109 York Street, Gettysburg, PA 17325

The Messenger – December 2023

The Messenger – December 2023

You can download a copy of The Messenger with graphics. Or if you just want to read the text, keep scrolling! December 2023 Events Calendar at St. James Lutheran Church.

All of our community events are posted on our events page, be sure to check them out!

A Message From Pastor Andrew

Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”

~Luke 2:9-12

Throughout history, scholars have argued over competing theories as to the origins and development of the Christmas cycle.  We don’t know what time of year Jesus was born.  Early Christians didn’t observe Jesus’ birth in any official way.  In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the fourth century, even the beginning of the fifth, that a celebration of Jesus’ birth became universal practice. 

One belief proposes that celebrations of Christmas in late December made sense because of existing traditions around celebrating the winder solstice.   In the darkest moment of the year, celebrating the return of the sun and the birth of the Son just made sense of followers of Christ. Other traditions believe that early church leaders set Christmas in late December as an alternative to more risqué practices of the Roman Saturnalia.  

Regardless of how we got there, for thousands of years, December has been the time of year the faithful draw their focus to the birth of the Christ child – beginning with the first of four Sundays in Advent, peaking on Christmas Eve and Christmas day,  and concluding twelve days later with the Epiphany of our Lord. 

As has been our tradition here at St. James, part of our Christmas preparations throughout the season of Advent are our midweek dinners and Unfailing Light worship services.  This year, after enjoying a meal in our fellowship hall, we will gather upstairs to hear messages around the theme, What is Your Christmas Spirit?  Our speakers (Ernie Kranias, Brad Smith, Katy Clowney, and Jenna Waybright) will reflect on those things of the Christmas season that are held closely in a special place in their hearts – hopefully leading each of us to reflect on the same for ourselves. 

Like you, I could reflect on countless things that have filled my Christmas spirit throughout my life.  As a child it was about receiving.  Like most of us, I couldn’t wait to see what Santa left under the tree on Christmas morning.  As I got older it became more about being with family – seeing grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins I didn’t see nearly enough.  As a parent, I’m far less interested in what’s under the tree for me than seeing the smiles on the faces of our children.  Yet, regardless of where I’ve found myself in life, worship has always been at the center of my Christmas spirit.  It just wouldn’t be Advent, it wouldn’t be Christmas, without worship.   

So… this Advent and Christmas seasons, be full of Christmas spirit.  Hold onto those traditions that bring you life renewed – decorate the tree, put up the lights, bake cookies, and gather with family and friends,  and keep worship at the center.  And in all things, give thanks to God, the giver of life, for sending God’s Son – the Word made flesh, the light of the world – to be born to a human mother, that we would have life and have it abundantly.

With love,
~Pastor Andrew

A Message From Vicar Libby

For many of us, the holiday season is full of traditions. We may prepare specific foods for Christmas dinner, attend holiday get-togethers with old friends, or decorate our Christmas trees with our children. For some of us, myself included, Christmas will look a little different this year.

For years, Christmastime has come with a routine. My parents pick out a tree in State College the first weekend of December, and I decorate our Christmas tree. We have friends over on the 23rd, and we go to our neighbor’s house for a Christmas Eve breakfast on the 24th. Christmas is celebrated with a late service and a drive to see Christmas lights,  and Christmas morning unfolds with homemade bread pudding. These traditions offer some levity amid busy holiday plans, providing space for time with friends and family.

Christmas this year will look a little different than it has in previous years. I will not be home to decorate our Christmas tree, or experience Christmas Eve in my home congregation. We will have six services over Christmas, as we celebrate the last week of Advent, Christmas Eve, and Christmas morning.

Many of us will experience the holidays differently than the past. Some of us are emotionally preparing for our first Christmas without a beloved spouse. Others may not have children with them on Christmas morning for the first time, or may be worried about how to make Christmas time special as a newly single parent. For those of us in these situations, Christmas may be a time of bittersweet memories. We may find ourselves apathetic, wanting to abstain from decorations or holiday parties at work or with friends. We may wish that things were simpler, that we could experience Christmas with the same joy as we did when we were younger.

