From the Pastor's Desk
Dear Members and Friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church,
On December 5, I will be preaching on Ezekiel 37:1-14, which records Ezekiel’s vision of the “Valley of the Dry Bones.” Since it is a vision of resurrection, it seems to be an odd choice for the Second Sunday of Advent. At this time of year, our minds are focused on the story of the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. A Scripture passage about resurrection seems more appropriate for the Easter season, which is still months away.
However, if we dig a little deeper, we will find that Ezekiel 37 is appropriate for this time of year. Along with being a time of repentance, Advent is a time of hope. During Advent, we recall the promise of the prophets that God would send his people a redeemer, the Messiah. We remember how the people of Israel continued to hope in God’s promised salvation, even though they waited for hundreds of years. The vision of Isaiah, which promises that the nation of Israel will be raised from the dead to live in peace and righteousness, took place shortly after the final destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 586-87 B.C.
It would be almost 600 years before the Messiah (called Christ in Greek) would be born and more than 600 years until he rose from the dead on Easter. And yet, during those long years, the people of Israel did not forget God’s promise. In fact, their expectation of the promised resurrection of the dead only grew. At first, they only understood resurrection to refer to the nation as a whole. Over time, however, they came to believe that the promised resurrection was for God’s people as individuals as well. In particular, those righteous Jews who were martyred for their faith in the God of Israel, would take part in the resurrection.
By the time that Jesus was born, most of the Jewish people, with a few notable exceptions, expected the Messiah to raise the dead. So when the angels announced, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” the Shepherd knew that this was the one. The baby in the manger, will raise the dead.
What does this mean for us today? It means that as we get ready for Christmas, we should hope for resurrection. John Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes on the Old Testament, says that this passage teaches a
threefold resurrection: Of the resurrection of souls, from the death of sin, to the life of righteousness: The resurrection of the church from an afflicted state, to liberty and peace: The resurrection of the body at the great day, especially the bodies of believers to life eternal.
Are you hoping, waiting patiently with expectation, for these things as you get ready for Christmas? Are you waiting expectantly for a spiritual resurrection from the death of sin? Have you already experienced that this season? Are you looking forward to God raising the church from its afflicted state, to new life and freedom? Are you looking forward to the day that your mortal body will be transformed into the likeness of the risen Jesus? Do you look forward to seeing him and the loved ones you have lost standing upon a new earth? As children, we look forward to the gifts that Santa will bring. As adults, we should look forward to the gift of new life that Christ promises us.
Charles Wesley echoed the words of his older brother, John, in his famous Christmas carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the sun of righteousness
Light and life to all he brings,
Ris’n with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that we no more may die,
Born to raise each child of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new-born king!”
God bless you as we wait in hope for that threefold resurrection that Christ brings.
From Pastor Lutz
"By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:78-79
These words from Luke's gospel are spoken by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, at the time of John's birth. In Luke's gospel we learn that John, who is later known as John the Baptist, was kin to Jesus. We do not know exactly how close, but we refer to John as Jesus' cousin. When John was born his father Zechariah, by the urging of the Holy Spirit, declared of this son John,
""you, child will be called the prophet of the most high;
For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to his people
By the forgiveness of their sins."
The description of John is followed by the words at the start of this article, which describes what Jesus, the one for whom John will prepare the way, will bring. God will shine on the people. Light will break the darkness. Our way will be that of peace.
These are the words of a new beginning, shared at the beginning of the Good News (Gospel) according to Luke. They are also words of a new beginning, as they are part of our Advent texts. These are words that would be good for us to use each morning as we begin our day, because they are words of promise, words of the in-breaking of God. The dawn from on high does break upon us, as by the power of that same Holy Spirit. God brings light into our darkness and guides us in the way of peace.
Peace. This is such a powerful word. In Hebrew, the word for "peace" is shalom. Shalom is much deeper that what we often think of as peace. It is not just an end of war. It is more than the absence of violence. It is a deep, abiding understanding of being whole; of being at peace with God, Self, and Neighbor. It is the deep sense that one is cared for, and able to bring care to others. It is a deep experience of that "peace that passes all understanding," of which St. Paul writes. This deep, settling peace is what we crave, what the world craves, even of we do not know what is we need to fill the ache in our souls.
