The First Manger Scene

In Nan Bauroth in Christmas: An Annual Treasury (Vol. 66, Augsburg). Christian Reader, Vol. 34, we discover the very first manger scene:

“In 1224, inspired by the sight of shepherds tending their flocks in the moonlight, St. Francis of Assisi asked a wealthy friend from Greccio, Italy, to help him construct a live manger scene (the first ever). The idea caught on. By the 15th century, nativity scenes proliferated in monasteries and churches throughout southern Europe. Today, perhaps the finest collection of miniature nativity scenes in the world is found in Munich’s National Museum of Bavaria where more than 200 are displayed.”

Today, on this fourth Sunday of Advent, we find ourselves anxious to come to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Today, our congregation will open wide her doors to welcome people to God’s house for several unique worship experiences:

December 24th at Hyde Park Community UMC

9:00 a.m. Communion in the Chapel

9:30 a.m. Traditional Worship, 4th Sunday of Advent in the sanctuary

11:00 a.m. Worship @ 11, Contemporary Worship in the sanctuary

4:00 p.m. Family Service with Childrens Choirs, Candlelighting,                     and Carols

6:00 p.m.  Communion Service with acoustic praise band, Candlelighting and Carols

8:30 p.m.  Worship with Brass, Choir, Candlelighting, and Carols

11:00 p.m. Worship with Brass, Choir, Candlelighting, and Carols

December 24th  at  Over-The-Rhine Community UMC

10:30 a.m.     Worship,  preceded by Community Breakfast

5:30 p.m.   Worship with Candlelighting and Carols

I invite you to pray about who God is nudging you to invite to join you in worship, walking with you to the manger to celebrate Christ’s birth?  People without a church home are very receptive to accept invitations to worship in December.

May God fill your heart with the greatest gifts that cannot be found underneath your tree this Christmas:  hope, joy, love, and peace.

Christmas Blessings,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Rockefeller Christmas Trees Keep On Giving!

Michael Hill, of Associated Press, posted this on December 5, 2017:

“Old Rockefeller Center Trees never really die, they just get built into the wall frames and floor supports of affordable homes.  For the past decade, the ornament–laden trees that have been lit up with glitz, songs, and dancing Rockettes have gone to be milled into lumber and used in dozens of Habitat for Humanity homes from Philadelphia to Pascagoula, Mississippi.  Each tree yields a truckload of 100 or more boards, all stamped with an image of the tree and the year it was on display.”

One recipient, homeowner Keith Smith, shared that he cannot see the unique wood in his home from the 2015 tree, but adds “he feels it.”  He appreciated his family’s connection to the annual lighting extravaganza in Manhattan.

John D. Rockefeller, a very generous man to both the Church and our nation, would be proud.  I believe that God is also smiling as the trees continue to give shelter, joy, and hope to others.

This Christmas season, a season of giving, I invite you to count your blessings and give thanks for God’s gift to you:  Jesus, the Christ, our Savior, the hope of the world.

May you discover new ways to share with others all that God has given you!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

A Song of Peace Rising From the Ashes: I Heard Bells on Christmas Day

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived during a turbulent time in our nation’s history.  In 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired.  His household experienced a tragic fire which claimed the life of his beloved wife, Frances.  Additionally, their son, Lieutenant Charles Longfellow was severely wounded in the war.

Longfellow, stricken with grief, could hardly bear the thought of Christmas.  After three years of grieving the heavy sorrow of the death of his wife, Frances, he wrote these words of hope, into his journal on December 25, 1864:

“And in despair I bowed my head; there is no peace on earth,” I said.

“For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

“Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace of earth, good-will to men.”

Peace in the world requires something from us.  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is here to invite us to be peacemakers as we bring God’s kingdom from heaven to earth.

May God bless you and your loved ones with hope, love, joy, and peace during this holy season.

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Gratitude’s Health Benefits

With all of the hate, division, and violence in today’s world, it is tempting to cave into despair.  The world is a mess! The good news is we can make a difference!  Research indicates that there are actual health benefits to practicing gratitude.

