I really love to do is drive around town and see all the houses that have their Christmas lights up. It really brightens up my holidays to see these wonderful displays. Living in Alaska, with the winter nights, it’s easy to let the darkness get to us. These lights help to break through that darkness.

Darkness comes in many forms though, and while we may have physical darkness in the winter, there is a spiritual darkness in our world all year long. If we just turn on the news we see that this is a dark world to live in: school shootings, human trafficking, theft and corruption seem to abound. The darkness closes in around us. But we have hope in the Light of Christmas.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of one candle.” This holiday season, be a light in a dark world. Lend a hand, show some love, give of your time to those in need. Spread light this Christmas and fight the darkness.

Ultimately there is one Light that we focus on this holiday season - Jesus Christ. In John 1:4-5 we read “In Him was life, and that life was the Light of all mankind. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus, the Light of Christmas, came to break through the darkness, that we all may have the light of life. Let His light shine this holiday season. God bless you.

Lt. Caleb Fankhauser, Corps Officer

The Salvation Army Petersburg Corps

May we find the Peace of Christ

December 1914. For months they had fought as fierce a battle as the world had even seen. From the cold, muddy trenches each day they had aimed their deadly rifles at the hated enemy. Many died or others suffered from the violence and hatred. Then on Christmas Eve, the guns fell silent, a truce declared for but a day.

Out of the darkness of the cold night a lonely German soldier longing for the comforts of home and family began singing “Silent Night.” British and French soldiers also lonely for families far away responded with “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Soldiers, lonely not only for home and family, but lonely for peace.

Then in an act more brave than can be imagined one brave solider climbed out of the trenches and walked across the battle field carrying not a weapon of war but a white flag of truce. Soon this brave soul was joined by men from both sides. Instead of exchanging bullets and bombs these men of war shared food, candies, cigarettes, and pictures of families back home. Fierce enemies became friends on a battle field. Friends bound by the belief in a child born long ago in a manger, a child proclaimed to be the Prince of Peace

May this Christmas we find the Peace of Christ in our hearts, our families and in our world.

Bob Carter

First Presbyterian Church

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

As we once again move towards Christmas, and then New Years Day, I want to take just a moment to encourage everyone here in Petersburg, to pause and consider just how good God has been to us over this past year.

I believe the Holiday Season doesn't need to be filled with stress and anxiety when we realize the purpose for celebrating these wonderful times of the year... and new year!

November brought us the simple reminder that thankfulness is truly the kind of spirit we are to have, and this thankfulness will be more meaningful when we are all thankful to those around us; family, friends and especially those who serve our community like first responders i.e our volunteer fire department, police, EMT’s, search and rescue all the medical personnel who jump at a moments notice when a life is in peril, as well as our gracious God above us. 

I found a beautiful verse of scripture on thankfulness out of the Message version of the Bible: 1 Chronicles 29:13 (MSG) “And here we are, O God, our God, giving thanks to you, praising your splendid Name”.

I encourage you to continue to focus on this spirit of thanksgiving during this Holiday Season, and I really believe God will give you a tremendous appreciation for the Christ of Christmas as well.  More than the "tinsel and the toys", and more than "bustle and the noise", is the realization that Jesus came to earth over 2000 years ago for you and for me and my prayer is we will all come to know the blessed gift of redemption in the Babe of Bethlehem!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and May 2014 be your best year ever!

Pastor Mike Schwarte, Petersburg Lutheran Church

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