As we are beginning to see the signs of our economy opening up (well not here in CA, but in some others states), and as we catch glimpses of life beyond this crisis, our thoughts begin to settle again on the future. I, for one, have been thinking a lot about the lessons we will learn from COVID-19. What will be the takeaway for the Christian congregation that tried to navigate the waters of uncertainty and fear while striving to be faithful to their confession and mission?

One of the greatest privileges I am given as a pastor is to be able to baptize a brother or sister in Christ. To be the one called to speak those simple words and pour the water over their head is a profound joy for me. These days everyone has their own ideas of what a wedding ought to look like and what sort of things you need to do to make it special, it is rare to even have a wedding in the church these days and normally some romantic setting designed for the perfect photo sessions.

During the season of Advent, he always makes his appearance. We wait with bated breath as the readings of the church year turn our focus from the promised end of all things and the coming of the new heavens and new earth to the voice of John the Baptist. His voice, though, is not sweet and calming. It does not fit with the joyful theme of this time of year. There is no peace on earth and goodwill toward men. No, John is like a bull in a China shop. He shakes things up with an urgent call for repentance. “Repent,” he says, “for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

By Joel A. Hess

You better watch out, you better not cry. Better not pout, I’m telling you why. Santa Claus is coming to town! He sees you when you’re sleeping…. Wow, Santa sounds scary! Why would kids be excited about this guy? Of course, speaking as a parent, this song is brilliant. What better way to get a kid to behave better than tell her she will get rocks in her stocking if she doesn’t shape up?

By Bob Hiller

We have entered the Christmas season full bore in the Hiller household. Lights are up on the house. The tree is decorated. Stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And apart from the 82 degree weather outside, we are primed for the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny…well, you get the idea. My kids love this time of year. Like many of you, one of their favorite parts of the season is the Christmas movies. Lately, they have become addicted to Home Alone. It’s getting to the point where my middle son says, “I don’t want you guys to leave me alone for Christmas—but if you do, I hope someone tries to rob me so I can do all that stuff to them!” Thieves, you’ve been warned.

By Paul Koch

As many of you know, this past 4th of July my grandmother passed away. Once all the arraignments were made for the memorial service we all travelled out to Arizona to give thanks to God for the many blessings we had received through her life. We would tell stories and eat tacos just the way she would have wanted it. Now I had only been to her home in Arizona a few times, and those visits were never very long. No, the home I knew as grandma’s house was the home where my father grew up – their home in Hacienda Heights. I can still remember the smell of the place and how the wood floor creaked as you walked down the hall.

By Paul Koch

The Olympic games are an amazing spectacle. To be able to watch the best in the world compete on that grand stage is awesome. The speed, accuracy, dedication and strength on display often leave us in a state of shock. But every time the Olympic Games come around we are reminded that just as much as we love watching the athletes compete so we also love the background stories of these athletes. We love to learn about individuals who’ve overcome incredible obstacles to make it to the Games. This year perhaps more than any other individuals the world learned about the Refugee Olympic Team. A group of athletes from the Sudan, Ethiopia, the Congo and Syria who came not just from poverty or single parent homes but they came from countries torn apart by war and unimaginable violence.