This week's author is the Rev. Kent Siladi, Conference Minister of the Connecticut Conference.
Scripture: Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel',
which means, 'God is with us.' When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
Reflection: God Is With UsIs there more that needs to be said then "God is with us?" The lights in the Advent wreath in our churches glow brighter on the fourth Sunday in Advent. This season of expectant waiting reminds us of the core message of the Christian faith. Jesus, Emmanuel, the One who is "God is with us" is the one we await once again this season.
The birth of Jesus in Matthew is different than Luke's account. Matthew portrays the birth of Jesus in a much more shorthanded way than Luke. Mary gives birth to a son and they name him Jesus. It's a "right to the point" no nonsense account.
We actually don't need more than this birth story do we? God is with us! It is the reminder message of God's ever present, ever abiding love that will not let us go. With this birth the world literally is changed. We are followers of Jesus Christ: the one who calls us into relationship with God and this world where we live out of the core conviction that we are disciples of Christ. Our United Church of Christ vision statement puts it like this: "United in Christ's love, a just world for all."
God is with us. Thanks be to God for the eternal message that we are not alone. We are loved and upheld by the unconditional love of God's grace, love, justice and compassion that calls us to love one another. Tell you neighbors, tell your friends, post it on your Facebook wall, tweet it – proclaim it! God is with US!
Prayer:Holy God, Generous Lover of all, we come to worship longing to abide in love, as lavish and wide as the stretching ocean and still as intimate as a tear. We yearn to feel your presence flowing among us. Emmanuel, the promised one, we know you are as near to us as our breathing. As we sing and pray, speak and listen, let the light of love shine in our midst, for it is through this world-changing love that we witness you moving in and among us. God-with-us, be with us, in this hour and every hour. Amen.
From Advent Candle lighting 4: http://www.ucc.org/worship_worship-ways
Special Prayer Requests:New Requests:
- those grieving or suffering after a bombing in Cairo, Egypt killed 24 Christians who were attending Mass on December 11; and
- those who do not have adequate shelter as temperatures fall and winter weather arrives.
- those grieving or suffering after a fire destroyed a warehouse in Oakland, CA, killing more than 30 people who were attending a party inside the building;
- the family and friends of Rev. Robert Fichtner, retired UCC pastor, who died on November 25;
- hose suffering or grieving after an attack at Ohio State University left 1 dead and several injured on November 28;
- those grieving or suffering after a bus caring 37 children crashed in Tennessee leaving 6 children dead and many others injured on November 21;
- those grieving or injured after a shooting in New Orleans left 1 dead and 9 injured on November 27;
- the family and friends of Rev. Robert B. L. Singer Jr, retired UCC pastor who served in several CT churches, who died on November 25;
- those in law enforcement after 4 separate shootings on November 20 left 3 officers injured and 1 dead;
- those grieving in India after a train derailment left more than 140 dead on November 20;
- for peace between Dakota Access Pipeline protestors and law enforcement officials in North Dakota;
- the family and friends of Pauline “Polly” Parmalee, former President of the CT Women of the UCC, who died on November 11;
- those grieving or stranded in New Zealand after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the South Island on November 14;
- the friends and family of the Rev. Dr. Don Westerberg, former pastor of Roxbury Congregational Church, UCC, who died on November 1;
- the Rev. Paul Goodman, interim pastor of Plantsville Congregational Church, whose father died on November 3;
- the people of Italy who experienced a high magnitude earthquake, their second in 3 months, on October 30;
- those grieving or suffering after a bus accident in California killed 13 and injured over 30 others on October 23;
- the people of Iraq impacted by the renewed fighting in and around the city of Mosul where Iraqi forces are trying to retake control of the city from ISIS;
- Rev. M. John Arens, Pastor of the New Preston Congregational Church, who had surgery on June 28;
- Rev. Da Vita McCallister, Associate Conference Minister for Leadership and Vitality, and her family as they face a loss and difficult illness in the family;
- The Rev. Sara Smith, pastor of United Congregational Church of Bridgeport, and her sister Ellen, who is recovering from a stroke;
- Rev. Kelly Hough Rogers, Associate Pastor of the Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, whose parents were involved in a tragic car accident. Kelly’s father, Wallace, has died and her mother, Janet, is hospitalized;
- Michael White, former Operations Manager at Silver Lake Conference Center, who was diagnosed with colon cancer;
- Juliane Silver, the daughter of the Rev. Jim Silver of Middletown, who is in dire need of a liver transplant. We pray that a donor will come forward giving the gift of life and a portion of their liver to Juliane;
- Chacy Eveland, husband of the Rev. Marcia Eveland, pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC of Ansonia, who has been moved to a full-time facility for care of dementia;
- the Rev. Mary Nelson, South Central Regional Minister of the Connecticut Conference, whose brother is recovering from surgery;
- Alisia Selders, daughter of Bishop John Selders, pastor of Amistad UCC in Hartford, in a new round of treatment for cancer;
- the thousands of migrants worldwide who flee from violence and persecution in search of safety;
- our ecumenical partners in the Kyung-Ki Presbytery in South Korea;
- the Conference's partners working for peace in Colombia amidst violence;
- the leaders of this nation, that they may meet the challenges of the day with insight, wisdom, and compassion;
- this nation, that it may continue its difficult work to end the practices of racism;
- those suffering due to the ongoing financial woes of the nation, be they struggling to meet an unaffordable mortgage, seeking employment, or working to find just resolutions; and
- those serving or living in war or conflict zones around the world, or where terrorists have struck.
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
First Congregational Church of West Haven, UCC
Kathryn A. King - P
West Suffield Congregational Church
Sara Rossigg - DT
Church of the Good Shepherd
Brian C. Baeder - P
Westbrook Congregational Church, UCC
Jan Gregory-Charpentier - SP
Jill Wenker - CE
Robert G. Van Gorder – PE
Norfield Congregational UCC
Bernard R. Wilson - P
Kelly Hough Rogers - AP
Penny Anderson - CE
Rev. Kent Siladi is the Director of Philanthropy for the National Office of the United Church of Christ.
December 12, 2016