This is not the way to begin by focusing on two of my recent failures but here goes. For 21 years, I worked towards affordable housing and that effort brought no results. I wanted a partnership of government, business, and church. I also wanted the workers to earn a portion of the value of their residence as part of their salary package. Zero results!

But the Gatlinburg area fire and the need for employees by our business community sparked a strong beginning which I hope continues to provide decent affordable housing.

My second failure revolves around a personal project to provide a meaningful Lenten Journey Devotional Booklet based on 40 words from the Hebrew or Greek that when fully understood unlock a Biblical passage and provide an “aha” moment to enrich the reader.

I contacted the pastors of an area Conference. The liked the idea but no words were shared. I wrote three Seminaries and my sum total of words was still zero. I let the project be known to my Seminary classmates and I still struck out. I contacted several local lay Biblical students of the Bible and I not only have not crossed the goal line but I feel I am still in the locker room and not yet on the field. I am still hopeful!

But then here comes an Advent (preparing to greet the Savior) sermon by a local pastor on a Zephaniah 3 text and the Hebrew word “gil” which we translate “rejoice.” The full implication of the Hebrew word is to be so filled with joy that you break out in dancing. That is the power of the Christmas message!

I have seen a choir singing such a joyful message of the Gospel that they could not stand still, mainly the women as the men barely swayed. The message is this: the last word does not belong to the oligarch billionaires, the authoritarian rulers of the nations, those who see themselves as the center of the universe, those who promote hatred and division among people, or unforgiven sinners of any stripe. The last word as the first word is from the God who made Heaven and earth and entered our world as a loving Savior whose name is Jesus. This is the love above all power aimed to control. This is the love in which we rejoice, “gil” so joyful that it moves our whole body to dance around our center, the God of love, as we love others.

P.S. I still need 39 more words; 467 Mountain Drive, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.