Bulletin – December 13

The 3rd Sunday of End Times

Prepare & Proclaim the Good News

of Christ’s Coming

St. John’s & Emmanuel Ev. Lutheran Churches

Montello & Mecan, WI

December 12, 2020

4:30p.m. St. John’s

December 13, 2020

8a.m. Emmanuel

10a.m. St. John’s

St. John’s  Ev. Lutheran Church
313 East Montello St. Montello, WI 53949
Emmanuel  Ev. Lutheran Church
W1568 Evergreen Lane Montello, WI 53949    
We extend a warm welcome to everyone viewing our recorded worship service today. The bulletin includes the complete order of service, hymns, psalm, Bible readings and announcements. For those without internet access to our website stjohnsmontello.org, DVDs and written sermons plus the bulletin are available.  Just phone secretary Ciara Neuhauser at the church office (608) 297-2866 or contact Pastor Zietlow (talk or text) at (608) 408-7830.

If you’re watching our worship services on-line and want to also follow along with the bulletin, you can just print the bulletin out and watch it together with the service. Or you can do a “split screen.” This means you would click the menu button on the top right corner of your screen, click “new window” and then open a second window to our website and recorded service page. Click “bulletin can be accessed here” and now you have two windows. Make each window half-size, so that you have a split screen–one side for the service and one side for the bulletin.

Today’s theme: 3rd Sunday of End Time: “Prepare & Proclaim the Good News of Christ’s Coming” Jesus is the Central Focus of Our Message and the Joy in Our Living – We often become enamored with eloquent and influential speakers who promise wealth and ease. But Malachi said that the true messenger of God would be another Elijah. He would speak God’s Word and prepare people for God’s judgment. He would turn fathers’ hearts to their children and children’s hearts to their fathers. Through the Word comes real change in our faith-born outlook. Through the Word comes humility that longs to serve God.  

P R E P A R A T I O N   F O R   W O R S H I P

We prepare ourselves to worship the one Savior God by expressing our humble repentance, offering our fervent prayers and singing our thankfulness of praise.

Please note: Worship Update Plans (Updated Nov.. 2020. bulletin page  16) Beginning  (11/15) at the 10:00am St. John’s service,  the 55+ age restriction ended . Worshipers are kindly asked to maintain social distancing, refrain from singing, and wear masks that cover both mouth and nose.  Thank you for your consideration.


M: O Lord – our Maker, Redeemer, and Comforter – we are assembled in your presence to hear your holy Word. We pray that you would open our hearts by your Holy Spirit, that through the preaching of your Word we may repent of our sins, believe in Jesus, and grow day by day in grace and holiness. Hear us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


M:  We light three Advent candles remembering Jesus, the Light of the world. He came to defeat the prince of darkness.

C:  We remember Jesus who came in answer to his people’s prayers. John proclaimed him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

M:  We hear his call to see the light.

C:  We light three Advent candles as a sign of our trust and confidence.

M:  Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.

C:  Through your Word and Spirit may our souls be blessed.

Three Advent candles are lit.

OPENING HYMN 12                       Hark the Glad Sound! The Savior Comes

*Sung by soloist.      



Please stand.


M: In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

CONFESSION & ABSOLUTION                                                                       

M: We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve him as his dear children. But we have disobeyed him and deserve only his wrath and punishment. Therefore, let us confess our sins to him and plead for his mercy.

C: Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth. In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child. But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray: Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M: God, our heavenly Father, has forgiven all your sins. By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord, Jesus Christ, he has removed your guilt forever. You are his own dear child. May God give you strength to live according to his will. 

C: Amen.


M: Hear our prayers, Lord Jesus Christ, and come with the good news of your mighty deliverance. Drive the darkness from our hearts and fill us with your light; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Be seated.

† T H E   W O R D

The Lord Jesus speaks to us in Scripture reading, preaching and song.

OLD TESTAMENT LESSON          Isaiah 61:1-3,10-11 (today’s sermon text)

Summary: The good news brings joy

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.

I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God.  For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations.


*For your personal devotion at home.


Blessed are they who hope, who hope in the Lord.

In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge;*

                let me never be put to shame.

Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness;*

                turn your ear to me and save me.

Be my rock of refuge to which I can always go;*

                For you are my rock and my fortress.


Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,*

                and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray,*

                do not forsake me, O God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,*

                your might to all who are to come.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son*

and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,*

is now, and will be forever. Amen.


SECOND LESSON                                                            1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Summary: Be joyful and grow in faith

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

 VERSE OF THE DAY                                                                       Matthew 11:10

P: Alleluia! I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you. Alleluia.

Please stand.

GOSPEL LESSON                                                                            John 1:6-8, 19-28

Summary: John the Baptist’s joyful testimony about Christ

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.”

They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us.  What do you say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, `Make straight the way for the Lord.'” {Isaiah 40:3}

Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

“I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

Please be seated.

HYMN 18                                                                O Lord, How Shall I Meet You

*Sung by soloist.

SERMONETTE                                                                            Isaiah 61:1-3,10-11

“Celebrate the Jubilee of our Anointed One!”

  1. He has rescued us from the sorrow of sin
  2. He has filled our hearts with endless joy
  3. He moves us all to offer him our best


*For your personal devotion at home.

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.


*Read by pastor. Intercessory prayers listed on page 12.

Please stand.


*Spoken by congregation.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.


*Read by pastor.

Please be seated for the distribution.

At St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church & Emmanuel Ev. Lutheran Church we practice closed Communion. If you are a guest at worship today and interested in receiving the Lord’s Supper, please speak with the pastor prior to the service. See page 13 for communion schedule and distribution information.

Please stand


M: O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


M: Brothers and sisters, go in peace. Live in harmony with one another. Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

Then Lord look on you with favor and + give you peace. Amen.

Be seated.

CLOSING HYMN 424                                                   O God, Forsake Me Not

*Sung by soloist.

1   O God, forsake me not! Your gracious presence lend me;

Lord, lead your helpless child; Your Holy Spirit send me

That I my course may run. Oh, be my light, my lot,

My staff, my rock, my shield—O God, forsake me not!

2   O God, forsake me not! Take not your Spirit from me;

Do not permit the might Of sin to overcome me.

Increase my feeble faith, Which you alone have wrought.

Oh, be my strength and pow’r—O God, forsake me not!

3   O God, forsake me not! Lord, hear my supplication!

In ev’ry evil hour Help me o’ercome temptation;

And when the prince of hell My conscience seeks to blot,

Be then not far from me—O God, forsake me not!

4   O God, forsake me not! Lord, I am yours forever.

Oh, keep me strong in faith That I may leave you never.

Grant me a blessed end When my good fight is fought;

Help me in life and death—O God, forsake me not!

Songs are reprinted under OneLicense.net #A-722228. Scripture is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® (NIV ®). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society.


December 13 – December 19

Sun.8:00 a.m.Emmanuel Worship with communion
 9:00 a.m.Emmanuel Congregational meeting
 10:00 a.m.St. John’s Worship with communion
Wed.11:40 a.m.School & Little Lambs early release
 3:30 p.m.Emmanuel Advent Devotion
 5:00 p.m.Joint Advent Devotion – St. John’s Princeton
 6:00-7:00 p.m.Carry out meal at Princeton
 7:15 p.m.Bible Information Class at St. John’s (pastor’s office)
Fri.6:00-7:00 p.m.Christmas for Kids in St. John’s parking lot
Sat.4:30 p.m.St. John’s Worship (indoors)
  Next week’s theme:
 December 20, 2020
4thSunday of Advent:
“The Son of David Reigns Forever”  
8:00 a.m.   Emmanuel Worship
10:00 a.m.St. John’s Worship
Church News  

INTERCESSORY PRAYERS (read by pastor) – For those hospitalized, ill, shut-in and facing trials: Jim & Caryl Bassett, Pat Bornick, Glenn Buchholz, Bob Buehrens, Darlene Burrough (Judy Fandrey’s niece), Gene & Sharon Crook, Liola Crown, Reinold Eckelberg, Ken Elmer, Mike Farrell, Kelleen Grucza (Judy Fandrey’s daughter), Louise Hillmer, Jerry & Darlene Hunter (Bonnie Chapman’s parents), Wesley & brother Xzander Jahr, Ellie Kendall, Geri Kerl, Julie Klawitter, Betty Kozlowski, Robert Lederer (Jackie & Jeanne Buchholz’ father), Jenell Mann, Lilly Mann, Delvin Mittelsteadt, Barbara Petrick, Al Pompa (Pete & Lucy Laun’s brother-in-law), Karen Radke, LuAnn Reber, Jeff Reimer, David Scharf, Roxanne Schmanke, Doris Smith, Carol Stempniak, Jennifer Strauss, Dixie Wagner, John Wildt, Harold & brother Paul Wuerch – (added this week: ) – For the family of Joanne Valentine, Pat Sommerfeld’s sister in North Dakota, called home on 12/4 – For our communicants  

