Christmas Reflection after One Year in Lincoln City

I was asked to write an article for the local newspaper, The NewsGuard, on becoming involved in our local community of Lincoln City.  I thought…but it’s Christmas.  So, I combined the two elements into this article which I share with the blogosphere.  Have a blessed Christmas everyone.  Pastor Paul

Christmas proclaims a wonderful message.  It tells the story of a God who so loved the world that he became part of our existence.  This God didn’t come as a prince but as a pauper.  This God came to listen and not just to tell.  In becoming part of our world, this God experienced our joys as well as our sorrows, our hurts and our hopes, our laughter and our tears.  In Jesus God became one of us.  It was just as the angel Gabriel told Joseph in preparation for Jesus’ birth, “…and they will call him Immanuel which means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  Jesus was God with us.

Because Jesus came to be with and among the people, I have always felt that he set the example of what his followers ought to do.   I am often grieved by the actions and words of those who claim to follow Jesus yet seem to judge, condemn and exclude others before ever getting to know them.  It seems to me that Jesus loved first and then, if or when that love was rejected, moved into a more confrontational mode (seems this was usually with religious folks).

When my wife Terri and I moved to Lincoln City we wanted to find a place where we could walk in Jesus’ footsteps and share the love of God in practical ways.  To be honest it was a tough road at first.  We discovered that many people come and go in our coastal community.  Those who have stayed and made this their home are not necessarily ready to welcome someone into the fold only to discover they are leaving a few months later.  This was difficult for us.  However, once we neared the one year threshold we found dynamics began to shift.

The first place we began to follow Jesus’ footsteps (and it didn’t take a year) was in the wonderful Presbyterian church we were called to serve, Chapel by the Sea.  We began ministry at CBTS on October 1, 2014.  Chapel by the Sea has been part of the Lincoln City community since 1937 when it began as a joint venture with the Congregational and Episcopal churches.

Over the years CBTS has worked to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.  One of its early ministries was to host groups from the Valley who came to the coast for retreats.  They stayed in the 40 person bunk house the church built on its property in Nelscott. People still remember this episode in the church’s life.  In the 1990s one of our members saw the need to minister to women suffering abuse from domestic violence.  Out of the vision of Alice Simms My Sister’s Place was begun.  One our favorite ministries in which we are presently involved is supporting the good work of Head Start whose Lincoln City facility is directly across the street from the church.  What a joy to encourage and see children get the help they need so they might have a solid start in life.

In addition to the pastoral work of teaching, preaching, visiting, and counseling those within the congregation Terri and I have also been blessed to see and participate with those who are following in the footsteps of Jesus within the broader community.  Some of those folks work and volunteer from within a church related setting: Family Promise, Celebrate Recovery, the Food Pantry, St. James’ dinners, etc.  Others follow within Jesus’ footsteps from outside the church community: Angel’s Anonymous, the Backpack Program, The Warming Shelter, Meals on Wheels.  We have been blessed to become part of some of those programs as Terri coordinates Meals on Wheels and I serve on the Boards of Family Promise and the Head Start Policy Council.  As we have been blessed to walk with some of you in these loving ventures we have seen the hand of God at work.  We have been blessed.

Christmas is a great time of the year.  Christmas shares the wonderful story of Jesus becoming part of our world.  But Christmas is more than just the baby born in a manger.  Christmas anticipates the way that baby lived; It reflects on what that baby taught; It follows the way that baby fed and healed and loved; It also remembers the cost that baby paid so we could be reconciled with God.  Christmas initiates the call to follow in the footsteps of Immanuel, God with us.  Merry Christmas.