May we remember the words of Luke as the we recall the memories of Christmases of yore:

”And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  – Luke 2:10

Let us be not afraid of the newness and change that this Christmas time will bring. Let us celebrate the newness of life in the birth of our Christ Child, who abides with us throughout our lives. For Jesus is with us, in Christmases filled with laughter and tears, bringing new life to all God’s people.

With love,

Vicar Libby

Simple Holiday Joys 

My favorite Christmas song (recorded by Blackmore’s Night) combines two familiar songs – the first verse and chorus of Lord of the Dance with the first verse of Tis a Gift to Be Simple.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun, I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun.  I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth. At Bethlehem I had my birth.  Dance, dance, wherever you may be. I am the Lord of the dance said He.   And I lead you all, wherever you may be, and I lead you all in the dance said He.  Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free. Tis the gift to come down to where we ought to be.  And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ‘twill be in the valley of love and delight.

One part celebrates the Incarnation of Christ as written in John 1. The other describes the circumstances of Jesus’ birth in the earthly simplicity of the event.

Simplicity? As much as it is possible. As we get closer to December 25 and the pace of activity increases, we might want to think of this little ditty. Our own care, as well as creation care, can come from slowing down, sharing more and concentrating on simple joys . . . Laugh, even dance, with a youngster. Decorate an outdoor tree with peanut butter & bird seed pine cones; then watch the birds. Make a new simple tradition. Make Christmas Cookies! Now that’s a simple joy ! 
– Tips from the Creation Care Task Force

Music Notes From Jonathan Noel – Minister of Music

The Bible is full of music. As I discussed in last month’s article, the psalms reflect the full gamut of human emotion and are a valuable resource for both worship and personal devotion. But there are many other songs in scripture. The familiar song of praise from the book of Revelation chapter 5, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” And, from Isaiah chapter 6, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the earth is full of God’s glory!” We sing this text every week during the communion liturgy. In this article, I would like to reflect on four Biblical songs (canticles) found in the story of Jesus’ birth as recorded in the gospel of Luke – the original Christmas carols, if you will.

The first is Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46-55). In this passage, Mary sings of the coming change in the order of things – the poor will be raised and the mighty brought down – the understanding of what the coming Messiah, her child, will accomplish. The second is Zechariah’s song (Luke 1: 68-79). At the time, Mary was staying with her cousin, Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. The child would be John the Baptist. In this song John’s father Zechariah prophesies that his child would prepare the way for the Messiah.

The third is the Angels’ song (Luke 2: 14) announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to those whom God favors.” The fourth is Simeon’s song
(Luke 2: 29-32). A devout man to whom God had promised that he would not die until he has seen the Messiah. When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for the rite of purification as required by Jewish law, Simeon recognized Jesus as the promised One, and gave us the song that begins, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace,” familiar to Lutherans of former days as the post-communion canticle.

Now, scholars among us will be quick to point out that nowhere do the scripture passages tell us that these texts were sung, only that they were spoken. However, over the centuries, church musicians down through the ages have set these texts to music – hundreds if not thousands of settings – and the Latin titles have stuck: Magnificat, Benedictus, Gloria, and Nunc Dimittis.

I believe that the joy and the importance of the Christmas story in the scriptures have merited the inclusion of these sacred songs. As we read the story, they give pause to the flow of events and allow us precious moments to ponder the incarnation anew.
Jonathan Noel 

Advent Mid Week Series

This Advent we are returning to our mid-week worship services. We are grateful to be serving dinner every week before worship. Our theme this year is “What is Your Christmas Spirit ?” 

Join us for delicious food and fellowship, and stay to listen to special messages by members of our congregation. Dinner is served weekly at 5:15 pm and worship will begin at 6:30 pm.  Please bring a covered dish to share.  The speakers will be sharing their own personal stories of Christmas spirit.

Worship Previews

December 2 & 3: First Sunday of Advent

Stir up your power, and come! The psalmist’s plea in Psalm 80:2 has become familiar to us in the Advent prayers. Isaiah wants God to rip the heavens open. Both cry out for an apparently distant, angry God to show up, to save, to restore. When we hear Jesus describing the coming of the Son of Man with stars falling from heaven, it can sound dire and horrible, not like anything we would ever hope for. But when we really look at the suffering of people God loves, we can share the hope that God would tear open the heavens and come.

