Watch Night: A Historic Time of Reflection and Renewal

Millions around the world are making preparations to celebrate the coming of the New Year. It is often seen as a joyful time, traditionally brought in by many by attending formal parties, church services, and choruses of ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

Unfortunately, the significance and historic symbolism of New Year’s Eve has been overshadowed in recent years by revelry and broken resolutions. Some in society have even discouraged the tradition of making resolutions, citing studies which tell us that only 8 percent of us keep them, and that resolutions may even be harmful to us![1]

But did you know that the Christian New Year’s Eve church service – also known as Watch Night Service – was created to bring Christians closer to God, and also has very special significance in the African American community?


WATCH NIGHT IN HISTORY
The Watch Night Service tradition can be traced back to the Moravians, a Christian denomination from the Czech Republic during the mid-1700’s.[2]
John Wesley, the British founder of the Methodist Church, adopted the Czech practice of celebrating Watch Night, along with other English Puritan principles, when he instituted the Methodist Covenant Renewal Services[3]. These services were started in August of 1755 as a means of creating for Christians a more formalized and personal connection and covenant with God. British Methodism soon developed the custom of holding these Covenant services near the beginning of the New Year. The service was preceded by a period of preparation through prayer, fasting, reflection and self- examination, which has been credited as the modern source of today’s New Year’s Resolution[4]. The singing, prayers of allegiance and gratitude, testimonials, and scripture readings provided Methodist Christians with a Godly alternative to other secular ways of celebrating the day.
In America, however, another tradition was unfolding. In 1770, the first Watch Services were held in America at the St. George’s Methodist Church. Two slaves, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, were a part of this congregation and they later left the church after being denied the right to pray alongside white worshipers. In 1794, they became the renowned founders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.)[5].
The founders of the A.M.E. Church inspired the celebration of a new Watch Night tradition when, on December 31, 1862 – also known as “Freedom’s Eve” – the first Watch Night Services were celebrated in African American communities.
Gatherings  of African American slaves, as well as free blacks, came together in churches and private homes all across the nation awaiting news that the Emancipation Proclamation actually had become law. At the stroke of midnight on that day, all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free. When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy, as many people fell to their knees and thanked God[6].

WATCH NIGHT SERVICE TODAY

Watch Night Services usually begin between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m., and often end just past midnight. Today, the services may combine praise and worship, testimonies, and prophecy for the year to come, but many African American churches still honor Watch Night’s connection to the abolition of slavery.

Over 150 years has passed since the first “Freedom’s Eve,” and tradition now brings Christians of all colors together for worship and celebration each year. African American Christians have gathered in churches annually on New Year’s Eve ever since 1862, praising God for safe deliverance through another year: but, most importantly, honoring the ancestors’ prayers for a future of freedom and liberty.

Karen Lascaris is a regular contributor to Westa.org. She is the author of “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys, and Icons”, published in 2001 by Running Press of Philadelphia.

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References:

[1] Forbes.com, “Just 8% of People Achieve Their New Years Resolutions.  Here’s How They Do It.” http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/.  Accessed 12/26/2015.

[2] “Watch Night”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watchnight_service, accessed accessed 12-28-2015.

[3] “The Covenant Service”. http://www.methodist.org.uk/who-we-are/what-is-distinctive-about-methodism/a-covenant-with-god/the-covenant-service.  Accessed 12/27/2015.

[4] “Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions”.  LiveScience.com.  http://m.livescience.com/42255-history-of-new-years-resolutions.html, accessed 12-28-15.

[5] “MetropolitanAMEC.org”. http://www.metropolitanamec.org/150th-anniversary-of-freedoms-eve.asp, accessed 12-28-2015.

