Friday, December 20, 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!
Due to the Christmas holiday, we have changed our
deadline for next week's newsletter to NOON on Monday, Dec. 23.
The distribution schedule will stay the same: print newsletters will be mailed on Thursday, and the email newsletter will go out on
Friday morning at 7:15.
We will follow the same schedule for the following week.

Christmas is almost here! The busyness of the season is in full swing, I know, and that is certainly the case here at First Pres over the next few days. But in the midst of that busyness, I hope that you will both seek and find time for reflection, celebration, and simply “being” with others rather than being swallowed by all the “doing” that tends to happen at this time of year.

To that end, there are several special opportunities to do just that in the life of the church over the next few days, and I want to encourage you to take advantage of those as Advent comes to a close and the Christmas celebrations begin.

This Sunday is the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, of course, and we will be observing that in the regular worship services Sunday morning. And I don’t want to move too quickly past that, which is tempting throughout Advent, but particularly as Christmas draws so close.

So as Advent comes to an end, I invite you to be intentional about that ending. One way to do so is to read an excellent reflection on the meaning of Advent that was published by an Anglican priest at the start of Advent; you can find it here . It beautifully captures the power of Advent as a season with its own power and as a means of equipping us to more fully cherish the joy and hope embodied in Christ’s birth.
After worship services on Sunday morning, we begin moving into Christmas. That begins on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. with the Christmas Joy Concert offered by the Chancel Choir. This is a festive and beautiful offering for which our choir has worked long and hard in preparation; they will be joined by our Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir and Children’s Christmas Choir, and guests, the Charter Arts High School Touring Choir and Elysium String Quartet. It will be a wonderful way to pivot towards Christmas, and I hope you will make a special effort to join me in attending. 
Christmas Eve, of course, is our highest day of celebrating Christ’s birth. We will again be offering three services that evening; each service includes a candlelight observance while singing “Silent Night,” and the same sermon will be preached at each, as well. So it is a matter of which service is best for you.

The services at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. will follow a “Lessons and Carols” format for most of the service, while the service at 11 p.m. is a Christmas Communion service, with carols as the hymns. The service at 5 p.m. will include our Contemporary Worship Band for prelude music and an anthem, and the Children’s Christmas Choir and Chancel Ringers will also provide special music. The 7:30 p.m. service includes the Chancel Choir and guest, Hill to Hill Brass Quartet. Child care is available for the 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. services. Whatever service you choose, it will be an evening of joyful celebration.

I look forward to being in worship with you this Sunday and on Christmas Eve if you are in town; if you are traveling, know that you are in our prayers as you do so, and I hope it is a merry and blessed Christmas for you wherever you may be!

Grace and Peace,

Isaiah 7:10-16  
Matthew 1:18-25
·      This week’s sermon:  Love in the Background  by Rev. J.C. Austin        

·       We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
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).
Our annual Christmas Joy Concert will feature FPCB’s Chancel Choir and Chancel Ringers Handbell Choir, both directed by music director David Macbeth, and our Children’s Christmas Choir, directed by Rev. Cynthia Simmons.
They will be joined by Charter Arts High School Touring Choir, also directed by David, and the Elysium String Quartet.

Everyone is welcome to attend this festive celebration, so be sure to tell your friends! It begins at 4 p.m. in the Sanctuary, and includes a carol sing-along.
NOTE: Families of those who are singing in the Children’s Christmas Choir, please be sure to look for an email from Cindy Simmons about rehearsal and arrival times for the Sunday and Tuesday events.
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.
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. 
Many thanks to those who made a donation towards the purchase of the poinsettias gracing our church! If you made a donation, you are welcome to take home a plant after you attend service on Christmas Eve.
Jan Bickford is leading an Advent Meditation series that will conclude this Sunday, Dec. 22. Everyone is welcome to attend (Room 400 on Sunday at 9 a.m.) it offers a quiet time of contemplation in a hectic holiday season, and you need not have attended previous sessions.
Last Sunday we looked at a painting of Joseph and Mary as they looked for lodging for the night. We spoke about Joseph and how he was in it for the ‘long haul’ – protecting and standing by Mary.  The angel gave Joseph shocking news – his betrothed was already with child – a community scandal. Still Joseph, a righteous man, listened and acted.

