If you or I were asked to go to the Bible and read the Christmas story, we’d probably immediately turn to Matthew chapters 1 and 2 or Luke chapters 1 and 2.But the Apostle Paul also told the story of the Incarnation in Galatians 4:4-7: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children of God, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So, you are no longer a slave but a child of God and if a child of God, then an heir through God.”
Paul said, “at just the right time” the first Christmas came. God’s timing is always perfect, never a minute early or late. And His plans have been in His mind since eternity past and have been and will never be changed or foiled. Throughout the Old Testament He kept telling folks that the Messiah was coming.
First, He told Satan, just after Adam and Eve sinned and Satan thought he had won. God told Him definitely that he was a loser and in Genesis 3:15 told him, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head, and you will bruise (only) His heel.”
Later in Genesis, when the patriarch Jacob was blessing his sons, God gave him a glimpse of the coming Messiah and he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet until Shiloh comes, and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
Even the compromising prophet Balaam saw the future coming of Christ and said, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him but not near, a Star shall come out of Jacob and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.” (Numbers 24:17)
But perhaps the most “obvious” prophecies came through Isaiah and Micah.
“Therefore, the Lord Himself shall give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)
“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)
Yes, it was time. Four thousand years of waiting and now the Messiah was to come; God was to become a man, conceived miraculously in a young virgin, born in a stable. It was time. Israel needed a Savior; the world needed a Savior. But few in that day realized their real need and the reason He came -- not for political power but to save people from their sins. So, they missed the Messiah!
Two thousand years later, America and our world needs a Savior. But we may not realize what we need from the Christ of Christmas who is still very much alive and doing His work.
If our greatest need today were a cure for COVID-19 or a vaccine, Christ would be a medical researcher. If our greatest need were economic because of all the problems stemming from the pandemic: jobs lost, houses and possessions repossessed, businesses closed, etc. then Christ would be a financial wizard.
If our greatest need were political bipartisanship, politicians of all parties working for the good of the nation instead of themselves, then Christ would be a political arbitrator. If our greatest need were racial harmony (and our division is not because of our differences, but our similarities), then Chris would be a social reconciler.
But these are not our greatest needs. Our greatest need at Christmas 2020 is the same as it has been since the fall of man: we need a Savior, one who is able to forgive sins and reconcile us to God. And that’s why Jesus Christ came. He was God, born into the world as a man; lived a sinless life; died on a cross and on the cross He paid for the sins of all the world. He rose again, ascended to heaven and today is offering to all who will believe in His atoning work, the free gift of eternal life, forgiveness of sin, and a home in heaven!
For many this will be a “difficult” Christmas; illness, death, financial problems wreak havoc with our families and our communities. But that’s why we need Christmas and why Christ came to give us Christmas.
Ruth Bell Graham said this: “It is just before Christmas, but perhaps you don’t care anymore. Something has happened, and now you find no joy or meaning to your life. Perhaps the most you look for is for some temporary form of escape.
“Maybe you can’t give anything. There’s nothing left to give or there’s no one left to give to. Listen …
“What’s Christmas all about anyway? Wasn’t there a death, an emptiness, a need? Wasn’t there a Love somewhere, infinite, eternal, unchangeable, a Love that gave His only Son? That’s what Christmas is all about: God coming to Earth in the Person of the Christ Child, to do for you and for me what we cannot possibly do for ourselves.
“Jesus lived among us and had the same kinds of problems that we do. You haven’t a problem, and I haven’t a problem, that He doesn’t understand from close personal experience. He spent His entire life meeting human needs. He died on the cross to deal once and for all with our greatest need, redemption from sin. This Christmas, God is asking you to come to Him. Bring your failures, your sins, your problems, your fears. Bring yourself.
“This is Christmas: Redemption’s glorious exchange of gifts!”
Continue to Pray Without Ceasing
The Bible encourages God’s people to “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17), “pray always with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:17), and the exhortation from Paul to Timothy (I Timothy 2:8) that “men (and women and children too) pray everywhere.”
I’m sure your church, like mine, has a long prayer list and I’m sure you have your own personal prayer list, too. Here are some things that we, as God’s church, can and should be praying about daily:
■ Pray for our leaders, at all levels and right now, our elected incumbents and newly-elected leaders, that they will lead wisely and seek God’s wisdom and will in their new positions of authority.
■ Pray for the church in America and the church around the world (especially the persecuted church). In the increasing darkness of sin, the church is the light and if we’re willing to be the light, then darkness cannot extinguish God’s truth!
■ Pray for our nation that we will return to a time of mutual respect for each other, of love, real toleration and as the Bible tells us “accepting and bearing with” one another. Pray that the hate, the violence, the malice will end.
