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Nielsen Spirit of Santa Maria

Pastor Carl Nielsen is one of the honorees of the new Spirit of Santa Maria Award from the All-America Committee. He is shown in his front yard with his cat Willie Nielsen.

What is Christmas all about? For some it is presents and parties, Christmas trees and decorations, kindness and cookies. While those things are wonderful (who doesn’t like Christmas cookies?), the real story of Christmas is the gift of Jesus to our broken and hurting world. Isaiah the prophet declared, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6).

Just imagine for a moment. What would a more peaceful world look like? What would the world look like if we ALL had love for one another? Love for ALL people, our family, our friends, our enemies, yes, even those we disagree with. Jesus, whose birth we are celebrating again, told us to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). If we actually did that, what would our world be like?

We won’t necessarily agree with each other about how things should be done, but we would at least be respectful toward each other if we had love for one another. God has created us in amazingly different ways.

Jesus said, ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). It has sometimes been my experience that where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, there will be two or three opinions about how Christ is there among them.

We can complain about the rude and disrespectful behavior of others, especially those in government and in the media, wishing they would show more decency. But where a more loving, peaceful world begins is with each one of us. When we look in the mirror each day and prepare for the day, we can pray that we will be a vessel of Christ’s love and peace in the world.

Many in this community have participated in the grass roots effort of Serve Santa Maria. There are hundreds of people who come out each time an event occurs. It is a powerful testimony of love. Many are wearing a brightly colored Serve Santa Maria t-shirt that includes the words from 1 John 4:19, “We love because God first loved us.” This love that we know from Christ Jesus motivates many of us to help others, blessing schools, city parks, churches and private residences who need help. We are taking responsibility for our city and fellow residents.

I am reminded of the phrase, “Some things I can control, some things I cannot.” I am responsible for my words and actions, but I cannot control others behavior.

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Carl Nielsen is the Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Santa Maria.