MEMORIAL In loving memory of Joel Jaster, $5,000 was given to St. John’s for the new link way furnace and to Christmas for Kids by Jasters Ag Supply and J & L Fertilizer.  We thank you for your gift!  

CHRISTMAS FOR KIDS  Come drive through the St. John’s parking lot  on Friday, December 18 from 6-7 pm! There will be lots to look at: Christmas lights, carolers, and MORE!  

A NOTE FROM LADIES AID We will no longer be selling cards due to the pandemic. The health and safety of everyone is very important to us.  God bless you all during this Christmas season!  

CHRISTMAS CAROLING For those of you wanting to participate in Christmas caroling, we will be meeting outside at 6:00pm before the December 23 Emmanuel service and at 3:30pm before the December 24 St. John’s service.  

ADVENT DEVOTIONS This Wednesday, December 16 “Stories Behind the Hymns”. Please join us at Emmanuel 3:30pm. In place of the St. John’s 6:30pm devotion, all are invited to a Joint Advent Devotion at St. John’s Princeton at 5:00pm. A carryout meal will be served from 6:00-7:00pm. Please sign up in the church entry for the meal.  Please also see special holiday worship schedule in the back of the bulletin   for future Advent and holiday worship services.  

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED Volunteers are being sought to assist with delivery of weekly worship DVDs to our shut in members. For details or to volunteer to assist, please contact either James Wachholz 608-369-4006 or Gary Wegner 920-295-3456.  

SATURDAY WORSHIP  Come worship with us on Saturdays at St. John’s  at 4:30pm indoors. All are invited. Please bring a mask and practice social distancing.  


Church News cont’d…  

CAMP PHILLIP ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES St. John’s membership payment is due! If you would like to donate, please see the “Camp Phillip” free will offering jar located in the church entry way. You can make checks payable to Camp Phillip.  Thank you!  

THANK YOU to all those who donated toward wreaths and poinsettias at St. John’s!  Your generosity has blessed us with the wondrous spirit of Christmas.  Thank you to Janice Spillner, whose donation toward wreaths was in honor of her husband, Justus, who passed away in December of 2012;  thank you to Al Rosenthal, whose donation was given in memory of his wife, Carolyn, who passed away in August of this year;  and thank you to Marilyn Riemer, Kay Maass, and Anita Riemer, whose donations helped purchase two beautiful poinsettias. Thank you, once again, to Ashley Henke for the gorgeous wreaths she creates each year—4 for the front doors at St. John’s and another for the front door of St. John’s School.  

HOLY COMMUNION Communion is offered at both Emmanuel and St. John’s on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month and at St. John’s on the Saturdays  following those Sundays sing   “continuous flow” and “pew communion” distribution methods. Private communion by request is also available from Pastor Zietlow or an Elder at church or at your home.

GET FREE MEDICATION, FRIDGE, AND GUN LOCKS! St. John’s is partnering with Marquette County Healthy Communities Healthy Youth (HCHY) in their fall campaign emphasizing the need to secure what can be dangerous to children and others. To assist families, HCHY will have available, at no charge, medication lock boxes, refrigerator locks (where alcohol is stored in quantities), and gun locks. At St. John’s we have one of each of the three types of locks available for you to view. You may sign up for whatever you can use. Delivery will be at church. These items are available to all Marquette County residents at no charge, so spread the word. Members and friends can request these items. Let’s do all we can to keep our children from harm’s way. Sign up in the linkway, with Ciara or using the Google form. https://forms.gle/CpDT6awLesJRKbw26  
School news  

UPDATED SCHOOL COVID POLICY If a student or teacher tests positive, the entire school will move to two weeks virtual education. When parents who have not been in the school test positive, the school leadership will assess absences due to illness or quarantine as necessary for the health and safety of our student body and families. If a classroom or the entire school needs to go virtual, it will be for a period of two weeks.  

