Practical Christmas Grace

By Nancy Alley

It’s that time of year again…you know, when we can count on having people come to church who are the Creasters… The Christmas and Easter attenders. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have them and we welcome them with open arms. The thing is, did you ever wonder why they aren’t much interested in coming at other times of the year? I have. I think it could have something to do with the fact that they don’t see what is happening at our church Christmas Giving(or any church) as particularly different from the rest of their lives, or more attractive. What if we WERE different from other people? Nicer… more generous spirited… also known as grace-filled. I think that Jesus would be pleased. At this time of year, we have a special opportunity to exercise our grace “muscle” and model Jesus by our own actions. I have compiled a brief list of suggestions of things we could do with that in mind…nothing hard, just fun. Check it out:

  • Let someone in front of you in traffic when lanes are merging… maybe even smile and wave!
  • Call someone you love just to listen and catch up.
  • Write an actual handwritten note. Or two.
  • Give the gift of rest and watch the kids for your most sleep-deprived friend.
  • When you go through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, pay for the order of the car behind you. (Sometimes that ends up becoming a chain reaction, with all the cars in line doing it!)
  • When checking out at the grocery store, ask your cashier what their favorite candy is, then buy it for them and present it with a smile.
  • Keep an extra blanket in your car to give to a homeless person when you see one.
  • If someone is abrupt or grumpy, just let it slide… or give them a hug (only if you know them!)
  • Sweep a neighbor’s driveway or porch.
  • Take a few minutes to hold the door for everyone that walks into a restaurant or office. Smile and wish them a Merry Christmas as you do. You’ll get a reaction.
  • Buy a bouquet of flowers (or a box of candy canes) and give them away one at a time as you are prompted.
  • Tape a note and a dollar to a vending machine. The next person along will be delighted!
  • Walk someone’s dog for them.
  • Take a plate of cookies to your local policemen or firemen with an encouraging note.

I’ll bet you are much more creative than I am, but you get the idea… look for ways to bring a smile to someone’s face and surprise them with an act of grace. It is habit forming…and we might start to look more like the One we are named for! Above all, have fun and remember to smile. We DO say “Merry” Christmas, right?


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Stewardship is about GIVING GIFTS

By Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair

Biblical scholars have long had varying interpretations of the meaning and significance of each of the gifts given to the Christ child by the Kings from the East. These gifts of value were standard gifts for a king: gold as precious metal, frankincense as perfume or incense, and myrrh as anointing oil.

IMG_0757There’s also a deeper spiritual meaning as well specific to Jesus himself: gold representing his kingship, frankincense a symbol of his priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming.
In our culture today gift-giving often takes a back seat to gift-receiving when we think about the holiday season. But to truly grasp the meaning of Christmas to a saved sinner, we need to focus on both receiving and giving gifts.

The birth of Jesus is the ultimate supernatural “gift” God gives to us – this little child, God in the form of a man, coming to our world with the express purpose to save us from our sin-tangled lives. This is the gift we receive each and every day, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

That very fact should bring us to our knees and cause the most joyful celebration in our hearts, and it’s in that celebration of what God has done for us, that we find our motivation to give back to God and to others. The gift we give back is ourselves.

May you and your family be blessed by the joy of this Christmas season.


Stewardship is about SUPPORT and SACRIFICE

By Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair

Mark Allen Powell suggests in his book, Giving to God, that faithful giving within a church is of two different types:

  1. Providing support to the congregations of which Christians are a part, with reasonable contributions proportionate to their income and circumstances
  2. Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair
    Allen Moyer
  3. Christians usually moved by Scripture and the Spirit who go beyond providing support to give up a further portion of their money as a sacrifice

The good news of stewardship is found in the arena of sacrificial giving.

Why should you consider extending your financial support to financial sacrifice? Powell has three suggestions:

  1. Giving away our money is a definitive act of worship – we take something of value and give it up as an act of devotion to God.
  2. Giving away our money is a demonstrable way of expressing our faith, of acting on what we believe.
  3. Giving away our money is a spiritual discipline that frees us from the inevitable pull of materialism that would draw our hearts away from God and from the things that matter most.

As we head toward the home stretch in our stewardship campaign, I again want to urge you to give prayerful consideration to pledging your financial support to First Presbyterian Church – We are about 40% toward our commitment goal. If you haven’t pledged yet, I’m asking for your support of our church’s mission in the coming year.

There are crucial times ahead for our church, and if you’re one who is hesitant about committing financial resources until important decisions have been made and questions resolved, realize that it’s important that the work of the church continue even through difficult and challenging circumstances.
Thank you for your financial support and sacrifice.


J.A.M.– Just Among Moms

by Leila Griggs

Just Among MomsAs a mom, I’m always looking to network, meet and just chat with other moms. What a blessing when this can happen in a Christ-centered, nurturing, welcoming environment. JAM is a play date/ bible study for moms of children under the age of 5. We create a safe place to talk about what it means to be a mother and how scripture influences our daily life. Our children socialize while the moms chat about the ups and downs, the surprises and joys, and the love we have for our children through Christ. We meet at various locations meant for children one Saturday a month. It’s wonderful to make mommy relationships like this, but it’s even better to have and build a relationship with God Himself. His encouragement is what speaks directly to our soul.


