From the First Day Until Now

[Written by Garrett Greer]

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. —Philippians 1:3-5

When I came to Cross Creek I was still finishing up my senior year of college at Samford, I didn’t know Gracie, and I’d just began to really act on God’s call to ministry in my life. I remember my first day of youth group in the Lovoy’s breezeway back in Ross Bridge. After what seemed like lots of phone calls and emails, we had six kids show up, and I’d picked up three pizzas and Jason had picked up three, so we had one pizza per student. Remembering that first day I’m encouraged by the growth not only in numbers, but in our lives and in the lives of our students. In the last six plus years we’ve seen the church move buildings, go through Covid and a flood, and I’ve gotten to mature (a bit) alongside our students as well. 

And thinking about leaving has been really hard for both me and Gracie. We think we’ve been called to serve in a community where the gospel isn’t as easy to find, but trying to make sure that’s really God’s will is hard. We’ve spent a lot of time in prayer, lots of good walks around Bluff Park, talking over what it means to leave Cross Creek and step into the relative unknown, and we’re still quite unsure about what our next steps look like. But all of that aside, I’m encouraged that leaving is so hard, because it means that our time here has been really good.

Most of the New Testament is a series of letters from believers in similar circumstances—wishing to be with the people (or often churches) they were writing to but not physically being in the same place anymore. In the above verses from Philippians, Paul is writing to a church to express how thankful he feels when he remembers their time together and how they’ve both grown together. We think the church at Philippi was the first church Paul planted in Europe, and in these verses you can feel his memories extending back to those earlier years and his first days there as well, overflowing with love for Christians he has known that fill his “prayer with joy.” I’m certainly not the apostle Paul or even anything close, but I can relate a bit as I can’t say thank you enough for the ways we’ve been poured into and encouraged in this church home. From meals together, to countless Bible studies, to getting to serve your kids—thank you. 

Despite Paul’s absence from Philippi, he was still encouraged because in verse six he tells them that, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” I know the same is true about our time at Cross Creek and what God is doing in this church and in this community. As much as it wasn’t Paul who began a good work among the Philippians, it’s also anyone one of us who does the real work at Cross Creek–it has always been and always will be the Lord. And that work of gospel-centered sanctification will be brought to completion. 

As we look back “from the first day until now,” we are sad to go, but also excited to continue to serve the Lord and serve the larger church just in a different place. I’m excited because that means a new opportunity for Cross Creek to grow through a new person and their gifts, and I’m excited because we know that what God is doing at Cross Creek won’t stop, but that he’ll bring it to completion.

God Cares for You

[Written by William Monroe]

On a Friday, a little over 8 years ago, I lost my job. I was working at a startup company in Iowa and the company finances were such that I was laid off along with another person or two to help the company’s balance sheet. My boss at the time had said I could come back and get my things, but I wasn’t too crazy about that idea. I already felt the disappointment, shame, and guilt that went along with the situation. So even though I had biked to work that day, I packed up my desk and you can imagine the sight I was, with a backpack full of books, pedaling drearily back to our apartment.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went home and walked the dog and waited for Alicia to get home from her job.

2 days later, we found out that Alicia was pregnant with our oldest, Adeline Rose. We were excited…

…and terrified.

We had no idea what we should do. Even though technically I still had insurance at that time, we did not want to use our declining emergency funds if we didn’t have to. We called and set an appointment at the Iowa City equivalent of Sav-A-Life.

We were able to get an appointment that following week and went in together. The staff were so loving and accommodating and were overjoyed to come to our aid in the difficult situation in which we found ourselves. When we saw our bouncing, dancing jellybean on the ultrasound and heard her heartbeat, we felt great relief. When we left, they prayed with us and didn’t allow us to leave empty-handed, we had a full bag of items for the new life that was entering our family soon.

In 2nd Corinthians, the Bible says, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.”

We felt crushed and forsaken after the job loss, but God certainly lifted us up through the ministry that aided us at the beginning of the pregnancy and through our friends and through the church.