[6] “First Watch Night Service Occurs”; The African American Desk Reference,
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture. http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/first-watch-night-service-occurs, accessed 12-28-2015.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Not all Slaves were freed by the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Only 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves were freed at that time. Freedom’s Eve was a call to action for all Black Americans; a moral imperative to fight for the full realization of freedom for their brothers and sisters who were still enslaved.
  • All enslaved Africans were  freed from chattel slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy during the Civil War and the ratification of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery on December 18, 1865.
  • In the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, the tradition of the late night service is called Midnight Mass or Eucharist.  Like the Watch Night service of the Church of Scotland, it is attended on the night of Christmas Eve.

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Praise the New Year in with West Angeles! Please join Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, dynamic Evangelist Missionary Joyce Rodgers, the West Angeles Mass Choir, and other special guests for Watch Night Service at the West Angeles at the Cathedral, December 31, 2015 at 10 p.m. 3600 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016.

Please join us for the Afterglow Breakfast! We’re having breakfast in the Crystal Room immediately following Watch Night Service, 12:30-2:30 a.m. on January 1, 2016. Cost: $10 per person. West Angeles North Campus, 3045 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016. See you then!

January is Consecration Month. Please join West Angeles Church of God In Christ in fasting in prayer for the month of January, 2016.  Complete guidelines and prayer calendar coming soon to Westa.org.

Bishop Blake: How To Be A Person After God’s Own Heart

Presiding Bishop Blake Charles E. Blake tells us the story of David, and teaches us what it takes to be close to God’s heart.  Click HERE to view this entire sermon on WESTA GOSPEL ON DEMAND.

Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake revealed, in a wonderful sermon, what God looks for when choosing those to be close to His heart. Bishop shared passages from the first book of Samuel which tell the story of David, one of the greatest Kings in the Bible; but with all of his wealth and power, David was not afraid to give God undignified praise.

“Folk are so into class. They want to act as if they are a member of the upper class, even if they are not…but when it comes to praising God, ‘class dismissed!'” Bishop proclaimed.

“David was a man after God’s own heart, but in many ways, he was not the model he should have been,” Bishop said. “I’ve got a better model: Jesus was God. He became a man, became obedient and humbled himself.”

Bishop believes that God is looking for those even today who are not afraid to worship Him.

“Millions of people will yell and jump and shout at the sight of their favorite team”, he said, “but God has been so good, I’ve got to praise Him!”

Quotes from the sermon follow:

“It would seem to me that a man after God’s own heart would be at the pinnacle of his potential. It would seem that this man would be a good model for all men.”

“God is concerned about quality. He’s concerned about character. God does not start with any old thing in developing His servants.”

“If God, with all of His power, does not start with any old thing, then we, with our negligible power, should not start with any old thing.”

“Even we need to look for quality in the people who are around us.”

“Don’t be so hungry for human relationships that you will accept any old thing.”

“You’re on the verge of accepting something less than the best. Hold on a little while longer! Keep your standards high!”

“There are those who should be models for us; and then there are also those for whom we should be models.”

“There are others who we should never allow to enter into the circle of our friends. Their effect can be nothing but detrimental. Let me assure you that if they’re not pulling you up, they’re going to pull you down.”

“If somebody you are dealing with is a negative influence…then the best thing for you to do is love them at a distance.”

“Really strong people can afford to be humble; really strong people can afford to be kind.”

“Whatever we are, whatever we are to become, God made us that.”

“Be little in your own eyes.”

“It’s better to wait on God than to get ahead of God and make a mess!”

“Place obedience to God over your material advantage.”

“Look unto God; let God be the only power that you rely upon.”

“If you bless what God blesses, God will bless you, too.”

“Everybody ought to want to be a person after the heart of God. People who are on God’s heart are prospered.”

“People who are on God’s heart are protected…So if you mess with them, you mess with God” – Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake

“Has God ever moved you to the front of the line?”

“If God says you’re gonna do something, you’re gonna do it!”

“You better go to God and get an assignment! Tell your neighbor, “I’m going to God to get an assignment!”

“Riches and honor come from God.”

