In chapel this week, I told the Little School students that we have entered December, and we are to consider it a "birthday month" for Jesus. I got the idea for "birthday month" from hearing about so many people having not just a birthday but a birthday week! Really, it is a birthday month: we prepare to celebrate the birthday of someone we love. We call this time of preparation "Advent". Let's break this word down: ad- means toward; -vent means moving. So we are moving toward the celebration of the Incarnation. The four Sundays prior to Christmas Day are the Sundays of Advent. We hear the words the prophets spoke, prophecies the Christian Church has embraced as foretelling the Messiah's birth and clueing us in to the requisite preparations we must make to "prepare Him room" in our hearts. The liturgical color - purple - reminds us of the royalty of the Christ Child/King. The lighting of the Advent wreath - growing brighter each Sunday as an additional candle is lighted...and then on Christmas Eve, the large center white candle is lighted as a symbol of the coming of pure love - in the form of a baby - into our troubled world. There is also the large Chrismon tree at the front of the sanctuary; it is chockablock full of symbols representing Jesus Christ. All of these serve as aids to help us prepare once more for the deeper, truest meaning of Christmas: God loves us so much He gave us Jesus so we could know God in a deep and meaningful way, and consequently live deeper more meaningful lives on earth. So gather with me as we keep preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child!
Consecration Sunday Update:
Let me give you a final Consecration Sunday update:
108 families (couples/singles/youth) shared their Estimate of Giving with ZUMC to assist us in planning our 2014 ministry
One-third of these folks increased their commitment and support for 2014
Based on current patterns of support, we can expect to receive from all sources about $513,000 for mission and ministry in 2014
28 new families shared their Estimate of Generosity with ZUMC
30 families that had not shared their Estimate of Generosity in 2013 did so for 2014
195 families have financially supported ZUMC in 2013
The United Methodist Foundation has created a ministry centered on pastoral leadership. The program, "Leadership Excellence Advancement Program" (LEAP), has the goal of developing pastor's leadership abilities. Your pastor has been accepted to participate in this two-year program. There will be three retreats in 2014 and 2015; there will be numerous assignments to clarify leadership style; readings in leadership, interact with the congregation to improve skills such as preaching, community involvement, and cultivating congregational generosity; interaction with an executive coach and a clergy mentor, experience continued growth and map a plan for ongoing learning; and spend time in theological reflection on the nature of personal and congregational leadership. The Foundation has generously underwritten the cost of LEAP: the amount spent on continuing education will be the lowest since my beginning service here in 2003. There is no doubt ZUMC will benefit from this experience because I am committing myself to engage this congregation in my learning and development. This is an exciting opportunity that I hope and pray will be of great benefit to our congregation!