Jan told us how the stories in Matthew 1:18-24 are a 'koan', a zen term meaning ‘nothing makes sense’.

There will be no class on Sunday, Dec. 29; when we return on Jan. 5 we will revisit the classic book by Sister Joan Chittister, For Everything a Season (you are welcome even if you did not attend the earlier sessions).
Elder Joanne Kelhart, chair of the Worship Committee, has put out a call for assistance for these two volunteer positions:

·          Coordinator of the readers for the worship services. This was being done by Cindy Simmons but she will no longer be doing it; however, she will still do the intros. The coordinator will maintain the list of readers for both services and schedule them to read. They also need to be able to email the volunteers and send them a schedule.

·          Coordinator of the greeters for the worship services; same tasks as the above position - this person will put together a schedule and contact the greeters. 

Both of these jobs are done bimonthly. For more information or to volunteer, contact Joanne at .
At the January Stated Assembly of Lehigh Presbytery we will have a special speaker, Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains. Tod will share a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you re-imagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world.

It will be held on Friday, Jan. 24 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. at our church. Watch for further details!
Elizabeth Escott is the recipient of a $10,000 award from the Barry Brandt Educational Assistance Fund of our church’s endowment. This grant, which is awarded on academic standing and financial need, will be applied to her spring 2020 tuition.

Elizabeth regularly cuts short vacations to consult with a struggling non-profit in Morgantown, WV, or heads for Central America to work with indigenous people who need a partner to craft a business plan. One summer she interned at The Haiti Health Trust where people faced hardship long after a devastating earthquake.  
Elizabeth is a lifelong member of our church and a junior at West Virginia University, majoring in nonprofit management and community organization, with minors in Spanish, political science and sociology.

Her courses focus on service-learning projects where teams listen to members of a community about what they need; they build meaningful relationships with clients. Elizabeth’s team contributes to their learning through studies, personal experiences, and past service.
“I believe that is what Christ has called me to do. He humbled me with all of the love and forgiveness He has for us, even when we act selfishly and cruelly. In gratitude for that compassion, I try to spread His message and His purpose for believers: listening, loving, and serving my neighbors - all my neighbors,” she shares.
She continues: “Jesus Christ is the Lord of my life and is ever present. I believe that He is the Son of God - an example for how we should all live as both His children and servants. I believe in a God that calls me to love others unconditionally because we are each made in His image. I believe in a Jesus that made people uncomfortable, by breaking every boundary to include the excluded. I believe in a Holy Spirit that lives in and through me to convict me and humble me on my walk of faith.”

“… FPC Bethlehem has shaped my life and trajectory.
Thank you for teaching me what it looks like
to lead a life of service.”
  • 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.
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: Monday 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

  • 4:00 p.m. - "Christmas Joy Concert", Sanctuary

FIRST SUNDAYS (next: Jan. 5): Blood Pressure Screenings, before Combined Service,
North Link
SECOND SUNDAYS ( next: Jan. 12 ) : Bereavement Group gathering; watch for details
FIRST AND THIRD TUESDAYS (next: Jan. 7): 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 typically 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.

Monday, Dec. 23: Office and building open
Tuesday, Dec. 24: Office closed; building open
Wednesday, Dec. 25 and Thursday, Dec. 26: Office and building closed
Friday, Dec. 27: Office closed; building open
Monday, Dec. 30: Office and building open
Tuesday, Dec. 31: Office closes at noon; building open
Wednesday, Jan. 1: Office and building closed
Thursday, Jan. 2: Office and building open

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;