“Lift up your hands and say, ‘Lord, whatever I do, I give you glory; I give you praise.'”

“Child of God, when you’re selecting folk, I know you’re impressed by the outer appearance, but you better check out the heart.”

“If the heart is ugly, if the heart is deceitful, you’re bringing misery into your life”.

“Does your heart need some work?”

“There is a God in Israel!”

“Be strong and be courageous: the God we serve is able!”

“Don’t you worry about taking revenge on your enemies, the Lord said, ‘Vengeance is Mine-I will repay’!”

“David knew how to repent.”

“Do have anybody you have not forgiven? You’d better let that go so God can take you higher.”

“Child of God, the wages of sin is death, and the gift of God is eternal life.”

“You ought to say, ‘Lord, forgive me! Lord I’m sorry! Give me a chance to live for you!’”

“Neighbor, don’t let anything stop you from praising the Lord!”

“God is going to take you higher than you’ve ever been!”

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES: 1 Samuel 13:13-14, Acts13:22 ; Proverbs 16:7; 1Samuel18:5; 1 Chronicles 29:10-14; 1Samuel 16:7; Proverbs 16:1; Psalm 51:10, 1Samuel 17:45-46; 2Samuel16:5 ; Luke 23:34; Romans 6:23, Psalm 34:1-4, 2Samuel 6:20-22, Philippians 2:5.

SERMON: When Faith Becomes Frustrated

For the last Sunday Sermon for 2015 at West Angeles Church of God In Christ, visiting Pastor Joseph A. Connor asks us to keep praising God through our frustrations.

Pastor Joseph A. Connor used the story of Jesus’ visit with Mary and Martha in Luke 10 as the basis of his sermon titled, When Faith Becomes Frustrated. 

“The apostle Paul said, ‘I want to know Him,’” said Pastor Connor before the Sunday evening sermon, “and that’s what our objective should be: to know God beyond the limit. The end of the year should be a time to look back and see what God has done, to see how far God has brought us from. And hasn’t God brought us from a mighty long way?”  

Added Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., “Martha’s faith was frustrated, but she said to Mary, ‘Jesus is talking. That’s more important than anything on the face of the earth…and He might not be here tomorrow.  I just want to worship Him and praise Him.’”

“Praise Jesus for who He is,” said Bishop. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve come here to praise Him!  I want God to move in my life; I want to know  Him beyond the limit! Take the limit off God. My God can do anything but fail!”

This entire sermon and many others are available HERE, on West Angeles Gospel On Demand.  Highlights from the sermon follow:

“No matter how much we love Jesus, or how sincere we are in our service to others, there are times – if we’re honest – when our faith becomes frustrated.”

“It has been said that everybody needs a friend.”

“Could any of us truly have gone through what Jesus went through?”

“Life in the spotlight…can be a lonely road. Living under the constant scrutiny of the public is a demanding and sometimes demeaning lifestyle.”

“We need companions with whom we can be ourselves…friends who have no hidden agenda.”

“Even Jesus needed human friends: and so do the rest of us” – Pastor Joseph A. Connor

“Most of us don’t have real friends. We have friendly enemies.”

“A friend loveth at all times. A friend can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“Even Jesus needed human friends, and so do the rest of us.”

“It’s nice to be with somebody with whom you can be yourself.”

“Whatever we as God’s children do, we should do it with pride and with style.”

“Whether pushing a broom or serving a table: whatever we do represents not only us, but the God who made us.”

“The God I serve is first class!”

“Whatever we do, others should be aware that they are in the presence of one of God’s redeemed children.”

“Some of the biggest arguments in the church occur around the kitchen!”

“A friend can disagree without being disagreeable” – Pastor Joseph A. Connor

“All of us at times become frustrated in our service.”

“Frustrated faith is faith that is out of character – and all of us can act out of character at times.”

“When faith becomes frustrated, we lose the joy of serving and and even living for God.”

