The Latest News – December 19-25, 2019

First United Methodist Church
Bristol, Tennessee
Your Weekly e-Newsletter and Events Schedule

December 19-25, 2019

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 22, 2019
Mary and Joseph Travel to Bethlehem by Hugo van der Goes

Matthew 1:18-25

Prepare the Way for Love

Rev. Brandon Berg

From the Pastor's Pen
Raindrops on roses are beautiful, and kitten whiskers are pretty nifty, but one of my favorite things is the symbol on maps at malls and such things that says, “You are here.”

Maybe that’s related to my fondness of orienteering and cartography and so many things related to the use and study of graphic location representations.

You are here.

It’s a thing I have to remind myself throughout the year, a thing I’m not good at remembering: I am not, currently, at my next destination. I am not where I just came from. I am not in the place I’m thinking of being five months from now. I am here. I need to be present in this particular moment, in this particular space.

Esther needed reminding of that. She was in a scary, deadly place with the weight of a city full of the followers of YHWH on her shoulders. She needed reminding that she was empowered by and located by God in a specific historical moment, and perhaps she was exactly the person whose presence and spirit God needed to rescue a people on the verge of nonexistence. She needed to be present.

Perhaps you or I are present for such a time as that.

Or perhaps we are present for a task like Joseph’s. His isn’t as filled out as Esther’s. We glance off his story in the midst of Advent and Christmastide, but his protection of the God-Bearer by way of their betrothal is vital to the continuation of the story. Were it not for Joseph taking Mary into his household, she and the God-child within her might not have survived her pregnancy.

Perhaps you or I are present for such a time as that.

It’s difficult discerning what our purpose is, and it’s a shifty thing to try to figure out. It’s different in this moment than it will be later today, and it’s different where I am right now than it will be when I’m picking up kids or proofing a bulletin or preparing dinner or visiting at the hospital. Maybe the key is just to pay attention.

You are here.

Don’t try to be somewhere else. Just be here.

After all, the greatest gift of Jesus’ ministry isn’t a miracle or a sermon or a witty back-and-forth with a Pharisee. It’s the presence of God with us. That’s the best demonstration of love: just being there for someone.

You are here.

I know there’s a lot to do this season. Most likely not all of it will get done. That’s okay. Do what you can. In the midst of the busyness, be where you are. Be fully present. Pay attention. That will make you the best vessel of love that you can be, so you can fully give and fully receive the presence of God wherever you are.

You are here.

This Week's Feed the Hungry Offering
Our Feed the Hungry offering this week is for Local School Missions.

This fund helps families in need within the Bristol School System. .

We wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!
Church offices will be closed on December 25 and 26.
Last Sunday at First UMC
Lessons and Carols
Led by Phil Haga and the Chancel Choir
Pre-service: Preparing hearts and voices . . .
Noah did a fantastic job of turning pages Sunday morning! A huge thank-you!
The Gathering
Sue presented Donna with a grant award check received from the Holston Foundation in the amount of $6,000 for her Opioid Crisis Application. The funds will be used to support her ongoing ministry with Recovery Road.
The poinsettia on the altar was given in loving memory of Bunny Schoenhardt by Ron Schoenhardt.
Rick and Roxanne presented the Advent Liturgy. Rick lit the candles of
Hope, Peace, and Joy.
The First Noel/Pachelbel's Canon by Michael Clawson
Trio by Brandon, Donna, and Phil
Readers shared moving Christmas stories.
Joy to the world, the Lord Is come!
Let earth receive her King;
let every heart prepare him room,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven and nature sing,
and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

~Isaac Watts, 1789
The church officially welcomed Phil Haga into its membership!
Help Meet a Need
Elk Garden School Community Ministry has an immediate need for these items:

  • Pasta sauce
  • Peanut butter
  • Ravioli
  • Toilet paper
  • Canned chicken
We can help! Add an extra item or two to your grocery cart whenever you shop. You may already have some of these items in your pantry.

A collection bin will be located in the narthex through the end of December.
Thank You Note Signed by Sunhouse Residents
Stop by and see the card sent to us from the residents of Sunhouse.
It will be posted to the bulletin board along with other cards received this season.

We have a family in the church who needs a set of Queen-sized sheets and pillowcases. If you have a set you could donate, please bring them to the church office.
It Was a Lovely Christmas Luncheon!
Thank you, United Methodist Women!
The overflow crowd . . .
THANK YOU to everyone who participated in making the Christmas luncheon the beautiful event that it was!
The season spanning Thanksgiving and Christmas is a time of memory-making and reuniting with family and friends. When we are struck by loss, though, those memories can become the deep wounds of grief, and the holiday season can become a dark time. We want to mark that time together and help each other through.

On Sunday, December 22, First UMC will host a Blue Christmas service to honor and commemorate the losses we feel so keenly during the darkening days of Autumn and Winter. We will gather at 6:00 p.m. to sing, pray, and remember. If your grief is deep this season, come and find healing. If your heart is lighter, come help your neighbor through their dark time.

