There's Always Next Year
This last October something happened for the first time since 1908. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Year after year, for 108 straight seasons, the Cub’s efforts would end in defeat, and the fans from the Northside of Chicago (including our own Pastor Tom) had a mantra that said: “There's always next year.”
For us, too, a New Year offers new hope. Soon 2016 will turn into 2017. One thing I appreciate about New Year’s Day is that it has the ability to help us mark the time, and also contemplate what has been and what could be. It does not matter what 2016 was like, 2017 has the promise to be something completely different. There are endless possibilities ahead for you and me.
One year from now we could be more hopeful, or more cynical. We could be more empathetic, or more selfish. We could be more rooted in Christ, or more rooted in the thinking of the world.
I appreciated an article written for The Gospel Coalition by Joe Carter (no not the baseball star). In the article he suggests that rather than making a New Year’s resolution (which at least 50% of the time are not kept anyway) instead as Christians we should instead seek to create one new healthy habit for the year. Habits, he says, form our characters. Habits are the thousands of little choices that over time make us who we are.
What might God be calling you to this year? Is it daily Bible reading and prayer? Could it be time away from screens? Or taking one day a week to rest? What are some healthy habits you and I could build into our lives? What are some of the little victories that over time will transform us to be more like Christ?
It does not matter what kind of year 2016 was, for a new year is ahead of us.
Proverbs 4:18 tells us that “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” All things that happen to us, good and bad, are used by God to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:29). The perennial hope of God’s people is that “there is always next year.” The sun shines brighter every year for God’s people. As we enter into this New Year of 2017, may we greet it with hope knowing that Jesus is at work within us and within this world.
Happy New Year!
ONE FAMILY’S CHRISTMAS GIFT
Christmas is a time for reaching out to those in need, as Christ reached out to us when He came into the world to die for our sins. Recently Bethel was privileged to act in Jesus’ name to make a difference in one family’s life. The following note from Bethel member Carley Clarke, contained in a Christmas card intended for our whole church family, tells the story:
A few months back I requested assistance from the church for a low income family who were moving to a new home. Their prior home had been infested with bed bugs, and they were left with very few belongings—they had to throw out all their furniture.
I made the request to [one of the deacons]—and how giving hearts blessed this family! About one month ago I sat in their new house filled with amazement, joy, and praise to our Saviour! Their entire home was furnished. They had dishes and bedding. The Lord had most certainly ignited hearts to respond to their need.
I was compelled to share this miracle with you. Praise God for His mercy and compassion!
Love - Carley Clarke
Sometimes the needs of the world seem so great, and our efforts to help so small. But this letter from an ambassador to our church’s neighbourhood suggests that we have brought joy to one family. That is no small thing, because each person and each family matters to God.–Pastor Tom
A God Who Made Space For Us
This Sunday we will be talking about the hospitality of God demonstrated in the Christmas story. The truth is that God did not need to create us because He was lonely. Father, Son and Spirit had perfect fellowship amongst themselves for all eternity, and yet they made space for us! They made space for you. Despite our shortcomings God loved us, and sent His Son to enfold us again in His love.
When Jesus is sent into the world, born a little baby boy in the town of Bethlehem we see the wide reach of God’s hospitality. Wisemen from the East followed a star and sought to worship the new King of the Jews. These men were Gentiles and astrologers! They were certainly not the typical people one would think would turn to a Jewish King. Gifts were given of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The story never tells us that Mary and Joseph turned them away because they were different. We know that they freely received the gifts. I believe this is significant because by receiving the gifts, they were accepting the givers. They allowed themselves to be served, and made space so their son could be worshipped. This is hospitality.
This Christmas we are reminded of a God who has made space for all who make space for Him in their hearts, whether foreign astrologers or rugged shepherds. Created in the Image of God we are most human when we do the same. Welcoming the Stranger is the heart of the Gospel and we can “Become Like Christ” when we truly “Share Him with Others.” Who might God be calling you to welcome this Christmas into your home, at your table, into your life?
A SPECIAL CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE
Bethel Church’s Christmas Eve celebration promises to be very special this year. Be sure to invite your friends and loved ones. Here are some of the things that make Christmas Eve an evening to look forward to.
The service will be directed at all generations. Activity bags will be made available for the children when they come in. When it is time for the message, the younger children will be welcomed to the front of the sanctuary to watch and participate in the message. The kids will be told the Christmas story in a manner children from ages three to ninety three should be able to appreciate.
It will be a candle-lighting service. Many people have fond memories of watching a single flame spread from candle to candle to brighten the darkness of the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. The practice speaks poignantly to what the message of Christmas is all about. Last year, for the first time in many years, Bethel hosted a candle-lighting service on Christmas Eve. We look forward to doing so again.
Hot apple cider will be served after the service. It is always enjoyable to linger with old friends and to meet new ones. Our fellowship time after the service, will give us opportunity to do that.
The most wonderful part of the evening, of course, will be our celebration of Christ’s birth. Some people may be hearing the Christmas story from “Christ haunted hearts”—that is, from hearts estranged from God, needing what only Christ can give. Others will be hearing a familiar story that contains reason for fresh hope. Whatever our state of heart, the evening will offer Christmas’s Good News to encourage us on our journey.
Our services will be held at 4:00 and 6:00 pm. You are welcome to bring children of all ages into the sanctuary. (There will be no nursery, but the cry room will be available).
I look forward to seeing you there!--Pastor Tom
Renewal at Bethel Church--
Where Are We at?
We as a church have committed to a two-year learning journey called “The Church Renewal Lab.” Every four months we send an eleven-person team to take in a full-day seminar on the topic of church revitalization. The team listens and learns and then comes home with reading assignments for themselves and for the church. (Currently the Managing Elders, Shepherding Elders, and Deacons are reading and discussing a book called From Embers to a Flame.)
This eleven person team discusses what they have learned, and then reports to council practices that can help Bethel grow. While we believe God is doing wonderful things at Bethel, we believe we can always become more effective in doing community, ministry, and mission.
So, what have we been up to? Here is a thumbnail sketch of our work:
--Pastor Tom for the Church Renewal Lab Team (Pietie Boskers, Royce Boskers, Rene Hebers, Ryan Pedde, Kevin Rietema, Melanie Reynders, Joanne Rozendaal, Christie Thomas, Richard Vriend, and Wendy Werkman)
Come here for news on what is happening in Bethel Church from our Pastors.