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December 2011

Dear Partners in Ministry,

What is our response to those who wish us a “Merry Christmas?”  “Bah Humbug,” or “Praise the Lord” and “Hosanna in the Highest!”  Especially now, as we begin our Advent journey in preparation for the celebration of the coming of our Lord, what is our response?


Christmas, for most of us, is a chaotic time of “wanta do’s,” “gotta do’s,” “should do’s,” and “ahh, do I hafta do, do’s.”  The expectations that we place on ourselves, and those that are placed on us by others, can, and frequently do, become overwhelming.  One of the things that Mary did not treasure in her heart, as the shepherds told their story of the angels announcing our Savior’s birth, was waiting in line at Walmart for 45 minutes to check out a cart of non-essential “essentials.”  (For instance, “If we knew Jesus was coming tomorrow, what would we have in our cart today?”)


In an article by author Joy Hakim entitled “Fantastic Journey” in the American Educator magazine she states,

“Science is not about certainty; it’s about uncertainty.  Science is about trying ideas, discarding those that do not work, and building on those that do.  It never stops.” 

How does this tie into Christianity and our faith and the Christmas season?  Maybe we want to try something new.  I am not saying add to the overload or shuck all the old expectations and responsibilities.  But, what happens if we replace some that overwhelm us with new ideas or options that more appropriately bring the meaning of Christmas home? In our culture, all too often we give hand outs.  We donate some money or clothes or food, etc. and allow others to see it gets to where it is best suited.  What happens if you/we as individuals or families “adopted” a shut-in or child in your neighborhood and made sure they had a special Christmas?  I am talking about the “invisible” people we look past each day.  What difference “might” that make for us as well as for the individuals to whom we reach out?  (Remember, some may find it offensive, but is it ever wrong to care?)  We all know how we feel when we are remembered.  Just watch the “Hallmark” advertisements on TV.  The difference that a card or tray of cookies or even an invite to dinner might make could be life changing for all involved.  You already know from experience what does not work. Why not try something “uncertain” and new and see how the Lord works through you?  Remember that it is:


God’s Work - Our Hands.


Within the lives of our churches we will touch on some of these items to “prime the pump.”  Look at the list of “up-coming events” in your church bulletin and/or newsletter, and join in. Believe it or not, Christmas is not about the race, rather the investment. 


There is only one reason for us gathering as the body of believers, the Church.  The service, ministry, love, forgiveness, etc. are all buzz words that should give us pause.  But the reason we gather is summed up in the Gospel of John:


“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14


As we approach this season of Advent, preparing us for Christ’s birth, may this be the message that dominates all we do both in our personal lives and in our corporate “church” lives.  Let us work together, for together we can make a difference, bringing our unique skills and abilities to the service of God and our Savior Jesus, raising the world’s indifference of “Bah Humbug,” to song of the angels, “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to His People on Earth.” 


By allowing God’s grace to touch us everything changes. 


If I might borrow the words of “Tiny Tim” in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol:


“May God Bless Us, One and All.”


Be a blessing to someone this Christmas Season. 


In Christ’s Service,


Pastor John J. Gropp



Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110        412-466-7773