God absolutely knows what is happening in our lives. He absolutely cares. He absolutely has plans to care for you.

Go to Dark Gethsemane

Go to Dark Gethsemane

[Written by Dr. Chris Peters]

For some years now, I have been challenged and blessed by the simple song “Go to Dark Gethsemane.” From what I can tell, not many contemporary Christians have heard or sung it. Perhaps there are musical reasons for that, but the words are profound, and I trust will strengthen and enlighten all who ponder and apply them, especially this Easter week. Below are the lyrics followed by one rendition of the song. Note, in particular, the call to unite with Christ in his life and death. This might seem a bit mystical, but is in fact a privilege for all believers, simply through faith in Christ’s gracious sacrificial death for all of us sinners, and a repentant intention of our hearts to turn to him and away from denying his Lordship in our lives.

In particular, this week, note the final line of each stanza calling us to take spiritual steps – Pray, Bear, Die, Rise

1 Go to dark Gethsemane,
You who feel the tempter’s pow’r;
Your Redeemer’s conflict see;
Watch with Him one bitter hour;
Turn not from His griefs away;
Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

2 Follow to the judgment hall;
View the Lord of life arraigned;
O the worm-wood and the gall!
O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suff’ring, shame, or loss;
Learn of Him to bear the cross.

3 Calv’ry’s mournful mountain climb
There’ adoring at His feet,
Mark the miracle of time,
God’s own sacrifice complete:
“It is finished!” Hear the cry;
Learn of Jesus Christ to die.

4 Early hasten to the tomb
Where they laid his breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom;
Who hath taken Him away?
Christ is ris’n! He meets our eyes:
Savior, teach us so to rise.

 

Get Used to Different

[Written by Stephanie Vander Noot, Building Campaign Director]

If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of The Chosen – the first ever multi-season series about the life of Jesus. The story of Jesus is told through the eyes of those who encountered Him. The title of this blog post is from a scene in the show: Jesus and his followers (so far) are passing by Matthew’s booth when Jesus stops to call Matthew to join them. Jesus can barely get the words “Follow me” out before Simon protests – “I don’t get it,” he says. “You didn’t get it when I chose you either,” Jesus responds. Peter goes on to say, “But this is different. I’m not a tax collector.” Jesus shuts down Peter’s arguing by saying, “Get used to different.”

Over the years, members of Cross Creek Church have had to get used to different in many ways. I can count at least 6 different venues that housed our congregation over the past 12 years! Maybe you have been asked to fill a particular role at Cross Creek that was unfamiliar to you due to the need for “all hands on deck”. I would have never planned myself to be a part of a church plant, until God clearly orchestrated things so that it was obvious that is where we as a family were called to be.

Of course, the scene from The Chosen is a dramatization, but Jesus actually did say “if any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NLT) See? Surrender. And get used to different.

Now we find ourselves in the season of Lent, in a season of Church Building Campaign, in a season of more getting used to different, lean into the Holy Spirit leading you. I honestly identify with Simon, reacting by arguing with Him and relying on what makes sense to me. Jonathan Roumie, the actor who portrays Jesus, recently shared this testimony:

“I had to look at everything that I had achieved and not achieved at this point in my life, and realize that unless I invited God into my career, no matter what I did or how hard I tried, my career wasn’t going to move forward because He did not want that to happen without Him.” Three months after he made the decision to surrender his career to God, Roumie was cast in the leading role of The Chosen.

Cross Creek Church, as a building and as a body, will not be able to move forward without Him. “We are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We who believe are carefully joined together, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:20-21 NLT) May we continue to surrender to His way, to a greater and greater degree, and witness His faithfulness in new and greater ways!

