December 21, 2018



Children's Sunday School during both services

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!
When I first visited the “other” Bethlehem (the one where Jesus was born!), we first visited the Church of the Nativity, which marks the traditional spot where Jesus was born. The church sits at one end of a large public area called, fittingly, Manger Square. I remember going in the church and waiting in line to see the shrine that marks the precise location where the manger was thought to be. As I waited, a group of German pilgrims came into the church and began singing Silent Night in four-part harmony (and in the original German). As their voices rang through the church, an attendant hurried over to the group and began hissing in English to them, “Stop that! No singing! You must be silent in the church!” 
That basically set the tone for my experience there at the church: everything felt very controlled and a bit distant; even the spot marking the manger was brick and stone, and looked more like a fireplace than anything else. Disappointed, I filed out of the church and we left the center of town and headed to one of the two traditional sites for the Shepherd’s Field in the hills that surround Bethlehem.  (Right: The FPCB Preschool students at their Christmas Chapel)
We came around a corner and suddenly stopped: a local man and his son, carrying staffs, were ushering a flock of sheep down one of the hills and across the road. We waited several minutes, then finally the man waved and stepped off the road, sitting on a small rock as he watched his flock settle into a new grazing area. That moment, more than anything else in Bethlehem, made the reality of where I was come alive: this was the exact same area where shepherds were surprised by the heavenly host as they kept watch over their flocks.

As we observe the end of Advent and celebrate the coming of Christ on Christmas Eve, we are offering a number of different opportunities in our church life that help you experience the reality of the Christmas story once more. This Sunday at 10 AM in Fellowship Hall, we will have a special offering from some of our children telling the story of that famous German carol, Silent Night , and why it has become so beloved across the world.

And on Monday, there will be three different candlelight Christmas Eve services: an Intergenerational Service at 5 PM, with traditional and contemporary music selection, including our new Handbell Choir; a classic traditional Christmas Eve Candlelight service at 7:30 PM with our Chancel Choir and the Hill to Hill Brass; and a more contemplative Candlelight Communion Service at 11 PM.

Whatever choices you make, I hope that you will find yourself in the very heart of the good news of Christ’s birth, and that you have a very joyful and blessed Christmas. 

Grace and Peace,
  • Come enjoy the story of Silent Night, as told by our Sunday School children and high school youth – at 10 AM in Fellowship Hall (the Contemporary service and Adult Education will conclude in time for you to attend). More details below.
  • Hospitality will be offered after each of our two services, in Fellowship Hall.
 The office will be closed from Friday, December 21 through Monday, December 31 when it will be open from 9 AM – noon. We will be closed on Tuesday, January 1. We will re-open on Wednesday, January 2 with our regular office hours of Monday through Thursday from 9 AM to 4 PM.
All members of our church family are invited to attend a brief presentation in Fellowship Hall at 10:00 AM this Sunday, December 23, when the children of our church school and some of our high school youth will tell the story of the carol, Silent Night. 
This year, we celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the writing of this carol, and so it is a good time to tell the story of how Silent Night was written, how it spread, and the impact it has had on our world.

Whether you worship at 9:00 or at 10:30, our young people hope you will come to Fellowship Hall at 10:00 for this special presentation. We have kept it simple – like the carol itself – but hope you will come away with a deeper appreciation of this beloved piece of music.
We are in need of some extra hands for Christmas Eve, and again on Thursday, December 27 to help with post-Christmas clean-up. Please email us at if you can help. For Christmas Eve:

  • Greet and assist guests arriving and leaving for each service (both outside and inside the building; come half an hour before the service).
  • Help refresh the sanctuary between the services (change out the organ loft candles and refresh candle cup bins).

Volunteers are welcomed on Thursday, December 27 from 9 AM-noon for general clean-up (remove candle wax, vacuum, etc.). Meet in the Narthex.
The Christmas Joy Offering, with gifts supporting church leaders, retired, present and future, will be taken for the last time this Sunday, December 23. Envelopes and informational brochures are at the end of each pew and in the racks throughout the church. 
A $2000 donation was made by FPCB to the Disaster Relief Fund of PCUSA’s Presbyterian Mission. They write:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1) ‘Comfort my people’ is a divine command people of faith are eager to obey. How many times we yearn to fulfill that command when we see pictures of hurricane destruction in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the surrounding islands, a community gathered in candlelight vigil following violence in Charlottesville, or a child playing on hard baked ground between tattered tents in a refugee camp in South Sudan.

