‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ – Luke 3:4-6
Can you believe that we are half way through November already?! We are quickly approaching the holiday season and I am wondering, are you ready? Now, when most people ask that question, they are wondering if you have your shopping done (with the absolutely perfect gift for everyone on your list, and even a few ‘extra’ gifts tucked away for those unexpected gift-giving opportunities!), if you have planned your holiday menus (featuring everyone’s must-have foods and adding in a couple of trendy new gourmet delights), and if you have written all of your Christmas cards (complete with the ‘family brag sheet’ and a long, handwritten, personal note to let the recipient know that they are ‘super-special’). I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
What I am asking you when I ask if you are ready has nothing to do with shopping, or decorating, or eating, but with your frame of mind, your attitude. Are you ready spiritually for the holiday season? Are your heart and mind focused on what is really important? Are you prepared to make this Advent and Christmas a truly holy season?
I have noticed a couple of trends on Facebook over the last couple of years. Last year people began to use their Facebook status to declare their thankfulness for the 30 days of November. Instead of just one day of thankfulness they have taken the entire month to focus on what is positive in their lives, what is good and a blessing. I love that kind of attitude. I believe this practice helps set people up for a successful Advent season. By undergirding the season with an attitude of thankfulness, they are strengthening their ability to remain focused on the real meaning of the season.
This year I’ve also seen something else popping up. A number of my friends have joined a movement called ‘Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving’ and have posted a status that says ‘Because I believe in family…I pledge to not shop on Thanksgiving. If I’m shopping, someone else is working and NOT spending time with their family. Everyone deserves a holiday.’ Others are pledging not to shop on ‘Black Friday’ either. While I understand that there are a lot of people who enjoy the ‘thrill of the hunt’ and the ‘bagging of the big-bargain’ on that day, what troubles me is the connection between these events and the birth of our savior. Unbridled consumeri s m is not an act of holy reverence, no matter how advertisers might try to spin it.
This year I would like to invite you to do things differently, to enter the season with an attitude of gratitude. You might begin by attending our mission event this coming Sunday, A Different Kind of Christmas Fair. The fair will take place in Wesley Hall following each worship service and feature a number of ministry groups, each committed to serving God by loving our neighbors. You will have the opportunity to support these amazing ministries and outreach projects by donating in your loved one’s name (see more details in this newsletter!). Then, instead of handing them another ‘what-on-earth-am-I going-to-do-with-this-gift,’ you can share with them the joy of doing something that honors Jesus. Please be sure to check it out and to consider making this a different kind of Christmas for your family.
I’ll see you on Sunday and I’ll look for you at the fair!
P.S. If this appeals to you, be sure to watch for details about our Advent study entitled “Advent Conspiracy: Can Christmas Still Change the World?” Check out the website to get an idea of what it’s all about: http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
• Children & Worship (toilet trained) — Older 3´s – Pre K
9:15 AM: Faith Travelers, Junior High, and Senior High begin in worship with their families and are then dismissed to their classes. (Children of all ages are welcome to remain in worship if their families so desire.)
• Faith Travelers — K-6th grade
Church 3rd Floor
• Junior High — 7-8th grade
The Vine South
• Senior High — 9-12th grade
The Vine North
• Infant Nursery — 0-23 months
• Toddler Nursery — 2-3 years
• One Room Schoolhouse — 4 years-Grade 2
(One Room Schoolhouse children begin in worship with their parents. Following the Children´s Moments, they are dismissed to class.)
**Worship bags and Children´s Pages are available in the narthex with activities that allow for children to participate in worship at their own level.**
Please contact Annette Erbes at 451.2879 or email@example.com with any questions.
THE UNITED METHODIST COMMITTEE ON RELIEF (UMCOR) is mobilizing resources to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, the latest and largest in a series of disasters to hit the Philippines in the last 12 months. Although an accurate casualty toll is yet to be determined, it is clear the destruction and disruption of lives is massive. Haiyan hit the Philippines Friday, November 8. You may support UMCOR’s work via on-line donations at www.umcor.org or by sending a check to the church and noting “UMCOR Philippines relief ” on the memo line. 100% of your donation goes to international disaster relief.
JAZZ VESPERS, featuring The Wonderland Jazz Ensemble, on Saturday, November 16 at 6:00 pm weaves scripture, a pastoral message and prayer into a celebration of faith, hope, and the love of God. Please join us!
