| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Black History inspiration

Posted on 26 February 2015 by L.Moore

There are some today who wonder why we need to observe and celebrate Black History, particularly when society has made such remarkable gains in acknowledging and embracing the worth of the Negro. “Slavery is a thing of the past,” they say. “Blacks can live anywhere, work and lead in any profession, and have access to everything needed to achieve the American Dream. We have even elected the first African American president in the history of this country. Why then,” they argue, “Should continual emphasis be given to the trials and triumphs of a people who have essentially seen the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream?”

In response, there are those who will readily point out that all is not as it may seem in American race relations. The past few years in particular have seen spotlighted accounts of injustice and prejudice in many areas of social interaction. Incidents of unarmed black men being killed in confrontations with police or armed white men has driven many to the streets in protest. In addition, the effects of 200 years of slavery, along with decades of segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South can still be seen in the psyche of some who struggle to find meaning and purpose in life. Many elders in the black community feel strongly that current generations of youth need to understand the cost of the freedoms and opportunities they now possess, and sometimes squander or take for granted.

Perhaps a more compelling reason is the same that motivates the Jews to keep the memories of the Holocaust alive in the public mindset: so that it may never happen again. History has proven, after all, that achievements and gains can be lost with the coming to power of a generation disconnected from its past.

I would add one more reason. There is something in all of us that responds positively to accounts of triumph over adversity, and progress in the face of tremendous odds. Those stories inspire and motivate us in our own unique journeys of life. Thus, we affirm Black History month celebrations.

Who could not be inspired by the achievement of Madam C.J. Walker? This entrepreneurial woman developed and sold hair care products which propelled her to become the first black female millionaire in this country. Frederick Douglass was a former slave who, mainly through self-effort, educated himself and became a prolific speaker, writer and leader of the abolitionist movement. Similarly, Booker T. Washington rose from slavery to become the most influential educator in the black community in his day. He argued for the education and self-reliance of the Negro as key to their betterment. Shirley Chisolm rode the wave of the civil rights movement to become the first African American female to serve in the U.S. congress in 1968.

There are numerous other stories of individuals whose lives have contributed to the development of our society and the betterment of all Americans. Thankfully, we have a month each year to review and benefit from the impact that they made. In the process, may all of us be equally inspired to make our own mark and leave a positive imprint for our generation and those yet to come.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: We are all special

Posted on 19 February 2015 by L.Moore

I was scheduled to officiate at a funeral for a young man who, in the past, we would have referred to as “mentally retarded,” but that is not just a politically incorrect term to use, it is a downright offensive one.

So what is the proper term? Well, it might seem open to debate, and, since I wasn’t sure, I asked some professionals and I also asked the family of this young man. The American Psychiatric Association would chart it as intellectual developmental disorder” or “intellectual disability.” One member of the family used the term “mentally challenged,” and several others said that he was “special” and used the term “differently-abled.”

This young man used to live in Philadelphia, but moved down here for several years before going back to The City of Brotherly Love to live near family.

And his family did something that was so loving, so touching, that it tugged on the strings of my heart.

You see, it would have been very convenient for them to bury their brother up in Philadelphia. But they traveled with that casket that held their baby brother and they brought him back here to be buried in Florida. They did so, because this young man adored his parents, and his parents are buried here. So they made sure to fulfill a promise that he would be laid to rest right by them.

In the Torah, we find a similar promise being fulfilled as when Jacob passes away it is up to his survivors to fulfill a pledge that his remains be taken to be buried alongside his ancestors.

Before Jacob dies, we read about him calling family members to his side to bless them. When most people think of getting a blessing, they think of words that someone says to them or of prayers recited on their behalf.

But one of the things we learn in the Torah is that we, each and every one of us, should be a blessing.

Each of us has our own individual strengths and our own individual weaknesses. In other words each of us is “special” and each of us is “differently-abled.”

