FROM PASTOR MEYER’S DESK: I’m writing this article the day after President George H. W. Bush’s funeral.  I unfortunately did not get to see the whole thing because I had a Ministerial Alliance meeting at that time, but I did get to see President George W. Bush’s eulogy of his father which at times brought tears to my eyes.  I did find the whole service on YouTube and hope to watch it soon.  I understand it was an amazing tribute to the man who served as the leader of our nation from 1989-1993.

As I watched it and I saw four former presidents and our current president and their respective wives sitting in the front row, I couldn’t help but wonder about the security nightmare this must have created for our Secret Service.  In fact, it reminded me of something that Marilyn and I experienced back in October when we attended the Celebrators Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  At last year’s conference it was announced that on the Wednesday night of this year’s conference they were going to have a special patriotic evening and that former President George W. Bush would be the speaker.  They strongly encouraged people to register early before it sold out.  So that’s what we did.  I’m not sure if they had to turn anyone away, but we did hear that 9000 people were in attendance, which was 3000 more than the previous two years we attended.

As Wednesday’s morning session drew to a close, Phil Waldrep, the organizer of the Celebrators Conferences, took the podium and became very serious as he began to address us about the high level of security that we would find when we returned for the evening session.  In fact, at one point he said, “As of right now, the Leconte Center is no longer under the authority of Celebrators, but it is now under the authority of the Secret Service of the United States of America.”  He told us that the whole place would need to be cleared out and bomb-sniffing dogs brought in.  He then began to share things that we would have to do when we arrived and things we should not do after we arrived. For example, we would have to walk through metal detectors and perhaps undergo a search similar to what happens in airport security lines. Interestingly, when we got to the walk-through metal detector one of the officers allowed us to walk right by it without even going through it.  I guess it was because we looked so harmless. J  We were told no pocket knives or large purses would be allowed in the building.  We were cautioned against using any flash photography and were told that though there would be standing ovations, no one should ever stand up by himself or herself and take a picture.  Nor should anyone make any effort to approach the stage which already had a gate around the front part of it to prevent anyone from getting on to the stage.

One interesting thing Marilyn and I both noted was that we saw no Secret Service agents anywhere.  You know, the guys with dark suits and sunglasses.  However, Phil Waldrep did say that they would be there and that they had assigned seats.  Since we didn’t spot any of them, we assumed they were wearing plain clothes while no doubt packing some pretty heavy duty “heat” in those clothes.

One more thing…all of this happened on the day that mail bombs were being delivered to a number of Democrat leaders all over the country.  So Phil Waldrep explained when everyone was seated for the evening session how the security efforts had to be increased dramatically because of that unforeseen development.

All in all, it turned out to be a fantastic evening and, thanks to our Secret Service, a very safe evening. But it got me to thinking about something.  And that was the difference between a man who once held the highest office in the land and another Man who has always held and continues to hold the highest office in the universe…a Man who is not only human but also God at the same time, a Man whom the Book of Revelation refers to as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  And one of the biggest differences between the two can be summed up in one word: APPROACHABILITY. Whereas former President Bush seems like a very nice man, the kind of man you could just sit down and have a casual conversation with, that’s simply not going to happen.  And if it were to happen, it would require a person to have to jump through all kinds of hoops, searches, interviews, and clearances.

Contrast that with the approachability of our Savior.  In the Gospels we see the ultimate social outcasts, lepers, approaching Him for healing.  And what does Jesus do?  Does he run the other way?  Does He call for his disciples to form a human shield between Him and these unwelcome and unclean intruders?  Not at all.  Instead He engages them in conversation and at times even does the unthinkable … He touches them.

On another occasion He welcomes a group of mothers who approach Him with their children, hoping that Jesus will lay His hands on them and bless them.  And while the disciples dismiss these women and consider them to be an infringement upon Jesus’ precious time, Jesus scolds them for thinking that way and invites the little children to come to Him.

Other times Jesus welcomed a man who approached Him with his demon-possessed son and healed the boy.  He invited Himself into the home of a curious tax collector named Zaccheus and changed his life forever.  In the midst of a pushing and shoving crowd He felt the desperate touch of a forlorn woman who had a bleeding problem for twelve years and set her free from her infirmity.  And when His good friend Lazarus died, he approached the tomb that had held his corpse for four days and called him back to life again.

And the good news is that Jesus hasn’t changed.  He is still approachable.  He is still Immanuel – “God with us.”  And in Matthew 11:28 He says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” You don’t have to pass through any metal detectors or go through any security clearances.  You don’t have to worry about being shot or arrested if you get too close to Him.  In your mind’s eye you can crawl up in His lap if you want to. You can put your head on His shoulder.  You can cry tears of sorrow.  You can lay your sins down at His nail-pierced feet.  And you can be sure that the One who loved you enough to die for you will welcome you with open arms and receive you as His precious, blood-bought child.  And what wonderful news that is, especially as we embark upon the unknown days of a brand new year that lie before us. May it be a good year for you, a healthy year, and a happy year as you live each day in the approachable presence of our precious Savior,