January Bethlehem Star
From the Pastor’s Desk
Dear Friends in Christ,
The Lord bless you during these twelve days of Christmas! Thank you for the ways you have remembered Donna and me during this holiday season. We are so grateful for your thoughtfulness.
I wonder, as we leave this year of 2020, if we will look back and give thanks for every little thing and every small moment when kindness happened in unexpected ways through it all.
You know, a day when the sun broke out and brought warmth through the windows, a neighbor lending a hand with a chainsaw or rake; a smile, or a listening ear from the teenager at the store checkout counter, or perhaps you relished the taste of a tomato or cucumber that survived through the storm.
There is a large tree stump in front of a neighborhood house that the homeowner built a little roof over and put a small stove pipe through it, folk art! When life throws you lemons, make …!
Consider all the prayers, the late nights and days of front-line workers and government personnel working overtime. Thank God for the work of medical providers and the gift of science that has brought God’s healing and now, vaccines that shine a light at the end of the tunnel.
How about peanut butter bread dunked in a mug of hot chocolate and Christmas cookies that taste especially good this year as the weather turns cold?
We give thanks for Zoom, You Tube, and other technology that have kept us connected.
We give Christ thanks and praise for the Lord’s comfort to so many devastated by the loss of dear ones. Through our bouts of depression and anxiety we have trusted in God’s promises that there is a tomorrow, a sunrise on the horizon and finally that resurrection to a new life in Jesus awaits us in our final hours.
Yes indeed! God’s word, through proclamation and song, has sustained us through 2020. For us a Child was born. Through the sacrifice of love, he died so that we might rise to meet the promise and possibilities of a new day, a new year!
Thanks be to God!
Thank you to Old and New Council Members
A big thank you to Tina Eden, Bill Martin, and Deb Sampson for their dedicated service to our Bethlehem congregation as two of them go off the church council the end of December.
A warm welcome to Rachel Dickinson, Tina Eden, and Rob Hanson as they begin their three-year term on church council in January.
A Note from the Council
Having an idea of where to go with this column and being a big fan of Google, I typed in How to set a positive tone for 2021 and learned that a new hair color is a good place to start.
Not a lot I can do about that.
But I kept scrolling and kept reading and learned that making plans, or goal setting, whatever you prefer to call it, is a good first step toward that positive tone for when pandemic restrictions and social distancing allow.
So I thought about that and what I could do as a positive, contributing member of Bethlehem. Most importantly, I’m going to make more effort to be in church on Sundays.
I’m going to shovel snow this winter and hope to help Brenda Krull mow the lawn whenever I can starting in the spring. And I am not a morning person but I’m going to try to get up early at least occasionally and drink coffee with the guys on Fridays.
And there’s stuff at home I can do, like laundry – which apparently does not fold itself – board games and dog walking.
Find things you want to do, make your own list and have a great 2021.
Zoom Meeting with Bishop Amy Current
On Tuesday, December 22, Tim Jorgensen and Rachel Dickinson, representing Council and Kimmit Renken, representing your Call Committee and I met with Bishop Current at her request. Her purpose was to get acquainted with Bethlehem Lutheran and to listen to the fears, challenges and hopes the congregation has at this point in time. The time was well spent and she assured us that she and the Synod office are focused on securing possible pastoral candidates for the Call Committee to interview going forward. We appreciated her initiative in reaching out to us. We are in the Bishop's prayers and thoughts.
It’s that time of year again, snow removal. Teams are assigned each month with a team captain designated by an asterisk. The team captain is the person responsible for making the decision when to shovel and for contacting the team members by phone. Captains, please remember to set a time in the evening that is reasonable for all, assuming that most are working (during the week). Please try to call early enough in the day so that members can plan for it.
Snow removal schedule will be as follows:
January: *Doug Sutton, Chad Schmadeke, Eric Dickinson, Darin Humiston
February: *Mike Timmerman, Eric Dickinson, Ryan McClintock, Darin Humiston
Extra Help: Dennis Eden, Bill Martin
Thank you to all that donated toward the purchase of red poinsettias this Christmas season. Anyone who would like to take one home may do so starting January 3rd after worship service.
