Pastor's E-Letter

Pastor's E-Letter

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Pastor's E-Letter 12/20/19

Tomorrow in the Northern Hemisphere is the Winter Solstice or the longest night. This event has carried significance for many people for thousands of years. While others further north of us will see no sunlight on Saturday, or only an hour or two, living here in Florida, the difference is not that extreme. We will still see about ten and a half hours of light, give or take a few minutes based on where you are. Then, on December 22nd, we begin our journey back towards long days and lots of sunlight once again.

I’ve always thought that Christmas following the Winter Solstice feels especially appropriate, given the state of our world. While we attempt to fill our dark moments with light, love, gifts, and delicious food, the world still darkens around us. Then, just as we think it cannot get any darker, we make that turn towards the summer solstice again. Christmas comes in those days just after, where the light is still in small quantities, and (at least in most places) it is cold and full of precipitation. 

I found myself reflecting on this darkness just this week. A big myth is that Christmas is extra difficult for pastors. While it is hard and full work (and you should definitely thank a church staff member this week!) I can’t say it is any more difficult than the Christmases we know you experience along with us. Christmas isn’t hard because of the work, it is hard because darkness seems like it will never go away. When people go to the hospital, jobs are lost, loved ones pass away, and money is tight in the days before Christmas, the darkness feels like it is winning, and our efforts to beat back the darkness can seem futile. This season can be difficult for all of us, containing all of our hopes, fears, and longings. When we combine this with our culture’s deep need to “buy,” and our own drive to have the perfect decor and families, Christmas can feel burdensome instead of beautiful. 

This week in worship we will light the fourth advent candle. The light grows stronger as we approach the birth of Christ, but we aren’t there just yet. We will hear that Scrooge’s transformation from his own personal darkness is almost complete. It feels like we’ve made a turn, just like the turn from the longest night, but we will still wait a few more days until it is time to light candles, sing carols, and welcome Emmanuel among us. This isn’t so bad. We continue to need, even as we come dangerously close to Christmas, the sacred pause of Advent to right our course and soothe our longings and anxiety. 

This week, we’ll have special opportunities for sacred light and pause for you to experience in both spaces. In The Gathering, we’ll have our children’s play, “Little Drummer Dude,” as our Suntree Kids tell a wonderful adaptation of the Christmas story. In the 9:30 and 11am Traditional Services (remember- NO 8am!) we will hear, “And There Was Light,” a beautiful Christmas Cantata from our Chancel Choir. We thank Lia, Mary, Robert, Tom, and all those volunteers in our Suntree Kids Ministry and Chancel Choir that make this possible.

Then, Tuesday is Christmas Eve. Be sure to check out our service times, and invite a friend or a neighbor. We are not the only ones who need the lights of the candles, the soothing music of the carols, and the Gospel proclaimed in our lives. Christmas Eve, in the midst of such a poignant season, is a great opportunity to share love and grace with those you know who might not have a church home. 

The longest night is not our final story. Neither is our longing, pain, and grief at the holiday. The “crazy” of Christmas may seem overwhelming, but we are not alone. Join us Sunday for a joy-filled reminder of that truth. 

See you then,
Pastor Allee

Posted by Allee Willcox with

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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