If There Was No Christmas
By Rev. A. Charles Allen
If there was no Christmas, there would be no Easter, no Thanksgiving Day, no beautiful church buildings or cathedrals, no hymns and gospel songs, no beautiful Christmas trees and lights, no Christian weddings, no twelve apostles, no New Testament in the Bible, no Tres Dias, no access to God except through an earthly priest connected with Judaism, no calendar using A.D. (Anno Domini-- "in the year of the Lord") to record how many years and days since Jesus appeared on earth, and no gift of eternal life.
Jesus' birth is the reason we have Christmas, yet civilization has digressed until the Savior is overshadowed by Rudolph, Santa Claus, a Grinch, and other fictional characters. Christmas has been tur
ned into a shopping bonanza that leaves many people under a burden of debt that may not be paid off until next Christmas.
What is the purpose of Christmas? An angel proclaimed the purpose to the shepherds near Bethlehem, as reported in Luke 2:10-11, "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone" (The Living Bible) "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (King James Version). (This is a fulfillment of the prophesy in Micah 5:2) "Then the other angels joined in praising God and saying, "'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.'"
Such wonderful news should cause us to celebrate and rejoice. God created us in his image and loves us so much that he came to us as a human being so we could know what he is really like. Until Jesus came, man's understanding of God was limited. At Christmas time, most people still think of him as a helpless baby. He was a baby, but he grew into manhood and modeled the kind of life we should live to please our heavenly father.
His birth is the most glorious event that heaven has ever witnessed. It changed the course of human history. But in spite of all this, multitudes will celebrate Christmas without Christ. This will be true for millions who have never heard the true story of Jesus. Many more have heard, but have failed to accept the Christ child as God's supreme gift. Some who call themselves Christians will be the least Christian during the Christmas season. They will allow debaucheries during the holy season in excess of those permitted other times during the year. They will prepare elaborate feasts and close their door in the face of the Guest of Honor, Jesus. This has always been the case. The Jewish nation did not want him, though they had looked for his coming for centuries. The saddest statement ever written is this: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
I do not know in what guise our Lord will knock at your door and mine this Christmas season. But in some fashion, he is sure to come as a special guest. If we are expecting him, we will recognize him. Christmas is a time to celebrate with your family and friends. Have a party with Jesus as your honored guest. Sing Christmas carols, share testimonies, thank God for the past year and the blessings he has bestowed upon you, and pray for one another.
Rev. A. Charles Allen serves on the International Secretariat as spiritual advisor to the Policy Committee.
Kairos Prison Ministry
"I was sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to me."
At a time when church attendance is shrinking and smaller congregations are shuttering their doors, new faith communities are rapidly gaining a foothold in an unlikely place: state and federal correctional facilities. What is more unlikely, perhaps, is that while civil liberties organizations are piling stones atop the wall that separates church and state, those same federal and state facilities are eagerly handing out Bibles and other sacred texts.
Kairos Prison Ministry International is a case in point. In the past two years, Kairos has added 55 institutions to the list of prisons served, bringing the total to almost 400 facilities where th
e ministry is staging three-day, Cursillo-like weekends and establishing prayer and share groups. Growth will likely continue. This is due, in part, to a new collaborative agreement with Walk to Emmaus as well as strong support from pescadores in many Tres Dias and Catholic Cursillo communities. In addition, there is growing recognition on the part of prison officials. "We have correction facility leaders asking Kairos to please come to their facility," wrote Kairos Executive Director Evelyn Lemly in the spring newsletter.
Kairos gained additional national visibility this summer with the release of an eleven-minute PBS video documenting a Kairos weekend inside an Indiana Department of Corrections facility. The program played to an audience of one million viewers weekly shortly after release. Moreover, churches have linked to the show during Sunday service, and state and local Kairos chapters use the video to recruit volunteers.
