Reading: I Peter 4: 7-11
Change is a scary word. At times we get comfortable with life as we know it; making it a little bit different often comes with anxiety. But, change can be good. It can be exciting and put a newness in our lives that gives us a fresh outlook on our surroundings. We rearrange from what is to what will be.
Saying goodbye is sometimes tough to do. Okay, it is almost always tough to do. Saying goodbye to those who have helped shape your life, been by your side, and helped you through the good and bad is something none of us probably look forward to. But eventually we all have to say goodbye. Move on. Make a change. But with prayer and faith in God, we know that endings are new beginnings. We know God will watch over us.
Today, we say goodbye to this year. It’s December 31st. Every time this date rolls around, we mark the end of one year and get set to begin another one. We look back at what happened in our lives the previous 365 days and we reflect on how far we have come. We look ahead to the new year, maybe making a resolution that we will try to make a change in our life and start fresh.
You probably could tell me what you did last New Year’s Eve. Big plans are usually made to celebrate the closing of the year and the coming of a new one. Great excitement abounds as the big lighted ball is dropped from high atop Times Square, ushering in the first minutes of a new year.
As we begin a new year, let us be thankful for what we have. Let us not take for granted what has been given to us, especially God’s grace. We’ve come a long way this year! Here’s to a great new year. And so, we end this year with this verse from the last book of the Bible: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all the saints. Amen.” (Revelation 22: 21) --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: I Peter 4: 7-11
Reading: Luke 10: 38-41
Are you a Mary or a Martha? Do you open your door for others, practicing gracious hospitality, making preparations and being busy when company comes to your home. Or, do you sit with your guests, talking and listening, not worrying about the cleanliness of the bathroom or the amount of food and beverages you have to serve?
Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him while Martha was out tidying the house and preparing the snacks. Jesus chastises Martha for worrying too much and says Mary has chosen well!
As we get set to start a new year of serving God, let us not forget both Mary and Martha. We all should practice good hospitality and emulate Martha’s efforts of servanthood. But, we also need to take time to do as Mary did, sit at Jesus’ feet, and listen. We need to be attentive to listening to God’s call, which includes growing in our faith. We need to take time to sit at the feet of Jesus and practice spending time each day in God’s Word.
In this coming new year, make it a resolution to make time for prayer and to listen for God. Gather with others and reflect on your faith lives. What a joy we have to be able to be like Mary, sitting at Jesus’ feet! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Phillipians 2: 3-4
A friend of mine once told me that if I learned nothing else from him, I should learn this: “Selfish desires get you nowhere.” As I think back over the time that has passed since he told me that, I realized that he did give me some valuable advice. I have remembered what he told me many times and have used it on more than one occasion.
It’s human nature to be selfish. Sometimes it is hard to realize that we can’t always have what we want. Most people want more. They can’t settle for less.
Sometimes we have to remember to share. It can be tough, but if we remember to share, we can not only enjoy what we have, but we can also allow someone else to enjoy it, too. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Luke 11: 8
Persistence. I was reminded of a story over the recent holiday season that dealt with gift-giving and persistence. Seems a few years ago, my college roommate’s mother wanted to get those collectible Hess Gas Station trucks to give to relatives for Christmas. She needed almost 20 to give out and called on assistance from her son and me. The people at the gas station only allowed two trucks per customer so we each took our turns and went in, buying two trucks at a time. We even changed our appearance by putting glasses on, taking them off, and even going in the store without a coat on. Needless to say, in a short amount of time, we had all the trucks we needed– and a great story to tell.
I never owned a Hess truck before that Christmas. And it was during that Christmas that I got my first one– and second one. My parents thought the story was funny and went out and bought me one. My roommate also thought I should have one so there they were in my possession: two Hess trucks to always remind me of that Friday afternoon when I went in and out of the doors of the gas station many, many times.
Persistence. It can get you much in life. Besides, if you don’t get anything else, it will get your roommate’s mother nearly 20 Hess trucks, two toy trucks to call your own, and a story to tell every Christmas! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Luke 23: 33-43
A wise woman once said, “Those you love hurt you the most.” I’m convinced that this is true. Friends, family members, and close acquaintances often do things that break your heart. It’s hard to cope with one so close to you doing something that tears you up inside.
Life sometimes can deal you a bad hand and it may be a while before problems get resolved. Waiting for a resolution can be painful. Every day you are reminded of what ails you. Coping is almost impossible.
In this Christmas season, let us not forget about another man who endured pain and suffering. It’s the man whose birthday we celebrate on December 25. Jesus is the reason for the season. Born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, the Messiah came to earth destined to be hung on a cross, enduring pain greater than any of us will ever deal with.
It’s Christmas time once again. May the one whose birth we celebrate during this season come into your life and give you peace. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Acts 20: 35
It is that time of year again when the glitter of tinsel and lights and red and green bombards us as the Christian community celebrates the birth of Christ. And once again, people ask, “Why can’t the spirit of Christmas last all year long?”