Just before the funeral of the young man, one of his cousins said, “Of all the people in the world, I never thought I would learn so much from him.” The Talmud asks, “Who is wise?” and answers, “The one who learns from everyone.”

In keeping with this lesson, I chose to focus on the blessings that each person at that funeral could learn from that young man. For instance, The Talmud tells us that, in order to be happy, you need to be content with what you already have.

This young man never asked for more than he had. He was happy with his lot. This young man never had a bad word to say about anyone, and Lord knows the rest of us could sure learn from his example.

He lived a simple life and he was content, and, get this, while for much of his life, his parents assisted him, when his father passed, this young man (who many would assume incapable of much of anything) took on the role of primary caregiver for his mother, doing whatever he was able to see to her comfort, and doing so with the greatest of love and devotion.

Let us learn from Jacob in the Bible and let us learn from this young man whose name also happened to be Jacob … regardless of our weaknesses, we all have the ability … no, we have the Biblical imperative, to “be a blessing.”

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Don’t forget!

On Stage at Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach:

Feb. 22 – 1 p.m. – The Holocaust Survivor Klezmer Band

March 3 – 3 p.m. – The Ramat Gan Israeli Dance Theatre

Tickets – $18 per event for reservations, call 954-428- 0578.

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CLERGY CORNER: Love is a four letter word

Posted on 12 February 2015 by L.Moore

Have you ever heard of the term “tough love?” People will say, “I think that person needs some tough love.” There is a new saying that is true that I heard the other day, and I think it’s the opposite of that term “tough love” because “love is tough.” Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, and it is easy to love on special occasions like this. However, there are still many days left out of the year where some days are easy to show love, and some days we have to work hard at showing love to others. How about showing someone love who does not love you back or even someone who may not treat you the way you believe you deserve to be treated? Love should be a big part of our lives. Love is something meant to be expressed, not something to be kept a secret. It seems like people even have a hard time saying “I love you” when we should say it all the time, and we should also show it all the time. It is tough sometimes, but it is not impossible. Why is it that we can say that we love our car, job, dog or even our favorite restaurant, but we cannot say it to each other? We have a hard time saying ‘I love you’ to the ones who really mean the most to us.

We have to understand that we need God’s help to love others in the same way that He loves us. We always want to put conditions on love, but God does not do that to us. We speak with our actions and say ‘I will love you’ if you do this for me, treat me this way, or buy me this, etc. God does not work on the point system and neither should we. God tells us to love others, period. There are no conditions on that love. God does not say love someone if they do something for you or make you feel a certain way. God says love each other, and if God tells us to love, we must be able to do it. Love is so many things, but it is not conditional. Let’s look at what love is.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud

5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.

6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.

7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

NLT

Love gives us the ability to be sensitive to the needs, hurts and desires of others and also to feel with them, and experience the world from their perspective. Love gives us the ability to give with no conditions or expectations. Love builds up and encourages; it is determining what is best for someone and doing it. Pray and ask God to help you love the way He loves and He will help you. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day. I LOVE YOU!

Pastor Tony Guadagnino is the pastor at Christian Love Fellowship church, located at 801 SE 10 St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, visit www.clfministries.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: A journey through time

Posted on 05 February 2015 by L.Moore

I was invited to a Genocide Commemoration last week. But this was not a commemoration of the Shoah, this was a commemoration (the very first in the United States) of the 100th Year of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

Most of you who read my column know that I have a passion for dance. So when I heard that the program would include a performance by the Sayat Nova Dance Company …well, how could I stay away? But there was another reason that I needed to be there. On Shabbat, just before the event, I sang a song during my sermon. The lyrics go something like this:

I am bound for the Promised Land …

Oh Lord, I am bound for the Promised Land …

Oh who will come and go with me …

I am bound for the Promised Land …

Who will come and go with me?

Which is it, are we coming or going? The same question was asked by the Sages in regard to what G-d tells Moses about a trip to pharaoh. You see, the Hebrew word, Bo, can mean “go” or it can mean “come.” So was G-d telling Moses to “go” to Pharaoh or was He telling him “come to Pharaoh?” If I asked you to go to the store, I would be asking you to go in my stead. But, if I asked you to come … that is what G-d was saying to Moses, “Come with me … I will be with you every step of the way.”

