Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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“What We Want for Christmas”
by Tom Goodman
December 15, 2004

Christmas is a time of bright lights and wrapped presents and festive parties.  No wonder some folks consider that this time of cheer is only for the cheery.  What do you do with Christmas when you don’t feel all that “Christmassy”?

For some of you, this will be the first holiday season after the death or the divorce.  There will be one less place to set at the dinner table when the family gathers, one less voice raised in song around the piano.  Maybe 2004 closes with an unresolved medical problem, a financial setback, or a reversal in your career.  Maybe you’ll close the year still waiting—for a mate, for a child, for a change.  Maybe the school year isn’t going the way you hoped it would, and June seems like a long way off.  In a bright and joyful season, you bear a dark and troubled heart.

The Christmas story has a word for troubled hearts, and that word is “Immanuel.”  The angel told Mary that people would refer to her son as “Immanuel,” which means “God with us.”  The arrival of Jesus was God’s way of reminding us that he is with us in all our experiences.  More than presents under a tree, what we really want for Christmas is his presence in our lives.

Philips Brooks put that truth to words in O Little Town of Bethlehem.  Speaking of the Nativity, he said of the little town:

The hopes and fears
Of all the years
Were met in thee tonight.

A troubled heart won’t disqualify you from what Christmas has to offer.  Instead, your troubles actually give you access to a part of Christmas you’ve never experienced before.  Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you.  Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”  (Matthew 5:4, Message).

If you’re troubled this season, I have for you a word of perspective, a word of encouragement and a word of promise.  This Sunday, December 19, that’s what I’ll be sharing at Hillcrest.  Come join us as we look at the prophecy of Christmas that was given in Isaiah 7.


Living Nativity and Christmas Music:  Drop by Hillcrest this weekend to fellowship around the manger.  Our annual “Living Nativity” will be set up on the patio of the Worship Center, with cookies and warm drinks in the lobby.  Your kids can feed the sheep and pet the baby lambs while you teach them about Christmas by pointing out the costumed shepherds and Wise Men gathered around Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus.  The event will run this Saturday and Sunday, December 18-19, from 6-8 p.m.  On Saturday, drop by an hour earlier at 5 p.m. for special Christmas music in the Worship Center!

Christmas Eve Service:  Come worship with us at 6:00 p.m. Friday, December 24!

Holiday Schedule:  The office will close at 4:30 p.m. on December 23 and will not reopen until January 3 at 8:30 a.m.  Though we won’t be “open” December 28-30, we’ll be using those three days for some office management chores.  Here’s the schedule of our services:

Wednesday, December 22:  No kids activities, no Sunshine singers, no handbell practice, and no meal.  Midweek service will be held, along with Overcomers, orchestra rehearsal and youth “Rock Solid.” followed by Adult Choir rehearsal.
Friday, December 24:  Christmas Eve service at 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 26:  Worship at 10:45 a.m.  No Sunday School or evening activities.
Wednesday, December 29:  No activities.
Sunday, January 2:  Worship at 10:45 a.m.  No Sunday School or evening activities.
Wednesday, January 5:  Most midweek activities resume, except for Sunshine Singers, orchestra, or adult choir.
Kickoff for Discipleship Classes:  Make a note of January 9th at 5:30 p.m.  That’s when we’ll hold a kickoff of all the various seminars that will begin on Sunday evenings for adults.  The materials will be on display and the teachers of the classes will be on hand to answer questions and sign you up.  Grow deeper in the Word through these special classes!

New Chapter:  I’ve added a new chapter to The Anchor Course at www.anchorcourse.blogspot.comReading these chapters will help you explain the faith, and forwarding these chapters to your seeking friends will help them explore the faith.

Do you know friends who would appreciate Winning Ways?  Just forward this e-mail to them!

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