Do not be afraid; for see— I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people:
to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
Christmas Eve Service 6:00pm
(NO morning services on 12/24;
ONE morning service 12/31 at 11am)
Dear Members and Friends of St. John’s,
The phrase “do not be afraid” or “be not afraid” is an abundant phrase in our Holy Scriptures. It has been said that in any version of the Bible, you can find more than 365 examples of language encouraging God’s followers to “fear not” in the face of challenges, change, and uncertainty. Every week in ministry, we talk with people who are afraid. Sometimes the fears are specific: Fear about being cold and hungry. Fear about not having enough money. Fear of flying, spiders, being far from home. Fear of losing a loved one. Fear of disease, pain, and death. Sometimes the fear is more generalized, and a person is anxious and worried about the future. Whether the fear is 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 Sunday evening at 6pm to celebrate the courage of our faith. We have only ONE SERVICE this Sunday from 6:00-7:30pm, a worship production filled with sacred music, prayers, and a message for the season. Don’t miss our new Children’s Choir, special soloists, the Carillon Bell Choir, St. John’s Brass, and of course our Chancel Choir! Our service will conclude with a candle lit rendition of Silent Night before we depart in faith to welcome the Christ Child anew.
A Fear Not Prayer for the New Year 2018
The Psalmist often leads us in a “Fear not” prayer. The Psalms are the Bible’s great soul book, meant to train us to respond to all life situations and difficulties through prayer and trust in the Lord.
One example is Psalm 56. The Psalm is set at a time when David has been seized by the Philistines, and he starts to become afraid. But rather than succumb to fear, he instead sets his vision on his Lord and Savior in his midst, and proclaims “in God I trust.” David puts his trust in the Lord when he is afraid, and his prayer is a model for us for the New Year ahead:
When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I trust; I will not be afriad.
What can mortal man do to me?
(Psalm 56:3-4, repeated in similar words in verses 10-11.)
So as you face another New Year: what are you afraid of? What fear is trying to take a hold of you right now? What threat or trouble are you facing? We encourage you to pray as David did:
“When I am afraid of _________, I will trust in you, O Lord.”
May that one spiritual discipline provide greater space in your heart for God’s abundant peace to take hold. And if you’re not afraid right now, the prayer still works! A time of strength is often the best time to pray because then we can “watch and pray” with Jesus, preparing our hearts now to take refuge in the Lord, no matter what happens in the world.
As we conclude our church business year, this past Sunday our congregation faced a financial choice between fear and faith. Following a careful voting process by church members, we are pleased to report that our church bravely voted, by an overwhelming majority, to approve our fiscally prudent budget for 2018. Our church also voted by an overwhelming majority to approve the growth financing the church needs to undergird our continued transformation and growth strategy the next few years. We understood that we couldn’t stand still in fear in the midst of a changing world. So like the shepherds in the field, we chose to fear not and to trust that God will continue to lead us into a vibrant new generation of faith and practice!
If you are new to our church, you may not know that the choices we made are based on a well researched process we began last year. Below is a link to the brief remarks we shared at the meeting on Sunday from our transformation and church growth consultant, Rev. Dr. Bill Easum,www.effectivechurchgroup.com, (his full report on St. John’s is available in the church office):
Ways to Financially Give to St. John’s
Please take a moment this week to share a special Christmas offering with St. John’s – we rely on YOUR donations to support our mission and ministry to the least, the last, and the lost! This time of year we have many families who are struggling, and your donations to our General Operating Fund (which funds The Largest Table meal) and to our Family Fund (especially for families in need) help our church this special time of year.
A time honored giving tradition is the “check/cash and envelope” method for paying your donation to the church either by mail or in the worship offering plate, and donation envelopes are available in the church office. We also have new, convenient ways to give to St. John’s. These include:
1) Automatic, recurring donations through direct deposit (contact the church office or your bank for details);
2) Recurring or one time donations through our church website: https://www.stjohnschurchcolumbus.org/donate.html
3) Our new online giving “kiosk” at the back of the Welcome Center.
Thank you for believing in our new future at St. John’s, and sharing your support with our families in need this time of year. 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.