Christmas Eve 2020
A Christmas Like No Other
Do not be afraid;
I am bringing you
good news of great joy
for all the people:
to you is born this day
in the city of David
who is the Messiah,
Dear Members and Friends of St. John’s,
We are experiencing an Advent and Christmas season at St. John’s like no other in our lifetime. The 2020 Pandemic fundamentally altered how we “do church” at 59 East Mound Street. Yet as the pandemic surged, we re-discovered the heart of our faith and the continued need for our “beacon of hope in the heart of the city.”
Many of you were involved while we pivoted, adapted, innovated, changed, and responded in ways we never had before. We watched God move and people “come together, while apart” in extraordinary examples of compassion and community, as we:
transitioned to Facebook Live weekly worship services filled with amazing music and messages – providing space for the congregation’s soulful, funny, poignant online comments during the service each week;
launched online small groups like Men’s Group, and the Wednesday evening class, supporting authentic connections of support and care;
created a new “to go” model for The Largest Table ministry to feed hungry people each week, as we also continued to support The Open Shelter’s daily operations in our church facility to meet the needs of the homeless and marginally housed during a pandemic;
participated in extraordinary social justice work for Black Lives Matter and other advocacy movements;
found new ways to pastor to the LGBTQIA+ community during hard times;
remembered our building manager Steve Sandaluk with a passionate, raucous, loud, colorful “drive by” memorial service outside of the church this summer (he would have loved it!);
supported our musicians when they lost gigs due to the pandemic and pivoted to online music offerings and other ways to share their work;
created a new Care Callers program to supplement pastoral care and outreach during the pandemic;
found ways to gather outside across the city in small groups – in back yards, driveways, Metro parks, near patios and fountains (with masks and distance) to literally not go crazy as the pandemic stretched into months and months;
sewed masks for church members and made meals to drop off for our frontline workers throughout 2020;
sent homemade cards to church members, people in need, and the children in our church to stay in touch;
encouraged everyone through informative and often humorous social media posts almost daily from the congregation to the wider community;
created a new St. John’s yard sign for the congregation, delivered to people’s homes, as well as other outreach projects to meet people “where they were” when so many of us had to transition to remote work, school, social settings;
even found a way to bring our larger community together, through our outside October church picnic in the large parking lot of another UCC church, celebrating another successful Consecration Sunday at St. John’s and the strength of our growing congregation.
All of this definitely hasn’t been easy -- yet time and again, our community dared to endure. This year has been, as Winston Churchill once noted about England in a time of crisis, "no time for ease or comfort, only time to dare and endure."
And you did! You proclaimed the Word of God and lived your faith in ways you perhaps never imagined.
As we draw closer to Christmas Day, we remember why: Immanuel. God with us. Now more than ever, this is a message we all need to hear again. In these uncertain times, God is with us.
And God reminds us, over and over, to “be not afraid.” Because whether our fears are specific or generalized, as human beings we all long for more of God’s peace, the peace that passes all understanding.
Each Christmas, we have the opportunity to claim that peace by receiving the Christ Child anew into our hearts. But first, we have to overcome our fear, because fear will crowd out faith, cast out light, and keep us from manifesting our spiritual destiny.
Just like the shepherds who were living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, minding their own business, and doing things the way they’ve always done it. Then an angel of the Lord appeared out of nowhere, and our Scripture reports that the shepherds were “terrified.” Had the shepherds stopped in that fear, they never would have traveled all the way to Bethlehem.
But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.” So they weren’t. Instead, in courage and “with haste,” the shepherds traveled to Bethlehem to find Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. And the rest is our spiritual history – and our church’s destiny.
Join us for our special Christmas Eve service on Thursday evening at 6pm to celebrate the courage of our faith. At 6pm sharp, you will be invited to ring bells (bang pots and pans, whatever you have on hand at home) as our worship band sings Angels We Have Heard on High and many other sacred holiday favorites on Christmas Eve. We hope you will light a candle with us – because our service will conclude that evening with a special candle lit rendition of Silent Night before we depart in faith to welcome the Christ Child anew.
Finally, as St. John’s Senior Pastor, I have a special request in this year like no other. I am so very proud of our staff team, lay leaders, church members, musicians, and volunteers who didn’t give up in 2020 – amazing people who persisted and pivoted time and again, to “be the church” in a historically challenging and unprecedented season.
We need YOUR help to endure into 2021, with the COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon and the potential to gather again as a whole sometime in 2021. So many people depend upon us, the presence of our church, and the myriad ways our congregation makes a difference in our community. Your generous Christmas offerings and year end gifts will make all the difference as we plan our budget, ministry, and programs for the year ahead.
So thank you in advance for considering St. John’s in your year end charitable giving – you are part of God’s answers to the cries of this world.
May your New Year ahead be filled with unsurpassed peace, abundant opportunities, overflowing love, and amazing grace, all possible because of the fearless love of a baby who changed the world.
With profound appreciation and love,
Senior Pastor Gini