Dear Advent Pilgrims,
So, how’s the Christmas gift buying going? I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that every year, the December shopping frenzy in this culture feels more frenetic and hectic than the year before. The shopping lists get longer, the mall crowds get crazier and the debts sink deeper. And it’s not until Dec. 26 that the real rest begins.
But the gospels make the case that the very first Christmas happened despite chaos and anxiety, not because of it. Over and against the hustle and bustle of a government census, the fear and paranoia of political systems and the constant oppression of a community under siege, God gave a priceless gift. It wasn’t a gift that God shopped for, gift-wrapped, and sent special delivery. Instead, the gift was God’s very own self.
The present was the Presence. God became the gift.
And what a gift it was. Listen to how John describes the wonder of God’s self-giving act in his gospel, in the famous John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
But he’s not done. By the time he gets to writing his first epistle, he takes the gift-giving one step further, telling us that we now get to be the gift: “This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16)
So, putting these two “3:16s” together, John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16, here is what John is telling us this Advent: God became a gift to us. So, now become a gift to one another.
If you’re looking for the perfect gift to give someone, try shopping at your local mirror. You have the image of that very same self-giving God within you, and that might be exactly what someone else might need. Your joyful spirit of service, sacrifice and loving presence, with no strings or gift receipts attached, might be the perfect gift that money can’t buy.
It was no less than the gift of Jesus himself, given to us in love.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor
Hyde Park United Methodist
THIS WEEKEND: THE 1033 MARKET
This weekend, if you’re still searching for gifts for people in your life, stop by the 1033 Market, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8 and Sunday, Dec. 9 in the Harnish Activities Center on our Hyde Park campus. Know that your purchase will benefit someone in need locally or even globally. Buy from many local vendors. Many gifts available through our Silent Auction. All purchases support missions.
VISION TEAM TOWN HALLS
For those unable to attend either of the first two Town Hall meetings, in which the Vision Team is sharing the Vision Plan, there is one more to attend: This Sunday at 6:45 p.m. at The Portico. Or, you can watch a video archive of a prior town hall gathering. We have called a special church conference on Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m. for the congregation to approve the plan.
END OF YEAR GIVING AND PLEDGES FOR 2019
For those who have turned in a pledge card or 2019, and faithfully given to this year’s budget, thank you! We encourage everyone to turn in an estimate of giving for next year, (pledge online) to help us adequately fund and support all God is calling us to do. And we would appreciate your generosity to help us meet our expenses for this year. At this point, our income is still behind actual expenses, so please help us finish the year strong!
Charlotte came from a large, loving family in Largo, Florida. There were struggles in the household, and Charlotte experienced bad situations as a child while growing up. Charlotte got married and had two beautiful children, but due to the anger and resentment that she carried from childhood, Charlotte began to fall down the wrong path. Charlotte divorced her husband and gave away her parental rights of her children. She began to use drugs in order to dull her pain and anger, which led to many arrests, prison sentences, and substance abuse programs. After 20 years of struggling with her addiction, Charlotte decided that she needed to follow a different path upon her release from prison and signed up for the Ready4Work-Hillsborough program. Once released, Ready4Work-Hillsborough staff transported Charlotte from the bus stop to her transitional living facility. Within two days of her release, Charlotte was attending Ready4Work-Hillsborough Career Development classes and receiving the services that
she needed in order to move forward in life. Charlotte is now following one of her passions in life, cooking, as a student of Metropolitan Ministries’ Culinary Arts’ Program.
For more news from Abe Brown Ministries, click here.
Dear Hyde Park Disciples,
Advent is a time of longing, expectation and hope, and is therefore the perfect time to share with you the results of long-term strategic visioning process that our Vision Team has been conducting over the past fourteen months.
I invite you to attend one of the remaining Town Hall Meetings on Dec. 5 or Dec. 9, to hear details of the plan by members of the team. It charts for us an exciting framework of re-centering and refocusing, as we seek to make God’s love real in a changing world.
Before you attend a Town Hall Meeting, I invite you to prayerfully prepare by reading a three-page document I have written called “The State of Religion in a Changing Culture”. I referenced it heavily in my sermon last Sunday, which I invite you to watch. It provides the clearest explanation I can give for why we have come to a critical time in our church’s history, to remember who we are and clarify our work for the future.
I’ve provided a few key highlights here:
1. For most of the history of Christianity in our country, the church has functionally operated as “the religion of the culture,” in the words of former Florida bishop Tim Whitaker. It has been commonly assumed that to be a citizen of a community, one was also a participant in organized religion. That assumption is no longer true:
We are in a time of profound change in the relationship between culture and organized religion. We can no longer assume that participation in church life, or the practice of personal spiritual disciplines, is an assumed aspect of cultural life. Biblical literacy, and even basic fluency in the language of the Christian faith, is no longer a presumptive part of a person’s cultural formation. Many people no longer turn to the church to be an authoritative voice on matters of morality and ethical living.
2. The good news is that God has already given us everything we need to share the good news of Jesus in new ways to a changing world, if only we will claim the vision and do it:
This is the great challenge of Hyde Park United Methodist. We are blessed with a congregation of faithful, generous people who care deeply about the advancement of God’s mission… And we are blessed with an abundance of resources, including facilities, staff, financial resources, and laity to make things happen. But it is not only possible — it is probable — that we are currently equipped to minister to a world that is rapidly diminishing, replaced by a culture in which a growing number of people have little interest in organized religion.
3. At the core of God’s blessings on this church is our Wesleyan heritage, which not only defines who we are, but can be singularly attractive to the 60% (and growing) of the wider population who is disinterested in organized religion:
John Wesley practiced a centered, both/and approach to fusing together oppositional qualities, to create a way of living into the center of the Christian faith. Living out of our Wesleyan heritage is a key to reaching out to the “nones and dones” and the 60% of people disconnected and disinterested in the Gospel. When we offer religion at its best, we help others overcome the problems they have experienced with religion at its worst.
4. So, this is our task, and this is the foundation of our vision for the future:
Ultimately, the task of the church today is not to cater to culture, or to assume privileged status as the religion of the culture. It is to create an alternative community within the culture, that fully embodies the message of the Gospel. It is to create connections between people that deepen their love of God and widen their love to all people. It is to be united in all that we have in common, and to express charitable generosity in what makes us different. And it is to be adaptive in our means to make God’s love real to the world.
I hope you’ll participate in this process by hearing the details of the Vision Plan and joining us at our church conference on Dec. 17 as we adopt this plan with great joy and excitement. The future of this church is a bright one, thanks to the Spirit’s guidance and your full, enthusiastic, participation.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
You are Invited to the Hillsborough House of Hope Christmas Concert!
Hillsborough House of Hope will host their 1st Annual Christmas Concert 1:30 p.m., December 1, at The Portico.
This year’s concert benefits the Build a Home project. Get in the holiday spirit with us and join carolers, elves and The University of Tampa Ensemble playing your favorite live Christmas music at this exciting new event. All we need is a little snow!
For more news from Hillsborough House of Hope, click here.
You are cordially invited to A Red Carpet Affair, Good Samaritan’s grand opening gala at their new location.
Tuesday, December 4, 2018.
From 7 p.m. until the paparazzi tires and goes home.
767 Cortaro Drive, Sun City Center, FL 33573
If possible, please wear you best Vintage Hollywood outfit and be ready to walk the red carpet. We will have small bites and fizzy drinks, served by a Mixologist!
Hope to see you there!
For more news from Good Samaritan Mission, click here.