Take a Holiday Breather

By Nancy Alley, Women’s Ministry

This is the time of year when women start to get nervous. The sense of being behind in almost every aspect of life pervades as we consider menus, relatives, Christmas cards, expectations, gifts to be bought, entertaining, bills to be paid and everything else. It is easy to get caught up in the anxiety of the season and I think it is an especially female affliction.Holly & Ivy

With that in mind, I suggest you consider starting your Christmas season with the Holly and Ivy Christmas brunch…it offers a time set aside to simply bask in the beauty of a festive setting, the joy of fellowship and the opportunity to hear a message that grounds us in the real meaning of Christmas. Oh, and we sing Christmas carols, too. If you are already starting to feel a little breathless (and even if you’re not) reach out and invite a friend and bring her to the Holly and Ivy Brunch at the Berkshire Country Club on Saturday December 5th from 9:00 to 11:00 AM. You will be glad you did. So will we!


Make an Impact for Christ

By Doug Shuey, Interim Director of Youth Ministry

Doug Shuey
Doug Shuey
Youth Impact is our church’s ministry to students from 6th grade through high school. It is our goal to help equip our youth to be able to make an impact for Christ in their schools, their community, and the world. We meet for Sunday School every Sunday after the worship service during the adult education hour.

Our focus for the coming year is three-fold:
1) Build our group – We are in the unique situation of having Jr. High and Sr. High students grouped together. It is our goal to have a cohesive group where the younger and older students are able to work together to build each other up. We will be planning fellowship times and group building activities to help us become a more cohesive group.
2) Build our foundation – Our teaching times this year will be going back to the basics. Our cornerstone is Jesus, but the foundation of our lives comes from a solid knowledge and belief in the scripture. We started the school year looking at the 10 Commandments, then we will continue on with the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, and then other core basics that our students need to know to live godly lives.
3) Build our community – As a downtown church, we are in the amazing situation of having a lot of service organizations to partner with. Our youth will be partnering with some of these organizations this coming year to perform acts of service for them. James tells us that faith without works is a death faith, so we are helping our youth find ways to act out their faith through serving others. We are also teaching the students to support others with monetary donations through our weekly offering, which goes to our two Compassion International students.

I ask that you please pray for our youth this coming year. I truly believe that God uses this ministry to make an impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.


Stewardship is about NEW BEGINNINGS

By Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair

Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair
Allen Moyer

I had the privilege of attending a Sunday afternoon worship service in our own sanctuary on November 15th – I’m speaking of Emanuel Fellowship Church, who began holding afternoon services this past Sunday at First Presbyterian Church.

Walking into the church I felt myself a visitor amongst a small, but vibrant congregation and often I had to remind myself that this was taking place in our own church building.

I was warmly welcomed by all who attended and while my Spanish is woefully lacking, I was able to follow Pastor Valentin’s sermon from Genesis 6 – The story of Noah and his family.

He spoke particularly of New Beginnings – God working in this righteous man and his family to renew his creation – And certainly in this fledgling congregation with which we have recently partnered.

Opening our doors to Emanuel Fellowship Church is a new adventure for First Presbyterian Church, but I can’t help thinking its good stewardship to use our God-given resources in outreach ministry to foster New Beginnings among our Christian brothers and sisters regardless of differences in culture or language.

If we as a congregation believe we see God’s hand in the creation of this new relationship, we need to seriously consider the importance of our individual role in providing the financial resources necessary to continue our ability to serve in this way. Prayerfully ask God to direct your decisions about pledging financial support for our church.

I will not soon forget Pastor Valentin’s excitement in our conversation after the service, about the potential to grow his church in this “new” location – Praise God for this opportunity to be part of a New Beginning at First Presbyterian Church and Emanuel Fellowship Church.


Stewardship is an EXPRESSION of FAITH

By Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair

Allen Moyer, Stewardship Chair
Allen Moyer
In the Bible there are many examples of “good” and “bad” stewards. (See Matthew 21:33-43, 24:45-51, 25:14-30 and Luke 16:1-10) – Good stewards are described as being faithful, wise, and trustworthy.

Bad stewardship is not just a matter of negligence or carelessness but often a fundamental misunderstanding or false claim regarding ownership – Sometimes we forget that the property entrusted to us is actually not our own.

We all live in this world as stewards of God, entrusted with caring for all that God so generously allows us to use. We own nothing but manage everything.

God trusts us in a way that we are reluctant to trust each other (or ourselves) and places confidence in us beyond anything that our record thus far would seem to warrant. We should at least realize what a high privilege it is, to be stewards of God.

We offer with joy and thanksgiving what you have first given us – ourselves, our time, and our possessions…

Paraphrased from Giving to God by Mark Allan Powell.


Demonstrated Love

By Mike Wehn, Director of Children’s Ministry

Mike WehnOn Sunday mornings our children are busy upstairs during Children’s Church and Sunday School learning about God and having fun. Each week we spend some time on the topic ofMissions. this is done through stories, through teaching and through activities. A tangible way we communicate to the children God’s vision for the world is by sponsoring a little boy through Compassion. Ronal is in fourth grade and lives in Bolivia. Our children have been able to learn about him (and share with him about themselves) as well pray for him, his family and his country. And they collect money each week to help with his education.

God calls us to think broadly — to see that His plan of salvation is for all nations and for all tribes. And God calls us to think specifically because God demonstrated his own love for us in this — that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you want to learn more about Compassion and the work it is involved with around the globe check out their website.

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9:30AM                      Worship Service                                                                    /Children’s Church
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11:00AM                    Education for All Ages

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