Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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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

Pastor's E-Letter 11/27/19

 

As I write this, I’m keenly aware of living amidst two seasons. One season, the season of gratitude, will find its culmination on Thursday as we gather around a table of some sort, to celebrate Thanksgiving (though we should make it a practice to live daily in the spirit of gratitude). The other, Advent and Christmas, which the staff and lay servants are busy preparing for, especially in our worship spaces. This Sunday in worship we will begin our Advent and Christmas message series, “A Christmas Carol: Finding Redemption in Christmas.” During this series, we will be exploring the coming of Christ, the light of the world, and his power to transform and redeem our lives against the backdrop of scripture and the classic tale by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. Each week we will explore how the coming of Christ into our individual lives and our world provides the opportunity to see our lives more clearly in the light of Christ’s love and to be changed in ways that bring healing, transformation, and joy. This week, we will focus on the ways that Christ’s coming provides redemption for our past failures, hurts, regrets and disappointments as we explore the words of the prophet Malachi 3:1-4 and the prophecy of Zechariah found in Luke 1:67-79. I encourage you to read these scriptures in preparation for worship on Sunday and I pray you will join us for worship as we begin the journey of Advent which prepares our hearts to receive the gift of Christ’s light and love once again. You may also want to begin reading A Christmas Carol and consider joining our book study which will begin on Monday, December 2 at Bold Cup Coffee.

In preparation for this message series, I’ve been reading Dicken’s classic tale once again. This week, I was struck by the description of the Cratchit family as they celebrate Christmas. Dickens writes, “There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being waterproof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time…”

As we approach Thanksgiving, it is my prayer that each of us would be so blessed as to find ourselves, no matter what our circumstances, to be “happy, grateful, pleased with one another and contented with the time.” I realize as I write this that this is not always easy. I’m keenly aware of the challenges that all of us face as we gather around our tables this Thursday. There will be empty chairs for some of us, unwelcome news on some of our minds, unresolved challenges on the minds of others. Thanksgiving doesn’t make those challenges go away. And yet, there is something about gratitude and giving thanks that can ease their power over us. Giving thanks has a way of centering us in all that is good, and right and blessed in our lives. That is what the Cratchit family understood. That is what the Apostle Paul understood as he wrote to the Philippians, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication ‘with thanksgiving’ let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:6-8) That is what I hope to understand and trust as I approach each day. There is always something worthy of praise in my life. I pray for the grace to be able to see those gifts and celebrate them.

I pray that each of you will have a blessed and gratitude filled day this Thursday. And I pray that as we move into the season of Advent, we will do so with grateful hearts and with a sense of joy-filled anticipation for what God has in store for us as we prepare for the coming of the light that is Christ and allow that light to transform our lives once again.

Grace and Peace,

Annette

PS.  Thanks to everyone who filled out and turned in their estimate of giving cards last Sunday. If you were out last Sunday, you can pick one up this Sunday at worship and fill it out and return it or you can fill one out online at suntreeumc.org. Cards will also be mailed in a couple of weeks to those we haven’t yet heard from. Thank you for your willingness to “Take the Next Step” in growing in generosity as a part of your discipleship.

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