Our Assurance is that God is With Us
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”- Luke 1:28
The Christmas story begins with the angel announcing to Mary that God's favor is upon her. When this young virgin is troubled by the angel's announcement, she is reassured by the fact that she is favored by God, (Luke 1:30) And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Mary then humbly accepts the angel's message and all the interruptions and adjustments necessary to embrace God's purpose for her life and her son.
We are familiar with the many sacrifices and struggles Mary and Joseph endured. Their 90 mile journey to Bethlehem while 9 months pregnant – on foot – gives new meaning to "holiday travel". A manger was not exactly the "must have" newborn cradle in those days. Entertaining strangers from the far poles of the social spectrum is inspiring in hindsight, but may have stirred some anxious emotions in the moment. Hurriedly fleeing to a far country because a bounty is on your child's head was likewise disruptive, to say the least.
In all this, God's favor, God's protection, and God's provision are evident. However, God's favor is not equivalent to a life of comfort, ease or prosperity. Rather, God's favor is the gift of God's Presence and involvement with you through whatever life brings. We find His strength in weakness, His deliverance through trials, and His comfort through loss. The Good News of this season of Christmas is Emmanuel: God is With Us.
As we turn the page on 2020 we hope for better days in the year ahead. Realistically, I anticipate the trials of this past year will not all evaporate after our nation sings Aude Lang Syne on New Year's Eve. My assurance in whatever the future holds is that we are not alone, that God is with us, we are blessed with His favor and His peace, as the angels sang to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). As we live for Christ through the New Year ahead, remember Jesus' purpose, as He expressed in Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
May 2021 be for each of us the year we recognize God's favor and live for Him with greater intimacy and devotion, joy and fruitfulness. May His peace and Presence provide a deeper assurance that enables us to live in love, joy, peace and all the evidence of God's Holy Spirit living in us.
In Christ's joy,
Dave Meckley, Pastor
Ten of the 21 who gathered for the outdoor Christmas eve service are shown in this photo as
Abby Jasper (center) reads Scripture. The pastor and 10 others formed a circle with
those above for the 20-minute service. A steady cold rain forced the worshipers into the pavilion
Christmas Eve Service Held in Pavilion
While St. John’s has been worshipping virtually during the recent spike in COVID cases locally, St John's Consistory agreed to host a Christmas Eve service — outdoors by a lighted arbor vitae tree at the rear of the building on the parking lot side. (see photo on next page)
Twenty-one worshippers gathered on Christmas Eve to celebrate the birth of our Savior. While scheduled outdoor Christmas Eve services at many other churches had to be canceled due to the unrelenting rain that day, those attending St. John’s service were able to gather in the pavilion – with face masks and social distancing – to sing Christmas hymns and hear the Gospel proclaimed through Scripture and a brief message.
Steve Rodgers, Mark Meckley, Joel Ritchey and Abby Jasper served as Scripture readers. Pastor Dave offered a brief message of hope for this "Home Alone" Christmas season. The message is available online on David Meckley - YouTube, as well as links on the church website (www.sjrcl.org) and St John's Reformed Church Facebook group page.
The pastor recorded his Christmas Eve message from the parsonage next door with the family’s Christmas tree and manger scene in the background so that folks could hear the message later in the comfort of their homes.
Sunday School Begins online
Pastor Dave started to offer adult Sunday School online on Dec. 20. His online class meets at 11 a.m. each Sunday. The pastor posted a link on the church website home page, just below the dates of events: St John’s Reformed Church Loysburg PA / CCCC / Dave Meckley Pastor (sjrcl.org). [or you can copy this link meet.google.com/sti-ewmt-aik in your browser].
It is a Google Meet link that will allow pastor and participants to see each other and interact. The topic of discussion the first week was Heidelberg Catechism Question and Answer 52
Q52: How does Christ’s return ‘to judge the living and the dead’ comfort you?
A52: In all my distress and persecution I turn my eyes to the heavens and confidently await as judge the very One who has already stood trial in my place before God and so has removed the whole curse from me. All his enemies and mine he will condemn to everlasting punishment: but me and all his chosen ones he will take along with him into the joy and the glory of heaven.
Q & A No. 53 was scheduled for Dec. 27 and additional questions in following weeks in their order. Copies of the Heidelberg Catechism are available in the church basement and sanctuary. People may take them home.
10 Volunteers Sort Christmas Cards
Volunteers helped sort hundreds of Christmas greeting cards exchanged (postage free) among church members/attendees.
Operation Christmas Mail took place Saturday morning, Dec. 19, in the church basement. Folks had been placing their greetings in the box till it overflowed.
Cards addressed to church family members were sorted and arranged in alphabetical order around the tables in the fellowship hall. Chris Kurtz, youth teacher, and Ethan Hess, his senior student, were in charge of the project. They were assisted by Women’s Guild members.
