Illinois Baptist 01 16 2017 E Edition Page 2

y wife, Beth, is definitely the gift-giving genius in our family. She has, I believe, the spiritual gift of giving, and so she is not only generous, but also has a knack for choosing gifts that are personal, useful, meaning- ful, and often even frugal. But this year, it seems, I got lucky, and thought of a pretty neat gift for her. Just a couple of days before Christmas, I was scrambling to put together our annual family Christmas letter. For 24 years now, since our youngest son Ethan was born, we have produced a two-page letter with an overall family update on the front page, and individual up- dates on the back page. Beth provides the raw content for the letter, and then I work at making it humorous or at least interesting. Unfortunately, multiple moves and computer changes over the years had left us without copies of many of the older letters, the ones that described little boys and grade school- ers rather than college students and young men. So I set out to find all the old computer files, to update and repair the documents the best I could, to recreate the pieces that were miss- ing, and to print them out fresh, or photocopy the originals I could find. On Christmas morning, I presented Beth with a complete notebook of those letters, all carefully protected in clear plastic sleeves, and with front and back covers decorated with photos of our grow- ing family across the years. I kind of hoped that Beth would like the gift, and I thought our kids might eventually like copies too. So I made extra copies while I was at it, but only wrapped one to place under the tree. As soon Beth opened it, not only did she love it, but it became the conversation piece of Christmas. Our sons and daughters-in-law quickly asked for turns reading it, and asked if they could get their own copies some time. Thats when I had the fun of retrieving books for each of them from the next room. To my sur- prise, all other gift opening came to a halt, as we all sat and paged through our familys journey from little boys to big boys, from Illinois to Georgia and back to Illinois, from trips in America to trips abroad, and from one year of Gods faithfulness to another. I've been reflecting since then on how surprisingly valuable and precious this last- minute gift was, and why it has continued to captivate our familys attention. As a gift, it was much more than a flurry of search- ing, typing, printing, and inserting. It was an unintended family history, a series of annual mileposts that traced our journey as a family for a quarter century. My thoughts turned from our familys story, to the Christmas story, to the stories of the Bible, and ultimately to the fact that the Bible itself is essentially a family history of God and his people. None of its authors, though divinely inspired, could see very clearly beyond their own time in history and their own chapter of faithfulness. But once Jesus perfectly fulfilled God's revela- tion, early church fathers could compile and preserve all those chapters into one wonderful notebook that we now rightly call the Holy Bible. Theres a sense in which our churches today, now walking in the light of fully revealed Scripture, continue to add their own pages to the story of Gods faithfulness to his people, his family. As I discovered this Christmas, we may not fully realize the history we are writing until we have an op- portunity to look back. But looking back should make us want to write this years chapter with great care. Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org. Unintended family histories NATE ADAMS Snapshots from the world of Illinois Baptists the cooperative program Year-end giving by IBSA churches $6,073,405 2016 Goal: $6,300,000 Year-end received in 2015: $6,230,082 The general telephone number for IBSA is (217) 786-2600. For questions about subscriptions, articles, or upcoming events, contact the Illinois Baptist at (217) 391-3119 or IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org . The Illinois Baptist is seeking news from IBSA churches. E-mail us at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org to tell us about special events and new ministry staff. POSTMASTER: The Illinois Baptist is owned and published every three weeks by the Illinois Baptist State Association, 3085 Stevenson Drive, Springfield, Illinois 62703-4440. Subscriptions are free to Illinois Baptists. Subscribe online at IBSA.org . CONVENTIONAL WISDOM There's a vacuum of public leadership in America. We know we have problems and that we should talk about them. But there's no one who can bring us all together." Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research Who can help? In America today, who is in the best position to generate a conversation on the challenges facing our society? When asked who could lead a healthy conversation on the nation's problems, more Americans chose none of these than any of the choices offered. The Illinois Baptist staff Editor - Eric Reed Graphic Designer - Kris Kell Contributing Editor - Lisa Sergent Editorial Contributor - Meredith Flynn - LifeWay Research, Jan. 2017 M 2 IBSA.org Illinois Baptist 23% Elected president 11% Pastors of local churches 10% Professors at universities 8% Members of the media 7% Business leaders 6% Elected members of Congress 1% Professional sports players <1% Musicians 33% None of these Christmas Letters This notebook contains decades of annual Christmas letters from our own household to our closest family and friends. They are a wonderful testimony of God's faithfulness and blessing over the years. (The above photos are from 2016, 2013, and 2011.)

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