For readers who are not familiar with Kairos Prison Ministry, the PBS video provides an upbeat view of weekend events. Many of the scenes will be familiar: poster sessions, palanca in the form of personal letters, snacks (cookies baked by volunteers), and lots of praise singing. There is a brief scene of a monthly reunion (similar to a Tres Dias secuela) when the team returns to the prison to support the faith group. Link to PBS Video
What the PBS video does not capture, however, are the personal stories of men and women facing themselves and their past, accepting the fact that God's mercy is without measure, and then--often the hardest part of all--letting go of a lifetime of anger that will allow them to forgive others and begin life anew. Perhaps nowhere else are there so many stories showing Christ's victory in helping men and women find a way out of the darkness of their lives. To hear a dozen such stories told firsthand, visit the newsroom of the My Kairos website. Link to Newsroom at My Kairos
Like Tres Dias and Walk to Emmaus, the Kairos program owes its parentage to the national Cursillo organization, which adapted the sequence of lay talks and mediations to fit the prison environment. Since its launch in 1976, the Kairos Inside program has expanded to 10 countries outside the U.S., becoming an international organization that serves incarcerated men in 300 institutions, women in 66 institutions. In addition, Kairos Outside supports 86 communities that minister to the spiritual needs of families coping with the incarceration of a family member. Thirty Kairos Torch programs support youth offenders.
"Only one thing is preventing us from growing faster," an officer of a state chapter told us, "not enough volunteers. Our only limitation is not enough volunteers."
Although Kairos strongly recommends that team members have experienced a three-day weekend before volunteering, exceptions can be made. For information about the Kairos programs in your area and how to serve, go to MyKairos.org
, click the Where We Serve
link, then click your state. --db
The Angel in the Plaid Flannel Shirt
By Brenda Higgins
In the fall of 1994, I was the chief auxiliary on the ladies' weekend.
The camp we used was old and not equipped for the handicapped, and one of our spiritual directors was unable to climb stairs. Normally, each of the spiritual directors would have her own suite, but this time we were told we could have only one. We made sure to request the suite that had a small step to the outside so we could bring our special lady in that way. The entrance to the rollo room was up a winding stair, but this was not a problem as there was also an outside door. Everything was all planned and ready!
hen we arrived at the camp, we found that we had been assigned the wrong suite--and the suite we needed was locked. I ran off to the office to request a change. As I was going past the main building, I looked up and there on the roof was a man in a plaid flannel shirt and a beautiful smile. He asked if he could help, and I told him my problem. He said, "I can do anything." I continued on to the manager's office. The manager informed me that she was already aware of the problem and that it had been remedied.
Early Friday morning our ladies blew fuses in the "hotel" while getting ready. I waited until everyone was settled in for breakfast and ran off to report the problem. As I approached the office building, I again ran into the man with the plaid shirt and great smile and blurted out my problem. "I can do anything," he said quietly. We went back into the hotel, and the power was on! How wonderful, I thought, that the camp had put someone on special duty to look after our needs.
We were ready to start the first rollo, and we all walked outside and around to the rollo room door--when I discovered that I had forgotten to unlock that particular door! As I was standing there, waiting for the others to catch up to me, I turned to see the smiling man in the plaid shirt beside me. I blurted out an apology for my forgetfulness, and again he said "I can do anything." I put my hand on the door knob--and the door opened.
Saturday morning I awoke before sunrise and looked out the window to discover that the lights were out on the main pathway and that there was frost on the stairs and walkways to the chapel and dining hall. I was up extra early and out before any others were ready. As I came around the corner of the courtyard, there was my smiling man in the plaid shirt. Once again I told him the problem and again he said "I can do anything." I looked around--the lights were on and the frost was gone!
Sunday morning we had a furnace problem and half of the rooms in the hotel lost heat. I left my seat at the breakfast table and there, in the kitchen next to the coffee pot, was the smiling man in the plaid shirt. Once again, I told him the problem and again the response, "I can do anything." I sat back down and ate. After breakfast I went back to the hotel--and the heat was on!
After the closing, I went to the main office to learn where I could find the man in the plaid shirt to give him special thanks, and also to tell the manager how much we appreciated that the camp had appointed someone to watch out for our needs.
The manager had no idea what I was talking about. They had not had a maintenance person on duty, no one on staff was wearing a plaid shirt, and she had not seen anyone matching that description. Neither had anyone else! Each of my encounters with the man had been away from the group, and I hadn't told anyone about how the problems were fixed.
All I can say is that a man in a plaid flannel shirt was there the whole weekend and that he had an awesome smile.
Did God send me an angel to carry me through those 72 hours, and does an angel sometimes wear a plaid flannel shirt? We say that God makes us aware when He is near, and that He can do anything, and that He sends his angels to watch over us.
What do you think?
Brenda Higgins is a member of the RIMA (Rhode Island and Massachusetts) Tres Dias Community. This story was originally published in a 2012 issue of this newsletter..
