Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas 2015! 

Christmas Eve is just two short days away.  Many of you are making your final plans for candlelight services, special programs, and family gatherings, even now.  Some of you may be doing some last minute shopping hoping that you’ll find that right and perfect gift that you may have overlooked in the shops you have already been to.  Whatever your plans may be for the next few days, I pray God’s greatest blessing on you and your family this Christmas. 

Sometimes… many times in life… things don’t always turn out like we think they will.  When I left home this morning I was having a very nice and peaceful drive to the district office.  There were clouds out… the sun wasn’t shining… and there was a slight drizzle.  Traffic was moving along quite nicely… until, as always, just before the 210 split (just where the 134 merges on to the 210) and before the two tunnels right here in Pasadena.  I came to a complete stop and was waiting for the traffic to move, once again.  Unfortunately, the dark pick-up truck behind me must have forgotten to put on his brakes and slammed into the back of my car.  He then, immediately back up, went around me and drove straight on to Colorado Blvd.  A hit and run!  This was NOT the way I had planned to start my day.  (You guessed it… the back end of the car is all mangled)  

Pastor Carlos Carmona, of our L.A. North Spanish CON, received a phone call from Nicaragua that his wife, Silvia, was very ill with a bacterial infection and was hospitalized.  The antibiotics were not working.  Many of you have heard by now… Silvia passed away on Monday morning, December 21.  This was NOT the way the Carmona family had planned to start off their week of Christmas.  I know that you will be praying for the Carmona family as they prepare for services on Wednesday.   

Eight days after the Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary journeyed that short distance from Bethlehem to Jerusalem… they had an appointment with the priest there in the Temple.  Still on a high with the emotional turn of events from the birth of “their” firstborn… recalling the visit from the shepherds who had come to worship the child… they had pondered the story the shepherds had told of the visit from the angles.  They were so overjoyed… Joseph was all prepared to make the needed sacrifices, give the necessary offerings… and announce publicly that His name was “Jesus”.  This was a very special day for them.   

Everything leading to this point told them that Jesus was a special baby boy.  Gabriel said so.  Any other angelic visits echoed the same sentiments.  The shepherds all confirmed it.  And… whenever the magi showed up… was just one more affirmation that God was in on this whole thing.  But… it wasn’t until they came to Jerusalem on this day that the wheels began to spin a little differently.  Not until Simeon entered the scene.   

Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  (Luke 2:34-35)   

“The Cross at Christmas”… I am most certain that as Joseph and Mary made their way to the Temple… these words from Simeon were the last words they were planning to hear.  They knew that they were cradling a very special baby boy.  They were told that He was to be the Savior.  They were, perhaps, eager to see all that would come about through His life and ministry… but, I don’t think they were prepared to hear that a cross was awaiting their Son.   

For many years now, Leslie, the girls and I have had this tradition of placing, in the center of our Christmas tree… way up high for all to see, three crosses…  This simple little “ornament” reminds us of the fact that on that first Christmas night… God was thinking of you and me.  He was sending us His very best.  The gift of His Son.   Sure, He came from heaven… born in a small and insignificant town… among a poor, poor family… used as His first bed, a feeding trough… welcomed by a few smelly shepherds… He came in the most humble ways.  But, all of that mattered not… at least, not to Mary, who nursed her baby boy that first week.  She knew He was special.  She was fully aware that God was with her… with Him… with them.  What could possibly go wrong? 

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And then… Simeon enters the scene… not quite what Mary was prepared to hear.  And I’m sure Joseph had to do some consoling the following day.   

Yet, as we approach Christmas 2015, may we be reminded that the cross was the reason for His birth!  We may make our plans for the days ahead… but, may we always be open to allow the Lord to re-direct us in any way He sees fit.  Things don’t always turn out the way we plan.  But, one thing is for certain… Jesus is Emmanuel.  God is with us!  I pray that these next few days will be most special for you as you encounter Jesus anew in your life! 

“Lord Jesus, my life is in your hands.”

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From the Garman home to yours… we wish you a very Merry Christmas!  We love you and we look forward to seeing you in 2016!

Greg Garman

Week Before Christmas

Greetings on a beautiful and sunny SoCal day on the week before Christmas!

This morning the freeways were flooded with commuters… traffic was slow… as it was last evening.  Yet, one week from today (December 25) I am most certain that all freeways in SoCal will be light and cars will be flying.  I plan to be home, gathered with family for the day of celebration.  How about you?  Are you traveling?  Out of state… country?  Or are others coming to see you?  Last week I gave the challenge of joining in on a run that is to be held in Lone Pine… and so far I don’t have many takers.  However, I have heard that a good number of you are participating in the LA City Marathon on February 14.  Many of you are running for well water.  A great cause!  If the predictors are correct… you may be running knee deep in rain water… if El Niño hits like they think it could.  Anyway… all this talk about running, and looking out my office window to see a picture perfect day… I’m ready to go for a run…  The hills behind Pasadena and Arcadia are calling!

