Advent Begins Sunday, November 29
Winds of Change
Are you ready? Soon we begin the liturgical season of Advent. Though we are not gathering in person to worship, recorded online services will continue weekly, plus we will post an extra service on Christmas Eve. The theme this year is Winds of Change.
It certainly has been a year of change, including a pandemic on top of the usual changes life brings our way. We’ll meet this season of change and uncertainty within the context of hope, peace, joy, and love. In light of the pandemic, it would be irresponsible to approach Advent and Christmas with a worship-as-usual attitude. Together, let’s find the relevance of this holy season by searching our hearts and turning to scripture, all while moving forward.
A change of heart may be warranted as we prepare for and seek the Christ child. Is there room in your heart for Him? In light of the FCC Vision Statement: “Offering Hope and Welcome to All…” how can we be the hope and welcome our fractured world needs this year?
Advent Devotional Booklets
Booklets are in the small mailbox attached to the wall next to Entrance Door B (near the office). If you prefer, we will mail you a copy. Just call and let us know (462-5615).
The celebration of Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve is something our church family has always looked forward to: singing Christmas carols, reading scripture, listening to the choir, seeing the church family gathered in a circle to hold candles in the dark as we sing Silent Night. What joy fills our hearts. But this year we need to adjust how and where we worship God.
The elders gathered and talked about the Christmas Eve service and decided, because of the pandemic, we should only offer it online. We will make a special recording for Christmas Eve, in addition to the regular Sunday services offered online at fccvalpo.org. The elders think it is important to try and give you the feeling of still being in the sanctuary by offering you some of the elements that would normally be part of the sanctuary service.
Here are some suggestions about the service:
1. Usually we hold services at 7 and 11:00 PM; so to get the feeling of us all worshiping together, we suggest you and your family gather at either of those times to watch the recorded service online. (Of course, you can watch anytime.)
2. To help you feel a part of the service, we will deliver a Christmas Eve Gift Bag to members of the church who want one. It will include a candle for each person in your home to light at the end of the service as we sing Silent Night together. In addition to candles, the bags will include communion kits, and other surprises.
It’s our hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to worship God and celebrate the birth of Jesus with us on Christmas Eve.
Please contact the church office to let us know if you would like to receive a bag and how many people will be worshiping with you so we can provide enough candles for all. You may also receive a call about this service and the bags.
I almost remember staring at the lightning-struck ashes of an elder in a previous church who dared suggest we end Christmas Eve with something other than standing in a circle, holding candles, and singing “Silent Night.” Apparently he didn’t realize this sacred tradition dates back to when shepherds did it on the first Christmas so long ago.
Kidding aside, I do grieve for the traditions COVID-19 has forced us to change. Around December 21, our elders and I (and other volunteers who’d like to help) will deliver “Christmas Eve Bags” to households that want them to facilitate par-ticipating in our online Christmas Eve service. (Let us know how many candles you’ll need; see page 1.) We’ll probably linger at each front door for a few socially distanced moments to check in and mumble hello through our pleated masks. The interactions will be brief and clumsy, but they’ll be something — something I’ve been hungering for since the pandemic began, something spiritual that, for me, cuts to the heart of faith.
Yes, I can sing about “what a friend we have in Jesus,” and how he “walks with me, talks with me and tells me I am his own.” I believe “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” (I may even have the bumper sticker.) And I’ve confessed to being a sinner and invited Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior.
But I’ve never had a “burning bush” or “Damascus road” kind of encounter with the one true God, and have only rarely been overwhelmed by a sense of God’s presence. Belief? Yes. One-on-one intimacy? Not so much.
But I DO experience God’s presence and power in and through the love of family and friends; as well as in shared worship (traditions, liturgy, hymns, communion, prayer, …even sermons!). The wise words of mentors, the hugs of friends, shared labor in an outreach project, surprising insights during a Bible study, the enthusiasm of youth and children: it’s in the messy human connections of Christian community that God’s redeeming love most often touches me.
I hold on doggedly to my faith as we all fast from such community, and the need for distancing has helped me better appreciate alone time, quiet, and praying in solitude. But the news of possible vaccines heralds for me more than simply a rebuilt economy or an end to COVID’s deadly threat to at-risk friends. I look forward to a spiritual revival brought on by a renewed appreciation for health, fellowship, restored traditions, and hugs. — DAVE
Special for Christmas Eve Sanctuary Open House
The elders will host a Sanctuary Open House on Christmas Eve. The sanctuary will be open between noon and midnight on December 24th for you and your family to enjoy recorded Christmas music, light candles, read devotionals, and be in prayer. An elder will be on hand, available to pray with you and to monitor the number of people present. Masks are required. Use Entrance A.
If you would like quiet time in the sanctuary at other times during Advent, please call the office and make an appointment. Several elders are available to open the sanctuary and be present. Appointments will be scheduled so you and/or your family, can have the sanctuary to yourselves. Again, use Entrance A.
Blood Drive December 9th
FCC’s next Red Cross Blood Drive will be Wednesday, December 9th, from 1:30 to 6:30 PM. Call (800) 733-2767 to make an appointment. (This is recommended and decreases waiting, though walk-ins are ALWAYS welcome!) The holidays are a time when shortages happen due to full calendars of holiday activities. Come donate; save a life!!