First Presbyterian Church, Tullahoma TN 37388
December 2020/January 2021 Volume XLIX, Issue 10
Church Office: 204 E. Grundy St.
Phone: 931 455-9328
Sunday school – 9:15 a.m.
Worship at 10:30 a.m.
Preschool Office: 931 455-1515
Pastor: Stephen Yates
CE/Youth Director: Christy Sherrer
Secretary: Martha Bradley
Organist: David Hiebert
Parish Associate for Pastoral Care: Michael Bradley
Learning Place Preschool Director: Bethany Sterling
Sunday School at 9:15
The Christian Living Class has been placed on hold due to the COVID-19 virus please check back often for when Adult Sundy School will resume.
The Bible Study Class has been placed on hold due to the COVID-19 virus please check back often for when Adult Sundy School will resume.
Plans for Advent, Christmas, and Beyond
Advent Kits: Advent kits were delivered on Sunday, November 22. Please let the office know if you didn’t receive a kit on your front porch. The kits have items to help us celebrate Advent, preparing for God’s great gift of his son on Christmas. Even though we are not able to worship all together during this pandemic, we can all worship at home and pray for each other as we go through this time of preparation.
Children’s Christmas Program – Sunday, December 13, at 4:00 p.m. in the sanctuary - As the rollercoaster of 2020 comes to end, we are all ready for some kind of normal. Even though this year won't be exactly like the past, those in the children's program are still very excited to be able to do a Christmas play. We will be doing A Very Opinionated Christmas Tree as our play this year.
The star of the play is an evergreen tree that has a very precise idea of what makes a Christmas tree. Through the play the children will decorate the evergreen turning it into the perfect Christmas tree. We look forward to sharing what it takes to become a Christmas tree through the meaning of different ornaments and Christmas songs.
Because of Covid restrictions, we are limiting in person viewing to family only. We will be live streaming it on our website and Facebook. We will not be having refreshments this year.
Alternative Giving for Christmas -Alternative giving will be a little different this year. Checks can be dropped in the offering plate if attending in person or mailed to the church office at P. O. Box 847, Tullahoma, TN 37388. Just remember to include “Alt Giving: organization name” on the check.
Online giving can also be done, just select OTHER and then include “Alt Giving: organization name.”Alternative Giving allows you to provide a special gift that reflects the true spirit of Christmas to friends and loved ones and help local, national, and international missions.
Christmas Baskets – Delivery on Saturday, December 19
Please help bring a little Christmas cheer into the lives of some of the less fortunate in our community by providing a Christmas basket. We’re hoping to have more baskets available for delivery this year than last year (last year we delivered 63 baskets) because the need is still very present in our community – maybe even more now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. You can also help by assisting in the delivery of the Christmas baskets on Saturday, December 19, starting at 9 a.m.
As you might expect there are several changes to the process (both in providing a basket and during delivery) to keep folks safe – both our volunteers and the folks receiving the baskets.
Dear Church Family,
As my office “mates” know, I love the seasons of Advent and Christmas. So much so, and much to my co-workers' chagrin, I am known to start playing Christmas music in October! Yes, Advent is traditionally a time of preparation and even penance as we prepare for Christ’s coming as a small child, but it is also a time of great hope. So despite spooky songs being the popular pick in October, it is not uncommon to hear Christmas music coming from my office. I just can’t help myself.
You see, along with preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming, Advent and the weeks following Christmas day, are also wonderful reminders that God, like us, is a bit of a dreamer. Many of the Old Testament readings, for example, are often from passages declaring God’s promise of salvation and restoration. And while the city of Jerusalem is often a focal point of that promised healing and renewal, there is also a decidedly universal and almost cosmic flare to many of the passages as well. A restored Jerusalem, in other words, is an example of what God intends to do for all the world.
Isaiah 60, usually a text for Epiphany Sunday, is just one example of many such passages. Portraying Jerusalem as a woman, the city is told the following in Chapter 60: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.” Someday, we’re promised in Isaiah, God will make all things new and right and good and true.
And so while purists will scoff, if you have not already, I say crank up the Christmas music! For while this is surely a time to prepare for Christ’s coming and those Advent songs in those mournful, minor keys are also good to play, it is also a time to celebrate that someday, one day, God promises to make all things new and right. Until then, just keep your eyes on Jerusalem.
