“Bloom in New Beginnings: Christmas” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

December 23rd,2021 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Friends,

What a gift it is to share in the birth of Jesus with you this year. It has been a year of challenges and hope, of disappointment and new connections. It has been a year unlike any other and we are so grateful that you have chosen to spend this year with us at The Park. This week we have two services. Christmas Eve at 11 pm and Sunday at 11 am. Be sure to bring your advent wreath. Or a candle to the Christmas Eve service as we will welcome the birth of Jesus by singing silent night by candlelight at midnight. On Sunday Bible Study and Children’s Bible Study will still be at 10 am and all are welcome! Friends. I hope that you all have a safe holiday filled with the love of Christ and the hope found in the embrace of beloved community.

As I shared last week, we have a lot of scripture to cover this week. We will be reading all four pieces in our Christmas Eve service and then revisiting the Luke passage on Sunday. These texts all connect through the themes of newness and grace as we prepare and celebrate the birth of Christ. As you read these texts, I invite you to think about the following questions:

What images of God are present in the passages?
Where is God at work in these passages?
Does that change when Jesus arrives?
What voices or stories are you curious about in these passages?
Do any of these scriptures feel like a prayer?
What is your hope this Christmas?

Let us now read these passages from our Holy Scriptures as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ and the newness that comes with this holy and precious gift:

Isaiah 26:

16 HOLY ONE, in distress they sought you,
they pressed out a whispered prayer
when your chastening was on them.
17 Just as an expectant mother
writhes-in-labor and cries out in her pangs
when her birthing time is near;
thus were we because of you, Holy One.
18 We too were expectant, we writhed-in-labor,
but it was as though we birthed only wind.
No victories have we won on earth,
neither do the inhabitants of the world fall.
19 Your dead shall live; their corpses shall rise.
Awake and sing for joy you who dwell in the dust!
For your dew is a radiant dew,
and the earth shall release those long dead.

Psalm 68:

4 Sing to God, sing praises to her Name;
exalt her who rides upon the clouds;
HOLY is her Name, rejoice before her!
5 Mother of orphans and defender of widows,
is God in her holy habitation!
6 God settles the solitary in a home bringing prisoners into prosperity;
while the rebellious shall live in a wasteland.
7 God, when you marched before your people,
when you moved out through the wilderness,
8 the earth shook, even the heavens poured down,
at the presence of God, the One of Sinai,
at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
9 Rain in abundance, God, you showered abroad;
when your heritage grew weary you prepared rest.
10 Your creatures found a dwelling in her;
God, you provided in your goodness for the oppressed.
11 The AUTHOR OF LIFE gave the word;
the women who proclaim the good news are a great army.

1 Thessalonians 4:

13 Now we do not want you to be ignorant, sisters and brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you might not grieve as those do who have no hope 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose, even so they who sleep, will God by Jesus, bring with him. 15 For this we declare to you by the word of the Most High God, that we who are alive, who remain until the coming of Jesus, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For Jesus himself, with a command, in the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first, 17 Then we who are alive who are left, together with them, will be caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air; and so we will be with Jesus forever. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Luke 2:

1 Now it happened in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (for taxation). 2 This was the first registration and occurred while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 So all went to be registered; each to their own towns. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth in to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, for he was from the house and heritage of David. 5 He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was betrothed and who was pregnant. 6 So it was, that, while they were there, the time came for her to birth her child. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and swaddled him, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

8 Shepherds were in that region there staying in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 Then an angel of the Most High God came upon them, and the glory of the Living God shone around them, and they were greatly terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Fear not. Look! For I proclaim to you good news of great joy for all the people:  11 For there is born to you this day a Savior who is the Messiah, the Sovereign God, in the city of David. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby swaddled and lying in a manger.” 13 And immediately there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly array, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace among peoples whom God favors!”

15 And it happened when the angels had departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to be, which the Sovereign God has made known to us.” 16 So they came hurrying and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. 17 Now seeing this, they made known what had been spoken to them about this child. 18 And all who heard marveled at what was spoken by the shepherds to them. 19 But Mary preserved all these words and pondered them in her heart.

20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was just as it had been told them.

May your Christmas bring about the hope and love of God in ways that bring you peace and joy.

You are so loved, friends.

Merry Christmas,
Rev. Stephanie

Simple Prayer: O Holy One, we give thanks for the Christ child and the new love, hope, word, and grace made flesh in his birth. Amen.