This Sunday we light the candle of joy on the advent wreath. We read from Paul’s letter to the Phillipians that we “ought to rejoice in the Lord always”. Paul would not have an easy time in life, but he was confident that in the end God’s Kingdom would come.
This Sunday we also read more about John the Baptist. Luke writes about the tight linkage between Jesus and John. John’s mother, Elizabeth, was visited by Mary. As she entered the home, John leaped inside the womb. Elizabeth proclaimed: Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. This greeting became the foundation of the Rosary.
The lives of John and Jesus would be blessed, but not in the normal way. Instead of receiving “gifts beneath the tree”, Jesus would hang from a tree. Instead of a Christmas banquet, John would subsist on locust and wild honey. They would be blessed with purposeful, grace filled lives that would bless others.
This Christmas consumers are opening their wallets, the GDP of the country is up, supplies and workers are down. The transition out of Covid-19 continues.
I stood in line at Walgreens purchasing some pictures for my mother. I appreciated getting prints of my favorite digital photos. As I stood in line to pay, a woman was short a penny on her purchase. I handed her one of mine. I said: “A penny for your thoughts.” She said thank you, but you do not want my thoughts. There is so much wrong with the world.
This is a refrain I have heard often from people. In their estimation the world is headed towards disaster. There is not a lot of room for joy in those who see the future as gloomy, even when they are gifted with a shiny penny.
I read recently of Eddie Jaku, who survived the Holocaust and dedicated his life to promoting kindness, tolerance, and resilience. He recently died in Sydney, Australia at age 101. He was the self-proclaimed “happiest man on Earth” and shared his story with the world in a popular TED talk and a best-selling memoir.
Jaku was born Abraham Jakubowicz in Leipzig, Germany, in 1920, to a family that considered themselves “German first, Jewish second.” He was kicked out of school as a teenager because he was Jewish. He completed his high school education in another city under an alias.
Beginning in 1938, Jaku and his family were sent to several concentration camps including Buchenwald, Gurs and eventually Auschwitz, which he later described as “hell on Earth.” Because Jaku had studied engineering, he was spared the gas chamber and instead worked as a slave laborer. His parents and other family members did not survive the war.
Jaku himself was sent on a “death march” during the evacuation of Auschwitz in 1945 but managed to break free. He hid out in a forest alone for months, he said, subsisting off slugs and snails, until he was rescued by the American Army.
Later that year he returned to Belgium, where he met and married his wife of 75 years, Flore. They moved to Australia in 1950. Jaku worked in a Sydney garage and Flore was a dressmaker before the couple went into real estate together.
Jaku recalled in his 2019 TED Talk, he was “not a happy man” immediately after the war — but his outlook changed when the couple’s first son was born.
“At that time, my heart was healed and my happiness returned in abundance,” he explained. “I made the promise that from that day until the end of my life, I promised to be happy, smile, be polite, helpful, and kind. I also promised to never put my foot on German soil again.”
Jaku said his greatest happiness came from his family and his mission to teach and share happiness with everyone he met. “When I remember that I should have died a miserable death, but instead I’m alive, so I aim to help people who are down,” he said. “I was at the bottom of the pit. So, if I can make one miserable person smile, I’m happy.”
In his speech, he offered some simple, but sage pieces of advice for slowing down and savoring each day; invite a loved one for a meal, go for a walk, lean on friends in both good times and bad.
Jaku also urged listeners to do their best to make the world a better place for others, and to ensure that the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust will never happen again or ever be forgotten.
Despite his experiences, he refused to let loss or hate consume him. “I do not hate anyone,” Jaku said. “Hate is a disease which may destroy your enemy, but will also destroy you in the process.”
Paul would also echo that advice. Joy does depend on supply chains or COVID precautions or a shiny penny. It is founded on the knowledge that “The Lord is near.” Take the things that bother you and “let your requests be known before the Lord with thanksgiving.” In so doing “The peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Lord thank you for the candle of Joy we light this Sunday, reminding us of the Joy that comes from Faith, Hope and Love. Lead us in this season to join the Mary, Elizabeth, Paul, and Jaku in rejoicing in the Lord always.
Good Tidings of Great Joy,
Pastor John Bunge
SUNDAY WORSHIP @ 10 am. live stream and recording available on our website. Refreshments and fellowship after services.
Poinsettias and Musicians – We want to purchase Poinsettias for the Christmas season. Use the offering envelopes to designate the plant in honor or in memory of someone. Or write it on your regular offering envelope. You can support the funding of special Christmas Eve musicians as well.
YOUTH Children’s Church continues. Are you interested in assisting? Let us know at the church office or give Robyn Blue a call. There is a sign up in the narthex. We do need more volunteers. Confirmation Classes will begin January 9.
WELCA – The women had a great meeting on Saturday. Thanks for sharing your refreshments with the church on Sunday. They will be skipping their January meeting which is would have been New Year’s Day. They will be meeting again Saturday, February 5.
PRESCHOOL – The preschool’s Christmas Program is Thursday at 6 p.m. in the fellowship hall. The preschool is also having a See’s candy fundraiser made easy just follow the link below and make your order. They will benefit. You can also bring clothing and scraps of material to the preschool for a fundraiser. Lastly sign up for Amazon smile if you have not already to benefit the church.
MEMBER UPDATES AND CONTINUAL PRAYERS
- Dennis Kottmier was in church, looking good.
- Bob Jensen is doing well.
- Eloise Johnson, was in church as well, she has a procedure scheduled on Dec 15 for relief of pain.
- Cesar Guevara surgery went well, and he is recovering.
- Judy Mishoe’s sister, Jayne, diagnosed with cancer.
- Lorraine Hoeptner is now able walk with a walker after a cortisone shot and removal of fluid. Dec. 1 is her next visit.
- Michael Shea is scheduled to heart surgery December 28.
- Bill and Judy Martin’s daughter, Laura, started her chemo treatments.
- erwin for strength and Lynda for healing.
- Continued Godly journey for Brendan Simms, son of Bonnie Strack and Rebecca, daughter of Michael and Ann Shea.
- Heather our preschool director is having some health issues which have been postponed until the first of the year.
THIS THURSDAY, December 9, 6:00 p.m. Preschool Christmas Program
- PANTRY our pantry dates this month are the 2nd and 3rd Saturday, December 11 and 18.
- December 19 – Baby shower for Rachael Shea who is having twins. Congregation is invited, if you would like. Time forthcoming.
- December 24 – Christmas Eve Service 7 p.m.
- December 26 – First Sunday after Christmas service – Carols and Readings