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Most of you should be aware by now we are not having our annual Christmas Café this December. Instead, a smaller, more personal Christmas gathering which we have titled “A Hawthorne Family Christmas.” With a focus theme of “Gather,” many ideas and activities come to mind. For me, I think about families coming together during a special holiday event. Gather is a very universal word to describe “coming together.” I have decided to be very redundant in using our theme word “gather.” We could gather information, we could gather lists, gather special collectible items; we also gather our socks together in one drawer, we gather our unmentionables in another drawer, we gather the snow together in big piles (so we can move around on our driveways and on the roadways). I’m just getting started…we gather together for sporting events, we gather together for concerts, we gather together on July 4th, we gather together for parades, we gather together for funerals, we gather together for weddings (January 5th), we gather together for birthday celebrations, life is full of “gather” gatherings. Even our theme of “Together is Better!” has an element of gathering in its meaning and impact. This year’s Advent Season sermon series focus will use “gather" as part of all the messages. The month of December will be unique, because a team of preachers will be gathering together to share God’s Word. I am very excited for all who will participate! I will be sharing, also Pastor Ben, Pastor David Caya and Jonathan Rairdon will be sharing. Some of you may not know, but Jonathan is in the process of being licensed with the Assemblies of God. We’re excited about this step of faith he is taking along with Kendra. Regrettably I will not be here for some of the messages. This will be the first time Janet and I have been away from our home church during the Christmas season. We want to thank every one of you in advance for the opportunity to be with Janet’s parents as they celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in Branson, Missouri. Most of our family will be traveling down to gather with Kirk and Marilyn during this special milestone event. A second great blessing this Advent is the opportunity for our church family to have an intimate gathering with those who are part of our fellowship on December 8th, which I introduced earlier in this article.

What Jesus said about gathering is quite profound. One key scripture is found in Matthew 12:30. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” These words speak volumes to me as to the importance of gathering. Obviously, when we focus in on the Advent season as it relates to gathering we think of: Christmas parties, Christmas concerts, Christmas carols, gift exchanges, Children’s Christmas pageants, traveling to grandma and grandpa’s home, finding the perfect Christmas tree, families enjoying their favorite Christmas treats, joining together around festive tables, opening presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and so much more. Hopefully, the event which brings us together, which causes us to “gather,” is the manger. Our hearts glow, we are fully alive, because we know the truth about gathering together around the manger. This Advent season, the most important moment will take place when we pause and honor the God who came to earth in the form of a human. As we gather around the manger, we are able to rejoice in knowing God, Emmanuel, is with us. Think of it this way — God came to earth in human form because he wanted to “gather" with us.

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