FREE MEAL SIGNUP FOR SCHOOL FAMILIES ONLY Hello School Families! Please find the link on our school Facebook page to sign up for free meals for next week 12/15. Pick up is on Tuesday from 4:30-5:30p at the public school. Even if we are physically in school, you may still signup. Breakfast and lunch included!    

Jesus is the Central Focus of our Message and the Joy in our Living

The Third Sunday in Advent – Series B

God’s Word for Today

We become enamored with eloquent and influential speakers today and eat up anything they say.   But the true messenger of God will step out of the limelight and let Christ himself shine in his Word.  That is where the real change in our faith-born outlook comes from and the humble lifestyle that longs to serve him and his will.

First Lesson (Isaiah 61:1-3, 10-11)

  1. Upon whom is this prophecy mainly focusing?
  2. What are some of the changes that come in a relationship to God through Christ?
  3. Who makes all these changes?

Second Lesson (1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)

4. What attitudes are to emerge from the Spirit-driven change in us?

5. How in the world are we to keep our whole spirit, soul and body blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus?

Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28)

6. Who was the focal point of John’s message?

7. What was John’s attitude toward Christ?


  1. When Jesus read this passage in the synagogue (Luke 4:21) he announced that it was talking about him.  Many missed the good news he was anointed to preach with his life, death and resurrection.  Life is often filled with misery, trouble and disappointment, but the good news from Jesus as savior brings comfort and strength.
  2. Life may be rough and bring people down, but Jesus covers us with gladness and praise, beauty and splendor.  A brand new spirit invades the negative environment of our sinful hearts and makes it alive!
  3. The LORD, Jahweh, the God of faithful love, purchased a robe of righteousness for us through the righteous life of Jesus.  He wraps that around us and views us  as beautiful.  This should result in greater praise to God and a new view of the people of God – ones who are forgiven and clothed with Christ.
  4. Joy, continual prayer life, unflappable thanks despite obstacles, respect for God and his word all have a part in our Christian living.   In all things we are to stay away from every brand of evil
  5. This is the working of the one who called us.  Too often we try to make these changes on our own and come up even more frustrated and guilty.   These are attitudes that emerge as a fruit of the Spirit as he works in us.  “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it. “
  6. Some might have focused on John as their leader.  But John said he wasn’t the “light” but only the messenger to point out the light.  Jesus is the Light of the world.  
  7. John didn’t want the spotlight on himself but on Christ.  His selfless humility is heard as he voiced that he wasn’t even worthy to do slave duty for Christ.   Can we have any less an understanding of our relationship to Christ?

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Montello


Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Mecan

Worship Updates – November 2020


  • Saturdays @ 4:30 pm. Everyone is welcome to attend!
  • Sunday @ 8:00 am  Emmanuel sanctuary (Emmanuel members)
  • Sunday @ 10:00 amSt. John’s. Beginning  (11/15) the 55+ age restriction ended. ALL are welcome.
  • Online worship services continue and are found at  www.stjohnsmontello.org 

Providing a safe worship experience is a high priority for the leaders in our congregations. Christ’s love also compels us to consider the needs of others before our own. In humility we want to protect the health and safety of our bodies and of others. Because the virus continues to spread, and because of the science regarding singing and speaking, the following policies will be continued:

  • Please use the hand sanitizer upon arrival at the worship service.
  • Masks will be worn at all indoor services. Masks are available at both churches.
  • Designated seating will be provided indoors to provide for social distancing.
  • Services will be shortened to a length of approximately 40 minutes. 
  • The congregation is asked to not sing. A soloist will sing the hymns and any liturgical responses.
  • Continuous communion will be practiced on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays/Sundays of each month. Family units are encouraged to commune together. 
  • The congregations should exit the sanctuary from the back at the end of the service, taking all belongings including the bulletin along with them. 
  • The sanctuary will be cleaned and sanitized between services.