Cards were delivered to those who were unable to pick them up at church.
COVID Doesn’t Stop Caroling in Village of Loysburg
The usual caroling done by choir members from St. John’s before Christmas at nursing homes and for shut-in members of the congregation could not be held this year because of coronavirus restrictions. Because Grayson Rodgers wanted to go caroling, his aunt Barb Thomas invited anyone who also wanted to go caroling to walk through Loysburg Monday evening, Dec. 21, and sing for folks without entering homes.
Afterwards the caroling group of eight met at the church basement for cookies and hot chocolate, prepared by Barb Thomas and Deb Bowser.
One of their stops was on the porch of David and Amy Snyder. David called the carol singing a delightful surprise. He recalled the only previous time he could remember door-to-door caroling was a decade or more ago when the Woodbury Good Time Christmas Band (also known as the Brethren Brass) was being transported through Loysburg by Gregg Carbaugh on one of his school buses. The bus stopped in front of the home of Dave and his late wife Sharon and while someone was knocking on the door the band members were climbing out of the bus with their instruments and then played a number of Christmas carols. Wayne Guyer, who organized the band, played trumpet and Gregg Carbaugh played sousaphone. Carolers social distanced for a photo before setting out through Loysburg to spread Christmas cheer on Dec. 21.
Shown are Bruce and Lorie LaSala and pet, Joel Ritchey, Barb Thomas, Grayson Rodgers (who inspired the older singers to do it), Steve and Kim Rodgers, and Deb Bowser.
Nelsons Welcome Natalie Joy
Natalie Joy Nelson was born Dec. 22, 2020, at 7:56 p.m., the second daughter and fourth child of Matthew and Joy Nelson. She weighed 8 lbs., 5 ozs. and was 19- 1/2 inches long. Her siblings are Janelle, Jude and Sammy. Sincere love and congratulations from your church family on your precious Christmas Bundle.
WHO WE ARE
This month’s Jottings features Lorie and Bruce LaSala of
the Hopewell area. Each month one family, couple or individual from St. John’s is asked to write about themselves in the newsletter
so that we all may get to know each other better.
We have often chuckled at God’s sense of humor. We hope you will chuckle as well as you read our story.
We met at Grove City College. I (Lorie) was a music education major and Bruce was a religion major with plans to continue on to seminary. We knew we were right for each other when we realized neither of us wanted to have children. We decided to get married after our sophomore year. I also didn’t know why I was a music education major as I had absolutely no interest in teaching. I just wanted to perform. We decided we’d get married and in the fall I would leave school to work and Bruce would continue
with his education. Well, God had very different plans for us!
A week before our June ‘83 wedding, Bruce fell from a second-floor roof while working construction and… Well, we didn’t go back to Grove City that fall. Instead, 25-year-old Bruce continued on to Millersville University in Lancaster County where he got a science teaching degree,
specifically physics, and 20-year-old me started working as a waitress. (In case you are wondering, Bruce had surgery to pin his shoulder together six days before our wedding. He has no memories of the wedding because of the pain-killers he was taking, but I do have pictures that prove he was
From the first, we loved the idea of living in the country and becoming self-sufficient. We collected books upon books on topics like: building windmills to generate our own electricity, building a composting toilet, animal husbandry, and growing and preserving food… We started to save
money to buy property.
After two years of Bruce, being in school mornings then working afternoons and Saturdays; and me working evenings; and in general seldom seeing each other; I announced that I was lonely and we should get a puppy… Or have a baby. (Not exactly interchangeable, but hey,
remember, I was 22.) So we got a dog. And soon after a cat. And then, after three years of marriage, when Bruce had graduated and was teaching at a local public high school, I stopped working to be a stay at home mom because baby Meredith was born! Then Cantley. Next Danielle. When Meredith was 5-1/2, Morgan was born. (What was that about not wanting to have kids?!) Needless to say, that saving-money plan was becoming a distant memory.
We were renting a farmhouse at the time, and when Morgan was two, Bruce’s mother moved in with us. We had a little money and decided to start looking for a place to buy. I had always said I didn’t care what the house looked like as long as the land was what we wanted. I could sleep on the floor and pee in a bucket if I had to. We could always fix up the
house later. But the land had to be what we wanted: somewhat secluded, have a south-facing slope, have a water source, and space for animals and fruit trees and gardens. But I couldn’t ask my mother-in-law to pee in a bucket. So we bought a row house in Lancaster city.
