Pastor’s Ponderings: October 2019

by John Armstrong
 

As I write this, the leaves are falling and we are three months away from our Christmas Eve Service (and Bob!).  What does that have to do with anything?  Not much, it just helps us to orient where we are in the year.  I never cease to be amazed with the rapidity that I again find myself having to write these pieces for the Tapestry.  For the faithful few of you who read these things, I hope you find them helpful.    Every third Monday and Tuesday of September, the Potomac Presbytery has its annual retreat.  At these retreats, we have a speaker who comes in and usually does three large group sessions.  The speakers are usually noteworthy Christian leaders, and this year was no exception. Dr. Diane Langberg is a clinical Psychologist in practice in the Philadelphia area.  She has been in the PCA for 41 years.  She is a successful author and international speaker and authority on the subject of trauma and abuse.  So, why would a bunch of pastors go on a retreat and invite a woman to come speak on trauma and abuse?   On the face of it, that sounds neither relaxing nor edifying.    The church needs to talk about trauma and abuse because it isn’t just the problem of those people over there.  It is a problem in every church, no Christians are immune to it.  I have seen its effects many times in the lives of people that God has brought me into contact with in the congregations I have served.  If you have been around me for very long, you’ve probably heard me say, “we are all sinners who have been sinned against.”  That is true.  Many of us have suffered abuse and trauma.  Just look at the statistics, they are staggering.  If you say hello to four people at church on any given Sunday morning, you can be almost certain that you have spoken to someone who has suffered abuse and trauma.  Sadly, those are conservative numbers.   If you are the person who has suffered abuse and trauma, I’m sorry, that grieves my heart for you, and I want you to know that you are welcome at Faith Church and we will not shy away from what has happened to you.  If you want to talk about it, or if you want to find help to deal with it, we are committed to making that happen.  I’m being careful not to be too specific about what constitutes abuse and trauma.  These things take on many forms.  We tend to think in terms of sexual or physical abuse and we need to be mindful of these because they are very common, but we need to think in terms of emotional and psychological abuse as well.  Sometimes, that abuse can be as simple as unguarded words that can and do inflict great harm.    I’m purposefully not going to pursue any further categorization so we don’t obfuscate the issue.  My point in bringing this up is that I want us to recognize that we are not immune in our nice, small church in the suburbs of Frederick.  The threat is real and we must guard against it at every level, whatever type of abuse it may be.  The Session is working to address these issues, so that we provide a safe environment for our children and all the people of our congregation.  This is an on-going effort that will take hard work and diligence.  It will also require vulnerability and wisdom.  Please pray for the Session and for our church that God will give us the wisdom and strength that we need to deal with the damage that comes from trauma and abuse.  Also, pray that God will protect us from these things as He grows us in grace.  We will be working to continue to address issues of abuse and trauma wherever they may arise in our sphere of influence. 



Pastor’s Ponderings: September 2019

by John Armstrong
 
Let me say right up front, this will be a confrontational Pastor’s Pondering. I hope to confront your idols, even as I confront some of my own. What is idolatry? It is putting anything before our worship or service to God. So, I’m writing a short article on idolatry. That will be enough for some of you to quit reading this and look for something that is a bit more comfortable. I hope that you can recognize, that too is in some ways idolatry. When I’m confronted with something that makes me uncomfortable, I avoid it. When it’s something that is going to infringe upon my comforts and I’d rather avoid it than do what I know the Lord would have me do, is that not in and of itself idolatrous? Comfort has been a huge idol in my life and it is one that needs to be confronted daily and torn down. What comfort have I sought at the expense of the abundant life that is found in Christ? I want to challenge you with a couple of comforts that you may not think are idols. Let’s start with change or doing things differently. I’m comfortable with things that I know. I’ve put things in my life that I know and understand. Therefore, I keep surprises to a minimum and can muddle on in regular routine. I like doing what I want to do, when I want to do it. I’m comfortable with that. Where do you see that reflected in Scripture? Where do you see an encouragement or command to do what you always do without seeking to grow and mature in the Lord. Growing and maturing in the Lord are going to force you to do some things differently. It is unavoidable. You are going to have to get out of your comfort zone to grow and become more fruitful. Think of the pruning metaphor we find in John 15. The Holy Spirit is going to prune us to make us more fruitful and that is going to be anything but comfortable. But recognize that is God working in your life which may not be comfortable, but it is comforting to know the Almighty has set His love upon you and is working in you for His glory. One other comfort I would like to challenge is vital to the life of our church. The leadership of the church has been reading a little book entitled, Becoming A Welcoming Church, by Thom Rainer. If you would like to read it, you should be able to find a copy on the book table. If not, come ask me. Anyway, one of the big things that makes a church welcoming, is people that reach out to the stranger and invite them in to become a part of what is going on. Yes, I realize what I’m saying; we have to talk to people we don’t know. Some of you are beginning to break out in a cold sweat at the mere mention of such an outrageous act of kindness and discomfort. It is a kindness, to welcome the stranger and to seek to make them feel at home. Put yourself in their place. You have been the new person before. You know the discomfort of not knowing anyone and wondering if any of these strangers might reach out with a friendly word and seek to make you apart of things. It is a kindness, it is an act of selfless love to welcome the stranger. It is a discomfort, it is inconvenient, it takes putting someone else’s needs before my own. It is a little dying to self. Are you willing to forego your comfort to welcome the stranger? I’ll close with this quote from my old friend Ed Hartman, “When it feels like death, you know it's the gospel.” Father, make us gospel people.


