Tag Archives: Christmas

Culturas Navideñas/Christmas Cultures

(English below)

Culturas Navideñas

por Marta Castillo – Conferencia de Franconia Ministra de Liderazgo de la Formación Intercultural

Cuando yo era niña, vivimos en Indonesia. Me gustaba mucho la celebración de Navidad allá en el pueblo. Nos levantábamos en la mañana para ir a la iglesia, a escuchar la palabra de Dios, y a cantar las canciones de Navidad y juntos comer dulces de arroz con café. En la tarde, saliamos con todo el pueblo para jugar fútbol, voleibol, correr y ganar premios. Allá era caliente y podíamos salir a celebrar en las calles con los demás. Alla nadie tenía la costumbre ni el dinero para comprar regalos para su familia. Me recuerdo que mi mamá quería apartar tiempo para abrir regalos en familia siguiendo la tradición de los EEUU, pero nosotros (mi hermano y yo) queríamos estar con nuestros amigos en la comunidad.

Ahora que vivo aquí en los EEUU, la cultura de Navidad es muy diferente. La mayoría de las familias celebran entre familia. El frío nos impide salir a celebrar en las calles con la comunidad. Hay muchas expectativos promocionadas en las redes sociales y la mezcla de tradiciones de Santa Claus, arbolitos, regalos y decoraciones. Las iglesias tienen servicios y celebran la Navidad con canciones y con la palabra de Dios en los días antes del día de Navidad.

De mis hermanos latinos aqui en EEUU, he aprendido algunas canciones de Navidad que me hacen recordar la importancia de celebrar la cultura navideña cristiana.

//Que bueno llego la navidad// Trayendo paz y alegría.
//Cristo es la navidad Y el que tiene a Cristo, Tiene alegría.//

La paz y la alegría vienen de Dios a través de Cristo Jesús. Hay cosas bonitas en todas las culturas. Podemos mezclar e intercambiar las celebraciones culturales de Navidad si no intercambiamos a Jesucristo por ninguna de ellas.

“De Cristo es la Navidad, El mundo te ofrece engaño, No cambies a Jesucristo, Por fiesta del Fin de Año, El te ha dado paz, no cambies a Cristo en la Navidad.

El propósito de la Navidad es adorar a Dios y darle gracias por el regalo de Jesús y la salvación.

//Que bonito es cantar al Señor en la Navidad.//
//Hermanos, vamos a cantarle! Que bonito es cantar al Señor en la Navidad.//

Christmas Cultures

by Marta Castillo – Franconia Conference Leadership Minister of Intercultural Formation

When I was a girl, we lived in Indonesia. I really enjoyed the Christmas celebration we had in the village. We got up in the morning to go to church, to hear the word of God, sing Christmas songs, and eat rice cakes and drink coffee together. In the afternoon, the whole village played soccer and volleyball, ran races and won prizes. It was hot there and we could go out to celebrate in the streets with others. Nobody had the tradition or the money to buy gifts for their families. I remember that my mom wanted to set time to open gifts as a family like our tradition here in the US. My brother and I loved being with our friends in the community.

Now that I live here in the US, the Christmas culture is very different. The cold weather prevents us from going out to celebrate in the streets in the community. Most families celebrate within family units. There are many expectations promoted in social media and the mix of US traditions of Santa Claus, trees, gifts, and decorations. The churches often have services and celebrate Christmas with songs and the word of God in the days before Christmas Day.

From my Latin brothers here in the US, I have learned Christmas songs that remind me of the importance of celebrating the Christian Christmas culture.

Song translation – “How Good is Christmas, Bringing peace and joy,
Christ is Christmas and He who has Christ has joy.”

Peace and joy come from God through Jesus Christ. There are beautiful traditions in all cultures. We can mix and exchange the cultural celebrations of Christmas if we do not exchange Jesus Christ for any of them.

Song translation – “Christ is Christmas, The world offers you deception,
Do not exchange Jesus Christ, For the New Year’s party,
He has given you peace, do not exchange Christ at Christmas.

The purpose of Christmas is to worship God and give thanks to God for the gift of Jesus and salvation.