In this season when the light grows shorter and the darkness looms large, we are reminded of the dawn from on high that breaks upon us. We are given the ability to know, even in part, the peace Jesus brings to the earth. As we move through this month anticipating the celebration of Jesus' birth, we sing of it. We dream of it. We hope for it. Perhaps one key thing we can add to this list, is to work for it.
Zachariah spoke of his son as the one who will go before the Lord to prepare his way. We too can be like John. We can go out proclaiming the coming of the One who brings peace. We can challenge those who work against peace. We can hold fast to the truth that this peace is for all who will receive it, and there are no exceptions to those who can experience the peace of Christ.
Standing and acting, for peace may not seem like the way we usually prepare for Christmas. But in this new day, at this, the beginning of a new Church Year, perhaps this is a new way to prepare the way of the Lord. As we start each day with the assurance that God shines on us, that the light scatters the darkness, and that through Jesus we have a deep, settled peace in our souls, maybe it would be appropriate to let this knowledge spur us to action "for those who have not yet heard the message of salvation from God's own holy Word." It is by the love of God, who entered this world as one of us, that we are able to receive from God such a gift of peace. May it be a reminder to us, and the focus of our activities each new day.
Pastor Bob Lutz
Pastor Bob and Christine Lutz would like to thank the members and friends of St. Paul Lutheran Church for all the prayers, well wishes, cards and meals provided to us following my recent surgery. I'm on the mend and feeling better each day. It's wonderful to know there are folks who love and care for us.
Pr. Bob and Christine Lutz
Greetings St. Paul parents! Can you believe it? Advent has begun and Christmas is right around the corner. There is so much joy surrounding this season, but there can also be a lot of chaos! There are decorations to put up, parties to throw, and presents to purchase. It’s so easy to let the entire month of December pass by and totally forget why we celebrate Christmas. We don’t want that to happen this year, so we’re hosting an event called “Gingerbread Bash!”
This is a fun and interactive experience designed for families with children age 6th grade and younger! We’ll build gingerbread nativities, play games, sing songs, hear the Christmas story from the Bible, and discover that sometimes the best gift comes in the most ordinary box. It’s a truly sweet way for your family to celebrate the birth of Jesus! We’ll be hosting this event on Sunday, December 12th from 3:30PM to 5PM in the Parish Hall. You are not going to miss out on this fun event, but we need you to register. You can do that by going to: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30E094EA9AD22A6F85-gingerbread . Merry Christmas!
Lutheran Men in Mission
December 2021 Bible Study Breakfast
The LMM monthly Bible Study Breakfast will be Saturday, December 18, at 7:30 A. M. in the Parish Hall. Instead of our usual Scripture reading and discussion lesson from the Lutheran Men in Mission “Master Builders Bible for Men” small group study plan, we will be discussing the purpose and importance of the Season of Advent to our spiritual growth as Christian men.
The Season of Advent begins the Liturgical Year on the 4th Sunday before Christmas. This time is set aside by the Church to bring before our eyes the Incarnation of our Lord, the coming of Jesus Christ through Grace, and the coming of our Lord on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. When we read the liturgical texts the church uses during these four weeks we see clearly her intention to help us build an attitude of preparation which consists of repentance and anticipation; looking forward to the Advent of the Messiah in His twofold coming of grace and glory.
On going over the different parts of the liturgy of the Advent services one cannot fail to be impressed by the repeated and urgent appeals to the Messiah: “Come, delay no longer.” This plea, “Come,” is repeated over and over during these four weeks and always takes us back to the time when Christ was not yet born. The idea of Advent is that we may prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus at each feast of Christmas.
Being prepared for the coming of mercy, our souls will likewise be prepared for the coming of justice, so that receiving with joy the Son of God when he comes as our Redeemer, we may also receive Him without fear when He comes as our Judge.
All men of the congregation are invited to attend.
From the Lion's Den
Mark your calendars and plan to attend:
Our school students/teachers will be participating in the Niceville Parade on Saturday, December 4th at 10:00 AM.
The congregation is invited to "share the joy" during our school's Christmas Program here in the church on Tuesday, December 14th at 6:00 PM.
