Christmas Eve is just around the corner, and I know that so many of you feel bogged down with gifts left to buy, parties to attend, and family functions. My prayer for you is that our church might be a place of refuge for you this holiday, where you can lay down your burdens and find an hour of peace.
For many of us, Christmas is a time mixed with both joy and grief. We grieve for the people that are no longer around our Christmas tree, and the way the holiday has changed for us over the years. If you’re feeling that way this year, I encourage you to attend our worship for The Longest Night, led by Rev. Dr. Jenny Veninga and Pastor Meghan, in which all the feelings of the season will be held in grace. It will be held at church and online on Wednesday, December 21st, at 7 PM.
Just a few days later is Christmas Eve. We’ll celebrate the coming of Christ with candlelight services at both 4 PM and 8 PM. The earlier service will be aimed more towards families with children, with more singing and a simple “Posada” of sorts in place of the sermon. The later service will be our traditional evening candlelight service and will be live-streamed online as well.
Both Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on Sundays this year, so we will continue holding a family-friendly 4 PM service for those two Sundays. Come on Christmas Day for a brief worship service of lessons, poetry, and carols, followed by cookies and cocoa. On New Year’s Day, Carol Barrett and Meghan Hatcher will lead us in an 4pm Epiphany worship service including rituals for the new year and journaling.
I pray that amid all the lists and obligations, you find in our worship together that Christ is still being born in our midst, eternally.
Christmas is fast approaching and the excitement is overflowing in our children!
As we make our way through this season, we talk about Advent in Godly Play as being on a journey, together, to Bethlehem. There is so much beauty in the idea of being on a journey, together. We can share, lean on each other, help carry loads, guide and encourage one another. All are invited to journey to Bethlehem, where we find the hope of Jesus - a newborn babe in a stable. It is not an easy journey, but it is a journey of hope and peace, joy and love.
In a little over a week from now - on Sunday, December 18th - we will journey to Bethlehem together as we share the Christmas Story in worship during our annual Children’s Christmas Pageant. We will remember familiar words, but we might hear them differently. That’s one of the beautiful things about the Christmas Story – even though the words are the same, we may come to understand them in a new way.
Children of all ages (and we mean ALL of God’s children, of any age!) are invited to participate in any way that is comfortable. We will share the story together, within the worship service, in the form of readings and carols and a Nativity Tableau. Costumes will be available – animals, shepherds, and townspeople – however Biblical-era costumes are not a requirement. Come as you are, and be a part of sharing the Christmas Story. If you do want to dress up, please come to Room 2 between 9:10 and 9:40 a.m. to select your costume.
While we will not be rehearsing the Pageant ahead of time, we do have readings that some might like to practice before worship. Please let us know if this is how your family would like to be involved. There will be readings available on the morning of the Pageant, for those who would like them.
And then, after Worship on December 18th – let’s celebrate our Dream Playground! At 11:30 we will gather for a time of thanksgiving and blessing. We hope you will join us in celebrating our amazing volunteers and remembering the journey we have all been on together in building this incredible playground. After a short presentation in the Sanctuary, we will gather outside on the playground for a blessing and dedication, followed by cookies and cocoa!
I am grateful to be on this journey with all of you!
With love, always,
For me, there is so much to love about Advent and Christmas Time. I love the cooler weather, peppermint mochas, decorations and lights, family traditions, and of course, youth group traditions.
In a few weeks we'll have our annual ugly sweater Christmas party, accompanied by some sort of silly games and likely lots of candy. But leading up to this fun event, we've been working to build relationships among our youth. We do this through weekly meetings, meals around tables, and service to others.
Three weeks ago we held our fall Lock-In where we focused on service to our direct church community, our local neighborhood community, and the broader Austin community. Our youth assembled 100 boxes and packed them with 500 canned goods, as well as other food items. The youth also purchased items to help stock the Little Free Pantry, made blankets for those experiencing homelessness, and finished moving the mulch into the playground area. Also this fall, the youth have served at a playdate for LGBTQ kids and their families, and packed poinsettias at Down Home Ranch.
All of this relationship building and service work throughout the year leads to our biggest event: our Mission Trip. In 2023 our youth will serve for a week with Appalachia Service Project doing home repair and learning about poverty. In order to fund these mission trips, we rely on parent contributions for each youth and fundraising. We currently have two fundraisers going on, if you would like to support our youth.
Through this Sunday, 12/4, you can purchase poinsettias. Our poinsettias come from Down Home Ranch and are absolutely gorgeous. You may order in person or online, and can also choose to order one to be delivered to one of our homebound members. Poinsettias will be available for pick-up after worship on 12/11.
Through that Sunday, 12/11, you can also order gift cards. Gift cards are available through many popular retailers, and make a great gift or stocking stuffer! The gift cards will be available for pick-up on Sunday, December 18. All information about gift card ordering is available online, or in person.
Thank you for loving and supporting our youth!