// How beautiful it is to sing to the Lord at Christmas time//
// Brothers and sister, let’s sing to God ! How beautiful it is to sing to the Lord at Christmas time.//

Feliz Navidad!

Selamat Hari Natal!

No One is “Left Out”!

By Dawn Moore, Souderton Mennonite Church

I had heard there would be a dancing star, singing angels, and a band of clever shepherds in the Christmas Eve musical at Souderton Mennonite Church (SMC), but I was not prepared for the flock of live sheep that came bleating down the aisles!  A second look proved these to be a bevy of adorable children, dressed in white fluff and playing their parts so convincingly that our entire row did a double take.  How cute!

The SMC Christmas Eve musical, “Left Out,” was the result of months of preparation by a multi-talented group.  Actors, musicians, adult and children’s choirs, dancers, hand bell ringers, set and costume designers, and lighting and audio specialists all came together under the direction of Lori Cassel, Paul Bennett, Sarah Scorzetti, and Pastor Tim Bentch, who also wrote and directed the drama.  The result was a meaningful afternoon that literally set the stage for Christmas Eve.

The story begins with the young shepherd boy Benesh who agrees to take the first watch, while his comrades settled down to sleep. When an angel appears bringing Good News, the shepherds awake in a hurry and soon agree: “We must go to Bethlehem to see this great thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  But alas, someone must stay behind to care for the sheep; Benesh reluctantly fulfills his duty, meaning he will be left out of this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Narrated by a mysterious old man, the story unfolded through scripture, prayer, dialogue, poetry, and angelic music, some of it sung by angels, who were every bit as adorable as the sheep! Benesh and his cousin Miriam followed a magical dancing star and found their way to the manger and eventually the cross. Two original compositions by David E. Chávez, with lyrics written by SMC’s own Jason Martin were debuted alongside more familiar Christmas music shared by soloists Emma Bentch and Alex Martin, the SMC choirs, and the whole congregation.

When Benesh finally arrived at the stable to see the baby Jesus, I felt tears welling in my eyes. In the end, all who attended felt the unmistakable love of our all-powerful God who came to earth as a helpless baby. No one was left out of the greatest story ever told.



Already and Not Yet

Recognizing What is and Hoping for What is Yet to Come –  Revelation 7:9-14

by Marta Castillo

When a baby is born, even when still in the womb, they already are a person, with physical traits, personality, and family.  What we don’t know yet is how this baby will grow, and learn, and who she will become.  She is already a person … but she is not yet all that she will become.  In a baby, we recognize what is and we hope for what is yet to come.

Our hope this Christmas season and in our everyday lives is built on what we already believe to be true about God, true about Jesus, and true about ourselves in Jesus Christ … while trusting that what we do not yet experience or see will be fulfilled as promised by God.

Jesus, the promised Messiah, was already born in this world. He already lived. He already died. He came back to life to save us and yet the world is still waiting for full restoration, healing, and shalom.  When Jesus was born, he was already the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and Messiah who had come to save the world.  When we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we celebrate the birth of a baby … we celebrate that the Word (Jesus) became flesh to dwell among us … we celebrate “Emmanuel” (God is with us).  As he grew and learned about this world, he became all that God intended him to be – a teacher, healer, mentor, friend, and Lord.  He was just, loving, true, faithful, and righteous. We celebrate what has already happened: the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  We celebrate in hope, looking forward to the “not yet”, the things that have not yet happened but are promised to be.  We wait for the day when Christ comes back for us and we can experience what we read here in Revelation 7.

In Franconia Conference, we already live the reality of worshiping together in unity and diversity and yet we have not experienced the glorious, full worship before the throne with the multitude.  In some ways, we in Franconia Conference already have a head start.  We have learned to worship God through the cultures, preferences, and languages of others. We have learned to continue to worship even when the assembly is singing in a different language.  We have learned to pray along when the person is praying in a language that we can’t understand with our own knowledge.

In a book called, Apocalypse and Allegiance, Nelson Kraybill writes, “True worship of God transcends time, culture, language, and nation. “  He says that when we worship God, we join a vast multitude of saints from all peoples and all eras of history.  When we see “ourselves as part of this multitude, it makes us less likely to idolize our countries.  We are less likely to let issues and perspectives of our own generation eclipse the shared wisdom of saints through the ages.”  One day, none of these things will matter, we will simply worship before the throne of our salvation and the victory already won.

