Archive

Month: December 2017

December 28, 2017

Now the Work of Christmas Begins

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.

– Howard Thurman

 

December 25. It’s a lot of build up to one day.

But when we read the origin story, the birth of Jesus, we see that the story continues beyond that one day. The visit by the shepherds, the gifts from the Magi and the escape to Egypt happen after the birth.

Perhaps my favorite part of the story comes when Mary and Joseph take the week-old baby Jesus to the temple for dedication (Luke 2:21-22). At the temple they meet Anna and Simeon, who recognize Jesus as the savior they have been waiting for. The story suggests they had been waiting a very long time. When he holds the baby Jesus in his arms, Simeon essentially says, “I can now die happy.”

Now that our waiting for Advent is over and Christmas has come, our real work begins, the real work we have been longing for: restoration and reconciliation.

Howard Thurman was an African American poet, a preacher, a civil rights leader and a theologian of liberation. His writings helped Christian activists draw strength from the gospel story. It is true that the work of Christmas for people of faith has just begun, but really it never ended. We begin again each day with renewed strength to work towards an end of suffering and ensure the work of reconciliation. So stay calm and carry on—it’s still Christmas!

– The Reverend Erika Funk

December 27, 2017

Motherless Moms, a support group for women grieving the loss of their mothers as they are raising children, meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Noon in the Frances Browne Dining Room (P212). Participants are welcome to bring their lunch. For more information, please contact the Reverend Katherine Kerr.

 

Plastic bags—the kind used to bag groceries at the store—are desperately needed for our Loaves and Fishes Pantry. If you have some to spare in the next several weeks, could you please drop them off downstairs by the pantry door? Or you can leave them on the table outside the kitchen for Mary Scott Peterson to deliver.

Drop into Wood Fellowship Hall on Sunday, January 7—and every Sunday after that—to gather with your First Presbyterian church family when you leave the 9 a.m. service, as you head to Formation classes and as you arrive for the 11 a.m. worship service.

This new gathering place will offer plenty of room for all as we permanently move our traditional Sunday morning gathering place to Wood Fellowship Hall for fellowship, for coffee, for signups and information about special events and activities.

On our first day in the new gathering place, you’ll be able to:

  • Express your opinion during a coffee tasting to select the coffee we’ll serve at church events in 2018.
  • Purchase early-bird tickets to the 2018 Willard Lecture before they go on sale to the public the next day;
  • Learn more about the Congregational Breakfast on Sunday, February 25 and the mission trip to Haiti in early February;
  • Welcome visitors and newcomers when First, Coffee moves to this space, so you can be one of the first to welcome visitors and newcomers;
  • Read the headline news about what’s happening at the church in the days ahead, a new communications tool which will debut that day.

We hope everyone will enjoy life together in this new space, whether you are on the way to Formation, dropping in for coffee or looking for opportunities to get involved in the life of the church.

On Sunday, December 31, there will be no Formation classes, no First Church for young children and only one worship service, at 11 a.m. That service will be led by all of First Presbyterian’s seminarians. Member and seminarian Tommy Holderness will preach; other seminiarians participating will be Gail Henderson Belsito, Natalie Raygor and Selina Malherbe.

December 21, 2017

Here’s my Advent confession: I struggle with all of our church talk about “getting ready” and “being prepared for the Christ Child” in this season.

The truth is that most of things I’ve done to be “ready” over the past few weeks have been about being ready for December 25 and not so much about being ready for Jesus. I’ve sent Christmas cards, driven across town and back in search of the perfect gift (and eventually just any gift) for the people on my list, attended parties, and decorated my home. But none of that really has anything to do with Jesus and his Gospel of hope, peace, joy, and love, and, quite honestly, I think Jesus shook his head at me when I made my gazillionth trip to Target for “just one more thing” last week.

Besides, how exactly do we know if we’re ready for God’s grand entrance into the world? And even if we think we are ready, how can we know for sure? Can anyone really be ready for Jesus?

Maybe someone can, but I’m not that person. So I find great comfort in Madeleine L’Engle’s poem First Coming. I’m grateful for the reminder that God is coming into the world whether we are ready or not. Most of all, I’m grateful that God’s love for this world isn’t contingent upon our being ready to receive it.

God did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
God came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

God did not wait for the perfect time.
God came when the need was deep and great.
God dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine.

God did not wait till hearts were pure.
In joy he came to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

God came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
God came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

– “First Coming” by Madeleine L’Engle

~Katelyn Gordon Cooke

December 15, 2017

When I was pastor at First Presbyterian in Monroe, like many churches, we had an annual Christmas pageant put on by the children of the church. Any of the children, no matter what age, could be in the pageant. The Fifth Graders, being the oldest, got the speaking parts, and any extra kids that showed up became angels and shepherds. It was always something of a madhouse, but still a high spot of the Christmas season.

One year, the little boy playing the part of Joseph—coincidentally, his name happened to be Joseph—had not made it to any of the rehearsals, so was not exactly up to speed about how things were going to go.

I need to explain the staging. The pageant is always held in the sanctuary. There is a low brick partition between the congregation and the choir. So the child playing the part of the angel Gabriel squats down on the organ bench hidden behind the brick partition until it’s time for the angel to make an appearance.

So on this occasion, clueless Joseph was fiddling with a hammer (to let us know that he was a carpenter), when all of a sudden up popped the angel Gabriel and called out, “Joseph, Joseph.” Well, little Joseph was taken completely by surprise, dropped his hammer, jerked his head around to see who was calling him. Of course, the audience burst out laughing.

But I’ve always thought that the real Joseph might have had a similar reaction. When the Joseph in the Bible found out that his betrothed was expecting a child that was not his, he had decided to “dismiss her.” He had no idea that an angel of God was going to tell him to do the unthinkable and marry her. And miracle of miracles, Joseph did what the angel called him to do. That’s pretty shocking.

Then again, God still calls people to do the shocking thing—love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, love the unlovable, forgive 70×7, show hospitality to the stranger.

This Christmas season, I want to seek to follow the example of Joseph and go where God calls me to go—even if it is some place totally surprising.

~ Chuck Williamson, Parish Associate

December 7, 2017

The waiting is behind us and we are now in the Christmas season. However, you will still be able to spend time with the daily devotionals offered during the 2017 Advent season.  With scripture, a point for reflection and a prayer, these devotionals still offer significant insights to pause and ponder the significance of the birth.

Monday, December 4

Tuesday, December 5

Wednesday, December 6

Thursday, December 7

Friday, December 8

Saturday, December 9

Monday, December 11

Tuesday, December 12

Wednesday, December 13

Thursday, December 14

Friday, December 15

Saturday, December 16

Monday, December 18

Tuesday, December 19

Wednesday, December 20

Thursday, December 21

Friday, December 22

Saturday, December 23

Monday, December 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 4, 2017

All are welcome to the Habitat Home Dedication ceremony on Saturday, December 16, at 10 a.m. Be part of this joyful event at 2937 Coronet Way.

If you’d like to learn more about the 2018 Mission trip to Haiti, contact Amy Hockett. No construction will be done on this trip, which will focus more on building relationships.