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Merry Christmas!

Karen and I wish you all a joyful and blessed Christmas season. We are honored and humbled to serve such an energetic and compassionate faith community as you are! We thank you for your support, prayers and kind words of encouragement over the last year. I have in my office window a beautiful stained glass depiction of Michigan and the Great Lakes handcrafted by our own Kristin Gambicki. The sun makes the emerald land and blue waters glow in radiant color. It puts a smile on my face and reminds me that I belong to a wonderful church family filled with many good friends—the kind of friends I would feel comfortable calling for help if my car broke down on the highway at 2 AM. Karen and I have come to know you all as people with big hearts. We thank God for you all.

I love the way you have kept your focus on Jesus Christ this past year despite

it's many challenges. You have not stopped—in fact you have accelerated—your mission of connecting, growing and serving. One of the highest moments of the past year was the family service on September 29 when five of our youth shared their Christian witness with us. What a moment of grace! We could all see ourselves in their honest accounts and we were blessed by their heartfelt experiences of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This was God's way of rewarding us for all our prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness over the years. Wow, I've still got goosebumps!

I've learned that being a Pastor involves an inevitable series of goodbyes and hellos. Saying good bye always entails a measure of pain. I'm grateful to be able to say that in Highland the “hellos” continue to outnumber the goodbyes. Both Karen and I can add that if I was not your pastor we would gladly become members at Highland United Methodist. It's been good for our spiritual health and the growth of our discipleship to be among you.

You have changed our lives again and again. Most notably for me this year was my second trip to Rio Bravo with our mission team. To spend the days serving the poor and the evenings in worship and reflection on scripture and life is to grow the size of one's heart. I came back convicted about how much I need Jesus in my life and how much I want to serve him with my life. Thank you all for leading me deeper in love with our blessed Redeemer.

Our children Sarah and Craig are doing well. Sarah received a promotion at work and left the ranks of the union and now has a supervisory position. We always knew she was a leader! Craig has finished his education and bought a house in Marinette. He's the first in our family to own real estate! We look forward to spending a week with them for New Year's. We are blessed to say that all our parents are still alive, lucid and healthy! We give thanks to God to be able to celebrate another Christmas with them. God is good!

For me the highest moment of the year is Christmas Eve when we are gathered as a church family to light candles, sing “Silent Night”, and celebrate the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ. To him be the glory! Let us go together to Bethlehem this Christmas Eve and then onto Highland, Pontiac, Flint, North Carolina, Rio Bravo and all places God would send us next year be they near or far!

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