**We will abide by any state or local mandates that may change any of these policies

As we hold firmly to the truths of scripture, we know that God continues to keep his promises to us. He has promised the wonderful spiritual blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation. He has not, however, promised that things will always remain the same. In the words of our synod president, Mark Schroeder, “we recommit ourselves–as individuals, as congregations, and as a synod–to the mission that God has called us to carry out, trusting that he will bless us in that work.” Let us work together as we move forward as a congregation. Let us help, support, and encourage each other as we gather around God’s Word. 

Question or Concerns?  Contact your Elders or Pastor

Emmanuel Elders:

Darrell Buchholz (608) 215-7871, Wayne Stelter (608) 494-0068

St. John’s Elders:

Jerre Duerr (608) 697-8706, Jay Eisermann (608) 297-8171,

James Wachholz (608) 369-4006, Pastor Pete Zietlow (608) 408-7830

AttendanceEmmanuelSt. John’s
12-5 19
St. John’s Altar Committee December 2020Diane Eisermann & Dolores Cotte
ST. JOHN’S & EMMANUEL HOLIDAY WORSHIP SCHEDULE 2020   December 16     Advent Devotion     Emmanuel 3:30 p.m.        
Joint at St. John’s Princeton 5:00 p.m.
December 23     Emmanuel Children’s Christmas     Emmanuel 6:30 p.m. December 24     School Christmas Eve     St. John’s 4:00 p.m.
December 25     Christmas Day     St. John’s 9:00 a.m.
December 31     New Years Eve.    Emmanuel 3:30 p.m.  

*No age restrictions at holidays services.
*Regular service times continue:     
Saturday St. John’s 4:30 p.m. – All are welcome (Please note: Dec. 26 & Jan. 2 – No worship)     
Sunday Emmanuel 8:00 a.m. – Emmanuel members only     
St. John’s 10:00 a.m. – All are welcome, no age restrictions.  
*COVID-19 safety guidelines continue…please wear masks, practice social distancing & use sanitizer.                                                          

Parent conversations: What if we can’t follow our Christmas traditions this year?

For better or worse, Christmas is filled with traditions. Some of these traditions help celebrate Jesus’ birth—the Christmas Eve candlelight service or the children’s Christmas service, for example. Others may be more worldly, but they still help unite a family. My father-in-law “forgot” his keys each Christmas Eve when my husband and his siblings were young, so he had to run back inside before the family left for worship. When they arrived home later, their gifts would be under the tree. I love that story because it was a tradition filled with love.

So . . . what happens this year? So many things are already different. It’s likely that your Christmas is going to look different too. Of course, you can still celebrate your Savior’s birth, but . . . how exactly?

Read these two articles to help your family adjust its celebration. — Nicole Balza

What if we can’t follow our Christmas traditions this year?

It was a strange Christmas Eve. A sad Christmas Eve. A disappointing Christmas Eve. But it also had the potential to be the best Christmas Eve ever.

I’m thinking of the first Christmas Eve my wife and I experienced as empty nesters. That night the nest felt especially empty. Our daughters were with their families, hours away from our home. We were alone.

When we arrived home after worship, there was no scurry to set out snacks in the living room. There was no daughter laughter. No hugs. No anticipation about the gifts under the tree. No celebration of the love my family shares. Absent was the joy and excitement that made Christmas Eve our “most wonderful time of the year.”

However, the night had the potential to help us create a new empty-nest tradition, one we could treasure for decades to come.

But we created nothing.

Rather than sitting together in the living room in the glow of the tree lights, Sharon and I sat in the television room bathed in big screen LED light. We opened no presents. We didn’t regale each other with cherished holiday memories.

We could have launched new Christmas Eve traditions. We could have opened albums with Christmas photos and celebrated the blessings God has given us in our children. We could have invited others who, like us, were without family. We could have taken couple-time with the Christmas story: reading it, talking about it, praying over it. We could have used Christmas Eve to sharpen our focus on Christ’s birth. We could have. But we didn’t.

We didn’t because we did not prepare for that evening. We didn’t use the days before to talk about our sense of loss or the options we could explore. We didn’t identify our new opportunities and plan ways to capture them.

Christmas 2020 has the potential to shatter your treasured holiday traditions. COVID-19 may threaten the ways we have celebrated Jesus’ birth in the past. The grief of death and divorce may destroy your Christmas customs. Job loss may package frustration, not presents, beneath your Christmas tree.

