Understanding the times

A few years ago I heard a phrase which piqued my interest. One of my professors was talking about his weekly schedule and talked about what he labeled “Issachar meetings.” Intrigued, I asked what he meant. He referred me to a brief passage from 1 Chronicles 12 where the makeup of David’s army at Hebron is recorded. In verse 32 the author writes, “Of Issachar, those who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, two hundred chiefs, and all their kindred under their command.” (NRSV)

My professor made it a point of scheduling regular meetings with men and women who he knew had their thumb on the pulse of the community, and of the world. Since that class, I’ve tried to develop my own set of Issachar relationships. People who help me keep pace with what is going on in the community, the country, and around the world.

Here at the beginning many of my friends have shifted their gaze to Christmas. However, there is this whole season of Advent. It’s an important time of year and one, in my opinion, that doesn’t get enough attention in our day and age. So, to help you know what is coming up over the next few weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to make this an Issachar time.

For the next few weeks we are suspending Believe while we observe Advent. To enhance our worship, we will be incorporating several unique elements, including the candle lighting, singing of Advent hymns, the reading of scripture, and special Advent reflections. We will also be taking a break from our normal adult Sunday school classes to spend a few weeks talking specifically about who we are as Marshfield Christian Church.

This is a great time to get more information about what we believe, how we are structured as a church, and to spend some time in fellowship with other members of the community, both those who have been here a while, and those who are relatively new. We will talk about who the Disciples are as a denomination, as well as how we live that out in our specific context here in Marshfield.

There will also be several special worship opportunities throughout December as well:

December 11th – 10:30am – Children’s Christmas Program – This year we will be holding the children’s program during our normal Sunday morning worship time. After worship we will move back to the Fellowship Hall to share in a Christmas lunch complete with cookies and special gift bags for the kids, as well as a special visitor. I even hear there is a chance that our visitor may bring his wife all the way from the North Pole!

December 21st – 6:00pm – Longest Night Service – The Longest Night Service is a reflective time of worship where we gather with friends and family to acknowledge our grief that we don’t get to share the holidays with everyone we might want to. Whether we are separated by death, by distance, or by strained relationships, the holidays can magnify our pain and grief. This is an opportunity for us to share those hurts and to support one another as we look to God for peace, presence, and comfort.

December 24th – 6:00pm – Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols – This is a very traditional, and meaningful service. We gather in a dimly lit sanctuary to hear again the story of Jesus’ birth, to sing those familiar carols, and to light candles as a reminder that the light of Christ came into the world to chase away darkness and fear. We will end the service by surrounding the sanctuary with candlelight as we sing Silent Night.

December 25th – 10:30am –Christmas Worship – There won’t be Sunday school on Christmas morning, but we will gather together for a brief, informal, service. We will encourage all children to remain in the sanctuary with us for this worship opportunity. We will sing some of those familiar carols, and in place of a sermon I will give an extended communion meditation. There is something special about gathering to worship on Christmas day. I hope you’ll plan to join us. You can even come in your Christmas pajamas (assuming they are appropriate to wear in public!) This will be a fun, and informal, celebration of the birth of Jesus.

We pray you will have a blessed Advent as we all await the coming of Christ, and hope that you will join us for one, or all, of these special worship opportunities in the life of our church.