LOVE ALL……………The English language has one word for love. Love can mean many different things–context is super important. I could use love to describe my affection for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and then use it again to express my deep feelings for my wife and family. English really is a difficult language!

The language of the New Testament (Greek) is much more precise. Four different words are used to describe love in Greek. The first is eros. Eros is used to describe romantic feelings that a person might have for another. Interestingly enough……..eros is never used in the New Testament. The second word is philo. This is the word to describe the affection we share with someone because of a common interest. This word is used in John 11:3 to describe Jesus’ affection for Lazarus. The third word is storge. Storge refers to the kind of empathy that you might have for someone who is going through something that you too have experienced.

Finally, there is agape. This kind of love is the most powerful. It happens when someone commits themselves to another regardless of changing circumstances. Agape is the kind of love God show us–God loves us as we are! As we prepare to gather this Sunday read Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. How do you see agape love at work? What difference does it make for you?

OPEN HOUSE………….The Lucke Open House is this Saturday (December 19th) from 2 to 5 pm. All are welcome! Our address is 6257 SW Trellis Dr., Corvallis, OR. Our phone number is 541 609 8057. Here are directions from the intersection of 53rd and Philomath Boulevard (the BiMart intersection): Go north on 53rd and take a left at the roundabout onto SW West Hills Road. Travelling west on SW West Hills take a right on SW Grand Oaks Dr. You will take the first right, which is Trellis. Our house is the ninth one on the left hand side–look for the balloons out front. Parking will be tight. You can park anywhere in the street including along the side of the triangle park across the street. We do have stairs. You can come around the back alley and enter through the garage stair free if needed. I will be available to assist.

PORTALS OF PRAYER………….Daily devotions for January through March are now available. Pick yours up on the table under the wreath in the narthex.

COUNCIL MINUTES AVAILABLE……………Know that you can access the council minutes on the bulletin board leading into the fellowship hall.

WIRED WORD……………………See the article below about a New York pastor who has collected 570 Nativity sets. This will serve as the topic for our discussion Sunday. We will see you at 9:45 for opening!

Father Roy Herberger, a pastor in Buffalo, New York, purchased his first nativity set some 30 years ago while attending a religious convention in Baltimore.
“It got me thinking about other countries and other artists and how they would express this artistically,” Herberger told ABC News. “What would Jesus look like? What would Mary and Joseph look like?”
That led Herberger to start buying other crèches online and from a shop that sells items from developing countries. As friends and parishioners learned of the pastor’s growing collection, some began bringing him sets from countries they visited.
“I have a set from an artist in the Andes in Peru and everything, including the Holy Family, is made out of automobile parts,” Herberger said. “I have a set from Africa and they are all made of out of Coca-Cola cans.”
Today, he has 570 sets from 59 different countries. “They remind me that when Christ came into the world, as we celebrate Christmas, that he came for all people, all nationalities, all languages,” Herberger said. “This allows people to identify with Christ and God no matter where they live.”
Herberger displays his collection at his church throughout the Christmas season, but as he is planning to retire in 2017, next year will be the last time he will have a place to show it. He is looking for a new permanent home for the crèches.
Rodney Gore, a florist in Tabor City, North Carolina, also has a crèche collection. His numbers 600 and he used his home, carport and shed to display the nativity sets.
Gore told ABC affiliate WWAY that he considers the nativity sets an expression of his faith. “I can never show enough love because without love, I have nothing,” Gore said.
More on this story can be found at these links:
NY Pastor Seeks New Home for His 570 Nativity Sets From All Over the World. ABC News
Meet the North Carolina Man Who Has Collected 600 Nativity Scenes. ABC News
5 Things to Notice When You Read Luke’s Christmas Story This Year. Crosswalk
Applying the News Story
As mentioned in the introduction above, nativity sets encapsulate Jesus’ birth story. They do that rounding up all of the characters mentioned in the nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke (the only two gospels that include stories of Jesus’ birth), and putting them together in one place. Thus nativity sets are a way of telling or retelling the Christmas event.
And the fact is, stories gain power of their own long after the events they recount are past. Likewise, stories can provide meaning for people who never knew the individuals in the tales. For centuries, storytelling was a primary format for education, for passing on national, religious and cultural identity and even for entertainment.
So these two news stories give us an opportunity to think about the story of Jesus’ birth, not only as a narrative, but also as theology, so that we can consider not only what happened at Christmas, but also what it means.
The Big Questions
1. How important is it for God to have manifested himself as a baby to a poor couple in a backwater town, rather than to have descended on clouds from heaven, or to be born to a royal and/or wealthy family? Why did God need to manifest as human at all?
2. How would our lives be different if we were still awaiting the Messiah for the first time?
3. With whom, if anyone, in the nativity scene, do you identify? Why?
4. What purpose or purposes do you have in mind when you decorate your home for Christmas? What lessons of faith are you making your own or sharing with others? Why, besides custom, don’t you leave your Christmas decorations up all year? What other, if any, Christian-themed collections do you have? Why? Do you have any religious decorations in the house the whole of the year, not just Christmas? If yes, what purpose do they serve?
5. What thoughts might come to your mind while viewing crèches from around the world?