Preacher:  Pastor Andrew Geib

Readings: Isaiah 64:1-9 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 Mark 13:24-37
Fellowship, hosted by Personnel, History and Archives, & Christian Education

December 9 & 10: Second Sunday of Advent

John calls people to repent, to clear the decks, to completely reorder their lives so that nothing gets in the way of the Lord’s coming. The reading from Isaiah gives the context for this radical call: the assurance of forgiveness that encourages us to repent; the promise that the coming one will be gentle with the little ones. Isaiah calls us all to be heralds with John, to lift up our voices fearlessly and say, “See, your God is coming!” We say it to one another in worship, in order to say it with our lives in a world in need of justice and peace.

Preacher: Vicar Libby Baker-Mikesell
Readings: Isaiah 40:1-11 2 Peter 3:8-15a
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 Mark 1:1-8

December 16 & 17: Third Sunday of Advent

Rejoice always,” begins the reading from 1 Thessalonians. Isaiah and the psalmist make clear that God is turning our mourning into laughter and shouts of joy. “All God’s children got a robe,” go the words of a spiritual. It is not so much a stately, formal, pressed outfit as it is a set of party clothes, clothes we are happy to wear. We receive that robe in baptism, and in worship we gather for a foretaste of God’s party. 

Preacher: Pastor Andrew Geib
Readings: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11    1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Psalm 126    John 1:6-8, 19-28
WaterLife Children’s Service @ 10:45 a.m

December 23 & 24
Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve

God keeps the promise made to David to give him an everlasting throne. The angel tells Mary that God will give David’s throne to her son Jesus. She is perplexed by Gabriel’s greeting and by the news of her coming pregnancy, but she is able still to say, “Count me in.” We who know that Jesus is called king only as he is executed still find it a mystery hard to fathom, but with Mary today we hear the news of what God is up to and say, “Count us in.” 

Preacher: Vicar Libby Baker-Mikesell
Readings: Isaiah 9:2-7   Titus 2:11-14
Psalm 96   Luke 2:1-20

December 30 & 31
First Sunday of Christmas
The psalmist calls on the natural world, celestial bodies, fire and earth, creatures, and all humanity, to praise God. The voices of Simeon and 84-year-old Anna join the chorus today, recognizing what God is doing in Jesus. Simeon’s song is often sung after communion, for we have seen God’s salvation in the assembled community and have held Jesus in our hands in the bread. Then, like the prophet Anna, we tell of Jesus to all who look for the healing of the world.
Lessons and Carols

Readings: Isaiah 61:10–62:3 Galatians 4:4-7
Psalm 148 Luke 2:22-40

Young At Heart: Keeping Up With The Kids

Adam Michael, Director of Youth & Family Ministry

It’s hard to find beauty in a dung beetle, an insect that plays with feces, rolls it into balls and –*gulp* –eats it. Yet dozens of scientists spend days, weeks, and months studying the little creatures to learn about their unique appetites, causal effects on our environment, and navigation systems.  Without dung beetles, some ecosystems would be on the verge of falling apart. They are responsible for recycling nutrients through environments, they disperse seeds, reduce livestock parasites, and promote plant growth.

By observing dung beetles after blocking their ability to see the sky, scientists learned that the little critters may use the stars to find their way around. It’s hard to see where you’re headed while pushing a pile of poo bigger than your body, so before beginning their journey, the beetles climb atop their mound, search the skies for meaningful markers and plot their destination.

Yes, it takes a certain perspective, a large amount of time, and a strange fascination to find beauty in a dung beetle. But without those odd observers, we’d never understand the brilliance of the species.

Beauty is on the minds of our middle school kids as we traveled to Camp Nawakwa for our middle school retreat in November. We began the weekend by reading a few Calvin and Hobbes comics. In the strip, Calvin, an elementary school-aged child, goes on adventures with Hobbes, a stuffed animal tiger. While the rest of the world sees a raggedy, dirty, smelly children’s toy, Calvin sees a philosopher, an adventurer,  a practical jokester, and a perfect companion.

