Dear people of Bethlehem,
Dear people of light and life and hope in new day. Together with Pastor Sam, I cannot thank you enough for your kind and generous Christmas gift. I was overwhelmed. You warmed my heart and renewed my joy, as you regularly do. Your support and care mean so much to me. Not only in this present generosity, but throughout the last two years. These have been challenging times, joyous times and creative times. In the midst of it all, I have never felt alone — thanks to you. You have come: bearing your faith and your hope and your honest grief. You have come to sing and to pray, and to stand as close to one another as social distancing will allow. This pastor thanks you. You have been light to me. You have been an anchor in the storm and light in the darkness and you have laughed with me when I needed it the most.
On behalf of Emily and Linnaea, I thank you as well. I have had the privilege of raising my daughters in your midst. Now grown, they are formed in your grace. Emily is on internship in Chicago and has said to me again and again, “Bethlehem raised me to be the pastor that I am.”
In a recent letter to all of you she said, “As I was lighting the candles on Sunday, it struck me. I have been training for this moment my whole life. Bethlehem has been preparing me for this day. I didn’t know it at the time, but God knew. God knew that Bethlehem would be the place that would equip me for my vocation, my call to proclaim the Gospel.” What a blessing, as a congregation, to raise up a new pastor in God’s church. Thank you, from a mother’s heart.
This I have learned: a community of faith is more than a list of scheduled events and worship services. We are the body of Christ gathered around the manger and standing in the shadow of the cross. We are bound to one another by a faith that draws us together — that we might claim hope in every day. And that hope has proven to be so resilient. I always quote an ancient prayer on Christmas Eve as we pass light to one another, “Light is not diminished even when it is divided and borrowed.” Hope is the same. Rather than diminished, it doubles as we journey together and gather in grace. It doubles as we bring light to one another and to the world in which we live. Thank you for the hope you bring to my life, and the light you shine on the path.
God bless you all, and your dear families, in the year that lies ahead. May you be held in grace and lifted in joy. May God’s grace and love surround you. I look forward to the journey we will share