Merry Christmas from a Beautiful and Warm Los Angeles County!
The smoke has cleared the LA area… though there are still smoke clouds in Ventura County… and especially in the Santa Barbara area all the way up to the Central Coast near Pismo. These fires have been terrible and out of control. Please remember to keep our sister churches in your prayers this weekend… and for the firefighters putting things out.
Leslie and I have had a few delays this month in getting our home decorated and ready for Christmas. Typically, all things are done by the time we go to bed on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. We didn’t make it this year with all that has happened in the family and preparing for my father in law’s memorial service. We are so grateful to all of you who have lifted us up in your prayers and supported us in love, cards, and messages. We belong to a wonderful district family. So when I got home on Tuesday night Leslie had completed the final touch of Christmas décor for the Garman tradition. And that is… the Advent Gifts for the girls. Since they were young, very young, she has put together gift bags, with scriptural verses or great Christmas quotes, and a small gift for every day in December for both girls. And here they are, adults, yet she continues the tradition. Even with one living in Oregon… looks like she’ll have many bags to open on Saturday night when she and her husband arrive. We love our kids!
ENCOURAGEMENT: “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.”… When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby, who was lying in the manger. (Luke 2:12-16) So many pieces to the Christmas Story simply fascinate me. My word! I wish that Luke, or Matthew… or someone would have given us more material on the birth of Jesus. But… ohhhh, it’s so much fun studying the greatest birth of all. The birth of Jesus… our Lord and Savior!
Having been to the town of Bethlehem, and being on the very spot that many people from Bible times would have roamed… I tried to picture everything as it might have been on the night Jesus was born. Back in that day there was no Los Angeles… and 2,000 years later, we have a major city that extends itself for miles and miles and miles. Bethlehem is not quite like that. There’s the town… the city… but surrounding the city are hills… still lots of open land… space… and I could still picture those Bethlehem Shepherd keeping watch over their flocks by night.
But what I find interesting, is that the angels knew exactly where Jesus was born. They knew, precisely, the very spot… the one and only manger… in all of Bethlehem holding a newborn Baby Boy. They knew which cave. They were fully aware on which corner the newborn could be found. But all they say is, “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths lying in a manger.” There are no specific directions. They don’t mention any names… inns or motels nearby. They say nothing about which part of Bethlehem to go towards. The only thing the shepherds have to go by is: They know he was born that day in Bethlehem, wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. THAT’S IT!
Remember, the place is buzzing with people. Visitors from out of town have filled the hotels, inns, and hospitality houses. There are people everywhere! I think these shepherds hurried along from place to place… listening for a Baby’s cry (sorry… whoever was the author to Away in a Manger: John Thomas McFarland only wrote the 3rd verse; verses 1-2 are anonymous, because I don’t think Baby Jesus was silent that night)… and I happen to believe that these shepherds were running from place to place… cave to cave… house to house… barn to barn… in search for that manger filled, NOT with hay or water, but with a baby in cloths.
I find it interesting, quite often when we are on a spiritual journey… and we’re in need of direction, “what should I do next… should we go… should we take it… Lord, what do you want me to do???” You ever have questions like these? I sure have. Sometimes I just wish the Lord would paint it across the skies for me to see. Speak it so clearly in a dream. Wouldn’t it be great to walk outside your front door, and find the answer to your greatest question painted on a sign staked to your lawn? To know, without a shadow of doubt… it came from the Lord. However, God doesn’t seem to work that way. Oh… perhaps, sometimes He does. But I have found that He desires that we pursue Him. That means searching and searching… just like these Bethlehem shepherds. And when we arrive, we celebrate… rejoice… and share with so many others of our incredible journey to the manger. Are you searching for Jesus today?
DISTRICT MATTERS: May the Lord bless our efforts as we share the light of Jesus’ birth through programs, events, and services!
- Casa Robles: I was able to join the Retired Missionaries on Thursday morning for their prayer meeting this week. It had been a while since I was able to make it. I sure enjoy and appreciate their prayers for the church and for our district! They bless me all the time. Merry Christmas Casa Robles!
- Santa Paula & Fillmore: The fires in SoCal have been raging out of control… all over! The worst one grew from Santa Paula, making its way near Fillmore and also Ventura before crawling up the coast to Carpinteria, Montecito and Santa Barbara. Because the fires were so near the Vida Nueva Church in Santa Paula, they experienced a lot of smoke damage and were unable to meet this past week in their facility. Thankfully, Fillmore’s doors were wide open, and Pastor Carol Taylor along with her leadership team welcomed Pastor Ismael Joaquin and their entire church to come fellowship and worship in their building. I was privileged to be part of this great day. Thank you churches for cooperating and working together! What a joy to see the way Jesus blesses the efforts of His people!
- Rose Parade: Would you be interested in seeing the Rose Parade up close and live? Pastor Ariel Babikian has informed me that the best way for you (preferably a church contact) to contact him on his cell phone at (626)755-4832 and he will make arrangements with your church group. His group that he organizes averages 200-300 people, but with enough time, he says they could have as many as 1000. WOW!
- Year-End Giving: I am praying for you as you close out this calendar year and that the Lord’s people will be faithful to support the many ministries in the church with their tithes and offerings. And Pastors… may I remind you to lead the way in giving to the Lord and His Church! Let us set the example in being generous tithers and givers for Him! It is with great joy we get to present the Lord with all He has blessed us with each Sunday we come together!
May you have a wonderful final week in advent as you prepare to usher in Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just around the corner! I love you and I pray that the Lord is blessing your every effort to spread the Good News of great joy for all people.
Greg A. Garman
Los Angeles District Superintendent
Church of the Nazarene