Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 12/13/19

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For the past several years since my father passed away, my sister has given my mom, my brothers and me a gift with the word “Believe” on it. I’ve attached a couple of those gifts for you to see. One is a wall hanging with the word “believe” stenciled on it. The other is a picture frame with the word “believe” on it with a picture of my dad, my grandpa, my brothers and me one Christmas. She does this in honor of my dad’s enduring belief in all things Christmas and as a reminder for us to carry on his legacy by continuing to “believe.”

You see, my dad believed in Santa Claus and always encouraged us to believe as well. He loved the idea of a Father Christmas who gifted the world’s children with things that brought them joy each year, though he was never a fan of the “naughty/nice” thing. To him, every child deserved to know they were loved, valued and remembered at Christmas.

He believed in the power of music at Christmas to bring joy and healing. He believed in the magic of Christmas lights, shining as a beacon of hope in the darkness. He believed in celebrating Christmas in a big way, decorating his home both inside and out in a way that would rival Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation.

Dad was a “believer” in the truest sense of the word. He believed that underneath all of the those more “secular” ways of celebrating Christmas lay the fundamental truth that lies at its heart: that in the babe born in Bethlehem the Word became flesh and lived among us, filled with grace and truth and in him, we have seen and experienced God in the flesh. He believed that in Jesus we have experienced love incarnate, love in the flesh. He believed that in Jesus lies the power for changed lives and a changed world. And all those other things we do at Christmas, in their way can point to the fundamental truth of Christmas: that Christ, our savior is born, that light and love has come, and no one is left out of the miracle that is Christmas. And all we need to do to receive the gift is believe.

When you get right down to it, Christmas is all about believing – believing in love and transformation and healing and grace. Believing that God has not abandoned us, but that God is with us, in Christ, even in the biggest messes that we create. Believing that in Christ Jesus born in Bethlehem is the power to redeem the mess and empower us to change.

This week in worship we will encounter Scrooge as he continues his journey of redemption and as he encounters the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Scrooge has already experienced the pain of regret for the choices he has made in his past. He has begun to see the possibilities for true joy and gratitude in life in the present. Now he gets a glimpse of the future toward which he is headed, and it is a scary sight. The question is, can he change? Can he discover a new and different future? Does he believe that change is possible? Do we believe?

We will turn to Mary’s story as recorded in Luke 1:26-38 and see how she responded when God burst into her life with a whole new plan, a whole new future. I’ll give you a hint – she believed! She trusted in the power of God to use her to give birth to light, love, and life for the world. She trusted in the miraculous power of God to use her to bear God’s gift of grace to a hurting world.

So, I ask you to ponder as you continue your Advent journey: what do you believe this Christmas? How might your belief in the miracle of Christmas need to be rekindled or strengthened this year? How is God inviting you to keep believing, despite the harsh realities that we often face in life? Can you change? Can the world be different? What would Mary say to you?

I look forward to seeing you in worship this Sunday as together, we seek the answers those questions and as we continue the journey toward Christmas. The light is coming. Do you believe it?

Grace and Peace,
Annette

Pastor's E-Letter 12/6/19

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This past week in our A Christmas Carol book club, I asked the participants this question: “On a scale of one to ten, how Scrooge-like are you feeling this holiday season?” Answers ranged from “not at all!” to “probably between a 7 and an 8.” I wasn’t too surprised by these answers! As we reflected on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, we could see how we, too, could get caught up in the stress and fear of the season, making us prone to say “Bah humbug!” instead of “Merry Christmas!” While Scrooge is a caricature of all of the greed and selfishness in the world, he is pretty relatable, too. We, like Scrooge, close down on ourselves and become unable to see the world as it truly is.

We all experience the holiday season in different ways, pastors included. Just two weeks ago, I was really “Scrooge-like” as I prepared for Thanksgiving. I thought that it would be difficult to ever turn my mood around. The stress and pressure of the season had stolen my joy amid delicious dinners, time with family, and the coming opportunity to decorate my home.

However, when I began to painstakingly decorate my house, my mood began to shift. By the end of the day on Black Friday, I felt loads better. I just needed a change in attitude, some family time, and some Christmas cheer. I had to open my heart to see things how they really were: beautiful, even if flawed, and full of promise for a wonderful season. 

Our Scripture reading for this week is less-than-cheerful, but it is full of honesty. John the Baptist tells the people that they are a “brood of vipers” and that they should repent of their sin to prepare for Jesus. They needed to see the world how it really was and repent of their apathy about its pain. Scrooge, too, needed to open his heart to see how the world really is- full of pain and full of joy. At Christmas, we and Scrooge are offered the opportunity to acknowledge the world’s pain and help bring good tidings and relief to it. This was John’s message to the people of Jesus' time, too.

Here at Suntree, we try to honor all of the ways that you feel at the holiday season: joyful, honest, disconnected, or grieving. This Sunday, at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary, we’ll have an opportunity for you to increase your Christmas cheer by singing and hearing from many talented groups at our Christmas Community Concert. This blend of sacred and secular Christmas is a really wonderful opportunity for you to invite your friends and neighbors to experience a little bit of what Christmas is like here at Suntree, outside of the context of worship.

If you’re feeling down and blue, next Wednesday at 6pm in the Sanctuary is our Blue Christmas Service. For the past few years, we’ve had the sacred and wonderful opportunity to honor our grief and sadness as we approach the holidays. Especially if you’ve experienced a recent loss, this service is a good way to honor the hard feelings that we have around the holidays. This service helps us see the world and our lives as they truly are, and submit them to the Light of the World, who comes to heal and relieve all of our hurts with his presence.

As we prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ, I invite you to open your eyes to see how the world truly is. Don’t be like Scrooge, closing yourself down to the joy of this season or the pain of others. God can handle our joy and our pain, our excitement for Christmas and our Scrooge-like tendencies. Let the light of Christ shine in you, and then, take advantage of all the ways we can prepare for the joy of the coming of Emmanuel, God with us. 

See you Sunday,
Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

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