If you know of someone in need of prayer (public or confidential), please let us know. That too is a way of keeping community.
On St. Pauls’ Facebook page you will find prayers every morning at about 8:30am, and Service of the Word (with a sermon based on the gospel) posted every Sunday morning. Our Facebook address is https://www.facebook.com/stpaulsuniontown
... during the Christmas week from December 23 at noon until January 3 and will return January 4, 2021 unless the weather is bad. Please leave a message on the machine if you need anything and call the office to make sure I have returned. If you need to pick up your poinsettia call the office or Pastor. Thank you.
In the last newsletter we reported that we (the Church Council with Pastor Anderson) decided (10-2) that we would suspend in-person worship for the time being, most likely until the end of January. We did not make that decision lightly, and at the beginning of our discussion I shared with the Council that I would not be happy with any decision we made--suspend worship and miss one of the most significant services of the year, or hold worship in spite of rising Covid numbers and risk people’s health and well-being. Since that meeting the numbers are still scary, and some of them are worse. This morning (12/14) a Pittsburgh TV station reported that authorities are watching Fayette County, anticipating a rise in Covid cases. I believe that we made the right, difficult decision. I know this is disappointing, and even though it is the right decision nobody is going to be happy about it.
(As it turns out, none of the Lutheran congregations in our area is presently holding services, including Christmass Eve/Day services. And the pastors and congregational leaders are just as disappointed as anyone--if not more so). But you know what?
On December 24, when the sun goes down and, by Jewish reckoning, the next day starts, we can say with Christians of every time and place: Hodie Christus natus est! Christ is born today!
On Christmass Eve and beyond we hope that you will visit the Facebook page and/or our web page to see some very special offerings we have to celebrate the birth of our savior Jesus Christ.
1). Olivia Rakas and Pr. Anderson are preparing a devotional program of readings and carols based on Luke 2 and favorite carols/hymns in the Lutheran Book of Worship. This will be accompanied by a Power Point series of pictures of the sanctuary in St. Paul’s in all its glory and some of the windows that relate to the birth of Christ as well. This program will also be presented on WMBS at 10:00am on Christmass Day.
2). We have made arrangements to have Mr. Brian Burns, organist at Christ Methodist Church in Pittsburgh, to play a Christmass concert on the organ at St. Paul’s which will be recorded and posted as well on the Facebook page and web page of St. Paul’s. And we would like to dedicate this Christmass offering to the glory of God and in memory of Gerald and Caroline Blaney, members of St. Paul’s.
3). We are also going to post highlights of our worship life together in the past to our Facebook and web pages. We have recordings of Christmass Cantatas and Christmass Eve services, and we are going to post some of those so that everyone can “tune in” and enjoy a “blast from the past” and to remember that though we are physically separated for a season, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:31-39). And we would like to dedicate this Christmass offering to the glory of God and in honor of our organist, Judy VanBremen, and all who have sung in choirs under her direction.
4). During the twelve days of Christmass (12/25--1/5) we will be posting pictures of the windows at St. Paul’s with some reflections on what they mean and how we might relate them to the season and message of the Christmass season.
If you know someone who is not, copies of the above on-line events, either on CD or flash drives can be requested by calling the office and we will see to it that gets to them. Please pass this information to those you might think would like a copy.
... we at St. Paul’s have been trying to keep in touch and connected in many ways. On St. Pauls’ Facebook page we post a classic, faithful prayer from our spiritual ancestors at about 8:15am every single day. Also on Facebook (accessible also through the web page of St. Paul’s) we post a short service every Sunday morning of prayer/preaching based on the gospel for the day. In more usual ways we have multiplied newsletter mailings, prayer cards in the mail, and phone calls (lots of phone calls).
Now, will you help us?
If you are not techno savvy, please consider learning some new technology so that you can benefit more from our efforts. If you learn how to text, or go on Facebook, you may find some new ways to connect to your own family and friends as well.
