HMC E-Newsletter December 22, 2011 ~ Merry Christmas!!

Thanks! Special Thanks to everyone who shared Christ’s love with the Spring Branch community on Sunday night at “Christmas in the Park”! This fantastic event ended up being even bigger (much bigger) than anticipated. Police estimates were 4,000-5,000 people came to see and experience the Christmas story presented by area churches in dramatic form. No word on how many rode the camels, but I do know two of our teens got the first two rides. 1,500 cups of hot chocolate and 2,000-4,000 cookies were distributed by Houston Mennonites, who were, as you can imagine, quite popular! (If you are wondering, that’s a harder accomplishment than it might sound like).

Special thanks to Jim Emmert, Judy Hoffhien, Margaret & Gerald & Nick & Lilya Gehman, Denise Duff, Ed and Twila Wiens, Elizabeth Melendez, George Robinson, Camely & Brad & Anna Myers (and Anna’s friend Moné): some of whom came early, some stayed late, and everyone worked very hard! You guys were awesome! And thanks to all our cookie bakers as well! You are appreciated.

Connecting More Fully at HMC:
Holiday Schedule:

  • ·         Christmas Day: Worship at 10:45AM, No Sunday School.
  • ·         New Years Day: Worship at 10:45 AM, No Sunday School.

Congregational Meal and Meeting: January 22, 2011 after worship, meal provided.    (Note new date)                                                                                      

Advent Prayer
Incarnate God,
you fill the deepest blue of world and soul.
Help us to claim the sturdy hope
that Mary held in her heart and sang out in witness,
that we too may rejoice to be disciples
of the one coming as dawn from on high.
We pray in his name,
your kingdom come, your will be done.

May the God of peace sanctify us entirely; and may our spirit and soul and body
be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls us is faithful, and will do this. AMEN

From: Take our Moments and Our days, an Anabaptist Prayer Book: Advent through Pentecost, pg 50.

Clarence’s Clarion Call – Simplistic Gospel
     by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister

“To win this game we have to get the ball inside. Drive the lane, take it to the basket.” Simplifying the game of basketball for the moment at hand can be helpful, but most of us know the game is much more complex with both offense and defense needing to be played well.

“The key to raising healthy children is giving them age-appropriate chores that contribute to the well-being of the whole family.” If only it were that simple!

The tendency to simplify has also impacted us in the spiritual realm and to our detriment. We have this inclination to simplify the gospel, the good news of God’s global redeeming, reconciling, restoring work in the world. One common version of the simplified gospel focuses on receiving forgiveness for one’s sins and being prepared to meet the Lord. “Jesus was born to be your Savior and die for your sins. Believe in Jesus, and you will be ready for heaven.” Another common version of the simplified gospel focuses on Jesus as our example for how God wants us to live here on earth. Imitate Jesus and be fulfilled.

There is a measure of gospel or good news in each of these salvation paradigms, but by themselves they are so minimalist that they can easily become distortions of the truth. One is too heavenly to be of earthly consequence; the other too earthly to be of eternal significance. The first focuses on Jesus’ death as the saving event and overlooks the example of Jesus’ life; the other focuses on Jesus’ life and minimizes the salvific significance of Jesus’ death. And both tend to miss the full redemptive significance of Jesus’ resurrection. Read the gospel sermons of Acts and be surprised by the proclamation of salvation by resurrection.

The good news of Jesus begins with multiple assertions by angels, elders, and prophets that Jesus is the fulfillment of all priestly instructions and all prophetic visions of the Old Testament. Jesus is the righteous, peacemaking Messiah King ushering in the fullness of God’s rule on earth as it is in heaven.

When we receive Jesus Christ as our life example, we are saved:
From sin-generated brokenness to life-restoring healing,
From rule-keeping exclusion to grace-filled inclusion,
From the violent self-protection for innovative peacemaking,
From fear-filled hoarding for a life of serving others.

When we receive Jesus Christ in his sacrificial death, we are saved:
From being outside the people of God to being included in the family of God,
From being guilty and shamed before God to being forgiven and honored as God’s ambassador,
From the fear of death and the powers of evil to faith in God’s protection and provision.

 When we receive Jesus Christ as our resurrected Lord, we are saved:
From sexual addictions for sexual chastity and marital fidelity,
From consumerist addictions for giving and sharing,
From mindless pollution to conscientious creation care.

We want to claim all of Jesus and experience all of Jesus’ gift of salvation. We want to proclaim and live all of the good news. We want to follow hard after Jesus—the Jesus who lived, died, and rose again for our salvation and for the restoration of creation and culture. Jesus is Lord of all.

[A new book in the Resource Library, The King Jesus Gospel by Scot McKnight, works with similar themes.]

