December 23, 2019 - First Baptist Center, 117 Cora, will host a Community Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 6:00pm on Tuesday, December 24.

December 23, 2019 - The Feast of the Nativity Christmas Eve Service with Communion at St. John’s Episcopal Church is Christmas Eve, December 24, 2019 at 3pm. Everyone is welcome!

St. John's Episcopal Church is located on Southview  Circle (Hwy 96S), Center, Texas.

December 23, 2019 - On this that the world today calls, "Christmas Week", let us all know why there is so much activity, so much rejoicing around the world for the Christmas holiday.

As it happened Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in a manger, a feed trough, in Bethlehem. 

When he was eight days old his mother and her husband Joesph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the Law of Moses, the required purification ritual and to present him to the Lord.

Now there was a man living in Jerusalem who had been looking for the Christ of the Lord as it had been revealed to him that even though he was an old man, he would not die until he had seen the Christ with his own eyes.

"Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."

"And his father and mother marveled at what he had said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:25-35)

And Simeon knew then what all people would know later, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God had come to save the lost of this world and that all who would believe in him and call upon him for salvation would be saved from the penalty of sin which is death of the spirit.

"Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." (Romans 10:9-10)

Let all people enjoy this week of Christmas thanksgiving and let all remember the reason for the joyful season, for to us a Savior is born...

December 23, 2019 - Grace and peace from our brother, Jesus, Amen. It has turned back to winter with a vengeance. It is Wednesday, December 18th morn and about 25 degrees at my house. My faithful companions, Gunter and Sam, are so ready to go for a walk, but I just can’t make myself bundle up and go. I will get the courage later. Winter doesn’t officially start until December 21st. Sue is getting ready to head to First Baptist Joaquin, as it is the day that children’s Christmas gifts are given to the many families who are being helped out this holiday season. Sue has been busy cooking and baking my mother’s special chocolate chip cupcakes (9 dozen total). The house has smelled aromatic and festive. Sue, Lynn, Delores, and Doug—the four volunteers who keep the Joaquin Senior Center going—are on a two-week Christmas break, but I noticed that the diehard domino players are still meeting every morning!

Last night (Tuesday, December 17th) was the Paxton Christmas Program and Dinner. We had a really nice crowd. Wayne was kind enough to come again this year and lead the congregation in Christmas carols and hymns. He also teamed up with his wife Leona to sing “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” Sue read “The Ox and the Star,” a sweet tale of the first Christmas through the eyes of an ox. Later in the program she read a children’s book, When I Dream of Christmas. Nora sang that haunting song, “The Call of Christmas.” During the program we could all smell the good food that was brought: After a short intermission, we got down to the serious work of eating. We certainly excelled in that task!

Fannie had a most excellent Sunday School lesson. Gene read the scripture from Matthew 1: 18-25, about Joseph discovering that Mary was pregnant and the angel coming to him in a dream. The lesson was titled “Hope Fulfilled.” The question Fannie asked that created the most discussion was how we square our holiday materialism with our Christmas faith—not an easy question to answer.

We were so pleased to see Lillie, Liz, and Mike come to church this morning. They are up at the farm, where the family will be gathering at Christmas. Carolyn has headed off to Pennsylvania, but the rest of us were present and accounted for. The church looks so beautiful: Last Sunday Sue took pictures of the poinsettias, the Christmas tree, and the manger scene out front of the church, and I used all three when preparing Sunday’s bulletin.

Sunday’s Gospel Lesson was Luke’s telling of Christmas Eve night with the shepherds, the bright star, the stable, the manger, the animals, Mary, Joseph, and of course the newborn baby. This story of the birth of Jesus that we retell every December is about a God so full of love that he comes and joins us in our broken-ness and wounded-ness and shows us how to live despite the problems we face.

I have been completing the “End-of-Year” report for the district and conference offices. This is one of several reports that help make sure we are accountable for what we do. Gene has been our treasurer these last many years, such a help in getting the financial information together. It used to be that the pastor would take his reports and other information and head to the District Office where auditors would go through it all. That day was called Report Day. Now, everything is done online, and the reports are submitted this way. It sure is handy and saves a trip to Lufkin. That wouldn’t be a problem now that I am retired from the school business, but back in the day I would have to take a day off work when we were first returning to school. I always wonder what John Wesley would have thought of all the reports, but he’d probably give them a thumbs up. Last Sunday the church approved the pastor’s evaluation, and it too has been forwarded to the District Office.

All this month we have been collecting cans of soup for Community Christian Services. Starting off in 2020, we will collect cans of tuna. Our Holiday ministry was called off this month. All the nursing centers are all so busy this time of year and have so many activities for the residents. We will catch up in January. We are going to Lakeside Village Assisted Living on New Year’s Eve Day but will still sing some Christmas songs. One can never sing too many Christmas carols.

