Paul’s Message: A Pondering Christmas

WisemenLet’s take a cue from Mary this year. Let’s ponder.

When Gabe the angel came visit, he opened this everyday conversation with, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

Of course, this wasn’t an everyday conversation. It’s not every day that an angel chats with an young teenage girl in a small town far from the center of anything.  It was an extraordinary conversation. Mary knew it. It perplexed her. What did she do? She pondered.

It’s easy to go through this season without pondering.  There is so much to do. There are so many carols to sing, so many gifts to wrap, so many parties, and gatherings, and concerts, and on and on.  It’s easy to wake up in January having celebrated much, but pondered little.

For some of us, the season is a little more blue. We are supposed to be happy. We do our best to put a smile on our face. We try and get into the spirit of things. But on the inside, the more we try and be happy, the more we slide into the darker corners of our hearts.  We grieve the loss of a loved one, or struggle with an inner hurt. We wake up in January, emotionally wrung out from a holiday known for joy.

Whether we are on the happy side or the blue side of the holiday season, I believe that we can grow from Mary’s example. We can pause to ponder.

When we ponder, we pause to turn things over in our heads and hearts. We listen. We share. We wonder. We question. We doubt. We examine. Sometimes, we even come to believe. That is to say, we come to discover that the good news of a coming savior is not just for others, it’s for us.

Perhaps you would benefit from some communal pondering. Ponder with a friend. Ponder with your church.  Our worship services, sunday school classes, mid-week bible studies, and more are there to give us an opportunity to ponder the significance and depth of the one whose coming we await. When we ponder together, we are reminded that we are not alone.

After Mary pondered, she was able to say yes to God’s invitation. She ended up singing a pretty profound and joyous song of good news that still echoes today.

When we ponder, it gives us opportunity to sense an angel’s greeting (It might not be the angel Gabriel. Maybe it will be angel Gus, or angel Betty, or Angel Hala), “favored one! The Lord is with you.”

And we can sense that in the midst of everything, God is waiting to bring peace to our hearts and peace to the world.

May you ponder this Advent and Christmas, and may you be blessed.
Paul

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  • Sabbatical

    Well my friends, this is my last point of contact with you for the next three months, barring unforeseen circumstances. I am taking a sabbatical this summer, granted to me by you (through a congregational meeting some time ago). Clergy sabbaticals are designed for rest, recovery, and restoration. It’s a healthy thing to do, of course, and the Presbytery of Utah recommends that congregations grant their pastors a sabbatical every seven years (serving the same church, that is). It’s hard for me to believe, but I’ve been here in Logan for eight and a half years.

    The end goal for such a time is to provide pastors with opportunity for spiritual and mental rest and restoration, to help re-energize pastors, and to prevent burnout. Pastors have a fairly high rate of burnout, but providing time for spiritual, mental, and physical self-care is one of the best ways to prevent such things.

    It’s not only about rest, however. I’ll be studying and engaging in some healthy spiritual practices too. I will be worshiping at other churches each Sunday to experience the ways that other congregations praise the Lord, so that I might observe and consider new things for the ministry life of FPC Logan. I have a small collection of books I plan to read, including Canoeing the Mountains (a book about Christian leadership in uncharted territory) and One Long River of Song (recommended by someone at FPC), and a few others that I hope will inspire good preaching and pastoral leadership when I return. These readings will go along with daily scripture study. Due to the Covid pandemic I didn’t attend any continuing education conferences last year, but I plan to use part of this sabbatical time to so some individual continuing education. There is always something more for me to learn about my role as your pastor. I look forward to sharing some of this with you upon my return to First Presbyterian Church in September.

    Summer Worship—

    A reminder to you all that during the months of June, July, and August worship will be at 9am and 10:30am. If you show up at 11 you’ll miss half of the sermon!Masks will be required until Session determines otherwise, and worship will be in Bruner Hall for both services (this allows us to space out our seating). I have carefully chosen guest preachers for you on the Sundays that Pastor Meg won’t be preaching. They range from experienced pastors to seminary graduates, but I fell they will all bring a wonderful message to you each Sunday. Please give them the warmest welcome when they help lead worship.

    We have a system in place to live stream worship to YouTube, but there are a few technical challenges with this that I’ve been trying to work out over the last month (with audio and live streaming the video). If you choose to worship from home and the live stream is not available on Sunday mornings (because of some technical difficulty), we will try to post the recording for your viewing on Monday morning when the office is open. Please extend us some grace with this. I think it will all work out, but it’s not always a simple process and complications arise.

    Praying that you all have a wonderful, Spirit-filled summer. I’ll see you soon.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all, —Derek

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