Pastor’s Ponderings: August 2019

by John Armstrong
 
As we head into “high Summer” I thought it appropriate that we talk about some issues that we are having around the church. Some issues are good to have and we have them. I thought I would address some of these because they will change how we regularly function as a church. We are growing and that means things are going to have to change. As much as we may resist change, we’ve been praying for growth in grace as disciples and growth in number as the Lord brings people to our fellowship. So, what are the issues? I’m going to address these in no particular order. First, let’s talk about children, they are a blessing from the Lord and an answer to prayer. So, first let me say, “Praise the Lord for our children!!” With the blessing of children comes the reality that they require a lot of attention and space. We are concerned to protect our children and thus we are making changes to our nursery procedures and the way we approach safety and security in the church. In today’s environment, that means we have to do background checks and a lot of other things to make sure we are providing a safe environment. Lots of kids means we need increased vigilance and enough adults (screened and trained) to take care of those covenant children. Another aspect of more kids is a mobility issue. Kids are highly mobile and have a tendency to run in the church, which in and of itself is not bad, until you add other people. Kids running through the hall or dodging and darting around more seasoned, less mobile folks can be dangerous. Currently, there are particular concerns when adults are crowding around in the narthex or in the aisles to get out of the sanctuary. When kids run through that maze of folks, it makes many uncomfortable, because they are fearful of falling, and rightfully so. We don’t want people uncomfortable in our church gatherings. We don’t want anyone getting hurt. So, we need to work on encouraging our kids to take their exuberant running and playing outside. This is a parental issue as well as any member of the church that has taken vows, to help with encouraging the children to walk carefully around others and to do their running and playing outside away from where adults are congregating. A third issue is storage space. As we grow, our space is at a premium and we are beginning to take steps to work on managing our space better. That means we are working on storage space. We are going to be organizing and cleaning out. That means some things are going away. Good organization and cleaning requires a bit of ruthlessness when it comes to getting rid of stuff. We have lots of stuff that needs to go away. That said, if you have stuff at the church that you want, take it home. Also, don’t bring more stuff here, unless it is something we have asked for. Our church facility often ends up being the dumping ground for well-meaning people who bring “good” stuff that never ends up being used. That stuff needs to go away and your bringing it here adds more work. The ReStore, Salvation Army, Rescue Mission, and Goodwill are very good options for your stuff. You don’t have to come to Faith Church for long before you realize meeting space is also at a premium. We thank God for our facility! As we grow, we are feeling the need to steward the space well and that requires more coordination. You are welcome to use our facility, we want it used, but we don’t have enough space to let that go unregulated. Therefore, we need the committees, small groups, etc. who want to meet to coordinate with Brittney for space and time.
One last thing in terms of space. The Sr. High room belongs to the Sr. High for Sunday school and Youth Group meetings. After Sunday school and during the Worship service that space is currently being used for nursing mothers. Please respect that space. We ask that no one enter that space but nursing mothers with their children during those times. We are growing and whether we like it or not, that means change has to take place and change is often painful. The Session and Diaconate are looking at ways for us to deal with the issues that are arising and we covet your prayers for wisdom for how best to deal with these. Please mark your calendars for Saturday, September 21st because we are going to celebrate the 40th  Anniversary of being in our building and at that time the Session in conjunction with our Strategic Committee will present the results of our Church Health Survey and some of the priorities that we believe the Lord would have us pursue as a congregation with regard to our facility, and our function as a church. Exciting times are ahead and I hope that you are as encouraged as I am to see the Lord at work in our midst. May the Lord richly bless Faith Church with wisdom and strength as He grows us for His glory.


