It's really encouraging to be part of a church where prayer is such an important part of our culture and values. Many years ago we named 'Fervent Prayer' as a core value - part of our DNA - and this continues to be the case today. Our corporate prayer on Sunday is the tip of the iceberg. Small groups and prayer triplets are meeting every week. We read our Bibles and pray individually. We pray for and pray with each other in good times and difficult times. This is a simple but effective ministry in which we all share - to uphold each other in prayer, and uphold our neighbours in prayer too.
I'm struck this week by the pace of change. COVID rules and risks, energy transition, inflation, property prices - we live in crazy times. I'm sure it's overwhelming for many. How our world needs to know more than ever that there's an Almighty God who cares for them (Mt 6:26)! As we work through Paul's spiritual armour in Ephesians 6 as part of our current teaching series, we are reminded in v. 18 that an important part of sharing the Good News is prayer: "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
So, if you pray regularly and fervently, thank you. If you're part of a group that meets regularly for prayer, thank you. If you're part of leading and modelling prayer in our worship services, thank you. This is all important work. Please continue to pray for our church as we navigate change and transition. But above all pray for God's Kingdom to come a bit closer every day.
On 7 December (a Tuesday evening) we're planning to run a prayer meeting which is open to anyone who would like to attend. If you are part of a small group, please consider coming to the prayer meeting instead of your regular gathering that week. We want to continue highlighting that prayer is the engine room of the church. Dedicated events such as this raise the profile of prayer within our church and help us encourage each other.
Christmas is a beautiful time to remember how thankful and grateful we are. It is a great time of celebration as we prepare to celebrate both the birth of Jesus, and the truth that he will come again. A time when families get together. Join us for the prayer night this Tuesday either in person or online as we gather as a church family with our Father in heaven. Please don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this important event in the life ofour church. The last two years COVID has changed many lives and families and for most of us our family gatherings havebeen different. Those with families overseas are learning to skype and connect electronically. Its not the same but it a wayof connecting. COVID has also affected our church family and we would like to encourage our church family to re-connect with each other. Our relationships across the congregation have been affected by lock-downs, limited social events, social distancing, so we are hoping that these events, the family picnic, morning teas, carols etc will encourage us to mix together and provide opportunities to invite friends and others along. COVID has had other effects. Some people have lost employment, and though government assistance has helped families, many are struggling financially and our Community Helping Hand is one way that we seek to assist people. Yourcontinuing support financially or with time and skills enables this ministry to continue and people’s lives to be changed for the better. Thank you to Ros and Jo and the team. Through the hampers of hope and joy we have been able to reach to needy families who have sought assistance from our local school chaplains. Next week’s lunch for those who are a part of Community Helping hand sees us reaching out to those in our community. Others have suffered bereavements and our service of Solace next week provides a gentle, reflective way to honour those we have lost. This is also an opportunity to invite friends or others who are more on the edge of our church community. They are welcome as we gather andcelebrate. Take some time this Christmas to pray for those who are in need. For those refugees and those seeking asylum, for those in quarantine waiting for permission to go home, for those who live rough on the streets. Though we can not meet everyone’s needs we need to start somewhere and make a difference. Thank you to those members of our congregation who do just that. In this Advent/ Christmas season think about how you can enrich and bless the life of at least one other person. Share with them the truth of Emmanuel, meaning God with us this Christmas.
There are so many good things happening this week and so much to be thankful for. It is the end-of-year Boys and Girls Brigade Parade, which is a great opportunity to celebrate the partnership between the Emmanuel Congregation and Boys and Girls Brigade. This partnership is real and it is fruitful as witnessed by the young men and women that are currently, and those that have been in the past, blessed by the leadership and programs of the Brigades to grow and develop in faith. There are men and women in our congregation who owe some of their Christian growth and development to the energy and effort of their Brigade leaders. It is a tremendous opportunity today to celebrate that partnership. Today is also the beginning of Advent and the start of the church year. Advent is a time when we take seriously the desire to prepare well. The lead-up to Christmas and to the end of the year is always a busy time. There are lots of events and activities both within and outside the church. Advent is a time when amidst the hustle and bustle we take time to reflect on what Christmas is really about. Christmas is about the coming of Jesus and so we prepare ourselves by looking back and celebrating Jesus’ birth and also to look forward to celebrate Jesus coming again. Both are important as we think about what Christmas is about.
Amidst all of the celebrations that happen at this time of year let’s make sure that Jesus is in the middle of our celebrations. I encourage you to use our Advent devotional material. The Jesse tree material reflects on the people and events from Creation to Jesus birth following the genealogical line of Jesus family. It reminds us of God’s saving grace through the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Esther, Isaiah, Jonah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Micah, Zachariah, Mary and Joseph leading up to Jesus’ birth, reflecting on a different person each day. We have an event packed Advent season here at Emmanuel so please have a look at what is happening and how you can be a part of things.
It is hard to believe that we are in November already and that the end of the year is fast approaching. November means a few things for me. The most pressing one is preparation for the Advent and Christmas. How do we celebrate in a meaningful way the anticipation and expectation of both the coming of Jesus and his promise that he will come again. How do we get ready to inspire ourselves and others with the miraculous birth of Jesus. And its important to remember that Advent and Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus in the manger 2000+ years ago. It is also about preparing ourselves for Jesus coming again. In fact originally Advent was solely about preparing for Jesus coming again, and the focus on the first coming and the birth of Jesus only came later. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration, while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. And so Advent is a balancing of those two themes of remembering Christ’s coming and anticipating he coming again. For the church we celebrate this season of Advent from late November till 24 December. The 25 December is the start of the Christmas season for the church. And as the song goes there are 12 days of Christmas with Christmas officially ending on 5 January. So amidst the hustle and bustle of the world celebrating ‘Christmas’ how do you ensure you have time and space to prepare for celebrating both the birth of Jesus but also his coming again? Do you actually think about Jesus coming again, and what difference would it make if you did? Jesus is coming again. What difference does it make? And what are you going to do about it?