We have already chosen to be faithful and receive the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ but we still continue our journey and have not yet received our reward.  The call of Revelation is to be faithful.  When we receive salvation, we are set free by the blood of the Lamb and clothed in righteousness.  We are redeemed to be faithful only to God and not to the other gods of this world.   We are to be faithful to God in times of persecution and turmoil.  If we are faithful, we still stand before the throne, robed in white and made worthy of heavenly existence.

We already experience the presence of God in our lives and church community and yet we have not experienced the fullness of the shekinah glory of God dwelling among us.  Oh, the wonder of being in the very presence of God! At Nueva Vida Norristown New Life, we sing a song “Holy Spirit, fill this room, shekinah glory, sweet perfume.  We need your presence, we need you. Shekinah glory fill this room”  Shekinah glory is the very presence of God.  And yes, there are times that we already “feel/experience/know” in our spirits that God is present with us.  It may be during times of prayer or worship or when we are attentive to God’s Spirit, whether we are alone or in communion with others.  Shekinah is God’s presence and glory dwelling with us.  It is already with us.  And yet one day, we will know the fullness of God’s Shekinah glory.  Revelation 21:3 “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them.  To dwell with God is to be fully sheltered.

We already are shepherded by Jesus and cared for by God and led by the Holy Spirit but we have not yet experienced the hunger-free, thirst-free, tear-free life that we will one day experience in the new heaven and new earth.  We already know the comfort, the peace, the joy, and love of walking with Jesus, our shepherd.  And yet, there are many of us who are experiencing sickness in our bodies and in our minds.  We live with sorrow and brokenness of relationships and loss.  We feel like we don’t have “enough”.  We are bound by circumstances, addictions, and sins.  We already know that Jesus came to earth to set us free and allow us to become new creation and yet, we are still thirsting for the spring of the water of life. We are waiting for completion, for shalom.

We walk in hope today, in a hope rooted in the “already” and looking forward to what God has “not yet” done but what God has promised to do.  The call is to be faithful…stand firm…and continue to worship God and Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I am confident of this, that the one who “already” began a good work among you will bring “what is not yet” to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)



Waiting for transformation

Jen's koalaby Jenifer Eriksen Morales, LEADership Minister

In an instant, my resin flocked Koala bear figurine was transformed: accidently knocked off my dresser and crushed beneath my cousin’s feet while we played.

Tearfully, I scooped up the pieces and brought them to my Pop Pop.  He gave me a hug.  “I can’t fix this, Jen.  The pieces are too small.  Look—some have turned to dust.”

I cried louder.  Pop took pity. “I’ll fix it.”

Comforted, I waited expectantly for the return of my Koala…at first.  But in typical kid-manner, before long I forgot about it.

A month or so later, my grandparents came to visit and I was surprised when Pop Pop handed me my transformed Koala.  The poor Koala was in one piece but it most definitely was not the figurine it used to be:  it was patched together and disfigured, the hardened and lumpy putty patching my grandfather made was not a perfect color match, and there was no velvety flocking where the patches were.  I pray my disappointment did not show in my face as I politely said, “thank you,” and took the Koala to my room.

Later that day I overheard my grandma talking to my mom. “He stayed up for nights sweating bullets over that crazy bear,” she said.  I was instantly both humbled and excited to realize that Pop Pop would sweat and lose sleep just for me.

The Koala was once again transformed into one of my most beloved possessions.  I was transformed too.  My Pop Pop’s sweat worked like streams in the desert of my life.  He kept his promise and did his best for me, even when I didn’t really care.  I knew that I was loved.

Jen's pop pop
Jenifer with her husband Victor and her Pop Pop on his 100th birthday.

I love the season of advent when we look forward to Christmas, celebrating Christ’s first coming and reminding ourselves that Christ is coming again—indeed He comes to us continually.  With Isaiah, I am filled with vision and hope as I anticipate the blooming of the desert, the strengthening of the weak, and the everlasting joy and gladness that will come to God’s people as they travel on “The Holy Way” (chapter 35).  Oh, what transformation the people of Israel hoped for and oh, what transformation is to come!

