Recognizing Christ

“And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” With these words, angels from heaven tell a group of shepherds how to recognize the Savior and His coming into the world. Most people did not know that God had sent His Son to be born on that night. Some people were expecting God to send His Son. But most of them did not recognize Him when He came.

The Bible tells us that Jesus will return one day to redeem His people and judge the world. At Christmas, Christians emphasize looking for Christ’s final return and looking for Christ’s presence in the world today.

I often wonder if we have trouble really recognizing where Jesus is in the world today. If God is always at work, trying to save people and help us, do we see clearly where that work is? Or do we, like those people during Jesus’ lifetime, miss His presence entirely?

I suspect if we are afraid to show compassion to the most needy, to the strangers and refugees, to the poor and even the criminal, we are missing the presence of Christ among us. It seems to me that He said something like that Himself.

“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, naked and you clothed me, a stranger and you took me in. I was sick and in prison and you came to visit me… Inasmuch as you did this for the least of my brothers, you did it for me.”

Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

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The Most Important Gift

Christmas is the time when we celebrate God crossing the border. Jesus is called Emmanuel, which means “God is with us,” says Matthew. John tells us that “The Word (referring to Christ) became flesh and lived among us.” We call this idea the Incarnation, the idea that God became human. He left the glories of heaven to experience the painful realities of earth.

He was willing to leave His home and come to us. Through that act of love, we can know salvation and God’s grace. In 1755, a Connecticut resident was willing to leave his home, pack up his family and travel south and west to eventually end up in the Sandy Creek area of what was still the British colony of North Carolina. His name was Shubal Stearns.

Stearns and his group started several churches in 1755 and 1756 in central North Carolina and eventually through Virginia and South Carolina too. One of those churches was Rocky River Baptist. Some of the ancestors of present-day members of Rocky River Baptist Church heard the gospel and received God’s grace because Shubal Stearns was willing to leave his home and preach the good news in a new land.

Today, thousands of men and women have answered the call to leave their homes to go to new places around the world and do the same. They are providing humanitarian relief and a gospel witness in places where there has not been one before. During the Christmas season, we remember these men and women in special prayer and by giving to missions efforts through Baptist mission agencies. Please pray about giving a gift to support the spread of the gospel around the world in your church.

Of all the things we can do to make the world a better, safer place. Sharing the story of the Prince of Peace is the most important. Please consider making a donation to missions through the Global Missions Offering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions of the Southern Baptist Convention. It may be the most important gift you give this Christmas.
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC

Embrace the Mystery

So much of our faith is a mystery. Many dedicated men and women have spent ages explaining and contemplating, but there are still many things we do not understand. Some people find this disturbing. I think that all of us can be tempted to want a God that we can completely understand and explain.

But ultimately, I am thankful that there is still an element of mystery to faith. God is deeper and broader and more amazing than anything I can imagine or dream up or explain. And that is just as true for the smartest philosophers as it is for the least educated people we know. God is more than we can think or imagine.

I can only imagine that Mary felt a lot of awe and fear and a deep sense that God’s purpose was beyond her understanding when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and announced that she would be the mother of Jesus. I imagine she did not find anything in what the Rabbis had taught her about the God of Israel to really explain the fact that she was chosen to be the mother of God’s Son.

I think Luke shared this story as a part of his gospel because he wants us to share Mary’s amazement but also because he wants us to admire Mary’s response and follow her example. “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” What else can we say? As we are wondering what God has is store for us, as we are pondering the mystery of our circumstances and where God is in them, let us remember Mary’s faith. Mary didn’t understand, but she still believed God was worthy of her trust.

He is worthy of your trust in your mysterious circumstances and struggles too.
Love in Christ,

Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC