Now Our Christmas Work Begins
By Pastor Steven Borst
When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To free the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among brothers and sisters, To make music in the heart. (Howard Thurman)
One of the dreaded tasks of starting a new year is putting away all our Christmas decorations. Just a month prior we decked the halls and were jolly, but the cleaning up and entering back into our everyday lives seems much less exciting. But it’s exactly at this moment that our Christmas work begins!
St. Luke’s Gospel account of Christ’s birth tells us that “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” (Luke 2:20) They were the first to celebrate Christmas, and what a celebration it was! Their bright sky far outshone our strings of lights, and our holiday CD’s can’t begin to compare to their angel choir performance. Yet, their flocks were still in the fields and there was work to do. Perhaps they lingered by the manger for a bit, but before too long, they returned home to their daily tasks. The tasks were the same but they had changed, and how they now lived their lives was a testimony to all whom they encountered.
The church has a name for these crucial post-Christmas days. This time is called the season of Epiphany. Epiphany means “to reveal”, and it is now through our everyday lives that Christ Jesus is to be revealed to the world. We are the Body of Christ, and if the world is to come to know Him, it must be through us. We, who by Word and Sacrament have “heard and seen” our dear Lord Jesus Christ, now are bearers of His Word to our world. Like the shepherds, this happens when our joy and faith in Jesus spills over into our everyday relationships.
What is true of our individual lives also resonates with our life together as a congregation. The beauty of our Christmas services has faded and our sanctuary is returning to normal. The children will return from their Christmas break and there is homework again for them to do. There is ministry to plan and execute as Immanuel staff and members work together to live out our mission. This is an important time, especially as the pandemic causes such great instability among us. There are lost to be found and broken to be healed. There are hungry to be fed, foster kids to encourage, and neighborhoods to support. There is peace to proclaim and songs of joy to sing. We often look for Christ in the spectacular. After all, who doesn’t enjoy experiencing His love and truth in the glory of holy days? Yet there is also a holiness in the ordinary, and it is here where our lives are lived out. It is here where our Christmas work begins.
Before You Close the Book on 2020…
In his book, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens begins with the line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” For many of us this past year, we would probably go with the later of those two as the consequences of the COVID-19 virus has touched and reshaped our lives in ways that we did not think possible. Let us not beat around the bush but call it for what it is: a loss. We have experienced loss in many ways. From the basic foundations of our everyday life, to employment, and even the loss of loved ones. And no matter what shape that loss has taken this past year, we have reacted to it. Denial, Sadness, Fear, Anger, Guilt, you name it. It would be easy to write this year off and to just say that nothing good came from the past twelve months.
But, before you ring in 2021, I want you to look at this year in a different way. Because whether we appreciate the time given to us, God has given us it, nonetheless. And it is usually through the toughest of situations that God grows us, and the fruit that we yield afterwards is better than before. After all, Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Take our church service for example. While we are frustrated that we cannot congregate as we have (and trust me when I say that no one is more upset at the loss of fellowship than all pastors), we also see God continually at work as we have reached more people online than we necessarily would have. Just recently at the time of this writing, we had a man come and tell us that he has been extremely thankful that we have services online given his health and that it has allowed him to worship whereas before he was not able to. We’ve also seen how God has raised people up to take on the role of allowing live streaming to be possible—youth who are excited to use their talents with electronics as part of their faith, people with amazing skill sets and experience utilizing them in this context, and a whole new way that that Immanuel Lutheran is reaching the world with the Good News of Jesus.
So, in what ways have you grown this past year? In what ways have you or people around you shown love in different ways? Has this year revealed that your joy is in other things rather than the Lord? Where did you find peace this year? What behaviors do you value more because you took them for granted prior to this year? I think if you spend some time in reflection, you might see how even through tumultuous times, God continues to be active and that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)”
That is not to say that things will be easier this year (in fact I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where it says that Christians will have it easier), only that our God is faithful and still at work. While we pray that things quiet down and peace returns, we also trust and cling to Jesus who can accomplish all things for His name’s sake. That is also why in 2021 we are launching our new discipleship program called Re:Form so that we can continue to learn about God and how He has equipped us in order to serve others. I hope you will join us on this journey this year and I pray that God continues to shape you in 2021.