And that is why I felt I had to come to the Armenian Genocide Commemoration. As a Jew, I have a duty to remember the Holocaust and to see to it that it never happens again. The problem is that, before the Holocaust, there was a genocide perpetrated against the Armenians and there have been others since then in places like Darfur and Rwanda. So how could I not be there to remember the horror that happened to my Armenian brothers and sisters?

The dance program took us all on “A Journey Through Time.” The performers weaved the story of the Armenians from ancient days to the Genocide, to their rebirth. With each step the dancers took on stage, I could feel the connection between the Armenian Culture and the Jewish Community. We each went through an amazing religious transformation; each of us had and have those who would like to see us annihilated; and each of us not only miraculously survived an attempt at extermination, but both cultures have found a way to go on. No, each has found a way to do more than that; each has found a way to live, to laugh and to dance.

As I looked around the audience and saw so many children with parents and grandparents, I realized that the Armenians have the same aspirations that we have … to make our progeny knowledgeable of our past, of our traditions, of our culture and to be proud of being who we are. And, with the help of people like Arsine Kaloustian and the AGC (The Armenian Genocide Commemoration), may we be vigilant to speak out against any and all attempts at the Genocide of any people.

To Arsine and to all my Armenian brothers and sisters, we will not forget!

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

(AGC Inc. accepts contributions which are used to maintain and expand genocide education through outreach programs in The Tri-County area. Send donations to St. David Armenian Church, 2300 Yamato Rd., Boca Raton, FL 33431)

Be sure to catch these upcoming events On Stage at Temple Beth Israel …

February 22 – The Holocaust Survivor Klezmer and Multicultural Band

March 4 – The Ramat Gan Israeli Dance Theater

For tickets, call – 954-428- 0578.

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 South Military Tr.). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Info.: 954-421-7060.

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CLERGY CORNER: Why your words MATTER

Posted on 29 January 2015 by L.Moore

The words you speak on a daily basis are powerful. They carry more weight than you may realize. Not only do they shape your thinking and, therefore, determine your actions, they also direct your relationships, your accomplishments, and, ultimately, define your reality. Still, it’s easy to underestimate the significance of words because they are so commonplace. You are immersed in them on a daily basis like a fish in water.

Stepping back and choosing to see the power and impact of your linguistic habits takes intentionality. But, when you are able to do just that, you’ll begin to realize that every word you say has the ability to change your life for better or for worse. The first step in using what comes out of your mouth to create the life you’ve imagined is to recognize three essential truths about the nature of words:

1. Words are a gift from God. The ability to use words at all is a gift from God. He was the first one to harness the creative force of words – and he has entrusted you with the same ability to use words to create the world around you. Given the substantial nature of this gift, you can’t just throw your words around any old way you please; they contain too much power and carry with them too much responsibility.

2. Words can build up or tear down. As a kid, you probably chanted the phrase, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Even though it sounds good in theory, the phrase is just plain wrong. Words can hurt. I bet you don’t have any problem remembering the last harsh words that were spoken to you, or the last encouraging words you received. Other people’s words have incredible impact on your heart, as do your words on theirs. Keep this in mind as you speak to your spouse, your children, your friends and your coworkers.

3. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your words. Words aren’t neutral. Every word that goes out has a consequence attached to it. How you speak to the people in your life will determine the quality of those relationships. How well you communicate with God through prayer will determine the quality of your connection with him. Your internal dialogue with yourself will determine the quality of your actions and interactions each day. When you consider all of these things together, it naturally follows that the quality of your very life is created by the words you speak. Using your words intentionally is crucial to living the life you’ve imagined.

As you become more conscious of the way you use language, you can begin to take advantage of its power to shape the life you want. In the process, you will be able to stop inadvertently sabotaging others and yourself with words that do nothing to help you.

