A: There is an old Greek term from early Christianity that sums up what happens when we go to church called koinonia. Basically, this word represents love. It is the fellowship of a committed community of believers that participate in sharing intimate spiritual communion with each other and God. Is it required? No, but it sure does sweeten the journey! The great loss of the digital age is the loss of community and opportunities to Бlove your neighbor as yourself. Б When we are feeling downtrodden, our spiritual community is a place where we have friends that love us and can lift us up in a warm embrace. We also get opportunities to pay back and be the friends doing the lifting! WeБve all heard the saying, БIf you want to have a friend, youБve got to be a friend. Б The marvelous thing about church is that we who attend, and get involved, experience something beautiful with a family of choice. Like any relationship, the more we invest, the richer our experience becomes. бWe shift from just receiving, to being, which is an amazing opportunity to progress in our spiritual journey. Gandhi said, БBe the change you want to see in the world. Б Well, if we donБt participate in our local church but continue to Бwindow shopБ we never fully experience the love thatБs available in a church family. Like a family there is always something we can agree upon or at least have something to debate. If we donБt agree with something or notice an oversight by the church, rather than complain and make things worse we can Бbe the changeБ and do something positive about it! Every flower enhances the beauty of the bouquet. With the contribution of good intentions we grow together and build a stronger community. Some of us attend church for self-improvement because we want to have a great life.
We study books and attend classes. Emilie Cady warned us in her book, БLessons in TruthБ to avoid reading БmanyБ books. As leaders, we strive to bring only powerful material that will improve our lives. Positive changes occur only if we practice doing and being the things we learn. If we think, БOh IБve already read about thatБ or БI already know that,Б we might be skimming the surface and derailing our spiritual and emotional maturity. I attended a Hawkins lecture once that Michael Beckwith and Dr. Roger Teal were also in attendance. These individuals have built and maintain huge ministries that have served thousands of people over many years. Yet during the lecture, they exhibited a humility and hunger for Truth. A humble heart never stops growing because it admits it doesnБt have all the answers. бA huge part of our quality of life is in giving. Whether we give acts of service, time or finance, we are giving energy. When we give from a place of love our lives become rich! Those that volunteer, experience this flow of love as they share kindness. As the Christ taught, what we give, we receive instantly. In the east this practice is called karma yoga, which is the discipline of selfless action as a way to perfection or enlightenment. In the west, it is a devotional pathway of God through the heart. My hope is that we all experience this divine flow of love and create a little bit of heaven right here in Unity Church of El Cajon. The significance of Christmas in Unity is the celebration of our spiritual birth and launch of a grand awakening. Life prior to my spiritual awakening was a continuous process of searching for something outside of me that would bring satisfaction and happiness.
However, each time I plugged in something, happiness only lasted until the newness wore off. Finally, when I surrendered to God and decided to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ I experienced contentment and joy for the first time in my life. Life has been amazing ever since. I continue to ask, БHow good can it get? Б
I invite you to a life of greater love and lasting joy. БYesБ to Christ and celebrate your very own Merry Christmas within and a celebration with a like-minded community at UCEC! Watch for it: a plethora of opinions will be published this month both in support and in defiance of churches holding church on Christmas day. Because Christmas happens to be on a Sunday this year, many churches will choose not to have services that day. They will highlight the need to honor their volunteers and staff by not making them show up on this family-oriented holiday, or they may encourage their members to do something missional instead. Or they may just say unapologetically that when Christmas falls on a Sunday, church can t happen. Its just too much. I honor all those choices. I would even say that depending on the context, opting out is a valid choice. I m confident that those who choose to stay home on Christmas day have solid reasons for it. It can t be easy to juggle traditions, church responsibilities and sheer tiredness from all that leads up to the big day. I get it. Be that as it may, I ll be in church on Christmas morning and while my reasons may not work for everyone, these are the reasons that work for me. Our whole message centers around the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We get two days a year to really bring home that message: Christmas and Easter.
When Christmas and Sunday fall on the same day, I am not less likely but more likely to show up because I worship Jesus and I want to honor the day the honors him. Jesus has asked me in a hundred different ways in the Old and New Testaments to give my Sabbath to him. PI actually think of it as a great gift to be able to go into the House of the Lord and worship him in a season when so much else points toward the secular. Even as a pastor, I count Sunday morning as part of my Sabbath. Yes, I work, but I do so willingly enthusiastically even. I have learned to worship as I lead, so I count the worship of Christmas day as a high and holy privilege. Where I am physically on Sunday will say something to the people around me. PAgain, this isn t for everyone; this is just me. But I don t want my family to hear that Jesus matters but not more than the gifts we bought or the family feeling of Christmas morning. I love my family a lot, but they didn t rise from the dead for me. On Christmas morning, I ll be sitting in the house of the One who loved me so much that He gave His only Son. And I will preach the good news about the Messiah as if it is the most important present any of us will ever receive. It may well be that your family travels on Christmas day, or meets with a loved one who is not able to get out. What a blessing that you have that time to give. Don t let my reasons get confused with your circumstances. My reasons may not even beP good reasons but they are my reasons. I will be in church on Christmas Sunday, worshiping and adoring Jesus, the Christ. If your life allows, I hope you ll be there, too. Then there will be at least two of us, and Jesus says where two or three are gathered O come, let us adore Him!