We hope you will make time to come together on the last Sunday of Advent for a service of Blue Christmas.
A Service of
Holy Communion and Candlelight

December 24 at 6:00 p.m.
United Methodist Women Christmas Gathering
On December 10, these amazing, missions-focused and hard-working ladies gathered for the Annual Martha Circle Christmas Dinner at the home of Peggy Wilson. While there enjoying a delicious meal and fun gift exchange, the women also voted to give $1500 toward the December $10,000 Challenge (which doubled its value to $3000).

I have been deeply blessed, not only by UMW's generous gift, but also by the love for this church that inspired the $10,000 Challenge in the heart of the giver. I have been touched as a Sunday School class and others put their love into action through generous giving.

Yet, just a couple of weeks ago, as the November deficit was announced, I was wringing my hands and wondering with others, what will happen to this church?

This week, I remembered the story about "Stone Soup." A poor man in a poor village had a pot of water which he was tending over a fire. When asked what he was cooking, he said, "Stone soup." All he had in his pot of water was a rock.

A lady came by and offered him what she had – two carrots. A man brought him four potatoes. The story continues as neighbor after neighbor came by with another contribution. Eventually, the poor man had a delicious pot of soup which he shared with the entire community.

It is Christ and Christ alone who has given First UMC a blessed hope and set it as light of love in this community. He has charged us to love God and to love others.

I pray that as we each give to heal the church's deficit out of our love for God, for each other, and for the ministries we envision for this church, God might show us great things beyond our imaginations.

I pray that we will become intensely aware that God Is With Us.

I pray that we will get enthralled, individually and collectively, about Who He Is.

I am glad He has allowed me to be here at First UMC – that I am charged to love God and to love others alongside YOU.

Blessings, Carol Johnson

PS – Wouldn't it be awesome if we could go into 2020 with the entire deficit cleared? In Sunday School, Dr. Gorrell mentioned having 20-20 vision for the upcoming year! I am going to add my two carrots to the pot – two weeks of my take-home pay from FUMC. There are six more days of December for you to add your potatoes and meet the Challenge!
Monthly General Budget Report

General Account (-$34,520.73)
Designated reimbursement 3,234.20

We are spending more than we receive. That never works for any family.
The main expenses are for the operation of the building and salaries and accompanying expenses.

Challenge Report
Total given for challenge to date $4,570
Plus challenge 4,570
Total challenge $9,140
There was $3,234 given and earned before the challenge.
Look what we can do together! There are two more Sundays to help with the challenge.

Your 2020 Estimate of Giving to the Church
You should have received a letter from the Church Finance Committee.

If you did not receive one or have misplaced your letter, extra letters and forms are available on the table in the church foyer, or contact the church office to have one
mailed to you.

All gifts are appreciated. You don’t have to be a member to help.
Group of "Eight" Enjoys Delicious
Italian Meal at The Mad Greek Restaurant
The Group of "Eight" enjoyed a wonderful meal at The Mad Greek Restaurant in Bristol
 last Saturday. The next outing will be in Johnson City on January 4.
Theatre Bristol presents “Miracle on 34th Street” this Christmas under the direction of Dottie Havlik, opening December 6 and running weekends through December 22 at Theatre Bristol’s ARTspace, 506 State Street, Bristol, TN, Tickets are on sale now.

Two of our First UMC members, Rebekah and Lara McGrady, are performing in this production. You won't want to miss it!
Camp Bays Mountain
Our community and local churches have a need that Camp Bays Mountain is
fulfilling. Last year forty-two campers made first time decision to follow Christ
and thirty-nine indicated a call into ministry while at summer camp.

Consider a gift to enable Camp Bays Mountain to complete its funding.
When you give to camp, you are investing in the next generation. Mail checks
to Camp Bays Mountain, PO Box 2706, Kingsport, TN 37604.
Send Your Pictures and Announcements
to Publish in the Newsletter
Send your photos and announcements for the Newsletter
call Carol at 423.652.2811 Tu-Th, 9-2.
For each publication, information is
needed by noon on Wednesday.
Your Church Event and Planning Calendar
December 19-25, 2019
Thursday, December 19
5:00pm-Girl Scouts (until 8pm)-TH
6:00pm-Yoga with Jean-The Upper Room

Friday, December 20
5:30pm-Belly Dancing Class-Yoga Studio
6:30pm-Belly Dancing Class-Yoga Studio

Saturday, December 21
9:00am-Holston Quilters Guild-TH

Sunday, December 22
9:30am-The River Contemplative Worship Service-TH
9:30am-Shaw-Anchor Adult Sunday School
10:00am-Common Ground Worship-Chapel
11:00am-Traditional Worship Service-Sanctuary
Monday, December 23
6:00pm-Belly Dancing Class-Yoga Studio
Tuesday, December 24
8:00am-Men's Prayer Group-Tankersley Hall

Thursday, December 26 – C – OFFICES CLOSED TODAY

To make changes or additions to the calendar contact Alan Gorrell 423-652-7377
or Sandy Gorrell 423-652-1987.

First United Methodist Church
Rev. Brandon Berg, Pastor (276.237.6498)
322 Vance Dr., Bristol, TN 37620
Our Vision
Building A Community Where Anyone
Can Become A Deeply Committed Christian