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The Wonder of the Manger

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Karen bought me a special early Christmas present this year. It is a small outdoor manger with Joseph and Mary holding Baby Jesus. At night the solar light illuminates the manger’s wooden images of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. They really stand out in the darkness. My favorite part is that the light casts a shadow of the manger on the side of our house. The shadow cast by the light of the Joseph, Mary, and Jesus is much larger than small wooden figures in the yard. Through the light, the image of the manger has an enlarged impression cast on the house. I love to stand and ponder the meaning of the manger as I look at the shadow on the house.
The Gospel of Luke tells us simply about the manger. “While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger; because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:6-7; NIV). As I read this passage, I ponder the wonders of the manger.

 There was no room in the inn. Is there room in my heart for Jesus?
 If God’s Son can be born in such a humble way should I not simply be humble?
 The King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s was born in an unexpected place. Can I look for God in unexpected places and places of wonder around me?
 The manger is enveloped in the dark but the star sheds light on the manger. Can I see the light of Jesus in all the dark places?
 Christ is born in Bethlehem. Can I allow Him to be born in my life?
 Joseph and Mary had to trust God through an unknown and unpredictable season leading to an unlikely place of the manger. Can I trust God with the unpredictable, unknown, and unlikely places in my life?
 Jesus is born through the miracle of the virgin birth. Can I have faith to witness the mighty and even miraculous deeds of God?
 Can I live with the good news in all times, Immanuel “God with us.”

Finally, when I see the manger and remember the birth of Jesus, I ask, “Can this impression of God’s love be enlarged in my heart?” May the manger and presence of the Christ child inspire your hearts this year! Karen and I wish to extend to all members and friends of Shalimar United Methodist Church a Merry Christmas and God’s Blessings into the New Year.

Shalom,
Philip

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Advent Giving…End of the Year Generosity…Thank You

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Advent Giving…End of the Year Generosity…Thank You It was said again this past week and I have seen it with my own eyes: “Shalimar United Methodist Church is generous with gifts.” Watching our congregation help people in need by giving generously has been an inspiring sight to behold! I witnessed it firsthand with Ron Garriga when we delivered over 50 gift cards to teenagers. It was also visually evident with the abundance of gifts you brought in for the Angel Tree. Some generosity is more visible than others but all of it is impactful for the Kingdom! Thank you for giving so generously to the Lord! Generosity is a spirit and the practice of joyful giving brings joy, good health, and expands the impact of our lives. Robert Schnase says this about giving:

• Giving connects us with life and opens our soul to God
• Giving helps congregations thrive
• Giving aligns us with God’s higher purposes
• Giving changes us inside
• Giving mirrors God’s nature
• Giving fosters a healthier relationship with money
• Giving encourages intentionality

Giving to God generously through Shalimar UMC has helped lead people to Christ, become baptized, proclaim the gospel, extend compassion, and help people in times of need. The church campus has provided hospitality
for thousands of members along with people from our community. Our giving has impacted our region, nation, and world for the Kingdom. There have been hundreds of hospital visits and rehabs extended to those in need. We have reached out to those grieving and those who needed someone to walk alongside of them for a season. Pastoral care has been offered every day. Prayers for healing, wholeness, and peace have been offered daily by and through our congregation. We have had both baptisms and celebrations of life. Our giving to the Lord has helped make all of this happen and so much more possible.

Our generosity makes a Kingdom difference! I look forward to sharing in  this Advent Season with you as we continue to realize the good news Immanuel of “God with us.”

Thank you for your generosity.
Shalom, 
Philip

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Advent Is Here and Christmas Is Coming

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The sights, sounds, and atmosphere are beginning to change around us! Advent
is here and Christmas is coming soon! Shalimar UMC will enter this season this
coming Sunday and the liturgical season of Advent begins December 1st.
In the coming weeks, we will experience music, preaching, special programs, and
liturgy that will prepare us for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. The answer to
the question “are you ready for Christmas” can be answered by taking the
time to prepare our hearts during the season of Advent.

Advent begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas Day. The calendar
length of Advent varies as sometimes it occurs three days following
Thanksgiving and some years ten days after. This year, Advent begins on
December 1 and concludes at dusk on Christmas Eve. What is the origin of Advent and
what does it mean?

According to Hoyt Hickman, Advent’s roots began over 1500 years ago. “As early as
the fourth as the late fourth century, Christians saw that
Christmas-Epiphany needed a preparatory season comparable to what Lent was becoming in
the Easter Cycle. This eventually became Advent as we know it, which begins on the fourth
Sunday before Christmas and continues to sunset on Christmas Eve. The word advent means
‘coming.’ In Advent the church has celebrated its hope and expectancy in the comings of Christ
- past, present, and future. We identify with those in ancient Israel who looked
forward to the coming of the Messiah” (Hoyt Hickman, A Primer for Church Worship).

This year at Shalimar we will be preaching from Isaiah 9:6 during Advent.
During the four week journey, we will prepare our hearts to grasp more fully the
meaning of the scripture “For unto us a child is born, to us a child
is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be
called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince
of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Each week we will focus on the different names lifted up
in this great passage.

May the Lord bless you to have a most meaningful Advent ever! May these days lead us
to the manger and to celebrate for the first time the good news of
the birth of Jesus!

Shalom, 
Philip

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