Pastors’ Corner

Journeying together

Dear People of Bethlehem,

Happy New Year and Blessed Epiphany.  As I consider the trek of the wisemen over hills and valleys, following nothing but one star in the night sky, I wonder if our current journey is much the same.  The hills and valleys of this current life, the circuitous paths we have been traveling, seem without clear destination — other than a light in the darkness that we can only occasionally see clearly.  And yet, we still travel.

We do so not alone, but in the company of one another.  We face the harsh weather conditions and the uncertain path together.  Because together we follow the same star, the same light in the darkness, the same hope in tomorrow.  That hope is both tenuous and real, both evasive and certain.  I give thanks to God to be on the journey with you, for throughout its duration, I have felt never alone.    

As 2023 dawns, I find myself looking to the distant horizon, visioning who Bethlehem will become as we continue to claim our work to extend God’s love.  Perhaps it’s time for an updated mission statement.  I have been considering something like — “We are a Christian Community, Where All are Welcome under the Arc of God’s Grace.”  Such a statement names who we have become together.  Your council has recently been discussing the deepest needs in our surrounding community and how Bethlehem might be uniquely suited to address some of those needs.  If you would like to add your thoughts to the conversation, please don’t hesitate to reach out.  Now is a destination time, a moving forward time, a who shall we become time. 

Perhaps the same is true in your own life.  If you find yourself stretching forward at this time, we are here to celebrate your journey.  If you are in a season of stress or loss, we are here to support you and offer our care and compassion.  If you, like me, are doing your best to follow the light set before you, then welcome fellow traveler, I look forward to your company on the journey! 

Lastly, I want to personally thank you for your grace in my life and for the gift it is to serve this congregation.  My particular thanks for your generous Christmas gift to me.  It was so very kind and deeply appreciated.  I continue to give thanks for you and I look forward to 2023 in your good company.    

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Laura

Advent’s Gentle Hope

Dear people of Bethlehem,

Blessed Advent to you all.  The prophet Isaiah says, “A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse.”  Advent is the time of our hope and expectation.  It is the waiting season.  Waiting for light to shatter darkness.  I can recall the expectation of childhood.  Every light, on every house was a symbol that we were one day closer, one moment nearer to Christmas.  At night, I would curl up on the couch in the living room, near where our Christmas tree stood, and marvel at the twinkling lights in the darkened room.  Each seemed to me the promise of what was coming.  My childhood was sometimes complicated, and close to the tree, my young heart found her peace.  The hope was palpable.  Fully grown now, the same symbols still capture my imagination.  They still conjure up hope for me. 

Advent feels like a particular gift this year, because of its gentle hope.  We are in need of good news.  We are in need of peace on earth.  We are in need of peace in our own hearts.  The rush to Christmas is not what is needed this year.  We are in need of the gentle, slow pace of hope slowly rising.  In Isaiah’s day, as the people of Israel were suffering, the words of the prophet did not promise light that would shatter every darkness.  No, when the cedars are cut down and every bough is cut off, the prophet promises only this, “A shoot shall come from the stump of Jesse.”  I wonder, is that enough?  Don’t we need the whole forest?  Don’t we need to shatter every present darkness?  I’m not sure that we do, and I am equally certain that it is not possible.  From our God, there comes a different kind of promise — one that begins with a small child in a manger. 

I love the honesty of it all.  Not everything will be set right tomorrow, but as theologian Barbara Lundblad says, “What if we believe this fragile sign is God’s beginning?”  What if we believe the tender shoot is enough, the child is enough, the promise is enough, the hope is enough.  Perhaps then, we can attend to the small seedling of hope in our hearts.  That place where our faith lives, that place where hope may break through our hurt and touch our hearts.  We need not await the full forest.  God did not wait.  God came on a single night, into one stable, with a single star in the night sky.  And that, was all the world needed.  That, is all you and I still need. 

May you be blessed with every joy and grace this Christmas, every small miracle and every flickering light of hope.  May the gentle blessing of this Christmas find you and fill you with peace.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas to you all,

Pastor Laura