Dear People of Grace,
Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
It’s hard to believe that this is the second Thanksgiving we are celebrating in the midst of the Covid 19 pandemic. We may feel somewhat disquieted as we look back at the past year and the way that life changed for us – masks, “safer at home,” travel and trips postponed, and our worship modified. Yet, this year things may be a bit different from last as vaccinations have increased, boosters are being distributed, and the overall trends are moving in the right direction. We do have much for which we give thanks. Whether you gather together with friends and family or you enjoy the quiet of a day alone or with your household, be assured of God’s presence with you.
As St. Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances. “ As you taste some roast turkey, pour some gravy on mashed potatoes, add some extra whipped cream to your pumpkin pie or twirl your fork around some spaghetti noodles, I pray that in each taste you will experience the goodness of God and feel strengthened to serve God and God’s people.
You may be wondering what holidays this year will hold for us as long held traditions gave way last year to the realities of our community’s health. Like last year, a brief worship service will be available online Wednesday evening, Thanksgiving Eve. I invite you to pause sometime during your preparations or festivities and join us for a time of prayer and worship.
In the coming weeks of Advent, we have several ways of preparing for the birth of Jesus. We will light the candles of our Advent Wreath during worship. We will continue with Evening Prayer that will have a special Advent focus as we live stream from our chapel. For your home devotions, you are invited to join in with your own “Jesse Tree” by using the ornaments provided and following along the stories on the Advent Calendar that will be sent out. And, I hope that you will have your own Advent Wreath at home, something as simple as five candles on a placemat or as elaborate as one hand-decorated.
We also will have a special “SOULstice” service on December 20th at 4:00 in the afternoon in the chapel. This service is a chance to step away from the busy-ness of the season and reflect on the coming of the Word made flesh dwelling among us (John 1:14). We will sing, pray, and worship and generally get refueled as we draw closer to Christmas. These types of services often are linked to the “longest night,” winter solstice, on December 21. Please plan on joining us whether in person or by live streaming online.
As to Christmas, I know that there are traditions much cherished over the years that are very meaningful to all of us at Grace. Because conditions here in Polk County have improved so significantly in recent weeks, we are planning our traditional Candlelight Service with Holy Communion on Christmas Eve.
There is much ahead in the coming weeks. There are many details to which we must attend. If you think there is a way in which you may assist or if there is an idea you have that we haven’t thought of or if there is any way you may wonder if you may help, please do let me know. We are in this together! Thanks be to God!
So, my dear ones, as we enter this cherished time of the year, a time of memories and hope, a time of wondering and anticipation, be of good hope. In a spirit of thanksgiving, waiting and wonder, we enter into the Holy Ground of the coming holy days, together.
In Christ’s love,