To explore the power and significance of your words in more depth, be sure to check out my new book, Tongue Pierced: How the Words You Speak Transform the Life You Live (David C. Cook, 2015). Pick up your copy at Amazon. com, a book retailer near you or by visiting The Journey Church in Boca Raton. We would love to see you at our 9:30 or 11 a.m. service this Sunday! The Journey Church meets at Boca Raton High School.

Nelson Searcy is the author of 13 books and serves as the lead pastor of The Journey Church in Boca Raton. www.bocajourney.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: What Would Dr. King Say?

Posted on 22 January 2015 by L.Moore

The deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown spotlighted what has unfortunately become the perspective of many in this country: that while we have made progress in the experience of racial equality and justice, we still regrettably have a long way to go.

We all saw the public reaction to the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case. Many of us were even more flabbergasted at the decision in the Eric Garner case. From rioting in St. Louis to protests in cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, demonstrators took to the streets to voice their disapproval.

As we reflect upon the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. we may inevitably wonder what he would have thought and said had he been alive to witness the current challenges we face.

While there may be some who would claim to know exactly what he would think and say, the truth is that none of us can say for sure. What we do know, however, is how he thought and what he said during the height of the struggle in his day. His words then may give us an idea how he would respond now:

I think we have to look deeper … if we are to find the real cause of man’s problems and the real cause of the world’s ills today. If we are to find it, I think we have to look in the hearts and souls of men … The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood; but, through our moral and spiritual genius, we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.” “Rediscovering Lost Values” (Feb. 28, 1954)

Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way”. – “Loving Your Enemies” (Nov. 17, 1957)

We must come to see that the roots of racism are very deep in our country, and there must be something positive and massive in order to get rid of all the effects of racism and the tragedies of racial injustice”. –“Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” (March 31, 1968)

About two years ago now, I stood with many of you who stood there in person and all of you who were there in spirit before the Lincoln Monument in Washington. As I came to the end of my speech there, I tried to tell the nation about a dream I had. I must confess to you this morning that since that sweltering August afternoon in 1963, my dream has often turned into a nightmare. …But, I tell you this morning once more that I haven’t lost the faith. I still have a dream that one day all of God’s children will have food and clothing and material well-being for their bodies, culture and education for their minds and freedom for their spirits … I still have a dream this morning that truth will reign supreme and all of God’s children will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. And when this day comes, the morning stars will sing together and the sons of God will shout for joy.” “The American Dream” (July 4, 1965)

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Wake up and make The Dream come true

Posted on 15 January 2015 by L.Moore

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and, to us, he stood 9 ft. tall.

Sadly, many in this world have still not woken up to his dream. They continue to keep their eyes closed to the prejudice and hate against our African American brothers and sisters.

Dreams are amazing gifts. We even find dreams in the Bible itself. And the scriptures teach us, as Theodore Hertzl summed up saying, “If you will it hard enough, it is no dream.” In other words, it is up to us not just to dream the dream, but to walk the walk. There is still much work to be done in regard to equality. The Rev. Dr. King Jr.’s dream has come a long, long way; but, it is up to each of us to help bring that beautiful dream to full fruition.

As Jews, we know what it is like to be treated with hate and bigotry. As Jews, we know what it is like to struggle for fulfillment of a dream. As Jews, we know that there is still much work for us to do in this beautiful but broken world in which we live. As Jews, we know that we have to wake the world from its slumber.

Jews walked side by side with the great leaders of the Civil Rights movement, side by side with our African American brothers and sisters, and, just as we continue to struggle on so many fronts for the fulfillment of our dreams, it is also our Biblical imperative to work toward fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream as well.

Let us hope that the day does indeed come when all people, Black, White, Jew and Gentile, can walk up that mountain together and live in blessed peace with the knowledge that we are all, indeed, brothers and sisters as we all come from the same Father, G-d, The Almighty.