One study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Mike McCullough invited participants to keep a short journal each week.  One group recorded five things they were grateful for in the past week.  A second group recorded five hassles from the previous week that caused unhappiness.   The third, a neutral group, simply recorded five events that affected them in some way.  After ten weeks, those in the gratitude group reported feeling 25% better about their lives than the group that recorded hassles.  Additionally, they reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more than the other groups.

Ocean Robbins, a noted author and speaker puts it well:  “Thankfulness feels good, it’s good for you and it’s a blessing for the people around you, too. It’s such a win-win-win that I’d say we have cause for gratitude.”

This Sunday is Commitment Sunday.  You are invited to step forward, in a spirit of gratitude, to invest in what God is doing through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.  Because of your gift, countless lives will be touched with the love of God, the healing and hope of Christ, and the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit.

In our world that has been described as a “selfie” culture, you are invited to step forward with a grateful heart and invest in building God’s kingdom here on earth.

Thank you, in advance, for your generous investment as together we lift our candles to the darkness and light the way for Christ in 2018.  May God bless you with all the benefits of a heart filled with gratitude!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy

Eleanor’s Advice: What to Do With Your Candle

Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th Century, was a determined, strong woman.  No matter how many struggles she faced, she strove to hold onto a positive attitude and sought to make the world a better place.  She once said:

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

The world, friends, seems to be deepening its bent toward hate, division, and violence.  Millions are struggling in the wake of shootings and natural disasters.  What are we as the Church to do?

Jesus is clear:  “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine so that everyone may see your good works and give glory to God in heaven.” (from Matthew 5)

What does shining in the darkness look like?  Here are a couple of ideas:

Bring in a card to Pastor Cathy’s office for United Methodist pastors in Las Vegas who are serving in the wake of the violence. “Thinking of You” and “Praying for You” cards will be sent from our congregation to United Methodist pastors who are serving their city in the aftermath of the shooting earlier this month.  Please bring your cards in to the church office by Monday, October 23.  They will be put in large envelopes and mailed to the Las Vegas pastors with a letter from our congregation.  The church will pay postage.

Make a contribution to UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief which is responding to needs in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Florida, and Texas.  When national or international disasters come, the United Methodist Church shows up with blankets, water, medicine, and personnel to serve as the hands and feet of Christ.  Please send your check through Hyde Park Community UMC marked for UMCOR Relief in the area of your choice.  Our  finance office will forward your gift to UMCOR.  100% of your gift will aid those in need.

Thanks for being a congregation that is willing to stand up and hold up candles to the darkness!   Shine on!

Peace,

Pastors Cathy and Doug

Sally Snowman: Light Keeper

America’s first lighthouse, Boston Light, celebrated its 300th anniversary in September of 2016.  Sally Snowman (her real name) is the keeper of the lighthouse.  The original tower was built in 1716; it was blown up by the British in 1776.  Sally is the 70th keeper of the lighthouse.   While the roles have changed with automation, Sally takes her role seriously.  She gives tours, maintains the grounds, and manages 90 volunteers.

I invite you to consider your role in the Body of Christ this month.  Are you a keeper of the light of Christ?  Do your thoughts, words, and deeds send out light and encouragement? Are you sharing the light of Christ with others or hiding it under a bushel?

At Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church we are committed to shine the light of Christ – here in our neighborhood, in the city, in our nation, and around the world.  This is more than just a “cute slogan;” it is our mission.  We are not a church that focuses inwardly, simply concerned with ourselves, but outwardly – committed to loving God and neighbor.  We are a community of faith that is committed to bringing heaven to earth and walking outside our walls with candles of hope, to bring healing and hope to as many people as we can.

I am praying for you and your family as you consider how you want to share Christ’s light.   When you support the ministry of the church with your prayers, presence, financial gifts, service, and witness, you are brightening the world with the love of Christ.

Rejoicing in the Light of Christ,

Pastor Cathy

The Explosion of Choice

A research study recently asked 100 Japanese and American students to write down the decisions that they would like to make for themselves on a sheet of paper.  On the other side they were asked to write down decisions they preferred others choose for them.

When Americans wrote their entries for decisions they preferred to make themselves, the page was filled quickly.  It included items such as where to live and the type of job they would pursue.  The flip side was almost empty; the only decision most Americans wanted to pass along to someone else was the time of their death.

The Japanese had very different results, filling up the side with the things they preferred others would choose for them, including what they wore, what time they would awaken, and their occupation.