One might think a second-grader would conjure up a minion to do their bidding, but Calvin’s creation teases and admires, tests and comforts his creator. God is a bit like the scientist who studies dung beetles, and a bit like Calvin of the comics. God is constantly looking for new ways to love us, fascinated by the hidden beauty that reveals itself through our struggles and successes. God also gives us free will so that we are not simply do his bidding. God celebrates our companionship, is entertained by our musings, and is grateful when we are in relationship with our creator.

There are times when the Bible celebrates outward beauty, but inner beauty is what God seeks from his creations. Through several conversations, we decided that divine beauty comes when it reflects creation or creativity, is life-giving, and inspires inclusivity. Beauty that divides, destroys and isolates is purely for spectacle.

Coming In December:

Breakfast With Santa – He’s making a list, checking it twice, and getting presents for children both naughty and nice. But first Santa is headed to St. James Lutheran Church to sit with all the little girls and boys to hear what they want for Christmas. Stop by St. James between 8 and 11 a.m., Saturday, Dec. 2, for breakfast, complete with pancakes, sausage, eggs, and juice. Stay to play games, watch a movie and enjoy some festive treats!

Wonder In The Stars – The St. James K-5 Youth Group will head to Hatter Planetarium on the campus of Gettysburg College for a 45 minute tour of the skies on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Inspired in part by the three wisemen’s curiosity to seek out the star of Bethlehem, we will learn how people throughout the centuries turned to the skies for navigation, entertainment, and eventually, to wonder what lives beyond our own world. 

St. James goes to Hershey! – Tickets have already been ordered for members of St. James to travel to the Giant Center in Hershey to see the Hershey Bears hockey team on Sunday, Dec. 10. Thirty-six members of the congregation and youth group will receive free Hershey Park tickets for heading to Chocolate Town to cheer on the team!

Next WaterLife Service – In the weeks leading up to our final WaterLife service, our kids will be thinking about curiosity. We will take a look at Bible stories featuring a wee little man climbing into a tree to see Jesus, a prophet with a coat of many colors wondering about his dreams, and eventually a curiosity about the new Christ child. At 10:45 a.m. on Dec. 17, we will wrap up with our Christmas pageant!

Adam Michael
Youth and Family Director

Council Corner, November 15 Meeting Highlights

En Bloc Agenda:

  • Approval of Minutes from October 20, 2023
  • Acceptance of Treasurer’s Report
  • Church Financials
  • ELC Financials
  • Acceptance of New Members:  Via affirmation of faith: Sherri Alms; Elizabeth, Daniel, Christian and Isabell DiCampli; Mary & Daniel Folkemer; Ann & Tony Mazzariello; Seth Zimmann, Via baptism: Kathryn Jane Waybright
  • The World Outreach Committee seeks council approval to organize a mission trip to Guatemala in July 2024 and to raise funds via donations and sponsorships to support a mission experience for youth 14 years or older who lack the resources needed for participation. Tree4Hope is the host organization in Antigua, near Guatemala City.

The En Bloc Agenda was approved.

Church Vitality update by Pastor Nathan Swenson-Reinhold
There is a need  for increased stewardship of St. James human resources to make sure all the good news about St. James can be disseminated. St. James is good soil but it still is hard to replace good leaders, so we need to nurture and keep our existing team while reaching out to grow it. There also needs to be a more intentional small-group ministry (a possible Care Team) to help Pastor Andrew care for congregants, but he noted it will be a challenge for the congregation to see more lay people providing that care.

Old Business

  • Comparison of church insurance: Carol Widerman & Mark Withrow met to do a comparison of the two insurance proposals for 2023. Council agreed to move forward with our present insurer as there is not enough time to properly evaluate the differences in the two proposals before the deadline; council to look at new proposals in an earlier timeframe next year. Church office staff to decide within a week which new workman compensation package to adopt for 2024.
  • Delegates for 2024 Synod Assembly: Debra Baker & Sharon Kaya were chosen to be delegates to the assembly 5/31/24—6/1/24. Still seeking a male representative & a youth representative.

SMART Goals Review:  St. James did not meet its goals for October 

New Business
At the upcoming December meeting, Council will discuss Pastor Nathan’s ideas to move St. James’ ministry forward.

