Greeting in the name of our gracious and merciful Savior Jesus Christ who has come, is coming, and will come again. To him be all honor and glory.
Allow me to remind you of the profound mystery of this Advent/Christmas season! Perhaps you don’t need reminding, after all the mystery abounds in this season. We heard mystery proclaimed it in those amazing OT prophecies read in Advent about:
Ask not how this can be. Only believe and marvel at the grace and mercy of our God. Revel in the mystery for this child that is born is very God of very God. He is Immanuel, God in our midst. He is the image of the invisible God. He is God to you, God for you. He is your very salvation from sin, death and the devil.
My friends, as you hear or proclaim this year and as you celebrate, let the mystery envelop you and catch you up in wonder and faith.
How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heav’n.
No ear may hear his coming; But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still The dear Christ enters in.
December is of course dominated by Advent and Christmas activities and worship. But right in the middle of the month we had the joyous celebration of the installation of Rev. Adam Carnehl at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Randolph. Pastor Carnehl, his wife Lisa (a LCMS rostered teacher) and two children, Gwen and Theodore come to us from Fairmont, Minnesota where he served as assistant pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pastor Carnehl was installed at an afternoon service that was followed by a reception afterwards. We look forward to welcoming and getting to know the Carnehl family as they begin ministry here in NJ.
There are a couple of events coming up in January of which I want to make you aware. The first is our second Zoom Seminar. The first one was on vaccine mandates and presented by Christ Fusco Esq., a graduate of Concordia Bronxville. His presentation was very well received. This time he will present on how congregations can receive donations of bitcoin. Donations of bitcoin can have great tax advantages for the giver and we are starting to see people desiring to make a gift of this kind. But what do you do if someone wants to give your congregation such a gift? Chris will first give a brief explanation of bitcoin and then tells us how we can properly receive a gift of bitcoin. The Zoom seminar will be on Friday January 7th at 3:00 pm. This seminar will be open to all Pastors and church leaders (esp. Presidents and Treasurers) interested.
In addition, January is Right to Life month. This subject is very dear to us as we seek to uphold the sanctity of human life. This year the March for Life in Washington DC is on Friday January 21st. A student organization at Princeton University is sponsoring a bus to go down for the day. I had hoped there might be the possibility of us sharing the bus with them, however, that is not possible. But perhaps, if there is enough interest, we can sponsor our own bus next year (the 50th anniversary!) and participate in the March. Please let me know if you are interested and if you might even be willing to help in organizing the trip. Regardless, there is still an event each year right here in Trenton. I have attended the last couple of years. If you are interested you can find more information at https://njrtl.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Rally-with-Walk-Announcement-2022.pdf
In keeping with this focus on the Sanctity of Life, I just received an email from Synod announcing a matching grant for congregations to support women in crisis pregnancies and children after the birth of the child. This is newly announced and more information will be coming in the following months, but here is what we have so far:
The LCMS will match $1 million in funds dedicated by our congregations for their local pro-life action and activity, including caring for women in crisis pregnancies and providing support for moms, dads and babies. We’ll match our congregations’ support of pregnancy resource centers, LCMS Recognized Service Organizations and more. The full name of this effort is the 1 John 3 Initiative Million Dollar Life Match.
Let’s take advantage of this grant and support those with this kind of need. What can you do in your town and surrounding area? Start your planning now so you can receive some of these funds for Life Ministry in NJ.
Toward the end of January our NJ District Parish Nurse (Colleen Botcher along with Shirley Carpenter) will be hosting a series of Wellness Wednesdays. These events will feature some light exercises, a devotion by one of our NJ District Pastors, and health topic for the day. You will be able to participate individually by Zoom or a number of our churches will serve as gathering places where you can join the Zoom with a group. Please see a separate article in this Grapevine or Servant to Servant for more details.
Finally, I would like to announce a Spring Conference for our Pastors on June 6-8th at Tuscarora Retreat Center, Mt. Bethel PA. Our keynote speaker will be Chaplain Greg Jans, Lt Col USAF, stationed at Maguire/Dix Joint Military Base. He will be speaking to us on understanding and witnessing to our Muslim neighbors. Also, our District Parish Nurse, Colleen Botcher, will be with us for a presentation on Parish Nursing and how you can begin such a ministry in your congregation. Please set aside the dates now. You will be receiving more information this winter.
Thanks for taking a few minutes in the midst of this very busy season to read this article. My prayers are for you in this season that the wonder, mystery, and joy of the season will envelop you. Merry Christmas!