Christ’s love and grace to you beloved community of God. I hope this week you are filled with joy and anticipation of all good things to come. This week we are going to have an incredible hour of worship with our annual Cantata. This is something that our people have been working so hard on so please be sure to join us for this special service. Also make sure that you join us for the 11pm Christmas Eve candlelight service where we will celebrate the birth of Christ and ring in this joyous time with prayers and blessings for all of us.
This week as I just shared, is the annual cantata. Each year through word and song the story of Jesus’s birth is told and imprinted on our hearts anew. How are you different than last year at this time? How have you grown and where have you put your intentions, you love and passions this past year? All of these things contribute to how we hear the story of the birth of Christ differently. So today I invite you to think of the growth you have done this year and then read the story below and see how it speaks to you in new ways. I collect mini nativity sets from around the world and display them during advent and Christmas. But one I keep up all year round to remind me of this special time, the ways that I grow throughout the year, and the stories that are the cornerstone of our faith. I carry each of you in my heart when I hear, read, and reminisce on these stories and I am so grateful for this journey with each of you.
Six months later, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a young woman named Mary; she was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. 28 Upon arriving, the angel said to Mary, “Rejoice, highly favored one! God is with you! Blessed are you among women!” 29 Mary was deeply troubled by these words and wondered what the angel’s greeting meant. 30 The angel went on to say to her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. 31 You’ll conceive and bear a son, and give him the name Jesus – ‘Deliverance.’ 32 His dignity will be great, and he will be called the Only Begotten of God. God will give Jesus the judgement seat of David, his ancestor, 33 to rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will never end.”
34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have never been with a man?”
35 The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you—hence the offspring to be born will be called the Holy One of God. 36 Know too that Elizabeth, your kinswoman, has conceived a child in her old age; she who was thought to be infertile is now in her sixth month. 37 Nothing is impossible with God.”
38 Mary said, “ I am the servant of God. Let it be done to me as you say.” With that, the angel left her.
39 Within a few days Mary set out and hurried to the hill country to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.
41 As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of the Messiah should come to me? 44 The moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed that what our God said to her would be accomplished!”
46 Mary said,
“My soul proclaims your greatness, O God,
47 and my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior.
48 For you have looked with favor
upon your lowly servant,
and from this day forward
all generations will call me blessed.
49 For you, the Almighty, have done great things for me,
and holy is your name.
50 Your mercy reached from age to age
for those who fear you.
51 You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
52 you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
53 You have filled the hungry with good things,
while you sent the rich away empty.
54 You have come to the aid of Israel your servant,
mindful of your mercy—
55 the promise you made to our ancestors,
to Sarah and Abraham
and their descendants forever.”
In those days, Caesar Augustus published a decree ordering a census of the whole Roman world. 2 This first census took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All the people were instructed to go back to the towns of their birth to register. 4 And so Joseph went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to “the city of David” – Bethlehem, in Judea, because Joseph was of the house and lineage of David; 5 he went to register with Mary, his espoused wife, who was pregnant.
6 While they were there, the time came for her delivery. 7 She gave birth to her firstborn, a son; she put him in a simple cloth wrapped like a receiving blanket, and laid him in a feeding trough for cattle, because there was no room for them at the inn.
8 There were shepherds in the area living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. 9 The angel of God appeared to them, and the glory of God shone around them; they were very much afraid.
10 The angel said to them, “You have nothing to fear! I come to proclaim good news to you—news of great joy to be shared by the whole people: 11 Today in David’s city, a savior—the Messiah—has been born to you. 12 Let this be a sign to you: you’ll find an infant wrapped in a simple cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in high heaven!
And on earth, peace to those on whom God’s favors rests.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let go straight to Bethlehem and see this event that God has made known to us.” 16 They hurried and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger; 17 once they saw this, they reported what they had been told concerning the child. 18 All who heard about it were astonished at the report given by the shepherds.
19 Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart.
May this miracle and love of this life inspire all that you do and be seen in all that you are.
A quick prayer for your week: God, may your love for us be known and seen in all that I do. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
Dear Park People,
On Sunday December 15th, the Park Sunday school children read Matthew 11:2-6, and discussed all of the ways that Jesus helped people. We segued, from there, to brainstorming about ways that we can be like Jesus, by helping people in our own homes and communities. For their creative response, the children did drawing and writing, about ways to be of service.
After Sunday school, the children went to the Manse, for the Park’s annual children’s Christmas party. They ate lots of pizza and cupcakes, got their faces painted, received really cool balloon animals, and watched an exciting magic show! It was a wonderful time of fellowship for the youngest members of our community, and their adults.
This coming Sunday, December 22nd, the children will be participating in the Advent IV Cantata, by lighting the Advent candles, and leading the congregation in the songs that our former Interim Music Minister, Paul Vasile, has been teaching them. They’re excited about all of that, and I am, too. Based on what I’ve seen and heard during their workshops with Paul, I expect to be very proud of them.
I hope that all who are reading this will feel more blessed than stressed, as Christmas time draws near, and ready to celebrate in all of the happiest ways. Advent blessings and well wishes as always,
Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
How does it work? Once you're trained you become part of the accompaniment program. You'll learn about upcoming accompaniments and can sign up for time slots and locations that work for you.