Christmas is Coming

Dear Central Family,

The ides of December are upon us.  Advent wanes, decorations shine brightly, hearts brim with joy and expectation, yet the coronavirus concerns blanket us at every turn.  I have been impressed at Central’s ability to maintain vigilance in loving our neighbors through the 3w’s (Wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands) while keeping hope alive through connection.  Please keep reaching out to your fellow members, friends, neighbors, and family.  We will get through this together.

Psalm 30 keeps coming to mind as I think of this pandemic season, ‘sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning!’  The news of the vaccine comes as our country and the world are experiencing record high levels of infection.  We must keep fighting and not grow weary though the hour grows late and temperature drops.  This moment reminds me of being in the woods in the early morning before a hunt.  We would often strive to get there at least a half hour before daylight.  I remember marveling when I was younger at how cold it got just before the sun rose.  In preparation we wore layers and yes, often wore masks.  When the sun finally peeked over the horizon, there would sometimes be a wind as though the very breathe of God was saying good morning and warming all the world.

Friends, I yearn to toss my mask aside and embrace each of you in the warmth of celebration, but that hour has not yet come.  Let us continue on for a little while longer knowing the one who holds the future in the palm of his hands holds us in these moments.  As I have said and will always offer here at Central, if you do not have a group of fellow Christians to turn to regularly and intimately, please call us in the office and we will get you connected.  We need one another in these times.

We are still open at 1425 East Main for you, for your groups, for space to bring yourself before our God, and for any who wander in.  We are still asking for those of you who can to attend our worship services virtually.  It has been good to read your comments and join with you in the after service Zoom gatherings each Sunday.  We want to be sure there is plenty of space for those who do not have such access and our new guests to be able to distance effectively in worship.  To this end, we are offering a fully virtual Christmas Eve family service at 4:30.  Our candlelight service will be both in person and livestreamed at 8:00pm.  Candles are available in the office and in the parlor for you to bring home ahead of the service if you do not have any at home.  You are welcome to tune into both online or go back watch the other later in the Christmas season.  If you are planning on attending at 8, PLEASE REGISTER HERE so we can ensure enough space for all to distance effectively.

Ultimately, this will indeed be a very strange Christmas.  Let us not lose sight of the ‘reason for the season.’  Jesus came into a world groaning for relief and salvation; dimmed by oppressive darkness and empirical shadows.  Maybe, as so much of the cultural and consumeristic aspects fall away this year, we might find ourselves surprised and overwhelmed at the joy and love Christ can still bring in even the darkest and most isolated of moments.  I want to leave you today with Psalm 40 which spoke deep into my heart this past week.  I pray you find in it a prayer to sustain you.

 

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

 

Happy are those who make
    the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
    they would be more than can be counted.

 

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
    but you have given me an open ear
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Here I am;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

 

I have told the glad news of deliverance
    in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

 

Do not, O Lord, withhold
    your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    keep me safe forever.
For evils have encompassed me
    without number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    until I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head,
    and my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
    Lord, make haste to help me.
Let all those be put to shame and confusion
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who desire my hurt.
Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

 

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God.

 

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Joseph


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