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Back in 2004, my son Nathan and I hiked around Isle Royale, an island in Lake Superior between the U.S. and Canada. It is an emerald gem with a 45-mile perimeter and populated with moose, deer, foxes and red squirrels.
Our third night out Nathan woke me up at 5:30 in the morning, which I found annoying until he said, “Papa, look!” There before us, dancing in the sky was the aurora borealis, or known more familiarly as the northern lights.
I remembered this incident as we enter the Advent season. Just as the entrancing, dramatic, magical display of the northern lights leapt on the horizon of the dark, early morn, so does the light of Christ break through the veil of human tragedy, pain, grief and stupidity.
Every Christmas sermon lays out how bleak the world is and if it weren’t for God breaking into history with the birth of Christ, we would most to be pitied, as Paul put it. I have preached the same and never lacked for current events to make the point—9/11, the war in Iraq, the crash of financial markets in 2008, a gargantuan tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004, and Hurricane Katrina, to name a few.
2017 has not disappointed us in that regard. It has been the deadliest year of mass shootings, with 208 killed. Right now, 20 million people in the world are at risk of starving to death due to global famine. Incredulously, politicians are endorsing a man running for the Senate even as there is credible evidence that he molested teenaged girls. North Korea and Washington are threatening the possibility of a nuclear first strike. A recent sweeping report from the federal government’s National Climate Assessment says that climate change is a real and present danger and humans are to blame. And the list goes on.
Every generation has had its tragedies, horrors, and fears. People in our congregation have lived through the Depression, World War II, and the Holocaust. I lived through the Civil Rights movement, the assassination of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Cuban missile crisis and the War in Vietnam. Gen-Xers and Millennials have and will have their own historical memories.
Nevertheless, God’s people across the years, decades and centuries have found comfort and strength in the angel’s declaration “to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.” “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” wrote the prophet Isaiah. “They lived in a land of shadows, but now light is shining on them.” (Isaiah 9:2).
He spoke this to his people while they were in captivity in Babylon. He was looking toward a future light that hadn’t yet come. This coming light was so brilliant and clear in Isaiah's mind that he describes it as if this light had already dawned. Even in the midst of the darkness of heartache, fear and questioning, we are reminded, like Isaiah's audience, that the "light has come." Like the northern lights bursting over the horizon we see God’s light; maybe not as bright as the sun, but nevertheless light.
John the Baptist was the forerunner of that light-bearer Isaiah saw. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out. God sent his messenger, a man named John, who came to tell people about the light, so that all should hear the message and believe. He himself was not the light; he came to tell about the light. This was the real light—the light that comes into the world and shines on all people.” (John 1:5-9)
The question for us during this Advent season is a simple one. Do we see Isaiah's great light illuminating our dark, frightened, crippled world? God grant us the faith to do so.
In Advent hope,
On December 10th, the Chelmsford Community Band, conducted by our own Lucinda J. Ellert, will present their Holiday Concert.
Where: Chelmsford Senior Center, 75 Groton Rd, North Chelmsford, MA 01863
Time: 2:00 pm
Cost: Free will offering
There will be a bake sale, and a raffle, and lots of holiday cheer! Come join the fun!
Thanks to the pie bakers and volunteers, we're looking forward to a great weekend! Pies should arrive between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm on Friday, Dec. 1st. Extra pies are always welcome!
Servers should arrive no later than 5:30 pm. Youth volunteers and greeters should arrive no later than 5:45 pm. Fair Table set-up can begin on Friday afternoon at 3:15 pm. Remember that fair tables will be open on Friday evening. Bring your biggest smiles and holiday cheer!
Any questions can be directed to Carol Sturtevant (978-851-4451 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Trisha Keddie (978-677-6013 or email@example.com). See you then!
Beginning on Wednesday, December 6th at 1 pm in the Parlor, Rev. Bendroth will be offering a Bible study looking at the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke. His hope is that if there is enough interest, the group can continue and look at the Top 40 stories in the Bible. Everyone is welcome. It is specially designed for our retirees, seniors, or stay at home parents. Hope to see you there!
Reminder: Please contact me or see me at Coffee Hour this Sunday, December 3rd if you wish to order a poinsettia. The cost is $11 each, which may be paid with cash or a check made out to Carol Sturtevant. Poinsettias will be displayed in our Sanctuary for worship on Sunday, Dec. 17th and during all services on Christmas Eve. Plants that have been ordered may be removed after the last service on Christmas Eve. If you are not attending this service and you wish to take your plant, please contact me by phone (978-851-4451) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that I can set aside your plant to be picked up the following week. If you are unsure of the color you ordered, please see the posting of plants ordered for pick up outside the church office. Tuesday, December 5th will be the final ordering date.
