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12-11-20 FUMC Updates

Christmas is inching closer and closer and while our church buildings will be closed this Sunday, December 13th, we plan to be, and are excited to be, open next week just in time for Christmas on December 20th and 24th! We are READY, thanks to Amy, Danny, J.A., JaneAnne, Glynda, and Shiela who came and decked the halls to welcome the baby King AND to welcome YOU! Remember, even when the sanctuary has been open, 50% of our church family has remained safely at home, but we’ll always do our best to maintain worship and some of the traditions of Christmas the best we can virtually so we can all be “together”!
 
The Advent wreath is a good example of an important Christmas tradition! This was originally a German and Scandinavian devotional practice used in homes to mark the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas … families would light a candle for each past week then for the current week at their dinner tables. The configuration of candles, whether in a line or a circle, didn’t matter, neither did the color of the candles (all colors are used in homes in Europe) … what mattered was the marking of time and the increase of light each week in the face of increasing darkness as the winter solstice approached.
 
As Advent wreaths began to be used by congregations on Sundays in Europe and America in the late 19th century, adjustments were needed for the larger worship spaces. Candles needed to be larger and some felt a need to be more uniform in color to fit with other liturgical colors in the sanctuary.
 
Purple, and more recently blue, has become the basic color of the candles … purple symbolizes repentance and fasting, with a focus on denying oneself to show devotion to God and prepare our hearts for the arrival of Christ. At FUMC we use purple to prepare for Easter and choose, instead to use blue for Christmas.
 
Deep blue is the color of the clear, predawn sky, the color that covers the earth in the hours before the sun rises in the east and this is, after all, the season of expectation and anticipation of the dawn of Christ! Of course, penitence and spiritual discipline is part of Advent, but by using blue we like to emphasize the hope-filled and faithful watch for Christ! I read it beautifully described like this: “Blue is also meant to inspire in us the hope of faith, and to encourage us to keep watch for the promised light of Christ to break over the horizon, changing night into day, darkness into light, and filling our lives and our world with a holy and righteous splendor.”
 
Over time, Advent candles took on particular Christmas themes of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace but the true meaning comes in the readings as we mark time while the light increases! Today we await the day described in Revelation 21:23 when: “The city doesn’t need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because God’s glory is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb” and we celebrate that in Christ, “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world” (John 1:9).
 
DANIEL DAVIS’ CELEBRATION OF LIFE: Sunday, December 13th, 2 pm at Beaty Funeral Home …Losing someone you love in the midst of a pandemic is so very difficult because of the changes in the way the grieving process takes place these days … please reach out to those you know who are mourning, especially the DAVIS FAMILY as they plan their son/brother/grandson’s service this Sunday at Beaty Funeral Home. (Click here to see his obit.)  We pray for Steve and Debbie, Dustin and SaraNan, and Joyzelle and PeeWee, and please honor their request for no visitation before the service … we’ll support them with our presence, safely distanced, or watch together on the Beaty Facebook LIVE STREAM here. After the service, there will be graveside committal at HARMONY Cemetery.
 
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20th, 10:50 am WORSHIP, in-person and on Facebook LIVE! Our Advent series, Under Wraps, continues this Sunday with a look at something about God we tend not to talk about – do YOU see God as a JEALOUS GOD? If you have missed the 1st two Sundays of Advent you can watch the services on Facebook or YouTube or listen on our website. We realize that the COVID infections and hospitalizations are rising rapidly but we pray that those who should be more careful will heed the advice of the CDC and worship with us on Facebook Live instead. If you do decide to come on the 20th, we’ll continue to disinfect your hands and keep half the pews closed, but we will also require that everyone keeps their facemasks on throughout the service as an additional measure of safety.
 
THANKS TO ALL OF YOU WHO HAVE GIVEN TO THE FOOD PANTRY’S BACKPACK MINISTRY, the deadline is this Sunday, 12/13: Jesus asked the question: “when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing?” If you haven’t yet done so, you can answer this question by saying: Lord I have given to you today!  Many of you have picked up your M&M’s from the drive-thru (which is now stopped) or from the red bin by the office door and filled them with quarters and returned them, but it’s not too late to help feed the children in Winnsboro who will not be getting food at school over Christmas. While this Sunday is the deadline, you can go on our website right now, and donate to the BACKPACK MINISTRY! Jesus was a newborn baby – born hungry, thirsty, naked, and unable to care for himself, helpless without people to take care of him and we are still helpless without HIM! But we aren’t helpless to show our expression of love for Him by giving to our neighbors!
 
PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY ABOUT YOUR 2021 COMMITMENT TO GOD … most of you received a letter a few weeks ago inviting you to make a PRIVATE and PERSONAL commitment to God in the new year. We asked you to consider how you want to grow in your faith through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. When you mail those back to us, we will hold them and give them back to you NEXT November … they will remain unopened by anyone but YOU! So far, we have only received 6 cards back from the many we mailed, so please take time to have a talk with God about your future faith walk!
 
CHRISTMAS EVE, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 24th, 5 PM … yes, for those who feel safe coming, we will not only worship on this oh, most holy night in the sanctuary, but we will also have overflow in Wesley Hall, also set for safe distancing. Yes, our same safety measures will be in place and the service will be LIVE on Facebook, so make plans now to be part of the celebration!
 
I cannot imagine what these last 9 months have been like for all of you! The anxiety, the isolation, the loss, the frustrations … it has been a difficult year, but I know God has been extremely hard at work to be present in more ways than we could ever imagine! I also believe He is lighting the path for the unprecedented speed of distribution for this new coronavirus vaccine. I pray it will bring HOPE and LIFE to a weary world and I pray for all those who continue to work tirelessly caring for those who are sick, dying and struggling!
 
I am so incredibly grateful to our church leaders who have led the way and worked to keep everyone connected and safe: Joana Horton, Danny Moss, JaneAnne Newton, Mary Tom McLemore, Cyndie Ewert, Sandra Strickland, Ted Haynes, Brad Scharf and, Ken Ragsdale … we are NOT alone!!
 
Christmas blessings to all!
Pastor Debbie