As we approach the special day set aside to honor the late, great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach will present one of the greatest plays ever made about someone stuck in a long sleep who, finally, wakes up to a new world.

That’s right, the Temple will be showing a production of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” … and not just any production, but one where the characters stand 9 ft. tall. The program will be enjoyed by people of all ages and it is the Temple’s hope that many will opt to purchase admission ($10 per person) so that tickets can be given to members of groups like the Boys & Girls Club of Deerfield Beach so they can enjoy this special play on Jan. 18 at 1 p.m., which is the day before this year’s official observance of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Rabbi Ezring is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach). His motivational sermons can be heard at the Temple’s weekly shabbat services (9:30 a.m. Saturdays). Rabbi Ezring is a member of the N.A.J.C. and of the A.P.C. He has served as a hospice chaplain and continues to work in pastoral care at several health facilities in the Broward County Area. For reservations, call 954-428-0578.

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CLERGY CORNER: Can God help?

Posted on 08 January 2015 by L.Moore

Almost half of every American makes a New Year’s resolution and only 8 percent of them actually keep them. New Year resolutions are really a waste of time and something not really intended to be permanent. If we truly want to change anything in our lives to make things better, then we would be better off asking God to help us change the way we think.

ROMANS 12:1-2

1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice — the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?

2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.

NLT

I find even myself every year making promises to eat better and work on keeping my body healthy and strong. We will have much better success if we allow God, through the Bible, to begin to change the way we think by renewing our minds. The word renewing in this verse means that there is a “constant action taking place that never stops.” God is always working on us to help change the way we think. It is not just a one-time quick fix; it is something that takes place repeatedly. We give ourselves to God once, but we need to transform and renew our minds constantly.

In 2 Kings, Chapters 22 and 23, we read that King Josiah was a man who sought after God. However, his life changed when God’s Word was rediscovered. He called the people to a renewed covenant before God (see 2 Kings 23:3). God moved through Josiah to crush the wickedness of his country like a hurricane crumbles houses as if they were made out of toothpicks.

Not only can God help us, but He wants to help us. We all have problems and issues in life and can use some help. First, God wants to be our source for everything and give us direction for our future. The more we get to know God, the more we understand what He wants us to do and how He wants us to live our lives and treat others.

Second, we need to have confidence in ourselves, and we can do that by developing certain skills in our lives. We need to make sure we have long term goals, as well as short term goals. Make sure you do not worry, look to God for security and not possessions, learn how to rest, and you must choose your friends and associates wisely. Lastly, we must have confidence in God. God has faith in you; but, do you have faith in Him?

In order for us to change the way we think, we need God to help us make our changes permanent and not temporary. Allow God to change the way you think for results that last a lifetime.

Tony Guadagnino is a pastor at Christian Love Fellowship Church (801 SE 10 St., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441, 954-428-8980, www.clfministries.org).

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CLERGY CORNER: A Resolution for 2015

Posted on 01 January 2015 by L.Moore

A man approached a friend of mine the other day. He was dressed rather shabbily and he was not exactly well kept. Okay, he smelled to the high heavens. His jeans were torn and his shoes looked like they were going to fall apart at any second.

In the olden days, we would have referred to him as a bum, but this particular bum must have been a Boca bum because asking my friend for money made him so thirsty that he needed to take a gulp of the frozen latte he held in his hands from Starbucks.

Make no mistake about it, it wasn’t my friend who was holding the latte. My friend would never pay that kind of money for a fancy coffee, frozen or not.

While our parents might never have judged someone asking for a handout, in our day and age, we have become a bit more cynical and some use this cynicism as a excuse to avoid giving charity to anyone or anything.

My Father of Blessed Memory never questioned. He just knew that he wanted to thank G-d by sharing his blessings with others. I may take after my father in a lot of ways, and I certainly hope that I have taken on many of his good traits. But, to be honest with you, before I give to a charity now, I check to see how much of what they take in actually helps the poor.

