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,

Magrey

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!

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