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTMAS FAIR Go to Wesley Hall following Sunday, November 17’s worship service for A Different Kind of Christmas Fair. Enjoy Café Justo coffee, freshly baked treats, and learn more about the outreach ministries of First Church! You may purchase Christmas gifts that support our mission ministries or give an alternative Christmas gift in honor of a loved one by making a donation to the ministry of your choice. You will receive a Christmas card that acknowledges each donation. The card may be given to the person you wish to honor. We encourage children to make donations (even small ones!) in honor of their parents or grandparents!
EASY FUNDRAISER TO BENEFIT OUR TUTORING CENTER AT MLK Shop D &W Fresh Market Stores and Family Fare Stores November 17-23. The CASH for CLASS fundraisers for the MLK Academy at D&W and Family Fare now have a very easy format. To support our Tutoring Center you must first be registered for the Spartan/D&W/ Family Fare YES card, then during specific promotional periods, when your YES card is swiped MLK automatically benefits. Now is the time to get registered! The catch is, everyone must register anew for this school year! This is how it’s done….
Already a YES cardholder? Go to www. myyesrewards.com, log into your account by entering your email address and password under “Returning Members,” go to “My Profile” page and link our school CODE 89389
Already a YES cardholder, but don’t have an online account set up? Go to www. myyesrewards.com click “First-Time to Site” and follow the steps to complete account registration. Then complete part 1 as written above. CODE 89389
Not a YES member yet? Go to www. myyesrewards.com and click “Join Us”, fill out the registration form and link our school code to your card 89389! You can pick up your YES card at your store’s Customer Service desk. CODE 89389
If all else fails, go to the Customer Service desk in any store and they can help you get a card and link your card to the FUMC – MLK Cash for Class number 89389.
60+ LUNCHEON Being held on Monday, November 18 at noon, please make your reservation by Friday, November 15 with Luci Baer (457-7797) or Elaine Youngs (735-5506). The entertainment will be Magical Musical Story Glory. The Story Glory Team share fine arts from the heart, including folk tales, original works, seasonal favorites, and all-time favorites enjoyed by all. Please join us!
CAREGIVING AND GRACE The Stephen Ministry Team warmly invites you to meet Christian author Shelly Beach this Monday, November 18 at 6:30 pm in room 3109. Shelly will be basing her talk on her book Ambushed by Grace, and will include a PowerPoint presentation. The title will be “Dipping Your Hand in the Mason Jar: The Expectations and Realities of Caregiving.” Millions today are caregivers for aging or ailing family members and loved ones, and millions more will join them in the years ahead. Most who must take on this role walk into the job with no training, relatively few skills, and tenative hearts, only to be blindsided by stark realities. Caregiving is messy and costly and probably the hardest work you will ever do. Yet it can also change your heart and transform your life, even as you minister to your loved one’s needs, ease their pain, and work at the challenge of setting healthy boundaries. Learn how to make it a grace-filled experience! Shelly will bring copies of her books and will be happy to sign them for you. Please join us in welcoming Shelly and learn from her experiences. If you have questions, contact Marj Timmerman at 901-9224..
UNITED METHODIST COMMUNITY HOUSE BENEFIT CONCERT All are invited to support The United Methodist Community House by attending “Night on the Town Cirque de Noel,” a partnership with the Grand Rapids Symphony on Wednesday, December 18. Tickets are $45 per person, which entitles the ticket-holder to the preevent reception, live jazz by Sylvia Taylor, hors d’oeuvres, parking, silent auction, and symphony ticket. For more information, call 452-3226 or go to umch.eventbrite.com.
YOUNG ADULT COOKING CLASS During the holidays, do you fear taking a dish to share? Are you looking to step up from cheese and crackers? Then join us for an evening of cooking, tasting, and fellowship! Young adults (18-30) are welcome to join in the church kitchen (not The Vine) at 6:00 pm on November 6 and 20. Please use the sign-up sheet in Sunday’s bulletin if you plan to attend.
SOCK IT TO US! The Junior High youth are collecting items for Casey’s Socks. We accept donations of full-size toiletries such as deodorant, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.) as well as monetary donations. The Jr. Highers will be stuffing up to 170 socks on November 24. We need your donations! Please drop them off in the north lobby, labled for “Jr. High” by November 22.