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here.” Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Sunday School starts at 9:30 and Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist you can send me your email address to the Paxton email address and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

“Christ was born in Bethlehem…” Matt. 2:1
 
December 23, 2019 - When a pastor recently informed me that the Christmas celebration was sinful, it rang an all-too-familiar bell. His reasons were not new. Every year some well-meaning people encourage us to scratch the Christmas holiday. “We don’t know when Christ was born”… “Ivy and mistletoe were used in worship of the Greek god, Bacchus”… “Mistletoe was associated with Druidical rites”… “Ancient pagans decorated trees.”

Every day of our week and every planet in our solar system were named after pagan gods. Our national symbol is the filthy, cruel eagle and many of our sports teams are named after cruel animals or pagan gods. Should we refuse to acknowledge our planets and the days of the week? Should we abolish American sports because of their team names?

What my friend said about the date of our Lord’s birth and the resemblance of Christmas to ancient pagan rites is true. But what are idols and pagan gods? The Apostle Paul said they are nothing and were “no gods”. To abolish Christmas because of past pagan practices is whipping a dead horse.

Christmas comes after the shortest day of the year, December 21st. The days start lengthening and the sun recommences its upward course telling us that spring and summer are coming. Can we not feel the thrill, the flow and the triumph of this day?

Christmas never harmed anyone. The only objection I have to it is that it comes only once a year. We need to thank God that we live to see this Christmas…

… and pray that its lights never be extinguished.

December 18, 2019 - There is a sad and tragic statement in the Gospel According to Luke in regard to the coming of our Savior into this world. Dr. Luke tells us that when Jesus came into the world he was “wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn”.

We read that passage through the prism of 2,000 years of history and are quick to speak harsh words about the innkeeper who forced Jesus to be born in a stable with the animals. We wonder why he could not have found a room for a woman who was great with child.

Yet, there is a far greater tragedy in our day and time than the tragedy of Jesus being born in a stable and laid in a manger. That is the fact that in our day and time there is no room in the hearts of a great many people for Jesus.

In this season of the year, the majority of the world is focused on the birth of Christ. Yet, has Jesus really made a difference in the way that we live? Has He made a difference in the way we treat our fellowman or our families? Has He made a difference in the way we conduct our business affairs? Has He made a difference in the priorities of our lives? Do we put Him first? In that day there was no room in the Inn. Is there room in our hearts for Jesus today?

It’s something to think about… tbp

Join us for worship this coming Lord’s day at the Center Church of Christ, 110 Hurst Street, Center, Texas or online www.centerchurchofchrist.com.

December 18, 2019 - Mt. Zion invites everyone to our Annual Sounds of The Season Musical. It will be held on Sunday, December 22nd at 11am. 

Rev. Richard Edwards, Pastor. Sis. Veronica Berry, Choir President.

December 16, 2019 - Grace and peace from our brother and savior, Jesus, Amen. It is less than three weeks until Christmas. We are moving through Advent quickly: During the lighting of the Advent Candles in worship time, we speak of the themes of Advent—hope, joy faith, and love. In Advent we not only celebrate the coming of the Christ child, but also the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. 

As is typical for Texas, last Monday we had a warm and humid day followed by a really cold and raining Tuesday. I am starting to add things to my weekly article on Wednesday morning. The thermometer says it is 29 outside, so I am not looking forward to my two-mile walk in the park. But my four-legged buddies, Gunter and Sam, will demand that I bundle up and take them for their morning constitutional. 

Tuesday is our Paxton Community Christmas program and dinner; we are always so happy to have many friends and neighbors join us. We sure hope the weather is better than it was last year, when it was arctic and rainy. But regardless, it will be pleasant and warm inside Paxton Methodist.

Today Fannie and the church completed the Clergy Assessment of their pastor to be sent to the District Office.  It is a lengthy report, one of many required of Methodist churches.  One thing I have discovered since becoming a Methodist is that Methodists are methodical folks!  I am also working on the End-of-Year Reports for the District and Conference.  One section deals with the finances of the church, so Gene, our treasurer, has to look up information about last year.  He always does a great job. 

Paxton Methodists have been collecting cans of soup this month for Community Christian Services. In January 2020 we will be collecting cans of tuna. Our church also writes a check for the Children’s Christmas Gifts program that First Baptist Joaquin organizes. Sue is dropping off some angel tree gifts that she collected for a young man. On Wednesday, the gifts will be going out to the many families, and Sue is going to help translate Spanish to English and visa versa. 