ENCOURAGEMENTIn Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  (John 1:4-5)  It’s Christmastime and I enjoy driving around to check out the many decorations everywhere.  Our family has several Christmas traditions.  I shared with you the tradition we have of collecting manger scenes and placing them all over the house.  This is one of the first nativity scenes my folks gave Leslie and me, just after we were married.  It’s a handmade nativity from Ecuador made by the Otavalo Indians (descendants of the Incas). We have had this beautiful nativity set for nearly 30 years and we display it every year.   IMG_7986

But, another family tradition is to look up in the paper to see which are the “Top Ten” houses and streets who won prizes for their decorations… we then hop in the car, with coffee cups, hot cocoa and lattes… and spend about two hours driving around town checking out the lights.  You know… one thing that is very interesting… You can try it sometime… return the next day, during daylight hours and check out how things look in broad daylight.  You’ll find extension cords… wires holding things together… ripped pieces of cardboard… and much, much more.  It doesn’t quite look the same.  But, when the sun goes down and the lights are all turned on, things are flickering, snow lights are glistening, wheels are spinning, and Santa is waving… it’s miraculous how everything looks.  And crowds of people line up to walk the streets or drive slowly through the neighborhood with headlights turned off.  It’s quite the attraction.  And the Garmans love it! 

The Apostle John reminds us in the opening of this great Gospel that God is life and this LIFE is the LIGHT to the world.  Just as the sun comes up every morning to give light each and every day… Jesus is the light to mankind.  The greatest news in this picture, though, is that Jesus doesn’t disappear for part of the day.  He is present 24X7.   

In my estimation the greatest of the Inca Kings was Pachacutec, born in Cusco in 1438 and became the 9th Inca King.  He was a great builder and a very religious man.  The Incas worshipped the sun, whose name was “Inti”.  And they had some very specific religious holidays, the biggest being the Inti Raymi… the Festival of the Sun.  This was held on June 21 with the celebration for the gradual return of the sun, the shortest day in the year.  But, Pachacutec began thinking to himself as to the power of his god, Inti.  “If he is the most powerful being, why can’t he show himself 24 hours a day… and why can a cloud get in the way of his shining during the day?”  He came to believe that there was a more powerful God out there somewhere.  He just didn’t know His name.  Therefore, he began… at that moment, to worship the “unknown” God…  

Isn’t it awesome that we know His name?  His name is Jesus!  Jesus is the Light, much brighter than the sun.  And this Light gives life… life to all who will open their lives to Him.  As we approach Christmas Eve, I invite you to prepare your heart to allow the Light of Christ to shine deep within.  One of my favorite projects at home the day after Thanksgiving is setting up the village set, while Leslie decorates the other parts of the house.  This village set is not all that large… and it’s a mix-match of a variety of sets… but… that’s how our world is… and when Jesus comes… He turns the light on for every home that invites Him. 

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DISTRICT MINISTRIESAgain, some great things are happening all across the district.  As you may know by now, I enjoy taking pictures everywhere I go.

  • MCB (Multi-Congregational Board) at L.A. 1st:  Last week I was blessed to be part of this great group where there was fellowship and a time of meeting with the leadership team for all four churches.  Thank you David Corbin for your great leadership along with the pastoral tram: Pastor Salva Cruz, Pastor Fajardo, Pastor Kim, and Pastor Tiguila.  What a joy to be with you all!

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  • Ventura Power House:  Last week I had the privilege of joining the Church Board in Ventura for their Church/Pastoral Review… and WOW!  The Lord is alive and doing something special among our brothers and sister in Ventura.  There is such a strong sense of unity and Pastor Dan Hull is doing an outstanding job in ministry.  May the Lord bless this wonderful congregation as they journey into their 77th year! 
  • Westchester Spanish:  This past Sunday I was blessed to worship and preach in this wonderful church.  Pastors Yordan and Jacqueline Mitrovith are doing an exceptional job in ministry.  We are blessed to have committed leaders like these on our district. 

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LADTCPlease visit www.LADTC.org for all forms and information. There you will also find our 2015-2016 Academic Calendar.   For your planning in Winter 2016:  

Nazarene History & Polity (PAS-2023)
January  8 – 9          February  5 – 6

Preaching 2 (PAS-3043)
January  22 – 23          February  19 – 20

All LADTC courses are Nazarene Bible College accredited and are required for ordination. Please contact Pastor Peter Lundell (pnlundell@aol.com) soon if you have questions or wish to take the class and have not already contacted him.  

May you have a wonderful weekend as you prepare for Christmas Day!  I love you and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Greg Garman