11-20-16 @North Heartland: Holidays, Promises & Empathy


Published Date: November 18, 2016
Author: Rick McGinniss

Good chilly windy afternoon dear family and friends of North Heartland.

Today’s abrupt change in the weather is a rude reminder that winter is knocking on the door. I don’t know about you but this record warmth we’ve experienced has spoiled me! My lawn is still green, the annual flowers are still blooming on my back deck and, of course, I’ve been able to play golf a lot later in the season than usual. Looks like all of that is coming to an end (at least, temporarily).

On the flip side, the crisp fall air is also a welcome reminder that “the most wonderful time of the year” is also knocking on the door, beginning with Thanksgiving next week and Christmas a mere five weeks away. Hard to believe!

The arrival of the Christmas season has many implications for NHCCers (see below) but before we get to that … this Sunday we’ll be finishing up our series “I Will If You Will.” I’ll be sharing one of the most incredible (and counterintuitive) promises that God repeatedly makes to us throughout the scripture: “I will give to you.” I hope you will be present in the auditorium at 9:30 or 11:00 but if not, that you will watch us via livestream on the “Discover” tab of our app or website.

At the end of last Sunday’s message, Shannon and I talked a little bit about what the upcoming Christmas season is going to look like at NHCC but I wanted to recap it here today so you can get it on your calendar. Here’s what’s happening:

“Christmas Perspective” … a four-week message series with a helpful and hopeful take on the holiday season. Here are the titles for each week:

11-27 Waiting – anticipating love, joy, peace and hope as Advent begins.

12-04 Why Bother? – why the Christ-mas really is worth celebrating.

12-11 Fa-La-La-La Family – dealing with your version of “Cousin Eddie.”

12-18 Christmas at the Movies – a holiday classic illustrates the Good News in surprising ways!

Celebration of Christmas (Mon-Wed December 19-21) … a fun, creative and HUGE outreach event to our community featuring three identical nights of “Winter Wonderland” and an awesome variety show featuring music of the season, skits, videos, etc. Wonderland begins at 6:15 and the 70-minute show begins at 7:30. If NHCC is your church, we need your help in one of two ways (or both): help us pull off the event and/or invite non-church attending family and friends to come and enjoy the event with you. Our goal is to fill up the auditorium all three nights with lots of folks who have never been to a service at NHCC!

Christmas Eve services (Saturday December 24th) … a quiet and reflective gathering of the NHCC family to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus through Christmas carols, communion, candlelighting, scripture reading and other artistic venues. The 50-minute service begins at 4:00pm and 5:30pm.

Christmas Day (Sunday December 25th) … no services. Stay home and enjoy the day with family and friends!

Ok, one more thing before I sign off on this unusually long email. (I won’t send one next week so this makes up for that!)

Last Sunday I talked about the need for Christians to be empathetic in our response to this recent election season (click here if you missed the message) because when we empathize, we humanize instead of horribilize the “other” (which, in this case, is all of those who saw it differently than we did).

As I was reading the thoughts of other pastors and church leaders this week, I came across a “benediction” (a combination of a prayer and a blessing) that included this exact idea. It was actually written in advance of the election but, given the emotional angst and turmoil that has followed, it is just as timely now as it was two weeks ago. Here’s the part that impressed me:

May you have empathy for the political decisions of others that you find troubling — particularly those of family and close friends. May you have ears to hear what lies at the heart of their political concerns, and eyes to see the noble but imperfect search for goodness that is motivating their choice, especially if you strongly disagree with the candidate, party, or politics they support.

May your posture toward every human leader be driven by respectful prayer, and where protest, prophecy, and nonviolent resistance are needed, may you have the courage to speak, oppose, and critique — in humility and charity — their ideas and actions that oppose Christ and his kingdom.

May God grant you grace to affirm the humanity — the image of God — in every political candidate and leader, and civility to impartially and energetically embrace any pursuit of genuine human flourishing they propose.”

If you’d like to read the entire benediction you can click here or here. It’s quoted identically in both locations but the first click is a liberal-leaning site, while the second is a conservative-learning site. Just trying to keep it fair and balanced. 🙂

Finally, I came across a great article in Christianity Today titled “I’m a Conservative Married to a Liberal” which has some great insights on being empathetic (even if you aren’t married). Click here if you would like to read it.

Ok, that’s ALL for this week. Hope to see you Sunday!


Ladell Thomason