The Christmas Fair's Gently Used Toy Shoppe needs your help! Volunteers are needed to help with sales and customers the night of the Pie Social, Friday, December 1st, from 6:00-9:00 pm as well as Saturday, December 2nd, beginning at 9:00 am. A 2-hour commitment of time is needed, along with a cheery disposition to make this event a success!
Please call Cathie Seaman at 978-640-0101 if you have any questions or wish to volunteer. Many hands make light work!
Please consider donating toys your kids no longer play with or use to the Christmas Fair Toy Shoppe! Let's give new life to these toys, and make a child's Christmas so much brighter!
The Toy Shoppe accepts clean puzzles, building sets, games, complete craft kits, action figures, trucks & cars, dolls & accessories, Books, DVD's and clean, almost new stuffed animals are also welcome! Please do NOT include infant toys, large/riding toys.
Remaining Drop-off time is Friday, Dec. 1, 9-3 pm, Fellowship Hall.
TCC still needs Greeters for the Christmas Eve 6:30 pm service. Greeters can be 1-2 friends, a family or a small group! From 6:00 pm to 6:30 pm you'll warmly welcome people as they arrive. Contact Jean Metcalf in person, call the church office, or go to the SignUpGenius page to volunteer.
Tewksbury''s Interfaith Choir presents its annual Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 10th, 2017 at 7:00 pm in St. Williams Church in Tewksbury. As always, the Interfaith Christmas Concert is free of charge, so everyone can come and share in the music and in the Christmas Spirit! (There will be a free-will offering for those who wish to participate.)
There will be several fun up-tempo solos and duets that are sure to please! After the Concert, everyone is invited to enjoy to enjoy fellowship and refreshments.
Leave your worries at home, grab some family and friends, and escape into the joy of the season!
Big thanks to Judy Boyson and her grandsons for shopping and filling a Christmas shoebox for Maria Aiza Dagadog, our sponsored child in the Philippines. We bought a Christmas food basket for Pedro Ben Ben and his family in Guatemala, and purchased a shoebox for Makis Delmas in Haiti that will be filled on-site by those who know his needs best. Maria's box is filled with some necessities and some things that are just for fun, with just enough room in the box for one more thing...A TCC red shirt! May she feel wrapped in our love when she wears it! Thanks, Judy, for the great idea and for all that you do to help make the most of the missions committee funds!
So soon after Thanksgiving and already we are making to-do lists. Put up the Christmas tree. Bake pies for Pie Social. Look online for the best deal on Play Station 4. Write family Christmas letter. In the midst of all this list making, let me suggest another To-Do list to keep our focus on Christ. In Christianity Today some years back, Mark Mitchell and JoHannah Reardon observed we can learn four things from the shepherds Luke 2: 8-20 that should be on our Christmas To-Do list. This is my version of what they shared.
The shepherds were out in their fields minding their own business when the sky lit up with angels announcing that Jesus had been born. As soon as the angels left and the shepherds blinked and rubbed their eyes they said: “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.”
There’s no second-guessing. No arguing with each other. They don’t decide to sleep on it. They take the angels at their word that God has done this amazing thing. They get up and go. They just trust. They believe it. That’s faith. Scripture says that without faith it's impossible to please God (Hebrews 11: 6). The angel said, "Peace on earth among people with whom God is pleased."
Faith means saying yes to all that God has done in Christ. Faith says “yes” that Christ is the Savior of the world and my savior. Faith says “yes,” that by his cross and resurrection Christ has overcome sin, death and evil. Faith says “yes,” in Christ you find forgiveness and new life. Faith says “yes,” I want to do justice, love kindness, and walk faithfully with my God. (Micah 6:8) Faith isn't a spectator sport; it's actively embracing of all that God has accomplished in Christ.
The shepherds did exactly as they were instructed. They got up and went to Bethlehem to confirm what the angels said was true. We tend to think of Christmas as a tame holiday. “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.” A sleeping baby is sentimental and sweet. He doesn’t require anything of us. But Christmas isn’t safe! This baby reigns from the manger as King of kings and the Lord of lords. His coming kingdom will rival the kingdom of self and the kingdoms of this world. That's threatening. He asks us to pick up our crosses and follow him every day.
People love to celebrate Christmas. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate “peace on earth, goodwill to all”? But talk about obeying or following Christ? Not so much. Everyone wants to keep Jesus in the manger where he’s safe. But the manger is pointless apart from the Cross.
When the shepherds arrived in Bethlehem and saw Jesus lying in the bed of hay in a feed trough, "they spread the word concerning what had been told to them about this child." They weren’t orators or preachers or necessarily well-spoken. They just told people what they had seen and heard. Emmanuel, God with us, has been born!
