December


December 18, 2013

Dear Centenary family,

 

Where in the world did all of those somber and serious nativity scenes (crèches) come from?  The shepherds with no expression stand there.  The wise men are holding their gifts with straight faces.  Mary and Joseph essentially show no emotion.  The biblical story of Christmas is just the opposite! 

my favorite nativity scene:  Jesus beams cheerfully from the manger.  Mary grins like a Cheshire cat and while she looks tired from giving birth, her arms are raised in triumph as if her team has just scored. Joseph is smiling at Mary’s antics.  Shepherds are dancing a jig.  Wise men are laughing out loud, one laughing so much he is holding his stomach.  The animals are all smiling.

These are Bible phrases that define my favorite nativity:  “glorifying, praising, do not be afraid, good news, great joy, came in haste.”  If we have domesticated the announcement and the birth so that we are no longer stirred by the news, something is amiss.

Look up!  Look around! Invite in!  Ponder!  Dance!  Smile!  Jesus is coming!

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You have responded generously to the Centenary Christmas offering. With all that is possible in the coming year, this year's Christmas offering is more important than ever.  Transitional Housing... Social Entrepreneurship... Breakfast... Relationship... Wholeness.. Transformation... you have the ability to make this happen. Thank you for your generosity if you've given. If you haven't, please do. We can't do this without your support.  You may mail your check to Centenary UMC, 1290 College St., Macon, GA  31201.  Mark the check for “Christmas Offering”…  Or better yet, bring it with you when you come to worship!  

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 Eric Mayle has been hired by the Staff Parish Committee of Centenary Church and the Centenary Community Ministries, Inc. Board as the new Director of Justice, Outreach, and Education Ministries (including Executive Director of CCMI).   He will be following Rogers in his role as Director of CCMI and Director of the Transitional House.  Because of his unique skills, educational background, experience and vision for ministry, Eric also will be working with student ministry, working with college students, coordinating hospital visits, helping with the Homebound ministry, coordinating and growing our Adult Education program, contacting and welcoming Centenary visitors, searching for grants, and preaching 4 or 5 times a year.  (This job description and title are continuing to morph.)  Eric has 3 years experience in case work in mental health, illness management and recovery, and homelessness.  He is also a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University.  Eric’s unique background and experience enabled us to cobble a job between Centenary and CCMI.  Since we want Eric to work with Rogers and Helen Willoughby for a couple of weeks before their retirement from Centenary, the job will begin the first of January.  Welcome Eric to the Centenary community.

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Christmas Eve Communion for all – Tuesday, December 24, 5 pm in the Centenary sanctuary.  You are invited!

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My sermon this Sunday, December 22, is “Finding God in the Dark – ‘Average Joe’ Falls in Love”.  I will be preaching from Matthew 1:18-25.  This past Sunday we looked at Mary’s life.  This Sunday let’s explore Joseph’s life. 

Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org  


December 11, 2013

Dear Centenary Family,

We humans have always been drawn to miracles.  There is a longing in the human spirit that never wants to give up on hope.  We desire to know that there is more than what we experience or perceive.  We want to believe that certain things happen outside of the laws of nature.  (Of course the laws of nature are much broader than what we may ever think.) 

During winter, there are all sorts of celebrations of miracles:  Jews celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of an oil lamp that burned 8 days on very little oil.  Christians celebrate the miracle of God Incarnate… in the flesh of a little baby born in a stable in Bethlehem.  People of African heritage celebrate the miracle of home, love, connection, and community and call it “Kwanza.”  And we all celebrate the hope brought about by the new calendar year and the possibilities that are in front of us.

There is something all miracles (human/religious, ancient/contemporary) have in common – They point to something beyond themselves.  Long ago, the ancients pointed to the stars, the moon, and the sun and saw themselves as a part of the unfolding miracle of love and life.  And we are.  We are a part of the miracle and yet we long for miracles.  Both---at the same time.  Is it not true that we are an act of God?  We are unexplained phenomenon ---home-loving, star-following, light-shining, street-dancing, love-longing beings who are a part of the world in a mind-boggling sort of way.

So join me in looking forward to encountering miracles.   But also recognize that everyone you meet (as well as you, yourself) is a miracle.  When you understand that, you stand a little taller and you treat people a little differently.

To quote Albert Einstein:  “There are two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle; the other, as though everything is a miracle.”  I choose the latter.

