Pastor’s Pen December 21, 2016

“For unto us is born in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”                                           The Gospel According to Luke         

Christmas brings bittersweet memories for many among us. We give God thanks for dear ones who are with us, as we remember with sorrow those who are not. Many among us grieve loved ones who have joined the saints, as we continue to set a place for them at the Christmas table in our hearts.

         Amidst the laughter of children and grandchildren and festive gatherings of friends, we hear the sounds of war stirring for other people’s children and grandchildren in far away places. We sense the worrisome voices of other people’s friends whose struggle for simple daily provision remains undiminished at Christmas.

         We pray in this season for the Prince of Peace to come to us, God-with-us, for us and for our families. We pray, too, for all God’s people. This Christmas as you lift in memory all your loved ones, please include prayers for the neighbor you know and the neighbor you don’t.

         This week as you offer your own prayers of gratitude for God’s abundant blessings and mercy amidst suffering, please permit me to add my own voice to yours. I offer a Christmas Blessing for all persons I have been privileged to love and to serve across the years, wherever they may be.

         God bless the people of Havana, Cuba, who boldly worship in makeshift sanctuaries, in living rooms and garages and barns, undiminished by decades of restricted religious freedom that we take for granted. Give them voices to sing your praise regardless. God in your mercy, strengthen their faith.

         God bless the people of every Mayan village in Guatemala, who struggle to send their children to school. Bless the work of Common Hope and Habitat for Humanity that gives them a hand-up as communities rebuild homes to withstand the winds of time and change. God in your mercy, renew their hope.

         God bless the people of Aleppo, Syria and the Christians sequestered in refugee settlements in Northern Iraq. Grant a road through the wilderness and sanctuary for all people caught in the cross hairs of violence they did not create and cannot fix. God in our mercy, make them safe.

         God bless all our lives here at First Parish Church, York, Maine, United Church of Christ, and the lives of all who share this prayer. Give us grateful hearts to remember what we have been given, and release our anxieties about what we have not. Make us quick to encourage in time of trial and slow to criticize. According to your promises O God, bind up the brokenhearted, heal the afflicted, and release your captive people here and in every place. Strengthen our faith and increase our love for one another, that we may boldly proclaim what we believe.

         Emmanuel, God-With-Us, through Christ.

God’s grace, mercy and peace be with you,

Pastor Anna V. Copeland