Centre Congregational Church
We Welcome Everyone: An "Open & Affirming" Church
Phone: (781) 334-3050; Fax: (781) 334-6463; Email:
Douglas W. Hodgkins: Organist/Choir Director
December 5, 2007
Isaiah 40:1-11 is one of our Advent scriptures. It was written while the Hebrew people were in exile. The prophet Isaiah spoke to them that their God was coming to give them “good tidings,” “comfort,” and “tenderness.” The Exile had lasted long enough. God was coming and coming without delay. Isaiah makes it sound as if God is even anxious and excited to come to the people.
I like that part, the part about how Isaiah makes it sound that God is very excited about coming to us, his people.
I think it's true, that God is excited about bringing us good news, good healing, good food, good direction, and helping us all find harmony. I think God gets excited when his people actually believe and accomplish no more war, giving hope and life, homes and clean water to those of us who haven't had it. I think God gets excited when we buy Christmas presents of meaning instead of presents of gluttony.
Dependable: Another message that pervades these words of Isaiah is dependable! God is like the persistent shepherd who won't give up on us until all of his ravaged flock is free of threats, is free of armies that seek to kill, is free of illnesses that threaten us. God is the shepherd who wants all of his flock to be fed, clothed, comfortable, and full of purpose. This shepherd will spend all that he has to care for the stragglers, the weakest, the youngest, the injured.
This tenderness of God that is expressed is not sentimental weakness, but the strength of hope, the power of healing, the security of a presence in God that always keeps us company.
“...do not be afraid; ... 'Here is your God!'”
I am mindful of how, in my own life, I have had close friends who have been that tenderness to me, keeping me company when I have felt alone. It
has been a presence that stayed with me through the tough spots of my life and journey. While they didn't do the work I needed to do myself, they encouraged me and gave me confidence that I could do the work that lay before me and succeed. They applauded me when I did good and they spoke the truth to me in love when I was less than they knew I could be.
The rest of the flock that remains strong and able is also important. While the rest of the flock doesn't often seem to be the focus of words and texts like this one, they, too, are part of the shepherd's care. I think of that in the context of the church community, our spiritual family here on earth. We can surround the younger, weaker sheep with our care and compassion, keeping each other company, giving each other encouragement.
The Salem Covenant of 1629, developed in one of our Congregational Churches in Salem, Massachusetts, states: “We Covenant with the Lord and one with another; and doe bynd our selves in the presence of God, to walke together in all his waies, according as he is pleased to reveale himselfe unto us in his Blessed word of truth.”
The rest of the “flock,” the sisters and brothers of the spiritual community, pledges “to walk together in all of God's ways.”
Where else but in a church community do we find such love and care, such shepherd behavior, being practiced and extended from one person to another? Not only does the shepherd make the path straight and the way easier, but we do that for each other.
Who have been some of the shepherds in your life? Give thanks to God for them this Advent. And how have you been such to others? I give thanks for those who have shepherded me. Without their help, their words, their truth, their aid, who knows where I would be and what I would be today? Keep your eyes open. Look, along the path we are on, God is coming. Christ is coming! Prepare to receive him.
Yours in Christ,
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem....
A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." ...
“The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever."
You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power....
He tends his flock like a shepherd.
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
IN THE SANCTURY
December 9, 2007 – 2nd Sunday of Advent
10:00 A.M. Morning Worship
Sermon: John the Baptist, by John the Baptist
Children’s Message by Rev. Dr. Calvin B. Kool
Children may worship with families before going to the Chapel.
Centre Church’s Worship Services are broadcast on Lynnfield Cable Channel 10 (Comcast) or Channel 28 (Verizon) on Thursday evenings at 7:00 p.m. and also on Peabody Cable Channel 10 on Sunday mornings at 9:00 a.m.
For the next few weeks, the children will be preparing for this year’s Christmas Pageant which will be held Sunday, December 23 during worship. During the month of December, we will also be continuing with our Advent Theme “Christmas Around the World” with crafts and activities.
Youth Group News
All Youth Groups 5th through 12th grades will meet on Sunday, Dec 9 from 6-7:30 p.m. for the Youth Group Christmas Party. Please bring a wrapped gift (value no more than $10.00) for our Yankee Swap.
The High School Youth Group Cookie Swap was again a great success. Many thanks to all who participated by baking, purchasing, decorating boxes, etc.
Reminder: The High School group “Weekly Seeds” will meet on December 9 in the pastor’s office.
A fun morning was had by all at last Sunday’s Advent Workshop. Our theme was Christmas Around the World. We started off with the reading of For All the World by Helen Earle Simcox. The children then got busy with their activities making Yule logs from France, parols from the Philippines, and God’s eyes from Mexico. Many thanks to all of our volunteers: Carrie Pericola, Kim Contardo, Carol MacKendrick, and Kris McCarthy, for working at this event.
