Happy New Year!
Too soon? We normally ring in the New Year with Dick Clark or Ryan Seacrest on December 31st. But the church year starts the Fourth Sunday before Christmas which is rather late this year, December 3rd.
Connie and I have been a part of a major New Year’s Eve celebration in Rome, Las Vegas. We forgo them now, too much noise and spirits, the vibe is a rowdy farewell to the previous year with a vain hope that the New Year will be better.
In the case of Rome, we were around the Coliseum. There was a lot of drinking and loud music with the added excitement of loud firecrackers thrown around us. On the return trip on the subway, we discovered that our stop had closed down, leaving us hustling for a taxi in the middle of nowhere at midnight. I can say for certain the next day was better.
I like the gentle entrance into a New Year that Advent offers. The feel is so much more hopeful than the normal New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Advent is all about new beginnings, new advent-ures. And, each year we turn the page toward a new Gospel focus. This year it will be Mark.
Interestingly Mark does not offer a Christmas story. Instead, Jesus just starts his ministry with the proclamation that the Kingdom of God is Near.
Mark lived in a dark time when the Kingdom did not look near. Jerusalem was starving from a Roman siege. The city would soon be turned to rumble. People who had a chance to flee did not even have time to collect their belongings. Jesus urges them to flee to the mountains for safety. (Mark 13:14). Jesus even points to a day when the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its light and stars will fall from the sky.
Yet Mark was hopeful. He believes in the day when the Son of Man will come in glory and the angels will gather the elect from the four winds and from the ends of the earth. (Mark 13:27).
We are not sure when Jesus was born. More than likely it would have been in spring if shepherds were there. They would bring their sheep to pastures full of fresh spring grass. But the church chose December 25 in part because it was a dark time in the northern hemisphere. For us December 20 or 21st we have the least sunshine.
People worried that the sun was saying farewell and would not return so they brought evergreens into the house, lit candles, and stoked bonfires. Some of these traditions would be brought into Christmas observances.
Saint Augustine thought that was appropriate:
Christ was born on a day which is the shortest in our earthly recognition and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one when the light begins to increase.
As we gather over the next few weeks we will light one new Advent candle each week. We, like Mark and St. Augustine, live in faith that: Should the days be dark the Son will come to brighten each new day.
Jesus makes clear that none of us knows when the end of all things will come. (Mark 13:32). We do know that the sun is not eternal. Jesus is right that sun will be darkened, the moon lose its borrowed light and stars will fall from the sky.
Scientists estimate our sun has 7 to 8 billion years left before it becomes a white dwarf. Other stars likewise have a time frame. But we need not worry about it happening during our numbered days. For now, it is in its most stable form.
Our lives have a tighter timeframe. What shall we do with our numbered days?
Ole Olson was a member of Trinity in Hemet. He was in his 90s when he planted a lemon tree in his yard. His wife said: “Ole do you think you will live long enough to harvest lemons from that tree.” His reply was: “Someone will.”
There is an old adage: Blessed are the old who plant trees knowing that they shall never sit in the shade of their foliage.
Jesus urges us in the midst of uncertainty to be awake to the possibilities each new day offers (Mark 13:37) no matter our age.
Lord, we do not know the number of seasons that remain in our lives. We do know that you will be in them, shining your light on our path. Bless us and our congregation as we together awaken to your mission.
Grace & Peace,
THANK YOU FOR DONATING YOUR TIME AND TALENTS. Last week a time and abilities form was attached to the message. There are still some available in the narthex to return if you have not already completed them.
This week we ask that you consider our financial commitments. Bonnie Mills and I have written a letter on behalf of the entire council that urges you to consider your commitment. We would like you to return your Pledge/Commitment form by December 10th. There are forms available in the narthex.
Thanks to all who use your talents to help with the Advent/Christmas Decorating.
Bonnie & Dave, Linda & Pastor Tim, Pat Teeters, Barbara, Bennie, Caroline, Rachel, Elisha, Joshua, Irm, Pastor John, Connie, Brie, Ying, Carol for the tree in the Fireside Room, Robyn Blue for using her Action Team to provide Pizza and Drinks around noon.
LAUREN SCHAFER our Office Assistant’s hours are: 12:30-3:00 M – Th. Pastor will be in on Monday and Tuesday, December 3 and 4 and 10 and 11.
New Members – Interested in joining Faith? We will have a new member orientation on Dec 10th before church and then will receive you as members during church. Let Pastor Bunge know if you are interested.
