“‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…”
This poem first appeared in a newspaper in Troy, New York, on December 23rd, 1823. It wasn’t until 13 years later that Clement C. Moore, a professor and poet, claimed authorship. It was a poem Dr. Moore wrote for his children, never intending to have it published. For nearly three hundred years now, this Christmas-time classic has warmed the hearts of millions of children.
The words stir up something within us, don’t they? A sense of wonder; of anticipation; of excitement for what that magical day will soon bring.
For Christians, this time of year is filled with the wonder and hope and anticipation of the coming of Christ among us – for the receiving of the promise that God is with us now and forevermore. It is a gift that we anticipate, even as we celebrate that it has already come! At St. Philip’s, we have so much to celebrate! Even as we begin to prepare for another magical Christmas Eve with 5 different worship services, we also are in the midst of celebrating the gift of what a year of ministry has brought to our community and world, as we have shared the gift of Immanuel with our neighbors.
2019 has indeed been a transformational year of sharing that gift! This year, we were able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with 137 children at Vacation Bible School, even as our weekly children’s Sunday School grew by more than 20%! Every week, we have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the victory that brings with 265 people in worship across four different worship services. Those experiences have resulted in 12 professions of faith and more than 200 people now involved in small groups across our church, learning the ways of Jesus together. But, as you know, our mission isn’t just for us, it’s for the world around us, because once we hear the Good News, we are inspired to share it. And share it we have! Together, we have fed the hungry, provided comfort to the sick, provided housing for the homeless, and provided hope in places that many are afraid to go. Just this past November, more than 120 families were blessed with the gift of a hot meal. In December, you provided Bibles and devotionals to 166 children at the Texas Baptist Children’s Home. In June, 14 of you built a home for a homeless family in San Raymundo, Guatemala. And throughout the year, we have fed 32 food insecure children every weekend of the school year, and have blessed and given away more than 50 prayer quilts to people struggling with illness. All told, we have collectively given away more than $35,000 to people in need in 2019!
Why do we do this? We do this out of our gratitude for what Jesus has done for each of us. We do this because, as recipients of God’s perfect gift, we can’t help but share it. We also do this because of your generous financial gifts. Without your help, our mission to the world would be merely a pipe dream – a collection of wishes without an engine to power them. We count on you to further the mission of Christmas in our world.
As you hang your stockings by the chimney with care, I pray that you would also prayerfully consider sharing the bounty of God’s blessings in your life by making a special Christmas offering to St. Philip’s. Your gift truly does matter. Thank you for being the engine that powers our mission of sharing Christ’s love!