■ Pray that we’ll all respect life as a gift from God who alone has the right and power to begin and end it. Pray that we’ll realize that all life matters from conception until natural death.
■ Pray for our homes and families that love between parents and parents and children will be the “rule of the day” and that families will follow God’s pattern to be the solid basic building block of society.
■ Pray for our schools (all levels), students, teachers, administrators and service personnel. These are incredibly difficult days in education.
■ Pray for the sick, the infirm, the elderly, the needy and be willing to be God’s hands and feet to meet needs as you can.
■ Pray for each other. Each week as I share prayer requests at church, I ask our folks to look around and tell them everyone they see needs prayer. But we have a great God who can hear every prayer
Your Help is Making a Difference!
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The upcoming “flu season”. Financial upheaval caused by the current situation. Storm devastation. Wildfire destruction. The list of difficulties and problems seems never-ending.
And all of these seem worse during the holidays. Inventory what you have. Do you have more than enough? (Be honest, God has given to most of us abundantly!) If you do, someone has said that God gives that so you can share with others.
Share your resources (food, clothing), your time, your monetary resources with others. And you don’t have to look far to find the needy or good faithful organizations that are ministering to them. Don’t be a Grinch or a Scrooge. Open your hands and your heart to others! You’ll be blessed as you bless.
Coastal Samaritan Counseling Center
Coastal Samaritan Counseling Center is working hard to help the community recover from the mental health effects of COVID-19. A crisis represents both danger and opportunity. So, through Dec. 20, the group is sponsoring the Holiday Hope and Healing Online Auction.
Bidding on auction items or contributing a financial gift allows you to become an instrument of hope and healing, so desperately needed by so many in today’s culture. The auction will be online at www.32auctions.com/cscc. Phone (843) 448-4820 or go to www.coastalsamaritan.org.
January Life March and Rally
Grand Strand Citizens for Life will again provide buses to the State March and Rally for Life in Columbia on Jan. 9, 2021. Pickup times and locations are: 6:30 a.m., St. Michael’s Church parking lot, 542 Cyprus Drive, Garden City; 6:45 a.m., St. Andrews Community Life Center, 37th Avenue North near Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach; 7:15 a.m., Coastal Mall on U.S. 501 in Conway.
The cost to ride the bus is only $10 per person and reservations are required. (But please do not let the cost deter you from attending; if you need assistance, let the group know.)
Make reservations by calling Andrew Woitko at (843) 734-0137 (H) or (302) 981-1528 (M). Your seat will be reserved when payment is received. Make checks payable to GSCL and mail them to 154 Woodlyn Ave., Little River, SC 29566. You may also pay online at https://www.makethelifechoice.org/bus.html.
Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry
■ The Rock Church, Faith Outreach Ministries and the Lowcountry Food Bank will be giving away food boxes Friday at 10:30 a.m. at 1408 Mill Pond Road (in Conway).
Boxes will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis, one per household represented, with a maximum of two boxes per car. There will be a place to register; please bring an identification document if you have one.
■ First United Methodist Church of Conway invites you to celebrate Advent and enjoy its Candlelight Advent Concerts virtually on Facebook and FUMC Youtube channel.
On Dec. 20 at 4 p.m., Katherine Brooks and Janet Lawrence (sopranos), Melinda Hyman (tenor), Will Brown (tenor) and Patrick Carter (bass) will perform.
On Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a virtual presentation of A Festival of Lessons and Carols with Chancel Choir and Orchestra (this is an archived performance from 2019). Phone (843) 488-4251.
■ The Catholic Church of St. James, 1071 Academy Drive, collects nonperishable food items for Catholic Charities and CAP Monday-Friday from 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the church. The church is also collecting new or gently-used coats for men, women and children! The coats will be distributed to those in need. You can bring your gifts to the church before Dec. 25.
Please help as you are able. Call (843) 347-5168 or go online to www.stjamesconway.org.
The Mass Schedule for the holidays is as follows: Christmas Eve, Family Mass at 3 p.m. (live streaming); Christmas Mass at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Spanish Christmas Mass at 9 p.m. (live streaming) with Posada at 8:30 p.m. And Christmas Mass at 11 p.m.
Christmas Day: Christmas Mass at 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. (live streaming); Spanish Christmas Mass at 11 a.m. (live streaming)
New Year’s Eve: 4 p.m. (live streaming) and 6 p.m.; Spanish 8 p.m. (live streaming).
New Year’s Day: 9 a.m. (live streaming) and Spanish at 11 a.m. (live streaming).
■ Catholic Charities Pee Dee Christmas distributions are available for those in need if items for their Christmas. Assistance is available to families with children under the age of 18.
Registration is required for this assistance and has started. Registration is first-come, first-serve until all slots are filled. Call Catholic Charities Pee Dee at (843) 438-3108.
