December 14, 2006 Silver Spring, Maryland, United States …. [Elizabeth Lechleitner/ANN]
“Are we compassionate toward those who are vulnerable? [Do] we reach out to them and offer our constant support? Are we the peacemakers in society? Do we offer words and actions of mercy and compassion to the people we meet?” asked Seventh-day Adventist world church president Pastor Jan Paulsen, during his holiday greetings recorded for some 14.5 million church members worldwide.
As the New Year approaches, Pastor Paulsen urged church members to embrace the spirit of Emmanuel, or “God with us”–not merely during the holiday season, but every day of the year.
He noted that by choosing birth in an austere stable, Christ set an example for the church. “He identified with many who do not live in luxury, who lack security, who lack adequate housing, the many who struggle with so many circumstances, wars, and those hundreds of millions who have to live daily with the struggles of poverty. To them, Jesus says, 'I know. I understand. I have tasted some of what you are experiencing.'”
Pastor Paulsen sees extending equal compassion as the continuing mission of the world church. “The story of the birth of Jesus would be just a story if it didn't touch our lives and change our behavior,” Paulsen said. “If, when the Christmas season is over, everything is as it was before, we have missed the point,” he added.
The spirit of Emmanuel extends beyond the church's care and concern for others; it also anchors each individual member's assurance of ultimate, “inexplicable” peace, Paulsen said. “From Jesus' words and life, we learn that those who believe in Him will experience a peace that is in spite of circumstances beyond our control, a peace that is eternal, a peace that comes from our sure knowledge that Jesus Christ is our personal savior and [will] soon return.”
Likening passage into the New Year to a trip across a bridge, Paulsen said, “the message of Christmas is that we can walk into the future with a sense of assurance and a feeling of security. The future has many uncertainties, [but] we can … carry in our hearts, our minds, and in our plans a sense that God is with us, that He will walk with us every step of the way and make [the future] safe for us.”
“I pray that the presence of heaven may impact the way we live every day, and that heaven's presence may have a transforming influence on our lives,” Paulsen said in closing comments. “I pray that the same spirit will stay with us as we go into the New Year–this readiness to allow love to find expression by the consideration and care we extend to other people. I think that is how God would want us to go into the future.”
To watch Pastor Paulsen's unabridged holiday message, click here: http://www.adventistaudiovideo.org/d2/specials/paulsen-bridge-2007.wmv.
Copyright (c) 2006 by Adventist News Network.