Looking Ahead
Annual Meeting Sunday, November 19, 2023, at 12 pm. Council members to bring snacks for the Fellowship Hour between services on Sunday. Mark Withrow presented an overview of the budget and an idea to mitigate any shortfall in 2024 in the event the church hires an associate pastor.

Good for Council – Good for Church – Good for God

  • Good for Council: Good ideas forwarded by Pastor Nathan, include:  1) be more inviting to those considering a new church home, 2) speak louder but humbly to the community about our successes
  • Good for Church: Katy Clowney would like to see more impact stories from congregants in the Messenger. The Youth Group made $415 from the Halloween bake sale that will go toward participation in the 2024 Youth Gathering. Shirley Sanders was recognized for all that she does for the Sunday School, including her leadership in the annual Operation Christmas Child endeavor.
  • Good for God: CARES hosted 20 overnight guests on December 13, including a family of 12. St. James cooked breakfast for the first 2 weeks of the cold-weather shelter, & a “sizable” donation to the shelter has been earmarked for food purchases. Pastor Andrew attended a worship experience centered on recovery at a location outside of St. James; It is  possible to explore such a ministry here.
    Next Meeting: Wednesday, 12/20/23, after the Advent service

Looking Ahead  –  Holiday Events and Worship Times

Dec 22— Christmas Caroling, meet @ 4:00 pm at St. James

Dec 25 —Fellowship 9:30 am
                 Worship Service 10:00 am
Dec. 30—Lessons & Carols, 5:30 pm
Dec. 31—Lessons and Carols, 10 am


The World Outreach Committee has been in contact with representatives from Tree4Hope school and orphanage in Antigua, Guatemala, to arrange a mission trip for interested St. James members. Two trips by St. James members had been taken to Source of Life safe home in Haiti in 2016 and 2018, but Haiti is presently not able to be visited due to extensive gang violence and a breakdown of their government. Therefore, the Committee has been looking for another mission opportunity.

The Committee is planning a trip for July 11-19, 2024. Summer dates were chosen so some of our youth might be able to participate in the mission. An information session will be held Sunday, January 7 at 9:30 AM for those interested in learning details about the trip. You may contact any of the committee members as well: Claire Anderson (chair), Dennis Carter, Bill Shoemaker, Dave & Pat Crowner, Barbara Schmitthenner, and Pastor Andrew. 

Camp Nawakwa Youth Retreat, November 2023

Middle school youth from St. James spent the weekend of November 17-19 at Camp Nawakwa in Arendstville for the Middle School Youth Retreat.   Youth had the opportunity to hike, play games, watch movies, sing and explore beauty in God’s creation.  A focus of the weekend was how God sees beauty in all of his creatures !   

Yoga Ministry At St. James

Yoga sessions continue on Fridays through December 22 ! Join Alli Crowell, St. James member and owner/instructor at RISE Yoga Gettysburg,  Sessions take place at 1:15 pm.  Gentle Yoga classes centered on the theme of Gratitude are beginner friendly and accessible to all levels of experience and ability. Yoga Ministry classes are open to the public.    A second session will be held starting Feb. 23, 2024. 

A free-will offering will be collected: during these sessions.  50% of offerings collected will be donated to St. James and the other 50% will be donated to the Love Your Brain Foundation, an organization providing free yoga and mindfulness resources to the brain injury community. Bring your own mat and water bottle! Extra yoga mats and props will be available to borrow.  Walk-ins are welcome,  but pre-registration is appreciated !
Learn more about Alli here:  riseyogagettysburg.com

Parish Records

November 5          Kathryn  Jane Waybright

New Members
October 29          Sheri Alms
                            Seth Zimmann
                            Ann & Tony Mazzariello
                            Mary & Daniel Folkemer
                            Daniel, Elizabeth, Christian & Bella DiCampli

50+ Wedding Anniversaries
December 12 Jerry and Linda Neth 59 years
December 27       Pete and Martha Riley               54 years

October 10          Jenny Woolf Frederick
October 21         George Carey

Visiting St. James

Office Hours: 
Monday—office closed
TuesdayFriday, 9:00 a.m.—3:30 p.m.
Wednesday until 5:30 p.m.
The rear door at the parking lot is open. Come on in!!