Monday, December 08, 2008

Pastor's Perspective

A December Miscellany

Our gatherings for worship on the first Sunday of December were exceedingly blessed. The morning services featured choir and ensemble singing special carols (like Sir David Willcocks’ arrangement of “The Infant King” and Mack Wilberg’s version of “Still, Still, Still) and the congregation’s singing of our first carol of the season, Wesley’s joyful and majestic “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.” We also started our study of the Gospel of Luke. The evening service included the ordination of thirty-five new officers: ten elders and twenty-five deacons. Derek’s message was resounding and the occasion solemn and happy and tender and hopeful. My friends, do not underestimate the privileges we regularly share together on the Lord’s Day here in First. It is not always thus.

Now, a few important words on a variety of subjects. First, a brief but strategic comment about our year-end giving. December contributions are always important for us in First Presbyterian Church, and this year particularly so. We are in a time of national and global economic uncertainty, and though your giving has been strong to this point of the year, even through the turbulent days of October and November, December will (as it always does) determine whether we meet our budget and ministry commitments for 2008.

Basically, about 22% of our annual church contributions are given in December. That means, that for our budget to balance this month, something like $1.4 million will have to be received in our general fund. This is roughly three times our normal monthly giving towards the church budget. Now, this (and more) has routinely come in in years past, but this year there is uncertainty. What will replace the gifts of appreciated stock (something which is presumably in rare supply) which often amounted to tens of thousands of our December contributions? What will replace tithes off of partnership shares and bonuses that are non-existent or diminished this year? The only certain answer to this (on our end) is sacrificial giving over and above our commitments on the part of every one of us.

So, let me urge you to faithfulness in generous giving during these final weeks of the year. There are three things, in particular, that I want to emphasize. (1) Be mindful of your year-end giving to the church. It is particularly important this year. (2) Give generously and sacrificially to the ministry budget of the church. (3) Give over and above your tithes and faith promise towards the debt retirement of the remaining cost owed for the sanctuary expansion and building renovation (which is now down to about $4 million).

Now on to another subject. Do remember that this year’s Music of Christmas is at 5:00 o’clock pm on Sunday, December 21. This annual service of lessons and carols has become a beloved tradition. A nursery will be provided. Note that there will only be one service. Come early for your seats.

Let me also remind you that our annual Christmas Eve Family Carol Service (a very special time of singing and joy) will take place, as usual, at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, on Wednesday, December 24. Make plans for your whole family to participate.

We will have our Midweek Bible Study and Prayer Meeting, as usual, with supper, on Wednesday night, December 17, but the Family Carol Service will take the place of our regular Wednesday activities on December 24.

Men, thinking ahead to January, on Friday night, January 30, 2008, Rick Phillips (who was an army officer, graduated from the Wharton School and taught leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point), Pastor of Second Presbyterian Church (PCA), Greenville, SC, will be here to preach the Mid-South Men’s Rally. He will also preach for us on the following Sunday morning, both services (February 1, 2008).

1 comment:

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