Therefore the Lord himself will give a sign for all of you. Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and name him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 - EHV
How good are you at spotting a miracle? This Bible passage is a good test. Can you spot the two miracles in Isaiah 7:14?
The first is rather obvious. The Lord promised that a virgin would become pregnant. That just doesn’t happen. Young women, who have never been intimate with a man, don’t become pregnant. Still, seven hundred years after the Lord made this promise, the Holy Spirit created baby Jesus inside of Mary – a virgin. What a miracle!
People have a hard time believing this. They think this miracle of a virgin giving birth is just too impossible to happen. However, the virgin birth is the “easier” miracle in this verse. The “harder” miracle is in the last word of the sentence – Immanuel. Immanuel is Hebrew for God with us.
This devotion comes to you a few days before Christmas. You may be spending Christmas with family and friends, or maybe you have no real family or friends. Whether you are lonely or surrounded by loved ones, counting all your blessings or feeling miserable, this great miracle is for you.
Mary holds a baby in her arms. She holds her son and her God at the same time. The eternal God took on our skin and bones. He became a human just like you and me. He is God with us. He didn’t do this as some science experiment – can the Creator of the universe become part of his creation? He didn’t do this as a field trip to learn about human beings.
God is with us because he loves us. He loves us so deeply that he did not want to spend eternity separated from us. (Eternal separation from God is for us an unavoidable consequence of our sinful condition.) God could not sweep our sin away by a command. So he swept our sin away by the cross. God became one of us – God with us – so he could offer his life as payment for our sins. God is with us so we would never be separated from him. Not now. Not in eternity.
No matter how many or how few people will be part of your Christmas celebration, your God is with you. One day, you will be with him. Every Christmas reinforces our longing for the day we will celebrate with our God in heaven. Have a joy filled, hope filled, miraculous Christmas.
Pastor Mark Gartner
Christmas Eve Worship—NEW SERVICE TIME ADDED
The sign-up slots for two of the three Christmas Eve services are already full. We certainly want everyone to worship with us while feeling comfortable and being able to socially distance (and we won’t turn anyone away). Because of this, our Council made the decision to add another worship service for this Christmas Eve—at 1:00pm. We’ll still hold our other Christmas Eve services at 3:00, 5:00, and 7:00. If have already signed up for a particular service but want to switch to the 1:00 service (or a different one), you are certainly encouraged to do so! If you need any help, please contact Church. Although we have added another service, we are still strongly urging everyone to sign-up ahead of time, either online or by calling the office. The sign-up is live. Please click on the link below to see more information and for a link to the sign-up.
New Year's Eve Service
December 31st at 6:30 pm, we will have our New Year's Eve Worship Service with Lord's Supper to thank the Lord for his many blessings in 2020 and to ask for his continued blessings in 2021. Please sign up for this service if you plan on attending.
New Bible Classes:
Pastor Gartner started a new Bible Study on Sunday November 29 at 9:15 am entitled: “Catholicism Today — A Study of What the Catholic Church Teaches and How It Measures Up to God’s Word.” Join us as we look at some of the key teachings of the Catholic Church in light of God’s Word, and we will also look at ways on how we can share the truths of God’s Word with those in the Catholic Church who may struggling in their faith.
Pastor Frey is leading a Bible Study on Mondays and Tuesdays called, "Counterfeit Christianity." The devil is called the Father of Lies (John 8:44); he uses his web of lies to lead Christians away from God's Word and thus away from the one true faith. This study, based on the book, Broken: 7 “Christian” Rules that Every Christian Ought to Break as Often as Possible by Jonathan Fisk, will examine these lies of the devil and their antidotes from Holy Scripture.
If you would like to receive a recording of these Bible Classes, please contact one of the Pastors and we will send you the link for these recordings.
If you are not comfortable sending your child to in person Sunday School, we have weekly recorded videos of each weeks Bible Lesson and the Lesson sheets that we can send to you so that your child can still learn the valuable truths of God's Word. Please contact us if you would be interested in these materials.
NOTE: There will be no Bible Class or Sunday Schoool on Sunday December 27.
In order to encourage and practice social distancing, we are trying to limit each Worship service to 75 people. We are offering 8:00 and 10:30 services on Sunday as well as 6:30 pm on Monday. We are also asking everyone to sign up each week for whatever Worship Service you plan on attending. Please note, that we are in need of volunteers to help sanitize the sanctuary between services. When you sign-up you’ll have an opportunity to mark whether or not you are willing to help out—it only takes about 10 minutes, so we pray that you will!
You can find the link to sign-up on the front page of our website at: www.stjohn-appleton.org.
We rejoice that we have been able to return to the Lord’s house to worship together, but at the same time we want to do so in a safe manner. The 8:00 am service is the most attended service, which perhaps will make some of you feel uncomfortable. First off, if you feel uncomfortable in this more attended service. we encourage you to attend either the 10:30 am or the Monday evening service which offer plenty of room in order for you to socially distance. In addition, our Council has decided to remove the ropes for the first few pews of the lectern side of the sanctuary. People deciding to sit in these “unrestricted” pews should use their own good judgment on social distancing. We hope that, with enough worshipers sitting in this section, it will leave enough space in the rest of the sanctuary for everyone else to socially distance. If you have any questions, please speak to one of the Pastors or a Council members.
As we go forward, we will continue to live-stream our services and posting our worship folders online. We will be recording our Sunday 8:00 am service which means you can watch anytime after 8:00 am on Sunday morning. If you need any help accessing these resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
You can find our worship services at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCsQs-LDzlHE1NTjOaVaQ2A.
You can find a bulletin for each Worship Service so you can follow along here: https://stjohncenter-my.sharepoint.com/:f:/g/personal/pastor_frey_stjohn-appleton_org/EqetvOMWflhLsfsLRcDkxSgBL2cnYkpiuk8Klh7d-r_XQg?e=07dSma.