“Hope Together, Grow in Faith”
As far as church seasons go like Advent, Lent, and Easter, the season of Epiphany which follows the twelve days after Christmas, is often under appreciated if not totally overlooked! With the celebrations around us this time of year Epiphany is eclipsed by the anticipation of Advent candles, the celebration of Christmas day, and the singing in of the New Year. Just take a quick flip through the Christmas section of the hymnal and “Epiphany carols” are lacking compared to other well loved Christmas carols. Or, have you ever tried to find and send an Epiphany card? Almost impossible.
However, there are still places where Epiphany is celebrated and given the attention it is due. We might learn something by their example. In parts of the world like Ethiopia, Christians celebrate Epiphany more than Christmas. People exchange gifts like Christmas gifts, but these presents represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh the Magi brought Jesus, an interesting contrast to a man in an arctic red suit.
Instead of cookies for Santa those who celebrate Epiphany leave hay in shoes by the backdoor for the Magi’s camels to eat. These rituals are more like the appreciation and celebration we should be having. I would encourage us all to try and avoid the temptation of moving into January too fast without slowing to celebrate this short but ever so important church season.
Epiphany, as the word implies, means to reveal and particularly reveal to us how Jesus will be the Messiah. The stories of Epiphany reveal the Jesus we know as God’s son, miracle maker, teacher, prophet, and healer. We see this first in the arrival and searching for the Christ child by the Magi reminding us that Jesus is for the whole world. The incarnation is for everyone, strangers and insiders alike.
We also see during this time Jesus own development as an infant to an adult leader. The season of Epiphany is the great hinge of Jesus’ early life bringing us from his birth and babyhood into his adulthood and ministry. The writer and theologian Peter Gomes describes it this way, “During Epiphany we come to see who Jesus is, where he is to be found, and where we begin to understand what he is about.” We see in these days following Christmas Jesus claiming his identity as Messiah as his own mission takes root in who he is supposed to be.
Though it is always tempting to stay in the warm familiarity of the manger scene with the angels singing, Epiphany shows us God not just coming into the world, but being alive, active, and moving in the world. We are called to follow along with Jesus out of the manger and ask, “What is God revealing new in my faith and my life?”
As Jesus perhaps reflected upon how his ministry would be in the world, we have six weeks or so of reflection where we can think about the same questions for our own faith. Maybe it is taking a long look at our faith and thinking about places where it needs to grow and be strengthen? Perhaps it is just looking at the world with fresh eyes seeing God revealed in places we previously have overlooked? However, you mark the days of Epiphany between January 6 through February 14, may it reveal God’s great love for you!
wednesday night fellowship
Wednesday Night Zoom Bible Study will resume on Wednesday, January 13 at 7:00 p.m. We will be studying a book called “What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, And the Crisis of Faith” by Tom Long. This book will take a difficult but needed look at some of the most challenging questions of faith, namely if God is all good, all powerful, and kind, why is there suffering in our lives and in the world? This question has been around since the beginning of Christianity, and sooner or later we all have to struggle with the reality of evil and suffering.
These questions, taken together, have been called the “theodicy problem,” and in this book we will learn what Christians can and should say in response. Long reviews the origins and history of the theodicy problem and engages the work of major thinkers who have posed solutions to it. Cautioning Christians not to ignore urgent theodicy-related questions, he offers biblically based approaches to talking about theodicy, guided by Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares and the “greatest theodicy text in Scripture” — the book of Job.
Tom Long has been called one of the most influence preachers of our time, and is currently the Preaching professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Books are $10.00 dollars, and let Chris know if you would like one and he’ll get the first batch ordered! Hope you can join us!
A Note from the Finance Committee
Happy New Year! Hope your holiday season has been filled with peace, joy and love and that these blessings continue into the new year. As we begin a new year, please continue to keep the church in your prayers. Our November income met our expenses for which we are thankful. We will provide a year-end update in the February newsletter.
As a reminder, we will continue to accept monies for the new sanctuary HVAC system if you would like to make additional contributions to assist with the loan repayment.
Year-end giving statements will be available for pick-up after January 22. Please let the church office know if you would like your statement mailed to you.
“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” ~Max Lucado
Children and youth news
Youth Calendar for January
January 10 – Zoom Sunday school at 11:45 a.m.
January 15 – Deadline for Dylan’s Graduation Gift Basket
January 17 – Youth Event TBA
January 24 – Zoom Sunday school at 11:45 a.m.
January 31 – Youth Event TBA
Children’s Ministry Calendar for January
January 6 – Zoom Wednesday afternoon Bible lesson and more 5:00 p.m.
January 13 — Zoom Wednesday afternoon Bible lesson and more 5:00 p.m.
January 20 — Zoom Wednesday afternoon Bible lesson and more 5:00 p.m.
January 27 — Zoom Wednesday afternoon Bible lesson and more 5:00 p.m.
communion on February 7
We will celebrate Communion Sunday in the online 11:00 a.m. service. Make sure you have a juice and bread option at home. It’ll look a little different, but God meets us in this meal all the same!
We Might Be Doing Church a Little Different, But We Continue to Be the Church!
“Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians 2:4
Times have been a little chaotic, so a big thank you to all who have made it a point to find new and creative ways to be the church and making sure we continue to serve our community in and outside of our building. Here is a list of the various service opportunities that have been spearheaded by our members these last few weeks. Have a service idea you’d like to see happen? Please let the church know!
Circle #3 will meet on Monday, October 5 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Make sure to wear a mask! If you need a circle book they are located in the church parlor.
- Circle #3 collected money and donated to New Hope Elementary School to be used to help a student’s family.
- Seasonal snacks delivered to New Hope Elementary School.
- Church collected donations for Crises Assistance Ministry.
- Packed and delivered food to New Hope Elementary for the Backpack Food program to ensure children have food on the weekends and holiday when they are not at school.
- Church collected items for Black Mountain Home for Children, Youth and Families.
- Phone calls to church family to check in on each other.
- Church members collected food for the Be A Blessing Advent Calendar. We will deliver not just food to 15 families but also a message of hope and love.
Session this past month was a short meeting wrapping up various end of the year reports and activities. No new business was discussed, but preparations were made for the new year.
- Discussed and revisited our on going Covid plan for starting the new year and digital worship ideas.
- Reviewed finance update for the end of the year, and discussed ongoing PPP loan.
- Shared the last building and grounds update for the year, as well as, celebrated the completion of installing the new sanctuary HVAC.
- Discussed various session details preparing for the new year, and the new class of Elders soon to start in January.
crisis assistance ministry
Thank you to everyone who dropped off cans this month at the church. We collected six bags. The need is still great, and we will be collecting again on Sunday, August 9th at our 9:00 a.m. service. Or, feel free to drop by the church anytime, and place your CAM donations in the container outside the office.
The Service Committee reports we collected 11 bags for CAM last month. The following items are needed for our next collection.
Regular and Instant Grits
Regular and Instant Oatmeal
Pancake Mix and Syrup
Canned Fruit (Pineapple, Pears, Fruit cocktail &Peaches)
Small Bags of Sugar, Flour & Rice
Canned Meat (Tuna, Salmon, Chicken, Spam & Beef Stew)
Condiments (Mayonnaise, Mustard, Ketchup etc.)
Tomato and Progresso Soup (Only)
Small containers of Laundry Detergent
Shampoo and Bar Soap