Posted by Sheila Thomasson

“Growing Closer to God in the New Year!”

Once again we enjoyed the most wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services possible. Members of our congregation turned our normally beautiful sanctuary into a sanctuary that literally caused us to catch our breath as we entered. Many thanks to our extremely gifted artists who worked all day long to bring about this transformation. Todd, our choirs and musicians brought us music that both warmed and uplifted our spirits at these services. We are so blessed by gifted musicians who contribute their time and gifts to our congregation. Truly, these were great services that brought us closer to God through our celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. And I want to thank everyone who put together our bulletins.

After the Christmas celebration, people turn their attention to a New Year and returning to life as usual, except for the occasion resolutions that are so famously made on New Year’s Day. Most often, we make resolutions to live a healthier and more productive life in the new year. Sometimes this includes a diet, which involves life-style changes. In all honesty, a few people are able to make and keep their resolutions, but the majority make resolutions that only last for a short while before being quickly forgotten. The difficulty with resolutions is they require us to change old habits and routines as we make lifestyle changes. Habits and routines require significant effort to change. Hence, returning to known patterns of living is easier than creating and maintaining new patterns. The end result is broken resolutions as we return to our old ways.

Yet, I would encourage us to make some changes in our lives that help draw us closer to God through Christ in the new year. Perhaps you expect this kind of encouragement from me at this time of year, and perhaps you need this kind of encouragement, so here goes. Over my many years of ministry, one of the great joys I have witnessed is watching a person transform in ways that move them into a deeper and more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. I see this in people when they move from being a one hour a week Christian where they come occasionally to visit Jesus, God and the Church, to being a Christian where God, Jesus, and the Church live always in their hearts and daily lives. These are people who have grown spiritually to the point where everything they see, think, and do has a faith-filled joy as they realize Christ is with them throughout the week, and not only on Sunday. People who have grown this way have a deeper relationship with God because they have given 100% of their lives to Christ. But, this doesn’t just happen, it does take work and effort and commitment.

This work, effort, and commitment are not really all that difficult because when we decide we want a deeper relationship, we don’t do it alone. First, God’s Holy Spirit is present to help guide us in this transformation. Therefore, we can step off confidently on our journey. Then we make our Christian lifestyle and growth in the faith an intentional effort. We look for times to read the Bible and pray. We set aside time each day to study the scripture and pray to God. We seek out every opportunity to offer God our devotion and worship our God who gives us a Savior. We join a Bible study. We offer ourselves in service to Christ, our church, and the community. We expect to find Jesus with us in every moment. We open ourselves to Christ being with us. We no longer arrange our faith and worship around what else is happening in our life, but arrange our life around our faith activities and worship. These things are not hard for us to do, but they do require an intentional commitment from us to do them. I encourage you to make this commitment. As I said Christmas Eve, when you do welcome and give your life completely over to Christ, “your life will never be the same again.” It will be eternally better!

As we enter the new year, I want to wish each of you a Happy New Year and I pray for the blessings of the Christ-child upon you and your family this year. May we grow closer to God with each and every day.

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Butler +