Spiritual Formation: Christmas Links Roundup Part 2

1.Mary’s Merciful Song of Justice
By Jan Johnson
Mary understood that the sort of justice God dispenses flows with mercy because it reverses life’s unjust circumstances, as we know them. This penchant God has for turning the tables upside down is what Dallas Willard calls, in The Divine Conspiracy (HarperSanFrancisco, 1998), the Great Inversion: “There are none in the humanly ‘down’ position so low that they cannot be lifted up by entering God’s order, and none in the humanly ‘up’ position so high that they can disregard God’s point of view on their lives. The barren, the widow, the orphan, the eunuch, the alien, all models of human hopelessness, are fruitful and secure in God’s care.”

You can read the full article here:

2.Christmas: The Season of Grieving
By Katrina Smith at Red Letter Christians, a fantastic Anabaptistic blog

Christmas is known for being the season of giving, good cheer and peace with all men. It’s where families come together for food, gifts, fellowship and celebration. It’s sparkling lights, Christmas music of “Silent Night” and “Little Drummer Boy,” the smell of cinnamon apple pie and church services with plays about Joseph, Mary and the baby in the manger.

But for some, it’s not a season of giving, it’s a season of grieving. It’s a time of loneliness, sorrow and depression. The cheerful atmosphere, music and TV commercials remind them just how lonely they are. It may be an unemployed man with a family having to break the news that they can’t afford a tree, let alone gifts. It may be a middle aged woman who just went through a painful divorce after 25 years of marriage, due to infidelity.

You can read the full article here:

3.The True Meaning of Christmas (The story of “Mary’s Song,” the 1st Christmas Carol)
By Marty Troyer, posted on The Peace Pastor blog at the Houston Chronicle.

It’s not hard to imagine Luke sitting down with Mary the mother of Jesus to hear for the first time the story from Luke 1:26-28, 46-55. Mary: wrinkled, worn, wise, and beautiful, what some people call an “old soul,” like Maya Angelou, or Mother Teresa. Luke: young, brash, studious, nervous. He invited her to sit for the interview, but I imagine she was the one to make him feel comfortable. Perhaps it happened over a walk in the hills of Galilee; or over a meal at her house; or in a candlelit corner of the Synagogue after an evening worship service. It must have happened some 50 or 60 years after the recorded events because Mark, Matthew, and John don’t mention it at all. But somehow Luke found out and thought we should know.

You can read the full article here:

Order of Worship for Christmas, December 25, 2011
Celebrating the SaviorGod showed up in our world in the least expected way, in the form of an infant.
This is how God comes, what God’s awesome deeds look like – a small shoot springing up and changing everything.
Christ has come, and the world is being transformed.  So let’s celebrate!

WelcomeCall to Worship (see bulletin cover)                        
*Opening Scripture     Psalm 148                           
*Opening Prayer
*Songs of Praise and Celebration
O come, all ye faithful HWB #212
            Angels we have heard on high HWB #197
The first noel HWB #199
Scripture                      Luke 2:1-20
Children’s Message                                                     
Sharing Christmas Reflections and Hopes, Joys and Concerns
Confession (see bulletin cover)
Songs of Response
Lo, how a rose e’er blooming HWB #211
The angel Gabriel HWB #180
*Sending Scripture       Isaiah 52:7
*Song of Sending                                                     
Silent Night HWB #1193
Hark, the herald angel HWB #201
*Blessing (see bulletin cover) 

Thank you to the following for sharing your gifts! Speaker: Marty Troyer; Children’s Message: Margaret Gehman; Song Leader: Nick Gehman; Children’s Church: Hannah Troyer.


 Christian Formation Options at HMC:
Join us each Sunday morning at 9:30AM!
Living More with Less book study

►Junior High/High School Youth:  with Lynda and Roxie Voran
, in the Annex.

** Children’s Church:  During worship in our children’s ministry room for kids aged 1-5. They learn a Bible story, sing, and play together.

Pastoral Care                          
Do you want a person to talk with about something in your life? Got a question or insight into faith or scripture you want to kick around? Have you been sitting on a great idea for the church? Need prayer? Want to get to know your pastor better? As your pastor, I’m available to meet with you at the office or at a time and spot that works better for you. Just let me know when and where! Monday’s through Thursdays, and weekends by appointment. Marty Troyer, church office (713)464-4865,, also available on Facebook.

Additional Information       
HMC E-Newsletter is compiled by Houston Mennonite Church pastor Marty Troyer.
All are invited and encouraged to share articles, personal updates, stories, announcements, pictures, etc… to include in the weekly updates. Know of others
who would like to receive HMC E-Newsletter e-mails from Houston Mennonite?  Have them send name and e-mail to Marty at

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