Greetings to Lakewood First United Methodist Church Family in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

Christmas is indeed a time of thanksgiving and gift-giving. We especially thank God for the gift of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ at Christmas. Essie and I are thankful to God for the opportunity to serve the grace-filled people of Lakewood First. We also take this opportunity to thank you for your amazing gifts to us this Christmas. Never have we seen anything more thoughtful and beautiful! We will forever cherish our time with you! May God continue to bless you in all you do.

I hope each of you had a joyous and meaningful Christmas. The Scriptures tell us that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1. May we be open to God’s timing and be assured of God’s presence, no matter what time or season it is in our lives.

Our celebration of Christmas at Lakewood First included: A Christmas Cantata— “Journey of Promises;” Christmas Eve Family Worship at 7PM; and a Lessons and Carols and Communion Service at 11PM. Thanks to everyone who participated in these celebrations.

The Christmas season is still with us. Our Book of Worship tells us that: “Christmas is a season of praise and thanksgiving for the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Christmas, in essence, begins on Christmas Eve and continues through January 6, the Day of Epiphany.” (BOW, page 269).

As Christians, Epiphany still has special significance as it represents a celebration of the magi’s visit to the Christ child. In secular language, an epiphany is a new way of seeing or understanding. It is so appropriate that we should begin a new year with an epiphany, a new way of seeing— a vision or an image of what our world can be— of what our lives can yet be.

Like the magi or wise men from the East, opening our minds and stretching our imaginations can be truly rewarding. Scriptures tell us when they found the new-born king, they got on their knees and worshiped him. They offered him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh—gifts that proved significant in the life of Jesus. Matthew 2: 1-12.

The magi’s joyful worship of the newborn king is a model to be followed, for they worshiped the Savior of the world, with joy, reverence, and awe. May we continue to strive for joy, reverence, and awe in worship, in response to God’s presence and love. There are many journeys we can take in today’s world, many voices we can listen to, many stars that we can follow. But only one leads us towards the path of the kingdom.

As we come to the end of another year and the beginning of a new year, let us continue to seek God’s guidance, stop and listen for God’s whispers; and watch for God’s open doors. Our loving God responds to the words: “why” when we are searching for truth; “when” as we wait for the mystery of tomorrow to unfold; and “how” as we wait for direction. As St. Paul advised the Philippian church: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 6 & 7.

I believe the New Year holds amazing treasures for Lakewood First! Therefore, I challenge you today to continue your faith journey with a focus on the spiritual disciplines of worship, study, and prayer, as we pursue our ministries and hold conversations on God’s purpose for our lives. Keep in mind these questions: What vision do you have for your church in the New Year? Where do you think God is leading us?

As we look forward to the days ahead, let us bear in mind Christ’s teachings and his sacrifice for us. May we continue to work and grow together, making disciples for Jesus Christ along the way, for the transformation of the world!

Essie joins me in wishing you and yours, God’s blessings of peace, joy and love, this Christmastide, and throughout the New Year!

Grace and peace,