By Rev. Julie Sterling, appearing in the “Bridge” November, 2020
Seasons greetings! I hope you are enjoying this holiday season. As we prepare for our Advent Journey to the manger, our paths have taken some twists and turns. It may even feel like we are taking an extended detour. This year has been quite a challenge for most of us. With all this “newness”, we look forward to many of the traditions of Christmas. No matter what December brings, rejoice in the assurance that we are on this journey together.
Advent is a liturgical celebration of the promise of our living God. The word “Emmanuel” is defined in Hebrew as “God is with us”. Throughout our story of faith, believers have longed for the promised “Messiah” and the closeness of our father in heaven. In our readings from Isaiah to the Gospel of Luke, we hear the promise of Jesus, our Prince of Peace, King of Kings, and Good Shepherd; brought to us as a humble child. As we make our way to Christmas Eve, Advent prepares us to embrace the gift of this living promise with open hearts and open minds. Our themes of hope, peace, joy, and love help us to stay focused on our faith during a time of business and over consumerism. In our time of worship together, we will grow in faith and love and greet the promise of God’s love clearly.
I know this year feels different. It breaks my heart to know that we will not be able to worship together in the sanctuary this year. Still, we will do our best to stay connected online and we hope to have more outdoor worship experiences in the coming month. I also realize that this year has been difficult for most of us. Our “new normal” has been hard to transition to. Remember, the holiday season is filled with emotions. We are humans, moved by emotion, and the holiday season often magnifies the struggles that lie in our hearts. With all the joy this season brings, it can also be a sad time for those who have dealt with illness, loss, anxiety, or depression over the past 12 months. This year we hope to share with you both heartfelt worship services and fellowship events that reflect many of our traditions. The Chrismon Tree, Advent Candles, and poinsettias will fill our sanctuary and be present during weekly online worship. We will invite families to come decorate the Chrismon Tree on individual evenings and take part in online Advent candle readings. We will continue our support for Edmarc with alternative gifting opportunities and will support the PCUSA Christmas Joy Offering. There will also be an online Tuesday Night Zoom Advent study, “Incarnation” by Adam Hamilton to help us stay connected and grow in faith.
Be assured that we are working hard to make this season meaningful for everyone. If all goes as planned, we hope to gather in person on Christmas Eve. The logistics of this will all depend on the Covid 19 infection rate and the weather. Please continue to pray for the SPC leadership and we search to find safe ways to share in this holy season.
May the hope, peace, joy, and love of Emmanuel guide you through the detour of this holy journey. Know that you are not alone. This promise is a gift we receive as together, given to us by God.