Dear St. Paul’s Friends,

What a joy it is for me to anticipate the celebration of Christ’s birth with you this Christmas Season! I’m writing this Christmas greeting as I begin to emerge slowly from my hip surgery recovery, having moved from walker to cane, giving care to traversing on the crunchy snow. I’m filled with gratitude for the many ways you have demonstrated your friendship to me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the visits and chats. I’ve been nourished by delicious meals and sweet treats. Your hopeful get-well cards and prayers for healing have lightened my spiritual load. All while you have offered beautiful, inspiring worship to God’s glory and achieved another fruitful Christmas Fair of proceeds that will go to our non-profit Outreach partners.

My outlook as we head toward Christmas is full of hope knowing that God is at the center of our community and that God’s love is governing our friendships and ministries. Thank you, one and all for your good spirit and generosity.

St. Paul’s is a faith community that is centered in friendship, love of neighbor and in sharing joys and sorrows. I’m reminded of the story of The Visitation in Luke’s gospel, when Mary travels to meet her cousin Elizabeth. Mary is just pregnant and she wishes to visit Elizabeth thought to have been barren (“with God all things are possible” is one of my favorite Gospel quotations), but who is now pregnant with cousin John the Baptist.

Elizabeth’s greeting to Mary is one Christians love to chant, sing and pray to this day, “Hail! Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” They begin their friendship with this greeting. Yet, certainly, one day, they will share their burden, that one son will grow to be “a voice in the wilderness” and the other son the voice and incarnation of God’s salvation. Their future will be to share doom first, then glory in God’s great act of restoring all creation to God in the raising of Jesus from the dead.

I’ve been reading a lovely Advent blog written by a Catholic laywoman, Elizabeth Kirkland Cahill. She speaks to friendship and the sharing of burdens and joys. This is the friendship that a Christian community like ours is called to and that we demonstrate regularly, “…let us strive to be truly present to one another in ways that divide our burdens and multiply our joys.” This could be our Christmas prayer for 2017.

I invite you, your family and your friends to worship the holiness of Christ’s birth this Christmas Eve and Christmastide at St. Paul’s. I expect that our celebration will “multiply our joys” in a world that is otherwise cast in a lot of sorrow and fear.

And, as always, I invite you to make your Christmas Offering to the glory of God and in celebration of the good news of Christ’s redeeming love revealed in his birth.

Your friend in joy,
The Rev. Carolyn H. Eklund