Decorating, exchanging thoughtful gifts and Yuletide parties are wonderful, but what if we do all that and never tell people what Christmas means to us? If we fail to speak of the real meaning of it all—that we are the visited planet, that God in Christ has come to save the world and to redeem all of creation—we shortchange what Christmas is all about. The angel said that this was good news of great joy which shall be for all people. Share the joy.
The shepherds were stunned at the angel's announcement. When they told their story in Bethlehem their hearers were amazed. The shepherds and those around them experienced holy wonder.
How can you participate in holy wonder? Maybe that means you stop in the middle of your shopping, sit down, and think about the meaning behind your gift giving. Maybe that means getting an Advent wreath and every night before dinner with your family, you read part of the Christmas story and light a candle. Maybe that means volunteering at a soup kitchen or becoming a pen pal with a prisoner, remembering that Jesus came to feed the hungry and visit the incarcerated.
The work of holy wonder is treasuring and pondering these marvels in your heart as Mary did (Luke 2:19). It is an amazing thing that the God of the universe “so loved the world” that God snuck in on planet earth on a perilous rescue mission. Amidst all the commotion, stop and treasure all these things. Ponder them in your heart. Engage in some holy wonder.
Our TCC Family has these two opportunities to invite Tewksbury residents & people from surrounding communities to our church. There are so many ways, large or small, to get involved. These events have been successful every year through the gifts of time and talent of our TCC Family Members of all ages. Check out SignUpGenius or meet us at Coffee Hour and join the TEAM—donate or participate in the events or behind the scenes (or both!). Your participation is welcome and needed. If you have any questions, meet the Chairpersons at Coffee Hour or contact Carol Sturtevant: 978-851-4451 & email email@example.com for Fair and Trish Keddie: 978-677-6013 firstname.lastname@example.org for Pie Social information. All the chairperson contact information & needs can be found on the Pie Social & Fair Chart, in the office or during Coffee Hour. A bin for Jewelry Table donations (jewelry, boxes & scarves) will be available outside the church office and during Coffee Hour. Used Toys and Christmas Items will be collected in the Vestry this coming Sunday, Nov. 26th.Attached File: 72Christmas Fair Chart 2017.pdf
Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family and friends! In observance of this holiday, the TCC church office will be closed on Thursday, November 24th, and Friday, November 25th. The church office will re-open on Monday, November 27th, at 9:00 am.
IT’S COUNTDOWN TIME! Many pies are being donated, but many more are still needed! Donations for the Baked Goods table are also needed (cookies, brownies, breads, candy, etc.) Our Pie Social brings in many people following the Tree Lighting Ceremony. It’s a popular town event! Please go to SignupGenius to donate or join us at Coffee Hour for needed donations and volunteer opportunities for youth and adults for both events.
Attention TCC Youth: These events need you! Our guests appreciate your smiles and your assistance. You are the ones who greet at the door, lead our guests to where they are going and help where needed. Santa will be in the Parlor from 7-8:30 pm. Parents—this is a great photo opportunity so bring your cameras and alert your friends and family about this festive evening!
The 2018 offering envelopes are available for pick-up in the Narthex. If you don't find a box with your name on it and wish to get a set, please contact the church office at 978-851-9411.
The Giving Tree still has ornaments for you to select!
Select an ornament –. You may take as many as you wish and can afford.
Sign the Master list. This is very important as it ensures that all wishes will be met and if not, Missions can fill in the blanks.
Invite extended family members and friends to join you!
All gifts are to be new and do not need to be wrapped, except for the “moms”, but be sure to keep the ornament tag with each gift.
Wrapping paper, ribbons and scotch tape are always welcome.
You may add a Christmas card with a special message of good cheer if you wish, especially for the adolescents and seniors, or even include a holiday ornament or decoration.
All gifts are to be brought to the Church by or on December 3rd. The Case Worker in charge will pick them up that day.
If you have any questions, please call JoJo at 978-851-5298.
This Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year, is known as Reign of Christ or Christ the King. The biblical vision of human history defines itself as “the kingdom of God.” Jesus began his ministry with the announcement, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 4:17). When we try to wrap our heads around the exact nature of the kingdom of God, we get a bewildering array of answers from scripture.
We learn that the kingdom of God is a present reality, here on earth. “But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Mt. 12: 28). Yet, it is a future reality, “I declare to you…that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God…but we will all be changed,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 50,52). It is an inner spiritual experience, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). It is personal, as when Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless you are born anew you cannot see the kingdom of God,” (John 3:3). It is also political, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 11:15).
The trouble is we think of a kingdom as a territory or the people belonging to a particular land. But in both the New and the Old Testaments, a kingdom is the rank, authority, and sovereignty of the king, not the realm he rules over. A kingdom is God’s rule over the heavens and the earth, the seen and the unseen. What we also learn is that the kingdom of God is now, but not yet.