UNITED METHODIST WOMEN The annual Christmas meeting of the UMW will be held on Wednesday, December 4 at 2:00 pm in the Games Room of Clark Retirement Community. The program will be a Christmas sing-a-long with Nancy Berger followed by a visit to the Chatterbox for refreshments. Everyone is welcome!
MOMS’ GROUP CHRISTMAS CRAFT NIGHT The whole family is invited to join us for pizza and Christmas crafting in The Vine (first floor of First Place; enter by the basketball hoop door from the lower parking lot). Friends are invited, too! Please bring $5/family to help cover food/supply costs. RSVP for this Friday, December 5 event at 6:00 pm (so we order enough pizza) to Marj or Sami at 451-2879, email Marj at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find us on facebook.
CELEBRATION OF THE ARTS Was ArtPrize a favorite activity for you this year? Do you enjoy viewing and supporting the fine arts? Consider using your love of art in support of First Church’s own art exhibit, the 41st annual Celebration of the Arts, by becoming a participant in the Celebration Committee. We need people with various talents, from reception planning to construction of the gallery. Sign up today for Celebration 2014 by using the Sunday sign-up sheet, or by contacting Eric Strand (erics@grandrapidsfumc. org), Deb May (deborah. email@example.com), or calling the church at 451-2879. WOMEN’S RETREAT Save the date! Friday, January 24 and Saturday, January 25.
BOX TOPS 4 EDUCATION The Box Tops 4 Education have been mailed in to General Mills. A total of $456 value of box tops was sent and a check is expected in a month or two. Our thanks to everyone who is collecting them for MLK. – Carilon and Jim Carr
Concerns & Prayers for:
• Arnold Babcock (hospice care)
• Brenda Heerdt
• Albert Hoff (hospice care)
• Jim Hoff
• Robert Newell
• Janet Nichols
• Carol Ryan
• Peggy Child Smith
• Imogene Stafford
• Felipe Tobar
• Laura Wright (Metro Health)
• Nancy and Bob Gillette
(to Nicaragua November 7-17)
• Chris Bolhouse
• Scott Grifhorst
• Stephan Mathos
• Jesse Mounts
• Shawn Seher
• Peter Taylor, Jr
“We would like to thank our fellow parishioners for their kind words and condolences regarding the death of our daughter, Anne. It is so comforting to be a part of such a loving, caring, and supportive congregation.”
Susan and David Coons
“Thank you for the many prayers, cards, and phone calls regarding the death of my two sisters. It is such a good feeling that my church family still remembers me even when I can no longer attend worship.”
The love and prayers of the congregation are extended to Ron Hessman on the death of Ron’s mother, Viola, on November 9.
A memorial service for the Rev. Don Merrill, who died on October 29, will be held Sunday, November 17 at 3:00 pm in our sanctuary.
A memorial service for Michael Hagan, who died on June 2, will be held Tuesday, November 26 at 7:00 pm in the church parlor.
• On Sunday, November 24, we will receive an offering of nonperishable foods to support the Westminster Food Pantry. Adults may bring food items to the sanctuary prior to the start of both worship services. Paper bags with suggested food lists attached will be distributed after the worship services on November 17. If you prefer, you may also consider a financial (taxdeductible) gift. Checks should be made out to FUMC, with “Westminster Food Pantry” in the memo line. The Westminster Food Pantry can often purchase food for as little as $.16/lb. The pantry must use financial resources to purchase meat, personal care items, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, dairy, and other items on a weekly basis. Envelopes are available in the narthex and at the reception desk during the month of November. The need is great for both food and financial support. Please plan on giving a generous gift at this time of thanksgiving.
• Our annual Ingathering will take place on Sunday, November 24. We invite children ages Older 3 Yrs through Grade 6 to come to the west hallway next to Wesley Hall at 9:05 am or 10:50 am with their offering of food items. Children will process during the first hymn of both worship services. At 9:15 am worship, the children will be excused to their church school classes. At 11:00 am, children ages Older 3s through Grade 2 will be excused to their classes with children Grades 3 and up remaining in worship with their families.