Minute with Mike
Michael Bradley, Parish Associate for Pastoral Care
Don’t Forget Joseph
Joseph doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. He reminds me of the way weddings are often written up in newspapers---lots of description of what the bride and bridesmaids wore and only the mention of the groom's name. Poor Joseph isn’t given much credit today. He’s the incidental person in the story, the guy who fills a plot hole, little more than a prop. Mary is revered. Joseph is tolerated. And yet — and yet! — Matthew, who probably learned about Joseph from Jesus, tells us that Joseph was a righteous man. It’s also worth noting that God himself chose Joseph. He was hand-picked by God for his crucial role in the early childhood development of the Son of God.
For the most part, Joseph’s life is very ordinary. He was a working man, a tradesman, a craftsman, a carpenter. He got up every morning and did his job to support his family. He was also righteous. Do you see? God doesn’t require you to be a statesman, or a politician, or a theologian. It is being righteous that matters to God.
Joseph experienced fear related to societal pressures and norms. Until recently, it had seemed so normal that he would marry Mary. But now — wow, things sure went sideways in a hurry — she’s pregnant! Joseph responded by doing something very wise. “But after he had considered this,” (that is, divorcing Mary), “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife.’” (Matthew 1:20, RSV)
Joseph’s own country, Israel, wasn’t safe for Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The law wouldn’t protect them; in fact, the government was the source of their danger. So he went to Egypt until God told him it was safe to return. But even then, when he returned, Matthew wrote in 2:22 that Joseph was afraid to return to his former home in Judea. At God’s direction (in a dream!), Joseph took Mary and Jesus and went instead to live in Nazareth.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21, RSV) Luke, in his gospel, wrote about Mary’s vision. Mary knew who her son would be. Matthew fills in on an important detail: Joseph knew, too.
Joseph isn’t a flat, lifeless character. He’s not an incidental person in the story. He’s not just a prop. God chose him and said, “I’m going to entrust you with a very important job, and I’m going to help you overcome incredible forces that will work against you.” Joseph had purpose, meaning, and he understood it. He is a worthy example for us. He demonstrated to us what it means to follow God, to be righteous and obedient and courageous.
This Christmas, don't forget to be like Joseph.
Getting to the Front of the StableWho put Joseph in the back of the stable? Who dressed him in brown, put a staff in his hand, and told him to stand in the back of the crèche, background for the magnificent light of the Madonna?
God-chosen, this man Joseph was faithful in spite of the gossip in Nazareth, in spite of the danger from Herod. This man, Joseph, listened to angels and it was he who named the Child Emmanuel. Is this man to be stuck for centuries in the back of the stable? Actually, Joseph probably stood in the doorway guarding the mother and child or greeting shepherds and kings.
When he wasn’t in the doorway, he was probably urging Mary to get some rest, gently covering her with his cloak, assuring her that he would watch the Child.
Actually, he probably picked the Child up in his arms and walked him in the night, patting him lovingly until he closed his eyes.
This Christmas, let us give thanks to God for this man of incredible faith into whose care God placed the Christ Child.
As a gesture of gratitude, let’s put Joseph in the front of the stable where he can guard and greet and cast an occasional glance at this Child who brought us life. Ann Weems
Offering From The Office By Martha Bradley
Advent was not a part of the preparation for Christmas in the Baptist tradition in which I grew up. However, over the years I have come to appreciate the weeks of Advent, beginning four Sundays before Christmas. Advent has become a time for centering on the true meaning of the season, a time of looking back in biblical history to understand and remember who God is and how God works in the world, and a time to look forward to see the new thing God is doing.
Although Advent has been a part of the history of the church for many years, it is relatively new for most Protestants. Advent continues to evolve. Many of us think first about Advent in the lighting of the candles in the Advent wreath. During Advent one candle is lit each Sunday for the four weeks of Advent, and the Christ candle is lit on Christmas Eve.
People participating in the candle-lighting liturgy often ask “Which candle should I light? I’m afraid I’ll light the wrong one.” Usually the pink candle is lit on the third Sunday, but the use of the pink candle is not sacred. It is tradition. In fact, some churches are now switching from purple and pink candles to blue candles for Advent, so as not to be confused with the purple candles used during Lent. That, at least, eliminates the anxiety produced by the fear of lighting the pink candle at an inappropriate time!
