Our Christmas Opportunity by Doug Burian

Like all of you, I can easily get lost in the busy-ness of this season. Along with Holy Week, the seasons of Advent and Christmas are a particularly hectic time for church musicians. As a music director, the months of November and December are consumed with a seemingly endless to-do list – music to select, rehearsals to plan, volunteer schedules to manage, guest musicians to contact, and on and on it goes. For every fleeting moment when I feel like everything is taken care of, there is a longer lasting dose of reality that soon follows that lets me know there is more to do, or as my brain prefers to twist it, more I haven’t done. It can be overwhelming.

I have to intentionally combat those feelings of being overwhelmed. It’s too easy to let it snowball if I don’t. For me, the way I do this is to remind myself of two things:

  1. All is well, and all will be well.

Christmas will come, and it will be joyous, regardless of what I do or don’t do. That doesn’t mean that I won’t work hard and put forth my best effort. It just means that all is well, and all will be well.

  1. We have an opportunity.

Not only I as a leader within the church, but all of us, as members of Glenelg UMC and members of the Body of Christ at large, have an opportunity during this season. Our church doors will be more open this month than at any other time of the year. There is something about Advent and Christmas that inspires people to either try church out for the first time, or return to church again after a sometimes lengthy hiatus. Therein lies our opportunity.

We have the privilege – the distinct privilege – of demonstrating to people what it is that we are about as Christians, and as Glenelg UMC. We do this in many different ways – from the warm way they are greeted when they arrive, to the creative worship that is carefully planned, to the magnificent way in which we care for and educate their children, to the way we invite them into our fellowship, to the way that we follow up with them and let them know that their presence was cherished. All of these things are part of our opportunity during this busy time, and we are meant to seize that opportunity.

Friends – I have been to your homes and experienced first-hand the warmth of your welcome. You will stop at nothing to make someone feel like part of the family. And my experience is that, when you have extended that welcome, it has not been with an overwhelmed heart, but with a glad heart.

During this busy time, let us remind ourselves that all is well, and all will be well; and let us also remind ourselves of our opportunity to make someone feel like part of our church family. It literally can make all of the difference for that individual. After all, it’s what we were meant to do.



Beware Advent Crowding

I wouldn’t share this in broad circles — but, y’all, my Christmas decorations are up. Shhhh….

I know the bold audacity of that statement is lost on our 21st century sensibilities, but my seminary professors (a couple of them, in particular, oh my) were deadly serious about not crowding out Advent with Christmas. Understandably so. Much in the same way that Santa Claus beats out Jesus in the children’s popularity contest every Christmas morning, Christmas beats out Advent all season long. We prefer the red and green decorations, the silver and gold, the Joy To The World over the somber tones of anticipation and heart-work preparation of Advent.

In my defense, there was that extra Sunday this year between Thanksgiving and Advent. It just made sense to use the time well. You understand, don’t you?

However, let’s say it together: it is Advent, not yet Christmas. The Messiah was born; he has not yet returned. It is a season for prophets and truth-tellers. Our souls require that we leave room in our lives for them to speak, or we will, indeed, not be prepared when the Messiah comes.

Our sermons for Advent will focus on the gnarly and difficult prophets of old, for they told of the coming King the first time. They would demand our attention again as the foretell the return of the King.

As we continue in this season of Stewardship and generous commitment to God, you all have thus far returned 56 pledge cards equating to a total of $218,000 in pledged giving. Twenty-five of those pledges are increased from last year for a total of $27,000 extra giving. If you have not yet turned in a pledge card, please consider doing so. It is a gift to share in a season that looks for our hearts and lives and checkbooks to be ready

And, as a reminder:
The holidays are here!! Will you consider inviting your friends, family and neighbors to be part of a loving faith community during a time that can be immensely lonely for some?

Love in Christ,
Pastor Alice

Mashed Potatoes

It is one of my many privileges to get to meet with our GUMC Preschool children in chapel services once a month. This was the week they came. Obviously, the focus of the moment is on Thanksgiving and how we give thanks and for what we give thanks. The children, as always, are fabulous teachers in their innocent answers.

“For what do you give thanks, children?” I ask with intent and serious pastoral care.

“Mashed potatoes!” is the first shouted answer.
“Roller Coasters!” shouts another.
“My baby sister…” “My dog…” “My family…”

As the children thought deeply and provided their grateful answers, I was moved by their sharing and thought to myself, “I think *this* is what I am thankful for…” – the gift of sharing, in and of itself.

The journey through life would be lonely and meaningless without the ability to share with others; many others; a diverse group of others; others that make us think, or laugh, or cry. We share the journey in many ways, but one of the more special and unusual ways we share the journey is through our church community. This is a place that is built on and through the sharing of the people. No wonder this is such a wonderful church with such a wonderful preschool! … because of your sharing.

You are people who share boldly and abundantly. I am always proud to serve as your pastor, but particularly during this season of stewardship and pledging as you bring your commitments of first fruits to God’s kingdom. So far this year, 46 pledge cards have been returned for a total of $165,000 in pledged giving. Twenty-one of those pledges are increased from last year for a total of $25,000 extra giving.

That’s a lot of mashed potatoes!!

If you have not yet turned in a pledge card, please consider doing so. It is a gift to share, to give and to receive.

This year as we bow our heads and give thanks for all that God has given to us, let us be mindful of how we express our deepest gratitude to God.

And, as a reminder:
The holidays are here!! Will you consider inviting your friends, family and neighbors to be part of a loving faith community during a time that can be immensely lonely for some?
Love in Christ,
Pastor Alice

Make a joyful noise

Our choir joined voices with two other UMChurches yesterday under the direction of Dr. Doug Burian. It was, indeed, joyful!

But don’t be fooled. We are all expected to make joyful noises, no matter our singing ability.

Several places in Scripture command this: Psalm 66:1; 95:1-2; 109:1; 1 Chronicles 15:16. And we are told how: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord” (Psalm 98:4-6). The psalm goes on to describe the sea roaring, the rivers clapping their hands, and the hills breaking forth in song. All of creation joins together in noisy, wonderful worship of God.

This promises to be a noisy week. Don’t let the cares of the world pull you way from our focus on God. Give thanks, sing praises and dedicate yourself to prayer.

God is with us! All is well!

In Christ,

Pastor Alice

In the midst of life, we are in death

“In the midst of life, we are in death…”

These words, taken from The Book of Common Prayer, 1662, Burial of the Dead, are often shared at graveside services. They are a poetic and scriptural reminder that life is short, endings can happen unexpectedly and – most importantly – that life and death co-exist all the time, all around us. Loved ones die; new loved ones are born. The circle of life is unstoppable and we simply live within it.

At this time of the change of seasons, from the warmth of summer into the cool of fall, comes All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints’ Day. It is a time we remember well that “in the midst of life, we are in death.” It is a time we can honor again all those in our lives that we have had the privilege of knowing and loving.

This year, we have the added blessing of our newly finished Memorial Garden, which we will dedicate this Sunday during worship.

Come, join us. Let us love and laugh and weep together as the hands of time move ever onward.

And, as a reminder:
The holidays are coming. Will you consider inviting your friends, family and neighbors to be part of a loving faith community during a time that can be immensely lonely for some?

“In the midst of life we are in death.
To whom can we go for help, but to you, Lord God?
You know the secrets of our hearts;
mercifully hear us, most worthy judge eternal;
keep us, at our last hour, in the consolation of your love”.

Love in Christ,
Pastor Alice