Pastor’s Ponderings: June 2019

by John Armstrong
 
It is already June, the Church Retreat is over, kids are graduating, schools are letting out, and astronomically speaking, Summer will be here in a couple of weeks. It is an exciting time of year, everything seems to be growing. My garden is growing, the weeds are coming up at a furious pace and thankfully we’ve had lots of rain, so those same weeds are fairly easy to pull. There is something fascinating to me about growing things. I’m amazed at how fast my grass grows and how fast the weeds around my backyard go from cut back to veritable jungle. My wife goes out from time to time on her rounds spraying the weeds in the ongoing war that we wage with them. Someday I will reclaim the weed patch in the back and we’ll expand our garden to put that under cultivation. In a little way, it is fulfilling the creation mandate to bring the earth into submission, to tame the undisciplined wilderness into a cultivated and fruitful garden. Now, why am I talking about these things? Well, I want you to take the metaphor of cultivating a garden and particularly the idea of organic growth and I want you to then think in terms of the church. Bear with me here. If you have ever spoken to me about church programs/ministries at any length, you’ve probably heard me speak about, what I like to call “organic” growth. I use the term “organic” in juxtaposition with programs, by that I mean, we in the church can come up with programs and put them in place and advertise and do all kinds of things to try and get people to participate. This is not illegitimate, we do this sometimes and it is very good. For example, we hope the 40 th Anniversary celebration that we are having this year will go very well. That will fall into this kind of programmatic category. Now, when we are talking about ministry that leads to greater discipleship and service, I think it is very difficult to start and maintain that as a program. Yes, I can get a group together and make something happen, I can do that in some sense because I’m the pastor and some people will participate because this is something that I want to have happen. The problem with this is, people often will participate in order to support the pastor, that is hard to sustain because they are not participating because they see the need for this ministry and want to be a part. When someone sees a ministry need in the church and finds they have a heart desire to meet that need (eg. coming to the pastor and volunteering to lead a group to take care of the need), I call that organic. It is not a program that the pastor thought up and is trying to put into place. It is something the Holy Spirit has laid on someone’s heart and is subsequently equipping them to do that ministry. That is the kind of ministry growth we want to see at Faith Church. I call that organic growth, I didn’t generate it, God generated it, and that kind of growth will be both fruitful and edifying. That is the environment where people thrive in using their spiritual gifts. I would encourage you to join me in praying for more “organic” growth in our church. Let’s go work where God is working. Waiting around for the church to start up a ministry that will meet your needs and desires is a consumer mindset. We are not called to be consumers, we are called to be disciples of the Lord Jesus, who faithfully take up our crosses day to day and follow in His footsteps. Drop the consumerism and embrace the servanthood of belonging to Christ. That is where abundant life waits for you.


