One of my joys during the Christmas season was doing the Candlelight Services at GFC. There is something about the quieter worship, communion and lighting candles across the sanctuary that really touches my heart every year. It never gets old.
I have enjoyed the pleasure of sharing the message over the last few years. It is tough because it is the same story each year and a tale that everyone has heard since they were young children. Yet, each year, the Lord has shown me different aspects of the story to apply to our lives. This year was different…he showed me that the Christmas story is my story. And it is a story of hope in 2017.
The Christmas event unfolds after 400 years of silence. No recorded words or actions about God. Can you imagine waiting for 400 years? Try waiting for something for 4 years, 4 months, even 4 hours? Do you feel silence from God? I can relate. I have dreams and desires that God has given me. I have waited for some over a long period of time. And what do I hear now…silence. Hebrews 13:5 says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” My hope in 2017 is that in the silence, I will know that God is with me, for me and has my best in his plan.
Mary was asked to do something tremendously big. It was going to be all in and it didn’t make a lot of sense. It was going to cost her more than just a life event…it was going to cost her life and identity. I can relate to that. When my role at GFC changed from speaking on weekends to an Executive Pastor behind the scenes a few years ago, it was tough. I had to lose my identity and what I believed was one of the things that validated me as a pastor. It was one of the BEST decisions P. Craig ever made at GFC. I am using all of the gifts, talents and abilities to help grow GFC like never before. My hope in 2017 is that when God asks me to humble myself and do something He asks, that He will do something beyond my comprehension.
Joseph was in control of a bad situation. His fiance is preganant, not even by him but “by the Holy Spirit.” He had it all under control – quiet divorce, Mary goes away…moving on with my life. Then, God blew up his plan…no more control. I can relate to that. When he was born, I had plans for my son Casey to be an athlete. When he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 18 months, God blew up my plan. After picking up drum sticks at the age of 8, singing in a band in Jr. High, God unveiled his plan. Casey was called to lead worship and pastor people. I am so glad that God’s plan is bigger than my plan. My hope in 2017 is that God will continue to work His plan for my life and where I am out of control, He is in control.
The shepherds were the picture of broken relationship. They were the outcasts of society – not valued by others, cast offs, and the last people on the societal totem pole. Yet, these are the one who God shared the message of Christ’s arrival after 400 years. What is the first thing they do – overcome all the obstacles of society, go and see the child and tell others all about it. I can relate to that. Relationships are hard. It is so easy to take offense, reject and stay bitter. It is easier to do that instead of doing the hard work – forgive, extend grace and lose “the right” to be hurt. I learned in 2016, that I would rather work hard at relationships and continue to love others. My hope in 2017 is that I forgive and love others more so I can enjoy all the relationships I have in my life.
Final character – Herod. He was a terrible leader – jealous, angry, violent and egocentric. He would go out of his way to eliminate anyone who take away from his power or title. He killed many people in his family and those close to him just to maintain his seat on the throne. I can relate to that…the throne. I love God and asked Jesus to be Lord of my life a long time ago – He sits on the ultimate throne. Yet, there are many little thrones that I hold so close. I will do things I don’t want to just to keep on top of those thrones. My hope in 2017 is that I will surrender all the thrones in my life to the one who sits on the ultimate throne.
2017 is here…A new start to a new year. My Hope is in Him.