An old pioneer traveled westward across the great plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked at the sight before him: a vast chasm one mile down, eighteen miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! He gasped, “Something musta happened here!”
A visitor to our world at Christmas time, seeing the lights, the decorations, the trees, the parades, the festivities, and the religious services, would also probably say, “Something must have happened here!” Indeed, something did happen. God came to our world on the first Christmas.
God got tired of being just an idea. For some 3,000 years, God had tried to show “the chosen people”, through the patriarchs and the prophets, just what God was really like. And, as a consequence, what God wanted them to be like. And they didn’t get it. Couldn’t get it. They couldn’t relate to an abstract concept.
So God decided to show, instead of tell. Instead of depending on prophets and other interpreters, God chose to reveal God’s real nature as one of us. That is the event we celebrate at Christmas. The tinsel, the trees, the tinkle of cash registers, are all byproducts. The main event is God’s decision to become one of us. So that we could know God with our hearts as well as our heads.
Advent is the 4 weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent is also the beginning of a new church calendar year. This year, Advent begins on Sunday, November 29, 2009. The altar clothes are changed to purple, the color of waiting. Each week we light another candle on the Advent wreath, reminding us Jesus is called “The Light of the World”. Even one small light can make a difference in the darkness. Each week we will light another candle, and the light will grow stronger and stronger as we get close to Christmas, when Jesus is born. The candles help us remember that we are waiting for Jesus’ light to come to us once again.
Inside this newsletter you will find details of the many ways Immanuel ,“God With Us”, Church is celebrating in our waiting time. We hope you will attend and actively participate in these activities:
By now, I hope you are reading the Advent Devotional booklet filled entirely with Christmas memories from the Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ faith community. This booklet is truly a treasure.
Thank you to all who have loaned their manger scenes for our collective display on exhibit in the Immanuel Fellowship Hall through Dec. 13th.
Come share the extravagant welcome of our Immanuel Open Houses on Fri. Dec. 4th and Sat. Dec. 5th. Enjoy our musical guests, sip hot chocolate, stuff yourself with cookies, purchase a luminary kit for $1 each or shop for handmade gifts from the SERVE store on site.
After our Second Sunday Supper, we will bundle up and lift our voices together in song as this faith community goes Christmas Caroling Sun. Dec. 6 from 1p.m. to 4p.m.
Come hungry to the pancake supper Fri. Dec. 11th.
Our Community Sacred Christmas Concert on Sun. Dec. 13th at 4p.m. promises to fill the sanctuary to the rafters with joyous praise, and singing of traditional Christmas carols.
Tues. Dec. 15th we will open our doors to a “Blue Christmas” service. Not everyone’s Christmas is “Hallmark” perfect. Here we acknowledge that God understands and walks with us in the painful parts of Christmas.
Fri. Dec. 18 our Fellowship Hall rings with the sound of the Youth Assistance Christmas party.
Our Christmas pageant on Sunday, Dec. 20 during worship will be one-of-a-kind. The actors will not speak and the speakers will not act. Come experience our “No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant”.
Christmas Eve worship will be celebrated at 8p.m. Thurs. Dec. 24th. The Immanuel sidewalks will be aglow with the lights of luminaries, sharing with this community the hope God incarnate in Jesus Christ brought into this world.
As you gather on Christmas Day to exchange gifts we humbly offer these prayers:
O God, so simply wrapped, your richest gift was one given to us. In these gifts, let us see reflected the strong and saving love once given to us in Bethlehem. Amen.
Lord, Jesus Christ, in your birth we see God’s richest gift come down – it is the riches of heaven itself. As our celebration draws to a close, come with us, Lord Jesus. Keep us mindful that the richness of your presence is ever with us. Bless us to be a blessing. We offer you our thanks and praise. Amen.
And it came to pass in those days, that these want out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. –Luke 2: 1-7
May the Lord of love and peace be born in your heart, again, this Christmas.
Peace and Joy,
Immanuel Ministry Team
Barbara, Ron and Liz