There are signs of the kingdom all about, but usually in more hidden and quiet ways: an answered prayer, a grief group for the bereaved, a soup kitchen in a church, or building a hospital in Sierra Leone. Then there are times when the kingdom breaks into history in astounding ways: the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of apartheid. Churches and God’s people were an essential part of all those events.
It was after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension that the Church began to see his reign as the power of love, not the love of power; a willingness to suffer, not to inflict suffering; care for the poor and the outcast, not a consolidation of wealth and power; and a passion for justice, not indifference to evil. Sometimes it’s difficult to believe that “Jesus is Lord,” when we see the injustice, chaos and suffering of the world, but by faith, we believe him when he says, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The late church historian Jaroslav Pelikan pointed out a stunning historical irony: that, of all the renowned figures of ancient Rome, the name of only one is recited every day by millions of people around the world in worship every day. This man is neither emperor nor general, neither poet nor philosopher, but an obscure provincial governor.
He is, of course, Pontius Pilate. His name is so familiar because he shares the rare distinction -- along with Mary, mother of Jesus -- of being mentioned in both the Nicene and Apostles' creeds.
And what is it about Pilate that earned him such fame, exceeding that of even the greatest Roman emperors? Such fame stems not so much from anything Pilate did, but from a person with whom he was briefly associated on a single day of his life: Jesus Christ. Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Before him, even the mighty Caesars fade into insignificance.
It's only two weeks until our Pie Social (December 1)! Last year we sold over 500 pieces of pie! That is over 70 pies. To date, we only have 1/3 of the pies we need to make our Pie Social a success. Please consider making a homemade pie for this event. Perhaps you can bake an extra pie for Thanksgiving and freeze it. We are also in need of servers, greeters, and kitchen help. You can sign up during Coffee Hour. You can sign up during Coffee Hour after worship or on Sign-UpGenius. There is also a need for a Co-chair for this event! Please contact Trisha Keddie at 978-677-6013 or email@example.com if you have any questions.
The wishes of the families from The Wish Project have arrived and now can be found on the Giving Tree. If you have not chosen a gift to buy here is another opportunity! Let's give these families and Merry Christmas!
If you have any questions please contact the church office, 978-851-9411, or JoJo Scharmer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In her book The Gift of Thanks, Margaret Visser uses three concrete images to convey the power of gratitude—gratitude as soil, lubricant, and glue. I like these images and they ring true to me.
Soil is the ground of our lives. It is where our fundamental character, disposition and will is rooted. Here we can grow an “attitude of gratitude” that views all of life as a gift. A grateful person is able to “cultivate” him or herself in the warm soil of gratitude and become a thankful person. A person with an ungrateful temperament, by contrast, can be hard and dry, not easily moved by tenderness or kindness, and unable to see the “blessedness” or life. “In European languages,” Visser says, “people often talk of poor soil as ‘ungrateful.’”
The Jews have a wonderful prayer I often use. Whenever you experience something beautiful, lovely, moving or touching, you simply say, “Blessed be Thou.” Blessed be Thou for this beautiful new morning, blessed be Thou for how excited my dog becomes when I come home, blessed be Thou for Braham’s Symphony No. 1 in C minor and blessed be Thou for a glass of Burgundy at the end of a long day.
Gratitude is also a social “lubricant.” It is the oil that makes the machinery of human interaction run more smoothly. Pendulums swing back and forth and gears mesh and interconnect. When they are well-oiled they function as they are supposed to. In relationships, even casual ones with the dry cleaner and the clerk at Dunkin’ Donuts, gratitude, courtesy, and cheerfulness are the back and forth movements between people that can add grace to anyone’s day. When there is no gratitude, there is no meaningful connection. Relationships become rusty, chafing, resistant, unpleasant, and finally break altogether. The social “machinery” grinds to a halt.
Finally, gratitude is “glue.” Common courtesy, respect, and genuine interest in another human being is the social cohesion that thankfulness provides. Holding a door for a mom with two kids in the stroller, letting someone squeeze in ahead of you as traffic merges, helping a neighbor shovel their sidewalk and saying “thank you” for small gestures of kindness transcend any differences we might have. Society today is highly fragmented, cracking along all kinds of dividing lines. Visser observes, “Gratitude is ‘a kind of plastic filler,’ ‘an all-purpose moral cement,’ a sort of magic paste that is amazingly malleable, squeezing itself into the cracks and then solidifying and strengthening the social structure.”
For Christians, gratitude should be as natural as breathing. We see our creation, redemption, and sustenance as gifts from the generous hand of God. “In everything give thanks,” says Paul, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18). You certainly don’t give thanks for the flat tire, cancer, or a kid doing drugs. However, even in the midst of difficulties, we can be grateful because we know “God works all things together for good.” (Romans 8:28).
During Thanksgiving week, think about how you can be soil, oil and glue.