Pastoral Letter to Bethany

December 1, 2020

As December begins, I wanted to write a letter encouraging you to enter this unique season of Advent with expectancy. But before I talk about expectancy, there is another element to this season that must be named: loss. I begin every Advent listening to Handel’s Messiah, and I must say the opening tenor aria “Comfort, Comfort you my people,” takes on a new tenderness this year. I started grieving the loss of Christmas Eve worship in our sanctuary two months ago, and yet these words of Isaiah to a wounded people of Jerusalem in exile still offer new encouragement to me in this dark Seattle month.

Let’s not hide the losses of this season: the family gatherings, the parties with neighbors and coworkers, and of course all the losses particular to our Bethany corporate life: Welcoming Advent in the Fellowship Hall and Sanctuary, the Christmas Reception, Advent sanctuary worship complete with stars overhead. And of course, Christmas Eve. I still find it hard to fathom that in all my years, this is the first time since I was four years old that I was not participating in the late Christmas Eve worship service. Something is amiss in the world when a Christmas Eve happens and I will not be holding a lit candle in my hand singing silent night in the same room with hundreds of other glowing faces. Join me in hearing the words of Isaiah, “Comfort, comfort you my people.”

And yet, and yet, though my and your losses are there, I enter this season, and I want you to do so as well, with great expectancy. Isaiah 40 begins with the naming of wounds, but moves quickly to the herald of good news declaring from the mountain, “Here is your God.” The King’s arrival is upon us, and I don’t want to miss it. Will you be ready to receive your King?  I’m not sure what this Advent-Christmas will bring, but I know Jesus will show up and it will have to be in surprising ways since many of our Advent patterns are gone. Without the routine lanes we travel, who knows at what turn the King will be right there. Honestly, I caught a glimpse of these Advent surprises on Sunday at our Welcoming Advent – 2020 Home Edition. We had 50 families attending and a lot of people I had never seen in our more traditional event. Plus, I got a window into different family Advent traditions as never before.

So, listen my people, if you haven’t grieved the loss of Christmas Eve sanctuary worship, name the loss now. And with that, let God open your eyes to the new ways Jesus is moving in our corporate life this season:

  • Daily Devotions written by a different person each day with a weekly focus on the Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love
  • Sunday morning Advent candle lighting where the bridge between home worship and corporate worship come together as never before
  • Gift opportunities with our Wednesday Night Dinner Community
  • Ministry connections with some of our key ministry partners in King County
  • Advent Concert: Light Dawns on a Weary World, December 3rd, 7:00 – 8:00pm
  • Lights on the Lawn: a gift on our campus lawn to our neighbors and to us from our Arts Committee
  • Middle School Christmas Play Premiere on December 20th, 12pm – featuring our Bethany Youth
  • Christmas Eve worship led by our fifth graders and others

Browse through the details on the Advent page on our website here to find out more of what God is doing with Bethany in this season.  

Name the losses and receive the comfort of God in your wilderness this Advent. Those are real, but so is the good tidings, “Here is your God!” God bless you this Advent.
Your colleague in ministry along for the journey,

Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor, Head of Staff

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