December Pastor’s Pen

December Pastor's Pen

Light is a significant part of celebrating the birth of Jesus who called himself the Light of the World. We light trees, Advent wreaths, candles and any number of things to symbolize our faith in the coming light that “pierces the darkness.”

November 11 was an unseasonably mild day in Chambersburg.  Kathie and I took advantage of the warmer temperatures and put strings of lights on the shrubbery in front of our house, put up the annual lawn nativity, and focused the spotlights that will illuminate the Christ Child and the wreath on our front door. 


We gave them a trial lighting that night to make sure all the bulbs from last year still work. However, we don’t intend to display them (unlike our early bird neighbors) until Thanksgiving because that’s “tradition.”  NO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS UNTIL THANKSGIVING. Were you raised that way too?  

On Saturday, November 16th, Kathie was visiting our grandchildren and drove through the little town of Ulster, PA in Bradford County. She noticed that nearly every home along the main thoroughfare was lit up and decorated for the holidays. Some of them displayed signs saying, “Praying for you, Ariah.” “Ariah, we fight with you.” Naturally, Kathie wondered about the Hallmark appearance of Ulster and who Ariah was.


It turns out that Ariah is a seven-year old girl from Ulster who has been diagnosed with a rare childhood disease. Her prognosis, unfortunately, is not very good. Ariah loves Christmas lights. And the whole community has come together around this little girl’s passion, defying tradition and gaily lighting up the homes and streets of Ulster in support of her.


The disciple, John, said that in Jesus is life and the light of that life shines in the darkness. It will not be timid; it will not be hidden; it will not take “no” for an answer. (John 1:4-5) The facts are, when the Light of the World came, he upended the traditional thinking of the day, being born in a stable, announcing his presence to a ragtag group of shepherds and living to love and serve the broken, sick and humble people that are important to God

– in other words, the Ariahs among us.


So maybe you might put up your decorations a little earlier than tradition warrants this year and let your light shine, as Jesus told his followers to do. And if anyone asks you why the rush, just tell them you’re doing it for the Lord and for Ariah this year.


Advent blessings!


Pastor Joel


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November Pastor’s Pen

November Pastor's Pen

Give thanks with a grateful heart… 

Whenever I pray, I begin my prayers by thanking the Lord for all that I was given that day – even when what I was given wasn’t necessarily to my liking.

I do this for his sake:  God loves when we recognize his goodness and praise him accordingly.  In fact, Scripture says he “inhabits our praise.”  But I do it for my sake too. Sometimes I get a little careless with my attitude of gratitude and I need to be reminded of how blessed I really am. 

Are you blessed?  Someone shared this with me years ago. 

 If you have food in the refrigerator,

clothes on your back, a roof over

your head and a place to sleep, you

are richer than 75% of the world.


If you have some money in the bank,

in your wallet, and spare change in

a dish, you are among the top 8% of

the world’s wealthy.


If you woke up with more health than

illness, you are more blessed than the

million who will not survive this week.


If you can attend worship without fear

of harassment, arrest, torture or death,

you are more blessed than 3 billion

people in the world.


If you are reading this, you are more

blessed than over 2 billion people in

the world that cannot read at all.


If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because while the majority could do this, most do not.

Happy Thanks-giving!   


Pastor Joel


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October Pastor’s Pen

October Pastor's Pen

Finally, Jesus was left alone with the woman still standing there in front of him. So he stood back up and said to her, “Dear woman, where are your accusers? Is there no one here to condemn you?”

Looking around, she replied, “I see no one, Lord.”

“Then I certainly don’t condemn you either. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.”  

John 8:10-11; The Passion Translation

The woman caught in adultery was done for…

The religious scholars and legal experts of the day had condemned her to death by stoning.  Before they followed through with her punishment, they brought her to Jesus to see if he would concur.

This is a pretty familiar story and you probably remember that Jesus counseled them that whoever among them was without sin could throw the first rock.  No one was and no one could.  One by one they all left in silence.

She was given a reprieve and Jesus gave her a second chance.

Some people believe this pardoned woman was Mary Magdalene, the unofficial female disciple whose commitment and generosity were crucial to the ministry of Christ. Let’s go with that. Consider what she was and who she became, all because she was given another chance at living.

At the end of the school year, an elementary student in her building gave our daughter, Yajairia, a geranium in a Dixie cup. She put it outside and watered it but with the shallow soil, the plant simply could not thrive.  And so Yajaira put the wilting flower in the trash.

I saw it there and retrieved it.  I dug a hole near our pond, put in some rich potting soil and planted the geranium, giving it another chance.  Even though the blooms in the picture have peaked, you can see that the plant is thriving and we have enjoyed it all summer long.

Just like Jesus gave the woman and I gave a geranium a second chance at life, you too are given a second chance. What you were isn’t important to Jesus; who you can become – your potential – is what he sees and what he celebrates. Thank him for that second chance before you go to bed this evening.

There is life-giving power in the second chance. And that gives me one more thought on the subject.  I’m wondering… Is there someone in my life/your life who needs a second chance? Who has messed up — who has disappointed you, failed you, even hurt you that needs your reprieval and a chance to have a life again? Make that call. Write that letter. Open that hand of forgiveness.  Set someone free and let someone bloom again.

Pastor Joel


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