Friday, December 18, 2020 Newsletter


9:00 a.m. Contemporary
11:00 a.m. Traditional (also available on our website and via phone)

Because of the Christmas holiday, next week's newsletter will be emailed to you on Wednesday, December 23. There will be no issue of the Spotlight newsletter for next week.

The deadline for the newsletter moves to Tuesday at noon; send any information to Thank you!
A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: Grieving Our Losses
For the second year in a row, a snowstorm has disrupted our “Longest Night” Service, this year postponing it to the actual “longest night:” the winter solstice on Monday, December 21.

As I’ve said previously, this is an important service in ordinary times, providing space for those who are grieving a loss in their lives in some way (whether a person, a job, an experience, a dream) to engage the deep truths of Advent and Christmas without feeling forced into experiences of cheer that they are not feeling. And this year, it seems particularly important, because all of us, simply by living through the pandemic, have multiple dimensions of loss to grieve.
Yet it also occurs to me that there is something both ironic and powerful in having our scheduled service to address the losses we are carrying so disrupted.

Because the truth is that grief over a loss does not keep a tight schedule. Grief does not show up for a cup of tea when it’s invited, have a good visit, and then leave with vague assurances that we should do this again sometime. 
Grief often comes knocking uninvited at all hours, wanting to sit up sharing stories and feelings all night. Grief frequently overstays its welcome, or arrives at an awkward time when you’re really trying to spend time with other people or doing other things. And grief demands your attention anytime it shows up, and often doesn’t listen when you ask it to quiet down or come back another time.

But I also think that’s why setting aside time to focus on our feelings and experiences of loss is also important, especially as Christians. Because grief can also be very isolating, particularly in the lead-up to Christmas.

So it’s helpful to know there is space in which we can both invite grief to show up for some intentional time we have set aside for it, and space in which we can be with others who are doing the same, and know that even though the particularities of grief are as unique as the reasons for it, there are many others going through a similar experience within whom we can both give and receive support through our prayers and presence.       

So, I hope that you will come be a part of the Longest Night Service on Monday, December 21 at 6:30 p.m. You will need to prepare your elements for home communion, and I encourage you to have a candle or candles available for lighting, as there is a candlelighting ritual that is an important part of this service.

You will also have the opportunity to virtually light candles representing the loss or losses that you are carrying during the service; we will explain how to do that in the service itself. In the meantime, God’s blessings of comfort and peace be with you as we approach the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and prepare to give thanks for the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas!

Grace and Peace,

Scripture lesson:

Click the link to read online
·   This week's sermon: Do Not Be Afraid by Rev. J.C. Austin

·     We post each week’s sermon
(audio and text) on our website:
TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT on 8.5" x 11" paper

Monday at 6:30 p.m.
on Facebook Live and our website*

Everyone is welcome to join in this special service to acknowledge and reflect on the losses they've experienced - whether death, employment, health, relationships, dreams, or other losses.
The service will include special messages and Communion (to participate, prepare your elements of a bread or bread-like item, plus grape juice, wine or water). There is also a candlighting portion, so you will want to have candle(s) on hand.

We'll also enjoy special music by soprano soloist Rebecca Erhardt (left), and Dr. Aaron Patterson, saxophonist.

*To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 834 9521 3745 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.
Thursday, December 24
all offered via Facebook Live and on our website*

All services will include a candlelight portion – please have your own candles ready!

5-5:30 p.m.: Intergenerational Service
In addition to being live streamed, this service will also be offered outside in front of the church building. Please bring your own chairs and wear masks; physical distancing and other protocols will be in place. Appropriate for all ages. Candles and bulletins will be provided for attendees.

Please let us know if you plan to attend by completing this short online form.

7:00 p.m.: Traditional Service
Join us for a pastoral message, and special music by guest vocalists Madison Zahorsky (soprano) and Bryan McClary (baritone), and the Hill to Hill Brass Quintet. The church’s Chancel Choir will also present a virtual anthem.
11:00 p.m.: Communion Service
This service will include the components of the 7:00 p.m. service, along with the celebration of communion. If you would like to participate in communion, prepare your elements beforehand: bread or a bread-like item (cracker, pita, roll, etc.) and grape juice, wine or water.
* To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 815 4991 0311, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – press the # key again.

As we approach the conclusion of Advent, the Discipleship Committee invites you to join with them in experiencing anew the anticipation of Christ's birth.  

This past week over 30 participants enjoyed the third week of our illuminated Spiral Advent Walk, offered between 4-6 p.m. For those who are interested and able, it will be offered again this Sunday.
A journal, pen, LED candle (and flashlight if needed) will be available for you, as well as guides for any additional assistance. 

For this week beginning on Sunday the reflection will be on "Love". The scripture, meditation and questions are available to print here, which you can use as your Advent devotional.
Join us, reflect with us, and celebrate the meaning of the birth of Christ. 
Donations needed by Sunday

The Congregational Life team asks you to consider making donations that will be shared with organizations in our community. Each week will feature a different category; we ask that you help as you are able – you can make one delivery with any of these items, or make them during their designated week.
If you are attending the Spiral Advent Walk on Sunday (see above), there will be collection bins available near the Memorial Garden during that time.

You can also deliver to collection bins that are outside the South Entrance of the building; please do not come inside.
For your convenience, we have created a list of the requested items that you can print. Thank you for considering this opportunity to support our neighbors!

