December 14, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri

December 14, 2020 Message from Pastor Alessandri (pdf)

Deck the Halls for the Coming of Christ
Haven Lutheran Church
December 14, 2020

A Pause in God’s Word in Our Hope and Expectation

“This is the testimony given when the Jews sent priest and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ “
John 1: 19-21

Prayer: (p.37) O God, you know who I am. Help me to trust my beloved-ness in you, and to honor the belovedness in everyone I encounter today.  Amen.

                        Music:
                        “Who Am I?” (Casting Crowns) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rT8Re1EIQc

“You Say” (Lauren Daigle)       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZvKJl1kK8g

“Your Little Ones, Dear Lord” ELW #286 (Christmas)                                                                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YW0RDxTesqQ

Monday and Tuesday ADVENT-URE WORDS:  PREPARE & ANGELS

It was usually around this time in December you would frequently have people ask, “So, are you ready for Christmas?” Ready meant prepared. Ready meant did you have gifts bought and wrapped, cards mailed, cookies baked, and logistics decided for family gatherings and meals. I was always in awe when someone said, “Yep, just about done.” Whenever I thought I was “prepared,” there would be a forgotten gift, another bulletin, an unfortunate funeral or the standing wonder if my plan for involving kids in the telling of the Christmas story at the earlier Family Christmas Eve worship would work if 1, 3, 7 or 15 kids showed up.  Are you ready? Are you prepared?

This year seems even more precarious. We are planning on an in-person Christmas Eve worship service that will be live streamed.  Or will there be some more restrictive, preventative guidelines for indoor gatherings by then? And how will we refrain from singing those carols in the church so we minimize possible sharing of COVID? How will families safely exchange gifts or have time together? I haven’t heard anyone say they are “ready” for Christmas 2020. Prepared this year seems to mean making plans around what you will NOT do. Which, for most of us, also involves grieving the losses and stepping around the disappointments to find out just exactly what a Christmas celebration will be like this year.

Maybe it is because I’m a pastor, but this year I keep hearing, “Have you prepared the way for the Lord.” Oh, wait. That doesn’t sound like presents, decorations or putting out milk and cookies for Santa. Prepare the way for the Lord? That idea has been around as long as Christmas or at least since Advent became a season. Maybe I just didn’t hear it as pronounced and loudly as I am this year. The spaces and absences caused by COVID restrictions have opened cracks for Isaiah and John the Baptist to be heard more loudly and clearly — Prepare the way of the Lord. Make way for the coming of the Lord. If Christmas is not going to be about concerts, cookie-filled coffee fellowships, gathering with the full family or choosing between early or late Christmas Eve worship, what will it mean this year? Or will we only see what “isn’t”?

This year we are being challenged in so many ways. The most profound challenge may be to actually let the coming of Jesus — God-with-us; the WORD made flesh — be the “star” of Christmas. We Christians like to talk a good talk about keeping “Christ in Christmas” and criticize others for materialism, secularism, or just not coming to worship.  Yet, really…. how many of us are good at keeping the focus on Jesus when we’re involved in all the “regular” bustle of Christmas? This year, there will be alot of us who won’t physically be sitting in a church pew this Christmas Eve for the sake of individual and community health… alot of our traditions will not fill this month or Christmas Day. And while we have every right to be sad about that, I wonder……

I have this piece of paper on my office bulletin board. It’s a phrase another pastor said early on in this pandemic — risk to grow. He wondered if our churches — pastors and members of the congregation — would “risk to grow” or just sit waiting for things to “get back to normal”?  As the time has extended, I’ve turned that phrase into a prayer. “Help me to risk to grow, Lord. Show me what I can learn, what we can learn, so we are even more prepared to serve you and our neighbor.” So, I’m wondering …… will I/we risk to grow in this different and difficult Advent and Christmas seasons? And might that way of growth be by finding ways to put Christ in the heart of this holiday and considering all the other parts of the celebration the icing on the 2020 Christmas cake?

