3301 The Alameda
Baltimore, MD 21218
Christmas Eve – 7:30 pm
Christmas Day – 10:00 am
Saint John’s Day, December 27 – 11:00 am
New Year’s Eve – 7:30 pm
Second Sunday after Christmas, January 3 – 11:00 am
The Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6 – 7:30 pm
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Preaching in the City Church of Saint Mary in Wittenberg on the afternoon of Christmas Day in the year 1530, Dr. Luther had this to say:
“For if it is true that the Child was born of the virgin and is mine, then I have no angry God and I must know and feel that there is nothing but laughter and joy in the heart of the Father and no sadness in my heart. For if what the angel says is true, that He is our Lord and Savior, what can sin do against us? ‘If God is for us, who is against us?’ [Romans 8:31]. Greater words than these I cannot speak, nor all the angels or even the Holy Spirit, as is sufficiently testified by the beautiful songs that have been made about it.”
From ancient times the Church has observed the three days immediately following Christmas Day as Saint Stephen’s Day, Saint John’s Day, and the Holy Innocents Day. Saint Stephen was the First Martyr (Acts 7:54-60) and the Holy Innocents were the young boys of Bethlehem killed by King Herod’s soldiers in his vain attempt to destroy the Christ Child (Matthew 2:13–18). Although Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist was not a martyr he suffered exile on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). These three holy days serve to remind us that Christ and His Church have always suffered opposition and persecution. And so it will continue to be until the final triumph of Christ in His glorious Appearing at the Last Day. And so the Church’s prayer has ever remained, “Come Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Apart from a very brief blessing, these are in fact the very last words in all of Holy Scripture.
Do take careful note of the schedule of Christmas services as given above. We have restored the Divine Service of Christmas Day in part to provide opportunity for Christmas worship for those who are reluctant to venture out after dark. If anyone needs a ride to church for any of these services, please call me at (410) 554–9994 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make every effort to provide it. Also call or email me if you wish to receive the Holy Sacrament at home. Do remember that all of our services are livestreamed at Our Saviour Baltimore Facebook and that you can hear the sermons by calling (410) 587–0979.
Several months ago we received an email from the leader of a small group of Christians who had found us at our website and were eager to learn more. Their leader, Isaac Zachary Okemwa, wanted me to come to Africa and teach them! Although that was clearly not feasible for all kinds of reasons, we have been able with the help of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation and the Kenyan Lutheran Church to provide them with Bibles in their native language. And now, just this past week, I’ve had an email from Pastor George Ondieki of the Kenyan Church telling me that this group has decided to become Lutheran and that the local Bishop, Joseph Omwoyo Ombasa, has assigned Pastor Isaac Onderi Nyamora to be their pastor and prepare them for confirmation. These fellow Christians are praying for us and they ask our prayers for them. It is wonderful to see how God uses modern technology to further His good and gracious will!
And speaking of our website I here want to thank everyone who has had a hand in making it possible, including those who created the website long before I arrived at Our Saviour.
Elsewhere in this newsletter Quilla Downs tells us about our outreach to needy families connected with the Waverly Elementary/Middle School and Judy Volkman brings us up to date on the work of our free flea markets.
Judy Volkman reminds us that it is time to order poinsettias to decorate the church for Christmas. They are still ten dollars apiece and the deadline for ordering them is Sunday, December 20. Names of those you wish to remember or honor should also be sent in by that day. Judy also has found a carton of Christmas cards, picturing our altar at Christmas. These packets of cards are available on the piano; take as many as you like. If you wish to make a contribution, please designate it as “Christmas cards.” If you are staying at home and wish to use these cards, call Judy at (410) 377–8833 or email her at email@example.com. Offering envelopes for 2021 are now at the back of the church. You may take yours now but be sure not to use them until January. They have been renumbered, so we want the contributions to be credited to the right number.
The church will be decorated for Christmas following Divine Service on the Fourth Sunday in Advent, December 20. “Many hands make light work.”
Someone recently asked me what is meant by the title “Divine Service” as it is found in the Lutheran Service Book and in our announcements and Sunday bulletins. It comes from the German word “Gottesdienst” which means “God’s Service.” And the great point to note is that it chiefly speaks of God serving us—God serving us through His holy Word and Sacrament with forgiveness, life, and salvation. It is of course also true that in the Divine Service we serve God, worshiping Him with our sacrifice of prayer and praise. But the heart of the matter is that it is God who is serving us. God is present, God acts as we hear His Word and are given the life-giving Body and Blood of the Savior as our spiritual food and drink. It is interesting to note that our fellow Christians of the Eastern Orthodox (Greek, Russian, Arabic, etc.) Church call their service the “Divine Liturgy” which has the same meaning.
I doubt that anyone doubts that the year now drawing to its close has been a particularly difficult one. Christmas finds the world still suffering from this pandemic which has plagued the world for so many months. We can now give thanks that vaccines and more effective medications will soon be available while we continue to pray for those whom the hand of sickness and death has touched. During this time when many of our fellow members are confined to their homes it is comforting to know that in prayer for one another we are close to one another and to the Lord whose mercies are new every morning. Never hesitate to reach out to me either by phone or email. Much of the work of a pastor consists in listening! I am of course also available to hear private confession as explained in Luther’s Small Catechism.
I wish you a truly blessed Christmas, rich in the joy and certainty of the Lord who as at this time was born to be our Savior.
Affectionately in our Lord,
Works of Mercy
Recently, a lady from east Baltimore wrote us a letter, requesting assistance at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Judy Volkman followed up with her and invited her to the November Free Flea market. She attended, along with several members of her family, and received a number of items, both clothing and household goods. At Christmas, she will be one of the recipients of a gift card from Aldi’s. Hopefully, we will see her at the Free Flea Market in the spring! The Lord has provided for us and we have been able to share that bounty!
Thanks to our Church family, we were able to purchase $30 gift cards to send to 10 families prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The cards were redeemable at Aldi’s Super Market. The postal service delivered the cards, and all arrived at the recipient’s homes in sufficient time for shopping prior to the big day. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we will continue to collect monetary donations for purchase of our Christmas gift cards. Our list for Christmas is longer by one additional family this year. There was a recent request for help from a family who resides outside of our partnered Waverly Elementary/Middle School Community. The request was addressed to the church, followed by a meeting at church; and it was determined that help was indeed warranted. In our capacity to serve and share with our neighbors, it was agreed that we would accommodate the additional family. Donations made on December 6 and December 13 would assure that the cards could be purchased, and mailed, and that they would arrive in time for pre-Christmas grocery shopping. A separate check may be placed in the collection plate with the note “Christmas Gift Cards “or just simply “Christmas Cards” in the memo line. If cash is given, an extra envelope with your name and donation number might be placed in the donation plate. Many thanks for your continued support and concern for those in need.