Monday, November 30, 2015

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + New Sermon Series!

Letters from the Soul: December 2015

"The Twelve Days of Christmas"

Dear Church,

By the time you receive this newsletter, in the waning days of November between Thanksgiving and the first of December, you may well have already begun to deck the proverbial halls, brought out the holly, and picked out your Christmas tree for the year.

It has become an increasingly common American tradition to begin the Christmas season just as soon as the last bites of Thanksgiving turkey have digested and the final whistle has blown in the Thanksgiving football games. But that was never how the Christmas season was meant to be--in fact, the church has historically kept an entirely different season all the way up to Christmas Day, a season we know as "Advent."

And believe it or not, Advent (which constitutes the four weeks immediately prior to Christmas) was originally meant to act as a season of penitence and repentance before the big celebration of Christmas, sort of how Lent acts as a season of penitence and repentance right before the big celebration of Easter! The Christmas season was never meant to span an entire month (six weeks or so now--it feels like Thanksgiving has finally gotten overrun and now Christmas is nudging up against Veteran's Day!), either.

Remember the Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" when someone's true love for some reason known only to God and the deranged machinations of the beloved's mind, decides to give you a partridge in a pear tree every day for twelve days? Well, those twelve days are in fact exactly how long the Christmas season traditionally lasts: from December 25 until January 6 of the next year, the date traditionally associated with the arrival of the Magi and their Epiphany--discover--of the newborn Christ.

At this point, you're probably wondering why I'm being such a grouchy Christmas grinch in this column! But ask yourself--do you feel yourself just being completely over Christmas come December 26? Are you glad by that point that Christmas is over and are eager to move on? I think that this, too, is an increasingly common tradition, and I so deeply wish it weren't. Christmas shouldn't drain or sap us of our energy, it should give us renewed hope and vigor in life in remembering that God came to earth, in flesh, simply because God loves us *that* much!

As your pastor, I long for you to be able to experience the glory and wonder of the presence of Jesus Christ as surely as I long for it for myself. And if holding off even just a little on the epic ramp-up to Christmas means you will have a bit more time, energy, and wherewithal to truly rejoice, truly enjoy, and truly celebrate the miracle that is God becoming our flesh, then I hope you will take a moment or two this Christmas season and pause...pause long enough to give yourself space to celebrate Christ's arrival not just on Christmas Day, but for the Twelve Days of Christmas that follow...and then, hopefully, each and every day afterwards.

I wish you and yours a very merry and safe Christmas!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

New Sermon Series: Advent 2015

Holy cow! Where did 2015 go?! It cannot possibly have been so long ago that I was up in front of all of you preaching my series on different sermons that changed the world all the way back in January! But here we are, with December on our doorsteps, and it is time for us to be in the midst of preparing for the arrival of the Christ child. This season of preparation, as you may know by now, is called Advent, is often a season, for many of us, of decking the halls--trees are picked out and put up, lights are strung out around the house, and, of course, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

But what about the home the original Christmas took place in? Per Luke's version of the Christmas story, there were no halls to deck, no chimneys to hang stockings alongside. Jesus was born on the road, in a humble stable surrounded by the beasts of burden we dress our children up as for our amazing Christmas pageant. (Keep reading the newsletter to find out more about this year's pageant!) So, for this Advent, starting last Sunday back in November, we will be taking a look at that scene of the original Christmas as so frequently and touchingly displayed to us through a means we all are familiar with: the nativity set, replete with statues of Mary, Joseph, the angels, and the shepherds. We talked about the angels last Sunday and will continue exploring the story through the vantage point of each of these core, crucial characters that stand out in the Christmas story we have all come to know and love!

Finally, all of this will culminate in our annual "lessons and carols" style Christmas Eve worship service, which will take place in our lovely sanctuary on Thursday, December 24, at 5:00 pm. You and yours are warmly invited and we hope to see you there!

I'll see you Sunday,
Pastor Eric

Advent 2015: “The Nativity: Still Life Comes Alive in Advent”

November 30: "Angels," Luke 1:26-38
December 6: “Shepherds,” John 10:11-16
December 13: “Joseph,” Matthew 1:18-24
December 20: “Mary,” Luke 1:46-55
December 24 (Christmas Eve, 5:00 pm): “Go Now to Bethlehem,” Luke 2:1-20

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