Dear Friends at Bethlehem,
LuAnn and I extend sincere thanks on behalf of the whole family for the expressions of shared faith, sympathy, and comfort received upon the death of my mother, Betty Urlaub, on November 30. We are very grateful for your thoughtfulness.
Pastor Mark and LuAnn Urlaub
We have remembered the following in prayers
during the month of December. If you are missed off this list, our sincere apologies.
For health, healing and comfort: Jerry Hanna, Duane Mangold, Ainsley Adams, Ellen Tempus, Andrea Bachman, Jim Woolison, Ann Jorgensen Elaine Bearbower, Dale Greis, Steve & Josh Jordan, Kimmit Renken, Joan Lindahl, Larry Nudd, The Family of Dale Humiston, The Family of Betty Urlaub
January Server Schedule
Month of January:
Acolytes: Katelyn & Victoria Humiston
Altar Guild: Denise Evans, Brenda Sutton
Council Lock-Up: Tim Jorgensen
January 3rd & 10th
Lector: Debbie Sampson
Ushers: Dave & Lisa Vermedahl
Counters (3rd): Tom Hanson, Lisa Vermedahl
Counters (10th): Tom Hanson, John/Ellen Olson
January 17th, 24th, 31st
Lector: Rachel Dickinson
Ushers: Gary & Loretta Simnacher
Counters (17th): John/Ellen Olson, Marta Bauer
Counters (24th): Marta Bauer, Kimmit/Judy Renken
Counters (31st): Kimmit/Judy Renken, Steve Wallace
Message from Bishop Eaton
The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
We are never alone.
The room was spare and dimly lit. We sat on folding chairs in a circle—young Honduran women and some of us from the ELCA. We had come to Honduras to observe the work of AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities). This is the ELCA’s strategy to help youth who have been forced to flee their home countries because of violence, abuse, extortion by gangs and extreme poverty. Amparo is the Spanish word for shelter or refuge.
In this case, AMMPARO partnered with the Lutheran World Federation and the Mennonites to resettle returned migrants— those who had tried to seek asylum in the United States but had failed or had been denied and deported back to Honduras.
One by one they told us their stories of fear and desperation. Not a one undertook the long and dangerous trek north on a whim. They told us about the abuse they had suffered, about family members who had been killed by gangs, about the inability to make a living because of the extortion by organized crime. They talked about the bitter sadness of leaving home and family, and the uncertainty of the future.
I remember one young woman in particular. She was pregnant when she tried to migrate to the United States. She had the baby somewhere along the way. She was far from home, mostly alone and desperately wanted her mother to be with her. None of this is what she had hoped for when she was growing up. Circumstances beyond her control had forced her into this new and strange existence. She and her baby were now back in Honduras—but not at home. Home was too dangerous.
Remember last Christmas? Remember all of the preparations, the travel to be with family? Remember the holy beauty of the Christmas Eve liturgy and receiving Christ’s grace and forgiveness at his table? The shopping and Christmas caroling? The in-person gatherings? All that has changed.
The pandemic hasn’t forced us from our homes but into our homes, sheltering in place, isolated. Not together, but physically distanced. Not gathered with family and friends, but forced apart because of the threat of infection. Forced by circumstances beyond our control into this strange existence. Oh, there will be Christmas carols piped into grocery stores and other essential services, but they will be painful reminders of how life used to be.
We are reminded of the experience of the exiles in Babylon: “By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps. For there our captives asked us for songs, and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” (Psalm 137)?
I told the young Honduran woman about another young woman who was forced to leave home because of a government decree. She, too, was pregnant and made a long and difficult journey. She, too, was far from home and without her mother when the baby came. She had to find shelter wherever she could. This wasn’t what she had hoped for when she was growing up. Circumstances beyond her control had forced her into this new existence.
That young woman was Mary and the child was Jesus. Precisely in our distress, in our dislocation, the Lord shows up. Emmanuel—God with us—makes his home in the very places we find foreign or isolating. The young Honduran woman, and all of us, can find hope because of the birth of Mary’s child. There is no God-forsaken place and we are never alone— not in hospital rooms, or sheltering in place, or Zoom calls or on dangerous roads.
Many of us will not be physically home for Christmas, but we are truly home in Christ.