Greetings from Jerusalem! Susan and I are here with 11 others from our church and 13 from Clemmons UMC. After the long flight over, we have spent time in the Galilee, Jesus' home region and location of most of his ministry.

After several days, we traveled south through the Jordan Valley to Jericho and the traditional site of Jesus' baptism. We visited Masada and spent a night in a hotel on the Dead Sea, at 1350' below sea level, the lowest place on earth.

It was a cold and snowy weekend! I hope you enjoyed some down time by the fire, or maybe some chilly play time in the snow! I love a good snow or two in the winter—it does us good to slow down from the ordinary routine and rush. This time it hit us on a Sunday. I missed being with you and celebrating the Baptism of the Lord and what baptism means to us. We’ll revisit that theme the last Sunday in January. Susan and I did enjoy watching the broadcast of the service from January 1 on Charter 188, where a recording of the service from the prior week can be viewed each Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

We had a wonderful Advent-Christmas season at First Church, with so many special services. On Christmas Eve we had nearly 1000 people worship with us in the 4 services. On Christmas morning we had 227 for a joint service, and on New Year’s Day we were back to a regular Sunday Schedule to celebrate Epiphany with the story of the wise men. About 400 made it out of bed and to church to begin the New Year! Below our average, but admirable for a holiday.

“Once in David’s Royal City” has become my favorite carol. I did not grow up singing this carol…I did not learn to love it in seminary, as I did some of my favorite hymns. Only in recent years have I learned and grown to love this carol.

 I guess I first heard it on public radio’s broadcast of the Nine Lessons and Carols Service from Cambridge each Christmas Eve. It is always the first carol sung, the Processional carol, and the first verse is sung solo each year by a boy soprano. It is lovely! It is moving:

I am writing this on December 7…..the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day…..a day that has “lived in infamy.” I saw on the news this morning that 4 of the 5 living crewmen from the Arizona are in Hawaii for the commemoration—one of them is 104! They have stories to tell, and such stories should never be forgotten. What is it they say—to forget history is to relive it? Pray for peace on this day…..pray that there will be no WWIII. Christ, the Prince of Peace, came to bring peace on earth.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope you had time with family and friends to catch up with each other, to tell stories, to remember other Thanksgivings and loved ones. I hope you had some quiet time to ponder how gracious and giving our God is and to remember that everything we have and everything we are, are gifts from God.

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the liturgical/worship year. It is known as “Christ the King” or “Reign of Christ,” and reminds us that the one’s coming we began to anticipate last year in Advent is the Christ who lives and reigns forever. Human leaders will fail us. Christ will not. What better affirmation on the last Sunday of the year!


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