To watch The Chosen, go to https://watch.angelstudios.com/thechosen

Bump the Lamp

Bump the Lamp

[Written by Alicia Monroe]

There is a lamp that sits on stage behind Greg Hartley at church. Have you noticed it? Noticing that lamp threw me back to the summer I met William and how I was introduced to “Bumping the lamp.” William and I met at Pine Cove Summer camp in the summer of 2007. We were to be a part of the staff working at the family camp called Bluffs. To have any staff role during the summer, a week of orientation and training is required. During that week we learned important duties for our positions but also what expectations Pine Cove has for all its members of staff.

Orientation was held in a large auditorium so that all staff could be in attendance. The centerpiece on stage at orientation was a floor lamp. No other furniture, decor, or props. Just a lit floor lamp. The week began with all lights being turned off except that floor lamp and then a video began to play behind it on the projector. A minute-long clip of Who Framed Roger Rabbit plays. In the clip, Eddie is trying to be free of Roger while they are handcuffed together. It takes place in the secret back room in the diner. In this room is a hanging lamp and as Eddie, Roger and Delores have a lengthy conversation and walk back and forth in the room to saw off the handcuff connection, this said lamp is bumped several times and sent wildly swaying back and forth throughout this scene. Said scene ends and the director of Pine Cove walks out. He proceeds to tell us that when this scene was first produced the scene played out with no movement of the lamp and it felt long-winded and dragged out. Producers then asked for the scene to be modified with a lamp bump. Well, they were gifted not only with what they requested but animators worked hard to add in multiple lamp bumps that livened up the scene and added drama effect with light and shadow. This was a lot of work, with the light being in constant motion and having an animated character with a moving shadow that had to be created with each swing of the lamp.

The attention to detail and the drive of the animation team to go above and beyond the call was impressive and something to make a model of. So much so that Disney, while working on the movie, coined the phrase “Bumping the Lamp.” They use it in their own training process for team members to go “above and beyond what is expected, to create something genuinely great.” Our director finished with this, as Disney and other well-run companies have adopted this as a way for working and to be in pursuit of the best of the best experience so should we as Pine Cove staffers create that kind of atmosphere but more Christ-minded. Christ goes above and beyond the call, He died for my sin so that I might live. He continues to bless us beyond imagination. How too can we heed the call to go above and beyond what is expected of us in our everyday in order to create something great for His name and His glory? How can you bump the lamp today?

The Mountains Are Calling And I Must Go

[Written by Garrett Greer]

I love good climbing documentaries. The really good ones manage to capture some of the thrill of climbing and exploration, but without any of the actual work or danger. I recently watched The Alpinist on Netlfix, and while I can say that not all of it is totally family-friendly, it’s well worth a watch. It’s the story of Marc-André Leclerc, a young climber obsessed with exploring the wilderness and the hardest to reach places on Earth.

The film at first shows his impossible abilities—his strength, confidence, and speed in climbing impossible peaks—all without ropes or harnesses. Apparently he would dodge the cameramen and didn’t really want to be with anyone else while climbing—he wanted it to be just him and the mountain. Leclerc sought to climb not as a sport or a profession, but as a spiritual exercise, trying to find some spiritual meaning or significance in his experience with untamed mountains.

In pursuit of ever greater achievements and summits, the film follows Leclerc’s adventures until his tragic and surprising death while summiting a new route on the North face of the Mendenhall Towers. Leclerc had summited the peak, even texted his girlfriend and mom, only to be killed by the mountain on his way back down. The film ends on a bittersweet note as both the filmmakers and his girlfriend try to understand his death and give it some sort significance. It ends as something of a memorial to Leclerc, essentially arguing that his death was worth it since he died doing what he loved.

I couldn’t help but remember a clip of a John Piper entitled “Don’t Waste Your Life.” In it, John Piper contrasts two news stories. The first is a tale of two women in their 80’s, a doctor and a nurse, that had taken their retirement years and chosen to live as medical missionaries. They had suddenly died in a car crash in Cameroon when their brakes failed. The second is a story of an elderly couple that took an early retirement to move to Florida, collect seashells, and play softball. Piper pleads with the crowd to grasp that the true tragedy wasn’t the death of two women serving the Lord on mission, but the couple that build their lives around recreation.

