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Congregational Meeting, What’s Happening at St. Stephen, Senior Housing Christmas Party,  In My Sorrow, Christmas Presents, Blessings Blurb, Christmas Food Baskets, Cemetery Plots Available, The Parish Paper


Congregational Meeting

On Sunday, December 9, 2012 following the worship service, St. Stephen Lutheran Church will be having a Congregational Meeting to go over the

budget for 2013 and elect a member for the council.  Be a true member of the church and be there to vote.  We look forward to see you all there.




Please take the time to look at the dates and activities for December, you might find it very interesting!


December 5th, 12th and 19thThis is the Wednesday nights during Advent.  Join us for a special worship service to prepare all of us for the Christmas season.  We will be worshipping at 7:30pm


December 24, 2012 – We will have a special family worship service at 4:30pm.  This will include the children singing and putting the Nativity piece in the manger.  The children are practicing now for this special night.  This service will also have communion.  We will have a Christmas Eve Candlelighting and Communion service at 7:30pm.  This is such a joyous time of celebration in the life of St. Stephen and the Birth of the Baby Jesus. Celebrate with us at one or both services.

This is such a busy time for all of us, be prepared for the coming of our Lord.  Take the time to worship with us every Sunday, but note the special days!


St. Stephens is sponsoring a Christmas Party at the South Plainfield Senior Affordable Housing Complex on Sunday, December 9th at 2:00 PM.  We plan on singing Christmas Carols and providing refreshments and door prizes.  We’re expecting approximately 50 guests.  ST. STEPHENS SENIORS ARE ALSO CORDIALLY INVITED.

How can everyone participate?


  • By baking Christmas Cookies, Cakes, Brownies or any other goodies (finger food), and bringing them to church on December 9th.
  • By providing door prizes, home-made or store bought.  We’re looking for small things to give out to as many guests as we can.  Please wrap your gifts.   Even wrapped Christmas Treats would be very welcomed.   These items can be brought to Church any time from now until December 9th.
  • By volunteering to help.


Whatever you’d like to do to help, please sign up on the sheets at the back of church.   We need to know what we’ll be getting so we can plan what we may need to buy.


In My Sorrow


I don’t know what to do

But my eyes are on You.

Your eye is always on me

Like the sparrow I see.


I toss to and fro

And don’t know where to go.

I find sweet release

When you give me your peace.


Why should I despair

When You are always there?

In the midst of the storm

You keep me safe from all harm.

Through the wind and the rain

You’re always the same.

Through my pain and my fear

You are always near.

You’ve made a home for me

Across the Eternal Sea.


By Carolyn Shafer


(To Barbara Henriksen’s family)


Christmas Presents

What is the best Christmas present you have ever gotten?  Now, what is the best Christmas present you have ever given?  If you are anything like me, I’ll bet the presents you’ve given stand out a lot more than those you have gotten.  I remember the first Christmas after I graduated from nursing school and had a “real job.”  I really splurged on my Dad’s gift – a brand new invention just on the market, a camera that took pictures that developed in a few seconds.  The Polaroid was a “miracle” in those days.

I can still see his face when he opened it and remember his fascinated preoccupation with it the rest of the evening.  I remember. too, my three-year-old nephew’s excitement with the stuffed “ET” toy I was able to find and my niece’s joy at the hard-to-find Bon Jovi t-shirt.  Those are some of my most treasured Christmas memories.

It seems harder and harder to find just those special gifts now-a-days.  Maybe it’s because we all (most of us, anyway) have sooo much “stuff” that  “things” seem to have lost their meaning.  We have a lot, yes, but there are many people in the world, even in this country, that do not have a lot.  In fact, they not only don’t have all they want, they don’t even have all they need.  That is why in the last few years I have been remembering some of the special people in my life  by giving contributions to charitable organizations in their name, rather than getting them something they don’t really need or want that will just end up in a drawer someplace.  Our own Lutheran Church is only one among many organizations that offer “catalogues” where you can choose such things as a goat or 100 pounds of rice and beans to be given to someone who is in deepest need, in the name of your loved one.  A gift like this means so much to both the poor person receiving the item and the person being remembered in this way.  I know that my Mom’s favorite Christmas present last year was a picture of a little Haitian girl with a note that she would be fed for a year in my Mom’s name.  No sweater or blouse could compare with that.