In spite of the fact that Christmas decorations are available by the end of August, the church and Advent still have a unique role to play inviting people to spiritual preparations for Christmas. The first and last words of scripture are brought together in Advent: “In the beginning . . .” (Genesis 1:1) and “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)
We think of Advent as a beginning. We start a new liturgical year. We center our thoughts on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. Advent also emphasizes an ending – the end-of-time when Jesus returns and brings righteousness, justice, and peace.
It is important that we focus on both of these meanings of Advent: (1) the birth of Jesus – in the arrival of Emmanuel, God with us – and the dawn of a new day as the prophets had foretold. (2) the anticipation of another arrival – Christ will come again.
In Advent we are looking both back and forward. “We look back across the long arc of history to understand and remember who God is and how God works in the world – mighty and merciful, ever-faithful and abounding in love; creating, redeeming, sustaining all that is. We look forward, too, straining to see the new thing God is doing – a river flowing in the desert, a fresh shoot growing from an old stump, weapons of war turned into instruments of peace.” (David Gambrell in Presbyterians Today).
On December 24 at 7:00 p.m. we will hold our Christmas Eve Candlelight Communion Service. Throughout the weeks of Advent, we have been leading up to this night. We will sing some of the most beloved Christmas carols and hear again Luke’s Christmas story, and end singing Silent Night as we rejoice that the light of Christ overcomes darkness.
As we prepare spiritually for the arrival of the Christ Child and the anticipation of His second coming, may we be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit to live out our faith in Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Christ has come and Christ will come again!
Around and About FPC
Christmas Eve Service – The wonder of God’s love remains steadfast during this challenging season, and we will celebrate the birth of Jesus with an in person worship service at 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The format will be similar to our Sunday morning services. Those who feel safe can gather in the sanctuary, following safety precautions, and the service will be live-streamed for viewing at home.
Winter Paint and Prattle - With Session’s approval (at the December Session meeting), and tracking January’s Covid numbers, the Christian Education Committee and Family Activities Committee would like to host “FPC’s Winter Paint and Prattle” on Sunday, January 17, at 2:00. This event will be for 18 and older. Meeting in the gym, we will be individually painting a winter theme. The tables will be spaced out, with 2 people per table. There will be step-by-step instructions. We want this to be fun and stress free! We want everyone to unleash their creativity! We have all had enough stress in 2020 to last a lifetime. There will be a limit to the number of participants, so make sure you sign up early.
As soon as we hear from Session, we will send out an email and put an announcement in the bulletin about registration and cost. We will keep the cost as low as possible.
Mission Committee Report – Elaine Huffines, J. Ray Joellenbeck
No Praying, No Singing, Just Eating” Free Meal program – Because the Mission Committee had to cancel our “on site” mission meal in the spring, we began FREE LUNCH meal delivery to our regulars on June 24. We planned on delivering the meals to our regulars, but we wound up delivering to many new folks we met during our deliveries. We met the new folks while they were outside their homes – the delivery process has turned into an outreach.
The schedule and menus for our next few meals are as follows:
December 20 – chicken and dressing, corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, and dessert
January 24 – stew, bread, and dessert
February 28 – baked spaghetti, garlic bread, and dessert
We’re always looking for volunteers to help us show hospitality and to reach out to our community to meet a need. If you would like to help, see Ray J. or Lesley Lawson, who are coordinating the meals.
Changes in providing Christmas baskets
You can sign up to provide a basket and/or volunteer to deliver baskets:
Drop “sign-up form” into the offering plate by December 6
Call the church office or Kristi Fruechtl by December 12
The Williams Family Center will be open on Friday, December18, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. so folks can drop off baskets early, if they wish.
We request you wear a mask when dropping off baskets.
Please bring a pen/pencil to strike through your name on our sign-up board and put your name on your basket.
Tables will be spread further apart too so that if more than one family is dropping off baskets they can socially distance.
For folks who do not feel comfortable dropping off their basket, please call the office (455-9328) or Kristi (615 417-8273), and we’ll arrange for one of the Mission Committee members to pick up your basket from your porch.
Changes in delivering baskets:
ONLY a small group, wearing masks, will be in the WFC to handout baskets.
