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The Third Week of Advent

As certain as the dawn follows the night,
so is the promise of God’s forgiveness and love for us all.
Arise and shine.
Follow the star.
Find the light of the world born in Bethlehem…
and be transformed from darkness into light.

I greet you in JOY on this Third Week of Advent, and I share these prayer concerns with you.

We pray for Drew and Londa Wesche. On Sunday morning, after recording the worship service with us, Drew became ill and was taken to L&M Hospital where he was admitted and he tested positive for Covid 19. He was treated and discharged on Tuesday, and we rejoice with Londa that he is now resting and healing at home, grateful for the “first responders in the pew.”

Although I am in a unique position because of already contracting the virus, everyone else who was in the sanctuary that morning is in quarantine and is getting tested this week. Barbara and I are both working from home so please email, call or text us on our cell phones as needed. Out of an abundance of caution we will NOT be gathering in person this Sunday to record a worship service, but we are hoping to gather safely next week and record our Christmas Eve service.

We pray for Sharon and Lennie Anderson. Sharon suffered a heart attack last week; she is currently at Hartford Hospital being treated for pneumonia and preparing to have a heart catheterization to assess the damage to her heart.

We pray for the Rev. Jim Pierce, our friend and former interim pastor. Jim underwent surgery this week to remove a mass from his brain and is recovering while waiting for biopsy results. His address is Strong Memorial Hospital, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642.

We pray for Jon Hiller as he prepares to begin chemotherapy and radiation next Monday.
(We also wish a Happy Birthday to Catherine Hiller, Irving’s very own Christmas angel)

Drew and Londa, Sharon and Lennie, Jim, Jon…we love you and lift you in our prayers each day.

We also celebrate the miraculous achievements of our members, friends & neighbors at Pfizer!

This Sunday will be the Fourth Sunday in Advent, and though you will not be listening to our morning service, you will be lighting a candle of love in your hearts. That love, born again at Christmas, will hold our spirits together and keep us in God’s care…Pastor Claudine

The Second Week of Advent

Our God is the One who comes to us
in a burning bush,
in an angel’s song,
in a newborn child.
Our God is the One who cannot be found
locked in the church,
not even in the sanctuary.
Our God will be where God will be
with no constraints,
no predictability.
Our God lives where our God lives,
and destruction has no power
and even death cannot stop
the living.
Our God will be born where God will be born,
but there is no place to look for the One who comes to us.
When God is ready
God will come
even to a godforsaken place
like a stable in Bethlehem.
Watch…
for you know not when God comes.
Watch, that you might be found
whenever
wherever
God comes.

(from “Kneeling in Bethlehem” by Ann Weems)

Do you see what I see? Usually at this time of year we know where to look for signs of Christ’s birth…angel banners and Advent candles; the star in the sanctuary and gift tags under the tree; our holiday bazaar and parsonage open house; family gatherings and services at church. But if you are having trouble knowing where to look this year, you are not alone…do we look for the vaccine to arrive or for pandemic numbers to drop; for hospital staff to find relief or for families to find food security; for businesses to survive or for jobs to return; for our nation to finally heal?

Maybe the poem is right. We cannot look for God; God just comes…when we expect it and when we don’t; when we’re ready and when we’re not; when we celebrate and when we can’t. This year let’s watch for both joy and sorrow, help and hurt, light and darkness, love and loss. For no matter where we look or what we see, God is with us. Emmanuel…Pastor Claudine

The First Week of Advent

Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
the distant scene – one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
Lead Thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
will lead me on,
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent,
till the night is gone,
and with the morn those angel faces smile;
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!

I love the poetic language of this old hymn. Some of us listened to Ken Medema’s arrangement of the hymn at our last Bridging the Gap gatherings…that seems like such a long time ago now! As many of you know, what began as my “short time away” turned into a long time of recovery, after testing positive for the Covid virus, along with my sister and my parents. Know that we are abundantly grateful for the concern you have poured out and the prayers you have lifted on our behalf. We are feeling better, regaining our strength gradually as we step back into our lives.

After the last month and the challenges we all have faced, there are several phrases from this hymn that speak to me in a special way. I am longing for a “kindly light” to guide my path. I am waiting to find my way home to all of you. I am trying not to look for what the future holds or when exactly it will come; instead I pray that just one day, just one step, will be enough for me.

Feeling as though I had lost you for awhile, I realize once again how much I have loved you all the while. I look forward to recording this week’s Sunday service and joining you in worship. There are Advent devotionals and key tags at church if you’d like to pick them up or have us send them to you. May our lives shine a kindly light in the darkness, so that each morning angel faces will surely smile. May God lead us on, and may that be enough…Pastor Claudine

“Thanksgiving”
A Poem by Joyce Rupp

cornstalks once tall and green
are now brown, dried, surrendered,
ears of corn with full kernels
shaped and turned golden
in a summer of sunshine and rain.
they fill to fullness wide wagons,
falling now into tall, round bins,
copious in their generosity,
abundant in unrestrained harvest.

this plenitude of the land
signals my own gathering of grain
as I turn to the bounty
found in the field of my heart.

all those daily gifts
that grace my humble path,
come tumbling forth,
like a corn harvest
of golden goodness.

they are my bin-full,
my thanksgiving treasure,
my wide wagon of richness.
they are my sureness
that the God of the harvest
still hurrahs.

As I write this, I am aware of new waves of pandemic here in CT, and increasing cases across the globe; storms and fires bringing devastation to our country; civil rights movements calling us toward justice and peace; a divided nation compelling us to vote and exercise our civic duty.

Yet as I write this, I am also aware of the abundant bounty of God’s goodness in our lives; the unrestrained generosity of your hearts toward me, each other, this church, and the world; the daily gifts that tumble forth from your hands, the thanksgiving treasures you always provide.

As you read this, I will be taking some time off in order to rest my spirit and restore fullness to my soul, and I will resume these weekly words on November 18th. If any of you have any pastoral needs over the next two weeks, please call the church office. Until then, know that because of you, I have faith in the God who still gives us reasons to rejoice…Pastor Claudine