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Dear Friends,                                                                                                                   December 2017/January 2018

Grace and peace. The season of Advent is a wonderful time to prepare our hearts to receive Jesus. Never in my 31 years as a pastor have I remembered a more challenging few months for our nation. The many storms and violent happenings have been so disheartening and heartbreaking. Especially the shooting at the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in Texas. The  sacred and peaceful sanctuary was violently attack by an evil man focused on killing. The 26 lives taken- not lost- including the unborn baby- will be forever bright lights of love and faith. How do we confront such evil?  We turn to our Savior Jesus and unite with our brothers and sisters of this humble church family in Sutherland Springs. This Advent can be special for each of us who are troubled by our world filled with hate and violence. We can come to the manger scene and behold the Christ child and receive the Prince of Peace into our hearts. The bad news that we see and hear about 24 hours a day can be met with the Good News of Jesus’ birth. As the angels said to the shepherds-“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” ( Luke 2: 10) 

Each of us has to choose to believe and follow Jesus each day. There are great distractions and temptations in our fallen world and we cannot let them deter us from walking with the Lord. I am very encouraged by our growing worship attendance as people are choosing to unite to gather as a church family determined to take on the sin of the world with the power of God’s amazing grace. How do we fight evil? We love God and love people. We accept the light of Jesus- believing that the darkness cannot overcome it- and we shine bright with love, joy and peace. 

I celebrate how the people at First UMC have accepted the challenged to hear the Word of God through Jesus and put it into practice. So when the storms come the house stands firm!  (Matthew 7:24-29)

We celebrate that children and youth are following our lead in reaching out to those in need. They see that we do not just speak words of faith and love but live them out. We have exceeded our goal of 300 Operation Christmas Child shoe box gifts! Over 300 children will receive gifts this Christmas because of your commitment to share the love of Jesus. We also put together over 125 Comfort Food Blessing Bags for the homeless in Worcester. Our faith must be a wonderful marriage of personal faith and social justice. One hallmark of the Methodist Church is believing that we should have a personal holiness and a social holiness.

You are invited to take part in an Advent Book Study that I will be leading on Adam Hamilton’s book FAITHFUL- Christmas Through the Eyes of Joseph. We will have 4 sessions during Advent each Tuesday from 6:30pm-7:30pm beginning on December 5th. Please email the church office to sign up. This book study will bless your faith and prepare you for Christmas.

Many thanks to those who have already made their 2018 Pledge to First UMC. Our theme for the year is BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING. Please consider giving on line. Nancy and I have signed up and it was very easy. Just visit the church website and follow the simple directions. 

Christmas Eve will be on a Sunday this year. So we will break the record for services in one day. Six! Please make plans to attend one of the morning services- 9am or 10:30am and one of the   Christmas Eve services 4pm, 5:30pm, 7:30pm or 11pm. In the morning on December 24 we will have a shorter than normal service with more singing. Please allow the Holy Spirit to work through you to invite someone to come with you to church this Christmas. People who are unchurched will attend if they are personally invited.

Is shakes our foundation to think that the shooter at the Sutherland Springs   Baptist Church shot a crying baby. The baby’s name: Noah Holcombe. Nothing in our world is more vulnerable, innocent, and special as a baby. Why would evil target a baby? Because love for our children comes from the image of God within us. Because God knows real strength is found in pure love. The evil King Herod even sought to kill the baby Jesus- and killed so many in trying to do so. (Matthew 2:13-23). I pray that all this is  happening in our fallen world would make you decide to come to the manger scene and behold the Christ Child. To know that our Savior was born into the mess of this world with the message of love, peace, and salvation. That evil does not win in the end. As we believe that the baby Jesus grew to be the messiah who defeated sin and death and gives us eternal life. 

You have the freedom to choose the light or darkness. Come to First UMC this Advent and Christmas and we will help each other fight the good fight of the faith. Love was born on Christmas….love, hope, peace, and joy. Alleluia!!

In Christian Love,

Pastor John

Sunday Worship Schedule  

Join us for a traditional worship service @ 9:00am with age appropiate Sunday School classes for kids ages pre-k through high school.  Our 10:30am service is a bit more relaxed with a contemporary flair.
Come early and join us for a hymn sing at 8:45 am.  
 
Refreshments and fellowship time at 10 am.