Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Christmas came just two months after my mother died. That year, I went to set up our family Nativity scene. The ceramic pieces were made by my grandmother, and it was always meaningful for me to be a part of arranging them just so in a special place in our family home, and later in my mother’s home.
The year the scene was to be displayed for the first time in my home, I could not find Jesus in the box. I found the manger. I found cattle. I found sheep. I found shepherds, donkeys, Mary and Joseph, an angel, and a little drummer boy. I even found, rather inexplicably, a small blue glass dog.
But I could not find Jesus. I was greatly distressed by this, not only because it was Jesus, but because of my family’s long tradition of placing the baby in the manger on Christmas Eve. (Although to be honest, back then and to this day, I often forget until Christmas Day). Jesus—handmade by my grandmother so many years ago—was gone.
And in my grief at the death of my mother, I was saddened even further.
I found Jesus the next year. He was in the box, wrapped well in paper and tucked carefully in the corner. He was right where Mom had put him two years before, just waiting for me to unwrap him. If I had opened my eyes, I would have seen him.
The truth is, we try to “find” Jesus … and we really don’t need to. He is always present; in our times of worship, in our prayers, in our acts of kindness and generosity. We don’t find him at Christmas; not in the trees and lights, not in the decorations, not in the food, not in the gifts. This time of year, like every other, he is where he has always been and will always be—in the hearts and souls and lives of those who call him Lord. We may think of him more often in this season. We may say his name with more regularity and enthusiasm … but we never had to find him or even unwrap him. He is just where he has always been … in the midst of our lives each and every day.
Jesus is present in our homes. He is present in our work, He is present in our joys and in our sorrows. After all, that is the gift of Christmas, that Emmanuel, God-with-us, has come to dwell among us forever and in every way—not because we deserve it or can earn it, but because God loves us that much.
Yes, look for Jesus at Christmas. Feel a special sense of his presence. But think of ways to make sure he is visible for the rest of the year. Let’s not wrap him back up and tuck him in a corner when the festivities are over.
The Readings for Sunday December 17, 2023
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28
The Grace Prayer Team will host their annual
on Thursday, December 21, 2023, at 7:00 pm
This is the night of the Winter Solstice or the longest night.
You are invited to a service of light, quiet music, meditation, and prayer.
If you find yourself not feeling the festivities of the season due to losing a loved one, or a job, or just feeling sad and lost; please join us.
The Grace Prayer Team will hold space for you.
We will pray with you.
We will allow you time alone to be in the moment.
All are welcome.
The service will be held in the Chapel.
A small reception will follow the service in Fellowship Hall.
Join us for worship on Christmas Eve! There will be two services, one at 3:00 p.m. and the other at 10:30 p.m. Both services will include candlelight and the celebration of Holy Communion.
This year’s poinsettia sale will be from November 19 – December 17, 2023. Plants will be sold for $10.00, to decorate the church for Christmas services and to benefit the VBS program at Grace. Forms will be available for your order. Merry Christmas! Thank you for your support of this effort.
On this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, we will have a service of Lessons and Carols (and Communion) at the 9:30 a.m. worship service. Join us for this special service, where we will hear the story of our faith and sing hymns of praise and joy as we await the birth of Jesus.
Please join us – Sunday Fellowship Time
In Fellowship Hall
December 17th – Christmas Cookie Fellowship
If anyone would like to donate 1-2 dozen Christmas cookies. bars, or candy, please call Sue at 419.475.8972 or Suegrade@aol.com.
An Advent Meditation
When Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she was going to bear a child, a special child the Son of God, he told her that she was highly favored by God, I wonder how favored she felt at first. I try to put myself in her shoes, but it’s difficult for me, partly because I’m a man, but more so because the idea of bearing any child, let alone God’s child, is so incomprehensible! I imagine that some people wondered about Mary’s sanity when she said she was carrying God’s child. Joseph didn’t know what to think until he had a visit from Gabriel also. Remember also that Mary and Joseph lived in a society that was even more patriarchal than ours is today. Back then, an unmarried woman who was pregnant was often killed for her indiscretion. While Mary had done nothing wrong in conceiving God’s child, try convincing a mob of people thirsting for her blood.
After Mary heard Gabriel’s message, she responded with obedience and humility. She said yes, even though she did raise some good questions about how this was going to work out. It might have been with fear and trepidation, but she agreed to take on this vocation of being the mother of Jesus, who would be called the Son of the Most High.
Joseph had a choice to make. Initially, he could have divorced Mary and handed her over to his community for punishment. Instead, he chose to divorce her in a quiet fashion and let her go on her way. Then Gabriel came to Joseph to let him know that what Mary was saying was indeed true. Joseph responded by staying with Mary and become Jesus’ earthly father. He became a protector and provider for Jesus and Mary. This couldn’t have been an easy task.
God calls us to follow Jesus’ teachings. He wants us to repent from all of our sins. Jesus brings us forgiveness and salvation. But like Joseph and Mary, there will be hard work in front of us, no matter how we respond to that call. God will want us to help others in our world and bring them to Jesus too!
As we journey through this season of Advent, a season of looking forward in anticipation, I pray that we will all accept God’s gift of grace, follow Jesus and do his work with our hands.
Gloves, mittens, and hats will be collected through December 31 on the
tree at the back of the Nave. These items will be placed in the Blessing
Box and made available to people coming to Burrito Blessings this winter.
Thank you to everyone who has donated to this project!
This year, Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday. The unusual thing about this is that 24 December is also the Fourth Sunday of Advent this year!