Pastor’s Ponderings: May 2019

by John Armstrong
 
As many of you are aware, we have over the last couple of years done some focused Sunday school classes we’ve called, “Community of Rest.” I sincerely hope that you had the opportunity to participate in one or more of those classes. The focus of those classes was to get the women of the church together while the men covered children’s Sunday school, nursery, etc. and had a class of their own. We started out with the idea of having a special class for the women to encourage them, but as we planned and processed it became something more than that. We ended up with classes taught by Charlie Van Meter and myself that sought to get across what it means to be the church. The church is the people of God, the church is our brothers and sisters in Christ that we gather to worship with on Sundays and that we sometimes gather with during the week for Bible Study, prayer, and fellowship. The church is to be a community of rest, it is a place to come and rest, not a rest that is marked by inactivity, but a rest that is restorative, and encouraging. We are talking about a gospel rest that is built up and thrives in the company of other believers who encourage each other to be “resting” in Christ. By now, I’m hoping that all of you are aware of Faith Church’s Retreat that will be held May 31 st – June 2 nd at the Bongiorno Retreat Center in Carlisle, PA. This will be an excellent opportunity to come and participate in the “community of rest” as we get away as a church family and enjoy some focused time in fellowship and study. This is an important time in the life of our church and we have budgeted significantly for it in order that as many can attend as possible. We don’t want cost to be a hindrance to anyone. We have a special guest speaker, Randy Newman. Randy is an author of several books on evangelism. He has extensive ministry experience and he will be leading us to think more deeply about all it means to become a welcoming church. Worship, Discipleship, and Outreach will all be a part of what we have planned for the weekend. We’ll have times of study in these areas and we’ll also have time to worship and recreate together. (For those staying home, there will be no Sunday school, but we will worship on Sunday morning as usual here in Frederick.) So, you may be asking, ‘why am I taking my entire Pastor’s Pondering to address this?’ It is important to the life of our church that we foster healthy relationships and function between members. If any church is going to thrive, the church (the people) must love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, having a time to get away together and get to know each other better and have some teaching about our mutual purpose is of great value. That said, it is my sincere hope that you will make time to attend and to really participate in this retreat. If you have any questions about the retreat, please address them to David Johnston or John Armstrong. If you are going to need financial assistance, please see one of the deacons and they will be happy to help you. I look forward to seeing you at the retreat.


Pastor’s Ponderings: April 2019

by John Armstrong
 
Spring is officially here, we are past the Equinox and even though the mornings are still cold, the temperatures are slowly beginning to creep up. This is the time of year when I begin to realize that once again I’m behind on getting my garden beds prepared. This year, I need to do some extensive soil enrichment work to get them ready. I’m late getting started, but, I’m not discouraged because no matter what I do, the final-results are as always in the hands of the Lord. I do need to be faithful to provide good soil (which He created) and water, etc., but He is the one who makes things grow. One of the things I love about gardening, which I’ve mentioned before, is the spiritual aspects of it. When I’m down on my knees pulling weeds, I never fail to see how that relates so readily to my own life. My life has weeds that need to be pulled and thrown away. No matter how diligently I work at clearing them all out, sure enough tomorrow there will be new ones springing up. Not only do you have to contend with the weeds, which I see as representative of sin in our lives, you also have bugs to deal with which I see as temptations and attacks from outside that threaten to ruin and destroy. Primarily, there is the soil, which we often tend to take for granted and I liken that to the spiritual condition of our heart. Spiritual growth is a lot like gardening, there are always challenges, but the benefits of participating in the process of bringing forth fresh fruits and vegetables is worth it to me. Spiritually speaking, we are participating in bringing forth spiritual fruit. So, why am I writing this to you now? I’m wanting to encourage you in your Christian walk and using the metaphor of gardening is a way of doing that which will connect with some of you. I’m currently preaching through Matthew 5 which contains the first parts of the Sermon on the Mount and one of the main themes you find there is all about religion being a matter of the heart. External religion is of no value if it does not originate in and flow from a heart that is right before the Lord. How is your heart? Is it ready for seed? Will it nourish the plant that brings forth the fruit? Is your heart hard? Is it crusted over and drained of nutrients that have been leeched out over the years? Is it hungering and thirsting for Jesus? Does it need to be tilled and fertilized? The answers to these questions are mostly left up to you, but I can say to a couple of them that the answer is yes! We all need our hearts continually tilled and fertilized by the Holy Spirit, we need the great Gardener of our souls to do His mighty work in us day by day. Our hearts need the softening and filling of the Holy Spirit and they need on-going protection of the Lord against sin and temptations. Our growth in grace is the work of the Lord and we are called to be intentional about availing ourselves of His work and living in light of that work. He has redeemed us from our sins, once for all. He has saved us from judgment, condemnation, death, hell, and the grave. Let us pray that the Lord would bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives as a testimony to His grace and glory and may we be quick to bear testimony with our words as well as our lives that we have a great Savior, Jesus Christ.