Because of the holidays, we’ve had to rearrange our nursing home programs. So we just went to Focused Care last week. But even though it was a different time, day, and date, we still had an enthusiastic crowd.  Hilda romped the piano while I emceed. We sang lots of Christmas songs but also some of the old regulars.  Pastor Sarah spoke about joy in all the activities and decorations (although she dropped and broke the first one intended for her own tree). She further reminded us that Christianity doesn’t stop with Christmas—it carries through the whole year. Fannie read a Christmas poem about baby Jesus, definitely on our minds as we celebrate his birth. Sue tested everyone with the “Jingle Bell Quiz,” reading partial Christmas lyrics and three possible ways of finishing each. Nora sang a haunting song, “The Call of Christmas.” I honored Jo and Margie, who so faithfully join us for our programs. And Sue thanked Tina, the Activity Director, for helping rearrange our schedule.

Our Sunday School lesson today was about how surprising God often is. Gene read our scripture, Isaiah 42: 1-9, about the suffering servant.  For the writer of the Matthew Gospel, this was how Jesus the Messiah had to be viewed—as the suffering servant. Most Jews imagined the messiah as a conquering superhero: Once again, God’s work in our world is often surprising.   

The Gospel Lesson for Sunday was Matthew 11: 2-11. John the Baptizer is in prison but gets a message to Jesus asking him if he is the messiah…or should John and his disciples keep looking. Jesus tells the messengers to report back what they see and hear—the blind are able to see, the crippled are walking, lepers are cleansed the deaf now hear, and the dead are raised up. In our search for faith that has real meaning in our everyday living, we like to deal with authentic—real—people. We have become pretty good at spotting people who say one thing but then act in a different manner. We become leery of these kinds of people, with our guard naturally going up. The title of my sermon was “Let Your Lives Speak,” asking everyone to “show we are Christians by our love.”

Whoever you are, in whatever faith you were born, whatever creed you profess; if you come to this house to find God you are welcome here.” Paxton United Methodist Church is an inviting church that takes to heart the idea of “Open Doors, Open Hearts, and Open Minds.” Sunday School starts at 9:30 and Worship begins at 10:00. Our email address is paxtonumc@yahoo.com. If you would like the weekly email newsletter about Paxton Methodist you can send me your email address to the Paxton email address and I will add you to the list. God’s Speed.

Randy & Sue Smith/Paxton United Methodist Church

December 15, 2019 - The Holy Spirit is my teacher, my Helper."But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things." (John 14:26) The Greek translation of the Hebrew word for Helper is "legal counsel", so he is my guide and counsel through life.

The Holy Spirit has come to convict me and the world of sin. "And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement." (John 16:8)

The Holy Spirit dwells in me. "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you." (1 Corinthians 3:16)

The Holy Spirit is my source of wisdom and of the power of God. "These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God." (1 Corinthians 2:10)

The Holy Spirit guides me to the truth of God. "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come." (John 16:13) The Spirit speaks to me of the things that God says to him.

The Holy Spirit gives to me the spiritual gifts that I am to use in service to the Lord. "To each is given the manifestation of the spirit for the common good. For one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophesy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:7-10)

The Holy Spirit is my seal, my legal validation of salvation. "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1:13)

The Holy Spirit intercedes for me and helps me in my weakness. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26)

Through the Holy Spirit, God renews me and gives me eternal life with Christ. "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)

The Holy Spirit sanctifies me (cleanses me, removes all sin from me) and enables me to bear good fruit for God. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh." (Galatians 5:16-17)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:22-25) 

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

"Because if you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

All that the Holy Spirit does each day for me, he can do also for you. 

If you will just accept Jesus Christ as Lord, you will receive the Holy Spirit as your own.

December 13, 2019 - If Santa Claus ever had a helper it was my mother-in-law, Leta Howell.  Though she has been gone from among us for 35 years, her love of the Christmas season has inspired all of her children to do many of the things that she did.  She was a minister’s wife and thus understood the true meaning of Christmas, and she passed that along to everyone she knew.
 
Although she was educated with college and seminary degrees, she retained the roots of her upbringing in the plains of West Texas.  While living in the piney woods of East Texas, she began several Christmas traditions.
 
“Granny” Howell was an excellent seamstress.  She made Christmas stockings for each family member.  She used red felt for the main stocking, then she put a green border around the top.  As grandchildren and great-grandchildren were born into the family, she would make sure the new baby would have its own stocking to hang across the fire place mantle.  She stuffed each stocking on Christmas Eve with candy, fruit, and simple useable gadgets.  Near the end of her life, the Christmas stockings were almost too numerous to hang on the mantle.  This tradition has been taken up by many of her children and grandchildren, most of whom are now married with families of their own.
 
One Christmas, she got the idea of making red outfits for all the members of her family.  The good seamstress that she was, she made red suits for every one to wear on Christmas day.  Even her husband, Rev. Howell, got a new red coat to wear.  She sewed for months on them, and gave each family member their red outfits on Christmas Eve, in packages wrapped in red paper.   On Christmas morning everyone donned their red clothes, and the house looked like a collection of walking poinsettias.  Rev. Howell continued to wear his bright red coat every Christmas until his death in December of 2006.
 
Now you know who put the red in Christmas.

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