Difficult as it is for me to mentally process, we have arrived at the final weekend of the 2020 Advent season. With all the chaos and cancelled plans we have all experienced this year, it feels as if Easter was only a few weeks ago. The good news, however, is that it appears we will be able to gather to worship together for this fourth Sunday of Advent, and for our annual Christmas Eve service, unlike Maundy Thursday and Easter earlier this year.
We are thankful and looking forward to our Christmas Eve service. As has been communicated, we have limited our capacity to around 130 this year. This is the number determined to provide the safest environment with the maximum number of folks. While reserved seating is already filled, we do have a waiting list, and we expect that there will be likely some who have to make last minute adjustments to their plans, which is likely to open a few seats. So if you would like to attend, but have not yet signed up, it may be worth your while to do so. For those who are unable to attend, but who would like to participate, we are LiveStreaming and recording the service. You will be able to find the link, and the order of service, on the Grace Covenant web page by early in the week.
Our Christmas Eve service will follow the regular pattern of Lessons and Carols (no sermon or homily). The most significant difference is that we will not be taking up an offering for our Mercy Fund. That said, just as there have been baskets at the exits on Sunday mornings for those who like to give their tithes and offerings in person, the baskets will be in place at the exits after our Christmas Eve service for those who would like to contribute to our Mercy Fund.
Just a reminder, the Mercy Fund is overseen by our Deacons, and used to help those with tangible and/or financial needs throughout the year. Priority is given to needs within our church family, however our Deacons have also been able to be tremendously generous to our neighbors in need, and to some of our ministry partners who serve those most in need in our community, whether it be financial needs, food, shelter, clothing, medical & dental, etc. I join with our Deacons in giving thanks to you for the incredible generosity you have extended through your contributions to the Mercy Fund. Unlike global missions and other ministries of the church, the Mercy Fund is supported entirely through your designated gifts; no funds from the church’s general budget subsidize the Deacons in the mercy aspect of their responsibilities. Ordinarily Christmas Eve is one of two times we take up an offering for the Mercy Fund (the other being Maundy Thursday). For that reason I would like to ask for you to prayerfully consider making a gift to this fund, to enable our Deacons to continue their ministry to those in need both inside and outside the church. If you write a check, please designate Mercy Fund on the memo line. If you prefer to give online, that option is available, noting that it is for the Mercy Fund. I thank you in advance, confident because of the generosity you have already displayed throughout 2020.
On another note, as we come to the close of the Advent season, we also come to the close of our calendar year. During these last couple weeks of the year many people begin looking ahead to the next year, to things they would like to do next year, maybe things we’d like to do better than in this or recent past years. As you consider the upcoming year, as your pastor I want to encourage you to consider what your spiritual goals may be. Maybe you’d like to improve your prayer life. Maybe you’d like to do a cross-cultural mission trip (once it is safe to travel). Maybe you’d like to read through your Bible. All of these, and many other things, are worthy aspirations. In my note next week I will offer some suggested Bible Reading Plans. But also I want to offer a recommendation this week.
I highly recommend a book titled The Good News We Almost Forgot by Kevin DeYoung. Following the pattern of the Heidelberg Catechism, broken into 52 weekly readings of 2-3 pages each, this book is provides a great overview of the Christian faith, with thoughtful devotional commentary by the author. This book would be beneficial for anyone, but in particular I have in mind it being a great resource for couples, or even families, to read together. Just 2-3 pages per week, but together. I mention it now because, if I waited, those who might want to begin reading together might not be able to get a copy before the New Year – though any time would be a good time to begin such a venture. Just a suggestion. If you have questions about this book, or if you would like to consider some other options, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
As always, I am thankful for you all. I look forward to seeing many as we gather for worship on Sunday and/or on Christmas Eve. But I also look forward to seeing those of you who are unable to join us. Please know you are missed.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor