Posts from 2020


“Star-Giving”

What I’d really like to give you for Christmas is a star…
brilliance in a package,
something you could keep in the pocket of your jeans
or in the pocket of your being.
Something to take out in times of darkness,
something that would never snuff out or tarnish,
something you could hold in your hand,
something for wonderment,
something for pondering,
something that would remind you of
what Christmas has always meant:
God’s Advent Light into the darkness of this world.
But stars are only God’s for giving,
and I must be content to give you words and wishes
and packages without stars.
But I can wish you life
as radiant as the Star
that announced the Christ Child’s coming,
and as filled with awe as the shepherds who stood
beneath its light.
And I can pass on to you the love
that has been given to me,
ignited countless times by others
who have knelt in Bethlehem’s light.
Perhaps, if you ask, God will give you a star.

(from Kneeling in Bethlehem by Ann Weems)

As the season after Christmas moves into the season of Epiphany, as the story of Mary and Joseph moves into the story of Herod and the Magi, and as this hard year moves into the next, we realize once again how much we depend upon the light of God’s star…reminding us that we do not journey alone, that more glory and goodness will be revealed among us, and that light and love have been sent to this world, so that in comfort and hope, we can worship and adore.

Following the light of every new star, let us prepare to celebrate Epiphany and communion this Sunday. You are invited to partake of your own bread and juice there at home, perhaps light a candle to symbolize God’s star, and may our hearts be so warmed by Bethlehem’s promise that we are filled with the life and the love that are still sent to this world…Pastor Claudine

The Fourth Week of Advent

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2: 1-7)

Familiar words tell a beloved story. It goes on to tell of shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, of angels appearing with good news of great joy, of curious travelers making their way to Bethlehem, of Mary treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart.

We are also curious travelers journeying to Bethlehem…to see this thing that is happening, wonder what it means for our lives, wait for love to be born and watch how it comes to pass. This year our waiting and watching have an urgency to them…will it feel like Christmas at all, will our holidays be safe from harm, will the vaccine finally arrive, will relief and comfort come?

We try to hear the words of the angel, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” We recall the words of an old hymn, “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on the Lord.” We think about our journey through Advent: hope, peace, joy, love. We believe in the promise of Christmas, that Christ comes even as we cancel plans, keep our distance and miss one another. We search for the star of Epiphany and long for the blessing and beginning of a New Year.

This week we gather in spirit for worship on Christmas Eve (a service will be posted by 6:30pm) If you are not able to listen, I hope you are still able to hear the songs and stories in your hearts. On Sunday we will record a service that includes a dramatic dialogue between angel and child. And on January 3rd we will celebrate Communion by sharing bread and juice in our own homes.

Like we did for World Communion, we will individually partake in the Lord’s supper but this time you are invited to provide your own elements for the shared meal…they are symbols so any bread and “wine” will do! I am including a recipe if you’d like to try making your own communion bread; Heidi and her seminary classmates use this bread for their virtual services.

With gratitude for test results and self-quarantine, we rejoice in leading worship once again. And with prayers for all of you, we journey to Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread.” Merry Christmas, dear friends. And glory to God in the highest….Pastor Claudine

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