If you did not pick up your advent wreath which accompanies the Advent Booklet you may do so at the church office any day between 9-3.
Outreach Opportunities in December
The Giving Tree
We will be collecting the following gifts under the Christmas Tree in the narthex for residents of the Crombie Street Mission in Salem, MA: socks, underwear, sweatshirts/pants, hats, mittens and gloves of all sizes. Please leave the gifts unwrapped.
Instead of sending individual Christmas Cards to your church friends, why not send a single card to the church office with a contribution which will be sent to City Mission Society in Boston? A Christmas Greeting with the names of those contributing will be published in Tower Notes and your card will be displayed on the Giving Tree in the Narthex.
Recommended Alternative Giving Websites
agreatergift.org (SERRV products)
Equalexchange.org (fair trade coffee and chocolate)
Stewardship Ministries is pleased to report that, as of Nov. 25, we have received $17,420 in supplemental donations. The response from the congregation has been and continues to be very generous. We are edging ever closer to our goal of $25,000.
As we enter the Christmas season, let's remember to include Centre Church on our Christmas gift list. We give to family and friends - all those near and dear to us. So it seems fitting to remember our Christmas gift to this church which is such an important part of our lives.
Heifer Market Update
Heartfelt thanks to all who participated in the Heifer Market. Your generosity is extraordinary! If you want to engage in some meaningful alternative giving this Christmas and couldn’t make it to the Market, it’s not too late – I will be happy to sell you some Heifer critters following worship on Sunday, December 9.
Sandi Watson, Heifer Coordinator
Planned Giving News
In 2008 we will kick-off our Planned Giving Program at Centre Church. Many of you may have heard me address this at our recent Annual Meeting in September. The Planned Giving Program will be designed to help you answer these and other questions: “Have you included Centre Church in your will?” “Do you know you can contribute accumulated stocks to the church?” “Have you updated your will lately?” These are important questions not only for each one of you individually, but also to the future of your church. Our Planned Giving Committee has been meeting now as far back as the spring of 2007 and we have put together the beginnings of a program which will provide you opportunities to make Centre Church part of your financial and estate planning. As part of this program we will ask for your support to establish the “1720 Founders Fund” which will be a new endowment. The earnings from this fund will help support the future and ongoing Christian education, Community outreach, music and facility needs of our church.
I look forward to bringing you more information on this after the first of the year. In the meantime if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Phil Johnson, Chair Finance Ministries
A Concert by “Blue of a Kind”
Saturday, December 8, 7-8 p.m. in the Chapel
Don’t miss this evening of excellent musical entertainment by “Blue of a Kind”, a North Shore A Capella Men’s Choir. Please stay after the performance for dessert and coffee in the Fireside Room. Donation: $ 10.00
No need to sign up in advance.
Chuck Cotting for Membership Ministries
Cat’s Meow Replicas
It’s not too late to purchase a wooden replica of our church building made by Cat’s Meow. These make great Christmas gifts, perhaps for a couple that was married here at the church, snowbirds who no longer live in the area, those who collect Cat’s Meow, etc. Centre Church replicas are just $20.00 each. Call or stop by the church office and pick one up today.
Rada Knife Sales
It’s not too late to purchase Rada Cutlery. Catalogs are available in the church office so that you may see the full product line. You may also order online by going to www.HelpOurFundraiser.com and entering our group information: Internet Ordering # 501006 and Password: 5summer.
Members of the Get-Together Wheel will have Claxton Fruitcake for sale following worship for the next few weeks. Both the light and dark varieties are available for a cost of $4.00 per bar. They are also available at Karen’s Bakery during the week. Contact Shirley Orr if you have questions.
2nd Sunday in Advent
|Morning Worship - Sanctuary
Weekly Seeds of Discovery - Pastor’s Office
Confirmation – Kitchen
Youth Choir – Choir Room
Youth Groups Christmas Party
|6:00 pm||Confirmation – Pastor’s Office|
|Caregivers – Fireside Room
Knitting Group – Fireside Room
Diaconate – Pastor’s Office
|7:00 pm||Membership – Pastor’s Office|
|7:30 pm||Senior Choir - Choir Room|
|10:30 am||Scripture Study - Pastor's Office|
Our thoughts and prayers are with:
We also remember Greg Lengyel and Paul Folkins in Iraq.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Head Usher: Karen Harrington
Greeters: Parker and Norma Holloway
Lay Reader: Marian Orfeo
Advent Wreath: Langill Family
Altar Flowers: Dick Evans
Flower Delivery: Edie and Earl Richard
Coffee Hour: Marian Orfeo and Frank Scott
December 16, 2007 – 6:30 p.m. Christmas Concert
December 24, 2007 – 5:00 p.m. Candlelight Service in the Sanctuary
December 24, 2007 – 11:00 p.m. Candlelight Service in the Chapel