The Christmas presents have been unwrapped. The cards have been received. Then comes the reaction that we’ve not only been taught from little on, but also comes from a grateful heart: “thank you!” I’m sure that all of us have used that phrase many times in these past days. People have been kind to us. They have remembered us. They have given out of love and concern for us. “Thank you!”
Remembering us … love and concern for us … kindness … gifts – our Lord invented the concept! We just celebrated the undeserved love of God for sinners. We joined in Christmas worship to praise God for his indescribable gift. Stained with sin from birth, and having daily committed wrongs against our Creator, we stood trembling with the shepherds who were surrounded by the glory of Holy God. And with them we heard the Good News that unto us a Savior has been born, the Messiah, the Lord! “Do not be afraid” the angel said, “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” (Luke 2:10) Yes, our loving Lord has given us a Savior, who purchased our souls with his blood and redeemed us from sin, death and the power of the devil. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118:1)
Along with Jesus he has graciously given us all things. One blessing after another we receive, in this life and for the next! That’s how we end this year and look forward to beginning the new: surrounded by God’s goodness. Thank you, Lord!
One distinct blessing is our connection with our fellow Christians. And today particularly, permit a word of thanks for the fellow Christians who are joined together with us as a family in our own congregation. All are important to the Lord Jesus. All are important to each other. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:3-5, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.” In addition, we can truly be thankful for all the benefits we enjoy as members of our congregation that come to us through the faithful and mostly unseen labors of many, many people.
Recently I was able to enjoy a play at our local renowned dinner theater in town. The play was great, the food was great, and the performance was presented from beginning to end without a hitch. Yet watching closely in the corners of the stage and close to the kitchen doors, you can catch glimpses of scores of people moving quickly and literally behind the scenes to get all these things accomplished.
You already know this, but I do want to highlight this fact today: the same thing happens in the life of our congregation. It is, of course, the Lord our God who provides all blessings, including the talents and motivation of volunteers. But like Paul, we are thankful not only for them, but to them also.
It would be impossible – and that’s not an overstatement – it would be impossible to think of all the projects and preparations and tasks and time that is supplied by volunteers behind the scenes at church. And all of these extra efforts that are put in by so, so many people provide blessings and services that benefit us all. The things that get built, the things that get cleaned, the things that get set up, the things that get straightened, the things that get written and printed and prepared and provided and prayed for and paid for to the benefit of our flock are immeasurable! If you were stationed in your church building for one full week and could observe the activity and amount of people and effort that come and go each day, I promise you that you would be amazed! It’s like the dinner theater. No one but God knows all the work behind the scenes. That includes the prayers and the offerings and the encouraging words from our members at home as well. It doesn’t all happen at the church building. And we all enjoy the rewards. Another of God’s blessings!
We’re thanking God for his indescribable gift of our Savior Jesus. We’re thanking our family and friends for annual Christmas gifts. So also, on behalf of our congregation, to all our fellow members who are part of the unseen efforts great and small to carry the Gospel forward in our midst – thank you! We know that whatever we see at church, whatever got done or prepared when we come to worship or bring our children to learn – one of you put in some time, effort or resources to get it done. We thank God when we remember you, as the Apostle Paul said, because of your partnership in the Gospel!
Thanks again, everyone – and a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in the Lord!