Let our spirits rejoice in God our Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servants.
Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened! (Luke 2:15).
Here is the final installment in my series about Christmas carols. It is written by my best friend and wife, Karen:
Christmas brings surprises! Despised shepherds were transformed into engaging prophets, an animal trough became a royal throne, and a Roman census fulfilled an ancient promise. The circumstances around this week’s carol echo the surprise motif. Who would have thought the man who failed as a teacher would gain fame for writing a beloved children’s carol? Who would have guessed that a trip to Israel to recover from the Civil War would climax in the peace of the lyrics to “O, Little Town of Bethlehem?”
Hailing from a prominent Boston family that founded two rival prep schools (Andover and Exeter), Phillips Brooks became an Episcopal rector. His energetic sermons, imposing 76-inch height, and gospel clarity made him beloved, first in Philadelphia and then in Boston. In 1865, Brooks traveled to Palestine seeking insight after an agonizing year. Among other difficulties, he had preached Philadelphia’s funeral sermon for Abraham Lincoln, part of the rail journey bringing Lincoln’s body home for burial in Illinois.
On Christmas Eve 1865, Brooks rode on horseback from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to attend a five-hour service at the Church of Nativity (built at the traditional site of Christ’s birthplace). The worship both calmed and challenged Brooks, and he responded by drafting a poem about Christ’s birth. Three years later, Brooks polished the poem and commissioned his organist to come up with a tune; he wanted the children to have a new carol for their Christmas Eve pageant. So on December 24, 1868, during the children’s service at the Holy Trinity Church, Philadelphia, congregants first sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The song remains a favorite today.
Why is December 24 so special? Perhaps, as Brooks says, because on that day in David’s royal city, “our hopes and fears” met together. God proved true to his promises. Today we still feel awe and joy as we echo believers throughout the ages by singing: “O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!”
Christmas Eve Morning Prayer: Those for whom this Christmas is a particularly lonely and sorrowful one, please join Mary and Pastor Matt in the Westerly Prayer Chapel for a short time of prayer this Sunday morning after the 10 a.m. service.
Family Friendly Service: at 6:00 p.m. Kids please bring your teddy bears to the service. Pastor Matt will be bringing his and telling a Christmas story about him. Also, this will be the next-to-the-last original Christmas story told by Pastor Matt. The 20-plus-year tradition of Pastor Matt’s original stories will culminate in 2018 with the reading of the last and best.
Candlelight Communion Service: at 11:00 p.m.
Next Sunday Morning: On Sunday, December 31st, Kindergarten through High School Sunday School students will meet together in the Youth Room to work on a special service project for the Trenton Soup Kitchen. There will be no adult Sunday School on that day.
Coat Closet Cleanup: Casserole Dishes, Baking Pans, etc. There are a number of baking items along with other "lost and found" items on the shelves in the coat closet. If you have any items stored up there and/or if you may have lost something here at the church, please retrieve your items. We will be cleaning off these shelves and donating any unclaimed items at the end of the year.
Friday Morning Prayer: No time to pray? Make a New Year's resolution- 5:30 prayer time, on Fridays, at the church. This is the place to be. Yes, that is 5:30 am! Contact Herb Marshall firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Prayer Gathering: Let’s gather together and come before the Lord in praise, confession, thanksgiving, and intercession in a time of prayer for our church leaders, our government, the Church, the Lord’s ministries, church families, US/World events, personal/family needs, etc., as the Holy Spirit leads. Prayer gathering will be held each Sunday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., beginning on January 7, 2018, in the Westerly Prayer Chapel. For more information please contact Carolyn Fischer.
If you are only here on Sunday mornings, you may realize that we have between 120 and 150 children in our building for Sunday School every week. But there are other activities for children and youth as well; Awana and Vacation Bible School to name two. Two out of three Christians come to Christ before the age of 18; your generosity enables this type of soul-changing ministry to take place.
We value each one who gives as the Lord leads. Since 40% of our church income comes in December, we do want to acquaint our regular attenders with our needs in this season. However, if you’ve given what you could already at this point, please feel no pressure to give more. We are grateful for your support. Some of you do have extra to give in December. To be fully funded for ministry we need to receive $282,500 in the next 11 days. Could you give us double your usual monthly giving? Your investment in our church is seeing returns not just every Sunday, but in eternity.