Recently, our church celebrated the Advent season with a Christmas Tea and our 60th Hanging of the Greens service.

Alex Medlock, Bryan High School’s director of choirs, and his students from Vocal Legacy graciously performed for our Christmas Tea celebration. While sitting with church and community members around tables decorated for the season and covered by plates of delicious delicacies, the room was full of life. Smiles were on the faces of both children and adults. There were giggles from little girls sipping from fancy china and enjoying their snowflake-decorated cookies. New friends and faces joined the festivities for the first time, and smiles and laughter were heard throughout the room.

The tea party continued into the evening as people gathered and made their way into the sanctuary to sing their favorite carols, listen to beloved Scripture readings, and light candles representing the light of Christ that glows within our world. It was such a joyous occasion for everyone who participated.

While preparing for my day of work the following Monday, I was pleasantly surprised by a devotion that was unsolicited and given to me by the Spirit. It just so happened that Medlock was visiting the church. He was busily loading his car with instruments from our sanctuary and, as I can assume, was preparing for his day of work and music. I thanked him and his students for making the evening magical. My comment to him was “there was so much life” in the room during our Christmas tea and celebration. Then, in a quick moment, the Lord spoke through my friend, “Life is a sign of the presence of the Spirit.”

He was right!

Thank you, God, and thank you, Mr. Medlock, for sharing with me what the season of Advent and Christmas bring. More importantly, what the Spirit gifts us with all year long: joy, laughter and life. This is God showing up and showing off throughout our world.

I wasn’t expecting a sermon this morning. But then again, I wasn’t looking for one. I wonder if many of us miss the joy and life of our Lord because we simply forget to slow down and look around us?

This season and every day I want to encourage us to look for the small signs of God’s amazing and joyous life and love. The Spirit’s presence is found in the simplest of moments in our lives: when a child stops what they are doing to give their father a hug or to wave at their mother from a distance, when an elderly friend makes a point to talk with a new couple to give them advice about life, or when a baby cries in the middle of a service.

Why are simple moments such as laughter, conversation and music so significant and essential in our lives? I believe they are God’s presence living in and through us. What is even better is that we do not need to have them tied up in ribbons and bows. The greatest gifts come in the warm hearts, loving hugs and sincere eyes of a friend or relative. After all, the greatest gift came from the cries of a newborn baby taking his first breath in our world more than 2,000 years ago. His name is Jesus, and he would grow to be the greatest present in all of human history.

I wish you life through the Spirit, Amen.

Jennifer Webber is the lead pastor of the contemporary service at First United Methodist Church Bryan.

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