“This Week of Grace”
Friday, December 18 , 2009
PRAYER FOR THIS WEEK
Lord, we can’t quite imagine what it must have been like for Mary, to hear God’s request and to respond, unconditionally with “Yes!” We have a tendency to put conditions on everything. We want to know what we have to do, how long this will take, what’s in it for us, what are the projected outcomes. Forgive us for our faithlessness, Lord. Slow us down, and cause us to take time to really consider the wonderful ways you have always worked in our lives. As we have come before you with concerns on our hearts for our families, friends, and world, remind us that your presence is with us and your healing love comforts and restores us. Open our hearts and our ears to the cries of those in need. Let us use our talents and resources to help others. Give us courage, energy, and enthusiasm as we work for you in this world. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN.
CHURCH AND COMMUNITY NEWS .
2009 Advent And Christmas At Grace
December 20, 2009
9:15 a.m. Sunday School
10:30 a.m. 4th Sunday in Advent Worship: Children’s Christmas Program
December 24, 2009: 7:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight Worship
December 27, 2009: 10:30 a.m. 1st Sunday After Christmas Worship
Sunday afternoon, Dec. 20th , at 3:00 PM, the chancel choir at First Presbyterian Church is doing a musical presentation entitled “Amahl and the Night Visitors” by Gian Carlo-Menotti. It is a wonderful family story about a poor shepherd boy and his mother who have three unusual guests stop to rest in their home. Attendees are requested to bring a non-perishable food item or donation to the First Presbyterian food pantry.
Adult Education Opportunity: UCC History and Polity
As most people mature, they realize that their own identity is intricately connected to those who came before them. The same is true of churches. The UCC today is the result of a rich, complex history that shaped the past and guides the present and future. The UCC is a relatively young denomination and yet it has roots in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, and the Puritans and Congregationalists who settled in the New World in the 17th century. In order to understand the UCC and its ministry today, it is important to have a sense of the church’s past.
First Congregational Church of River Falls, Wisconsin is sponsoring a one-day workshop led by Dr. Martha Baumer, former professor at Eden Theological Seminary. The workshop will meet from 9:00 to 3:00 on Friday, February 12, 2010. Part way through the day we will break for a luncheon. The cost of the day, including lunch, is modest, $10.00 per person.
Dr. Baumer is a knowledgeable, engaging speaker. She will help us to become acquainted with our own history so we can more thoroughly envision our present identity and ministry. Dr. Baumer will also offer a discussion of UCC church polity. A church’s “polity” is the structure and relationships that bind people together in congregations and congregations to each other in the church.
Please consider joining the conversation. To register, you may call the church office 715-425-2052 or download a registration form from the church website www.firstchurchrf.org.
Silent Auction… The Christian Education Committee will again sponsor our Silent Auction fundraiser. New or gently used items may be brought to church between December 26th and January 2nd. No clothes, please. Bidding will begin January 3rd and continue thru January 17th. On January 24th, bids will be closed and during the 11:30 am Social Hour you will be able to pick up the items you purchased and pay for them. Moneys support the Sunday School projects and a designated amount will be donated to an account to be called the “Home Mission Fund.” During the year, people in need stop by the church and ask for food or gas cards. This will be a fund Pastor Wayne can then use to help these people out. Thank you for your donations and your participation in bidding for this important fundraiser.
Grace UCC to Celebrate 125th Anniversary in 2011 — Grace United Church of Christ will celebrate it’s 125th anniversary in 2011. Anyone interested in working on a team to plan the celebration should contact a council member. Planning will begin in the next couple of months. If anyone has anything of historical significance (pictures, stories, newspaper clippings, etc.) to contribute, please give it to a council member.
NEXT SUNDAY’S BIBLE READINGS
December 20, 2009
Micah 5:2-5a: The prophet Micah speaks of the lowly town of Bethlehem being a blessing to the nation through the birth of a king.
Hebrews 10:5-10: The writer to the Hebrews writes of the great gift to the world that has been given in the advent of the Christ.
