Getting the Most out of Christmas

No, we don’t mean getting the most presents or bonuses, but we do mean that what we receive during Christmas is  more important even than what we give.

That isn’t what most people expect to hear from a church. Christmas is supposed to be about giving, and generosity, more than what we receive. That is true–when it comes to wrapped presents and cards and parties.

But that is where the stress comes into Christmas, right? Young kids might be into a competition for who will “get” the most and best games and toys and gadgets. But for adults it is turned around. We begin to feel stress over what we feel is expected of us to give: A present for the boss AND the boss’s assistant AND your child’s teacher AND the list grows… Not to mention the “card list,” and the invitations you feel obliged to accept and the invitations you feel obliged to make.

“Giving” has made Christmas a stressful season for adults. No wonder some people, even religious Christians, choose to opt out of the “commercialism” and stress.

Christmas is first of all a celebration of the greatest gift God made to the world, the gift of himself wrapped in flesh and tied, not with a bow of ribbons, but with swaddling cloths. This is the true gift of Christmas, this is the Christ in Christmas,  who invites us each to receive him. When we forget the “receiving” part of Christmas, we really have missed out on the season, even if our lists of presents we gave, parties we attended and cards we mailed were longer than everyone else’s.

Our goal at Elgin Covenant is to help everyone who comes to find that space in the stress. All of us are invited to be  like the shepherds and the magi leaving their stress behind to worship Christ.  The shepherds are working class, on-call during the night-shift.  The magi are wealthy professionals caught up in the politics of their day. These are responsible, stressed people, and God brought them to the manger. In the gospel of Luke chapter two the Christmas stories include two retired people: Simeon, and also a very elderly widow, Anna. These two devout worshipers were committed to the House of God, and to both of them God brought the peace and love of Christ all bundled up and cooing in a baby.

You are invited. All generations and stages of life are invited to shed the stress and worship Christ, the newborn King. Come to the party at Elgin Covenant Church. Every week there will be special events to guide the focus of your heart, through Christmas Day. Details below, under each bold heading.

November 27th, Covenant World Relief

Giving during the holidays includes giving to those who cannot give in return. 90 cents of every dollar given to the Covenant World Relief offering goes to direct assistance to impoverished and disaster-struck communities around the world. Designated offerings for Covenant World Relief will be received during this first Advent Service.  For more information on Covenant World Relief, go to covchurch.org. Our sermon theme: “Finding Peace at a Stressful Time: Learning What’s Valuable.”

Wednesday, November 30th, Potluck 6 PM

The first of three Wednesday holiday meals will be a pot-luck. Bring a dish to share and enjoy the fellowship of the season.

Saturday, December 2nd, 9 AM, Santa Lucia Coffee

One of our most celebrated Christmas events, our Covenant Women provide continental and traditional Scandinavian breakfast sweets at this open house which features appearances by Santa Lucia, and music.

Sunday, December 4, Advent Communion Service

This is our church’s only communion celebration during the Christmas Season until New Year’s Day, January 1. Our sermon theme: “Finding Peace at a Stressful Time: Commit to What’s Valuable.”

December 7th, Wednesday Pizza Dinner

For this fun fellowship event pizza will be provided. Participants may bring sides.

Sunday, December 11th, Choir Program

 On this Sunday morning, 10:30, our choir will be the main feature. There will be a brief meditation, “Finding Peace at a Stressful Time: Share What’s Valuable.”

Wednesday, December 14th, Soup Fellowship

Do you have a favorite recipe for soup? Share it on this third and final holiday Wednesday dinner. Then stay-tuned in the New Year, when the prepared Wednesday dinners pick up again for $2/plate.

Sunday, December 18th, Night of Music and Carols

Sunday morning at 10:30 our theme will be “Finding Peace at a Stressful Time: Celebrate What’s Valuable.” Then at 7 PM we will gather for a night of Christmas music and carol singing. A special offering will be taken for local community ministries that help the poor in Elgin.

Saturday, December 24th, 7 PM

Join us for our traditional Christmas Eve Candlight Service. A special offering will be taken for local community ministries that help the poor in Elgin. Our theme: “Reflect On What’s Valuable.”

Sunday, December 25th, 10:30 AM

Join us on Christmas Day. Theme: “Receive What’s Valuable.”

Sunday, January 1st, New Year’s Day, 10:30 AM.

2012 is an important year. There will be federal elections in America. It is a year for Olympics.  And there is hype in certain New Age quarters about the end of the world.  What better way to begin the year than with a communion service that reassures us that God holds all of time and space, and has put the future in the hands of Christ? Indeed nothing above or below can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Events to Remember in November

November is a full month at Elgin Covenant. Refer back to this post and its sub-headings to remind you of the things that are coming up. In brief: this November we will collect our special offerings for Covenant World Relief, we will celebrate Thanksgiving with a special Wednesday evening service, and, we will launch our Advent celebrations! See below for more details and all the other highlights and special events happening through the month.

Standard Time Change “Fall Back”

Saturday, November 5th, is the night all you Illinois residents get to set your clocks BACKWARDS one hour when you go to bed. If you forget, you will be really early for church!

All Saints Communion

As we continue our preaching series through November 20th on the life of “Moses: An Ordinary Person” we will be taking communion on November 6th. This is All Saints Sunday. Our music will feature our choir and our organ; the theme of the sermon is that all the saints, like Moses, were ordinary people. The point is not how super-human they are but how human they are, just like you and me.

Tuesday, November 8th

Our Covenant Women are meeting for a light supper at 6 PM, followed by a presentation by Four Square Missions Publishers. See what God is doing around the world!

Friday, November 11th

This is a school holiday for Veteran’s Day. The church office will be closed. Be sure that you thank a veteran today!

November 13th

On this Sunday we will include a brief video presentation on the Covenant World Relief projects that our offerings will be supporting this year. The offering will not be COLLECTED today, the information about Covenant World Relief will be shared so that people can begin to prepare their offering.

November 15th

MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meets today from 10 – 11:30 AM. All mothers of young children are invited. Child-care for your preschoolers and infants is provided, and you can take this time to share with other moms, to enjoy a snack, and even to learn a new skill. Most important, this time is for you to make new friends.

November 23rd

Our regular Wednesday evening programs are suspended for our special Thanksgiving Eve Worship Service and Pie Social.  The service begins at 7 PM, and pie follows at 8 PM, a great way to whet the appetite for the next day’s celebrations. During the service people will have an opportunity to make their Covenant World Relief Offerings.

November 20th

This is “Reign of Christ” Sunday, which celebrates our hope that Jesus holds the future in HIS hands and will one day restore all the faithful and all Creation to glory. Our blended worship on this morning will include a set by our praise team “Redeemed.”

November 27th

Can you believe it’s that time already to start preparing our hearts for Christmas? November 27th is the first Sunday in Advent. This will include the lighting of the first candle on the Advent Wreath. This will also be the last opportunity to give to Covenant World Relief.