An Angel in the Pew
Based on a journal entry in Tom Miller's Encouragement Journal
It was one of those weekend church conventions where camper enthusiasts pull their vehicles into a large campground and enjoy cookouts and conversation before the event. Tom struck up a conversation with the husband and wife in the camper next to his and learned that they were from a small town not far from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Tom said he didn't know the area, but had once stopped to attend a church service in that area, about 12 years ago, on his drive back to Fort Riley, Kansas.The husband and wife exchanged curious looks, first to each other, and then to Tom and began to ask questions. What was the church like? Do you remember the sermon? Did you talk with anyone?
Tom couldn't recall.Then, as he and the couple were walking back from the evening service, memories gradually returned. He recalled how he had been sent to Fort Riley on Army business, which was fortunate, because it gave him opportunity to visit his cousin in Tulsa, who was facing a terminal illness. The cousin had a one-day remission and he and Tom reminisced about their childhood.
"On my way back," he told the couple, "I saw a sign, First Church of God--which is my denomination-- and I also saw that there would be a service at 7:00. p.m. Well, I looked at my watch, and that's what time it was! So I hit the brakes and turned into the parking lot, tires almost squealing.
During the service, I wrote a note on the bulletin that said, I was driving by and saw your sign, First Church of God, and would not be worshiping here if it had not been for that sign, and dropped it the collection plate."
"Yes, it's him!" the wife shouted. She explained that the congregation had been deeply divided over the name of the church, and just as the quarrel was about to boil over, with half of the congregation ready to leave, a stranger wrote a message on a bulletin and dropped it in the collection plate.
"Well, we still have that bulletin," she said. "Over the years, the story has been told--and people have come to believe--that an angel dropped by one evening and left the note, telling us to keep the name. That note kept the church from splitting."
Then, after a moment, she added. "That should encourage you, Tom."
The next morning, Tom woke up early to tell the couple how much the story meant to him. But their camper was gone. "Now, who is the angel?" he wondered.
When Tom Miller served as rector for an Abundant Life Tres Dias weekend, he invited team members to contribute inspirational stories to an "Encouragement Journal." This article, based on a journal entry, was originally published in the Januarly 2014 issue of this newsletter.
Blessed Christmas Day to come and go and return again someday!
By Scott R. Davis
I am brought to the awareness of the vastness of God when I look out at the universe and the canopy of the sky.
For in the beginning was the Word which was God. For He spoke and existence was breathed into life and given form and shape and character.
Jesus began as the seed within Mary's womb and grew into a babe.
A helpless and vulnerable one at first, dependent on his diapers being changed and being fed.
Yet being taught love and goodness towards others.
This babe in a manger in the desert.
As he traveled the confines of his area, he grew in stature and in favor with God and man. He led others in how to share this journey.
Then he faced the horrors of the cross and the agony. Yet he arose triumphant.
And he will return someday.
We all are living in the middle of each of these points: birth, walking our life path, suffering or triumph.
As we navigate each of these turns, let us keep your eyes to the hills and see the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. And live with a bucket list that grows every day and gets redeemed by the moment.
What a masterpiece Advent really is!
Scott R. Davis, an overcomer, is a member of the Fairfield County Tres Dias Community. This selection is from his personal newsletter, which he publishes as "encouragement to lift the spirits of others"
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Let me close out this special Christmas issue of our newsletter with a quick note to say thank you to all of our pescadores out there and to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
This has been a good year for our communities with a lot of interest in adding new communities all around the world. It has also been a difficult year with acts of terrorism happening all around the world. Our natural reaction is to be fearful but scripture tells us 365 times "Fear Not!" One for each day of the year! God has us and this world in His hands, so we can set aside our fears and get back to doing what we are called to do. Just as he told Peter, "Feed my sheep," we are called to be His hands and to be his disciples, doing what He instructs until His return.
Praise God!! We rejoice with you this season, and say a prayer over each of you.
We are looking forward to this coming new year, a year where we anticipate great growth of this wonderful ministry of Tres Dias.
President, Tres Dias International Secretariat
Future Meetings of the International Secretariat
Back to top
|March 4-6, 2016: Secretariat|| Tampa Bay TD. Clearwater, Florida |
|July 15-17, 2016: Assembly & Secretariat|| Mid-Hudson TD, Poughkeepsie-Newburg area, New York |
|October 21-23, 2016|
|Coastal Georgia TD,Savannah, Georgia|