“I have a difficult time understanding how you can speak in tongues and not speak to me.”

“Faith can become frustration when we feel that, while we do the work, others receive the recognition.”

“When you are frustrated, you may work your fingers to the bone.”

“Some of us have come to the end of 2015…not able to accept the different ways that others serve Jesus.”

“Jesus’ heart is big enough that there is room in the Kingdom of God and in the church for both the Marys and the Marthas”

“We need Marthas to teach us to speak the truth, and we need Marys to remind us to hold our peace.”

“Jesus calls on us to be Mary and Martha”  – Pastor Joseph A. Connor

“Jesus not only points us to Calvary, but also to Gethsemane.”

“Don’t let your frustration keep you from praising God.”

“He’s done too much  for me to let my frustrations quench my spirit.”

“When faith loses it’s hope, do what David says, ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!’”

“I think we ought to give God some praise! We ought to make some noise in here!”

“My high school teacher told my mother I was not college material. But because my mother said to me ‘You are college material’…I got a Bachelor’s Degree….I got a Master’s Degree…I got a Doctorate…I’ve got reason to give God praise. If you’re really thankful for what God has done for you, thank Him for everything and shout Hallelujah!

“Give Him the glory!”

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Luke 10:38-42, Psalm 23:5-6, Psalm 100:1-4.

Pastor Joseph A. Conner is the pastor of New Beginnings Sanctuary of Praise Church of God in Christ in West Philadelphia. He is the chief adjutant and personal secretary to Bishop Benjamin J. Ravened, Sr. of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ.  Pastor Connor founded a successful after-school program for boys which has served as a model for similar programs in the West Philadelphia area. He is also employed as a social worker for the Philadelphia Prison System. A graduate of Antioch University of Pennsylvania, Conner also attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia He holds a Doctorate of Ministry degree.

Conner is the proud husband to June Conner and the father of Jasmin and Joseph, Jr.

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Praise the New Year in with West Angeles! Please join Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr, dynamic Evangelist Missionary Joyce Rodgers, the West Angeles Mass Choir, and other special guests for Watch Night Service at the West Angeles at the Cathedral, December 31 at 10 p.m. 3600 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016.

Please join us for the Afterglow Breakfast! We’re having breakfast in the Crystal Room immediately following Watch Night Service, 12:30-2:30 a.m. on January 1, 2016.  Cost: $10 per person. West Angeles North Campus, 3045 Crenshaw Boulevard, LA 90016. See you then!

Keeping the Christian Family Strong

 

There couldn’t be a better time for renewed focus on strengthening and celebrating the Christian family.

A whopping 78 percent of Americans identify as Christian[1], and after decades of unparalleled trials, triumphs and tests, we now know that regaining our stride as a community and a nation requires a reaffirmation of our faith and our beliefs.

For African American Christians in particular, this couldn’t be closer to the truth. Marriage, family, and generational ties were the foundations of our cultures in Africa. Even after being denied the right to marry during generations of slavery, our ancestors got married and stayed married decades later, making historic strides during the Civil Rights Era. Fast forward to the new millennium, however, and we’re now a generation that’s questioned our beliefs and traditions in favor of society’s trends and movements when it comes to marriage, relationships and child-rearing.

Adopting the permissiveness of the ‘sexual revolution,’  the materialism spawned by the 1980s, and the self-absorption characteristic of the millennials – or “Me Generation” – has thrown some of us off track, landing us in worse financial and emotional shape than our parents or even grandparents. Where previous generations got married and stayed married, many of us have chosen single life or divorce, allowing ourselves an “out” as soon as something goes wrong. We dissolve the marriage before fully understanding the benefits of enduring and transcending trials.

