george_hancockstefanA few days ago, I was in a hurry to mail all sorts of Christmas letters, bills and exams for my students.  I ran inside the post office and I was glad that there was no line at that early morning hour.  I was the only customer and the clerk was very cheerful and efficient. I left the post office and as I was ready to cross the street, I saw a car coming slowly towards me.  Even though I am sixty, I decided to run across the street just to prove that I am still young!  As I got by my parked car, the car came to a full stop and the person rolled down the passenger window.  In my attempt to cross the street quickly I did not see that the driver was waving to me.  “How are you doing, Pastor?”  “I am doing fine!”  “Just a little bit in a hurry this morning? I wanted to stop and wish a Merry Christmas to you and your family.”  I reciprocated and I got in my car and went back to my office.

The Christian holidays are joyful and hectic times.  Pastors and church musicians have so many things to do. We have special services, additional sermons and songs to prepare, and people to visit; as well as making sure that we warmly welcome those that we have not seen since last Christmas without making it look like we do not appreciate those members who have been coming faithfully every Sunday.

A couple of weeks ago, I was driving to Philadelphia and listening to Christmas carols. Suddenly I realized that I did not hear any words, even though words were being sung.  Words and instruments became faded into the background. I only knew that this happened because a new song came on the radio that I have not heard before and suddenly my attention picked up.  As I listened to the new song, I asked myself what song I heard before and I could not tell.

Therefore, when this neighbor stopped to greet me, I stopped to think. Is there a possibility that sometimes in the practice of serving others, I am in too much of a hurry to hear what is going on around me – to stop and enjoy a handshake, to reflect on the greeting, or to say something meaningful or emphatic in that particular moment?

A friend of mine, who was in his upper 80s, went to be with the Lord recently.  I was not able to go to the funeral service. Therefore, I read the extensive, composite obituary that was written by many of his friends very carefully. He was known as a great preacher and for his superb short replies. One of the people writing in the obituary remembered when he and this friend went to the local communist party headquarters to ask permission to extend their church building. No sooner did they enter the office than the communist party official was ready to send them out. He shouted to them, “How many more times do I have to tell you that your request is dead? How many more times are you going to come?” “My kind sir,” replied this brother, “haven’t you learned that we are the resurrection people? We serve a risen Christ and we believe that requests that are considered dead can receive life.”  The communist official was startled by the kindness of this Christian brother. He shouted at him and this brother called him kind sir. For him the whole issue was dead, but this believer talked about resurrection.  In a couple of months, they received permission to build an extension to their building.

The Apostle Peter writes, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  I pray that that during this Christmas Season in our churches, in our homes, and when we greet one another, we will declare the praises of Him who sent His Son so that we may be delivered into a wonderful life, to praise Him who was raised from the dead so that we can be the resurrection people.

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Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan

George Hancock-Stefan

Pastor George Hancock-Stefan completed 30 years as the pastor of the great congregation at Central Baptist Church in Atlantic Highlands in 2020. Those 30 years have been a blessed time for him, his wife...