Delivery volunteers will remain in their cars and drive up to the WFC side door.
We’ll ask how many baskets they want to deliver, and we’ll load their vehicle and provide the names/addresses of the basket recipients.
NOTE: If a delivery volunteer is also bringing their basket on Saturday morning, we’ll provide them the ham and “Christmas Message” insert for their basket and strike through their name on the sign-up board.
Delivery volunteers will drop off the baskets on the recipient’s front porch. We’ll verify someone is home to receive the basket but not make direct contact.
Alternative Giving for Christmas
Alternative Giving allows you to provide a special gift that reflects the true spirit of Christmas. The organizations below are ministries that have been supported through Alternative Giving in the past: Heifer International, Living Waters for the World, Partners for Healing, Habit for Humanity, Literacy Council, Haven of Hope, Shepherd’s House, Trinity Adult Care Center, Coffee County Children’s Advocacy Center, Sunset Gap, Good Samaritan, 5 Loaves 4 Kids.
Presbyterian Women Calling all women of First Presbyterian Church and friends!
Presbyterian Women will meet December 9, 2020, in the Fellowship Hall at 10:00 A.M. A box lunch will be served for those who wish to attend. Call Elaine Huffines at 931-580-9169 by Sunday, December 6 to reserve your lunch. We have missed having our meetings and being fed spiritually by sharing with our Christians friends. In this time of concern, we made a new plan. The study book has been ordered for all women who would like one. The title is Freedom from Worry: Overcoming Anxiety with God’s love, purpose, and power by G. Allen Jackson. Those who can attend will discuss the book. Those who cannot attend can text me your reflections to be shared with the group. Zoom might be available.
Though the church is taking precautions, we understand if you do not feel comfortable meeting in person. You may order a book for $12.00 by calling Elaine. I will deliver them to your home or at church on Sunday. Having the books at home will allow you to read each lesson as part of your devotion. I am very excited that 15 books have been delivered and more have been ordered. Ladies who work or have not been called, text me and I will deliver a book to you.
You don’t have to JOIN another thing to share blessings with each other. Write your check to the church and label it to the C.E. Committee. I will pick up any check or cash when I deliver the books.
Future meetings are planned for January 13 and February 10.
Blessings, Elaine Huffines
Good Samaritan Food Pantry Needs
Our next Mission Sunday is December 13. Items needed are canned fruits, canned vegetables, dry spaghetti, pasta sauce, soup, soda crackers, cereal, peanut butter, canned tuna, and canned chicken. Bring them with you to worship on December 13. This month there is a special request for canned vegetables, especially corn and peas.
If you are not attending worship in person, the Good Sam office and food pantry are open Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – noon. You can drop off food anytime during those hours at Good Sam or at the church office between 8:00 and noon Monday - Thursday.
Waiting can be hard, and not just for children. But I do love Advent: this four-week time when the Christian church prepares for Christmas. Maybe I like Advent so much because it involves active waiting, not thumb-twiddling. It is a gift the church offers the world, to be active (which isn’t the same as busy) in ways that open our hearts — and the hearts we touch — to the true meaning of Christmas.
Mother Teresa said, “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will he find a warm heart? Mark the season of Advent by loving and serving others with God’s own love and concern.”
When I take time during Advent to remember in prayer and with gifts of money and time those who have less food than I do, those who are lonely, those without a home; when I pause to share love with a child or an elder, or gratitude for a healthcare worker, pastor or teacher; when I wait for justice to replace oppression but, while I wait, find ways to work for that result … the Spirit’s warmth fills my waiting heart. I am ready to welcome Jesus.
Amid the secular trappings of the holidays, we can lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, until we lament with Charlie Brown, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” These reminders call us back to where it all began — in the heart of God.
“The giving of gifts is not something [people] invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of his Son.” —Robert Flatt
“The great challenge left to us is to cut through all the glitz and glam of the season that has grown increasingly secular and commercial, and be reminded of the beauty of the One who is Christmas.” —Bill Crowder
“If we do not set aside time to focus together on what God’s word tells us about the promise of Christ, on Christmas morning we can find ourselves surrounded by mounds of torn gift wrap, our laps full of presents, but with hearts that are empty and unprepared.” ―Nancy Guthrie