Luke 1:39-45, (46-55): Two women, both expectant with children, greet one another. Mary greets her kinswoman Elizabeth and then sings a hymn about the significance of the child Mary bears.
NEXT SUNDAY’S WORSHIP EXPERIENCES
December 20, 2009:
This Sunday we celebrate the Advent of Christ on Christmas Day, Christ, the promised Savior. We do so in Song & Praise. We do so in our prayers of faith and thanksgiving. And we do so in the lighting of the candles to our Advent Wreath. The Sunday School Children will present their program entitled: “Touch Of An Angel.”
Grace Church services are broadcast on Charter Cable Channels 96 and 98 Wednesdays 1:30-3 pm; Thursdays 7:30-9:00 pm, Fridays 6-7:30 am
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.” Victor Borge
THE WEEK’S LINK
http://tinyurl.com/c7oy5t A humorous rendition of Handel’s “Messiah” by “Silent Monk.”
WHAT CAN I DO? @
Attend worship EVERY Sunday. 10:30 a.m. Dress casual.
Pray. AND THEN PRAY SOME MORE.
Provide Child Care during worship.
Volunteer as a Deacon (There are a couple openings).
Serve a Sunday Fellowship Time.
Bring a friend or three to church and keep bringing them.
Got a ministry idea you’d like to try?
Give regularly to the ministry of your church. And then give again…
Christmas greetings from Geoffrey Black, General Minister and President
December 15, 2009
Dear United Church of Christ family of faith:
This is the first occasion that, as General Minister and President, I have had the pleasure of sending this Advent / Christmas greeting to you, my sisters and brothers, who share in the ministry and mission of the United Church of Christ. Grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, whose birth we anticipate and celebrate anew!
It has been a little less than three months since I embarked on this journey of service leadership. During these initial months, I along with staff colleagues have devoted significant time to visiting and listening to UCC people as they share their visions for the future of the church. These experiences have been inspiring and informative for me, and I also have been the recipient of very gracious hospitality and, what we like to call, extravagant welcome. For this enriching start to my new work, I am very grateful.
Advent is a time of reflection, penance and holy anticipation. It is a season to rekindle our hope and renew our commitment to the quest for peace — inner peace and peace among people and nations. Yet, as Advent approached this year, our nation continued to be engaged in two armed conflicts, with the war in Afghanistan being one of the longest in the history of the nation. Moreover, early in the season, we learned of a decision to escalate this war with the stated hope of bringing it to an end. This was a course of action with which I did not agree, and we will continue to press for alternative paths to achieve a lasting and just peace.
During this Advent season, we are also aware that the movement to reform health insurance so that all Americans might have access to adequate care is at a critical point of deliberation and decision. Similarly, we know that the global community is engaged in serious negotiations regarding climate change and the need for the world community to reduce greenhouse gases.
Surely, the peace among nations that we yearn for in this season is not on the horizon. We also know that inner peace is often unattainable for many of our friends and neighbors, because they cannot afford access to health care. Although concerns about the natural environment are shared by people around the world, we have not yet committed ourselves to meaningful action that would forestall environmental disaster. These are aspects of life where our Advent reflection might lead us to repentance.
Yet, Advent is a time of holy anticipation. It is a season of looking forward with the expectation that God will reveal the Divine presence here on earth, in our midst. For that we prayerfully wait not in despair, but in hope and active preparatory engagement.
The wonderful reality of Advent is that it segues into Christmas, the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, Jesus. For us, he is the fulfillment of God’s willingness to be with us, thus blessing our lives with renewed hope. Our hope is grounded in God’s presence in Christ, and the Holy Spirit enables and emboldens us to take initiative to persist in the quest for peace among nations and to seek to be at peace ourselves, to press on for health care for all and to grow as stewards of God’s creation.
For me, God’s enduring presence is the source of the joy of this season. In the face of all we know and all that challenges our wellbeing, we are reminded that we are not alone. In Jesus, our Emmanuel, God is with us.
This year, I join with all of my coworkers and colleagues here at the United Church of Christ National Offices in prayerfully wishing you blessed and joyful Christmas season!
Yours, in the blessedness and joy of the season,
Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