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DECEMBER 2018 NEWSLETTER

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS WILL BE HERE SOONER THAN YOU THINK

Thanksgiving Day comes as early as it can—November 22—but sometimes when it comes early, you think you have more time before Advent and Christmas than there really is. Advent will begin in just one week (December 2) and will be just over three weeks long, since Christmas Eve will fall on the day after the Fourth Sunday of Advent.

Christmas is one of the major holidays of the church year. (Easter and Pentecost are the other two chief holidays). There is always a time of preparation before a major holiday, and for Christmas the Advent season is that time of preparation.

At First Bethlehem we will mark the Advent and Christmas seasons by the following:

  • Evening Advent services will be held on the first three Wednesdays of Advent: December 5, 12, and 19 at 7:30 p.m. The Advent services will be held upstairs in the sanctuary, in the corner near the baptismal font.
  • The theme for the Advent services this year is “Ready for Christmas,” and the services will look at the epistles for the previous Sunday. The first week’s sermon will be “We’re Not There Yet”; the second will be “But God Will Get Us There”; and the third will be “Therefore, Rejoice.”
  • On Sunday, December 23, we will have a party for the children at 12 noon. That is a major event each year and we would appreciate it if you volunteered to help us. See the article below about how you can help.
  • The Christmas Eve service will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, December 24. It will be a service of carols and lessons.
  • The Christmas Day service will be held at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, December 25. It will be a service with Holy Communion.
  • There will be no weekday services or Bible classes between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
  • Advent devotional booklets are available in the narthex.

DISTRIBUTING GIFTS TO NEIGHBORHOOD CHILDREN

One of our most successful ways to connect with the community around us is through our distribution of Christmas presents each year on the Sunday before Christmas. The parents sign the children up for the program in October or early November. A sister church helps us buy most of the gifts, although some are bought by members of our church too. On the day of the party we first serve some food, sing some Christmas carols, tell the story about how Jesus was born, and then give out the gifts. This enables us to tell many families in our neighborhood about Jesus.

This year we will host the event on Sunday, December 23. Because we are a small congregation, we appreciate every helping hand we can get. Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Plan on staying after the worship service and talking with the children and their parents.
  • Volunteer to get some of the food ahead of time.
  • Volunteer to set up the tables and put out the tablecloths on the day before the event.
  • Volunteer to serve the food and/or clean up afterwards.
  • Lead the children in Christmas carols.
  • Help distribute the gifts.

Because this event is so important, every Sunday in December will feature a brief training session for the volunteers. As we did last year, we will divide all volunteers into three crews: a kitchen crew, a gift crew, and a serving crew. Michael and his family will serve as the kitchen crew, while Ed will head up the gift crew (which is responsible for organizing the distribution of the gifts.) The biggest crew will be the serving crew, which will bring out the pizza, soft drinks, and juice for the children, as well as removing the paper plates when the children are finished eating. We found out last year that it doesn’t work best to assign waiters to specific tables, but to have everyone float around from one table to another. A key task for everyone will be to make sure that the children and their parents are warmly welcomed.

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS DECORATING

On Saturday, December 1, beginning at 10 a.m., the church (including the narthex and the basement) will be decorated for the Advent and Christmas seasons. The decorations will be taken down on January 19, 2018, also at 10 a.m. The more people we have helping out, the easier the work is, and so we would appreciate as many volunteers as possible.

If you are interested in helping decorate the church, talk to Pastor Kellerman.

CHANGES TO THE REGULAR SCHEDULE

The Bible classes meet year round, but even so we still make a few concessions to the holidays:

  • The Sunday Bible class will meet as usual on December 2, 9, and 16.
  • There will be no Sunday Bible class on December 23 (so that we can do last-minute preparation for the children’s program that day) or on December 30 (the Sunday after Christmas).
  • The food pantry will be open every Wednesday except the day after Christmas, December 26.
  • The Thursday Bible class will meet as usual on December 6, 13, and 20.
  • There will be no Thursday Bible class on December 27 (because of the Christmas holidays).
  • There will be no Theology Today this month. It will meet again on January 27.
  • The church office will not be open from Christmas through New Year’s Day.

THE CHURCH AT LARGE: THE LUTHERAN HOUR MINISTRIES

We began a series a few months ago that is explaining the work of the church beyond our own congregation. We have already talked about our church body and Lutheran Church Charities. This month we consider another aspect of the work of the church at large: the Lutheran Hour Ministries.

In 1917 the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod was facing a $100,000 debt, or the equivalent of just shy of $2 million in today’s dollars. Some prominent laymen came together to figure out how they could retire the debt. Out of their efforts was born the Lutheran Laymen’s League, which endeavored to get the lay people of the Missouri Synod more interested in their Synod’s affairs.

Once the debt had been paid off, the league noted that radio was taking off. So the league called Walter A. Maier, a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, to be the first speaker of the new Lutheran Hour program in 1930. Ever since then it has been on the air, making it one of the oldest weekly religious radio programs continuously in existence.

Eventually the Lutheran Hour began broadcasting in Spanish and other languages. Today it broadcasts on 1,800 stations in 50 countries. Approximately one hundred million people either hear the broadcast or read the gospel through various Lutheran Hour materials. It was also innovative in using the internet and modern means of communication to reach people with the gospel. And it has all sorts of resources to train lay people to share their Christian faith with their unchurched neighbors.

Because the Lutheran Hour and its related programs became such a big part of the Lutheran Laymen’s League, the group was renamed “Lutheran Hour Ministries” in 1992.

If you think you’ve never heard of Lutheran Hour Ministries, guess again. We have been using their devotion booklets for Advent and Lent for at least a decade. For more information—or to sign up for free devotions by email—visit their website at www.lhm.org.