The solution? Learn from what Sharon and I should have done:

  • Choose to focus on how the baby born in Bethlehem guarantees that all things must work for our good. Pray with each other for the Spirit to help you trust that truth.
  • Make time to talk with your family about how this Christmas will be different.
  • Name and grieve over the family traditions you have lost. Be real with each other about how you will feel this Christmas.
  • Talk about how developing different family traditions is normal. For example, chances are the family traditions you and your spouse grew up with are different than those you and your children have developed.
  • Brainstorm ways to highlight the reason for the season in your celebrations. Bring a sharper focus on Jesus’ birth into your home.

Nothing can take away Christmas’ “good news of great joy” that “a Savior has been born.” So embrace your new normal. Waiting for you are other ways to make this the “most wonderful time of the year.”

-James Aderman

Christmas is all about connection.

Jesus connected with humanity by taking on human flesh and living among us. He told stories to connect people to truth, and he reconnected sick people with health and healing. Ultimately, he connected us to God for all eternity. Sin separates, but Christ connects.

We celebrate that connection every Christmas by connecting with each other. We step into each other’s houses, shake off the snow, and give big, long hugs. We ooh and ahh at the tree, exchange gifts, laugh hard, and eat too many cookies. And we worship! We crowd into pews, sing loudly, and then sit quietly, letting Word and song wash over us together.

As I write this, we’re in a state of disconnection. Countries are locking down again, limiting gatherings, enforcing curfews, disconnecting people to stifle the virus. More locally, my neighbor is sick. I leave what she needs inside her door, but I don’t go in, because I have family members who need to be protected. She understands, but it’s heart wrenching.

Disconnection is unnatural, and forced disconnection feels like an abridgment of freedom. Part of me says, “Where’s the love?” and “You’re not the boss of me!” But the more mature part of me realizes that right now, temporary disconnection is a token of love.

Even if we’re temporarily disconnected due to COVID-19, we’re connected to each
other in Christ.

So what happens if we can’t connect physically with our families this Christmas? We’ll just have to connect in other ways. Here are a few to contemplate:

  • Facetime or Zoom. Set up the phone or tablet so Grandma and Grandpa can watch the gift opening and sing along with the hymns. (Do a test run ahead of time, so it all goes smoothly. And remember to talk loudly!)
  • Call and text. If Zoom is a bridge too far, you can still call and text throughout the day. Call to say thanks for the jeans. Put the phone on speaker and let Uncle Jeff read Luke 2 after supper. Text “I love you” before bed.
  • Share pictures all day long. Send both the idyllic shots (fresh-faced family in front of the tree) and the real-life shots (Dad’s weird sweater, little Sophie’s sobs because she didn’t get a pony).
  • Prepare the same dinner menu. Everybody make the Christmas kielbasa, Great-Grandma’s schaum torte, and Uncle Brad’s “Orange Jeromes.”
  • Follow a schedule. Though you’re at separate houses, follow the same plan. Worship at 9 (maybe you can even “attend” the same service virtually if you’re not able to be there in person), lunch at noon, gifts at 1 (with matching socks for everyone), walk at 2, Hallmark movie at 3 (with a movie bingo game).
  • Let Amazon and Etsy do the shipping. Shop online and have gifts delivered. Maybe this year’s wrapping paper is brown cardboard. Would that be so terrible for one year?
  • Send a few things yourself ahead of time: an Advent calendar, a photo collage of Christmases past, a batch of fudge, an essential oil so you’re all enjoying the same scent on Christmas. Yes, this takes a little planning and postage, but you’re not traveling or spending money on gas, so it’s not a difficult trade-off. (My first year in college, my mom sent me a fully decorated mini-Christmas tree. I owe her.)

Even if we’re temporarily disconnected due to COVID-19, we’re connected to each other in Christ. Those are not just words. Christ is here with us, right this second. And on Christmas, he’ll be sitting at each Christian’s dinner table as he always does, chuckling at the collapsed dessert, enjoying the out-of-tune piano.

I hope we can be physically together this Christmas, but if we can’t, we’ll be okay. We know that soon we’ll be connected again, and in Jesus we’re connected forever!

Laurie Gauger-Hested

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