December 9, 2021
Carlo Crivelli, The Annunciation with St. Emidius

Word from the Pastor:
Divine Communication

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
Luke 1:26–35, NRSV

Last week, we took up the heady topic of hypostatic union, the two natures of Christ in relation to his incarnation. The basic equation of the Chalcedonian definition is that Jesus as the Christ is the complete and unconfused union of a fully human nature (without sin) and a fully divine naturetwo natures, one person, in complete union. As my professor and preeminent Barth scholar George Hunsinger is fond of saying, the nature of the union is one of “unity-in-distinction.” Wrap your head around that mystery!

With that in mind, let’s revisit the majesty of that familiar story of when Gabriel met Mary to tell her that God favored (Greek root also used for “grace”) her. Just like us when we reflect on the gravity of who Jesus was, Mary was “much perplexed,” and would weigh the angel’s words in her heart. I can only imagine that her confusion rose as Gabriel told her that she would bear the Messiah.

Then Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would “overshadow” her, bringing forth this pregnancy that would bear the God-man into the world by means unknown to her then and still a mystery to us today. Imagine being told that the very Spirit of God would come to you and overshadow and hover over you, bringing forth life in your womb. We should note that the image Luke evokes here is meant to connect our imaginations to an earlier story in Scripture, namely the account of creation in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1:2, we are told that God’s Spirit “hovered” over the waters of chaos and, in a moment, God spoke the worlds into being.

Mary was being told that she was to be a vessel of God’s very life that brought creation into existence! God’s life would course through her very being. From the cells and blood and stuff of human origins contained in her body, God would condescend to us, become one of us, and take on full fellowship with our existence. Yes, God would share with us, right down to particular genetic expressions passed from one generation to the next. You might say that in the incarnation, Jesus, the Son of God, sanctified our creation, with which he now shared union, right down to the very molecules that would support his earthly life and breath. He was the new meeting place of heaven and earth (John 2:21), mediating God’s very life to us.

The words spoken to Mary, and the reality contained therein, are a holy mystery worthy of reflection. For nine months, the secret will of God’s reconciling purposes gestated inside her, preparing to make His way into the world. And as it was with all pregnancies, a bond was forged between mother and child that cannot be adequately described. His hunger became Mary’s hunger, and as he shifted around late at night, his discomfort became hers. There are mysteries here we can only begin to glimpse; stare too hard, and we might well go mad!

In case this all sounds like a bridge too far, or a bit too spooky (or Catholic), Calvin helps:

“Surely God does not have blood, does not suffer, cannot be touched with hands. But since Christ, who was true God and also true man, was crucified and shed his blood for us, the things that he carried out in his human nature are transferred improperly, although not without reason, to his divinity… But because the selfsame one was both God and man, for the sake of the union of both natures he gave to the one what belonged to the other.”Institutes, Book II, Ch. XIV, s.2

This is the doctrine of the “communication of properties” (Latin, communicatio idiomatum). At the heart of the doctrine is the claim that because of the union of God and man in Jesus, humanity shared in the divine life, and the divine shared, tasted, participated in human life (again, without sin!). It is an unequal sharing, to be sure (thus Calvin’s “improperly”), with the divine nature privileged in the exchange (for example, God cannot die as Jesus died, but God “tasted” death as the Son gave up this life on the cross).

Nevertheless, the union was full and perfect, and that means that God has elected to unite Himself with us in Jesus Christ, and that union extends to all dimensions of our lives. Yes, God, the creator of DNA, condescended to take on the limitations of particular genetic expression. God, the inventor of every delectable food in our world, chose to take on the pain of hunger. God of very God also shared the sacred bond of mother and child in the womb of the virgin.

Suffice it to say that in Jesus Christ, we have God’s choice for us in ways that we can only begin to fathom. Thanks be to God!