But there’s no triumph without a trial (James 1:12), and if you’re ready to throw statistics out the window and breathe renewed life into your family and your future, it’s time to get back on track by:

1. Putting Christ at the center of your family life. The common denominator among strong civilizations is a common spiritual belief. Yet, while those of other faiths stand firm in their beliefs, we Christians have seen – and allowed – more challenges to our beliefs than any other religion. Ephesians 6:13 tells us to “put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and therefore after you have done everything, to stand.” As past generations have proven, the only way for us to thrive during unstable times is to stand by the principles of our faith*.

2. Putting the marriage first. When we travel by plane, one of the first things the flight attendants tell us is: if the plane goes down, put on our own life support vest before helping others. The same goes for a marriage. The husband and wife – not career, money, possessions or even the children – are the core of the family.*  Show love and affection toward each other and attend to each others’ needs. Continue to grow as individuals and as a couple, and always keep your relationship new, exciting and alive. Joined by God, a husband and wife create a supernatural bond that knows no bounds. And the good news is, we’re not alone: marriage is on the rise [2]!

3. Guarding your heart, mind, and ears. Staying focused on the Word, using discernment when deciphering society’s trends, limiting media intake, and surrounding yourselves and your family with like-minded people are important ways to maintain strength and focus as a Christian family. For example, studies show that you’re 75 percent more likely to become divorced if you spend most of your time with friends and family who are divorced [3].

4. Preparing your children to serve. Cultivate their walk in their God-given purpose – not their wants or desires as promoted by society. Teach them the importance of giving back, and of becoming global citizens (read more on raising strong children here).

5. Doing things together as a family. Whether through meals, vacations, charitable and leisure activities, a family enterprise, or worship, spending quality time together as a family is key. As the saying goes, “The family that prays together, stays together [4].”

6. Having faith in faith. For centuries we’ve overcome trials by summoning faith in Christ. But in modern times, many have turned their backs on faith, thinking that we’ve somehow “evolved” beyond a need for Jesus’ strength. True strength is found in “walking the walk,” having the courage to live by your beliefs, and by being the first example of how your children should live. Being a Christian isn’t ‘weird,’ but very special (1 Peter 2:9).

7. Creating a ‘Vision Statement’ for your family. Call a family meeting to create a mission statement together, and write down your process and your results. Having a mission statement keeps everyone focused on ultimate goals and the big picture, not the quick fix or the gamble. Another great idea is to adopt a family scripture, as the Bradley family discusses here.

8. Creating your “Village.” As the African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Multi-generational families are making a comeback. We honor the wisdom of the elders to keep us firmly rooted in our faith, our traditions, and our past triumphs, as well as to project a vision for our future. Your village may include trusted friends and your church family, as well as blood relatives. Put the well-being of the family first while setting limits. Discipline is a biblical principle (Proverbs 13:24); allow the wisdom of God to protect your family.

The truth is, marriage and family are central themes in the Christian faith, and they’re also symbolic of the church. To each other, we are “brethren,” “fathers,” “brothers,” “sisters,” and as a unit, we are the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

By far, more people claim Christianity as their faith than any other religion[1], yet no other faith on earth has experienced the level of challenges – or triumphs – that belief in the power of Jesus has. Work hard to maintain your focus on faith, and believe that the strength of your marriage and your family is one of God’s secret weapons of prosperity.

*SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Hebrews 13:4, James 1:12, Ephesians 6:13, 1 Peter 2:9, Proverbs 13:24, Galatians 6:10, Jeremiah 29:6, Deuteronomy 6:6-8.

Karen Lascaris is a regular contributor to Westa.org.  She is the author of “In Our Own Image: Treasured African American Traditions, Journeys and Icons” (Running Press, Philadelphia, 2001, ISBN), the first visual document of black social and cultural history in America from World War II to the present. 

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[1] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/04/04/u-s-doesnt-rank-high-in-religious-diversity/
[2] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/06/new-census-data-show-more-americans-are-tying-the-knot-but-mostly-its-the-college-educated/
[3] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/10/21/is-divorce-contagious/
[4] – Father Patrick Peyton.

