December Newsletter

Christmas time, I can smell it
Smoke from fires in the air
Hearts prepared for the Baby
Anticipation everywhere

Gifts will be given
But let it not be forgotten, that ...

Oh, when the Baby grew up
The Boy became a Man
Oh, when the Baby grew up
He led my soul to the Promised Land
Oh, when the Baby grew up
The child became a Man
I learned when the Baby grew up
What I can't do, well, love can.
--“When the Baby Grew Up”, sung by Kathy Mattea
As I write this article, I am in a mild panic about the Thanksgiving Eve service, which is happening on November 27th.   And on November 1st, which was All Saints Day, I visited a shopping mall in Danbury, Connecticut, which was completely decked out with Christmas decorations.  I posted a picture of the decorations on my Facebook page, and another pastor commented, “Already?  This stresses me out.”
This year, I have no excuse or reason to complain about the Christmas season being rushed.  That is because I began our Advent study, “A Thrill of Hope,” on November 12th.  Yep, November 12th.  Since the season of Advent does not begin until December 1st, that was ridiculously early.   My reason was simple.  The study has six sessions and if we were to complete it by Christmas, it needed to begin before Advent.  And I felt, for a reason I still cannot explain, that the study needed to be finished by Christmas.
Naturally I second-guessed myself the moment the study began.  Who said the study needed to be finished by Christmas?  We could have finished the Sunday after Christmas, or even January 5th.  There was absolutely no reason to rush the study or the season.
And then the first study group met.  We watched a brief video about the series on the Christmas story painted by John August Swanson and looked at the first of these pictures in the study book.  It is called “The Visit” and tells the story of Mary receiving the news of her becoming Jesus’ mother.  The picture has her not off by herself on a mountain, but in a crowded, bustling village.  He places Mary in the context of her community.
I have found, over the years, that community has become more important to me.  This has become especially true as I tend to isolate myself in times of stress.  And if I am stressed at times that are supposed to be joyful, as Christmas is supposed to be, the more isolated I make myself, which just makes me even more sad and lonely than I was to begin with.
Jesus’ mother, Mary, must have known moments of isolation as she dealt with life as a single pregnant teenager, but she also remained a part of her community.  So,
wherever you are in your emotional world this Christmas, sad, lonely and isolated, or brimming over with joy and happiness, I pray that you find a bit of community with which to share your life at that moment.  Please know that you are welcome to join our community on Christmas Eve, December 24, at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm for a time of worship, fellowship and singing. 
On a completely personal note, there is a final stanza of this song by Kathy Mattea that makes me cry each time I hear it, as I find my status as a female pastor affirmed in song.  May you also find affirmation this Christmas season:
Christmas time, I can feel it
See the pastor shed a tear
As she reads from the gospel
The angels to the shepherds: "Have no fear"
I learned when the Baby grew up
What I can't do, well, love can.
Rev. Linda M. Willey