In Christ,
Pastor Sam
December 12
3rd Sunday of Advent
Psalm 106:43–48
Zephaniah 3:14–20
Philippians 4:4–7
“Rejoice, He Is Near!”
Sam Weddington
Last Sunday’s Attendance
9:00: In person: 153;
Livestream: 38; Playback: 127
11:00: In person: 100;
Livestream: 14; Playback: 78
Sunday, December 12
9:00 a.m.
Contemporary Worship
Fellowship Hall
10:10 a.m.
Sunday School
11:00 a.m.
Traditional Worship
5:00 p.m.
Children's Christmas Program
6:00 p.m.
Student Christmas Party
Fellowship Hall
Monday, December 13
10:00 a.m.
Staff Meeting
Room 123
7:00 p.m.
Building & Grounds Committee
Fellowship Hall
Worship Committee
Room 123
Tuesday, December 14
6:30 p.m.
Finance Committee
7:00 p.m.
Boy Scout Troop 3
Scout Hall
Wednesday, December 15
7:00 p.m.
Praise Band Practice
Fellowship Hall
7:15 p.m.
Choir Practice
Room 202
Thursday, December 16
7:00 a.m.
Men’s Bible Study
Children's Christmas Program Sunday
Our Children’s Ministries will present a special Christmas program this Sunday, December 12, at 5:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. Don’t miss it!

Remember to Pick Up
Your Advent Devotional
Our 2021 Advent devotional, composed by FPC members, is available for pickup in the narthex and the fellowship hallway. Please take only one per family. You can download copies from our website homepage or our Facebook page. Call the church office if you would like to have a devotional mailed to you.

Receive the Gift
of Reflection
Next Sunday, December 19, at 3:00 p.m. our organist, Bob Greene, will play a program of meditations on Advent. Don’t miss this opportunity for an hour of meditation mirrored in music. Come to the sanctuary and ponder the meaning of the Coming of Christ.

Our Christmas Plans
With joy we announce that we will worship together in person this Christmas! We will hold two services on Christmas Eve. Our 5:00 service will be child friendly, and our 7:00 service will be traditional. On December 26, the first Sunday of Christmas, we will have a combined worship service at 11:00.
We Caught the Goose!
Many FPC folks turned out to catch the Goose last Sunday evening. The musicians of the Wild Goose Christian Community in Floyd County were on hand to play some old-timey mountain music. With their pastor, our own Rev. Grace Kim, they were with us for both morning services as well as the special musical evening. What a wonderful day!
Sharing Christ Blessed by Youth
Thank you again to everyone who contributed to our Sharing Christ outreach last Saturday! We are especially grateful to the young people who served at the mission, one of whom gave the blessing. FPC’s Student Ministry has been focusing on how to bring joy to our community during the holidays. Their service on Saturday was one small, but tangible, way for them to see the needs of this community firsthand and recognize that even a small gesture can go a long way.

For those who like to mark your calendars ahead of time, our service dates in 2022 are March 5, June 4, September 3 (Labor Day weekend), and December 3. Anyone interested in participating in this ministry of spiritual and physical nourishment may email Beth Flannagan or Becca Tate.
New COVID Protocols
We encourage masks for those not fully vaccinated, or at higher risk of COVID-19 complications. In line with CDC guidelines, please consult your healthcare provider about vaccination.

It’s a Snip to Help
the Stamp Ministry
We continue to collect canceled stamps to pay for missionary Sunday School materials through the Alliance Stamp Ministry. Through October, the group made $23,000 for this cause this year. Dealers will buy stamps that have one-fourth to one-third inch of paper on all sides, so please keep that in mind as you snip yours off envelopes. Thank you for your service in trimming and donating your used stamps! We keep a collection box for them at the church.

Volunteer with BFIA
Bristol Faith in Action, an organization that meets needs in Bristol through partnership with churches and others in our community, needs volunteers. There are a number of helper positions open in reception, appointment setting, and the like. For more information, call the Director of BFIA, DeVonne Phipps, at (276) 466-8292, or email her at
Returning Pledges
If you have not yet made your 2022 pledge, you can do so now by picking up a pledge card at the church or downloading a copy here. You can drop off the completed card at the church office or mail it in, or email your pledge directly to our business manager, Betsy Galliher.

How to Join Us Online
You can watch the livestream of our worship services and other activities at FPC Bristol on YouTube. Click on the link and hit “Subscribe” to receive notifications of new videos. To connect to our various Facebook sites, go to Facebook and type in FPC Bristol. Several accounts will show up. “Like” the page or ask to join a group.

