For the month of December, I actually wrote two short articles. The first is about Advent and the second is about church membership. God bless your readings.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What does Advent mean to you? Shopping? Decorating? Gift wrapping? Planning a family dinner? Watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”?
Advent actually means waiting and anticipation. For some of us the waiting and anticipation is for a loved one to return from Iraq or Afghanistan. In a narrow sense, especially in the Church, Advent is about waiting for Christmas; an anticipation of the celebration of Christ’s birth. We can’t wait or anticipate the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, because that has already happened as witnessed to in Matthew 1 & 2 and Luke 1 & 2.
In a larger sense, Advent is about waiting for and anticipating the future return of Christ. Some call this the Second Coming. In my way of counting I would call it the Third Coming. Jesus’ birth to Mary was #1. Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in the 40 days of his resurrection would be #2. The future coming would therefore be #3: the Third Coming.
All of this activity of God through Jesus Christ his Son is for one reason: the reconciliation of the world and all humanity to God; the salvation of the world. In Jesus’ death on the cross we have been redeemed and made God’s children. In Jesus’ resurrection we have been shown God’s all powerful love and life. All of this is the free gift (a Christmas gift) of God to all the world and there is nothing we can do or say to change it or earn it.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
I also want to write a little bit about church membership, which I promised last month. This gift of salvation and eternal life is unearned and requires nothing from us except acceptance of that gift. This means that being a member of a church does nothing to gain us salvation.
So, what does church membership mean? It means we wish to belong to an association of believers that we support and which supports us in our walk with God. It means that with the other members of the church we work and worship together to bring the Good News to the local community and to love our neighbors as we serve them. It means that we gather together with others that agree with the style of worship that most agrees with us. Membership is also an indication of the growth or decline of our particular church and the denomination to which we belong. (There are a few churches, usually not associated with a denomination, that don’t have “members” but only worshippers.)
Because we belong to a denomination, our churches pay (or tithe) a certain amount of money to support the work of the larger church in all of its various activities. For the UCC the amount is $10 per member. For the UMC the amount varies but is usually around $10 to $15. Having members on the rolls who could attend but choose not to or who live too far away to attend with any regularity cost the churches. Not much, mind you, but they cost the church none the less. 25 inactive members costs the churches $250.
If you have a son, daughter, brother, sister, mother, or father who lives in the area and is a member of our churches, or you have neighbors who are members, and they don’t attend please invite them to church. I would love it if they would be active members. If they are involved in another church or they choose not to come, ask them to withdraw as members. (Don’t worry. I and the church will be there for them in all their needs: baptisms, marriages, funerals.) Having inactive members costs the church. (By the way, I define active members as regular attendees, those who are home bound, in assisted living, in a nursing home, college students, and active military service.)
Peace in Christ,