For the Christmas project the needs are: new, unwrapped toys and books for children through age 12; for teens 13-18, makeup (kids), nail (kids), bath sets, curling irons, blow dryers, purses, teenage board games, tabletop games, dart boards, sports gear, headphones, watches, wallets, tool kits, $10 fast food or movie theater gift cards. Also new winter coats (newborn to adult XL), hats, gloves, earmuffs and scarves. Catholic Charities is located at 2294 Technology Blvd. in Conway.
■ Tilly Swamp Survivors of Suicide, a new faith-based support group for those having lost someone to suicide, meets the first and third Mondays of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the church: 4619 S.C. 90. Phone (803) 566-0702.
■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will be distributing food on the second and fourth Fridays of each month from 11 a.m. until all food has been distributed.
■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a Blessing Box in the church and it is available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains nonperishable food items and individuals in need are encouraged to come to the church at those times. Also, if you would like to donate items, please place them in the box.
■ Dogwood Hill Baptist Church, 1040 Mt. Zion Road in Loris, has a food pantry on the third Saturday of each month from 8 a.m.-10 a.m.
■ Salem Baptist Church, 4008 Salem Road in Aynor, opens its Food Bank on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 9 a.m.-noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”
Please help as you are able. Call (843) 347-5168 or go online to www.stjamesconway.org.
Myrtle Beach/The Coast
■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, announces the following:
Farm fresh Christmas tree sales from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily through December.
Journey to Bethlehem, outdoor drama, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7 p.m.; Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 7 p.m. Phone 843-236-1121; e-mail to email@example.com or go online to www.myrtlebeachchristianchurch.com.
■ The New Beginnings drive-thru food distribution will be held Saturday from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. at the Church of the Resurrection, 8901 U.S. 16 Bypass in Surfside Beach. Cars can begin lining up at 7 a.m. Future dates include Jan. 16, 2021. Phone (843) 215-4500.
■ Together in Christ announces the following events: Community Candlelight Caroling Sunday 5 p.m. at the stage in Plyler Park by the Sky Wheel; Fatherheart Conference, Jan. 8-9, 2021, at Catch the Fire Church; Candlelight Vigil (to pay respects for the homeless who died in Myrtle Beach in 2020), Jan. 15, 2021, 4:30 p.m. at Victory Baptist Church.
■ St. Philip Lutheran Church, 6200 N. Kings Hwy., will offer three in-person Christmas Eve services on Dec. 24: 11 a.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. The 11 a.m. service will offer the same music and liturgy and is a good option for those who do not like to drive at night, or young families with early bedtimes.
Both the 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. services will be traditional with candle lighting and communion. The church will also offer a live Facebook stream of the 8 p.m. service for those who wish to join on-line. Call the Church Office at (843) 449-5345.
■ Help 4 Kids and Backpack Buddies continue to provide food for 400-500 families per week and need your help. Suggested food donations include: peanut butter, jelly, pasta and sauce, rice, beans, cereal, macaroni & cheese, canisters of Kool-Aid, canned meats, snacks and chips.
You may also donate grocery gift cards used for produce, meats, dairy and bread and monetary donations are always appreciated.
And let’s not forget the need for new clothing, sizes 4 and up (especially teens); shoes and sneakers (any size), socks and underwear. And send gift cards that Help4Kids can use to purchase necessary goods.
The office is located at 2523 Forestbrook Road, Myrtle Beach SC 29588 (gifts may be mailed to that address also). Go online to www.help4kidssc.org.
■ Temple Emanu-EL by the Sea; 406 65th Ave. North: Services (Virtual and Temple) Friday 6 p.m., Shabbat 10 a.m. Hebrew School Wednesdays, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; Adult Education Classes, Wednesdays 2 p.m.-3 p.m.; Advanced Hebrew Classes, Wednesdays 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m. (Masks required!)
“Light a Chanukiah” Project, through tomorrow; light a virtual Chanukiah and dedicate it to whomever you wish, $18.00. Phone 843-449-5552; website www.mbsynagogue.org.
■ Together in Christ has a Wednesday ZOOM Prayer Meeting from noon-12:30 p.m. each week. Prayer changes everything and you are invited to pray with the mid-week group. Email hgprayer @sccoast.net.
■ St. Michael’s Catholic Church, 542 Cypress Ave. in Murrells Inlet, has a Life Chain every first Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on U.S. 17 business near the church driveway. You are invited to participate in this event. (Bring a chair if not able to stand for the hour.) Contact Joanne Bennett at (614) 313-8425 or email Joanne.bennett55@ gmail.com.
■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, opens its Thrift Store each week, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out and browse and buy and, in so doing, you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Phone (843) 236-1121.
■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Phone (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.