I hope you can all make these events.
Jim Kraus, Chairman of the School Board
Making a Difference Around the World -- Mission Update
St. Paul has a long history of supporting our foreign missionaries, and we look forward to having them visit us in person or via Zoom in 2022. Paula and Dennis Lofstrom continue their work in Tanzania. Denny is now 94 and having to be especially careful. Paula expressed her appreciation for our prayers and financial support for their work. Below is an excerpt of her recent letter to me.
We have also had word that Kristin Engstrom will be returning to the mission field in Zambia soon. I look forward to sharing news of her arrival and work.
Karen Peek, Mission Chairperson
From Paula and Dennis Lofstrom in Tanzania
The International Health Partners (IHP) Board has been having monthly meetings, planning, sharing ideas, and all of us wishing we could get our boots back on the ground at Zinga. Well, sandals in my case. But Covid…Covid. We must work from afar, envision the best possible outcomes, and press on.
You have stuck with us, your belief in the future and quality of health care that can be provided for the lovely people of Tanzania keeps us going, keeps the folks on track in Tanzania, and we all know, for SURE, that God is in charge and we only have to show up for work, however that can be done.
Please keep IHP and those we serve in mind. We give special thanks to all those folks who have remembered us with their memorial gifts, and planned giving in their wills and trusts. Remember that if you prescribe a gift to IHP for a Christmas gift, we send every individual you designate a thank you card, so they’ll know their gift was well-used and much appreciated. You can go to our website, www.ihptz.org and click on Donate!
Or send a check to:
IHP – Matt West, Treasurer
8016 N. Everton Ave.
Kansas City, MO. 64152
Or, call Matt at 816-985-4406 and he’ll put it on your credit card.
We wish you good tidings, of great joy, we pray for rain at Zinga as there is a terrible drought there now and rain may not come until April. Cattle are dying. Children are starving.
We ask for blessings for all of those in peril that they might know peace.
We thank you for your continuing support Because It Matters.
Blessings and gratitude,
Paula and Denny
Women of St. Paul News
The special offering we collected on Thankoffering Sunday, November 7th, totaled over $2,000.00, which will be donated to Twin Cities Pavilion. A BIG THANK YOU to all who contributed!
Christmas Concert | Dec. 10th | 6:30 PM
The Niceville High School Singers will present their Christmas concert here at St. Paul. We are asked to provide some cookies for the reception after the concert. More details are coming!
Christmas Party | Dec. 17th | 4:30-7:30 PM
At the home of Beverly Byrne. We will be having a potluck dinner. Bev will provide the meat. We are asked to bring side dishes or desserts. We want to have an ornament exchange. Everyone who wants to participate, should bring a wrapped ornament. Please RSVP by calling or texting Bev Byrne at 850-582-4242. All women of the church are invited to come. Hope to see you on the 17th!
Worship Times in December
Advent Evening Prayer | Wednesdays | 6:30 pm
Christmas Eve Services | 4:30 pm, 7:30 pm, 11:00 pm
Sunday, December 26th | One Service | 10:00 am
To the community at St. Paul,
Thank you for being so welcoming to someone that none of you had met before. It meant so much to me to be able to come to church every week and be welcomed as if I'd always belonged.
Although I was always secluded and quiet, I really enjoyed being a part of your community for a bit each week.
Thank you so much, and I wish everyone the best.
Bible Studies and Fellowship
Ladies Bible Study meets every week from 9:30 until 11 AM in Underdahl Hall. Please join us for 6 sessions hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford as she guides us through the geography of Jesus's life on earth.Share the insights of Rabbi Jason Sobel as he connects Jewish lifestyle and worship rituals to the prophesied King of the Universe. Currently we are in Bethlehem, the very beginning. So much more to see!
Lutheran World Relief Quilters - The third weekend of the month on Saturday beginning around 9:30.
Lutheran Men in Mission - The Purpose of Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM) is to bring you together in Christian fellowship with other men in our congregation. We hope to get you involved in an existing LMM activity which interests you and we also hope will stir up ideas for new activities. LMM breakfast at 7:30 am, the 3rd Saturday of each month.