A second Christmas in the context of COVID-19 was an inevitable topic in messages delivered by East Cobb ministers to their congregations on Christmas Eve.
But these sermons also broadened the context of the familiar inspirational themes Christians look for when celebrating the birth of Jesus, the formative event of their faith.
“Do you feel like the darkness is winning?” The senior pastor of Mt. Bethel Church, Jody Ray, said, repeating words from the book of Isaiah about how “people who walk in darkness saw a great light.”
“Jesus is the answer,” Ray said. “He is the light and he is the hope for the future.”
After recounting the story of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – written after a long period of religious retreat in England – Ray admitted that “this past year has been difficult”, especially with an ongoing pandemic resurfacing with the Omicron variant.
Economic pain, loss of loved ones, depression and drug addiction were magnified as a result, he said.
“We know what darkness looks like, what it looks like,” he said. “We’ve been there. “
Ray called for a revival of the true spirit of the season, putting aside “secular gibberish” to “bring back what Christmas is”.
At Piedmont Church, Reverend Ike Reighard delivered a similar message, noting how the task of discovering Christ is lost amid the holiday rush of gifts.
“You really find the presence of God in the extraordinary things of history,” said Reighard.
“We look for Christmas in what we want, but we really find it in what we need. “
He also urged his congregation to follow the warnings of the angels to the shepherds in search of the baby Jesus: “Do not be afraid.
“There has been no such upheaval” in American society since World War II, said Reighard in reference to the present day, recounting the economic and health problems, as well as those of children whose young lives and education have also been particularly disrupted.
“God protect you,” Reighard said, noting that there are 365 references in the Bible urging people not to be afraid, one for each day of the year.
At Hope Presbyterian Church, Reverend Martin Hawley also drew inspiration from the book of Isaiah to spread a message of hope and light.
The “King Jesus”, he said, came to earth to take “people soaked in sin like you and me and to fill our hearts with light”.
At the Lutheran Church of the Incarnation, Pastor Uijin Hwang drew inspiration from the birth of Christ from the book of Luke to proclaim that “Jesus Christ broke down the barriers between God and us. He made peace between God and us.
“His death on the cross paved the way for humanity to receive forgiveness and true life without ever being put to death,” he said. “If that’s not real peace, what is it?” “
The past year has also been a difficult one at one of East Cobb’s largest churches.
Ray did not refer The months-long dispute over Mount Bethel with The United Methodist Church who included him when delivering his UMC ministerial credentials.
He has been restrained by Mt. Bethel as he seeks to leave the UMC, but the denomination’s North Georgia Conference has filed a lawsuit in Cobb Superior Court.
In his Christmas Eve message to a congregation that claims more than 9,000 members, Ray conveyed Isaiah’s promises of Jesus’ birth, exclaiming that “this baby was the message.
“He would come like a light and he would change the world and history. If you live this tonight, it will change your life too. “
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