As Piper says, “With all my heart I plead with you: don’t buy that dream. The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account of what you did: ‘Here it is Lord — my shell collection! And I’ve got a nice swing, and look at my boat!’ Don’t waste your life; don’t waste it.”

As I watched The Alpinist I was struck by the tragedy of Leclerc’s death. Here was a man enraptured by creation—something I can relate to. This man clearly saw the beauty of mountains shaped by the hand of God, and yet tragically failed to see God himself. He only saw the creation instead of the creator. Devoting his life to himself, he was willing to die in search of the next great adventure.

I was convicted that I too sometimes get caught up in my “shell collecting.” I too often look for the next great adventure, wishing to be somewhere else and shirking the mission in front of me. I hope that as believers we can somehow find a way to combine Leclerc’s spirit of adventure with the fervor of Piper’s plea to live on mission. Hopefully we can correctly distinguish between creation and creator, and also see that our role on Earth isn’t just to find ourselves and our happiness, collecting shells and summiting peaks, but to live on mission too.

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…. 25 but they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served creation rather than the Creator….
-Romans 1:19-20, 25

Strangers and Aliens

[Written by Dr. Chris Peters]

A few weeks ago, in the men’s discipleship group I lead with 3 guys who are studying what the Bible teaches about the core beliefs of the Christian life, we came across the “heroes of faith” – chapter 11 of the Book of Hebrews. It reads, in part…

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”

As I’ve mentioned in some comments and other written communication to our church recently, God seems to want to make sure Cross Creek Church remembers we should never get too comfortable with the things of this earth and this life. We can enjoy all the blessings of this life deeply and sincerely, and in fact, our relationship with God should enliven that enjoyment, but we also hold all things with a loose hand.

When the 100 year rain storm we had a few weeks ago flowed into the church building we are preparing to buy, it was a bit perplexing. After 12 years of growing to a place of having our own church facility, meeting at two area schools the first 8 years, and the last few renting the church building we are purchasing, you would think we would have no trouble remembering we are strangers and aliens in this world… but I know I easily forget.

God knows best, even in what appears to me to be setbacks or frustrations. Thanks to Parkwood Church of God we have a temporary space and will have the joy of coming back into a building with new flooring and paint, but we can thank Him most of all for helping us remember what the church actually is – God’s people, not a facility; the ministries we have for outreach and our own growth, not an address on a map; the vision to Glorify God By Inviting All Into God’s Grace, pursued by Growing in Truth, Living in Community and Serving in the Kingdom, not a deed and title.

I’ve said before, spiritual Alzheimer’s is one of our chief problems – failing to remember what we know from God’s Word, what God has shown us in experience, what others have helped us believe. Let’s thank God these next 4-5 weeks while we are at a temporary meeting place, for helping us remember the nomadic life… the alien existence. And when we set foot on new carpet and new plank flooring, let’s ask God to help us also remember the good vision he has given to us as a church, to be salt and light to a hurting and fallen community and to invite others to experience the grace we have the privilege of receiving through the ministry we use our facility to pursue.

In a few weeks, I’ll have the blessing of staying up late 3-4 nights to teach a seminary course online for 40-50 pastors halfway around the world in a place where churches are rare but the Gospel is rapidly spreading. Just like church facilities are helpful in our part of the world for all the ministries of the church, they are likewise for the churches led by these faithful pastors. Limitations of resources, of government restrictions and of community persecution might keep these believers from having a building. Yet we have more in common with them, than we might presume. They, like us, stand in the light of the accomplished work of God in Christ. Thus we can all say together…

“For you have not come to what may be touched….but you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:18-24)

What You Can’t Do

[Written by Ben Halbrooks]

As we’ve been making our way through the catechism (or “cazzy” as my kids call it), one particular question/answer pair stood out to me recently: Question 82. It’s the culmination of a large section of the catechism that’s all about God’s law and its meaning and application in our lives. For the record, here it is:

Q: Can anyone perfectly keep the commandments of God?
A. Since the fall no ordinary man can perfectly keep the commandments of God in this life but breaks them every day in thought, word, and action.

