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Message from Stephen: It's a Wonderful Season

Dearest Sanctuary Choir,

As I reflect upon the days and events we have shared together within the past several weeks, I close my eyes and see before me a towering, gigantic Christmas Tree, radiant with streaming ribbons and garlands of gold and silver. Upon the boughs are the most beautiful "amber-white"decorative lights, mixed with strands of crimson berries and sugared fruit. Gold and garnet-red ornaments fill the tree. It's the most "beautiful 100 ft. tall tree ever seen. Underneath the tree are cascades of silken fabric skirting in crimson red, burnished gold, and sterling silver colors.

Providentially placed upon that skirting underneath this towering, breath-taking Christmas Tree, are over 100 of the most beautifully wrapped, gold and silver gifts Christmas has ever seen. On each package, the wrappings bear a single name creatively scripted within the gift paper as part of the paper that wraps the gift.

I soon recognize every name of each of you within The Sanctuary Choir, woven into the paper wrappings on each gift. There is a prominent gift tag placed on each gift written for all to see and read... but particularly written in such a bold way for MY EYES to see and read. On each gift, wrapped with gift-wrap which bear each of your names, is a gift tag written by The Hand of God. It reads ...

TO: Stephen

FROM: The Heavenly Father

"Merry Christmas... I give you my choicest servants!"

Inspiration and over-whelming love results in a powerful response. Your inspiring service rendered to our great and mighty God, and your lavish love you express to your church and to me, cause me to pause and receive visions like the one I described above. When I think of what you have accomplished within this particular year of 2015, I am humbled and deeply moved. So profound is my gratitude unto God! I begin to see with heaven's eyes what I tried to explain in the opening paragraph. Each of you are a gift, chosen by our good and merciful God, to do the glorious work of heralding His wondrous message that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father. And you are sustaining and inspiring gifts, lovingly and lavishly given to me in order to fulfill the calling He has upon my life to serve Him and His Church. I hope you understand just what gifts you are to me. After Sunday morning, December 20, I need no other Christmas gift! The atmosphere was electric with the power of The Holy Spirit, and God drew the people in! There was rejoicing and praise in the sanctuary of God. Great anticipation filled the room especially in the second presentation. The church felt like the church!!! It was glorious! You sang with understanding and inspiration. You had endurance and willingness! It was a morning, I will never forget... thanks to you, and our great God. You are a most giving and generous people. I do not deserve the unprecedented, overwhelming amount of love gift you presented me this past Wednesday. I was overwhelmed. Bless you and thank you. I am at a loss for words regarding this gift!

Thank you for embracing Jamye and me as family. Thank you for loving my girls, Rebecca, Rachel, Sarah, and her husband, Jason. Thank you for praying for my mother Barbara and my brother, John Timothy. Bless you for caring for and appreciating the great work of our Administrative Assistant, Jan Cleveland, and her tireless efforts to serve us. Thank you for championing the ministry of Beverly Golden who serves with the greatest expertise possible within our music ministry through Children's Choirs, Handbells, and over-arching music ministry programming. I am thankful for the way you have embraced our orchestra under the capable leadership of Keith Meek, our Worship and Music Associate. What a God-send Keith has been! Your ability to comprehend the rare gifts of accompanying and service playing represented by Joy Lovell and Sara Marantz speak of your gratitude.

I also want to recognize the irreplaceable ministry and expertise of our volunteer staff who serve us weekly: Donna Hafner, Nancy Broyles, Drew Holland, Sarah Tarver, Ann Marsh, Bill Propes, Bob Doughtery, Catherine Bass, Cecilia Duren, Linda Whitley, Lynda Optiz, Marilyn Powers, Mark Crim, Mary Cagle, Nina Kellner, Sandra Doll, and Sara Wagner.

I look forward to concluding our Advent and Christmas Seasons with great worship leadership and powerful musical experiences. We have worthy repertoire to sing Christmas Eve and Sunday December 27.

Please include/invite members of your family who sing to join us in these final two venues for choral leadership in 2015 on Christmas Eve and December 27!

You are a source of great joy and fulfillment in my ministry, my calling, and my life! I love you, each one!!

Soli Deo Gloria! Stephen

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