I thought we had a lovely Christmas. From early morning to the stroke of midnight, it all went beautifully. Two pastors sharing the preaching across five services was a gift for everyone, I think. Christmas Eve doesn’t often fall on a Sunday. But it gave us the chance to see how closely connected the angel’s announcement is to the birth itself. Mary’s life is turned upside down by Gabriel’s news. Then the world is turned upside down when God’s promise is fulfilled.
That afternoon the children led us from the hills outside Bethlehem to the manger in the stable with that mixture of excitement and wonder which comes most naturally to them. We already know the story, and we already know the songs, but somehow it brings it home to watch it unfold, and to sing and hear it all together. We had a full house, and were honored to have our Senior Pastor Emeritus, Martha Rowlett, with us for nearly the whole day.
At 8:00 and 11:00 we had even more wonderful music, and still more friends to share it with. We had friends from out of town and across the country. Some were new to us and others long ago moved away but still find a sense of home here. There were kids home from college, families reunited and even visitors from faraway lands. There was a line-up at the front of the sanctuary and in the entryway, where dozens of family photos were taken in front of the two lovely trees. As one of the pastors of this warm and loving congregation, it was great fun to see.
But it was also terribly painful! I had thought I was all better after an earlier cold, and I was unprepared when it came back just before Christmas. I stayed home for a couple of days, hoping and praying that my voice would be back in time for such a big Sunday.
I almost made it. As some of you know, it seized up most of the way through the 11:00 p.m. sermon. I barely croaked out what passed for the ending. That was frustrating enough. But what made it worse was seeing so many people here that night, knowing that I shouldn’t visit, couldn’t catch up, and dared not give hugs to unsuspecting friends. I felt cheated, even or especially in the midst of such joy.
We’ve had a hard few weeks around here, with lots of good friends down for one reason or another. Colds and flu have hit harder than usual. Others have spent time in the hospital for needed surgery, or for testing and diagnosis. Life has felt upside down for many this year.
My hope is that 2018 will be better for all kinds of reasons. We are moving ahead with new and needed staff for our children’s and youth ministry. See below for news and introductions on both fronts! And we are moving ahead with plans for our new educational facilities. We plan to have temporary classrooms on site late this Spring, so that the demolition and grading can begin. We have about $1.5 million in hand. Loan approvals are in place or in process for the remainder of what we will need. We look forward to breaking ground in May or June. We’ll be providing updates on the church web site and by email for those interested in following our progress.
Thank you for all that you do to help our congregation provide encouragement, help and hope to many. As we look to the new year ahead, I am glad to share with you in living out the truth of the story we have so recently heard and celebrated.
Grace and peace,