November 27, 2018

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus urges his listeners to “be on guard so that your hearts are not weighted down with…the worries of this life….”  Beginning Dec. 2, First Presbyterian will send you a daily email that will invite you to unburden your hearts – to pause, ponder and welcome the gift of love revealed in Jesus the Christ.

Weekday emails will offer a prompt to draw you deeper into the Hope, Peace, Joy and Love of the season, and Sunday emails will provide a liturgy for lighting the Advent wreath candles. If you missed the emails, check the links below daily.

Sunday, Dec. 2

Monday, Dec. 3

Tuesday, Dec. 4

Wednesday, Dec. 5

Thursday, Dec. 6

Friday, Dec. 7

Saturday, Dec 8

Sunday, Dec. 9

Monday, Dec. 10

Tuesday, Dec. 11

Wednesday, Dec. 12

Thursday, Dec. 13

Friday, Dec. 14

Saturday, Dec. 15

Sunday, Dec. 16

Monday, Dec. 17

Tuesday, Dec. 18

Wednesday, Dec. 19

Thursday, Dec. 20

Friday, Dec. 21

Saturday, Dec. 22

Sunday, Dec. 23

Monday, Dec. 24

Tuesday, Dec. 25

To experience the season through music, log into the FPC Playlist on Spotify.

November 26, 2018
Add these to your calendar in this season of anticipation and joy.


Find a meaningful gift for your special friends and loved ones at this year’s Alternative Gift Market on Sunday mornings in Wood Fellowship Hall. Due to the inclement weather that kept us at home one Sunday this month, this offering has been extended to December 23. You can also make a gift here.


Bring your need for healing and hope God through prayer, scripture, music and reflection at the Service of Wholeness and Healing, 7:30 p.m. on December 20, in the sanctuary. Childcare for infants through TK will be provided by reservation only.


Welcoming Love at Christmas, Sunday, Dec. 23, in Wood Fellowship Hall. 10-10:45 a.m.

All ages will gather to welcome Jesus, who is God’s Love made flesh. We will have stations where you can aste Love Feast buns and have hot chocolate, or watch watch a short video, “The God that is Coming,” with time for discussion. You can color a Love poster, create Moravian stars with scripture of the season, and take a Nativity scene photo


Christmas Eve Services, Monday, Dec. 24.

4 p.m. Worship is open to everyone and is particularly suited for children.

8 p.m. Candlelight Service. This service will stream online.

10:15 p.m. Handbell Concert, Wood Fellowship Hall

11 p.m. Candlelight and Communion Service


Read more about Advent and Christmas programming in the holiday issue of FirstNEWS, which is also  available for pick-up at the church.
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







November 30, 2017

One of the simple joys in my life is reading a book to one of my kids at bedtime. A favorite book that we read is one in a series by Mo Willems that is called Waiting is Not Easy.

It’s a conversation between two friends, a pig and an elephant. The pig has a present he wants to share with the elephant, but he can’t share it until the right moment. In the meantime, the elephant is unsettled in his anticipation. He pleads, he begs, he lashes out in frustration, and he GROANS as he waits.

My kids laugh when I read the elephant’s lines because they know they’ve been there. I have an easy time getting in character because I’ve been there, too!

Advent is a time of waiting, and the reason the waiting is not easy is because, as followers of Jesus, we are waiting for a whole lot more than presents under the tree. We are waiting for this broken world to be healed. We are waiting for Christ to set things right. And we are aware of the many, many things that are broken; of the many, many ways things are not right.

I’ve been groaning a lot in recent weeks.

Unspeakable mass shootings in places of worship – both in Texas and, last week, in Egypt.  A cascade of revelations around sexual assault and harassment. Headlines like these are always a cause for grief, but in recent weeks I’ve felt something else, too: an angry impatience. I’ve been thinking about my kids who are growing up learning lock-down drills at school. I’ve been thinking about you – my parishioners – who might question whether the sanctuary is safe. I’ve been thinking about my little girl – and whether the world would believe her testimony or the denials of a powerful man if she were ever the victim of sexual misconduct.

Instead of hearing our leaders declare that this madness must stop, what I hear instead are arguments about the Second Amendment and how the those who are accused might change the political calculus around tax reform.

It’s not that I know what the solutions are to the brokenness that faces us, nor think those solutions are simple. What angers me is that we don’t appear to have the courage to decide that things must change. I am impatient with our tendency to accept the brokenness of the world as the way things are, because I believe God asks us to trust and work for the promise that we read about in the Bible, which describes the way the world will be.

We wait and we work for that vision of the world precisely because we are not satisfied with the status quo. It might be easy just to keep our heads down, navigate this world the best we can, and convince ourselves that things can’t change. But faith isn’t about what is easy. Faith moves us toward what is holy. And, ultimately, we know that even in this current darkness, there is a light that nothing can overcome.

– Pen Peery