December 22, 2023
Hello Grace Vineyard and Friends of Grace Vineyard.
Merry Christmas! I love the sound of that greeting, and I love the meaning that’s packed into it. We’ve been in the Season of Advent for the last 3 Sundays, and have explored the themes of Hope, Peace, and Joy so far. This coming Sunday morning, Christmas Eve, we will be exploring the theme that ties them (and pretty much every other good thing) together, the theme of Love.
I think it is pretty much universally acknowledged that in the recent couple of years there has been a marked increase in division in our nation and even in the churches – you know, division over politics, division over racial issues, division over how to respond to a virus, and probably many more issues. But this week’s theme of Advent has the power to defeat division and bring unity – the theme of Love. As you by now are all well aware, Advent means Arrival – the arrival of an important person or event. During Advent we celebrate the arrival of God’s Love through His one and only Son, Jesus, a Love that literally changes everything! I like how John the beloved disciple puts it in his first epistle:
1 John 4:9-13
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13 We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
It’s pretty special to have Christmas Eve fall on a Sunday. The last time this happened was 6 years ago in 2017, and the time before that was 17 years ago in 2006! Some of us, no doubt, will have family visiting this weekend – what a great opportunity for family and friends to come together to pause from our busy lives in order to worship God and thank Him especially for sending us Jesus! I hope to see you and meet your relatives on Sunday morning! And if some of you have family visiting, then it stands to reason that some of you will be away visiting family. If you have to be away for any reason you can still join us online via zoom with this info: Zoom Meeting ID 153 112 432, Passcode 684814. You may also join us on Facebook Live at facebook.com/gracevcf.
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Sunday night we have our very special Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 5pm. We’ll celebrate Christmas and tell the wonderful story of Jesus’ Birth by singing Christmas songs and reading from the Christmas story in the Bible. Don’t be late cuz we keep this service short – plan on an hour – so everyone can get on with their family plans. It’s early enough that you can enjoy dinner afterward. At the end of the service we’ll sing “Silent Night” by candlelight (you probably noticed that the picture above is from one of our Candlelight services while we were singing “Silent Night”), and then eat home made Christmas cookies and drink hot apple cider.
End of Year Giving
Every year generous people give extra end of the year donations to their favorite favorite charities, ministries, and church. For those of you who want to make sure your donation is tax deductible for the 2023 tax year, just make sure your donation arrives at our offices (either online, or via cash or check) by December 31st. If we receive a donation on January 1st or later, even if it’s a check with a 2023 date, we are required to record it for 2024.
Please consider an extra end of the year gift for our Missions and Benevolence funds. Everyone knows that Missions are very important to us because we talk and pray about international missions every Sunday morning. Newer folks might not realize that we fund our missions work with a “faith pledge” system. Every year in January we invite every member of our congregation to pledge to give a dollar amount every month for the next year. This is a pledge above the tithe (the “tithe” is 10% of our income that we believe Christians are called to give to support the ministry of their local church). We then take those pledges and build the budget for how much we will send to the missionaries we support in the upcoming 12 months. We always keep some money in reserve in case some people aren’t able keep up with their pledge, and at this point in our year that reserve account is getting pretty low. So, whether or not you regularly give to our missions program please prayerfully consider giving an end of the year gift to support our missionaries (for online giving, just put “missions” when it asks you what this gift is for; with checks, write “missions” on the memo line, and with cash, put it in an envelope and write “Missions” on the envelope in the Sunday morning offering). The same goes for our Benevolence fund. A big THANK YOU to all who are being faithful with your tithes and offerings.
Small Groups on Break Until January
Most of us have busier than usual schedules in the Christmas season, so our small groups are taking a break until the new year. Groups will begin meeting again the 1st week of January. The Tuesday night Prayer for the City will relaunch on January 9th.
And that’s all for this update. I’ll see you on Christmas Eve morning at 9:30!
With love and blessings to each of you,
Tithes and Offerings Online
THANKS for taking ownership in the life and ministry of Grace Vineyard! And thanks to all of you who are stepping into a lifestyle of generosity with your tithes and offerings. It really does take all of us doing our part with the income God has entrusted to us for His church. If you’d like to give your tithe or offering online, click the donate button below.