One of the most thought-provoking statements I ever saw on TV was on the program “Doogie Houser, M.D.” At the end of each show, Doogie would enter thought-provoking statements into his weekly computer journal. On this particular episode, Doogie typed, “Getting is good. Giving is better. One you know that, it’s always Christmas.”
As the Christmas season comes and goes and we make our new year’s resolutions, let us not forget the wise words of that child prodigy. May you have a very happy Christmas year! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Luke 2: 1-20
M any years have come and gone since Angels loudly sang
E mannuel was here on earth and church bells loudly rang
R ising up were shepherds who heard the heavenly noise
R esting in their fields that night were shepherd men and boys
Y oung children everywhere tell of the birth that night
C oming down from heaven, God was here to make things right
H igh above the town was a star which was shining bright
R eady to lead the wisemen there as they followed the star’s light
I n our own special ways, we celebrate this birth each year
S alvation was why this child came down- that message is so clear
T o free us from our sinful ways and make us clean again
M ay we not forget that message as we wish peace to our fellow human
A nd so as you celebrate this year, the birth of Christ, our Lord
S ay little prayer of thankfulness to God above, adored.
Written by Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Prayer: Lord of Light, lying in a manger this night, smiling and cooing, we humbly ask you to shine in our lives! Illuminate our days when darkness feels scary and burdens feel heavy. Wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, we call out to you to be our guest and light our paths. Blanket us with your love, this day and forevermore. Amen.
Reading: Matthew 1: 18-25
Reading: Micah 5: 2-5
Reading: Isaiah 7: 10-17
What do you do during Christmas to symbolize Jesus’ birth? Often it seems that Christ is taken out of Christmas, as some forget what this season is all about.
Growing up, my parents saw to it that my sister and I were reminded time and time again about what we celebrating. Two things stand out in my mind particularly. First, my mom always bakes a birthday cake for the baby Jesus. As is tradition, we usually had angel food cake (we wouldn’t want to have devil’s food cake, after all). On Christmas we cut the cake and remember that it is Christ’s birthday. Second, each one of us gets three gifts in our stockings to represent the three gifts the wisemen brought to the Christ child.
My parents made sure their children did not forget why we celebrate Christmas. My hope is that you don’t let your family forget either. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Luke 2: 21-40
Close your eyes. Around you the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree is only overpowered by the aroma of a turkey dinner cooking in the kitchen. This morning, the sounds of children opening gifts from Santa overpowered the beautiful strains of familiar carols playing on the radio. As you look at your surroundings, your heart is warmed by the sight of family and friends gathered to celebrate the holiday with you. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is when we all once again learn that it is truly in the giving we receive; when the cold outdoors is forgotten as we feel the warmth of those around us who are truly in a spirit that unfortunately usually only lasts a month or so.
Often, I am transported back to the days of old when I see, hear, or smell something familiar. When I see old friends, I remember the times that we spent, doing wild and crazy things, sharing our lives. When I hear a certain song on the radio, I remember those old high school days when my biggest worry was what I got on my calculus test. And, when I smell a home-cooked turkey dinner, I remember Christmases of old, sitting on dad’s lap listening to “The Night Before Christmas,” not being able to sleep early Christmas morning, and tearing open packages that were magically placed under the tree.
May you make some memories this holiday season. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Jeremiah 10- 3-4
One Christmas, my parents bought a set of wooden Christmas tree ornaments. To me, it seemed like hundreds that we had to paint. In the weeks preceding Christmas, my parents, my sister, our babysitter, and I painted and decorated our tree with those ornaments.
In years to come, we put some of those ornaments on our tree each year, reminding us of that Christmas when we painted them. It became even more special after my babysitter’s death. Then, we also remembered her and what she meant to my family.
My family also had a tradition that when we went on vacation in the summer, we would find an ornament from that destination to put on our tree. When we decorated it each year, we would be reminded of the places we had visited. Since my sister and I have left the nest, my parents continue to buy ornaments on their vacations. I have started that tradition with my own tree, buying an ornament on my summer vacations.
Some people say we should not decorate trees for Christmas because of the verse we read today from Jeremiah. I’ve heard that it is legend that the tradition of putting up Christmas trees came from Martin Luther. He wanted to show his children the beauty of the night Christ was born. So, he put a nativity scene up in their home and put an evergreen tree behind it. In the darkness the candles (yes, real candles back then) which he placed on the tree looked like the stars which shone down on the manger. Soon, other Germans began to do the same and the rest, as they say, is history.
I think a tree at Christmas time is a perfect way to remind us of Christ. An evergreen is always green– unlike other trees, it does not lose its leaves in winter and look “dead.” Christ is alive always, just like evergreens are always green. Let our Christmas trees remind us of that! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Isaiah 12
I’m a big fan of Christmas music. I own a whole collection of holiday albums which I listen to from Thanksgiving to Epiphany. There is such beauty in those carols.
