Arise! Shine!

On Sunday, January 2nd, we are celebrating the story of Epiphany in worship.  The readings will be Isaiah 60 and Matthew 2.

Are any of you using the New Year’s Holiday to take down your Christmas tree?  Why not use the time to teach about the meaning of Epiphany, a part of our worship year that is often forgotten because it falls so close to Christmas?

Isaiah calls the people of Jerusalem to rise and shine because God’s glory is upon them for all the world to see.  Children heading back to school this week after soaking up God’s Christmas love and glory are ready to hear the call to shine also.  Verse 1 is their key verse.   Actually “Arise, shine!” is all they need. 
One way to explain the symbol of light is to present children with several symbols, e.g. a national flag, a symbol for a sports team, and a cross.  As you present each ornament ask what it stands for and what it makes them think about.  Then tell them that the symbol for God is light.  Since we can’t make a picture of light, we use things that make light like a star, sun, candle, lamp.  Display a treetop star ornament that goes at the top of the Christmas tree and note its meaning.  Recall Christmas candle lighting services and note that we lit those candles to remind ourselves that God the light is with us. –Written by Carolyn Brown
Here’s another idea for helping kids see the meaning of Epiphany:  find star-shaped stickers (glittery ones would be great!) and give each child a sticker to place on their hand or clothing.  As you give them the sticker, echo the words of Isaiah, “Arise!  Shine!
Infant Jesus, shine brightly in our lives this new year.  Amen.

Prayer for Christmas Day

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.  Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Bible Readings for personal/family devotions at home:  Isaiah 52:7-10 and John 1:1-14

Prayer for Christmas Eve

Almighty God, you have made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true light.  Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Bible Readings for personal / family devotions at home:  Isaiah 9:2, 7-9 and Luke 2:1-20

Holiday Worship Schedule 2010-2011

Friday, December 24, 2010

3 pm Family Worship with Holy Communion

Special music from Youth and Senior Choirs

5 pm Candlelight Worship with Holy Communion *broadcast on KOWZ, 100.9 FM

Special music from Senior Choir and instrumentalists

10 pm Candlelight Worship with Holy Communion

Special music from vocalists

Saturday, December 25, 2010

9 am Jubilee Worship

Special music from soloist

Sunday, December 26, 2010

9 am Service of Lessons and Carols *broadcast on KOWZ 100.9 FM

Sunday, January 2, 2011

9 am Worship with Holy Communion *broadcast on KOWZ 100.9 FM

Westfield service scheduled for 11 am has been CANCELLED due to icy conditions at the church

**Two-service schedule and Sunday School resumes Sunday, January 9th**


We wish you a joyous holiday season, filled with hope in Christ.

-The pastors & staff of First Lutheran Church

Weather Changes Schedule for December 12, 2010

Hi friends,

view from living room window, 3 pm Dec 11, 2010

The No-Travel Advisory remains in effect until noon on Sunday, December 12th.  Conditions are treacherous, even in town, and the wind will continue to blow snow through the morning.

Therefore, we have made the decision to CANCEL our 8:30 worship service.

At 10 am, we were anticipating our Children’s Christmas Program.

We are MOVING this event and planning a combined Worship/Program for ALL worshipers, children, and their families beginning at 3 pm on Sunday, December 12th.

Children are asked to come for a final practice at 2 pm.  Parents who are waiting, the bake sale will be held at this time, and the coffee will be on!

Looking forward to seeing you in the afternoon.  Travel safely, stay warm, and pray for those who are outside assisting others in the blizzard.

The Highway

This Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent, is often known as the Sunday of Joy.  Perhaps you have noticed that in most congregations, the Advent wreath has a rose-colored candle for this week instead of the usual blue.  And the themes of our First Reading from Isaiah 35 are definitely joyous ones:  a desert in bloom, a people healed, a highway broad enough for all. 

This is one instance where a little Biblical imagination is in order.  Today, when we think of highway, we often think of this:

People zooming by in their isolation, intent on their destination–and sometimes enraged, or distracted by their technology.  Think about it for a moment.  We travel at speeds unimaginable in eras past, in vehicles that cost more than many on our planet could ever dream to make in a year (or a lifetime?), on million-dollar roads of smooth black asphalt.  With accurate signage.  With highway patrols to keep us safe.  And countless ways for others to rescue us in the event of an accident.

In Isaiah’s time, a highway was a true gift to the people.  A wide dirt path for foot travel is basically what we are talking about.  No patrols, no protection.  Maybe some rocks or other natural markers for signs.  Yet Isaiah’s is a vision of restoration and hope, a vision of camaraderie and exhileration.  Swarms of people, from all walks of life, all ages, all abilities, coming together instead of dashing to separate from the pack.  So here is another image from our modern day:

When YOU think of God’s highway, what do YOU imagine? 

God of joy, as you have promised:  strengthen the weak hands, make firm the feeble knees.  In celebrating the birth of your Son, may sorrow and sighing flee away… forever.  Amen.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

We are reading through some segments of the Prophet Isaiah during this season of Advent, both on Sunday mornings as our First Lesson and again on Wednesday nights for our mid-week Worship. 

This Sunday, December 5th, we will be considering Isaiah 11:1-10.  Like so much of Isaiah’s prophecy, this passage contains a vision of hope and peace and justice and God’s coming.  Like so much of Isaiah’s prophecy, very concrete pictures are painted: of lions and lambs, nursing children and asps (poisonous snakes), a stump with a shoot now growing.  These pictures, so outside of the natural order of things, point firmly at a God whose power is beyond the natural order.

Isaiah points firmly to  a God whose power is beyond the natural order.  A God who can reverse destruction and death, bring opposites into harmony, and rules with justice. 

O Come, O Come Emmanuel is a hymn written in the 12th century.  Originally in Latin, it was translated into English in the 18oos by John Neale.  Stanza 3 is a direct allusion to Isaiah 11:

Illuminated Bible from the middle ages, depicting Jesse, David, Jesus

Oh, come, strong branch of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satans tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save
And give them vict’ry o’er the grave.
Chorus:  Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, O Come Emmanuel .  Amen.