Photo: Confirmation Class of 2024
Photo: Confirmation Class of 2024
The season of Advent is upon us. Of all the seasons of the church year, for me, Advent is the one filled so many different messages. Hope, anxiety, fear, joy, peace, anticipation and so much more.
The Advent story from Luke 1:39-45 conveys all of these emotions found as we journey through the beginnings of a new church year leading up to the celebration of Christmas. I invite you to read the story before continuing.
Babies move around in their mother’s womb, don’t they? An arm here, a leg there. And it can be quite surprising! But nothing brings more joy than feeling your baby move.
Mothers and grandmothers, what was it like when you were pregnant with your first child? Do you recall your feelings, your hopes, and your dreams? What was your experience?
In the story, Luke tells of Mary’s hasty trip to a Judean town in the hill country, around 80 miles away. But why the hurry? An angel has just told Mary that she, unwed and a virgin, will have a child. The angel says that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth, considered too old to have children, is also pregnant. Mary can be killed for this. Being pregnant outside of marriage in ancient times is a social disgrace, and it’s dangerous.
Not too long-ago unwed women who got pregnant were dismissed from school, hidden by their families or sent to homes for unwed mothers? Babies were adopted in secrecy. These mothers were condemned as horrible sinners, and many carried that shame into their marriages and to their graves.
Despite the danger, Mary chooses to be excited by this news. Instead of scoffing at the messenger, Mary embraces the message.
In her excitement, she hurries to visit Elizabeth, someone she trusts to share in this good news. When Elizabeth greets Mary, the child she carries leaps in her womb. It’s as if Elizabeth’s baby, John the Baptist, recognizes the presence of his Lord in Mary. This movement from her own baby signals a deep connection for Elizabeth. Mary is not a troubled young woman, planning to stay in hiding until her child is born.
This visit is not about fear, but joy.
Elizabeth experiences the joy of her child at Mary’s arrival. She can feel that something amazing and joyful is coming. “Blessed are you among women,” she says to Mary, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb … for as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:42, 44).
Soon it will be Christmas. Does this story give you reason to feel the joy? How are you connected to the story of Elizabeth and Mary? Does it give you insight into our search for hope and joy today? Does this good news, that Christ has come for all of us, no matter what we’ve done, release you from fear? Does it give you hope?
We look forward to your joining us for worship during this season we call Advent. Let the emotions fill you, knowing God has come near to bring peace.
Email Pastor Mark: email@example.com
Thanksgiving has come and gone, December is upon us, and with it comes the rich season of longing known as Advent. We are beginning a four-week journey as we reflect on what the world was like as it prayed desperately for God to send the Messiah that was promised to us through the prophets of our Hebrew scriptures. We imagine and feel what it must have been like, longing, and yet not knowing. It is the season of the already and the not yet. We know how the story goes, and yet there is power in its retelling.
Advent marks the beginning of a new church year. On Sunday, November 26, SOTP joined with churches of many denominations from around the world to celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the church’s New Year’s Eve. It was a festival of hymns and readings as we journeyed through the church year in a single worship service. It is one of my favorite festivals because it helps us feel the rhythms of the of the year and the ways that our Sunday festivals and liturgies help us understand this thing called faith. We remember and relive the unbelievable gift of God’s grace.
From now until the Day of Pentecost, which will be on May 19 in 2024, we will celebrate the highest festivals of our church year. From the Nativity to the visit from the Magi, from Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness to the Last supper with his disciples, from Jesus’ death to his resurrection, we will remember the most significant events of Jesus’ life and ministry. The colors of the sanctuary change to signal the significance of each season, each color with its symbolic meaning (white to remind of our baptism, purple for repentance, red to signal the presence of the Holy Spirit, etc.).
The season that follows the Day of Pentecost, known as Ordinary Time, is a reminder of God’s presence in the ordinary times of our lives. God is not only present in the larger-than-life moments, but in everyday occurrences. During the season after Pentecost, we get to walk with Jesus throughout the Holy Land as he heals and teaches. We receive valuable explanations of what it means to live life as Christ followers and how God’s kingdom works (or was designed to work).
All of this will come to pass as we embark on another calendar year, but for now, I invite you to lean into the meaning of this Advent season. It is a time to push back against the busy-ness of the American holiday season, take a pause, and reflect on what the coming of the Messiah means to us, in our day. I invite you to spend some time with a good Advent devotional, or try a new and different spiritual practice as way o help you savor this season and grow in your anticipation and faith in Jesus as our long-awaited Messiah.
As always, I pray for you to have a safe and joyous Christmas and New Year celebration, and I look froward to seeing you soon!
Email Pastor Ryan: firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to summer of 2024 Youth Gathering website for those interested in more information: https://www.elca.church/gathering
As I think about Christmas and all it brings, I am grateful for the decorated trees, twinkling lights, snow covered landscapes, Christmas cookies, gifts (to give and receive), friends and family celebrating…but most of all I give thanks for the incarnation. God loved us so much and wanted to live in close relationship so strongly, that God decided to come to come to earth and live as one of their creation! That is amazing and awesome beyond comprehension! That the God who created the universe could love us and desire to connect with us so completely is beyond anything I can imagine!
We (or at least I do) tend to get so caught up with the baby in a manger, angels and shepherds, stars and wisemen that we don’t stop to take in the magnitude of our God coming to earth to live as a human; to experience our joys and sorrows, our struggles and efforts, our successes and defeats, our hopes and our fears and even our death. This has come especially close to my heart as I walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” after my grandson’s death by suicide this summer. I find the Christmas lights and music soothing and comforting much of the time; yet sometimes, the sadness that Payton will never share another Christmas with us is overwhelming. At those times all I can do is sit in stillness and trust in that love of God that is more than I can fathom, and is walking through that valley with me.