As we begin to sing Christmas hymns in church each December, I am always amazed at how long many of these carols have been in existence. Many were written in the 13th, 14th, or 15th centuries. They have been handed down for generations.
Why did these hymns survive the test of time? I think it is because they were written to the Glory of God. They were written to praise God and spread the news of the birth of Jesus. Songs which are not written for God often fall by the wayside. But those written to honor God survive for a long time. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Isaiah 11: 10-16
Imagine how it would have felt to be an Israelite in the days of the Exodus. You are hungry, thirsty, and tired of waiting for freedom since you have been a slave for hundreds of years. The Israelites did not know what was going to happen to them. They were taking risks when they decided to leave Egypt.
We, too, take many risks in our lives. Sometimes while taking these risks, we are hungry, thirsty, and tired. We look to the future and hope that things will turn out the way we want them to.
There are many high points and low points in our lives. We enjoy the mountaintop experiences but hope things will get better during the valleys of our existence.
Throughout good times and bad, we must look to the future with hope and optimism. This is seen quite frequently during Advent when we are looking forward to Christmas with hope and celebration. But anytime is a good time to be optimistic.
Look to the future with hope. You may be surprised with the outcome. The Israelites were! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Lord of our life and God of our Salvation,
You are the star of our night and the hope of every nation.
You can and will preserve us and help us when our earthly armor fails.
Grant us peace, Lord, and give us future hope.
(LBW Hymn #366, “Lord of our Life”)
Reading: Luke 3: 7-18
When Jesus came to John the Baptist to be baptized, John told Him that he should be getting baptized by Christ, not the other way around. But Jesus insisted and John baptized Him.
Many times, we may feel unworthy of the love that God has given us. We may feel that we do not deserve the blessings He has bestowed on us. We may feel like worthless sinners who should not be honored by God.
Look to the manger. God sent Jesus Christ to live as a human. Look at how humble He was and how He was just like us. He was born of a woman and endured life on earth. We may feel unworthy, but as it says in scripture, we all fall short of the Glory of God. Despite that, He loves us as His children. For this, we should be thankful. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Matthew 11: 2-15
Being on a camp staff is a rewarding experience. I’ve had the opportunity to work with hundreds of campers, who have stories to tell, examples to illustrate, and humor to add in tough times.
But some of the campers I remember most were not the ones who always had something to say. Many of the campers who truly touched me were ones who sat and absorbed what we had to say. They had no remarks to make but looking into their eyes, I could tell that they understood what we were trying to get across.
Campers came in many different shapes and sizes. All are unique and have something to share. Many of the campers will be from good families, have nice clothes, and expensive equipment. But a lot of the campers come from bad home lives and other depressing situations.
In this passage, Jesus was speaking to the people about John, the Baptist. He was a simple, everyday, ordinary kind of guy. He didn't have fancy clothes, or flaunt his possessions. Not everyone appreciated him or understood the deep significance of his ministry. The campers who you may really touch are those who have rocky pasts but great hope for the future. Hopefully, they listen and our teachings help them in some small way.
Jesus reminded the people about John. He told them to pay attention and not to miss the significance of what they were hearing. If you keep your ears open, you may hear stories about how you have affected a child. And it may the child that didn’t say much, but got the message.
Listen then, if you have ears. You'll be surprised at the things you can hear. –Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Jeremiah 31: 17
Reading: Joel 3: 14
Reading: Acts 26: 13
“It isn’t a trip without a problem.” Often, those that I am traveling with remind of that when something out of the ordinary happens on a journey. When you take a road trip, you often have to deal with unusual circumstance; things that you did not plan for.
I took a trip once with a bunch of people. We were going to visit a photography studio. Our van only held 12 people and we had 13 on the trip. So, I sat on a small cooler between the two front seats. It wasn’t a bad ride, but every time we saw a police car, I ducked so we wouldn’t get in trouble.
We had a good time on that trip, and to my recollection, nothing really went wrong. The memorable thing about it was sitting on the cooler. We even managed to sing along with the radio to pass the time on our travel.
Mary and Joseph took a trip to Bethlehem and they did have a problem. They did not have a place to stay. But God provided for them and showed them to a stable where Mary delivered the Christ Child. Just as God helped Mary and Joseph, God helps us on our trip sin life, too. --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: Revelation 11: 15; Revelation 19: 6, 16
Reading: Phillipians 4: 1
Reading: Malachi 3:1; Luke 1: 5-17
Reading: Matthew 9: 27-31
It is our duty as servants of God to minister. Just as the first disciples spread the Word of the Lord, so should we. Jesus commanded us to go out in the world and preach the Gospel.
What a better time than the Christmas season to spread the Gospel. Through our actions at Christmastime, we can teach others about Jesus Christ. Share with someone today! --Chad Hershberger, Camp Mount Luther Director
Reading: II Timothy 2: 4
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