I’d like to encourage you to consider the “Good Gifts” catalogue or a similar opportunity this year as you are making out your Christmas shopping lists.  I promise it will be a memorable experience for the person in need, for your loved one, and also for you. And what better birthday present for the baby Jesus?



Blessings Blurb

A fundraising letter from FISH Hospitality Program really touched me.  I want to share some excerpts which were written by a former guest.  “I was two years into single motherhood when I hit bottom.  Nobody cared.  Oh, they’d act like they did.  I think some did a little.  They’d ask, “How are you doing?  How’s the baby?”  But they wanted me to say fine, so I said, “Fine.”  I’m sure someone cared a little, but not enough to help, so I didn’t usually ask.  I know they didn’t because when I did ask, people disappeared, went dark whatever you want to call it.  I faced homelessness alone.”

Then she talked about being accepted into FISH Hospitality Program.  “That night we slept in a Presbyterian Church in Westfield.  People came and fed us and hung out with us and gave us stuff just because they cared.  It was so strange.  Why they cared I couldn’t figure out.  I wasn’t sure which was more odd, for a stranger to care or for a friend not to.”

I couldn’t stop thinking about those words . . .

Granted many people who have become homeless may have burned one bridge too many, taken advantage of family members and friends, or made choices which were not the best for them or their children.  I kept thinking how desolate and isolated they all must have felt.    I kept thinking that the caring acts of others really changed her life.

I thought about the almost 15 years that we had done the Ministry to Homeless Persons at St. Peter’s.  Seeing garbage bags on a stage filled with guests’ possessions, heartaches and lost dreams was always sad.  Everyone who came through our doors had a different story to tell.   Some guests told their stories in great detail, while others were more private.

Our volunteers saw this ministry as a wonderful opportunity to actively show God’s love for all of his children.  By extending our hand in friendship, we were easing some of our guests’ pain of loneliness and their feelings of despair, and giving them a little hope.

Many guests come to mind.  One was an opera singer who was out on disability and stayed with us.  She was so verbal and so educated, and here she was in a shelter.  We still exchange Christmas cards and she volunteers with her church feeding the homeless.

There was a little girl who was about five years old and she was playing with a globe.   “Pat, do you know where I live?” she asked.   She then pointed to a spot on the globe.  “Right there is your church.”

And there was a group of ladies that happened to sing hymns acappella.  We were all sitting on the side stoop and they were really praising God.  I just loved listening to them.

After reading this letter again and again, I thank God for all of these memories.  And I thank him that we could look to him for strength, and that feeling empowered, we were able to empower others.   By our acts, the guests knew that we cared and that God cared for them too.   I don’t know if the guests saw God in our eyes or we saw God in theirs, but he was there.   I’m sure about that!

Patricia Klatt – November 18, 2012



Christmas Food Baskets


Please bring in canned goods and other non-perishable

food items to be given to the poor over the holidays.

There is a food donation box in the narthex.



Cemetery Plots Available


The church has deeds for several cemetery plots at Graceland Memorial Park in Kenilworth.

They are available to any member for just a transfer fee.  See Orvie Hoffman if interested.


Coeditors: Herb Miller, Lyle E. Schaller, Cynthia Woolever –
December 2012 – Volume 20, Number 12
Copyright © 2012 by J. Brent Bill

How to Use Our Five Senses to Experience the Wonder of Advent

Advent is a season of the senses. Scents of pine, bayberry, and Christmas cookies ready to taste fill the air. Everywhere you go, carols waft to your ears. The feel of wrapping paper and sticky tape touch our fingers. We “ooh” at the sight of outdoor lighting dis-plays or behold the beauty of a simply decorated tree. This is also true in our church buildings and services—though many times we don’t recognize the senses for the spiritually teachable moments that they hold. Advent can be a time to help worshipers be present to life and to God in new ways. We all desire authentic spiritual experiences with God, but the trouble is that most of our teaching comes by way of sermons, books, Bible studies, and other spiritual resources. These all instruct our thinking but often miss our souls, the prime place of divine encounter.

Using the Whole Brain to Experience God

Advent gives us an opportunity to engage both sides of our brain, with all five senses and our bodies, to more fully experience God. When we’re fully present—body, mind, and soul—we learn how to cultivate an experiential faith that is attentive to a self-disclosing God.

