Pastor’s Letter 2023 December

As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the shepherds talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Luke 2:15-18 (Msg)

Greetings and Blessings Dear Siblings in Christ,

It is an awesome thing that God determined to come and live among the humans that they created in their image.  We might wonder what possessed God to decide to leave a place of security, of love, of justice and mercy, of kindness and compassion to live with humans – flawed, oftentimes more emotionally driven than spiritually led, sometimes overly confident, sometimes completely insecure, yet hungry for love and learning and, sometimes, a willingness to become something they couldn’t imagine, yet find gloriously wonderful – further transformed into beings God created them to be.

If we think about that for just a bit, we realize that was risky, a pretty messy endeavor.  Yet, God decided to live among us; and not as a fully realized human being, in a pretty well-to-do, or highly honored family, but into a lower-middle-class, or upper-lower-class family, to parents who had some questionable behaviour at the very beginning of their relationship.  That’s a pretty trusting God – if we just think about that for a moment.

I hope that is just what you will do – and for more than just a moment.  We have choices to make in the Advent season – the waiting time for honoring Jesus’ birth.  There is no doubt the world, family expectations, culture, economics can and often do press upon us to be so, so, so busy – with shopping, and visiting, and decorating and more shopping for – what exactly?  It is okay to choose that.  First, though I think we are encouraged to stop – and think – and pray – and wait for the Holy Spirit, to help us determine how we will spend this Advent season. How much time we will give to reflecting on the awesome trust God put in us; how much time we will give to rest and renewal; how much time we will give to prepping for gathering with friends and family – and just maybe the stranger, the person on the street corner seeking some comfort and care.

I often think that I am quite privileged to have the time to think about making choices such as these, not making the choices themselves, but to think about making choices.  Most of us have that privilege whereas people who lived as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, do not have that privilege.  What a gift and a blessing!

Jesus reminds us time and again that when we have this privilege, we are called to give a little bit to those who live like his family lived, like the people to whom he ministered.  Our faith community, Berkeley Methodist United Church is a community where we can do just that, as a community.  Gathering our resources together we can and do have a greater impact on the lives of those who live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  We are beyond blessed to have such a community.  Many in the world do not.

This Advent and Christmas, our Missions & Outreach (M&O) team decided to make a community impact on the lives of Alameda County foster youth.  We are giving $25 gift cards (Target, Walmart, or Amazon) to those youth, who don’t have their birth family, for whatever reason, to celebrate Christ-mas.  We don’t need to know the personal struggles they are enduring to know that to be placed in foster care means their lives were not privileged, or safe, or secure.  Our giving helps them know that they are important, that their needs matter to people whom they may never come to know, yet who care about their well-being and futures.

On behalf of the M&O team, I invite you to give here either by purchasing the gift cards or donating financially, allowing us to purchase the gift cards for you.  We will deliver the first round of gift cards by December 20 and the second round in mid-January, after Christmas Eve worship, at 7:00 pm on Dec 24.

We hope you will be able to join us on Christmas Eve to reflect on the awesome love and trust God has in us to make caring for people like the family he was born into a priority in our lives as it was in his.

Shalom, Salaam,

Rev. Pamela Kurtz, Pastor