WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 23
12 noon Worship with Communion
followed by The Largest Table Community Meal
Westerville Community UCC Youth Visit
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24
7:00pm Music of Christmas
HOLIDAY OFFICE HOURS
the church office will be closed from
12:00 pm Thursday, December 24 through
9:00 am Tuesday, December 29
Dear Members and Friends of St John’s,
We have had a REMARKABLE week here at St John’s, as we continue to prepare our hearts to receive the Christ Child anew on Christmas Day.
Last Sunday, we took a photograph of our congregation as part of my sermon entitled “Peace Amid Bedlam.” Our congregation courageously, lovingly, and faithfully chose to participate in a now nationwide endeavor called#WeChooseWelcome, growing out of the interfaith prayer rally and press event held last week with 150 of our Central Ohio clergy and interfaith leaders.
As we gathered for the photograph on Sunday, the music played “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me! We took the photograph for our young Muslim neighbor named Leena, a student at the Mosaic School in Columbus, to let her know that no matter what, our church will always choose welcome over rejection, love over hate, faith over fear.
My colleagues at Church World Service then asked me to write a blog post about our experience, which reached a national audience:
Also on Sunday, Congregational Care Facilitator Nan, and Pastor Rachael Gardner, organized teams of Christmas Carolers to visit our ill and home bound church members with the joy of the season. We wish to thank all who helped and participated. All shared in the good cheer of the singers, who spread the love and care of our church during this special season.
Nan says, “Part of the reason I love to go caroling so much is because when I was in youth group and went caroling I remember the joy in the faces of those who we visited and it really touched me how such a simple act that is also fun could bring such joy to someone. I love going to the facilities where others besides our home bound can hear us. I love seeing their faces and knowing that we just brightened several peoples days. So hopefully our youth has had or will have that same experience.”
St John’s had 22 carolers who visited homebound Margaret. Ray & Betty, Kathy, Mary, Elnora, Shirley and Rita.
On Wednesday, we served an ever-increasing number of individuals who are in need of a hot meal through The Largest Table ministry. That evening, we were joined by members of David’s UCC (Canal Winchester) and Gender Road Christian Church for the evening meal they prepare outside of St John’s as part of their “Under the Stars” ministry.
We were incredibly grateful for their presence when we received an unexpected gift of hundreds (and hundreds!) of pounds of produce from the Franklin County Public Health Department! So all those gathered on our back porch for that evening meal – young and old, homeless and housed, hungry and fed – joined together to unload the truck full of produce to fill hungry bellies across our city. And in that moment, we saw a glimpse of the richness of God’s kingdom, when we all work together for good to receive God’s unexpected gifts.
Well, we are now preparing to enter another extraordinary week of ministry at St John’s, full of unexpected gifts, and we hope you will join us! On Sunday, December 20, our seasonal Scripture texts are Luke 1:47-55 (alluding to 1 Samuel 2:1-10) and Luke 1:26-38. My sermon is entitled “Our Souls Magnified,” as we consider anew the remarkable story of Mary and Elizabeth, one of them too old to be a mother, and the other too young. Yet both were in the hands of God, a God who provides new beginnings in a sea of endings.
Sunday’s Gospel narrative reflects a genuine connection between two pregnant women of different generations, as they wait in community for the manifestation of God’s will for the future. Perhaps we too might wait together in love at St John’s, different generations gathered together in one church, for the coming of the Christ Child. How might Mary’s story invite us all to approach the Christmas Eve event at the manger – expectant with God’s love?
As a special treat this Sunday, Pastor Rachael and Barbara have planned a creative Christmas Play for our children and youth, that will be staged during our worship service. Don’t miss this special opportunity to support our young people at St John’s!
Our Christmas Eve service this year will begin the evening of Thursday, December 24 with the Music of the Season at 7:00 pm. Bells, brass, musical solos and ensembles will grace our sanctuary during this exceptional musical performance under the direction of our Minister of Music, May Schwarz.
Christmas Eve Worship begins at 7:30pm that night with our annual Candlelight Christmas Eve service. Join us as we hear the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, Luke 2:1-20 and a new message of hope for our generation. Then, as is our tradition at St. John’s, we will close this Holy Night by singing Silent Night in German and English, surrounded by the soft glow of candles and the power of our gathered faith community, as together we wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus, full of God’s love.
Following the Christmas holiday, the church office will be open regular hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 29 and 30, then close at noon on New Year’s Eve, December 31, with regular office hours resuming on Monday, January 4.
Merry Christmas and may God richly bless our New Year!