Dear people of Bethlehem,

Blessed New Year to you all.  May grace and hope be yours, as we journey like the Magi and together follow the star set before us.  This Epiphany we enter into a season of light.

As with everything else, this feels like a much different New Year.  In most years we wish each other a “Happy New Year”, and without further ado, move on the work at hand.  For me, New Year has always been a shallow, tepid celebration when compared to the depth and breadth of Christmas.  But this year, New Year carries a gravity all its own.   Most people I know are marking it.  Marking it as a time to release the pain of 2020 and, perhaps with it, some of our anger and grief.  But more importantly, we are marking it with hope.  The hope of a vaccine, the possibility of an end to the pandemic, and our collective prayer for a new day among us.

Normally I would be telling you in January of the great plans we have for Bethlehem in the coming year.  It would be time to cast a vision with achievable goals and tell you exactly how we are going to get there.  But the truth is, we don’t have a road map for this year and we don’t fully know what to expect.  But this I can assure you: Bethlehem loves a creative challenge.  We have accomplished extraordinary things this year.  We have created a completely virtual church requiring a reinvention of all we do.  We have added virtual education, conversation, and spiritual enrichment.  We then found a way to worship on the lawn with great joy.  We secured salaries for our staff and preschool with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and reopened our preschools.  We have cared for each other and our neighbors.  This has been a deeply creative, uncertain, painful and gracious year.  None of it would have been possible without you.  Your gifts, your talents, your patience, your enthusiasm and your support have made this year possible.

It is true, we do not have a roadmap forward, but neither did the wisemen.  They had a star — and so do we.  They had a light in the darkness to lead them to hope — and so do we.  Truthfully, the uncertainly is a part of my hope, and a good deal of my joy.  We are journeying now, as people of faith have always journeyed: humbled by the grace of God, trusting in the promise before us, and certain of the light among us.

This coming year is a year for hope.  As a Bethlehem community, we stand ready to live into all that is to come.  I am certain it will be eventful.  I am equally certain, we have all the gifts necessary to meet the challenges ahead.  I am most certain that God will be with us — and that God’s light now leads us.

Bless you all in this new year,
Pastor Laura