Hear me, I am not scolding or chastising or saying, “Buck up. Get a grip.” I’m genuinely, sincerely wondering what gifts the Lord might have for us in this “pared down” 2020 Christmas season. Part of that gift is the possibility of taking some of our less busy time to revel in the nativity stories, have some heart to heart talks with Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels and magi, bask in the stars and angels and the miraculous but peculiar ways of God revealed in Bethlehem and keep watch for God’s presence showing up all around us. It’s taking me a while to get around to this way of thinking about Christmas. I’m not all the way there yet. But if someone asks me if I’m ready for Christmas, I’ll be prepared to say, “Are we ever? But I’m working on it… or, actually, I’m trying to let the Lord work on me.”

ANGELS

 2Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Who are some of the “angels” you unexpectedly met?  Did you ever have your negative or fearful perception of a stranger or church member get turned on its head?

PLEASE share your story. It would be a gift you could give your community to help us prepare for the coming of our Lord, not only at Christmas, but in our everyday lives.

Music:

Prepare the Royal Highway ELW #264  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcRYJUTt9aI

The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came ELW #265  (King’s College, Cambridge) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pliqObTHxUQ

Angels Unaware (Michael W. Smith) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-rtxWexYN0

Gabriel’s Oboe (instrumental – haunting)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WJhax7Jmxs

“Gabriel’s Oboe” is from the soundtrack of the movie The Mission.  The Gabriel it refers to is not an angel but a Jesuit missionary priest in South America. He comes to live among and bring Christianity to the natives but then finds himself caught in a moral dilemma when a new colonizing power changes the policy from Christian conversion to capturing and enslaving the native population. So the Gabriel of the movie is not the angel Gabriel but still a messenger of God and of God’s love. It’s a hard movie to watch and the music is powerfully used.
Below is a link to a concert presentation of the movie score that includes “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Conducted by composer  Enrico Morricone
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7w-IeNR9ko

TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY ADVENT-URE WORDS:  ANGELS & PEACE

Upcoming ADVENT-ure Words
12/17 – Freed   12/18 Exalt    12/21 Generous      12/22 – Bridges   12/23  Openness

BECAUSE WE NEED TO LAUGH
     

STILL SOME VIRTUAL FOOD BASKET TAGS AVAILABLE. Contact Pam O’Connor, Pat Pile or Kelly Bracken if can take one. Food for our Christmas Holiday baskets must be at church by Sunday, December 20. Items can be put in the large kitchen (IF the door by the Big Brothers Big Sisters office is open) OR you can leave it on the parsonage back porch. (Pastor promises to take it in before any critters find it!)

ARE YOU GOING TO BE WATCHING HAVEN’S  7:00 PM CHRISTMAS EVE WORSHIP SERVICE FROM YOUR HOME?  If so, we will have worship bags available for you by December 20th. In each bag will be bulletins, votive lights and communion for each person watching at your location. Pastor Alessandri will lead you through use of the candle and taking communion during the service.
IF you would like a worship bag, please call (301-733-5056) or e-mail the church office (havenoffice@havenlc.org) THIS WEEK. You can pick up the bags at the December 20, 4:30 pm CAR-oling event OR we can have someone deliver it to you OR you can make arrangements with Pastor Alessandri to pick your bag up on the parsonage porch. What a joy to worship and commune together this Christmas Eve.

WANT TO SHARE CHRISTMAS NOTES/CARDS WITH HAVEN’S HOMEBOUND?

Irene Giffin Hagerstown Health Center, 750 Dual Hwy, Hagerstown, MD 21740

Sari Kilheffer  620 Aldrich Drive, Apt. #142, Chanhassen, MD  55317

Phyllis Meyers, 10736 Downsville Pike #22, Hagerstown MD 21740

John Richards   1030 Benjamin Place, Hagerstown MD 21742

Inez Winebrenner  Fahrney-Keedy Bowman Center, 8507 Mampleville Road, Boonsboro MD 21713

Dorothy Zinkand   5 Woods Road, Elkton MD  21921