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Immanuel:

God with us

During the troubled sleep of that bleak night, a night made darker from the seeming unfaithfulness of the woman he loved, Joseph heard the Lord speak. He had not understood and now, because this Child was the infinite treasure of the ages, he heard from God Himself: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel - which means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). Mary and Joseph lived with this astounding truth in that backwater town of Nazareth among the disdained Galileans. Then onward they trekked to Bethlehem to a smelly cave deemed fit only for animals. Here in these unexpected places this most unexpected message found flesh in the birth of Jesus.

Dazzled by the angels and then driven to prove their message, the shepherds ventured into a town where they didn't belong to see what prophets' eyes craved to look upon. A Child, an unspeakably wondrous Child lying there in the chill of the night. The star signaled something too important to allow the Magi to stay home, forced them through a relentless desert to a land where they were unwelcome guests. Where is this One born King of the Jews? And upon finding Him they forgot the gods of their childhood and knelt before Him in worship. The blazing star dimmed before the glory of this Immanuel, God with us.

Time would bring Him forth to walk the hills and valleys, to cross the lake and ford the Jordan, to visit the villages and challenge Jerusalem. Along the way His steps were marked by once scarred lepers now with spotless skin, blind beholding their families, lame leaping, dumb singing praises heard by those whose now open ears once heard nothing. There a withered hand now held a grandchild and here a forsaken widow hugged her restored son. God with us. Could it be anything less?

But the notion of God with us eluded the grasp of Herod, escaped the understanding of Pilate. And those Jewish leaders looked at Him and largely chose to seek someone a little more pliable to their expectations. Nor was God with us enough to keep Peter from uttering his profane denials or stop Judas from the treacherous act that has made his name despised across the centuries.

Immanuel, God with us, played out so strangely on Calvary. God with us was also the One who was "wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities." The coarse cross was the altar of irrevocable proof that God, the suffering bleeding God, indeed was among us. One dying thief in his own agony could not miss it. The hardened Roman centurion spoke his crude confession. Surely this was God with us.

God with us. No grave could make Him less than that. The Roman guard and the boulder were as useless as death in restraining Him. Because nothing, absolutely nothing, could keep Him away from the people He came to save. This is Immanuel! God with us!

Disciples, hide in fear behind your walls, but know they shall fail to keep Him out. Disheartened ones leaving Jerusalem for Emmaus, He will find you along the way. Peter, load your fishing boat and cast your useless nets. But soon the dawn will reveal Him beckoning you from the shore. On it went and still goes. Years melted into centuries as numbers swelled from hundreds to billions who believed that God is with us. Over those same centuries and on to the present martyrs' blood continually spills forming rivers of witness. Do not pity them. The dying rejoiced that they traded their one life for the more certain one, brought personally to each by Immanuel, God with us.

God with us. Right here, now. Layers of sin cannot prevent His entrance to the repentant heart. There is no place in all of creation where He cannot be. Then on that day when eternity will banish the sun from dictating time, forever and always our hearts shall sing of Immanuel. God with us.

Frequently Asked Questions

I receive many questions and concerns as I travel the territory. The following are those "Frequently Asked Questions" that are answered below:

Q: Why does The Salvation Army need a "brand?"

A: The Army has enjoyed a unique form of public awareness for most of its 126 years of existence in the U.S. Most of us are aware that the vast majority of Americans know us only for the kettle and the bellringer. This is because the kettle program is the only real "public" activity we perform each year, and has become our "brand" to the greater public. Having a "brand" is essential in all that we do, especially our public exposure and fund-raising activities, as it evokes our beliefs, qualities of service and is remembered by the public for a long time.

Q: How is a brand different from a slogan or logo?

A: A true brand is a promise that an institution makes to its public. That promise conveyed through the brand has to be consistent and exposed at every opportunity. A slogan is often effective, but seldom lasting, especially if it is a mere statement of activity or purpose. "Doing the most good" is our promise to the American public every day of the year. A logo, such as the shield, identifies an organization, and can evoke some qualities, provided the person has already been exposed to the true brand, which in our case would be the branding promise.

Q: What does the brand promise mean?