If you are connected, please like us on Facebook. And ask your friends to like us. Tell people you don’t like to like us. (Maybe they’ll become more likeable).
And if not, we love you anyway.
Think of it as a tale of two Christmases. First, there is the commercial Christmas.The commercial Christmas that drives the first world economy. The materialistic Christmas, focused on getting and acquiring. Obscene perfume commercials. Sentimental movies about “the real meaning of Christmas” in which Jesus, or faith, would be an unwelcome intrusion.
Christmass (two “s”’s) on the other hand is a celebration of the birth of Christ. Christ’s mass. And historically there are two other “mass” holidays (holy day, or in German: Fest tag [Festog--get it? That’s an inside shout-out to Bob :-) ]).
Candlemass is a Christian holiday celebrated annually on February 2. It celebrates three occasions according to Christian belief: the presentation of the child Jesus; Jesus' first entry into the temple; and it celebrates the Virgin Mary's purification.
Michaelmass, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on the 29th of September every year. ... It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmass, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. In some English-speaking countries the fall semester is called “the Michaelmass term”.
Christmass (the Christ-mass), on the other hand, is a specifically Christian celebration of the coming of God into the world and into our lives through the birth and incarnation of Jesus. Born of the virgin Mary, “daddied” by Joseph, Jesus is God-with-us, embracing all of our humanity with our joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, all of life and even death so that he could save it all and give us the promise of eternal life beginning...right...now. Not someday. Now. Here.
Jesus’ family had to flee to Egypt so Herod couldn’t kill him. Even when they returned home they had to hide from the powers-that-be. He started his public ministry by fasting for forty days. He was criticized by the religious experts for doing good to lepers, the lame, the deaf, and the blind. He wept outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He was misunderstood by his own family, and even by his hand-picked disciples. Those same disciples betrayed him, abandoned him, and denied even knowing him. And he died between two thieves.
All of this he did so that he could be God-with-us. Emmanuel.
All of this he did so that he could redeem (buy back) all of humanity, one person at a time. You. Your loved ones. Your dead. Your enemies. All.
And that is terribly good news in terribly messy times. For a terribly divided nation. For a terribly uncertain future. For those dealing with a terribly tenacious virus.
Jesus is terribly good news. And he is the basis and the reason that we Christians can and must say:
It was not an easy decision to come to, even for those who felt it was the right thing. But with the numbers such as they are and the risk that public activities pose we felt we needed to do this.
Now...having said that, I want to add a couple of other important points:
1). Ministry continues to happen. Office hours will be the same, 7:30am to 2:00pm Monday thru Thursday our phone ministry will continue and even increase, and we are available for whatever pastoral ministry needs you might have or that you might identify on behalf of others.
2). Thank you for your faithful support of the ministry of St. Paul's in the past, and please know that we need that faithful support now, in some ways even more than in the past. Your offerings are still needed and appreciated, in support of the ministry to which we've been called.
3). We will continue to open the nave for silent prayer on the Wednesdays in Advent (that is, through 12/23). If we see that it is beneficial we may resume that in the new year.
4). There will be another newsletter out before Christmass that will include detailed announcements regarding a number of non-in-person opportunities for worship and prayer up to and including Christmass Eve/Day on St. Paul's Facebook page/YouTube, our web page, and on WMBS. These postings will include worship, prayer, preaching, and music. As I note above, our ministry continues even if we cannot for a season be face-to-face.
5). Speaking of ministry.... With all of these crazy things going on we need to look out for each other and (even more) for the people around us who do not have the Christian community we enjoy as the body of Christ at St. Paul's. If you would like to send cards, offer prayers, or make phone calls please let us know, and we will help you get set up. And if you know of someone at risk please let us know that, too (confidentially if you wish), and together we can continue to do ministry.
I am grateful for the call to be your pastor, and for the work we are able to do because the Holy Spirit has brought us together in this place and time. In the season of Advent we celebrate the coming of Jesus in the past, his presence in the world around us now, and the promise of his coming in the future when all things will be perfected. Come, Lord Jesus!