Thomas: God’s Love Rises Above Our Problems, Struggles and Frantic Lives

Published December 22, 2017 2:00 PM
Religion Columnist 

After much planning and many rehearsals, the big night had arrived. As the pastor began his sermon, he asked the overflowing Christmas Eve crowd, “What one word embodies the full meaning of this special season?” On that cue, four members of the second grade Sunday School class were to walk in, each one carrying a large poster board with a letter on it. They were supposed to spell the word “STAR” — from which the pastor would build his Christmas message. As the children entered, first there was just silence in the pews, then a snicker or two, and then outright laughter.

Somehow, the kids got reversed. Confused by the response of the congregation, the pastor turned to look at the children. They proudly stood in their holiday clothes smiling and waving at family and friends — but they hadn’t spelled the word “STAR.” Instead, they had spelled “RATS.”

Unfortunately, “Rats!” could summarize the way many people feel in this hectic season of shopping the sales and rampant spending. In the holiday rush, the true meaning of the season often gets distorted or lost altogether amid the tinsel, toys and troubles.

At a time when we should be reflecting on the One who came to bring peace, joy and fulfillment in life — we find ourselves seated before a doctor trying to explain the growing anxiety and depression we are suffering. More people contemplate taking their own lives during these dark winter months than any other time of year. Instead of feeling the keen connection of family, we often feel isolated and alone. If you were feeling lonely before Christmas, watch out. That empty feeling multiplies as you watch all the Christmas specials that remind you of the family and relationships you don’t have. With these simple ways to help keep toasty indoors and out, you can better enjoy all the snowy season has to offer.

During the Christmas season, we can easily drift into comparing our lives with others around us. They seem happier, wealthier, and almost carefree! They look like they really enjoy life! But beyond outward appearances, we really have no idea of what others are going through chronic illness, loss of loved one, broken relationships, marital discord. It doesn’t have to be this way. The world may not know what this season is about, but God does. He left the glory and splendor of heaven to come to us wrapped in frail humanity. God did that as an expression of the deepest love you could ever imagine. A love for you and me. A love that rises above our problems, struggles and frantic lives. A love that calms our anxious souls, and lifts the depressed spirit. A love that clears the confusion and clatter, and points us to a life filled with purpose and meaning.

There’s a popular Christian plaque that I’ve seen many times. It reads, “I asked God, how much do You love me?” And God replied, ‘This much.’ And He stretched out His arms and died.” It’s equally true if God had said, “This much!” And He emptied Himself of His glory and came to earth as one of us!

God loves you that much. And that kind of love is more valuable than any present you can order online or find under your tree on Christmas morning.

So, take a deep breath and slow down. Look up at the stars. As big and immense as this universe is, there is a God who loves you and wants to have an intimate friendship with you. Just open your heart and tell Him how you feel. Tell Him about your emptiness, your hurts and your struggles. Let Him shower you with His love. Let God remind you of the greatest love story ever — that He had you on His mind and in His heart from the manger to the cross. Do that, and it could be the best Christmas you ever had!

Always Vote For The Perfect Candidate


Published in the Carroll County Times newspaper October 28, 2016

History records that there was a perfect candidate. He lived in every way a perfect life.

No one could find any dirt on him from the past. No scandals. No shady deals. There were no skeletons in his closet or moral failures or “ethical” wanderings. He was a simple carpenter who made chairs, tables and plows. He wasn’t a politician or community leader. He had no following or political ambitions.

In his early 30s, he hit the campaign trail. His popularity soared. He was loved by the masses. Large crowds quickly formed wherever he showed up, often begging him to speak to them. His words echoed in his listeners’ hearts as he painted life not only as it is, but what it could and should be.

He was a rebel who goaded the establishment and made enemies with traditionalists by exploding their paradigms of thought and practice. At the same time, he revered and supported the deeply established teachings and values of the ancients. He had a way with words that cut into the human soul, giving people great comfort, hope and encouragement. Someone described his speeches as being “words of life.”

He was a champion of the poor. Not just in rhetoric, but in practice as he fed thousands and healed many of their diseases. He gave the poor hope and value — and often remarked of their special place in the nation he was building. He stood valiantly against the injustices endured by the poor and disenfranchised. He included those people who society excluded. He consistently broke down racial and gender barriers that separated people from others, and from fully experiencing life. He genuinely embraced all types of people and invited them to join his movement. It became obvious that he was changing the system by changing people, one by one.

His detractors were crafty and influential. Try as they may, they just couldn’t win back the crowds. These leaders were pegged as “establishment” leaders who only cared about their place in society — and keeping their “cushy” positions of authority and respect. To protect themselves and their jobs, they secretly plotted against him. They tried again and again to outwit and trick him through verbal gymnastics and unanswerable questions about the law. But to no avail. He countered every question with powerful truths that amazed the crowds and dumbfounded the inquisitors. Eventually, the ruling party dragged him to court on false charges. The “rigged” system found him guilty! They beat him and killed him.

Then the unprecedented happened. Something no one could have predicted. This candidate, dead in the tomb for three days, rose from the grave and continued his campaign — a campaign that is every bit as alive and active now as it was then, 2,000 years ago.

As we prepare for the final days before this year’s presidential election, remember the perfect candidate who still is building a nation — a kingdom without end — who still actively seeks those who will join him on his quest of changing the hearts and lives of people; of building a world without suffering and pain, without hatred and violence, without hunger and want. He’s still looking for those who will stand with him to advocate for the poor and disenfranchised, who will love the unlovely and care for those this world excludes; who will work for justice, righteousness and peace to prevail.

No matter which candidate you vote for Tuesday, Nov. 8, make sure that in your heart you have voted “Yes!” for the perfect candidate, Jesus Christ!

The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at