Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
So Christmas Day has passed (at least for those of the Western Christian traditions). If you celebrated Christmas with worship, or with family gatherings, or with the giving of gifts, or by observing all of these forms of celebration . . . What Now? Christians have again gathered to see God humbly come to us in flesh as the baby in the manger. We have listened as the angel proclaimed “good news of great joy which shall be to all the people.” (Luke 2:10) We have heard an army of angels praise God for “peace on earth, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14 KJV) We may have even experienced the joy and peace and goodwill of the season as we celebrated the gift of God’s Son. But, are these blessings just part of this year’s celebration with no continuing benefits?
Please consider what we are told about those who were perhaps most surprised by the birth of Jesus, the shepherds. We read about what the Christmas shepherds did, after finding Jesus, in Luke 2:17-20.
17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
We can safely say that the shepherds continued sharing joy and peace even after they had seen the infant, Jesus. They shared with others the messages of the angels (v. 17). They “glorified and praised God” for all they had experienced. (v. 20) The birth of Jesus wasn’t just some nice event of the past to be remembered once in a while, or forgotten all together. The lives of these shepherds were changed forever by the gift of God’s Son, Jesus.
As the shepherds were surprised by the Christmas love of God, the members of St. John likewise received a Christmas surprise on Christmas Eve. I went to the post office that day saying aloud, “I hope I don’t have one of those yellow slips!” I didn’t want to stand in the Christmas package line. I didn’t have one yellow slip; I had 5! And all the boxes were gifts from God’s people outside to bring God’s love to people in the valley. But, perhaps most surprising was a small box from former St. John members, David and Cathy Grosz, and the members of their Washington congregation, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Rochester. Please read with me the letter sent by Cathy Grosz with this box.
December 19, 2018
Dear Pastor Jonathan,
After hearing about the November 30th earthquake, and the personal stories from you and others, our hearts were stirred to reach out to the members of St. John’s Church. David and I met with Pastor Lauren Macan-Wightman of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church to determine what our congregation could do to extend Christ-like care to the members of St. John, suffering from the earthquake.
Pastor Lauren wrote a message in the church’s weekly newsletter, and then made an announcement at Sunday service, inviting folks to respond in two ways. These were: 1) to write cards of encouragement, and 2) donate $25.00 Fred Meyer gift cards. We knew most folks of St. John’s could easily access Fred Meyer stores in the valley.
The response of this small congregation was overwhelming. It is a rural congregation of mainly older members, many retired. Their hearts were stirred by the despair experienced by the earthquake. They reacted with a spirit of generosity.
Enclosed you will find 36 $25.00 Fred Meyer gift cards ($900 worth) and 54 cards of encouragement. Pastor Rockey, please disperse these to members of St. John that could use these gifts and cards, especially the elderly folks. Just tell them that the congregation of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, in Rochester, Washington, cares about them. They have prayed for your recovery following this disaster.
The congregation would be pleased to receive any pictures and stories from St. John as an encouragement.
In Service to God and love for His people,
David and Cathy Grosz
We can see that the lives of the people of St. Mark Lutheran Church have also been changed forever by the birth, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus. The message of Christmas is a message of sacrificial, giving love. The people of St. Mark responded to God’s love in Jesus, not because it was Christmas time, but because the earthquake hit Alaska, and because God loved them in the gift of His Son.
I pray that the good news of the Christmas angel, that the joy and the peace, the goodwill and the love of God has changed your life forever. I pray that you too may respond to God’s gift of Jesus by giving of yourselves for others throughout the year.
A Child of God, Surprised Again by the Gift of God’s Love,
P.S. Please remember Ethan’s Commissioning and Installation Service will be held at St. John Sunday night, December 30, at 6:00 p.m. There will be a “finger food reception” after the service. (Ethan’s family will also be here for the service.) Please sign up to indicate you will be attending.
P. P.S. Here is some information about St. Mark Lutheran
· I am including a link with 3 pictures. One of those pictures is of some of the members of St. Mark. In addition to the Grosz family, some of you may recognize Pastor Elvin Borg and his wife Alice. Pastor Borg at one time was captain of the LAMP Boat MV Christian and did mission work in Alaska. https://photos.app.goo.gl/fEAwfQw6LM45CXiW6
· For those who are wondering and were not in worship, I gave out cards of encouragement and Fred Meyer gift cards in worship on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I asked everyone 70 years and older to raise their hands, and I had children in grades 4-8 hand out the cards and gifts. Most in Palmer did not have devastating earthquake damage. But, it seems everyone had to clean up. Everyone had some loss. So at Christmas we shared God’s love from the members of St. Mark with the members of St. John, especially our elderly members.
· For those who would like to respond with letters of thanks to David and Cathy, or to the people of St. Mark, the addresses are below.
David and Cathy Grosz
18214 Wild Violet Lane SW
Rochester, WA 98579
St. Mark Lutheran Church
10000 Hwy 12 SW
Rochester, WA 98579
P.P.P.S. MUCH has happened in the past week at St. John as we observed Advent and Christmas. I’ll again share pictures from some of the many “Christmas Activities” of the past week.
Here are a few pictures from the December 19th Advent Meal. We weren’t sure we would have a main dish. We ended up with 9 families offering to help with this meal.
· Here are some pictures from this year’s Confirmation Christmas Stockings Project. We made stockings December 12 and 19. They were delivered to My House (homeless teen ministry) on December 21.
P.P.P.P.S. Here are some pictures from the Alaska Rockey family Christmas.
P.P.P.P.P.S. No fishing this past week on Christmas Eve.
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.