There will be one worship service in the morning on this day at 9:30 a.m. We will observe Advent 4, but will turn our eyes toward Christmas Eve at the end of the service by doing some special things such as changing the paraments and bringing in a few of the poinsettias.
Please be sure to join us for the unique worship experience, as we hold the tension between Advent and Christmas … and as we continue to prepare for the birth of Jesus.
Ideas to help you set aside time for Advent Prayer and Devotion.
Step 1: Set up a space in your home for your Advent readings. Make it comfortable.
Add a candle. Maybe next to your tree or in a quiet area.
Step 2: Figure out two times of the day when you might set aside time.
If you miss the first one, you can lean into the second time and not feel guilty.
Step 3: Each time you sit down to practice your Advent devotion, make a warm cup of something and begin with a couple of moments of silence and deep breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply the love of God for you. Ask the Spirit to join you. Then begin your readings.
Step 4: Have a little prayer journal nearby where you can list the things that stick with you
or stand out to you during your devotion.
Step 5: Close your time with a couple of moments of silent deep breathing, thanking God for the love and grace that are freely given to you that claim you as God’s own.
God of Love,
Look with favor upon your people.
You have done marvelous things.
You heal the sick. You give sight to the blind.
You feed the hungry with good things.
You name us and claim us as your own.
You bestow grace upon grace that we have not earned.
You Lord, are worthy of praise.
As we wait during this Advent season, may we look into the hearts of others to see you.
May we lift up your generosity and grace.
May we remember who and whose we are each day.
May our spirits rejoice in you.
Lord, my God
You have done marvelous things.
My spirit rejoices
Where have you seen God at work doing marvelous things?
Practicing gratitude will help you see God at work.
**Artwork by Mitzi Schafer of Inky Fern Studio
Many thanks to all who contributed toward deficit reduction. At the time of this writing, we have gathered about $12,000! We are grateful for this, as well as for the generous $10,000 match from one of our members.
Stay tuned for further updates.
- Thank you to Tony Lockard for all his time and hard work as our interim custodian – our house is super clean!
- Did you notice that the Manger with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus is out in front of the church – how wonderful to see again.
- Remember: Grace is not the building but the people of Grace carrying out God’s mission!
Healthy People! Healthy Parish!
There are certain activities that have been shown by research that can actually help our moods and are actually good for us! Our days are shorter, not very warm and the craziness of the holiday season and then after the holidays often make us feel down or in the “dumps.”
There are things we can do to help – have a regular get up and go to sleep time, open the curtains and let the light in, get outside and walk (even if just up and down the driveway), talk with people – live talking is best with texting second – communicate with others! Do something new – read a different kind of book than you are used to or try a new game, write a letter to someone, go someplace new to eat – try a different food, don’t skip meals, drink water not pop, and move away from Hallmark Movies . The idea is to move, communicate, and try something new.
What we eat can also help with the “dumps”
- Fish. Some fish like Salmon are high in Omega 3’s which has been shown to be good for brain health and has Vitamin D. With less sun we don’t get as much Vitamin D so eating salmon does help. There are also some stores that have some pretty good deals on Salmon on a regular basis.
- Berry Fruit. We often go to food loaded with sugar but when the sugar “high” wear off it can make us feel sluggish. Raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are naturally sweet so there is not the sugar high and fall.
- Whole grains with protein. Combining whole grain bread with protein like chicken, hummus or cheese and even peanut butter is great. The protein makes us feel full longer and the whole grain carbohydrates do not give us the “crash”.
- Tea. Many people drink large amounts of coffee thinking it will help them feel more energetic but also feel the down effects when the caffeine wears off. Caffeinated tea has caffeine but much less than coffee and it has been found that it affects certain chemicals or neurotransmitters that help to decrease inflammation and the bodies stress response. There are also compostable tea bags so not only is the tea good for you but these tea bags are good for the planet!
- Green leafy vegetables. We are talking spinach, Bok choy, collards, kale – the bright green stuff not pale leaf lettuce. These also have a good supply of B vitamins and help to decrease the stress response.
- Protein. Protein rich foods help to have a satisfying longer acting “full” feeling. Think chicken, hummus, cheese and peanut butter.
- Crab (not crabby people!) Zinc is an important mineral that helps with nerve function and decrease depression. Crab is loaded with zinc – 3 oz. has about 59% of our daily requirement. Oysters, lobster and roast beef are also good sources of zinc. And no, it does not need to be fresh as canned will work.
- Whole grain pasta. It really does taste good! Yes, it has carbohydrates but also fiber which provides a longer lasting effect.
- Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has less sugar so there is not as much “sugar high” as other chocolate.
- Beans. Beans are good for the “gut” by helping to decrease inflammation. They also help to give a feeling of fullness.
Other good food stuff – Olive oil, nuts and seeds.
Remember – all of this in moderation!!
You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you.
You have to go to them sometimes. (Winnie the Pooh)
Lasting joy is not found in what you get but what you give. (Unknown)
Yes, it is almost in the middle of January, it is a Thursday, it will be a New Moon, is Ben Crenshaws birthday, is National Hot Milk Day, in 1949 it was the first recorded snowfall in Los Angeles and is National Hot Toddy Day!
Even more important it is “National Thank You” day!
So, who would give you a “Thank You”? The 3 people you helped by donating blood at Grace that day!
Yes, it is the first Blood Drive of the New Year!
The Blood Drive is scheduled from 12-6 pm .
Please consider giving or asking others to give and even though you might not receive personal “Thank You” from each person you know that it is going to do some wonderful good for someone!
You may signup on the web site or call Gretchen Hiatt 419-944-5166 to make an appointment time.
This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it!