Greetings from Pastor Bob and The Encouraging Word! What a pleasure it is to actually sit down and concentrate on writing you. I can put everything else aside and just spend the next few minutes with you, my friend, fellow pilgrim and companion for such a long time now. Most of you reading these words have been with me for years and years. It is strange to look back at all the time I have spent writing you and although I may have never even met many of you I feel as if somehow you are so close to me. Thank you for being a special part of my life. My prayer is that anything I might write might really encourage and lift you up.

 

I thought that I would do things a little different today and just spend this time with the Pre Amble Ramble. I guess that would make the whole thing a ramble but then again most of the time that is exactly what it is.... So maybe I am not doing anything different today at all.... Thatís good, change can upset some people.....

 

My message this week is about what Christmas means to me. So I thought that I would talk a little while about my Christmas pasts, present and the hopes of the future..... sounds familiar..... bah humbug!!!

 

Anyway, have you ever spent much time thinking about Christmas when you were a child? Now, try to leave the bad, crazy parts out, if you had any. Then that would not leave anything else for some of us I know, but if you try hard enough you can find the good stuff.... I remember the snow! Being brought up in upstate New York, we almost always had a white Christmas. I remember the Christmas Carols. I remember warm apple cider, and the smell of a fresh cut pine tree in the living room. I remember the lights and the joy of expectation. 

 

So all these memories got me to wondering, what does Christmas really mean to me? I think it must mean something a little different to everyone. I know we can get a lot of the surface answers to that question, like it is a time of giving, a time of celebrating the Birth of the LORD. A time for family and a time for joy and getting along with people. But, I sure donít see that on the roads and in the parking lots at the shopping centers. People are still going to be people no matter what time of the year.

 

But, what I want to do is to dig a little deeper into what Christmas really means to me. I thought that maybe if I can get a better handle on my expectations, then I might be able to figure out why so many people are the exact opposite of how the season is suppose to be. I mean this is supposed to be a time of great joy, yet I see more people in deep depression, especially this year, more than others. Might just be the circle I am around..... But really, are not people suppose to be happy and full of joy? Then why are they not? I guess, I have to not look at others and just concentrate on me... Am I full of the Christmas spirit this year? Well, yes, and no! I mean I put up the lights and decorated the lawn, I set up the tree and have the Christmas music playing on the radio.... But I am also back on my anti-depressants..... go figure... And I thank God for them... And my family thanks God for them.... I can be Mr. grumpy-face without them... makes scrooge look like one of Santa's elves.....

 

So, what exactly are my, expectations of this season?

 

I know, that it is a time of renewal, a time of second chances. It rings in a new day of grace and the realization of the unlimited potential within us. It gives us a starting point to actualize that potential. It means real forgiveness. It is the ultimate gift that God has given us, the gift of love, unconditional love...... "Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given...." A new birth, not just any new birth, the ultimate, unlimited, unconditional omnipotent, all-knowing, omnipresent power of all the universe and beyond is birthed within us. The Messiah not only was manifested as a child but his Holy Spirit is born in all of our hearts.

 

It is a big deal... a really, really, really big deal......

 

And then there I am, in the mirror, the same man I was yesterday, only a little bit, ok a whole lot older, a little bit heavier.... still good looking though..... but with the same old bad habits and weaknesses..... Daunting... I believe is the word, someone used this past weak.....

 

Now, the first answer that comes to mind is to lower my expectations.... To do that would be to destroy the Spirit of Christmas. We can not and should not diminish the reality of the greatness of God and His unlimited, supernatural power, just because we need a miracle every day. And let me tell you my friend, God is doing miracles every day. This past week a young girl took a bunch of her mother's medication and was in the hospital. The doctors never expected her to make it. Any one twice her size taking half of the medication she took would be dead. She is not only alive and well, but there is no, no damage at all to her.... Praise the LORD!!

 

I do not know how many times I have seen the hand of God move in the lives of people around me as well as my own... we all have... yet, we always want more...

 

It is suppose to be a time of giving but in our giving we want people to appreciate our giving, and our gift, and our thought behind the gift, and our time that it took us to get the gift, and the work that we had to do to get the money to get the gift... So our giving turns into another pity party because everyone is either giving and wanting to be appreciated for it, or they are not getting what they think they deserve or what they want,,,,, want,,,,, want..... want.... want.....

 

OK, OK, alright already Bob,,, where is the encouragement?????

 

Well, we will not find it in the words of man.... but I know where we can find some!!!!!!

 

 

(Luke 2:10 & 11 KJV) And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

    

You know, I want that joy, and not only for myself, but so that I can spread it to those around me.. So that I can see others smile. So that I can see tears turned into laughter. Joy unspeakable and full of glory.

 

And it is a spirit. That means it is not something that you can see. But it is very real and very powerful. The spirit of Joy. That is what I want for my family. That is what I want for my church. That is what I want for my community... but there I go again... want, want, want..... See how easy it is?

 

I know, I mean I really know that, that joy is available for each and every one of us. I know that you and I can make this not only a better Christmas, but we can make this place a better world. That unlimited potential can be birthed within us today. We can activate the seeds of Love, Joy, Peace, and grow them into a strong tree of an abundant and full life.

 

So, do not be discouraged, don't think that you already blew it.... Christmas is still a week or so away..... Maybe what we are all feeling is the great pains that come before the wonderful birth of a new life......

 

That takes us to today. I want to invite anyone and everyone who does not have anyplace to go for Christmas to come enjoy Christmas with me and my family. Drive, fly, ride a bike, walk or even give us a call.... We will be having Christmas dinner here at the church in Tampa. Really, come and enjoy a good old fashioned Christmas dinner with us. Go to the website for directions.

www.interbaycommunitychurch.com

 

Dinner will be at 2:00... You do not have to bring anything, but if you make some good greens... I love good greens....

 

We will miss having Christmas at home. We always opened our house for all the people in the neighborhood. Sometimes we would have up to 35 people for Christmas dinner. So I hope that this Christmas is half as special as the ones we have at home. Santa will be there!!!!

 

Now for Christmas future!!!!! you know it could go a couple of ways..... It could get better and better.... or it could all fall apart.... or the best could happen:

 

(John 16:22 KJV) And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.

 

The future really is up to you. In fact the present is up to you. The potential has been birthed within you... and me.... What we do with it will determine the impact we make on the world around us.

 

So my prayer for you today is that the joy of the LORD will grow within you and burst forth carrying you through this journey we call life, refreshing all those along your path and leaving behind you a better place for all the children of the world.

 

God bless you and yours... Marry Christmas. and the Happiest of New  Years!!!!!

 

Your friend;

Pastor Bob