Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Wednesday, January 6th, is The Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord. There will be a Festival Divine Service at 7:30 PM. On Epiphany we remember the coming of the wise men from the east to worship the Christ Child: in the coming of the gentile wise men the Child born of Mary is shown to be God and Savior of the whole world. Epiphany has often been called “the Christmas of the Gentiles.”
I hope that many of us will join in worship, especially in view of the fact that the other congregations of our our circuit have been invited to join us. Our Circuit Visitor, Pastor Thomas Foelber, will preach. We will sing the beloved carols that speak of the coming of the wise men: “The First Nowell”, “What Child is This”, “We Three Kings of Orient Are”— and also Epiphany hymns, notably that wonderful hymn “As With Gladness Men of Old.” I really can’t imagine Epiphany without that hymn! There will be a simple reception after Divine Service.
Vicar and Mrs. Demarest have been in Oregon visiting the Vicar’s family during the days of Christmas. They will be with us again on the Second Sunday after Christmas Day, January 3. Do look at our website oursaviourbaltimore.org. Vicar Trent has been doing a splendid job with it and has just posted two beautiful pictures for the Feast of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus (January 1) and for Epiphany. More pictures of our church at Christmas and of parish life are on the way.
David Timothy Wiseman died suddenly on Wednesday, December 23rd, and was given Christian burial on Monday, December 28th. May the Light perpetual ever shine upon him and may the risen Lord himself comfort his bereaved parents and all who mourn.
I wish to thank everyone who helped to decorate the church for Christmas. The decorations will be taken down after Divine Service on Sunday, January 10th, the First Sunday after Epiphany when the Gospel reading shows us the twelve year old Jesus among the teachers in the temple at Jerusalem. Helen and James Gray continue their indefatigable service. It was good to have Lauren and Christopher Watson assisting on Christmas Eve together with our faithful acolytes Jamera Breshay-Hawkins and Kai Hawkins. We again were glad to hear Judy Volkman sing “O Holy Night.” Anthony Baylor’s schedule permitted him to assist. And of course we are all thankful for our organist Don Weber! I especially loved his prelude and postlude on Christmas Eve: the very expressive prelude on “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” by Brahms and “In dulci jubilo” by Bach. Wonderful music! And our sexton William Hawkins worked very hard preparing the church for the festival. Bernie Knox has also been working to put the kitchen in order and Steve Knox has continued to put the ﬁnishing touches on the new heating system. Judy Volkman and Quilla Downs have continued their ﬁne work of distributing food to the poor in our neighborhood. David West has also lent a helping hand. And we are blessed with the leadership of our congregational president, Gabe Purviance. I hope I have not forgotten anyone! Saying “thank you” is not only good manners: it is what is required of us as Christians. I also wish to thank all of you who remembered me with cards and gifts.
I believe I must say a few words about Christmas church attendance. It is of course an unhappy fact of life today that church attendance on Christmas has (with some notable exceptions) been declining almost everywhere in recent years. But I ask you this: if even the festival of our Savior’s birth does not draw us to His house and to His altar, what can? Dear brothers and sisters, these things ought not so to be! The Church Council will again this year consider what might be the best time for worship on Christmas Eve. We had hoped that an earlier hour would make it possible for more people to come. I invite your input in this matter. Yet I must also in all candor ﬁnally say this: that no matter what hour is settled on for worship, the world, our own sinful human nature, and the devil will conspire together to keep us from coming! Please call me (410-554-9994) if you are ever in need of a ride to church and I will do all I can to make that happen. We do need volunteers to help make this happen.
Vicar Trent and I will be attending the annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confessions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, January 19-22. I have been invited to speak at the one day conference which Redeemer Church in Fort Wayne sponsors on the day before the Symposium begins. And so the Vicar and I will be leaving for Fort Wayne immediately after Divine Service on Sunday, January 17th.
The beginning of a new year is always a time of both hope and anxiety. This new year perhaps brings more anxiety. We do not know what the future holds, but we do know the One who holds the future in His hand— the hands which still bear the marks of the nails, the hands of Him who is the embodied Love of God. He is our Lord, He is our Emmanuel— God with us. He is our Jesus who saves us from our sin. In His name I wish you a blessed new year.
Affectionately in our Lord,