May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13
Hope is the word heard and used on the First Sunday of Advent as we light the first candle of this treasured season. When Danny and I prepare to attend the service, where we've been asked to play two songs, hope is not at all the feeling I'm entertaining in my heart.
Our church, now known as Shiloh Community Church, recently votes to disaffiliate from the United Methodists. November brings the hard truths of having to remove any and all insignias of the UMC denomination, including our hymnals, from the church premises. Finding replacements is a costly endeavor, so we will be dependent upon someone typing the lyrics for a power point presentation each service going forward.
Disaffiliation is anything but an easy process; we are grateful for all the purchases and donations during our annual Pumpkin Patch sales, as we pray to have enough funds to completely free ourselves from the debt in which we find ourselves. Unless we can pay it off, the UMC could possibly revoke our choice to leave that denomination. I'm certain that God will help us find a way.
By far, the most difficult aspect of the whole ordeal is the thought of losing our beloved pastor, Jared. Even though he has another full-time job, we fear he will leave us by the end of November. Imagine my delight when I enter the sanctuary this past Sunday and find him there! Ever curious, I intercept him to ask about it; I'm surprised by his answer that clergy is given a one-month reprieve from having to leave their flock. "Oh," I think to myself. "With Christmas coming, maybe those Grinches had a change of heart." As we prepare for worship that morning, I sense the first glimmer of hope rising within me.
And with the church announcements, that hope fully blossoms. Jared has chosen to disaffiliate along with us, a small congregation, determined to stick by us and help us navigate the inevitable changes that will continue to come.
What an unexpected surprise! What a blessing! It's truly nothing short of miraculous!
Christmas comes early for Shiloh Community Church as hope is rekindled, shining as brightly and clearly as that first candle lit in Advent.
One more of the many reasons to rejoice during this precious season, and to look forward to the coming of Christ in the manger and into our hearts this Christmas.
For those of you keeping score, I know my comment about the Grinch is not very charitable. I hope you will forgive me as the Lord has forgiven me and you.