Celebrations and Challenges

“A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 (CEB)

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Christmas brings both celebrations and challenges… The picture above is a child’s interpretation of the nativity and a new take on the traditional manger scene. The children were asked to design their own nativity scene that told the old, old story in new ways. The children rose to the challenge, and using some characters and creatures that were familiar and meaningful to them, they assembled a new “take” on the Christmas Scene!

The birth of the Christ child is cause for rejoicing! The arrival of the long awaited Messiah! God with us – a time of great celebration! Many had waited with eager anticipation the arrival of God’s Kingdom. The weight of the world would be on the shoulders of the newborn King! The arrival of the Christ child, meant that the World would never be the same – and that would mean many challenges. The earthly rulers, kings and potentates would not easily surrender their authority and submit to the Kingdom of God. The paradox of the celebration and the challenge of Christmas are still evident in our world today.

We are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ child with great celebration and much rejoicing, and yet we are facing the challenges of helping to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God to inhabit the hearts of all people. The challenges of poverty, indifference, hatred, strife, and war are just a few of the challenges that separate us from realizing the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

We have much to celebrate as a Christian Community at Rome First. The faithfulness and generosity of the people of Rome First have made it possible to support the mission of the Church through the payment of 100% of the Mission Apportionments for Rome First. This is not a new thing for Rome First; you have historically paid 100% of your Mission Apportionments every year, and once again this year they were paid in full by November 1!

Another celebration of the faithfulness and generosity of Rome First is that the local Mission Partners that we help support every year (Community Kitchen, The Faith and Deeds Clinic of Rome, Good Neighbor, Rome Action Ministry, Action Ministry Rapid Rehousing) all were funded at 100% and all the funding was sent to the those vital missions in our community by November 1!

All of the support for the missionary families Rome First supports was sent by November 1! Yet another celebration for the Mission of Rome First!

By the end of the year we will have met for worship over 104 times! We have celebrated the Sacrament of The Lord’s Supper more than 30 times and the Sacrament of Baptism 10 times this year. We will have assembled for classes, small groups and Bible studies every week of the year! We celebrate the addition of new faces and families in the fellowship of believers.

We also celebrate that the long awaited Rooftop Connector that will connect the Wilder Center with the Sanctuary received funding from the Chuck Sennett Memorial Fund and is scheduled to be completed around Easter of next Year!

The challenges that we face include continuing to expand a Ministry and Mission “menu of options” that reflects the changing needs in our community and is faithful to the transformative Kingdom building work for which we are called. While the facilities at Rome First provide many opportunities for celebration, the reality of the age and condition of the facilities continues to be a challenge. For many years, maintenance was deferred or postponed and the cost of “catching up” is significant, but not impossible! Through the faithful management of the Rome First Endowment and through the establishment of a “sinking fund” the needs of future repairs and renovations have “seed money” for the future! Rome First continues to lead in our community in serving others across the street and across the world.

Lots of reasons to celebrate and lots of challenges! Our celebrations are great and our challenges can be met if we develop a plan and address the known challenges and expect that there will be unexpected challenges.

As we prepare to Celebrate the Birth of the Christ Child, we Rejoice in the Great Good News of knowing that God is with us! I’d like to close by sharing with you from one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Books – “I Wish You Enough”
At an airport I overheard a father and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her plane's departure and standing near the door, he said to his daughter, "I love you, I wish you enough." She said, "Daddy, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Daddy." They kissed good-bye and she left. He walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there, I could see he wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on his privacy, but he welcomed me in by asking, "Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?" "Yes, I have," I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Dad had done for me. Recognizing that his days were limited, I took the time to tell him face to face how much he meant to me. So, I knew what this man was experiencing. "Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?" I asked. "I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral," he said. "When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, 'I wish you enough.' May I ask what that means?" He began to smile. "That's a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone." He paused for a moment and looking up, as if trying to remember it in detail, he smiled even more. "When we said 'I wish you enough', we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them," he continued and then turning toward me he shared the following as if he were reciting it from memory. "I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough "Hello's" to get you through the final "Good-bye." [Original story by Bob Perks, in Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul]

I pray you are encouraged by the celebrations of the year about to end, and that you will give prayerful consideration how we might face the challenges in the year ahead! As we prepare to leave 2017 with all the Celebrations and Challenges, we prepare to enter 2018 not knowing what the New Year will hold, but certain that God will be with His people and that God with us is Enough!

I hope to see you in worship this Sunday and in the community being the church every day! Shalom,
Robert ><>