A: Before I answer this question, consider this. A truly strong brand is like a sphere. It looks the same regardless of the point at which you come into contact with it. By contrast, an inconsistent brand is shapeless and open ended, constantly changing, never really establishing any consistency, connectivity or conviction about purpose and direction. A brand is a promise. A promise to achieve certain results, deliver a certain experience or to act in a certain way. It is a promise that is conveyed by everything people see, hear, touch, taste or smell about an organization . . . our organization.

Now with the goal of consistency and completeness, we as officers, employees, volunteers, soldiers and adherents need to "be" that promise. In other words, it becomes part of us, our DNA, in all that we do. By adopting the branding promise personally, we are that promise. Our every thought, action, motivation and goal is to do the most good for those who need us the most.

Q: How long will this brand be around?

A: Our territorial and national leadership agreed with the national advisory board, at the branding promise initial rollout, that its life cannot be determined. If we are to achieve a consistency of message as one Army in one nation, the branding promise has a lifetime of service ahead.

Q: Can some of the old slogans like Heart to God, Hand to Man still be used?

A: This slogan is powerful, but only to an internal group of people. Our research revealed that no one out there knew that we were a church. Such slogans cannot be used instead of the branding promise, but could be included whenever the statement relates to an existing program.

Q: How and where should the branding promise be displayed?

A: If our goal is consistency at every point of contact, the branding promise has to be displayed wherever and whenever the shield appears. Now to avoid a rush of email, it would not be "doing the most good" to dismantle every sign we own and spend our resources on new signs with the branding promise. However, I do hope that every unit has the promise displayed somewhere visible.

Many corps have purchased inexpensive transfers that adhere to glass. Check with your local signage company. All units should by now be using the new letterhead, envelopes and business cards. Your vehicles can display the promise. Supplies & Purchasing have a number of items in its catalog to assist you with this. The Red Shield Tool Kit contains the branding promise artwork. Go to http://www.redshieldtoolkit.org/.

Q: Is this brand really going to be used throughout the entire Salvation Army?

A: The Commissioners Conference gave approval for its adoption nationwide. The Southern Territory has mandated use of the brand throughout the territory.

Q: Why doesn't the brand mention God or that The Salvation Army is a church?

A: The branding promise of "Doing the most good," when adopted by all of us, is a living testament of faith and practice. It is the stepping stone for everyone to evangelize who, what and why we exist. No matter what the Army says or does as an organization, it is our responsibility to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unbeliever.

Q: Who can I contact if I have questions?

A: You can contact me through the Territorial Communications Bureau at: communications-bureau@uss.salvationarmy.org with questions.

 

Salvationist Service Corps

 Looking for a chance to catch God's heartbeat for His people? Hoping to do something more with your life? The Salvationist Service Corps is your chance!

We're looking for young adults ages 18 to 25 to participate in mission for six weeks. Two of our mission teams will head overseas, and two will remain right here in the United States to minister to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Want to gain your life? Then lose it by giving it away.

 

What are you doing this summer?

We are also putting together a team of young adults who are interested and talented in the arts. We are hoping to reach the New Orleans community through spoken word, dance, acting, singing, etc. If you have a passion for the arts and for serving Christ and the mission of The Salvation Army, then this is the team for you.

Applications for the SSC Others Team are available from your Divisional Youth Secretary and online at www.youthdownsouth.org. Please return them to your DYS by January 15.

TV newsroom stars battle over red kettle bragging rights

By Major Frank Duracher

Southern Spirit staff

Left, L to R: Wes Wyatt, Nicole Schilleci, Tamika Alexander, Terri Brewer, Lynn Brooks and Shane Dorrill are already tugging over a Salvation Army red kettle, even before the competition begins. Major Mark Smith (at center) tries to restore order to the newsroom set.  Photo by Major Frank Duracher

The most successful television news teams are the ones who work well together, bonded with a common goal of being a positive force in their community. That is certainly the case with the newsroom staff of WVUA-Channel 7 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

That is, except for a ten-day stretch in December when the competition among the local stars runs hot and heavy over which one is able to raise the most money during their turn at a Salvation Army red kettle location.