Pastor’s Ponderings: March 2019

by John Armstrong
 
The phone rang early this morning; it was before the hour that proper etiquette would allow for regular phone calls, so I sprang from my bed to see who was calling. As a pastor, I’m not unused to getting calls at odd hours and usually those calls are to alert me to some problem or situation that requires my immediate attention. That is not a problem for me, it comes with the work, I don’t mind it at all. That is the nature of being a shepherd, the sheep don’t have tragedies and needs that always line up with regular working hours. It is my sincere privilege and honor to be there to help in those times. There are times however, when people do cross the line by reaching out for help for problems that are not there, or for problems that are not emergencies. In those cases, I often ask myself, why is this person reaching out to me first and not to God? Maybe they have prayed about it, but they are looking for support from someone they can trust. I’m glad they think they can trust me, that is no small thing. Then I have to ask myself, if I do the same kind of thing. The answer is usually yes, if I’m honest and look deeply enough I do the very same kinds of things. Why is that? Why am I looking for someone to help me and comfort me, before I’ve taken my problem to the One who really can do something about it? We are tangible creatures looking for tangible answers to our problems whatever they may be. We tend to forget that we are spiritual creatures that need spiritual answers too. If we find our spiritual answers first, they often put our tangible problems in a new light. When we are trusting our sovereign God, who loves us more than we can fully grasp, then we can know rest in the midst of trials and troubles of any kind. Now, understand, we need to be taking our concerns to our heavenly Father that is the first best place to go, right to the throne of grace. After that, share your concerns, problems, needs, etc. with your brothers and sisters in Christ. That is why we have the church, that is why we are the church. We are to be as Paul so aptly put it, “bearing one another’s burdens…” (Gal. 6:2). Jesus tells us we are supposed to be salt and light in this world. That begins in the household of faith, with Christians loving one another and having enough relationship with each other that we do know and trust each other with our burdens. We encourage each other to growing discipleship, to growing in grace by seeking to walk with Jesus ever more deeply. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are a community of people loving and trusting God and in turn able to love and support one another. The world will see us doing that and will know we are different and God will get the glory. One of the things I learned in my studies for my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy, was that professional counseling is really only needed in about 15% of cases. Most of the time, about 85% of the time, the people presenting for counseling really only need someone to really listen to them. Most people have the resources to solve their problems if they know there is someone who cares. As a Christian you have that and more. You have a heavenly Father who wants you to pour out your heart to Him, and you have a community of brothers and sisters who will care for you. That is how it is supposed to be, unfortunately, that is not how it always is. At Faith Church, we want to be a community of rest, where these things are true of us. We are growing, pray that the Lord would continue to grow us into a loving and caring church body.


Pastor’s Ponderings: February 2019

by John Armstrong
 
I’ve been sick this week and I hate being sick. It too readily exposes my idolatries. I get irritated because I don’t have time to be sick. There is too much that I have to accomplish. What I’m saying is, I think I’m more important than the work of God’s providence in my life. That my friends constitutes idolatry of self and is in fact, a manifestation of unbelief. There are things God is teaching me that I will not learn if I don’t have to stop and be still for my body to rest and recover. That is not what I want, but it is what I need, whether I like it or not. My illness is a passing bout of cold or flu. I know some of you, deal with illness that is far more extreme and life changing, if not also life threatening. Please understand that I’m not trying to equate a cold with cancer by any means. I do want us to think however in terms of God’s providence and our suffering. We do well to understand what the Westminster “Divines” meant when they wrote the Shorter Catechism, Q. 11. What are God’s works of providence? A. God’s works of providence are, his most holy, [Psalm 145:17] wise, [Psalm 104:24] and powerful [Hebrews 1:3] preserving [Nehemiah 9:6] and governing [Ephesians 1:19-22] all his creatures, and all their actions. [Psalm 36:6; Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:30] God is not the author of evil, but the suffering we experience is under His providential control. Why one individual suffers and another does not is a mystery that you and I will not be able to unravel. There are as many reasons as there are people who suffer. So, what are we supposed to do with this? I think it is important to look at Scripture for a moment. 2Cor. 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…  God the Holy Spirit is busy, He is at work in the lives of believers, molding and shaping them. He breaks us where we need to be broken; He binds up our wounds and brings healing. He is focused on bearing good fruit for the kingdom through us. We must remember that we don’t always know what good fruit looks like, I like to think that fruit looks easy, but how can that be? The Spirit knows the fruit that He is bringing forth in us for His glory. In the moment, it may all seem miserable, put the promise of God is that in view of eternity, the suffering we do will see light and momentary. In fact, when we stand before the Lord without spot, wrinkle, or blemish we shall know the beauty of God’s providence in bringing us whole and happy into His eternal presence. Lord, help me to grasp more deeply Your providential work in my life, that I may not grumble and complain about light and momentary afflictions, but that I would see Your hand at work making me fit for heaven.


