Dear Friends in Christ,
I hope you are having a truly merry and peaceful Christmas!
It is such a wonderful time of year, despite its propensity to excess and exhaustion.
One thing that makes Christmas more fulfilling for me is understanding it as a season, not just a day. I light my candles, listen to the Messiah, and celebrate in other small ways throughout the 12 days. It deepens my experience of Christmas to think of it as leading up to Epiphany ("Three Kings Day") on January 6th. I also find it helps to fully celebrate the season of Advent beforehand, with its twin themes of hope and repentance. When post-Christmas letdown threatens, I remember that Easter, not Christmas, is the spiritual high point of the liturgical year. All these things help me put December 25th in perspective, and not get too jaded, jumpy, or jet-lagged by the hugeness that is Christmas in our culture. Over time I've come to appreciate the changing seasons of the liturgical year, as they highlight one facet after another of our tradition, allowing us to live out the fullness and richness of our faith.
A highlight of this Advent, for me, was celebrating the 4th Sunday of Advent with the Immanuel and St. Elias faith communities. There were many moving moments last Sunday: hearing Pastor Gabi beautifully chant the liturgy in Arabic, listening to children sing and tell the ancient nativity story, and hearing a testimonial from Bishop Wayne Miller, a former member of Immanuel. Bishop Miller told us about a time back in the 1970s when he arrived "spiritually lost" at Immanuel, and was loved and claimed by that community. After the service, we enjoyed a home-made Middle Eastern feast courtesy of the people of St. Elias, and Santa arrived with presents for the children. Arabic Christmas carols played in the background. It was a wonderful day as people from different backgrounds celebrated together.
It is so important to celebrate the joy of life. As much as he was a "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," Jesus was also about joy. So I believe in parties and celebrations. Yet amidst the bustle and merry-making of the holiday season, quiet moments are hidden treasures that I revel in finding. They feel like a gift of the sacred. This Christmas, I wish you sabbath time relaxing with family and friends, and time just for yourself. In our daily lives, we do lots of things to "save" time, as we deal with continual to-do lists and deadlines. Today a phrase that came to me was "savoring" time. Sabbath time is crucial for our spiritual journeys and overall health. Can you take a walk in the snow? Listen to a recording of "The Messiah?" Take time to reflect on the birth of the Savior in our world, and the love that came down at Christmas. What that love means for you and me. Fallen and harsh as our planet may be, it is a saved one now.
I hope you will join us this Sunday December 30th at our usual time, 5:00 p.m., in the side chapel at Immanuel. Professor Paul Koptak from North Park Seminary, a former professor of Larry's, will be our guest preacher. His sermon is "On Namings and New Years." We will sing some Christmas carols. Come and celebrate with us this 6th day of Christmas!
The Rev. Laura Gottardi-Littell
for The Pastoral Team
The Church of Jesus Christ, Reconciler
This December 30th, our worship resumes at its normal time -- Sunday at 5:00. Professor Paul Koptak from North Park Seminary will offer us a sermon entitled "On Namings and New Years." Come celebrate with us this 6th day of Christmas! Bring some leftover sweets to share.
Laura is on call though the first week of January, for any pastoral needs or emergencies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org A separate announcement will go out to the congregation with more contact information for Laura.
The Rev. Jolene Berkstrom-Carlson, Associate Superintendent of Larry’s conference in the Evangelical Covenant Church, will be our guest for worship on January 20th.
Our Annual Meeting is coming up on Sunday, January 27th. We plan to gather at 2:00 p.m. for a potluck and meeting, then will worship at 5:00. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend this important every-member meeting.