The researchers concluded that Americans desired to make their own choices four times more than the Japanese.  David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, notes:  “Americans now have more choices over more things than any other culture in human history.  He adds that it is “becoming incredibly important to learn to decide well.”

Today, I invite you to consider: “How do I want to serve Christ in the coming year?”  Please visit the Ministry Fair in the Welcome Center today.  IThe ministry fair celebrates many of the ministry teams that make a difference in our church family.  On October 1, we will dedicate our service inventories in worship.

I will be praying for God to guide your decision; it is a joy to serve Christ with each one of you!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Stallone: The Church is the Gym of the Soul

Sylvester Stallone was raised in a Christian home, attended Catholic schools and was “taught the faith.”  In a 2006 interview he shares that as he went out into the “real world,” temptation came and he lost his way, making a lot of bad choices, including putting his career ahead of his faith and family.

There was a point when he reached back to his Christian heritage.  Stallone shares:  “The more I go to church and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his Word and having him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off me now.”

Stuart Shepard, the interviewer, shares another one of Stallone’s lessons on self-reliance: “You need to have the expertise and the guidance of someone else,” he said. “You cannot train yourself. I feel the same way about Christianity and about what the church is: The church is the gym of the soul.”

Being a part of a Christian community means partnering with God to bring heaven to earth, transforming all of creation, one life at a time. One way to do this is through the Ministry Fair, September 24.  Please stop by the Welcome Center on September 24 to learn about ways to serve Christ through Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, October 1, we will be offering our service commitments to God on World-Wide Communion Sunday.

It is a joy to be a part of this community of faith where I can come and deepen my walk with God in our “gym of the soul!”

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Job Description of A Lighthouse Keeper

The National Park Service has a 124- page manual to describe the duties of lighthouse keeper.

Here are a few of the tasks:

  • Light the beacon well before dusk.
  • Inspect the Fresnel lens, with its many prisms, which was cleaned that morning.
  • Check the lamp that produces the light and refill with fuel.
  • Trim the wick and light it
  • Unlock the gears that cause the lens to revolve
  • Check the weather with a telescope frequently
  • Attend to shipwrecked persons or notify others to bring aid to those in peril on the sea

Although the pay was minimal, lighthouse keepers were well-respected individuals in the community.

This week’s new sermon series, “Finding God,” reminds us that God is there always – like a faithful lighthouse shining in the night – to guide and direct us.  Like ships that drift off course, sometimes we can lose our way and get dangerously close to the rocks.  God, however, is never lost, but stands firmly on the shore, shining brightly, wanting nothing more than to welcome us home.

May God richly bless you this weekend as you seek the peace found in God,  our refuge and strength.     

Peace,

Pastor Cathy Johns

Top Ten Reasons Why I Love Bible Study

10.  The first disciples gathered together to study scriptures and pray. (Acts 2)   

9.  It is like mining for diamonds; new treasures appear each week!

8.  Learning and sharing with others with different viewpoints is refreshing.

7.  My prayer life deepens as I pray for others and they pray for me.

6.  Being a part of a small group gives me a safe place to share my thoughts and needs and be a part of a wonderful community.

5. Reading the Bible helps direct my decisions: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”  (Psalm 119:105)

4.  I meet new people, form amazing friendships, and enjoy amazing snacks. (not kidding!)

3.  It is good exercise, for my mind and my soul, opening me to new ideas.

2.  Hopefully, I become a little more like Jesus; Jesus studied the scriptures too!

1.  It is a lot of fun! (stress-free learning environment guaranteed!)

You are invited to join me this fall and winter for Disciple Fast Track.   This is a 12-week study of the Old Testament for very new beginners to Bible Study and those who simply want to learn more.  It begins in September 2017 and ends in March 2018… sounds slow, right?!

It is intentionally designed and paced for people with busy lives!  We will meet twice a month on Tuesday evenings, beginning on September 12.  We will also be sharing appetizers each week and then study the Bible together.  If you would like to hear more about this incredible experience of eating and studying together on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 – 8:00 pm, please contact me at: cjohns@hpcumc.org or call me at the office:  513-871-1345.  I would love for you to join in the adventure!

Peace,

Pastor Cathy