Greetings to all this joyous Christmas season! So many wonderful and exciting things happening, I can hardly contain myself. How about those Punchers! Oh my gosh, this is BIG, BIG, BIG! State Champions! Congratulations! It just doesn’t get any better than that…….they sure did Mason proud!Sunday was the 4th Sunday of Advent and after our church service we had our annual Christmas Program and dinner. Our fellow congregation from Trinity United Methodist Church in Castell joined us for the festivities. The fellowship hall was overflowing with wonderful folks and mouthwatering food. After the delicious meal, we then presented our Christmas Program. We were reminded of the miracle birth of our Lord Jesus with the wondrous sounds of the Men and Women’s choir, solos, guitars, a violin, clarinets, the Children’s choir, narrations and scripture. We were so blessed with the musical talents of Maria Mutis on the violin, Emily Rhodes playing her guitar, and the smooth sounds of the clarinet duet by Katherine Koock and Shelby Breckenridge. Bill Cotter and Daryl Watson warmed our hearts with their heartfelt singing and Daryl’s guitar accompaniment. Stephen Mutschink delighted us with his guitar playing and singing the song, If I Could Visit Bethlehem. The Men’s choir sang We Three Kings with Bill Cotter, Max Jordan, and David Vater each singing solo verses…..wonderful! The Children’s choir (above photo) did a terrific job singing Away in a Manger. Our talented accompanist, Nancy Jordan played the beautiful piano music. What a glorious celebration!Special birthday wishes go to Lisa Leifeste Howard on the 21st, Justin Bibb Jr. on the 22nd, Natalie Hudson on the 23rd, and Wanda Hitzfelder Rueffer on the 25th. Birthday blessings to all!We are happy to report that Jo Ann Coston’s daughter Laura is recovering well from back surgery. She visited with us Sunday and looks great! Pearl Leifeste was also with us, as well as our many guest and out of town family members. What a blessing! Monday, Dec.19th, Jerald Jordan will have colon surgery. Please keep him in your prayers. Our homebound and nursing home residents include Johnita Bohmfalk, Etta Marie Mutschink, Anna Grace Durst, Pearl Leifeste, and Dick Pierson and they need our continued prayers. We ask that you remember our servicemen and women, Amanda Adams, Stuart Jordan, Matt Krause, Kyle Pierce, Taylor Slocum, and Josh Calhoun and pray for their safety and well being.Pictured in the above photo are Eloy and Naomi Villarreal with a partially filled trailer of shoeboxes filled with gifts for needy children in Mexico. Clothing and larger toys will be added to the trailer and Eloy and Naomi will be taking the gifts to Purisima, Margarita, and Ciudad Acuna, Coahuila in Mexico. This is part of the Art UMC ongoing Mission Outreach Program. This year we thank Trinity UMC in Castell for helping with their donations of shoeboxes and clothing. Just a reminder that this Saturday, Dec. 24th, we will have a Christmas Eve Communion Service at 6pm. Next Sunday, Christmas Day, there will be a Worship Service at 11am, but no Sunday School. Sunday’s Gospel reading was Luke 1: 26-56, foretelling the birth of Jesus. Pastor Cliff reminded us first of Genesis 12 when God made a promise to Abraham, telling him to leave his native country and go to the land He would show him. In 2 Samuel 7-16, we read of the culmination of that covenant God make with Abraham when He told Nathan to tell David…..Verse 16: Your house and kingdom will continue before me for all time and your throne will be secure forever. That was the promise (covenant) God made to David. A lot of turning away from God happened between Abraham’s time and David’s time, but God was and is faithful and keeps His promises. The gospel reading reminds us of that promise.God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to tell the young Virgin Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David, that she was highly favored by God. He told her she would be with child and give birth to a son and was to name him Jesus and that He would be great and be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. Mary was confused and asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” The angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of God would overshadow her, thus the holy one to be born would be called the Son of God. Gabriel reminded Mary of her relative Elizabeth that was going to have a child in her old age, and that nothing was impossible with God. Mary said to the angel Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.” Then he left her. A few days later Mary went to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth saw Mary she was filled with the Holy Spirit and her baby in her womb jumped for joy! She was so happy and told Mary, “God has blessed you above all women and your child is blessed.” In Verse 45, Elizabeth added, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.” Very important……I like how Pastor Cliff put it……in the bible it doesn’t say you are blessed because you are talented or good looking or rich or famous or hardworking or loyal. God calls the people that are willing to believe and accept His way of getting it done. God works in mysterious ways coupled with our belief, willingness and availability. Pastor Cliff concluded by asking us, “Why does it matter that we heard about Mary today?” It matters because we can see why Mary was a bit taken back by the angel Gabriel’s message, however, she proclaimed she was the Lord’s servant and she believed God’s message would come true. When we as a church start responding like Mary and believe, then we become the church God calls us to be.Wishing you much peace, love and joy during this season of remembering God’s greatest Gift.