Can you believe that the fourth Sunday of Advent is already here? It is the Sunday of Love, Amor. And what a perfect word to lead this time together. There are three worship services between this Sunday and the next, and I hope you will make a plan to attend. This Sunday is Cantata Sunday. If you are new to our community, Cantata Sunday is a worship experience that is comprised of music and readings. Then we have our Christmas Eve Service at 11 pm on December 24th. Then worship again the following Sunday. You will hear more about these worship services next week, but we want to make sure you made a plan to attend- because we are not us without you!
The Cantata Sunday is made of many different readings all pointing us to one thing- the birth of Jesus. But did you know that only two of our four gospels have the birth of Jesus in them? This week instead of digging into one piece of text I invite you to read Matthew and Luke’s birth narrative and see which one speaks to you?
18 This is how the birth of Jesus came about.
When Jesus’ mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her husband, an upright person unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her quietly.
20 This was Joseph’s intention when suddenly the angel of God appeared in a dream and said, “Joseph, heir to the House of David, don’t be afraid to wed Mary; it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. 21 She is to have a son, and you are to name him Jesus—‘Salvation’—because he will save the people from their sins.”
22 All this happened to fulfill what God has said through the prophet:
23 “The virgin will be with child
and give birth,
and the child will be named
—a name that means “God is with us.”
24 When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of God had directed, and they went ahead with the marriage. 25 He did not have intercourse with her until she had given birth; she had a son, and they named him Jesus.
1 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 a 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 favor rests.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s 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. 20 The shepherds went away glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as they had been told.
Which one did you grow up hearing? Why do you think this part of Jesus’s life was left out of Mark and John? I think it has to do with power, how about you? It makes me wonder, how do we love, value, and support pregnant women and newborn babies? Especially if they are left out of the narrative. What power do we give mothers and infants, yet what power do we give this mother and infant? The Christ child is not quite here…but he is coming. We may not need to ready a nursery, but we will need to ready our hearts.
A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, help me ready my heart and spirit for you. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On December 13th, after revealing the 13th picture on our Advent calendars (the Star of Bethlehem) we continued reading the Nativity story in The Mystic Bible. We imagined what it must have been like for Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, in the barn where Jesus was born. “Cold!” “Smelly!” “Noisy and hard to sleep.” The children had been invited to use their Play-Doh to sculpt animal figures, representing the animals who shared the barn with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Somehow, a Snow Person got in there, too!
On Sunday December 20th (our last Children’s worship before Christmas) we’ll return to the Doring Kindersley Illustrated Children’s bible, and read about the Shepherds who heard the angels singing, and went to see the baby Jesus. We’ll imagine what it must have felt like, to be working out in the fields on a cold, dark night, and suddenly hear glorious music, and see an incredibly bright star! We will also sing “Go, Tell It On The Mountain,” which is a favorite with our children.
This Sunday of Advent will be the annual Cantata Sunday at The Park. After Children’s worship, we hope that you will join us online.
Blessings and well wishes as always, Rev. Francesca Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Well, it isn't food for your stomach (though when we are able to meet again in person, we will share a brown bag lunch right after church), but it is food — almost a banquet — for your soul.
SoulFood Fellowship is a gathering of The PARK members and friends who get together from near and far after worship on the third Sunday of each month. We engage in conversation that is bound to get you thinking and talking. We discuss and reflect on books, articles, documentary films, or plays —in light of our faith, Bible Study, and concern for social justice.
Right now we’re focusing on Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own, by Eddie Glaude, Jr. Don't worry if you haven't read the book. It is a slow read that calls forth loads of discussion and reflection on our country, racism, and what God requires of us. We would love to have you join us and share your perspective, experience, hopes, and concerns.
For more information, please contact either RIchard Sturm or Stephanie Wilson at the church.
Pandemic of Love is a mutual aid community of care that was started in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. It humbly began on March 14th, 2020 by one person and was intended to help her own local community. But, like an epidemic, the act of love and kindness spread quickly and is now a beautiful movement helping those in need throughout the world.
What is a mutual aid community? It connects people in need with patrons who can help with that need. This is a tangible way for people to give to each other, quickly, discretely and directly.
What’s the catch? There is none. Kind people are introduced to kind people which results in an act of kindness and human connection.