The house wasn’t in terribly bad shape, but it needed a lot of cosmetic help. The plan was to fix it up and sell it within three years. Then we could buy our place in the country. There was a lot of time and energy that went into remodeling our house. But first…
We had started homeschooling our children when Meredith started kindergarten. I loved homeschooling, but I didn’t want my children to miss out on what was my favorite part of school – music! So I started a little choir. (What? Me teaching?) Very quickly my little choir grew from a dozen
kids in our living room to me directing five choirs, an orchestra, and a bell choir, and running a theater program. My organization, currently known as the Lancaster Academy for the performing arts, performed 15 to 20 concerts and produced several full length musicals and plays each year.
Bruce continued to teach science and, on the side, built sets for my shows. And our children have all thanked us for the commitment of time and resources that went into homeschooling them through to graduation. And
while all this was going on, we still managed to garden – either our own backyard, or borrowed and rented spaces, raised three litters of puppies, and kept bees in our city backyard. We catered events, often with our own produce, started a CSA to sell our vegetables, even had a small business making soap and other products using our honey and beeswax. But actually living in the country was becoming a buried dream. But God…
God used us in many ways throughout our years of teaching. However, for various reasons, both our teaching jobs came to a sudden end; first for Bruce about eight years ago, and then for me about three years ago. Though I still taught and continue to teach private violin and piano lessons, I no longer had my music Academy. I felt like my life had ended.
Bruce got a job at the Apple store for several years and enjoyed some teaching there, but that ended as well. We were both feeling discouraged. But without our teaching obligations, The Dream started to resurface.
The search for land was difficult. We now had grandchildren (currently four with another due in June!!) And didn’t want to move far from them. We found a place in Hopewell, two hours from our Lancaster home. Though farther than we had wanted, our kids encouraged us to go for it. They knew it was our dream and they wanted us to live it. They promised
they would come visit often. So, with their blessing, we put in an offer and, well, here we are! In the country, on a private lane, with a south facing slope, a water source, lots of gardening space, our pantry and freezer are filled with our own produce as well as our own chicken and turkey. We
have rabbits ready to butcher and our chickens and ducks are currently giving us more eggs than we know what to do with. In the spring we hope to add sheep, goats, and pigs. We call our place, HopeWell Homestead.
Though a little older than when we first dreamed our dream, we are thrilled to finally be living it. We have big plans. We acknowledge that some of the big plans may never happen. And that’s OK. But we are working hard and having fun doing it. And more than anything, it is our prayer that God will use us here.
Advent Communion Was Celebrated Virtually
Communion via Internet was led by Pastor Meckley on Dec. 20 with participants providing their own communion elements at home. Pastor Dave’s sermon was titled "Do Not Be Anxious," based on Luke 12:22-34. This was the second time that communion was offered virtually in 2020. Easter was the other occasion, although some folks were back in church for World Wide Communion in October.
How to Find Church on the Internet
Pastor Dave gives this instruction on how to access livestream videos:
The easiest way is to go to my YouTube channel: David Meckley - YouTube.
This lists all the services done to date, starting with the most recent.
If not, copy and paste it into your browser.
Pastor Dave will teach adult Sunday School, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. each Sunday, continuing with the Heidelberg Catechism.
CONSISTORY TO MEET
St. John’s Consistory will meet on Jan. 14 and will decide at that time whether or not it will be safe to resume in-person worship. Guild meeting is scheduled for Jan. 15, subject to cancellation.
Thanks to Food Donors
The Northern Bedford Food Pantry is grateful to St. John’s for its contributions.
During the months of November and December three boxes of food items were left at the church even though no church services were held. The food was delivered to the Woodbury center in time for the Dec. 18 distribution.
Suggested items for January include soups and boxed dinners.
Persons who may want to make a monetary donation to the food bank should make out a check to NB Food Pantry and mail it to the treasurer, Janis Slick, 131 Hipples Cave Rd.,
Woodbury, PA 16695.
Salvation Army Seeks Aid
The Southern Cove unit of the Salvation Army could not place its red donation buckets in churches this year. Please make a donation by writing a check to St. John’s church and
marking Salvation Army in the memo line. A single church check will then be sent to Steve Miller of Woodbury, the local SA representative.
Reserve 2021 Dates To Supply Altar Flowers
Once in-person worship has resumed, the altar flower calendar for 2021 will again be posted in the sanctuary. If you would like to reserve particular dates to donate
altar flowers, write your name on the appropriate dates on the calendar. Persons with questions may contact Beverly Smith.
Bedford Forge Holds Service in Lions Bldg.
Bedford Forge United Methodist Church held a Christmas Eve candlelighting service in the Cove Lions
building in Loysburg, where there was space for the approximately 50 who attended to practice social distancing.
Kaleb Snider, who grew up in the Bedford Forge congregation, was the speaker. He now is affiliated
with a church in Florida.
Before it closed, the Loysburg UM church always attracted a big turnout for its Christmas Eve service.