 

DID YOU KNOW?
• Christians are the largest religious group in the world, and make up 33 percent of the world’s population.

• The common belief that “50 percent of all marriages end in divorce” is a myth. Origins: In 1979, during a time when new ideas and movements like Women’s Liberation and the Sexual Revolution began to hit their peak, the number of divorces peaked at 47 percent of the number of marriages performed that year. However, the number did not reflect the millions of marriages which had endured through previous generations.

• Grandparents’ Day is celebrated in September.

GET INVOLVED!  

Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. and The Church of God In Christ worldwide supports the COGIC URBAN INITIATIVES, which includes an emphasis on the strength of the family.  For more information on how you can become involved, please CLICK HERE.

 

You Are Miraculous

In 6 days, God created the miracle of the universe, the earth, and all of its inhabitants.  And He’s shown us through the ages that the miraculous can also be achieved by those who access His power for His purpose.

In Judges 16:28-30, a blinded Samson called to God for strength, and single-handedly defeated a corrupt government. David, a shepherd boy, destroyed a fierce enemy- of-the- people in 1 Samuel 17, after those who’d been trained for the job retreated in fear.  And Jesus, a carpenter by trade, was revealed as the Son of God upon His resurrection from death, and is today Savior to one-third of the earth’s population – and counting (that’s over 2.18 billion people).

What gift has God placed inside of you that that will drive The Kingdom forward?  What dream is unique to you that will make the earth a better place when you see it to fruition?  Even when we think we don’t have the time, strength, or resources to complete our goals or projects, Jesus reminds us in Revelation  22:12 –

12 “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”  

He gives us power to do amazing things, and when you work within His will, you cannot fail.

You were born to do the miraculous: so go for it.

 

Written by blogger and long time member, Sis. Karen Lascaris.

The True Meaning of Christmas

Over 2,000 years ago, God presented the world with a gift: Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. In an act of faith and worship, three kings traveled from different parts of the world to bring gifts to Jesus and His Family.

Today, we celebrate Christmas by buying gifts for each other and making merriment with family and friends. As the season approaches each year, our attention turns to making our lists, checking for pre-Christmas bargains, and considering last-minute tax shelters. Unfortunately, Christmas, the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” has become a tradition marked by gluttony, greed, and apathy.

What if we’ve gotten it all wrong? What if the true meaning of Christmas is to share with the world that which He has created us to be? What if the gifts we are to exchange at Christmas-time are the gifts God has given to us in order to establish His Kingdom on earth?

For, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6-7 (NKJV)–

6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.      

 The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

We are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10); each and every one of us who calls Jesus “Our Savior” possesses His power.  In the season and Spirit of Christmas, the sincerest  gift we could give is to manifest the fullness of God’s calling on our lives (Ephesians 4:1-6); share gifts of the Spirit (Romans 12:6-8), and spread His love (John 15:11-12).

It is only when we Bless God by presenting to Him our whole selves – our talents, our resources, our bodies, minds, and souls – that His Kingdom can be established; then we, and in turn the world, are Blessed.

3 Tips for Connecting with Family on Christmas

Christmas is often a time to share with family and loved ones, but for some of us, it is a time when we’re far away from our families, and spending the Holidays alone. But just because you can’t be with your family, it doesn’t mean you can’t connect with them.

Staying Connected to Family

Here are some ways to connect with your family for the Holidays:

1. Sign up for a free Google or Skype account and have them do the same. Skype is a free service that allows you to do a video chat on your computer or phone, and Google provides a service called “Hangouts,” which is also free.

2. Send Christmas cards to your family members in other cities. It may seem small, but a card lets people know that you are thinking of them.

3. Create your own daily videos and send them to your family members via email, or create a free blog to post them to. It will give you and your family something to look forward to every day.

Before recently moving back to Los Angeles, I lived in Washington, DC.  There, I was close to my aunt who I’d normally spend the Holidays with, but this year was the first time in 10 years where I’d be away from her. For a while, it made me sad to think that I would not be with her for Christmas, but the new technology made it easier to stay in touch.