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Checks that have already started to come in for the Centenary Christmas offering. With all that is possible in the coming year, this year's Christmas offering is more important than ever.  Transitional Housing... Social Entrepreneurship... Breakfast... Relationship... Wholeness.. Transformation... you have the ability to make this happen. Thank you for your generosity if you've given. If you haven't, please do. We can't do this without your support.  You may mail your check to Centenary UMC, 1290 College St., Macon, GA  31201.  Mark the check for “Christmas Offering”…  Or better yet, bring it with you when you come to worship!   

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Don and Debra Williams are teaching an Advent Study at Centenary titled "A Season for Waiting, Listening, Rejoicing, and Giving".  The study will be offered at 9:30 each Sunday in a classroom below the sanctuary.  Hope you will join the study!

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Coffee and Conversation -  This Sunday, December 15, 9 a.m. downstairs below the sanctuary.  You are invited. 

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Don’t forget about Christmas Eve Communion… December 24, 5 p.m. 

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Here is my sermon title for Sunday – “Finding God in the Dark – The Speed of Light”.  How did God come to Mary?  We will be considering how light finds its way into the world and the ways it changes our perception.  I hope you will be present for worship!

Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org  

 

December 4, 2013

Dear Centenary friends,

I offer you an early Christmas present.  Here is a note I received: 

Dear Tim,

I look forward to seeing you and the rest of our Centenary family.  When I was a young man, I took a lot for granted.  This will be my first Thanksgiving in 18 years that I will get to enjoy as a free man.  I know that the Lord will bless me with many more.  With all the struggles I am facing starting all over at my age, I still wake up every morning with a big smile on my face.  This day, I have so much to be thankful for.  Thank you for accepting me.  I am just an old sinner seeking God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy.  I pray you have a blessed day.

The letter was signed by a person connected to the Centenary community.  Will you agree that this is a witness… and a sign of God at work?  This person came seeking connection and community.  He found it at this holy place called Centenary.  His way of encountering the world changed because of what he found here.  Wow.

That is who we are.  It is called compassion.  The root of the word is Latin, cum pasio, which means literally “with suffering.”  Compassion is just BEING WITH suffering.  Compassion offers no answers and it gives no reason.  Compassion offers no rational explanation and it is not a counselor.  Compassion is “being with suffering.”  Period.

Compassion is a way of life.  You can’t horde, save, or invest compassion.  Compassion has no price tag.  Compassion with a price tag isn’t compassion.  You can’t just pull out compassion when you need it.  It is a way of life, a way of encountering people.  And, to tell you the truth the whole concept is ludicrous.  Where is the logic in getting close enough to someone to feel their pain?  We all have pain… why ask for more?  Why choose to suffer with others?  Why is “compassion” one of the primary words used to describe Jesus?

Compassion brings us to a different place and a higher awareness.  Compassion takes us beyond a myopic understanding of ourselves and it saves us from selfishness.  Compassion is the root of meaningful human relationships.  It may be illogical and incongruous, but compassion is the essence of hope. 

Advent… preparing… incarnation… God with us… Compassion… with suffering.  My friend who wrote the note above was transformed from a man of despair to a man of hope… because of your compassion.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Centenary Choir Christmas Musical – Wednesday, December 4, 7 p.m.  You do not want to miss this!   A children’s choir from Stratford will also be a part of the musical.  The star on the front of the church will be lit.  Dinner is at 6 p.m.  You are invited… but come to the 7 pm musical in the sanctuary, even if you can’t make it to dinner.  See you there!

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Keep an eye out for your letter concerning the Christmas offering at Centenary.  We need your generous financial support!  And…If you are in our email extended family, we sure could use your support during this Christmas Season.  We are purchasing a transitional house to replace the one that was razed about a year ago.  This is a great ministry for this community.   If you would like to help with this ministry and our community breakfast, make your check out to Centenary Church, mark it clearly for the Christmas offering and mail it to Centenary UMC, 1290 College Street, Macon, GA  31201   

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Don and Debra Williams will be teaching an Advent Study at Centenary titled "A Season for Waiting, Listening, Rejoicing, and Giving".  The study will be offered at 9:30 each Sunday in a classroom below the sanctuary.  Hope you will join the study!

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Advent Sermon Series:  Finding God in the Dark – Making Peace With the Monsters Under Our Bed.    Be sure to be part of worship each Sunday during Advent…..  And don’t forget:  Christmas Eve Service, December 24, 5 pm in the sanctuary.

Manna and Mercy,

Tim Bagwell

Love God.  Love Others.  Love Yourself.  Serve.

www.centenarymacon.org