“Your prayers and gifts enable Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and our partners across the globe to manifest God-with-us, Emmanuel, to those in chaos and despair. Your generous gift is a gift that makes divine comfort real, helping those afflicted by disaster touch the tangible presence of Love. Maybe peace be with you, in all seasons.”
Are you considering an end of year gift to First Pres, to take advantage of tax benefits for charitable giving? Gifts postmarked by December 31, 2018 will count as current gifts per the IRS regulation. The church office will be open Monday, December 31 from 9 AM until noon for friends making last minute contributions.
Stock gifts should be made well before the last day of the year as brokerage offices and financial institutions tend to get ‘backed up’ and, if there are any complications, you could miss the window of opportunity. If you have questions, contact Linda Robertson at or 610-865-2087. 
Hearts N Minds is concluding a four week Advent study this Sunday based on the book, Simply Wait: Cultivating Stillness in the Season of Advent , by Pamela Hawkins. Please join us even if you've not read the book or attended other sessions.
The first two Sundays in January, Ron Helmuth will lead the Hearts N Minds class in an exploration of the lectionary readings from the prior Sunday. We are starting the New Year with a planful study of Scripture and how to apply it to our daily living. Then, on January 20, the class will begin a study of Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.
It’s not too late to support the FPCB Preschool Bookfair at Barnes & Noble.

Visit and enter Bookfair ID 12388229 at checkout; a percentage of any purchases made through December 22 will be credited to our Preschool program.

Preschool to Grade 5

For the 9:00 service, the class is in room A4 in the childcare suite on the first floor of the Kirk Center (near the Kirk Center lobby). Parents are asked to bring their children to A4 before the service.

During the 10:30 service, the children will attend the first part of worship with their families and leave with their teachers after the Children’s Chat. Please remember to sign up your children in the Narthex before going into the service.

The same curriculum will be used in both classes, and, as in the past, child care will be available during both services for younger children. If you have any questions, please contact  Elizabeth Conard .
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Deadline for newsletter: Wednesday at noon
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·         Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each service; join us for light refreshments and
·         9:00 AM Contemporary Service, Kirk Center
·         9:00 AM Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5, Room A4
·         9:00-9:45 AM Adult Education, Hearts N Minds, Room 400
·          10:00 AM The Telling of the Story of Silent Night, Fellowship Hall – all welcome
·         10:30 AM Traditional Service, Sanctuary
·         10:30 AM Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5 (Children attend first part of
worship service), Room E3-4
·         Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 AM to 12 PM, Room A3

MONDAYS: It’s a Start fitness class, 10 AM, Middle School Step (no class on Monday, December 24)
TUESDAYS: Easy Balance and Strength fitness class, 9:30 AM, Room 178 (no class on Tuesday, December 25)
TUESDAYS:  Handbell Choir rehearsal, 5:30-6:30 PM, Middle School Step (no class on Tuesday, December 25)
WEDNESDAYS: Overcomers Outreach, 7 PM, Room 408 (no gathering on Wednesday, December 26)
THURSDAYS: Choir Rehearsal, 7 PM, Sanctuary (no rehearsal on Thursday,
December 27)

FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (January 15): Successful Aging, 10:30 AM, Room 412
THIRD WEDNESDAY (January 16): Dementia Caregiver Support Group, 1:00 PM, Room 206 (PW Room)

Friday, January 11: Family Movie Night, Moana (good for ages 6 and older). Serving pizza and beverages at 6 PM; movie begins at 6:30 PM. In Fellowship Hall – we will take a monetary donation for the pizza. No registration needed.

Saturday, January 26: Restorative Practices: Changing our Response to Wrongdoing , a presentation by Bob Costello appropriate for middle schoolers, young adults, and adults of all ages. Free and open to the public. 9 AM-noon in Fellowship Hall; sign up details coming soon.

CHURCH OFFICE HOURS: The office will be closed from Friday, December 21 through Monday, December 31 when it will be open from 9 AM – noon. We will be closed on Tuesday, January 1. Regular office hours of Monday through Thursday from 9 AM to 4 PM will resume on Wednesday, January 2.

As always, you may leave a voicemail message with the church any time at 610-867-5865 or contact us at .

CARE CONCERNS AND HOSPITAL VISITS: If members of the FPCB congregation are hospitalized and would welcome pastoral and hospital ministrant visitors and/or prayers, please contact:
    Melody Engel, Hospital Ministrants, phone: 484-695-4905 or email 
    Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrants,  phone: 610-867-8361 or email   

BAPTISMS, WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS : If members of the FPCB congregation would like to schedule weddings, baptisms or funerals, please contact The Rev. Sue Bennetch at 610-867-5865, ext. 209.
First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem, PA 18017 ∙ 610-867-5865

The Rev. J.C. Austin , Pastor/Head of Staff: ext. 213,

The Rev. Sue Bennetch , Pastoral Care Associate: ext. 209;

David Macbeth , Music Director: ext. 202;

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Rebecca Angione, Facilities: ext. 210;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager: ext. 238;

Andrea Barbehenn , Preschool Director; phone: 610-867-2956;