That’s what we call a hard “NO.” How’s that for some uplifting motivation? I mean, literally every preceding catechism question outlining the requirements and expectations of the law just hit a brick wall.

So let’s think about this for a minute. Do you like being told what you can’t do? And how badly you can’t do it? We’re not talking about something you’re not supposed to do, but something you absolutely cannot do, no matter how hard you try.

Everything in ourselves, in our fallen natures, resists this. We’re steeped in a sea of messages that tell us that Anything Is Possible If You Work Hard, Never Give Up, Use Willpower and Positive Thinking, Decide to Win, Achieve Your Goals, Manifest Your Dreams, Believe in Yourself, and Follow a 5-Step Plan to Success. And we’re Americans, for crying out loud! Self-reliance is a national past-time. But the truth of Question 82 remains. And in the face of it, two great worldly myths crumble to dust:

That there is such thing as a “good person.” In a spiritual sense – that is, as it relates to ultimate reality – no one is good. (Rom. 3:10-12)
We also tend to believe that the problems of the world are “outside” of ourselves, and we look “within” ourselves for the solution. Question 82, and the Gospel as a whole, show us that this assumption is fundamentally backwards. The ultimate problem is the problem of the human heart, within ourselves, and the ultimate solution must come from something, Someone, outside ourselves.

In the wreckage of these illusions, one thing is clear: our desperate need of a Savior. And thankfully, the catechism answer gives us a hopeful hint in this direction when it says “no ordinary man” can do this. Because there was one who stepped into human history as more than just an ordinary man: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)

So you know what’s good about being told what we can’t do in this case? It relieves us from the unbearable burden of seeking in vain to prove ourselves, as our Savior takes all our burdens and our sins upon Himself to the cross and fulfills the demands of the law – perfectly.

Overflowing Love

[Written by Garrett Greer]

11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

Isaiah 58:11, ESV

Recently I was on a bike path in rural Georgia, it was around 98 degrees, I was hot and thirsty, and I knew it might be a while before I made it to the next source of water. Half grumbling, half praying, I questioned why it had to be so hot, wondering when I’d get some water. As I rounded a corner, I saw a man with a large white cooler, sitting in the shade, waving to come on over. While I stopped he introduced himself, his name was Rick, and he was giving out free water and Gatorade. As I reached into the deep ice of the cooler to pull out a cold drink, I tried to express how glad I was that he was there and that he was a bit of an answered prayer. At this he laughed, but told me that he wasn’t there because he was a Christian—quite the contrary. He was there because he wanted to prove that you didn’t need to be a Christian to be nice and hand out drinks to people. Apparently, a church in the area had been handing out free drinks to folks on the trail, and my new friend Rick was frustrated. He wasn’t a believer and was annoyed that people might think this sort of kindness was limited to Christians, and so he decided to give out drinks as well. We had a great conversation about how he was frustrated by Christian kindness. “They’re only doing it because God said so, I’m doing it to show you can do it just to be nice, without needing a God to tell you to do it.” This unbeliever had latched onto the idea that Christians only did nice things because they have to—and he wanted to show he could be friendly all on his own.

My run in with Rick gave me a lot to think about. I was thankful that God used Rick to quench my thirst, even when Rick didn’t acknowledge God. But I’ve also been thinking about Rick’s idea that Christians only do nice things because they have to—that we live in love because it’s a command. It’s certainly a command in Scripture, but hopefully there’s more to love than duty. When I’m doing kind things, what’s my real motivation? As a Christian do I only do nice things because I know I’m supposed to and not because of any genuine love? I hope not.  

