One of the most sublime titles for Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Throughout Advent, we sing that beautiful hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Israel had been waiting and watching for God’s promised Messiah for centuries, and, miraculously, her hope had not been dashed. She continued to wait and watch year after year. And when the time was right, he arrived. One would have thought that the Messiah would have been born to a well-bred, highly-educated priestly family in Jerusalem. But throughout history God has a track record of taking alternate routes. In this case, Jesus was born to a young teenage couple from Nazareth, the Lizard Lick of Israel, a small town far from the halls of power and influence in Jerusalem, the City of Peace. He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, a village two miles from Jerusalem, because his parents had gone there to register for the census. This was the home of David, another alternate route for God’s providence. David was the youngest and least equipped son of Jesse who was anointed by Samuel to become the second king of Israel. He was too young to have a resume; but if he did, it would have had one word on it: shepherd. Apparently God saw something in him that others didn’t. And he went on to become the greatest king Israel ever had.
This alternate route placed Jesus in Nazareth, enabling him to grow up not with a silver spoon in his mouth but with a hammer in his hand, getting to know ordinary, regular people first hand, giving him an empathy not gained growing up in a palace. This would be Jesus’ path for the rest of his earthly life, not hobnobbing with priests, scholars, and politicians in the capital city but dining with fishers, shepherds, tax collectors, and people on the bottom and middle rungs of society. This tells me that his mission was to the whole world, not just the high and mighty. He came from a religion that stressed reward for merit in keeping God’s law. But he preached and lived a life of grace, mercy, and forgiveness for all who would receive it. This was such a radical departure from the conventional wisdom of his day that he was rejected by his own people and crucified. This was ironic, since the prophets and the psalms had introduced this same idea hundreds of years earlier (“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” [Ps. 103] and “Anyone who calls upon the Lord will be saved.” [Joel 2]). Jesus reminded people that the scope of God’s love was universal, that God had chosen Israel not for privilege but for the task of being a light unto the nations.
So, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year, even if your tree has fewer family members and friends gathered around it. We will have our two Christmas Eve services next week on different nights and online. The family bell service will be a live Zoom meeting on Sunday, December 20th at 6:00 p.m. We will have drama, build-a-manger, bell-ringing, candle ceremony, and lots of carol singing, since we were unable to have in-person caroling this year. So please tune in at 6:00 p.m. on the 20th with a bell and candle in hand and see your fellow members’ smiling faces. On December 24th our recorded traditional candlelight communion service will be posted online later in the afternoon.
This year has been a very hard one on all of us. I hope that you have felt the presence of the One who has promised to walk with us through every valley in life, no matter how dark or difficult. How beautifully providential that God has given us a very important gift this Christmas, delivered not in a sleigh but in eighteen-wheelers from the Pfizer factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “O come, O come, Emmanuel … come and cheer our spirits by thine advent here; disperse gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight … Rejoice! Rejoice! And let all God’s people say Amen! See you online for worship!
Do you have a Christmas Dedication that you would like to send to the church office? Typically these dedications help fund the purchase of poinsettias for the Sanctuary. We're having an atypical season (to say the least!), but we'd love to still print your dedication, if you would like to share a dedication in memory, honor, or celebration of someone or an event. Please tap here to email your dedication to Virginia by Tuesday, Dec. 22nd. Thank you!
PCUSA's Christmas Joy Offering: By giving to the Christmas Joy Offering, you honor God's gift of Jesus Christ by providing assistance to current and retired church workers in their time of need and developing our future leaders at Presbyterian-related schools and colleges equipping communities of color. To give to the Christmas Joy offering, please make your check out to Trinity and note 'Christmas Joy' in the memo line.
Staff Gift Offering: As we enter this Christmas season, our world seems out of sorts in many ways. Yet we still have the incredible opportunity to spend time in worship, prayer and study although their form may be somewhat different this year. Our amazing staff continues to keep our church moving forward through new and innovative ways of serving God and others. As we have in previous years, we will be collecting funds for a staff gift as a way to say “thank you” for all that they do for Trinity. Please note “staff gift” on your check to ensure it gets to the right place. I wish you and yours a blessed Christmas season! ~ Cheryl Anderson, Stewardship Team elder
From Trinity's bookkeeper, John Montague: Thank you for your support of the church’s ministry and mission! For donations to be credited to the 2020 tax year, they must be received or postmarked by December 31, 2020.
Lexi Everett has been diagnosed with Covid-19, and is doing well. Her energy has been good and she's not had a fever. Please keep Lexi in your prayers as she continues to get better, and Shelley and John in your prayers for their continuing good health as well.
Everyone on the stewardship team is grateful beyond measure for the community we have at Trinity and the generous giving the church has received this year. Thank you; we are blessed!
It’s quite a challenge to be fully present in the moment and not to let one’s thoughts drift to the future. There is a familiar Bible verse that speaks to this dichotomy: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.” While believing in that scripture, the stewardship team takes their responsibility to think ahead very seriously, in order to create a budget that supports Trinity’s ministry, mission, and staff.
Our receiving treasurer, Louise Taff, has shared that she has received $177,190 in estimates of giving, which is 81% of our $218,000 operating budget goal for 2021. What does this mean? If the church remains short of its goal, we will have the options of trimming our staff budget, drawing from the Milner Memorial fund, or a combination of the two, in addition to tightening ministry budgets. However, we have faith that God will provide, and we strive not to fret.
There is time to return a pledge if you haven’t done so. Simply send aconfidential email to Louiseand she’ll record your estimate of giving. If you have already pledged and feel called to do so, would you prayerfully consider increasing your giving? And please know we fully understand your concerns if you are unable to pledge in 2021. It would help Louise greatlyif you would email herto say you’ll give as you are able, but aren’t pledging.
Once we’re in early January, the stewardship team will ask Louise to share the total amount pledged. We’ll keep you apprised as we work together to build a budget for 2021. And again, thank you for the many ways you support Trinity!
Trinity's in-person activities are suspended through Sunday, January 25th. Session will meet on Monday, January 18th to determine if the suspension of activities should continue, based on health guidelines.