Personalities known from covering local news, sports and weather went head-to-head in a friendly, if not fervent, face-off for bragging rights until next Christmas as to who received the greatest response from the viewing public. Live feeds each evening kept viewers updated on how well their favorite newsroom member was faring. News anchors, field reporters, sports guys and the weather team implored their fans to come to their kettle to help make them the overall winner for this Christmas.

"The real winners are the children receiving new toys and families getting a brighter Christmas through the supporters and volunteers of The Salvation Army here in Tuscaloosa," said Lynn Brooks, WVUA news director.

Major Mark Smith, corps officer, agreed saying that the competition among the newsroom personalities has caught the public's attention.

"This has been unbelievable," Smith said. "The news team here is united in their effort to provide a nice Christmas for the needy of our community. This has been huge and we are so grateful."

S. T. A. R. S.

Southern Territory Annual Retirement Seminar

Have you started planning for retirement?

Retirement Planning Seminar

February 20-22, 2007

The seminar is tailor-made to meet the retirement interest and needs of Salvation Army officers who are turning 50 or 60 years old this year. The book How to Retire without Retreating - Getting Your Ducks in a Row for a Meaningful Retirement, written by Johnnie Godwin, will be used throughout the seminar. Sessions will be offered on topics such as:

Relocating and Home Buying

Financial Planning and Budgeting

Health and Medical Needs

Lifestyle Changes

Special speakers experienced in these essential areas have been selected to share their knowledge and insight with officers attending these few days. To register for the Retirement Planning Seminar go to:

www.surveymonkey.com/s.a sp?u=357762864949

Contact the School for Continuing Education at 404.756.7480 for details.

The miracle of Christmas

The miracle of Christmas continues to stir heart, mind and imagination as the story is re-told generation to generation. Recently a very good friend of mine brought to me a chapter from a well-known theologian who quoted John of Damascus concerning the birth of Christ: "...it is essentially right when John of Damascus describes Mary's ear as the bodily organ of the miraculous conception of Christ. The operation of the Holy Spirit at the conception of Jesus is one mediated through Mary's faith. Mary believes...and by believing in the Word of God spoken by the angel she is thereby enabled to take the eternal Word into herself..."

It seems to me that Luke conveys that piece of truth beautifully in the opening of his gospel. Side b y side are Zechariah, the pr iest and Mary, the humble and o rdinary young woman - both individuals from the chosen race of Israel. Each received a miraculous and life-changing visitation of God through the angel Gabriel.

Consider their place in Jewish life at that time. Zechariah was to administer the duties of the office of priest, both teaching the people and bringing them before God. He was responsible to uphold Torah, offer continued hope that the promises of God insured and bring his people before Holy God. Mary was a worshiper of God and lived among the Jewish nation with no particular status or pedigree to commend her for the future that was to be hers.

< >< >< >< strong>
From the very
 beginning 
 God has been looking
 for people
 who would walk
 by faith...

Gabriel announces the good news to Zechariah that the son he and Elizabeth had longed for was to be born, describing the nature of the child and even giving him the name he is to be called. The one who taught Torah, who knew the stories of his ancestors (specifically Abraham and Sarah) and who was to instill and exhibit faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob responded to the angel by the question, "How can I be sure of this?"

Mary, on the other hand, receiving the news from Gabriel about bearing the Son of God, asked, "How will this be?"

Two very different questions with two very different points of reference. The religious leader questioned the validity of what the angel said. Mary questioned the manner in which it would take place.

From the very beginning God has been looking for people who would walk by faith: who would hear, believe and act upon that belief thereby creating with God, reproducing with God and inviting others to the life of faith.

Paul was clear: Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

If the organ of conception is the ear, I wonder what God would be asking you to believe this Christmas season that will enable the Divine Creator to use you in the ongoing workings of His eternal Kingdom.

May our answer be that of Mary's: be it unto me according to Thy word (Luke 1:38).

 

Hospitalized veterans

welcome Christmas cheer

Community Care Ministries volunteers from the Atlanta Temple Corps distributed gifts and copies of the Christmas War Cry to residents of the V.A. Hospital nursing home. While all residents are U.S. veterans, many have served during wartime, including some who were severely injured recently in Iraq.

 






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