As Christians we are supposed to be known by our love for one another (John 13:35). It sounds like Rick knew some Christians by their love, and wanted in on it, even without God. But we must remember that the reason we love one another isn’t really because we’re just nice, and it also isn’t just because “God said so.” We love one another because in Christ we’ve received so much love that there’s no other place for it to go but outwards—it simply pours forth! Christ’s sacrificial love for each of us on the cross is something that we receive and then also pour out onto those around us. Romans 12:9 asks us to “let love be genuine”—this doesn’t mean loving one another out of duty, or just pure good feelings, rather “genuine” Christian love overflows from the love we receive in Jesus. Genuine love is the only result when we truly receive Christ’s grace. We act in love and in kindness not because we have to, but because we are filled with love in Christ.

My encounter with Rick was a blessing—I got a cold drink on a hot day—but also because it challenged me to remember the reason for kindness. It’s not so that we look good to the world, it’s not so that we earn points by following God’s commands. Instead, we love one another as Christ loved us, because as his love overflows in our hearts, that manifests in kindness to the world. I pray that I might let that love pour forth in more tangible ways. Who knows, maybe soon I’ll be handing out free water and Gatorade on the side of the trail with Rick.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Romans 12:9-13, ESV

The Silent Man

[Written by Christine Cox]

As I set out our Nativity crèche, I recalled the time when my daughter as a toddler loved to play ‘house’ with our Nativity set. The figurines were so realistic, and, fragile. Only one guess what happened to one of the figurines – there he lay on the floor, shattered. The Nativity scene was so lost, looked so sad, without Joseph.

Joseph is the Silent Man, the stoic man; often under-rated, too often misunderstood, but the faithful guardian of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, protector of his family, and, like the rest of us, a sinner, in need of God’s grace for salvation.

Reflecting on a devotional reading originally from Rev. Gray Bean, PhD, we can learn and grow in virtues that Joseph, a man who spoke no words in Scripture, had exemplified.

Model of faith and compassion: In the angelic dream, Matthew 1, Joseph was troubled that his betrothed Mary was pregnant but being a ‘just man’ he desired to ‘send her away quietly’. However, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” As Joseph immediately follows the command, we see his faith in God’s word and his obedience. We also see how he exemplified gentleness and compassion to Mary, to someone he thought, at first, had betrayed him.

Model of silence and adoration: Matthew 2 relates the visit of the Magi. Though not mentioned here in Scripture, but visible in all our Nativity scenes, we can imagine that Joseph was there in the background, diligently watchful, with awe and wonderment. “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15) Joseph would need this time of quietness, for the trials that were to come.

Model of strength and courage: Continuing in Matthew 2, Joseph is commanded by an angel to flee into Egypt for Herod was “about to search for the Child, to destroy Him.” In obedience, Joseph courageously leaves everything behind – everything! – his home, his livelihood, his friends and other relationships to move his family to a foreign land in order to protect them from the diabolical threat. How willing are we to leave everything behind for our Lord? “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Model of fatherhood and daily work:  Though Scripture is somewhat silent on the life of Jesus as a child, we can glean from Scripture, that Joseph was indeed a godly family man with deep love for his Son.
As a godly man, he followed the Law of Moses bringing Jesus to the temple to present Him to the Lord at the time of His purification. As father and leader of his family, Joseph, provided for his family as a carpenter (Matthew 13, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” and taught his Son the trade of his livelihood. (Mark 6, “Isn’t this the carpenter?”).  His fatherhood and deep love is so visible when Joseph and Mary lost their Son in Jerusalem after the Feast of the Passover when in ‘great distress they went in search for Him.’ Through all this, Jesus, God and King, was submissive to His earthly parents (Luke 2). We too can find dignity in our work and daily tasks, to share our talents, to know and do His will in our lives – “be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)

And, yes, I still put out the old Nativity set – several of the animals are missing an ear, or a tail, one Magi clearly glued, but with a new and much bigger Joseph … a sweet reminder, a sweet memory.