Dear Ones in Christ:
I greet you in the strong name of Jesus Christ as we begin this Advent Season. I love this time of year. I love the energy of Advent as we celebrate again the birth of Christ and look forward expectingly toward his return. I love the lights, the carols, the parties….the cookies. I love the ability to put a smile on someone else’s face by giving them a heartfelt gift, and who doesn’t love receiving gifts? I absolutely love our candlelight Christmas Eve service every year. It’s always interesting to see the look on all of your faces as you drag in at 11pm, stuffed from your Christmas dinners and barely awake. But my finest memories as your pastor have been the change in those faces as they are lit by candles as we sing Silent Night. My absolute favorite part about the Christmas season is being able to say to all of you as we prepare to close the service, “before you leave wish each other a Merry Christmas. After all, it’s Christmas morning.”
I could go on and on about the things I love about Christmas, but I’ll just mention one more. I’m always impressed with your faithfulness in giving this time of year. You always step it up a notch as a Church. First, on behalf of 24 children throughout the world, I want to thank you for the shoeboxes that we came up with between both churches. Next, our general Church offerings always see an increase during Advent as you allow the generosity of your heart to overflow to the offering plates that support your congregation in living out its mission of Connecting the Unconnected and Maturing the Connected. Your generosity shows again in our special march to the manger each year as we present our advent love offerings that go above and beyond our regular tithe and offerings. These gifts go to World Service Fund through the United Methodist Church and equips the Church at large to better fulfill its mission of Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
I want to take this opportunity to appeal to your generosity once more. I want to challenge you to give the gift of life this Christmas season. For the past several years, the United Methodist Church has been engaged in a program known as Imagine No Malaria. IMN is dedicated to the elimination of Malaria in Africa. Malaria is a completely preventable disease, but it is a killer. Malaria was eliminated in the United States in the 50’s but Africa was left behind. A disease that is completely preventable is killing someone in Africa every 60 seconds. Because of the efforts of the UMC, though, this number has improved from 30 seconds. But since our goal is the complete elimination of Malaria in Africa, we press on. Imagine No Malaria prevents Malaria through the distribution of repellant treated bed nets. But it goes a step further. IMN is invested in the treatment of Malaria and the development of a vaccine. You can find more information on Imagine No Malaria at http://www.imaginenomalaria.org
So here’s my challenge. There are two tiers. I’m challenging both churches to raise money for Imagine No Malaria. If the total is $500 or greater (roughly$10/person) I will dye my hair hot pink on December 30. If the total is $750 or greater (roughly $15/person), I’ll dye my hair hot pink and take a pie to the face from the layperson of YOUR choosing during worship on December 30. If the total is $1,000 or greater (roughly $20/person), I will take the pie to the face AND have my head shaved bald for worship on December 30. So there’s my challenge. Would you go above and beyond your regular giving to support Imagine No Malaria and have a bit of fun at your pastor’s expense? You can give my putting a check in the offering plate any Sunday before December 30. Make the check out to either church and write IMAGINE NO MALARIA on the memo line.
Let’s see what we can do with this and make a lasting and positive difference in the world this Christmas!