Pastor’s Ponderings: January 2019

by John Armstrong
 
Have you ever stared at a blank page wondering what in the world you are going to write? Some of you probably remember the stark terror of the blank page from your days in school and are glad you no longer have to write like that anymore. There are those in our midst that relish the thrill of the myriad opportunities that a blank page represents. For the next few minutes, I would like you to join me in thinking about the fact that we are entering upon a brand-new year and in many ways, it is like a 365-page blank journal for you to write in. Now, if you hate writing, you are certainly not going to be comfortable with my illustration, but for the sake of my writing, please bear with me. I promise, I will not make you write anything this year. However, when you think about your life and compare it to a journal, what is that journal going to contain? What will fill the pages? If in 10 years you were to come back and read this journal of 2019 what would you want to find in it? I’m guessing that you are like me and you don’t want to come back and find a journal full of blank pages. Blank pages are those days and times that have been wasted. Some of those pages are not going to be blank because life is going to happen in spite of us. Things are going to come your way that you were not expecting. There will be those things that you plan to do and will carry out. No one has a completely empty journal, but that brings us back to the question: “what do you want in your journal?” I want my journal to be filled with good things, fruitful things, things that count for eternity and not those things that are just filler. Too much of my life is filler. Even when I’m busy doing seemingly good things I can be missing out on doing the best things. My prayer is that God would guard me from filling my time with “good” and enable me to do that which is “best” (not from my perspective, but from God’s perspective). I want a journal that is filled with that which pleases the Lord. Holding the same metaphor, as we come to the end of another year we are closing out one journal to start another. What is in your journal from this year? What is in there that causes you to rejoice in the Lord? What is in there that fills your heart with praise? What is in there that drives you to your knees in prayer? What is in there that fills you with repentance? As you think about those things, I hope you will find it helpful to consider for next year. My prayer for this next year will be that those things I need to repent of this year will be killed in me. Lord, help me to grow in grace and make me an instrument of your grace even as I am a trophy of your grace. Praise the Lord for His great grace to us in Jesus and praise Him that He is giving us empty pages to fill for His glory. May He indeed be glorified in our lives.


Pastor’s Ponderings: December 2018

by John Armstrong
 
I usually like to start things at the beginning. When it comes to preaching a new major series, I usually either begin in September with the start of the new school year, or I begin in January. That has been my custom, however, this time as we come to the beginning of a series through the Gospel of Matthew, I’m beginning in December so the text matches the time frame that we traditionally celebrate these events. We are of course talking about the birth of Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is of course such a wonderful time for us because the atonement that earns our salvation begins with the promised incarnation. Therefore, I’m excited to begin a new series in Matthew. This will probably take us a couple of years to get through, but I’m praying that we will be edified in the process. I’m praying God will grow us in grace as we follow the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Much of Matthew is the record of our Lord’s discourses and that in itself is something to get excited about. It is time for us to sit at our Master’s feet and learn from Him as He teaches us in the Scriptures. That is of course what we should do any week, with any text, because the Word preached is God’s Word. Every single Word is breathed out by God and is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness. When we get a good perspective on the whole concept of preaching God’s Word, it should change the way we approach it as those who preach and as those who listen to preaching. It is not my intent here to preach about preaching. I do want to think about the context in which the preaching will occur, particularly in this Advent Season. In many ways, this is my favorite time of year. It is a time for devotion and family. People seem to be in a happier mood than usual. Sometimes they are simply putting on a good front, living behind their façade. How do you know? How do you know if they are truly happy or if they are struggling with the pressures of the season? Maybe, they are incredibly lonely and are embarrassed to let anyone else know how they feel. That is more common than you think. Maybe you know that is true, because it is true of you. Maybe you haven’t even noticed, because you are surrounded by family and friends and are caught up in the busyness of the season. I would challenge you to spend some time this Advent as we begin in Matthew to talk to others about the Gospel that we are studying. Talk to them about their lives and how this Word of God applies to them and also, after you have listened to them, then share about yourself. One of the greatest, if not the greatest gift you can give this year is to spend time listening to people, getting to know them and understand them. That is an act of love. The One of whom the Gospel of Matthew speaks, Jesus the Christ, would certainly approve.