This Sunday we begin a new sermon/study series for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Each week, we’ll look at a hymn and the theology reflected in it. We’ll be reading some of the traditional lectionary readings, scheduled readings for the church that repeat every three years. As we begin the readings for “Year B,” we are taking part in a tradition that dates back to the third century. The first Sunday in Advent is considered the beginning of a new Christian church year, so Happy New Year everyone!
What two words might you use to describe 2020? Mine are “flexible” and “creative!” MLEPC has had to be flexible in how we do worship; since March we went from two services of in-person worship to one service of on-line worship, then to one service of in-person worship with the opportunity for on-line worship. Now here we are again in our second week of on-line only worship due to a stay-at-home advisory. And we’ve had to be creative in how we do ministry. The Congregational Connections Ministry Team that I serve with has held some socially-distanced fellowship events like our upcoming Christmas tree decorating and lighting on December 6. Personally, my husband and I have found creative ways to spend time with our son and his wife who live in Squirrel Hill. In normal times we’d only gather for special occasions, now we’ve enjoyed weekly outside dinners together, because who has anything else to do? And when the weather doesn’t cooperate, we are flexible, we cross the river and hike with them in Frick Park. As we look for the positives, this has been precious time that we would never have had without the pandemic.
What two words might you use to describe Advent? What about “wait” and “watch?” In the Advent season, there is a tension between waiting to celebrate the birth of Jesus once again and being in this season where we are waiting for the Lord to come again. The word Advent comes from 1 Corinthians 16:22, the last verse of that letter. Paul writes, “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” The Aramaic word for come is “Maran'athah”, really two little words with two meanings, "our Lord comes," or “is coming." In our Gospel reading this week, Jesus tells us what to do as we “wait,” we are to “watch.” In Mark 13:32-37, just six verses, Jesus says to “keep awake” once and “stay awake” three times, reflecting the theme for the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas. We are to be alert and ready; in Advent, as we wait, we watch for the new thing God is doing through the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, the Word becoming flesh.
In 2020, Advent, Christmas and Epiphany come in a unique time in history. In another unique time in history, God came to earth as an infant, to redeem us and to offer us eternal life. The words of one of my favorite Advent hymns tell the story of Jesus from creation to eternity. “Creator of the Stars of Night,” written in the 7th century, is considered a plainsong, a type of church music sung in unison. Its melody is simple, singable and beautiful, and it connects us to believers from over 1,000 years ago.
Creator of the Stars of Night
J. M. Neale
Creator of the stars of night, Your people’s everlasting light,
O Christ, Redeemer of us all, we pray You, hear us when we call.
When this old world drew on toward night, You came, but not in splendor bright.
Not as a monarch but the child of Mary, blameless mother mild.
At your great name, O Jesus, now all knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
All things on earth with one accord, like those in heaven, shall call you Lord.
To God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, Three in One.
Praise, honor, might, and glory be from age to age eternally. Amen.
With Thanksgiving behind us, we enter the season of Advent. May this season be a time of blessing for you as wait and watch, with the assurance that Christ has come and Christ will come again.
In Christ’s Love,
Christmas Tree Lighting:
Please join us on the front lawn of the church on Sunday, December 6 at 4:30, for our first (annual) Christmas tree lighting! We invite you to help us tell the Christmas story to our community by bringing a weather resistant ornament that reflects something in the Christmas story (e.g., a star, an angel). Ornaments will be available if you are unable to bring one. Handcrafted ornaments are welcome! Please wear masks as we will sing some Christmas carols, dress appropriately for outside, and help us to shed the light of Christ to those passing by MLEPC. Socially-distanced places for you to stand will be marked with luminaria. If you are unable to come on December 6, we invite you to stop by the church anytime it is convenient and add an ornament to the tree throughout this Advent season.
Christmas Giving Tree:
Please return your gifts with their tags to the drive through lobby by Monday, December 7. Church is open 8-4 weekdays except for Thanksgiving and the day after. If you need someone to pick up your gift, please contact Pastor Linda, 412-531-3387 x207.
Brookline Food Pantry:
We will continue to collect food items until December 9. Most needed are box pasta, stuffing, cranberry sauce, canned soup, vegetables, and fruit.
Sunday School and Small Groups:
We are moving back online for Sunday School. The Adult class will continue on line for any adults who are interested. This is the link to log in at 11:15 - https://duq.zoom.us/j/97403542430 If you would like to be on the email list for the adult class, please let us know at email@example.com The Youth and Children’s classes are online as well, so email us if you would like information about how to connect with those groups.
In addition to these Sunday School offerings, we have several small groups meeting online, and we have groups for Tweeners, Middle School and High School, Young Adults, Women, Men, and coed groups. If you are interested in becoming part of one of these groups, please contact us at 412-531-3387 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like a copy of the new sermon/study packet mailed to you, please contact the church office.
Sunday Prayer Group:
A group of us gather on Zoom every Sunday at 7pm for an Hour of Prayer, and we would love to have you join us! Use this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/92561964416?pwd=NmZoNDV3dDNqSVFubW82TEx0bll0Zz09 for a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. You can also call in from a regular phone – dial 1-646-558-8656 and enter the Meeting ID - 925 6196 4416 and now add the password 798565. For more info, contact Pat Gaudio at email@example.com.
Thanksgiving Holiday Information:
Our church office will remain open from 8am-4pm on weekdays (closed Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week). If you have a pastoral care emergency, leave a message with Pastor Linda at 412-531-3387, ext 207, and she will return your call.
As always, please let us know if there is any way we can support you or connect with you during this season. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, with any needs, prayer requests, or just updates on how you are doing. And you are always welcome to call us at 412-531-3387.