I set up a time with my aunt so I could video chat with her. She was so moved, she started to cry because she couldn’t believe she was actually seeing and talking to me!

If you are away from your family for Christmas, try to connect with them in other ways, like through a video chat or even just a phone call. Use this time as a way to start new traditions and keep in touch with your family members near and far.

Connect with them and let them know that you miss them and love them.

 

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By Loryn Wilson, Contributing Writer for WestA.org

The Art of G.I.V.I.N.G.

By Sis. Kimberly Clark

Embracing the holiday season comes with what also should be food for the soul! You feed your soul when you do well unto others and be mindful about the true meaning of giving–unconditional and without a need for return. Just as we know that God loves a cheerful giver, there is yet and still an art to it.

Below is an in-depth view behind the Art of Giving:

G: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

I: Its not about “I.” Giving is a selfless act and should never be reference back to “this is what I did.”  Completely take the ‘I’ out of the equation and follow the principles of God. No need to announce it with trumpets, letting your left hand know what the right hand is doing. Our Father which art in heaven sees all and what is done in secret and therefore will be rewarded to you.

V: Value. The value of giving doesn’t necessarily mean dollars & cents. The unconditional gesture of giving could represent many options that far exceed a monetary value. The value you share could be in time, a listening ear, dedicating yourself to giving comfort, becoming a big brother or sister, sharing your gifts & talents with a non-profit organization, and the best of all…LOVE. A moment, hour, even a day of your time is most certainly valuable to you. However, giving it to those who may be in need is not only priceless to them, but God as well.

I: Inspiration. I pray that this message will inspire you to make a change in your life & others by giving. As you get ready to sit down for Christmas dinner with your family, share the message of giving. Then, going around the table, ask each family member to express one thing they’ll do to make a conscious effort in giving, whether it’s before December 31 or in the new year. Remember, it doesn’t need to be monetary.

N: Nurture. The hustle & bustle of the world can take a toll on you. Keep in mind that you never know what others are dealing with. We tend to show up and show out for our careers, but often treat family, friends and loved ones as secondary. The meaning of Christmas is said to be the spirit of giving. God gave us the ultimate gift. He died on the cross to redeem us from our sins. Are you giving your all to please God? You would be very surprised that most of us just want a little time. Don’t take others for granted, thinking they will always be there.

G: “Generously, remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6 Learn the true principles behind the meaning of Christmas, before the world became commercialized our ancestors gave from the core of their heart. The next time you give ask yourself, am I giving for the right reasons or am I expecting something larger in return? Give from the spirit within you. That is the golden ticket to share generously this Christmas.

You Are God’s Masterpiece

 

Life may have painted a dark picture for you, a picture full of inadequacies and incompetence. But God has taken that canvas the devil painted of you, took that same canvas, and put a whole new background, and a whole new image on that picture. I see God taking the canvas of your life and painting a new picture on it:

Rather than dark clouds, I see bright sunshine.

Rather than a dour and sad countenance, I see God painting a smile on your face.

Rather than a title of defeat, I see God painting victory, success, and power.

You are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. And He who has begun a good work in you shall perform it to the day of the Lord.

Praise God! Hallelujah!

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES – Ephesians 2:10 (NLT), Philippians 1:6, Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

From Bishop Charles E. Blake…

Listen: “Your Masterpiece,” by Ashmont Hill

KEEP AN UPLIFTED SPIRIT THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON!  Please join West Angeles Church Of God In Christ for Watch Night Service, Christmas At The Cathedral and more.  Please CLICK HERE for more information.

Christmas Sunday at West Angeles

Sunday, December 20 – Christmas Sunday
The Music and Worship Arts Ministry will bless our hearts with joyful music in preparation for a powerful Word from our pastor as we celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Services at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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