Make Time for Christmas!

We were in Vandalia this past Sunday for my Dad’s 90th birthday celebration. His birthday is December 9th but we delayed his formal party and reception in order to accommodate the schedules of out-of-town family and guests. The day started by attending Sunday School and worship with him at his home church of Bethel Baptist. Dad loves his church and they love him too!

He is especially thankful for and proud of his Pastor, Dr. Ben Foxworth. He loves and appreciates Bro. Ben for many reasons: friendship, his messages each Lord’s Day, for pastoring our family through the passing of Mom in July of 2018, for the fact that Ben and Dena, his lovely wife, bring their cars out to the shop for regular service, and I’m sure there are many more reasons.
Photo Compliments of Pastor Ben Foxworth
Bethel Baptist Church

However, there has been an unusual connection with Bro. Ben since the day he came to pastor Bethel in August of 2014. The reason? Bro. Ben retired from 21 years in the Navy with the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer. If you mention the Navy, the ears of Dad and all his good friends like Dwight Hagy and Bob Carter will perk up because they are Navy men too! So, Ben was an instant hit with Dad! They all regard each other as the “Shipmates Club” at Bethel! This close fraternity can wear a little thin on the guys who come from other branches of the service (Marines, Army, Air Force, and the Coast Guard), but it has all turned out to be great fun for Dad and the sailors!

Dad’s affection for his church is centered in the fellowship, Bible-centered preaching, and seeing neighbors and friends accept Christ and grow in their faith. It is a church that cares about people! Now that I am retired and able to attend various churches any Lord’s Day, I enjoy and am blessed by churches with a commitment to God’s Word and excellence in evangelism, teaching, worship and compassionate ministry. Bethel is striving to be this kind of church!

Last Sunday’s message had a Christmas theme from a surprising text. Bro. Ben has been in a series on “Celebrating a Family-Focused Christmas” and was preaching that morning from the Luke 10:38-42 passage on Jesus’ visit with the two sisters of Lazarus of Bethany. Martha was the distracted and busy sibling in contrast with Mary who was the devoted and attentive one. Ben quoted Warren Wiersbe who noted that while we should imitate Martha in our service, there is perhaps a greater need to follow the example of Mary in our worship. And this is so true at the Christmas season!

Christmas is as the song describes, “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Yet, with all of its busyness, it is also one of the most stressful as well! Bro. Ben was emphasizing that we must not fail to see the “big picture” of this season and give priority to spending time with the Lord in personal, family and corporate worship. Wisely, the pastor was stressing that families must not neglect reading the Christmas story to their children and extended families during this season. And he didn’t mean the one by Clement Clarke Moore, The Night Before Christmas! Not that there is anything wrong with that entertaining read. But rather, it is the Luke 2 story along with other accounts of Jesus’ birth and coming from Matthew and John that must be read first and foremost to our families. This is the true story of Christmas that needs to be heard!

The preacher’s day often begins very early. Last Sunday was no different for Dad’s pastor who was at the church early enough on the third Sunday of Advent to see and take a photo of a beautiful December 15th sunrise on the eastern horizon of his scenic, open-country church. If you use your imagination a little, you will see in the attached picture a cross arising amidst the orange morning colors of the sun’s radiance. Pastor Ben told the congregation how it reminded him that Christ must not be left out of Christmas by our busyness or distractions that so often accompany our seasonal traditions. It may seem trite and overused  to some, but there is great truth in the affirmation and reminder, “Keep Christ in Christmas!” Let's make time for the real meaning of this season!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.


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