Friday, December 13, 2019 Newsletter

9:00 a.m. Contemporary in the Kirk Center
10:30 a.m. Traditional in the Sanctuary

Children’s Sunday School during both services

Join us for Hospitality in Fellowship Hall after each of our services!

Advent has become an increasingly unusual season in the Christian church because it stands in significant contrast to the way in which the general culture prepares for Christmas. In terms of our theology and worship, Advent is not simply intended to be a “tailgate party” for Christmas, gathering together to wait for the big game with increasing amounts of fun and festivity.

Rather, Advent is intended to be a time of anticipation and active preparation for the coming of Christ, recognizing that the world is not how God intends it to be, and claiming the hope that, in Jesus Christ, God has established the reign of God on Earth and will bring it to full fruition at the end of time.
In fact, for many centuries Advent was a season of individual fasting and prayer as part of that preparation, like Lent, which is part of why the color of Advent is purple, just like Lent. T hat’s also why this third week of Advent is unusual even within the season of Advent.

You’ve probably noticed that one of the candles on the Advent wreath is pink, not purple; that is the candle we will light this week, the third week of Advent, which has the theme of Joy. 
Advent is no longer observed by Presbyterians as a penitential season, but it retains a sense of thoughtful and prayerful introspection and preparation.  But when Advent really was a season of penance, the ecumenical church realized that joy is an essential part of anticipating the coming of Christ, but it was being obscured by the somberness of the Advent season.

So they established Gaudete Sunday as the third Sunday of Advent. “Gaudete” is Latin for “Rejoice,” and it was chosen as the theme of the third Sunday of Advent to emphasize that Christians can and do rejoice as the coming of Christ draws near.
And, here at First Pres and in an increasing number of congregations across the country, there is a service that is also a bit unusual but very important for the season.

On Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 6:30 p.m., we will hold a Longest Night Service . It takes its name and theme from the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, which comes just before Christmas on Dec. 21.

The idea is that Christmas can be especially difficult for people who are experiencing a significant loss in their life: the death of a loved one; the loss of a job; the demise of a relationship; the letting go of a dream. All the pressure in the general culture and to be “full of Christmas cheer,” and even the church’s emphasis on rejoicing at this point in Advent, can be isolating and even oppressive at times.

So the Longest Night Service provides a space to acknowledge the losses with which we are struggling, and offers an experience of hope that, as Scripture says, “a light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”

So, if you or someone you know is struggling with loss, I hope that the Longest Night Service will be of help in this season of Advent and as Christmas approaches. And let us all continue to pray for the coming of Christ as we claim God’s blessings of hope, peace, joy, and love in this season of Advent. 

Grace and Peace,

Isaiah 35:1-10  
Luke 1:39-55
·      This week’s sermon: A Magnifying Faith by Rev. J.C. Austin        

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
We are fortunate to have several opportunities to hear the joyful voices of children in song during this Advent season.

We heard from the Children’s Christmas Choir on the first day of Advent, and they will sing again at the Christmas Joy Concert (Sunday, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.).
We will also hear them at the 5 p.m. Intergenerational service on Christmas Eve. They are directed by Rev. Cynthia Simmons.

This Sunday, our Sunday School children from the 10:30 a.m. class will sing at both the Contemporary and Traditional services, under the direction of JoAnne Turcott.

NOTE: Singers in the Children’s Christmas Choir will have their regular weekly rehearsal from 9:45 – 10:45 a.m. this Sunday in the Children’s Library. Children who are in both singing groups will be escorted to and from the rehearsal, as needed.

Look for envelopes in the Sanctuary pews, Rotunda, Narthex, and brochure racks to make a donation toward a poinsettia to help decorate our church. Orders are due by this Monday, Dec. 16; instead of a set price, we ask you to make a donation amount of your choice.

You can designate your gift “in honor” or “in memory” of a loved one, if you like. Envelopes can go in the collection plate or to the Main Office.
The second annual Giving Tree is now in place through through Tuesday, Dec. 24 in Fellowship Hall. As last year, you can purchase everything from a family of chickens to water systems for people around the world, where they are needed.
Choose your ornament(s), get your gift card and return all payments (made out to PCUSA) to Fellowship Hall or the Main Office no later than Dec. 24 (you can also drop in the collection plate). 

This is a thoughtful way to honor a family member or friend during the holiday season, while helping our neighbors around the globe.
FOR ADVENT… help us spread the word about our events and services
  • If you are on Facebook, you can go to our page (@FirstPresBethlehem) to share our event posts with your Facebook friends (please add a few words of your own so your post goes to more people).

  • We also have postcards available with this info – these are available to share with friends and family. If you mail it, please affix first class postage. These are in the brochure racks and in the Narthex and Rotunda.

During the Advent and Christmas season, the church’s response to God’s generosity takes on the very character of our savior, who pointed to God through love and justice, peace and compassion, forgiveness and humility. The Presbyterian Church USA reflects God’s gift to us, through the Christmas Joy Offering, with gifts supporting church leaders: retired, present and future.

