From the Pastor – December 2020

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  Matthew 1:21

The message of Advent is the rebirth of hope.  Hope is welcome anytime but maybe more so this year.  We, as a congregation, community, and world are feeling the effects of isolation, economic pressures, and a wild political cycle, as well as missing our loved ones this year.  Many of us grieve their temporary absence, and we look forward to seeing them when we are through this challenge.  Many of us have to draw on our faith and know that we will see our loved ones in the world to come.

COVID-19 is ravaging our community and that causes some additional pressure this Christmas season.  Our Christmas concert, program, bazaar and other things depend on proximity to communicate togetherness.  So, we are going to do what Christians have done every time a pandemic or other hazard causes pressure- we use logic, reason, and, most of all, faith to guide us.  God has gotten God’s people through worse!  In 1918, the churches of the community closed for worship and opened as
emergency hospitals.  We have thrived in these times.  So, here is all the news that is fit to print!

At the last Session meeting, we discussed safety and mission.  It is clear that we are in a significant spike in COVID activity in the bay area.  To protect the most vulnerable in our community, the Session has asked all groups meeting in the building to move to videoconferencing until the next Session meeting on Dec 16. We will reassess building use at that time. 

Sadly, this means that we will not be able to hold the Women’s Association Christmas bazaar this year.  This comes as a blow to many of us, as it kick starts Christmas shopping for many of us.  We considered stretching the event over several days to limit the number of people in the building at one time, but could not find a workable solution that met the safety needs of the volunteers.  The Women’s Association reserves all the funds from the bazaar for mission, so they will be looking for other ways to raise funds for mission.   

Christmas has long been an especially active time at the BRICK Ministries.  Higher volume of need and lower volume of donations cause shortages.  Consider the fact that since our congregation has not met, there has been no noisy coin offering since March!  And that is just one of their benevolence streams.  SO, the second Sunday in December, the 13th, we will hold a Noisy Coin and food donation drive-by. Immediately after worship, on December 13th, I will wait for you under the Christian Education wing awning for you to drop off your donations for the BRICK and receive a special gift from the church!

Fellowship-gathering together to share stories and encourage each other is one thing we miss the most!  In order to continue taking part in each other’s lives, I would like to invite you to a Church Fellowship
experience via Zoom, a video conferencing program.  The first Sunday of each month, you are invited to sign on to Zoom to converse together.  We will start with a meeting with everyone, then break into smaller groups or “tables” for conversation.  It is a great way to stay in touch!  Please look for the Zoom invitation from the church office.  If you do not receive one, send me an email, and I will send you one directly.

Lighting the candles before worship has been an important part of communicating our oneness even though we are separated.  Now in Advent, we are going to kick it up a notch!  Cheryl Drevlow is distributing Advent wreaths to families in the church.  The hope is that you will use the wreath when we light the candles for worship.  If you still need one, please let us know!

Decorating the church will work a little differently this year.  One of my favorite parts of Christmas has
always been cutting down the tree and decorating it with ornaments made by our young people.  This year, we want to see you!  Rather than a tree, we will stretch garland around the sanctuary that will hold something extra special.  We would like a photo of you!  With that photo, we will create an ornament so we can all be reminded of your presence.   If you have already sent in your photo, great!  If not, please bring it in or email it to the office as soon as you can.

The Children’s Christmas program is coming!  December 20th we will welcome Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus to town, yet again.  However, the program itself will take on a new look.  We are sending out parts for the young people to play.  We are encouraging each family to record the part and send it in.  Because we are not gathering in the building, we now have the liberty to include exotic animals and locales.  I know of at least one family that intends to find a stable with a manger and donkeys to record their section!  If you have not received your part, or would like to volunteer, please contact either me or Cheryl Drevlow. 

At this point, we believe we will stream Christmas Eve service at 7:00 p.m.  We will need to pre-record large portions of it.  Please watch the emails from the office if there are any last minutes changes.  Also, this service is especially meaningful because you join in.  I would very much like to record you reading one of the verses or prayers.  We also have a special surprise!  To remind us that Christmas is about new life, we will have a baptism.   

Christmas is the message of hope to a world that stopped looking for it.  The world is a dark place for many of us right now.  This is the time to remember the way God has shepherded you through good times and bad.  Draw on that relationship and speak kindness now more than ever.  You may be the bright moment that someone needs!  And, while you are sharing God’s light, watch for God coming into the world again!  

Grace and peace,
Pastor Jim