In the season of Epiphany when we celebrated The Magi’s journey to see the Christ child we were reminded of our own journeys to healing and to wholeness, whether individually or collectively. As was true with the Wise Men, we too at times need to reassess and alter our routes. Our destination will not change, but the paths most assuredly will.
To embark upon our journey, we must stay alert and present to where we are being guided. We must travel with open hearts and open eyes and listening ears.
Today that is where we as a church find ourselves. Fortunately, we have been given markers, what I like to think of as cairns, those human-made piles of stones you can find along trails pointing you in the right direction.
First, it is important that we understand that when a pastor leaves, the congregation can lose its balance and may lose sight of its focus. If this is the case, we must steer ourselves back on course understanding that it takes time for the pangs of grief to subside. In December we hosted a Blue Christmas service for those dealing with any type of loss or grief who find the season less than merry. Moving on after grief and loss is difficult but it is possible with God’s help.
Second, before moving into the future we must look to the past. It is a time to celebrate the congregation’s joys and successes, but also to deal with painful stories that might keep it from functioning at its best. In December we began this process as you shared stories of when and why you chose to attend or to join this church.
Third, we begin the task of discovering a new identity. Remember that we worship a God who, in Christ, is continually “doing a new thing.” Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new!” (2Cor. 5:17). Who are we? Where are we being called to partner with God in the transformation of our world? What is our mission?
Fourth, we can take advantage of opportunities to engage with the Denomination. It may just prove to be a good time to better understand and embrace our denominational identity. This Fall Karen and Galer Perreault and I attended a regional Presbytery meeting hosted by North Presbyterian Church in Elmira. I am hopeful that more members will attend and participate in these gatherings.
A key component in this journey forward is commitment. I am not just referring to the ever essential commitment of money, time and talents, but something deeper. If you have not already, I encourage you to consider taking an important step and to become a committed Member of this church, this body of Christ.
As you move through this process of transition you will in time elect a Pastor Nominating Committee, a PNC, made up of thoughtful, trusted and committed church leaders. At that point you should have a better understanding of where you are going, and the type of minister who can best walk into the future with you, keeping in mind that any decision must be financially sustainable.
There is certainly work to be done and it will not be easy, but with these few markers illuminated by the divine light of the Holy Spirit we will find our way.
As I am writing this, Thanksgiving is just two days away and the Christmas season is ready to burst onto the scene in all it green and red splendor. “To do” lists and “should do” lists are growing. Tension and anxiety are rising as we begin the countdown to Christmas morning.
It is time for us to step back for a moment and take a breath and remember that often repeated phrase, “Remember the reason for the season.”
As Christians, that reason is the remembrance of the birth of Jesus the Christ, an event which changed the world. We believe that God so loved the world that he sent his Son to be born into our world as one of us to teach us of God and of the ways we must live to insure heaven on earth and life everlasting.
That is the thread we must hold on to as the craziness of the season swirls around us. And then we can celebrate this awesome gift that has been given by sharing the joy with family and friends.
Here at First Presbyterian Church we can join in the spirit of anticipation as each Sunday we light a candle on our Advent wreath and sing those beloved hymns of which we never grow tired.
We can contribute gifts to the shower for Mary and Joseph which go to the Salvation Army Safe House and the Samaritan Center. They are truly gifts of compassion and caring.
We can attend the pot luck luncheon, silent auction, and quilt drawing, and spend time sharing and celebrating our memories and the rich history of this community of faith and of service.
We can support our special free pancake breakfast, our hearty and delicious Christmas gift to the greater community.
If for reasons, perhaps known only to you, celebrating in the usual way is difficult or painful, the Blue Christmas Service, contemplative and subdued, is offered.
And always there is the Christmas Eve Service of carols and candles when the anticipation of the birth of the beloved Savior is finally and forever realized. On Christmas morning, at a warm and casual 10:30 am service, you can continue the celebration.
It is just a short week later that we welcome in a brand new year with more opportunity to learn and to grow and to serve in the name of the One we welcome again and yet again.
Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year to one and all!