The role of the left brain. Words are the primary form of communication that we use to nurture our spiritual lives. Words are the language of the left brain, which is the logical and concrete center of our thinking that uses words to understand and interpret experiences. However, the left brain cannot experience God or anything else. The right brain does the experiencing. The left brain then takes meaning from the experiences processed by our right brain. Planning Advent worship experiences that involve the whole brain helps make faith more than an intellectual exercise for your congregants.

The role of the right brain. This creative and intuitive center of our brain communicates through images, not words. Images are anything that you en-
vision through one or more of your senses. For in-stance, when you smell the scent of pine and think “Hanging of the Greens,” you have just utilized your right brain through your sense of smell. When you listen to “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and it brings to mind the image of heavenly choirs, you have heard the sound and processed it using the right side of your brain.

Because the right brain does our experiencing, sensory spiritual practices that involve the right brain open us to a heightened perception and experience of God. Such exercises position our heart for divine encounter. However, we need both sides of our brain in order to live and grow as a person of faith. In fact, neither side can do its job well with-out the other.

The role of all five senses. Since our lives are led mostly through the act of thinking, we often become divorced from our souls and bodies. Using our sens-es helps us to live in the present. This is important because the present is the only place that we can fully experience God. Advent is a wonderful time to
practice using our senses so that we can experience God in the reality of the present moment.

Scripture is filled with dozens of references to the physical senses. Many are familiar, such as Psalm 34:8: “O taste and see that the Lord is good” (KJV). And there is Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (KJV). These passages provide reminders about the importance of the often-forgotten art of linking senses to spirituality.

It is not difficult for us to recognize the pure, God-given sensory experiences of seeing a dramatic waterfall or smelling the delicate scent of a newborn child for the gifts that they are. Yet, we rarely think about our sensory experiences as windows into the life of the Spirit that can lead us to opportunities of experiencing God in fresh ways.

The body. Some faith traditions model how to involve the body in worship and prayer as a way to express one’s heart. And undeniably, when we involve our bodies in kinesthetic response, we rein-force what we are feeling, thinking, and doing. The actions involved in kneeling for prayer, lighting the Advent candle, singing carols, or walking to the altar for Christmas Eve communion strengthen our internal attitudes through outward expression.

Too often, however, we live mostly in our thoughts—making lists and checking them twice—and spend too little time listening to what our bodies are saying. Yet Christians throughout history have known that our bodies have much to teach us. During Advent, worshipers utilize not only their senses, but also their bodies to form a closer relationship with God.

Enhancing Worship through the Senses

Below are just a few ways that you can use sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch to help your congregation go deeper into their lives with God.

 Give every worshiper a piece of swaddling cloth. During the service, read the passage containing Luke 2:7 and encourage them to feel, smell, and listen to the cloth as they fold and unfold it.
 If you offer communion during Advent, before inviting congregants to participate ask them to prepare their bodies as well as their souls for the experience. Encourage them to take time to no-
tice the tastes, textures, and scents involved in the experience of receiving communion.
 Set up a crèche at the entrance to your sanctuary. Place sticky-pads and pencils there. Invite congregants to pause there before entering for worship and imagine themselves in that scene. What do they smell? Taste? Feel? See? Hear? Have them take a sticky-note, write a word or two about it, and stick it on the wall around the crèche.

Beyond these options, take some time to think of the ways that your church traditionally celebrates Advent: lighting an Advent candle, hanging an Ad-vent wreath, performing a Christmas cantata, presenting a Christmas play, or having a candlelight worship service. Which of them could you use to involve the physical senses and help link the right and left brain? Are there fresh ways to utilize your congregation’s Advent celebration to engage your members’ senses, bodies, and (entire) brains?

The Bottom Line

When we combine our whole brains and bodies in attention and love, we move to a new level of notic-ing. We get a deep, clear look at God everywhere around us. Encourage your congregation to slow their breathing, quiet their minds, and calm their hearts during this busy season. Then invite them to take a fresh look with attention and love.

Ask them to involve themselves in self-reflection as they consider:

 What do I see?
 What do I smell?
 What do I hear?
 What do I taste?
 What do I feel?
 When did I catch a glimpse, whiff, touch, taste,
or sound of the Divine?

By inviting them to engage their senses in ways like this, you will help awaken them to the wonder of God all around them—a joyous, sensuous, spir-itual awakening at Advent!
This article was adapted from Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God (IVP, 2012) by J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram.
Copyright © 2012 by J. Brent Bill