As we rejoice in the baby in the manger, let us remember the If we take away the prettiness, the stars and angels, the shepherds and wisemen, we are left with an amazing gift of love! Love that was born in a messy, dirty, smelly stable. Love that grew up in poverty and walked with the poor, the other, the ‘less-than’ and loved all of these so much that he lived and died to show us what love is all about. For me, the Jesus that shares my pain, and weeps with me and for his people is the best gift of Christmas.
I hope that as you take some time to reflect this Christmastime, you can experience the joy and love that comes to us in the astonishing miracle of love that is the incarnation of our God in Jesus.
Email Donna: email@example.com
The Adult Education Class will resume sometime in January.
We will be studying the book Future Faith (Fortress Press) by Wesley Granberg Michaelson. In it he has identified 10 challenges the church must face this century. We will examine one per week.
Participants are encouraged to purchase the book and read along as we go. Please plan to join us when you can, even if you don’t have the book, for these weekly conversations on Sunday mornings at 10:15 AM.
More details will be announced next month.
Contact: Pastor Roy Olson firstname.lastname@example.org
Trunk or Treat Thank You!
Thank you to everyone that participated in our Trunk or Treat, it was a great success!!! We had almost 200 people come and enjoy themselves. Congratulations to our 1st place winners the Stancls with their Cubs themed trunk and the Mackey Family that came in 2nd place with their Jurassic Park Theme trunk!!! (Please include some pictures)
Attention: Kids Connect December Schedule
Þ December 3rd 9:00 and 10:45
Þ December 10th No Kids Connect (Christmas Musical 10:45am)
Þ December 17th 9:00 and 10:45
Þ December 24th No Kids Connect (Christmas Eve no morning worship)
Þ December 31st No Kids Connect (New Years Eve)
Save the Date!
January 19th Kids Movie Night 6:30-8:30!!!
Kids come in their pajamas and bring sleeping bags, blankets, pillows. We will serve popcorn and movie candy. Movie TBD.
Contact: Jill Gillming email@example.com
The holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days.
How calorie dense are my favorite holiday foods?
High calorie-dense foods pack a lot of calories and tend to be heavily processed, low in nutrients and fiber, and high in fat and added sugars. Below is a list of high-calorie dense foods:
Low calorie-dense foods have fewer calories per bite, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat and added sugars. The fiber content of these foods tends to be higher, leading to increased fullness and a lesser likelihood of overeating.
When planning your holiday meals and snacks, try to include more low-calorie dense foods and limit items that are high-calorie dense.
Sneaky Holiday Calories:
Portions have doubled in the last 25 years. Research shows that people eat more when they are given a larger amount. Eating smaller portions is another easy way to reduce some of the calories from your diet.
Keep an eye on portions at holiday parties
Low-Calorie Egg Nog
Source: American Diabetes Association Holiday Cookbook by Betty Wedman
Combine the egg yolks and milk in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture coats a metal spoon. Cool.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the egg custard mixture with the vanilla, sweetener, and flavoring. Mix lightly. Cover and chill. Pour into serving cups and sprinkle with nutmeg.
½ cup= 70 calories, 6 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams protein, 3 grams of fat
Contact Jamie Patel firstname.lastname@example.org
JOY TO THE WORLD
All of Shepherd of the Prairie’s Christmas offering this year will be equally split among the following charities:
This is including:
We have heard from many members that are on electronic giving, that they don’t want or need envelopes.
We have implemented a new system, where there is an opportunity to opt out of receiving offering envelopes.
Besides electronic giving, if you are on annual or semi-annual giving, you also can opt out of envelopes. Contact Michelle Rankin to get set up.
With this change, many of you will have new envelope numbers for 2024. The 2024 envelopes will be issued sometime in December.
Contact: Michelle Rankin email@example.com
Our SOTP Bazaar was a success.
A special Thanks to all who helped to set up and take down our bazaar.
Another thank you to all who baked yummy treats and those who crafted wonderful items for sale.
Of course I wouldn’t forget all those who worked at the Bazaar. Everyone is part of our success.
We earned $2003.50 and every penny has gone toward our SOTP mortgage.
A Big THANK YOU to everyone who helped decorate the church on Monday, November 27.
It takes a lot of helpers/elves to decorate and put up five trees.
The Worship Committee thanks you for a job well done!!!!
Contact: Carolyn Cuttle firstname.lastname@example.org
John and Carol Sturz have been training their 5-year-old golden retriever, Rosie, to be a Therapy Dog.
The first step in her training was to pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship test, a 10-skill test that teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their owners. The next part of her certification will be to make visits to schools, hospitals, nursing homes as well as to Shepherd of the Prairie Church and anywhere she is welcome. So far Rosie has been with us at many local restaurants and at SOTP Saturday night services.
Therapy dogs are not service dogs. Service dogs are dogs that are specially trained to perform specific tasks to help a person who has a disability. An example of a service dog is one that guides an owner who is blind, or a dog who assists someone with a physical disability. Therefore Rosie is not given the same duties and privileges that a service dog has.
Since many people are familiar with the Lutheran Church Charities Comfort dogs, we want to clarify that Rosie is not part of that organization. LCC K9’s places dogs with assigned handlers and the dogs live in homes with assigned caregivers. Rosie will continue to live with us and we will be her handlers. Our plan is to take her for visits to nursing homes, hospitals and other places like libraries, since we have both worked as school and college Librarians. John is also a retired Lutheran pastor.
John and Carol Sturz
Designates Outside Groups Not Run By SOTP
Are you looking for ways to use your talents and participate in our church family?
Here are some ideas and who to contact for more information for each one:
To start receiving any (or all) of the above, please e-mail your request to Michelle Rankin at michelle@SOTPmail.com