The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is usually uncomfortable. We have often eaten too much, slept too little, and set aside the healthy rhythms that framed our lives throughout the year.

If you are like me, perhaps you, too, have a sense of disorientation, sometimes discouragement, and other times full blown depression during these days. There is a strange way in which the weary world, which had long awaited the thrill of hope that comes with celebrating the birth of Jesus, somehow manages to turn from night to day one more time, rolling over on its bed, and awakes to find that the thrill seems to have dissipated on December 26. Honestly, sometimes it does not even take that long.

I have felt the bittersweet conclusion of Christmas by Christmas evening. The reality of waiting sets in all over again. The potential of change looms over our hearts. By God’s grace, we know that Christmas will come again, yet we know that next year will be different.

As we sit in this awkward position for the next few days and await the turning pages of our calendar into 2022, the question comes to my heart, What might God be doing in this season? A cursory reading of the Scriptures shows us that God is in the business of using discomfort to shape his people and deepen our faith. What is it that God is telling us when the disappointment sets in, when the decorations return to storage bins? Why do we long for more when we have received such abundance already?

Historically, we live in the uncomfortable time that many Bible teachers refer to as the “already-not yet.” Much like the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the “already-not yet” is the time between Christ’s first advent as the promised “Suffering Servant” Messiah who came to accomplish the Father’s will in purchasing salvation for as many as would believe, and the second advent when he will come in judgment to establish his kingdom upon the earth and absolutely fulfill the covenantal promises of God made to Abraham, David, and throughout the Old Testament. During this time, we live awkwardly by faith in Jesus as those who are truly out of place in this world. Like sojourners on a long voyage, we know our destination, but struggle day-to-day to see home on the horizon. We have confident hope in God and his promises, but we can easily fall into discouragement when we feel the fulfillment of those promises is distant. Year after year, we celebrate the joy of Jesus’s birth, but that joy can quickly fade when it is centered on the celebration itself and not on the Object of the celebration. As the theologian Ronald Rolheiser has stated, “Our society knows how to anticipate an event but not how to sustain it.”

I believe that this is the reason for the bittersweetness that follows Christmas. In our Walmart world of ever-shifting seasons and celebrations, we fail to sustain any lasting gladness. By the time we settle in to celebrate the moment is gone, the day has passed. And yet, we still have an ache within us, that hunger for something deep and enduring. The fact that we long for more tells us that there is more to be had.

When we sit back on Christmas evening, and the evenings that follow, and look at the scraps of crumpled paper and piles of used bows, we sense that something is still missing. This speaks of how great the need is for God to rescue us fully and finally.

Friend, every Christmas will be different. They will change. You will celebrate with different people in diverse places. The faces will come and go. The seats will be emptied and filled. The gifts that seemed so important on your list will one day fail to take priority. But there will come a day when the celebration of Christmas -- the reality that the infinite gap between heaven and earth, between a holy God and sinful humanity, was spanned by God himself -- will be fulfilled. Jesus will reign upon the earth.

In that day, the longings of our hearts for satisfaction and stability will be settled. The discomfort of living in a sin-shattered universe will be soothed. In that day, we will experience the eternally-sustained joy of the destination of our souls, the presence of God himself. In the waning hours of 2021, I challenge you to consider whether you will one day enjoy the satisfying presence of our God? It is available exclusively by grace through faith in Jesus. You can trust him, friend. He is sturdy in a shaky world, a safe refuge. And he himself is our joy for the journey in the uncomfortable time in between of walking and waiting.

Conway, Loris, Aynor and Western Horry

■ Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1619 Parkview Road, Conway will host a Prayer and Feasting service Jan. 8, 2022, at 9 a.m. at the church. The group plans to pray for its community, state and national leaders. After the prayer service, they will enjoy a light brunch. Everyone is welcome.

■ St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, 3449 S.C. 65, will be distributing food on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month from 10 a.m. until noon.

■ Loris First United Methodist Church, 3507 Broad St., has a blessing box in the church available each Friday from 4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m. This box contains non-perishable 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. until noon. The mission: “We serve Christ when we serve people.”

Call (843) 347-5168 or go online to www.stjamesconway.org.