DECORATING FOR JESUS’ ARRIVAL
• Every year the church celebrates the birth of Jesus and every good celebration has decorations, right? We are in need of volunteers to decorate the church for Christmas. Sign up in Sunday’s bulletin and mark your calendar for November 24 at noon in the parlor. We will have a light lunch in the parlor and then begin to decorate once the church is clear from Ingathering. If you go to the early service, you are welcome to come to the parlor after the first service and help fluff the greens in preparation for hanging them.
MLK GIFT OF GIVING
• Now we have our gift donors, and the fun begins! Help is needed with the Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Academy Gift of Giving implementation. We need help with setting up the workshop on December 2 (9:00 to 11:00 am); with checking in donations on December 4 (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) and 8 (8:30 to 10:45 am and 10:45 to 1:00 pm); passing out gifts, wrapping, and carrying gifts downstairs on December 11 (12:00 to 3:00 pm, 3:00 to 6:00 pm, and 6:00 to 8:00 pm) and 12 (9:00 am to noon), as well as closing down the workshop on December 12 (11:30 am to 1:00 pm). Wednesday, January 8, we need help with sorting and packing the Giving Tree gifts for the MLK classrooms. There are many ways to contribute to making the program run smoothly. Check out the website (www.grandrapidsfumc.org) or the Sunday sign-up sheet to indicate your ability to help.
MLK MOTHER GIFTS We have discovered that the parents who participate in our Christmas Gift of Giving program rarely receive Christmas gifts themselves. For the past few years, we have collected donations of new items, such as holiday decorations, jewelry, scarves, fleece blankets, candles, household items, perfumes, or other special treats/trinkets. These are left unwrapped and the mothers are able to select something they would really enjoy off our gift table. Sometimes volunteers then wrap the gift so Mom will have something to unwrap on Christmas. Please be on the lookout for some nice surprises and leave them in the north lobby collection room clearly marked “MLK Mom Gifts.” They are needed by Sunday, December 8. Thank you!
ADULT EDUCATION CLASSES
• When God Comes Down Often our Advent/Christmas journey is focused on us – our memories, feelings, relationships and experiences. This study puts the focus on God’s action in Jesus Christ. It will encourage you to think more deeply in terms of the biblical, theological, and spiritual meaning of the Nativity and to apply it to your own life. Join a class on Sunday, December 1 at 9:30 am or at 5:00 pm in 3109. (Child care will be available for the 5:00 pm class.) There also will be a class running Friday, November 29 to December 20 at Clark Retirement Community at a time still to be determined. Books will be available in the north lobby for $5 and also are available on eBooks. Please use the sign-up sheet in Sunday’s bulletin to indicate your interest in attending one of these classes, which will meet during the season of Advent.
• The Advent Conspiracy Christmas is meant to be celebrated, not regretted. We all want our Christmas to be a lot of things. Full of joy. Memories. Happiness. Above all, we want it to be about Jesus. What we don’t want is stress. Or debt. Or feeling like we “missed the moment.” Advent Conspiracy is a movement designed to help us all slow down and experience a Christmas worth remembering. But doing this means doing things a little differently. A little creatively. It means turning Christmas upside down. Join us for this four-week class that will begin Sunday, December 1 at 5:00 pm in room 3108 of First Place. Child care is available. Sign up using the Sunday bulletin insert or by calling the church office at 451-2879. Books are available in the north lobby, the first six people to pick one up get a free copy! (Ebooks are available on Amazon.)
FIRST AID STATION
BLUE CHRISTMAS SERVICE
• Those who have experienced job loss, health concerns, the death of a loved one, depression, financial concerns, or similar losses may find this holiday season a little less joyful. Our Blue Christmas service on Sunday, December 1 at 5:00 pm is a service of candles, prayer, silence, scripture, and encouragement. If you are finding the coming season tough, join us in the chapel. Or think of those you know who are struggling and invite them. All are welcome!.
MOODINESS? Is it more than moodiness? If you are experiencing extreme highs and lows, contact your Church Assistance Program (CAP). Dial 616.455.6210 and make a CAP appointment today. As a member or friend of First Church, you will receive 2 one-hour sessions with a counselor at no charge to you.
CUBA MISSION Are you interested in being a part of the team traveling to Cuba over spring break April 2014? Wendy Taylor, our team leader, will be holding an informational meeting on Sunday, November 24 from 10:30 to 10:50 am in the chapel. Please plan on attending this meeting or contact Wendy Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.