At the same time, we live in a world experiencing constant transformation.  Sometimes transformation is expected and welcomed.  We watch it unfold like spring or healing after a long illness: the blooming of the desert.  Other times we watch with horror as transformation comes, like when hurricane Haiyan stormed through the Philippines.   In the aftermath of such tragedy or injustice, there are times when we, like Nelson Mandela, are challenged to notice and work toward transformation.  I once heard someone say, “It’s wonderful to watch a miracle unfold, but it’s even better to help a miracle unfold.”

Mary and Elizabeth helped their miracles unfold. As I live in the “already and not yet” of this advent season, I am inspired by the gospel of Luke’s portrayal of these miracle-bearing cousins.  Though I am sure their lives were not easy, the courage and faith of Mary and Elizabeth remind me that I am humbled and called and blessed to participate in the already and not yet plan of God.  With Isaiah, Mary, and Elizabeth, I look forward to the transformation promised in fulfillment of what was spoken by the Lord.  I also wonder how God might be calling me and others in Franconia Conference to participate in the miracle of transformation in our relationships, community, or world.

I pray I will not get so caught up in the busy-ness of life that I forget to keep my baptismal promise as Christ’s disciple to convey the life and love of Jesus—Immanuel, God with us. May I, like my Pop Pop, help the miracle of transformation unfold by sharing God’s love in simple and practical ways with hearts that may not even be fully aware they are waiting.

Delivering Christ to a waiting world

by Donna Merow, Ambler

live nativity at Towamencin
The live nativity at Towamencin congregation. Photo by Casie L. Allebach.

Christmas. I have long been ambivalent about this holy season.  Don’t get me wrong.  I LOVE Christmas—the anticipation of Advent, the children’s pageant, singing “Silent Night” by candlelight with guitar accompaniment, the live nativity, the retelling of the familiar story, the making and wrapping of gifts.

But I also dread its coming—the gaudy lawn decorations, inane songs like “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” blaring from the radio, the excesses of the celebration.  I lament with Linus its commercialization and long to discover if the Grinch’s Whoville observation is farther reaching and that it can, indeed, come “without packages, boxes, or bags.”

I trace my ambivalence to singing “Will Santy Came to Shanty Town?” for a school program when I was about nine.  The song is a child’s first person wondering if Santa will visit his side of the tracks this time around or if his mother will have to repaint his toys the way she did the year before.  At the time I needed to believe in the magic of Christmas more than anything.  My parents had recently divorced, which necessitated a move, and my world was turned upside down by the addition of a stepfather who drank too much.  But Eddy Arnold’s musical autobiography captured my youthful imagination.  The revelation that Santa apparently didn’t come to all deserving children was an epiphany for me and one that has shaped my Christmas-keeping in the decades since.

The Irish have a beautiful custom of having the youngest child light a candle in the window on Christmas Eve, lest Christ should come in the guise of a stranger.  I count the strangers I have met during this time of year to be among my most treasured gifts.

One year we were able to connect with a woman we read about in The Inquirer.  She lead a group of fearless females who stood on the corner in their neighborhood with their mops and brooms to reclaim it from the drug dealers, and she often provided sanctuary to a dozen or more children in her home.

Then there was the mother of the family we had adopted through the Visiting Nurses Association who selflessly offered a sleeping bag that she had requested to another mother who showed up at the center because she had nothing to give to her little ones.

I generally avoid the mall as much as possible, but one year I was approached there by a stranger as I was enjoying a snack after a fruitful search for flannel sheets for my newly-separated father.  Within a half hour I had learned about her painful spiritual journey through divorce and the sexual abuse of her children.

Liberty Ministries Christmas
Volunteers with Liberty Ministries pack Christmas gifts for inmates.

That same year, my family traveled into Philadelphia for a performance of The Nutcracker.  A young woman struck up a conversation with me (I am an avowed introvert and rarely initiate such encounters) as we waited on the platform at Market East for the R5 to take us home.  Our conversation continued until she got off at the stop before us.  She was a recovering drug addict trying to put her life back together.  Her grandfather was dying in a nursing home in the area, and friends were taking her to visit him.  He had believed in her even when she didn’t believe in herself, she explained.

