“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
-Luke 1: 28
As just a young girl Mary must have been surprised over and again by all the things that were happening to her. When Gabriel first came to Mary she addressed her as “favored one”, never mind that being spoken to by an angel was out of the ordinary but to be addressed in such a formal way would have been disconcerting too, of course she was going to be the mother of the Son of Man, so it seems a title, or at least a formal greeting would be in order as this new holy family comes together. The verse reminded me of all the times that we share the exchange “Peace be with you, and also with you”, it is a rather formal greeting as we come together in worship. What does it mean for you when you are greeted or when you offer the greeting to another? Perhaps it’s the way that we hold each other sacred in the family of Christ, it’s a sign or signal that God is with us, that you are beloved. When we share this exchange, I invite you to remember that this is how Mary was first told that Jesus was with her, and would be always, and when we share this today we remember that Jesus, Emmanuel, is with us too.
He came to First Lutheran a retired pastor and was quickly hired to assist with visitation and grief counseling. Through the years he has helped many of our members during the darkest times of their lives as they cope with the loss of lifelong partners. He has visited the homebound and brought comfort and the good news of the gospel to those isolated by illness. He became a regular preacher in the rotation for the Saturday night service. In addition to his official duties he has offered counsel and example to the younger pastors still in the middle of their working years.
Pastor Hank has worked long beyond what anyone would have expected. He will continue to volunteer at First, but wants the freedom to be even more active pursuing his hobbies and activities with his wife, Sally. We are sorry to see him go, but fully understand that the time has come. We are grateful he will continue to be seen around the congregation serving as we all do, at our leisure.
I asked Pastor Carrie to share some thoughts and she writes of Pastor Hank “Pastor Hank has always been one who is quietly productive, a straight shooter, willing to step in and take the lead whenever called upon. He and Sally often worshipped together at the Saturday evening service where they were loved by those who regularly attended. He is a gifted storyteller which made for easy listening to sermons that were often filled with depth and character from his years of experience in the parish and in the great outdoors. Pastor Hank has gifts in listening and hearing people, he is relational and combined with his education and intelligence he provided counseling which lead many to relief in their lives and deep gratitude for Pastor Hank.”
Pastor Hank will complete his work the end of December. I invite the congregation to send in cards with notes of personal appreciation prior to his departure. We’ll set aside some time in worship to thank him and share these notes.
God has richly blessed First Lutheran with men and women of considerable talent and generosity in sharing their gifts. Pastor Hank is at the top of that list and for him we give thanks to God.
“They shall build up the ancient ruins,they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.”
We are in the ruins right now, in many ways, because of the pandemic. There is a history of people rebuilding after devastation. The people Isaiah spoke to had to repair their country after it was destroyed by decades of war. Rebuilding is hard, because first you have to mourn the loss. Then somehow you have to make the transition from mourning to hope for the future. Only then can you muster up the motivation and determination to let go of the past and focus on the future. How many things in our lives require that same transition? And where does our hope come from? Our hope comes from the promise of God that we have a good future. When we trust in that promise then we have what it takes to rebuild our lives, our society, our families our health and whatever else has experienced devastation. God’s hope be with you!
Lessons & Carols will be online this year (this Sunday, 12/13 at 3:30 p.m. on YouTube), which means we will not be able to have our traditional pie-fest. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some pie! See the recipes below that have been sent in by First Lutheran members and staff!
What is your favorite pie?
Want to download these to save for later or print? Click here!
“Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God”
-Isaiah 40: 1
This first verse of the fortieth chapter of Isaiah strikes a dramatic change in tone from the previous chapters. It changes the tone from one of despair, destruction, and predictions of judgement to Isaiah proclaiming comfort is upon us with a message of hope, joy, and light breaking in. The prophet sets out to reestablish faith in God. How many of us need to reestablish our faith in God? Now in the beginning of this new church year, perhaps it’s a good time to examine our faith, to live in hope with the promise that God brings us comfort, and that when we understand the “word of our God will stand forever” we can take comfort knowing that God is always for us. So, in this season of Advent we turn the corner on a new year and wait expectantly for the Word made flesh who will dwell among us yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Things to ponder:
What might bring you comfort in these days?
What helps you to reestablish or stay alive in your faith?
Where might you bring comfort to others in this new church year?
Benefiting Christian Palestinian Families in Bethlehem.
Beautiful carved olive wood products are available at First Lutheran! Products are not on display, however, you may order items listed below by calling the church office at 719.632.8836 Monday – Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There is a limited supply, so order early! Sale ends December 11! Please call the church for item dimensions.
Click here to download the full brochure along with photos.
As the coronavirus continues to spike in our country, I’m beginning to get word of members who are sick with the disease, and one is currently hospitalized. It’s been heartening to hear that relief is on the way in the form of at least three effective vaccines. But we know it will take time to receive that relief and in the meantime, people are getting sick some to the point of hospitalization and even death. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering from this pandemic, both those who suffer physically and economically.
Our county has moved the Covid-19 dial to Red or “Severe Risk.” Not many weeks ago this was the most severe category, but they have since added a Purple or “Extreme Risk” category that will basically be a shut down. What does this mean for the church? While we will continually review and update our policy, we have decided to take the following actions effective Friday, November 27.
· The church building is closed to small groups.
· The church building is closed to 12-step groups.
· The church building is closed except by appointment.
· Only essential church staff will work from the church building and only as necessary. All persons entering the building must be wearing a cloth mask, and that mask is to be worn whenever they are interacting with any other person or in a shared space.
-Receptionist and Sextons must wear a cloth/paper mask at all times since they work in shared spaces.
-Face shields may be used in addition but not as a replacement for a cloth or disposable paper mask.
· We will hold our 3:15 p.m. outdoor Sunday Advent services. The current restrictions limit us to 75 people. So, the grounds will be closed to everyone after the 75-person threshold. Everyone needs to make a reservation through the online sign-up form.
· Funerals, weddings, baptisms and other life rites will be held outdoors or postponed for now.
· We will no longer use volunteers for church activities. Staff will cover counting, folding, setting up etc.
· The only exemptions to these restrictions will be in the case of recording needs to provide online worship services for the congregation.
Please continue to pray for an end to the pandemic. And please continue to do your part as good Christian citizens, to serve your neighbor and take action to minimize the spread of this disease. We have tough months ahead of us, but the good news is that it is likely only a few months until this is all behind us.