Josh Medlock, Director of Student Ministries

Now that Christmas Day has come and gone, I am taking time to reflect.

It seems like every year the anticipation and rush of Christmas comes and goes much more quickly that I expect.

I know it is coming.

Advent heralds the season, and we on staff at First United Methodist Garland go into lightning mode to prepare for all that we will do.

Even though I know it is coming, it still surprises me how much we do.

This season we prepared and transformed our church for an entire week to bring the Night in Bethlehem experience to our congregation and community.

This year we welcomed over 300 people to Bethlehem and told them that God loves them.

I saw so many new faces this year as well as lots of familiar ones.

I even saw some who came home to fellowship and experience with us.

Then we worked into the late hours of the night (and the morning) to tear it all down and put it away so that we could set up for our regular church activities.

Next we began the set up for Distribution Night for The Reindeer Project, where we served and ministered to hundreds of Garland Independent School District (GISD) students and their families by providing presents and food for Christmas Day.

This work took several weeks to plan and prepare. Then we had just one night to make it all happen. And boy did it happen!

We worked again into the late hours of the night and into the next day to put it all away and set up for church.

But wait, we weren’t done yet!

We still had three Christmas Eve services to plan and celebrate.

Our Christmas Eve candlelight services were, once again, awe inspiring and joyful to be a part of and witness.

I always look forward to the music and children at the five o’clock service and communion at our seven o’clock service.

My favorite part of these services though is the candlelight.

I love being able to look around the sanctuary and see the light of God being shared among so many at one time and in one place. One body. One purpose.

I reflect on these times during Advent and it brings me joy, happiness and hope.

When I reflect on the year in the life of our church, however, I have to be honest and say it isn’t always filled with joy, happiness and hope.

Our church is struggling with some issues that are deep and can be very difficult for some and very hurtful for others.

This isn’t affecting just our church. Our entire denomination is struggling right now.

We are struggling to find common ground.

We are struggling to find hope in a time that that finds us divided.

These difficulties are affecting everyone, regardless of where we are in our walk of faith.

However, it is this time that has just passed – this time of Advent – that gives me hope.

You see, during this time we are able to move past our differences and judgments, and work together to provide love and hope for our local community.

We are able to look people in the eye and tell them that God loves them, and believe it is true.

We are able to sit with families who are in a different place than we are – economically, socially, and in some cases physically – and tell them God loves them.

That WE love them.

We are able to provide joy, happiness and hope to people who otherwise might not hear God loves them.

When I look to this coming year I have mixed feelings.

On one hand I have fear and doubt about whether the people called Methodist will remain united as our name suggests.

I am sad that some will not be able to reconcile our differences and will choose to leave this church and perhaps our denomination.

I am uncertain about what the future holds.

On the other hand, I remember the light of God being passed from one person to another in a place where we celebrate the fulfilled promise of God for a new world, a new way, a new life found in the love of a baby given to us in love.

It gives me hope for a brighter tomorrow.

It gives me joy to know that I am loved.

It brings me happiness because, “Haven’t you heard? God loves you!”

Let it be so.

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