This year the world was too much with me, and I feared that Christmas might not come, “but it came just the same.”  It came through offering a ride to an elderly woman in front of me in the check-out line at the Dollar Tree store who would surely have struggled walking home with her cane and packages.  It came in attending a nursing home concert in which several members of my congregation performed.  It came shopping with a neighbor for an immigrant family facing its first Christmas without a mother/wife/daughter/sister.  It came helping to prepare nearly 2,000 brown paper packages for the inmates at Montgomery County Correctional Facility and having the privilege of joining others from Liberty Ministries in their distribution to the women who eagerly awaited them and gratefully received them.  It came with a real “baby Jesus” in the pageant this Sunday and our own costumed angels poignantly drawing us in as we mourned the slaughter of the Holy Innocents in a sleepy New England town.

Christmas.  The celebration of God with us invites us all to be open to possibility and opportunities—to “deliver” Christ to a waiting world, to serve Christ among the least of these, and to be surprised anew by the ways Christ comes to us in the midst of our isolation and loneliness, our longing for things to be different, our busyness and self-absorption, and our grief and pain, our hopes and fears.

Christmas light, shining into the new year

by Emily Ralph, eralph@franconiaconference.org

New Hope Baltimore
Friends from Pennsylvania share the gift of music with guests at New Hope Baltimore's Christmas dinner.

Ubaldo Rodriguez, pastor of New Hope, Baltimore, stood in the Walmart parking lot on Christmas afternoon, at a loss.  Even in the midday light, there was a hovering shadow.  What were they going to do?

Weeks earlier, he and his congregation had received a call from a family in Pennsylvania who wanted to join them on Christmas to serve the homeless in their community.  The family was going to bring all the food—what a wonderful way to celebrate Christmas!

So Rodriguez invited fifty people to share the love of God—and Christmas dinner—with them.  The dinner was set for 2pm on Christmas afternoon at Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church.

Just past noon on Christmas Day, however, they made a shocking discovery—the food from Pennsylvania had spoiled on the trip.  How were they going to feed their guests?  They went to the supermarket, to Walmart—everything was closed.  It was Christmas, after all.

Franconia Live Nativity
Franconia shares a live nativity with the community.

Now, as they stood in the parking lot at Walmart, trying to figure out some way to redeem this Christmas, they received a phone call.  A member of Wilkens Avenue who owned a restaurant had come to the dinner—with enough food to feed fifty people.

In that moment, Rodriguez and his congregation experienced a real Christmas miracle.  There was a light shining in the darkness.

And it was a light that could not be quenched.  All throughout Franconia Conference this Christmas, congregations stood alongside Christ as light in the darkness.

2011 Souderton Christmas Parade
MIddle School students from Penn View walk in the Souderton Christmas Parade

Franconia (Pa) congregation kept watch in a live nativity during the week leading up to Christmas, providing soup, hot dogs, cookies, and hot chocolate for their visitors.  Middle school students from Penn View Christian School (Souderton, Pa) took their live nativity on the road, walking in the Souderton Christmas Parade.

Plains (Hatfield, Pa) has a yearly tradition of caroling at the Montgomeryville Mall, an event that always draws crowds and participation from bystanders who can’t help but join in the breathtaking harmonies.  This year, they also hosted a gift exchange for Manna on Main Street, a Lansdale (Pa) soup kitchen, providing gifts for almost 450 children.

Christmas gift exchange at Plains
Plains partnered with Manna on Main Street to distribute gifts to local children.

Upstate at Whitehall, the light was particularly bright on Christmas Eve, when the Christ candle in the Advent wreath was finally lit after a long season of waiting.  The woman who carried the candle up the aisle battles mental illness.  She lit the Christ candle and proclaimed, “Arise, shine, for your light has come!”  The congregation stood and responded, “The light shines in the darkness . . . and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Christmas Eve is only the beginning—the Christ has arrived and continues to walk with his people through times of darkness and difficulty.  This is why Whitehall also celebrated Ebenezer Sunday the week after New Year’s.

The congregation brought in a big stone like the one the prophet Samuel erected while Israel was battling the Philistines (1 Samuel 7).  Members of the congregation wrote on the stone, listing the good and hard times that God has led them through.  The stone will sit as a memorial of God’s faithfulness, first inside the sanctuary and then later in the church garden—an Ebenezer, their “stone of help,” for “Thus far has God helped us” (vs 12).