Give Safely
We encourage you to use text, mail, or our website to safely continue your faithful support of our ministries during the pandemic. You can give online by going to our website and clicking on “Give” in the upper right corner. You can send your pledge, offering, or special gift by texting fpcbristol to 73256, or mail your checks directly to the church.
Required Minimum Distribution and Your Year-End Gift

If you are planning to make a year-end gift to First Presbyterian Church and are required take a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from a taxable retirement plan, please consider talking to your financial advisor about a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD).

A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from your IRA, payable directly to a qualified charity as defined in the QCD provision in the Internal Revenue Code. Amounts distributed as a QCD can be counted toward satisfying your RMD for the year, up to $100,000. In addition, the QCD is excluded from your taxable income and lowers your adjusted gross income and income tax!

Gifts may be designated to church general operations to help fulfill our annual operating budget or to one of our current mission partnerships. A new option is to designate gifts to one of the recently established Legacy Funds: the General Legacy Fund (which provides the broadest impact for years to come) or one of several Designated Legacy Funds specific to various program areas in the church, such as Worship/Music, Christian Education, Missions, or Facilities.

For more information, please call Betsy Galliher in the church office or email her at
Gifts to the Church

Memorials and honoraria are published in the newsletter only after the family has been personally notified by our business office. Today we gratefully acknowledge the following gifts in memory of:
  • Patty Frizzell Brooks (sister of Ben Frizzell): to the Memorial Fund from John & Karen Vann
  • Carl Galliher (father of Lee Galliher): to the Memorial Fund from John & Karen Vann
  • Maynette Joiner (aunt of Byron Schiesz): to the Memorial Fund from John & Karen Vann
Organist's Footnotes

After attending a carol concert, Marty Haugen (pictured; b. 1950) was moved to create a contemporary, accessible carol that draws on familiar images in a new way. We will sing his carol “Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn” as our opening hymn this Sunday. Haugen is a composer of liturgical music for both Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations, with more than 400 compositions published by GIA, Augsburg Fortress, and other publishers. His hymn is the basis for Sunday’s organ prelude, “Rejoice, Rejoice,” which is set by Mark Sedio (b. 1954), Cantor at Central Lutheran Church in downtown Minneapolis.

Likewise, our closing hymn, “Lift Up the Gates Eternal,” is the basis for Sunday’s postlude, “King of Glory,” arranged by Wayne L. Wold (b. 1954). Both pieces are based on an Israeli folk melody, “Gilu Hagalilum,” which sounds very familiar and is quite engaging!
Pray for One Another
We want to pray for and celebrate with you! Send your prayer requests and glad tidings to

In Our Prayers
Please also pray for the members of our community who wish to remain anonymous.

To the Church Triumphant
Janet (Jan) Ann King Patrick
December 3, 2021

Our love and sympathy are with Ben Cherry and his family in the death of his father; and with Pete Stigers and his family in the death of his grandmother, Betty Brown.

Anna Arbo & family
Wayne Ausmus
Mendy Bechtold
Bill & Betty Bingham
Bud & Marg Branscomb
Bristol Tennessee City Schools
Becky Busler
Ben Cherry & family
Ariel Damasceno
K.D. Forsha
Garrett Foster & family
Tammy Fredrickson
DeeDee Galliher
John Graham Sr.
Emma Grubbs & Gina Roberson
Lou Hebb
Eddie Hill
Porter Hillery
Davan & Kristi Johnson
Jim & Joan Keith
Marty & Kara Keys
Morgan & Josh King & family
Nancy Lilly
Mary Jane Luffman
Diana Mattison
Dot Mattison
Roger McCracken
Kathy McGlothlin
Montana Indian Ministries
Abigail Myers
National & international leadership
Breanna Necessary
Palestine & Israel
Pastor Bruce Plummer
Roger Patrick & family
June Prado
Don Pridemore
Cora Lee Raccioppo
Bob Rhea
Michelle S.
Susan Solomon
Malcolm Sprinkle
Pete Stigers & family
Teachers & school administrators
Scott VanNostrand
Margaret Wade
Bill & Patsy Ward
Michael Weller
Deadline & Subscriptions
Monday is the deadline for contributions to Windows. Subscribe to our free e-newsletter by sending your name and preferred email address to the editor.
701 Florida Avenue | Bristol, TN 37620 | 423-764-7176 |