Good Afternoon Church!
After a wet and chilly morning, the clouds are clearing off and the sun is peeking through. What a lovely surprise after a few days of grey skies!
How did Thanksgiving go for you this year? Was it enjoyable? Or a struggle? Or maybe both? It was certainly different this year. This was the first time I’ve ever been in charge of cooking the turkey. All of my life there has always been someone more “senior” than me around to take on that responsibility. But not this year. I was worried about how it would go, but somehow I pulled it off! I remembered to start the thawing process on time, and got it in the oven early enough to pull it out fully cooked for the planned festivities. It was good practice for someday in the future when I become the matriarch of the family and all the relatives come to my house for holidays.
What interesting or different things did you do at your house this year? I’d love to hear if you want to share!
Now that Thanksgiving is over, let’s talk Christmas! Did you receive your special Advent star yet? The church elves are driving around today delivering them to your doorstep! (Or, for those of you who live further away, they’re coming via the USPS.) You don’t know this about me yet, but I have a really hard time with surprises. Not because they’re not exciting, but because they’re too exciting. I struggle with the waiting part– both when I know a surprise is coming to me and when I have to keep my mouth shut about what’s going to be given to someone else. Well…. you wouldn’t believe how hard it’s been to keep my lips zipped for an entire month about this surprise while members of session and ladies in the knitting circle spent 4 weeks whipping up these fun surprises. It’s been torturous! But now that you’ve received them I can shout YAYYYY! I am so grateful to all the crochers and knitters who helped on this project. A big thank you to Sue Waters, Renee Stauffer, Jane Wells, Vernice Church, Marlu Peet, and Jean Dawson. And another big thank you to the delivery elves– Sharona and Bob Pickard, Sue Waters, Jane and Dave Wells, Juster Gichovi, and Renee Stauffer. These stars may be just a little token, but they’re meant to remind you that your church family is helping to hold you together right now with God’s grace and strength.
Just like Thanksgiving has been, this year Christmas is going to look different, but even while our traditions are going to have to change some, we need to make sure that we continue to engage with them. This includes our holiday giving. This year the Giving Tree is going to be collected in a different way. Instead of taking a tag off of the Christmas tree that has the gender and age of a young child in Potsdam, and then going out and buying a gift for that child, we are being encouraged to give monetary donations directly to the Potsdam Holiday Fund. And they, in turn, will buy gift cards to be distributed to children in need.
If you’d like to participate, there are two different ways you can send in your donation.
1. You can give online by going to http://www.potsdamholidayfund.org, or…
2. You can write a check and send it to them in the mail at this address:
The Potsdam Holiday Fund, PO Box 827, Potsdam, NY 13676
If there’s ever been a year that you’ve thought about participating in the Giving Tree, this is the year for it because there are so many extra families who will be struggling to find a way to make Christmas joyful for their kids this year. When my younger brother and I were kids, we were often on the receiving end of gifts like these, and I’ll share with you a short little story about their impact. A few years ago my brother sat down next to a man he’d never met before at a luncheon that followed the funeral of an elderly woman at the church we grew up in. He and the man greeted each other, exchanged names, and started chatting while they ate their lunch. All of a sudden, my brother recognized the man’s name. Decades earlier, he and his family had chosen to sponsor Christmas presents for my brother and me. That was the year my brother received a pair of soccer cleats, which allowed him to join a local soccer team. We had never had the money to be able to afford to be on sports teams, and this was a really big deal for my brother. Sitting at that table with this stranger, my adult brother broke down in tears as he told the man the story of those soccer cleats. He never went on to become a star soccer player–he was not very good at soccer, even– but the chance to play on a team with other kids, and participate in something bigger than he was made a lasting mark on my brother’s life. And it happened because a total stranger, who had more than he needed, decided to share what he had with a little kid who did not have enough.
Even if you do not get to know the outcome of your giving, someone is still benefiting. So please, if you have extra, be generous with those who do not have enough.
On another note, let’s discuss Christmas Eve. I know that some of you are wondering (and worrying) about what Christmas Eve is going to look like this year, but take heart! Session and I have a plan. We won’t be able to join together in our sanctuary to sing our favorite Christmas hymns, take in the view of beautiful Christmas decorations, and snuggle cozily into the people standing next to us as we light candles and sing Silent Night, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get creative! Instead of coming together in the building, we will plan to meet up in the front yard of the church that night. We will all have to bundle up with our warmest boots and mittens, and our trusty masks, but we will gather together on that special night to greet one another and sing! Here’s how we will do it: There is a sidewalk that runs around the entire periphery of the triangular front yard of the church. We will meet there on Christmas Eve with our flashlights and/or candles, and we will s-p-r-e-a-d out across the length of the sides of that large triangle, and we will sing Silent Night together. It will have to be short and sweet for those of us who struggle with standing out in the cold, but we will make it happen, ok? We can even bring a few chairs out for those who cannot stand for that long. (And I have a wheelchair, if someone needs transportation from the car to the front yard.) [If we get a rainstorm or a huge blizzard we may have to wait a day, but I promise you that we will figure out how to gather together to celebrate and sing (a tiny bit).]
Oh dear Hearts, this is so hard. It’s painful, actually, isn’t it? But each day we come one day closer to the end of what we are dealing with today. We may not know what the future holds exactly, but we know that what this is…. “this too, shall pass.”
The book of Lamentations discusses the deep strife that comes with being alive in this world, but it holds darkness and despair in tension with the hope of God’s loyal love and graciousness. For millennia people have suffered, and for millennia God has been present. So do not lose heart.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”Lamentations 3:22-23
Holding my star and thinking of you,