Sadly, I have even become cynical when it comes to someone on the street asking for a handout. Of course, the fact that on one particular corner in Boca I drive by early in the morning and have seen a gorgeous Mercedes drop off three or four people to beg on the corner …well, that just makes me wonder. No, it does more than that, it makes me cold and cynical.

Even more sad is that I have seen people standing by various intersections with signs in their hands that say things like, “Hungry, will work for food.” I used to keep some things like a case of peanut butter in my car to hand out to these folk, but you would not believe how many of them turned down the peanut butter and even gave me dirty glares for offering it to them.

Now, before I put you in such a negative mode that you never consider giving to charity again, let me turn this around a bit.

There are people, sadly, more people than you can even imagine who are in great need. And no matter how much you think the government is doling out to them, many simply cannot take care of the most basic of needs.

So many of you are going to make New Year’s resolutions of what you are going to give up this year; but, as we begin 2015, I would ask you to make a resolution not on what you are going to give up, but rather on what you are going to give.

Someone I know did this last year and, after giving all that he had planned to give, other things happened in the world, other things came up in the community, and he still found that he had enough blessings to give even more; and he did!

So while you are joyously ringing in the New Year, count your blessings and, who knows, maybe you will take these words to heart and resolve to share those blessings throughout the year. You see, giving to those in need isn’t just a good deed, it is the fulfillment of Holy Commandment.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach, which will be staging the “biggest” version of Rip Van Winkle you have ever seen on Jan. 18. For tickets, call 954-428-0578 or etaarts@aol.com. Come to the show and start the New Year feeling young again.

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CLERGY CORNER: The most wonderful time of the year

Posted on 25 December 2014 by L.Moore

A popular song heard regularly over radio during Christmas is Andy Williams’ classic rendition of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” The song celebrates the traditional activities that accompany Christmas, including gathering with our families, feasting, enjoying fellowship and having fun. Thoughtful lyrics and a memorable melody capture the joy and excitement that we first discovered as children anticipating Dec. 25. Although numerous other artists have recorded the song, it is Andy Williams’ golden-voiced version that has helped to solidify it as a perennial Christmas favorite.

The idea of jingle belling and swapping scary ghost stories may be foreign to modern observations of the season. Singing carols and hymns, having holiday parties and remembering past Christmases is much more in line with what we are accustomed to. Crowded shopping malls, colorful light displays, giving and receiving gifts, enjoying fruitcake and eggnog, are experiences that characterize the festive nature of the season. Though there are some who do not celebrate Christmas, there is an undeniable sense of wonder and joy among those who observe its traditions.

Beyond the sights, sounds and anticipation of gifts, however, what really makes Christmas memorable and wonderful is the reason it exists in the fi rst place. Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior at Christmas: God’s Son given to redeem mankind from slavery to sin. The Bible teaches that sin entered the human experience when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Their act of rebellion made them sinners and imputed their sin upon all of their descendants. Even when given specifi c instructions as to how to honor God and treat fellow human beings, mankind was unable to live according to the Creator’s intentions.

God could and should have visited humanity with righteous judgment, but He decided to take the penalty of man’s disobedience upon Himself by sending His Son. The incarnation refers to God becoming like man in order to save mankind. In Galatians 4:4-5, we are told “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (NIV). It was His love for His creation that moved Him to demonstrate mercy and grace towards us. John 3:16 indicates, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (NKJV).” This undeserved favor is accepted by believers, and motivates them to serve and to honor God by living for His pleasure.

It is very easy to be caught up with the colorful lights and the lure of sales discounts at your favorite store. Santa Claus, Frosty the snowman and Rudolph the red nosed reindeer are now established seasonal characters. And while we ought to enjoy the traditions that help to make this season memorable for us, we should never overlook the reason why there is a Christmas. The essence of the Christmas story is the Creator’s willingness to provide the remedy for our sinfulness: the life of His dear Son. The remembrance of God’s great love demonstrated in this awesome act is what truly makes this the most wonderful time of the year.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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