Envelopes are at the end of each pew, in the Rotunda, and in the racks around the church. This offering will be taken each Sunday through Dec. 22.
Jan Bickford is leading an Advent Meditation series that will continue through Sunday, Dec. 22. Everyone is welcome to attend (Room 400 on Sundays at 9 a.m.) – it offers a quiet time of contemplation in a hectic holiday season, and you do not need to attend every session.

Last Sunday we looked at Raphael’s painting of The VIsitation , showing Mary in her visit with Elizabeth.
Jan asks us to read the following text daily until we meet again Sunday: Luke 1:39-56. Small journals were also distributed to each class participant to record their thoughts during this Advent journey.
OPTIMISM 101: Positive outlooks for the new year
Our church has been blessed with a faithful, diverse, kind, caring and supportive group of people dealing with depression in a number of roles. Some members are dealing with individual depression, some are supporting family members experiencing new trauma or situational depression and some are dealing with long-term issues arising from physical and emotional turmoil. 
This group – formerly known as the Depression Support Group - has worked hard and has moved on to a new level of support for each other. We will focus on strength-based approaches that emphasize optimism, growth, short-term problem solving along with continued unconditional support.
Please join us Tuesdays at noon as we explore the healing effects of optimism while addressing ongoing challenges (no meetings on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31). Our group is now known as the Optimism 101 group.

For more information, contact Melody Engel at
Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m.: Longest Night service – for those who are experiencing any kind of loss during this holiday season

Sunday, Dec. 22 at 4 p.m.: Christmas Joy Concert, featuring FPCB’s Chancel Choir and Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir, Children’s Christmas Choir, Charter Arts High School Touring Choir, and Elysium String Quartet
Tuesday, Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve services:
  • 5 p.m.: Intergenerational Service (designed for all ages with elements of both traditional and contemporary music, including music by the Children’s Christmas Choir and Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir); child care available
  • 7:30 p.m.: Traditional Candlelight Service (featuring music by the FPCB Chancel Choir and Hill-to-Hill Brass Quartet); child care available
  • 11 p.m.: Candlelight Service with communion for those who wish to participate.
Many thanks to our dedicated - and talented - volunteers who decorated
our church for the Christmas season!
Doing your grocery shopping at Giant? Register your Giant Bonus Card with our Preschool code, and a portion of your purchase will go to them. Easy instructions are here.
We would like to know when our members are entering the hospital. Please tell the hospital that your church ID is 724 and they will contact us. You can also contact Melody Engel at 484-695-4905 or to keep us up to date.
Send us your news and photos to share:
Deadline for next week's newsletter: Wednesday at noon
* * *
And follow us on Facebook : @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • After each service: Hospitality Hour; join us in Fellowship Hall for light refreshments and fellowship
  • 9:00 a.m. - Contemporary Service, Kirk Center
  • 9:00 a.m. - Adult Education, Hearts N Minds, Room 400
  • 9:00 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5, Room A4
  •  9:45-10:15 a.m. - Children’s Christmas Choir rehearsal; gather in Children's Library
  • 10:30 a.m. - Traditional Service, Sanctuary
  • 10:30 a.m. - Sunday School, Pre-K through Grade 5 (Children attend first part of worship service), Room E3-4
  • Childcare for Infants and Toddlers, 8:30 a.m. to noon, Room A3

MONDAYS: “It’s a Start” Fitness Class, 10 a.m., Middle School Step Room
TUESDAYS:   Optimism 101 (formerly Depression Support Group, see article above) ,
12:30-2:30 p.m., Room 206
WEDNESDAY: Overcomers Outreach, 7 p.m., Room 420
THURSDAY: Al-Anon Family Group , 7 p.m., Room 212

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: Jan. 5): Blood Pressure Screenings, before Combined Service,
North Link
SECOND SUNDAYS ( next: Jan. 12 ) : Bereavement Group gathering; meet
after 10:30 a.m. service to travel to Kirkland Village
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: Dec. 17): Successful Aging, 10:30 a.m.,
Room 412
THIRD WEDNESDAY ( no meeting in December; next: Jan. 15 ):  Dementia Caregiver
Support Group, 1 p.m., Room 206 (PW Room
THIRD THURSDAY ( no meeting in December; next: Jan. 16): Prayers & Squares,
10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Room 408 (bring your lunch and join us to create quilts and prayer

CHURCH OFFICE HOURS: We are open Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. As always, you can leave a voicemail message with the church any time at 610-867-5865 or contact us at . I f you have an urgent pastoral need, please call our answering service at 610-778-7003.

The Main Office will be closed on Tuesday, Dec. 24, and the building will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 25 and Thursday, Dec. 26; the building re-opens on Monday, Dec. 30 and will close at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 31. The building will be closed on Wednesday, Jan. 1 and will re-open on Thursday, Jan. 2.

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 ( note new phone): 610-737-4074  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 Manager: ext. 210;

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; ext. 238;

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