A stone of help from Whitehall's Ebenezer Sunday

The light of Christmas shines into the new year—through darkness, uncertainty, and fear.

And the darkness has not overcome it.

“We praise the Lord for his continued love for people [and] his provision,” said Rodriguez, reflecting on his Christmas miracle.  But he acknowledged that the love, provision, and light are not just for us to enjoy, but to extend to all people.  “I hope we continue to share in practical ways with others the gift given to us all,” he said, “the gift of love, hope, and joy from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Has your congregation had a meaningful service or event?  Are you planning something special?  Send stories and photos to Emily or let us know what is coming up!

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices

by Tom Albright, Ripple Allentown

Christmas Eve, and Allentown has had its 4th murder in a week. What are people thinking? Is it about money? Passion? Retribution? Evil? Fear? Lack of choices?

It is a hard week full of the usual busyness and expectations that accompany the holiday. Where is the Christmas spirit? Where is the hope? I found myself awake at 3am again. It is not fear, but sadness, futility, and concern.

Then an idea–what if we spent Christmas Eve at the site of the double murder six blocks from our home? What would it be like to light candles and sing carols in the darkness of the alleyway where the shotgun had rung out and the car had run over bodies only a few days before? The thought would not leave me.

Christmas Eve morning I decided to walk and pray as I visited the sobering locations of the recent violence. It was cold and windy and I forgot the address of the first death. I walked up and down the street and realized that God knows.

But where are you, God–why do you not act?

The sun was shining when I started but as I walked the clouds increased and it became colder. I tried greeting people on the street by smiling and saying, “Merry Christmas,” but my heart was not in it. I wandered around past the site of the stabbing, and headed toward the site where a young couple was murdered.

I passed am old Lutheran church that reaches out to the homeless through meals, an overnight shelter, and a parish nurse, and I saw a small sign advertising their Christmas Eve service at 10:30 that evening. I found the house and walked half a block with a lady pulling her laundry cart. I asked if she heard about the killings.  “Of course,” she said.  “My husband woke up and heard the shots–I heard when they got run over by the car. I wanted to get out. This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening. The murdered woman was a crossing guard for the kids.”

The neighbor and I stood between the three memorials that had been created. About thirty tall glass candles covered with pictures of Mary, Jesus, and Saint Michael had all been extinguished by heavy rain. There must have been twenty-four colorful silk tulips laid beside the candles.

I got on my knees in front of the candles and prayed. It felt hard and cold and vulnerable. I thought of the carol,  I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

I got up off the damp concrete and left with a plan. That evening, my family went to the church’s Christmas Eve service. We sang the carols, heard the Christmas story, received communion, and left the sanctuary at a few minutes past midnight Christmas morning, while the organ played the “Hallelujah Chorus.”  We drove around the block, taking our candles from the church service to light as many of the tall candles as we could – pouring the water off, shielding our small flames from the wind. Together we lit over two dozen candles.

And now there was light.

Then we laid a wreath of fragrant cedar boughs and prayed for the family, for the couple’s little girl, for the community, for justice and peace, for education, for new ways of handling disputes, for safety, restoration, and for hope in Jesus when all hope seems lost. We sang:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!

Looking back at the candles, up at the stars, and at the lights on the windows around us – I was shaking with cold. We wondered how many people might be watching and if the police might be called. As one young man walked towards us down the windy street I felt tired, hopeful, and overwhelmed by it all.

Maybe that is what we need, someone to show us our weary souls and their true worth, and to rejoice on this night of our Savior’s birth–and every night.

I realized how little I truly understood of the pain, hopes, and fears of this place where I live. But I have fallen on my knees and perhaps heard a faint sound of the angels’ voices. I have seen a bit of the manger – that rough, earthy feeding trough where God was laid, so vulnerable out on the streets.  God was there and is there on the streets of Allentown on that Holy Night . . . and tonight.

[Join the Ripple community at 3:15pm on Sunday, January 8, 2012, for prayer and candlelighting at the Peace Pole in Allentown, followed by activities at the church.]