Myrtle Beach / The Coast

■ Myrtle Beach Christian Church, 1226 Burcale Road, Myrtle Beach 29579 will hold a New Year’s Eve Service, Dec. 31, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. There will be finger foods, fellowship, worshiping to bring in 2022!

The church’s thrift store is now open each week, Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. You are encouraged to come out to browse and buy, and, in so doing, you’ll be supporting this community outreach. Call (843) 236-1121.

■ You are invited to the following services and activities at The Well by The Sea, 211 Forestbrook Road:

Something NEW: Broadcasting live on Wednesdays at 4 p.m. on The Well By The Sea Facebook Live, THE DEEP DIVE is a question and answer show fueled by questions sent in by the community. Questions can be about God, the Bible, prophecy, things relating to the Christian life or any spiritual things that you don't understand or do wonder about. No serious question is excluded. They will be entered into the queue for an upcoming show. "LIKE" The Well By The Sea's Facebook page and be automatically notified when the show is about to begin. You may also replay whatever you miss. If watching the show live, you may send a question in the comments section. Or, send questions to: deacondebhamilton@gmail.com.

Also, at the Well By The Sea: In-person Bible study/discussion group on the “9 Supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit” on Mondays at 11 a.m. (no cost, no RSVP, masks required).

An in-person (or Zoom) weekly bereavement/loss support group meets every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Email debhamilton56@gmail.com.

In-person hangout for young adults (ages 18-30); every Saturday at 7 p.m. Come for a free meal and planned activity. Email personalityprism@gmail.com.

■ The Socastee Pantry is now open and serving. This food pantry will be located at A Father’s House, 4513 U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach. Hours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m.-10 a.m.

The pantry is sponsored by Faith Outreach Ministries and operated by local veterans. It will provide much-needed food and necessities to the needy in this community. Call (843) 474-9900 or visit www.faithoutreachministries-gs.org.

■ New Beginnings Monthly Food Distribution - Drive-Thru is held at the Church of the Resurrection on the third Saturday of every month, 8901 U.S. 17 Bypass, Northbound side, Surfside Beach 29577 (843) 215-4500

This is a call for volunteers as well as a notice about this Holiday distribution

for people in need. Email janebuck@sccoast.net regarding volunteer opportunities and other questions.

The Enhanced Holiday Food Distribution is a no-cost event in partnership with Faith Outreach Ministries of the Grand Strand and the Lowcountry Food Bank, held on the third Saturday of every month, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. Cars begin lining up at 7 a.m.

Hablamos Español.

■ Temple Emanu-el by the Sea, 406 65th Ave. north in Myrtle Beach is a conservative group. Call (843) 449-5552.

Rabbi Avi Perets www.mbsynagogue.org Facebook

Services are available on Zoom and at the Temple.

VAERA -- Jan. 1; Friday at 6 p.m. with Shabbat at 10 a.m.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities with wearing a mask and physical distancing.” Call: (843) 449-5552.

Education Wednesday will begin in January 2022 with Advanced Hebrew, 12:45 p.m.-1:45 p.m.; Adult Education, 2 p.m.-3 p.m. in the Rosen Center or on Zoom.

Current events, videos & discussion

Hebrew School runs from 4 p.m.-6 p.m.

New entertainment coupon booklets are available at the Temple Office for $20 each.

The Steffi Nathan Scholarship Fund is open to all Jewish College students. Applications are available in the temple office.

Scholarships are awarded each semester.

Sisterhood is once again collecting socks and underwear (any size/any age) for Fostering Hope.

The Book Club meets monthly to review The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. RSVP to deelans@aol.com or call (843) 592-9913.

Violins of Hope SC will be held April 24, 2022 at 4 p.m. in the Myrtle Beach High School Music & Arts Center at 3302 Robert M. Parkway, Myrtle Beach, 29572.

Go to https://violinsofhopescticketspice.com/violins-of-hope-sc for tickets.

■ Faith Church on S.C. 90 in Little River sponsors Celebrate Recovery on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.

■ 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.

■ Temple Shalom, 4023 Belle Terre Blvd., invites you to Shabbat services each Saturday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Call (843) 903-6634 or go online to templeshalommyrtlebeach.net.

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I'm the editor of the Horry Independent, a weekly newspaper in Conway, South Carolina. I cover city hall and courts, among many other subjects. Know of a good story? Call me at 843-488-7241.

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