A Defibrillator has been purchased for the church and preschool and is in the copy room of the office. Robyn Blue is willing to instruct those who are interested in some education on how to use it.
Confirmation Class – we are taking a break until January 28, due to holidays and semi-annual meetings.
Next Pantry – December 9 We are looking for grocery bags (Stater Bros. best) and boxes of cereal, bags of rice, macaroni & cheese, and canned fruit.
Choir – We are singing next Sunday. Join us for practice at 9:00 am ahead of worship. All voices are welcome.
Bells – We meet on Thursday nights. Let Irm know about your interest.
Monitor – We could use another 36-inch or larger monitor for the sanctuary if you have one and are able to donate it – Please let Pastor Bunge know.
Adult Class – Nelson Hall will be leading a class on prayer after the first of the year beginning January 17 @ 1 pm.
WELCA – The Next Women’s Bible Study will be Saturday, December 2 at 9:30 a.m. in the Fireside Room.
QUILTING – Thanks to all those who purchased lap quilts last week. If you missed out and would like to purchase one, let Emily Smith know, at 909.255.2452. So far, this ministry has completed eight more quilts for Central City Lutheran Mission and 20 were donated to Lutheran World Relief. Thank you!
- The Koenig Family – GOOD NEWS
Joe after the removal of his cancerous kidney, which had stage 4 cancer the oncologist this week said no cancer was detected in his body! Jeanne Koenig’s stint in her skull is draining the accumulating spinal fluid which is affecting her eyesight, speech, and motor skills. Daughter, Jessica’s leukemia is being managed, but leaves her tired. Lucas and Joey lost a grandmother, Lael Shea – whom they called Mimi.
- Eric and Krissy Koger’s neighbor Shaun Grainger was hit by a motorist after an argument. The driver was arrested.
- erwin appreciates our continued prayer for Lynda.
- Kyle and Dana would appreciate prayers for their son, Kevin’s, Mother-in-Law, Lisa, suffering from cancer.
- Cesar and Kim would also appreciate prayers for their sons, Tim, and Kyle. Cesar’s Sister Maria also had a lump removed from her neck and the biopsy came back non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- The Sheas would appreciate prayers for Rebecca and Chris Herandez in need of housing for themselves and the twins.
- Continued Godly journey for Brendan Simms, son of Bonnie Strack.
WED Dec. 8 – @ 6 pm Preschool Christmas Program. Fellowship hall.
SAT Dec. 9 – @ 4 pm Faith Lutheran hosts the Christmas Concert of the Inland Valley Chorale. Invite a Friend. Sign up to usher in the Narthex or call the office.
Also Needed: 36 small water bottles and 2 dozen cookies. Call or text Connie, at 951.514.1214, if you wish to provide.
SUN Dec. 10 – Semi-annual Congregational Meeting – New Members received.
SUN Dec. 17 – Advent Three
SUN Dec. 24 – Advent Four Service @ 10 am.
SUN Dec. 24 – Christmas Eve Service @ 7 pm.
SUN Jan. 21 – Semi-annual Congregational Meeting
FALL FELLOWSHIP: Focus on Faith Family
SUN. Dec. 1 – WELCA
SUN. Dec. 10 – Semi-Annual Meeting following service. We will provide coffee and drinks in the Narthex and thanks to Karen Hall for providing pumpkin bread.
NOTE: UPDATE – COOKIE OUTREACH
SAT DEC. 16. We are asking you to please bring your cookies to the Church around noon. (The pantry is in the morning.) And stay, if you can, for about 1 hour to help us package them so they are ready for people to take on Sunday.
SUN DEC. 17 – Cookies & Conversation for Fellowship Time.
There will also be 48 cookie boxes. Feel free to take more than 1 until gone. They are meant to be used to cheer someone or invite them to our Christmas Services. There is a card attached for you to write a note and a card with service times to invite people to join us for the Christmas Season.
SUN JAN 7 – WELCA
SUN JAN 14 – Pat Motschall and Sharon Cady Host
SUN JAN 21 – Semi-Annual Meeting. Coffee and Hot Chocolate in Narthex
SUN JAN 28 – ALL Congregation Potluck
We will be forming a new committee in the New Year to plan events for Spring through Summer. If you want to join the fun, please call or text Connie, at 951.514.1214.
Or you can still provide treats via a signup sheet that will always be in the narthex or in the Fireside Room on Sunday mornings.