The third annual Giving Tree will be in place through Thursday, December 24 - virtually for this year.
As last year, you can purchase everything from famine relief food vouchers to winter heating fuel for refugees around the world. People who have given in the past will have received a catalog from which they can choose items.

You can also view the catalog online at
If you did not receive a catalog, there are copies at the church office (South) entrance or on the Spiral Walks on Sunday (we can also drop one in the mail to you; contact us at On the order form, people can request gift cards. Payment can be by check or credit card. Do not make the check out to FPCB. You can designate the church affiliation, if you desire. 

Send the check and the order form in the enclosed envelope (from the catalog) directly to PCUSA. Remember people overseas are also in need in the time of COVID.
“Advent of the Spirit”
Sundays at 9:00 a.m. via Zoom

For Advent, we are going to turn our hearts and minds to a more contemplative mode, using a series of lectures created by the late Richard O’Donnell, teacher, counselor, former priest, and a true Renaissance man. 

One of the many things Richard did was to conduct series of lectures and discussions, known as the Hortensius Academy, over dinners in his Allentown home. His lectures reflect his gentle spirit and expansive intellect, his humor and wide reading, and offer insights into human spirituality that are most appropriate to consider at this time as we await the incarnation.

Richard's education took him from Villanova University to the Gregorian University in Rome to Fordham University, Catholic University in DC, and Columbia. In Lehigh and Northampton counties, Richard's work centered around drug and alcohol counseling and teaching, reflecting his life-long commitment to education and service. "Spirituality was the milieu in which he lived and breathed" ( 10, 2019).

The four lectures are available to listen to, on our church website.* You will need to devote about an hour a week to listen to each lecture, each "soliloquy," either in pieces or all at once and to take notes, if you're so inclined, or listen more than once. You could consider listening to a segment each day as a daily devotional but please note, you do not need to listen to the lectures to attend class.

Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450

To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.

We are pleased to offer two Sunday School options for families! Gather with other families on Sunday mornings between 10:15-10:45 a.m. for a Zoom session; you can also do “anytime” Sunday School with a prerecorded series of videos and related resources that you can access on our website when convenient. These are updated weekly.
This week's lesson is from Luke 2: 1-7:
Christmas is about celebrating Jesus, God's Greatest Gift. God loved us so much that he gave us a Savior.

To join the Zoom meeting from 10:15-10:45 a.m.: / Meeting ID: 928 9221 9682 / Password: 369116

A favorite tradition for many is the annual Bach Choir Christmas concert. As with many things, it took a new turn
this year with an online version.

You can view it anytime on YouTube.
The concert also will be shown on 69-WFMZ-TV tomorrow (Saturday, December 19) at 7 p.m. and on Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24) at 10 p.m.
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 Phil
Fair at to keep us up to date.

Send any prayer requests to or call 610-867-5865 and leave a message.
Send us your news and photos to share:
**Deadline for next week's newsletter: TUESDAY at noon**
* * *
And follow us on Facebook: @FirstPresBethlehem
Your likes / comments / shares help us spread the word about First Pres!

  • 9:00 a.m.: Contemporary Worship Service - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online
  • 9:00 a.m.: Hearts N Minds adult ed – see more information above
  • 10:15-10:45 a.m.: Sunday School via Zoom – see more information above
  • 11:00 a.m.: Traditional Worship Service - see instructions in blue box, below, to join us online, and in the yellow box to join us via phone 
  • 4:00 - 6:00 p.m.: Spiral Advent Walk, Memorial Garden - see more information above
FOR THIS SUNDAY: : Worship with us “Live” on Facebook
9 a.m. - Contemporary Worship Service
11 a.m. - Traditional Worship Service
To watch “live”- as it happens:
  • Visit our Facebook page and look for the post with our live feed
  • If you don’t have a Facebook account, go to our website to view the service
  • Please check in with a comment so we know you’ve joined us!
  • NEW: Captions will now be available on our livestream, for those who would like to use that feature
To watch a video – available after the services have aired: Visit our website

We will offer the TRADITIONAL WORSHIP SERVICE (at 11 a.m. on Sunday) with an ‘audio-only’ option so you can listen to it on your phone. 

Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 955 325 387 followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.
  • 6:30 p.m.: Longest Night Service – see more information above

  • 7 p.m.: Overcomer’s Outreach Christian 12 Step Recovery Group weekly meeting, via Zoom (Meeting # 380 435 9056 / Password: overcomer)

ALL OTHER PUBLIC EVENTS AND GATHERINGS ARE CANCELLED AT THIS TIME unless offered online (see listings on our Facebook page under “Events”)

CHURCH OFFICE AND BUILDING INFO: The office staff is working remotely and checking email and voicemail daily. The answering service (610-778-7003) can take your urgent pastoral concerns, 24 hours a day.

The staff will not be working on Thursday - Friday, December 24-25 for the Christmas holiday.
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: Phil Fair, Prayer Ministrant (
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 Associate: ext. 209;

David Macbeth, Music Director: ext. 202;

Cristy Mette, Administrative Operations Manager: ext. 228;

Rebecca Angione, Facilities Manager: ext. 210;

Marianne Zarillo, Business Manager: email:

Cindy Matthews, Bookkeeper: email:

Carol Burns, Communications Manager; phone 610-428-9649;

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