Fourth Sunday of Advent • December 20, 2020
Christmas is a season of celebrations and special times. I hope you are able to recall when you were a child, awakening early on Christmas morning to the surprises left for you under the tree. The pleasures of now seeing your children – and perhaps grandchildren – repeat this jubilant ritual might bring back those magical memories of your own childhood.
This year, I came to realize how important it is that the first stories we receive about Jesus are of his infancy and childhood. In God’s wisdom, we are presented with Jesus in his most vulnerable and innocent stages. Non-threatening and tugging at the heartstrings of adults, the Jesus-child metaphorically opens his arms, welcoming all people into the joys of new birth and more importantly, into the life of “God-with-us.” It is much easier to imagine the warmth of God loving us through the embrace of a child than it is from an adult whose preaching challenges the status-quo of the social-religious structures of his time. I believe this is precisely why it is important, albeit a little sneaky, that we hear of Jesus’ pastoral birth before we learn of him upending systems that kept women, the poor, children, and marginalized people under the oppressive rule of religious and political leaders.
I am grateful this year to remember that the Christmas stories are about inviting me to know and to feel the love of God without the burdens of having to earn God’s favor, or wondering whether I am worthy. In the eyes and arms of a child, there is no judgement. Though it may be difficult for us to handle it sometimes, the same is true in the arms of a loving God.
St. John’s Christmas service details can be found on the flyer below, along with information about the diocese’s Christmas Day livestream service with Bishop Diane Jardine Bruce. To receive the service link for St. John’s services check my e-blast to the congregation sent Saturday, December 19, or please email me. Recordings of St. John’s Christmas livestream services will post to the website following each live service so that you may watch at your convenience.
Highlighted in our flyer is the Vigil for The Longest Night, a county-wide remembrance of the more than 300 homeless children, women, and men who died on Orange County streets in 2020. This interfaith service is hosted by Hope 4 Restoration and the Women Drivers Interfaith Group. Please join us Monday, December 21 at 7 pm on Facebook.
Though a more complete report will follow next month, St. John’s – like almost every other church in the world – is trying to manage a shortfall in our contributions and donations. We are ending this year (unless there really IS a Santa Claus) with a deficit of about $30,000. If you have yet to fulfill your pledge or can help Santa with the deficit, you will help kick off next year – which is looking yet more difficult – with a smaller year-end discrepancy. You can send your pledge/contribution via check to the office, or via PayPal. Additionally, did you know you can make your Christmas Offering (or ANY offering)this year by telephone? If you wish, you can text GIVE to 833.720.2956 and enter OPTIONS to see categories for giving.
As always, St. John’s offers daily services of Morning or Evening Prayer/Compline as a place to come together online to worship, give thanks, and see one another. Here is our schedule of ZOOM services:
• Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Morning Prayer at 9 a.m. Here is the worship bulletin for December 20.
• Nighttime Prayer is prayed Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
Please note: we will not have Bible Fellowship on Wednesday evening this week or next, and no Evening Prayer on New Year’s Eve.
To ensure participants’ online security, we don’t publish the worship/study ZOOM links; if you did not receive the church-wide email from me with the links, and would like to attend services, please email me and I’ll add you to the e-blast, and send you the links.
Sunday’s 10 a.m. Adult Forum is approaching some profoundly life-changing discussions this month. Sunday, December 20, we continue an exploration of personal biases; of how they affect our opinions, shape our relationships, and even determine our political lives. To receive the ZOOM link, email Scotty King.
In January, the 10 a.m. Adult Forum will be hosted by our Treasurer, Elizabeth Adams, as she leads us to find financial peace in the coming year. This is a faith-based teaching on the how-to of planning and budgeting your finances and discovering Financial Peace as a result. Please email Elizabeth to receive the ZOOM link.
A reminder, too, that St. John’s Office will be closed between Christmas and New Year to allow our volunteers, staff, and clergy to spend time with loved ones.
May you know that embrace of love.
Merry Christmas to all!
Rev. Christopher and Rev. Karen