Yours in Christ, Pastor Robert Jones
Women’s Care Ministry Team
IMMANUEL IS FORMING A WOMEN’S CARE MINISTRY TEAM Care Ministers are a group of women assisting our elders to provide care for our congregation through cards, encouragement, and acts of compassion. If you are interested in participating in such a ministry, please contact Carol Luther.
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Please continue to tithe and give offerings, and if you are able, give generously! You can do so by sending a check or giving online through our website.
2021 Offering Envelopes 2021 offering envelopes are available for pick up in the front office. You can also visit the cart to pick up your envelopes during outdoor worship each Sunday. If you cannot find your envelopes or need to be assigned a giving number please contact Jamila at email@example.com.
Outdoor Sunday School! During part of the outdoor worship service at 10:30 a.m. children will be invited to their own special Bible story and craft just for them. Children 4 years old and up will be invited to meet in the shade for this special time. We will social distance and please have them wear their masks.
Confirmation Classes: Confirmation classes will resume on January 6, 2021 (hopefully in person) from 6:30-8 p.m. Parents, please help your students complete their requirements of memory work, volunteer hours, and sermon outlines. Check your email and our Confirmation Facebook group for updates and information.
High School Youth Beginning January 5 we will continue our study of Apologetics (defending our faith) on Tuesday nights in 2021, hopefully in person! Watch for updates via email and our High School Youth Facebook Group.
2021-2022 SCHOOL ENROLLMENT: Immanuel Lutheran School exists to help children Experience God’s presence, Equip children with the knowledge of their gifts and the world around them and Engage children to share the love of Jesus with others.
Immanuel Lutheran School offers the best option in Riverside for a Christ-centered, high quality academic education. Fully accredited by both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the National Lutheran Schools Association (NLSA), Immanuel is staffed by experienced, committed and state credentialed teachers who have a proven record of academic excellence.
As we continue to navigate our COVID environment and follow our protocols we will not be scheduling “Open House” events this year. Instead we have decided to provide a more in depth synopsis of our classrooms and curriculum. This will be an opportunity for current and new families to learn more about our school and its’ programs in a safe and healthy way. This information will be available on our website late January 2021.
SPREAD THE WORD! If you know a family who would benefit from being a part of the ILCS family, PLEASE share this information with them or have them call the office at 951-682-4211. Interested parents can also contact our Admissions Coordinator, Brianna Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org
STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP: Immanuel Lutheran School has been blessed for many years with members of our congregation and school families that have financially supported our scholarship programs to help families enroll their children in our school. We are very thankful for their support. Currently ILCS has a number of programs that are growing because of the financial support of many people. We have scholarships that give financial support to any family wanting to enroll their children at our school. We also have scholarship programs that designate funds to help member families of Immanuel Lutheran Church send their children to our school.
VIRTUAL ADVENT SERVICES: A big THANK YOU to our music teacher Grace Park, Pastor Steven, Pastor Robert, Jean Kempe, our teachers and students for celebrating Advent with our “live” virtual services on December 9 and 16. Our services were different this year, but the children were enthusiastic and excited about sharing the message of Jesus’ birth in a special way to their families and members of our congregation.
WELCOME: Mrs. Jana Penunuri will begin her work as our Administrative Assistant beginning this month. Jana and her husband, Jason, are parents of a 3rd and 6th grade students at ILCS, as well as an alumni student in middle school. She has been a long time volunteer and an amazing addition to our team. We are excited to welcome her aboard!
Community Outreach Report
By Julia Gardner – Outreach Coordinator
ANGEL TREE: The Angel Tree was a HUGE success for the Foster Teens and our local Veterans. Thank you SO VERY much for your support while showing God’s love through the gift cards that you provided!!
May you be very blessed for everything that you do for others in Jesus’ name!
Instead of a January White Sale.. We do our Annual Bedding Drive!!
These are the items YOU can help with:
- Regular Twin or Twin XL Sheets ($10 @ Walmart)
- Regular Twin or Twin XL Comforters ($21 @ Walmart)
- Comforters for Toddler Beds
- Crib Sheets
During the month of January, please bring your donations to the church office M-F between 8am-4pm. We are requesting that all the bedding being donated are new and in the original packaging due to the COVID restrictions.
January 1 Campus Closed New Year’s Day Holiday
January 4 Campus Open
January 17 Drive-Through Communion
January 18 Campus Closed Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
Immanuel Lutheran Church and School
5455 Alessandro Blvd., Riverside, CA 92506