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Pastor Rudy Sheptock

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For everything I am not, one trait I have is God gave me a lot of volume when projecting my voice.  

When there have been no microphones available, I have been called upon to do what I do best, which is being loud. There are days I can preach in Court House and still be heard in Rio Grande. When it comes to talking about Jesus, I want to never be ashamed of saying it loud and living it proud.  

God boldly declared His love for us, so how can we not be vocal when it comes to proclaiming our faith in Him? 

I read about two young boys this week who were spending the night at their grandmother's the week before Christmas. After their grandmother saw them off to bed, she proceeded to head to her room to go to sleep, but before she did, she made sure that she reminded her grandsons to say their prayers.  

The younger boy spoke first and shouted his prayer in a loud voice: “Dear God, I want a bicycle for Christmas. Amen.”  

His older brother said, “Why are you yelling? God’s not deaf.”  

“No,” the younger sibling replied, “but Grandma is.” When in doubt, if God is listening, make sure Grandma does. 

Do you know we get one of our most familiar sayings from those who yelled in the night? “Ten o’clock and all is well,” is a phrase that was proclaimed so all could hear it at all hours. It was not necessary to do so in the daytime because with the light, everyone could see what was happening.  

In the early hours of the morning, all ears were attentive to the words of the sentry on duty. It all started during the Civil War, when the prison camp guards were required to call out the hour through the night to their post and assure anyone listening that there's no need to get up as things are holding steady.  

“All is well” did not mean the war was over. “All is well,” didn’t mean everything was safe and sound. “All is well” was a reminder that during the battle, there was no change that would cause one to retreat. 

If I were to ask you how 2020 has been for you, not too many would boldly shout, “2020 and all is well!”  

This year has brought us a pandemic that has caused much panic. Fear has replaced faith in far too many places. Terror has kept many a believer from trusting the Lord. Politics' craziness has divided even family and friends, and social media has been toxic.  

Churches have been online, outside and off balance, but God has not lost control. His Light has never gone out, and as much as darkness has been a nuisance, it can’t dispel the power of the Savior's presence. 

Light’s nature is to shine and by doing so it does eliminate the darkness. Darkness doesn’t have the slightest chance to intimidate the light. Christmas activities might be postponed this year, but the season's power cannot be canceled because the Savior from heaven is invincible.  

The light still shines in the darkness. The word became flesh, invaded Bethlehem’s brokenness, and gave hope to where the spirit of despair became too comfortable. The same one who shouted, “Let there be light,” in Genesis, still commands the stage today, in New Jersey.  

Christians can confidently say “All is well” because He who lights us from the inside is greater than anything life can throw at us from the outside. All is well because nothing can extinguish the fire the Holy Spirit ignited. 

If I could change anything about the way we do Christmas as Christians, it's the way we picture the Nativity. Mary looks too polished for a teenage girl who just had a baby. Joseph appears far too chill to represent a man who had to play midwife because nobody else was there to care for his wife. Jesus looks like he has the disposition of an elite diplomat and not like someone who just survived the trip down a birth canal.  

Mary was beside herself, Joseph was in over his head, and Jesus cried, like any other baby, but peace came to earth and hope became personified. As long as Jesus was here with us, we finally had a chance that our story would not end in defeat. The same Jesus that inhabited that manger is now available to any heart that would give Him room, which is is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. 

God didn’t avoid the mess; He was born in it. The realism of Bethlehem included unnamed shepherds who were society's outcasts and didn’t have time to take a bath before visiting the King. Nobody could get their act together because only the birthday boy could give us the transformation necessary to free us from the treadmill of religion.  

In the Bible, 365 “fear nots” are mentioned, one for each day of the year. Our faith will become stronger than our fear. Our terror will be turned into trust. Even though so much is still wrong with our world this Christmas, Jesus is the guarantee of all that is right. 

The other day, my kids and grandkids were coming over to make gingerbread houses. It had all the makings of the latest Hallmark Christmas movie. These movies model for us the holiday we all hope to experience, the ones where you can live in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona, and still have it snow on Christmas Eve.  

Unfortunately, my life is nothing like that. I’ve seen too many rainy days in Cape May County Dec. 24 to know life doesn’t imitate art. 

Shortly before everyone arrived, our septic tank backed up. When is the last time you have seen that on television?  

Everyone came. We all made memories. Love was expressed and shared. All of that still happened though the sewer system tried to sour the moment. 

Merry Christmas 2020, and despite what the news might tell you, all is well for those who believe. God has never promised that living in this place would be trouble free.  

We will get sick, treasures will break, and even our hearts may be hammered sometimes, but God promised us that we have nothing to fear because He is here with us.  

If I am not alone, then all is well and neither are you. Nothing came easy the first Christmas, so what makes us think it will come easy this year?  

As long as Jesus has come to earth, the light shines, and we can follow its glow right into God's lap. 

ED. NOTE: The author is the senior pastor of The Lighthouse Church, 1248 Route 9 South, Court House. 

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