The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 21, 2013

Christmas blessings | Clergy will deliver tidings of joy about birth of Jesus Christ

— Some of the Christmas messages at area churches will focus on light, God’s whisper, the manger and finding Bethlehem in your heart.

“Jesus – the True Light of Christmas” is the theme for a series of Advent messages at Oakland United Methodist Church, 1504 Bedford St., Johnstown.

Each week, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Randy Bain, focused on a different Scripture to reveal a new light, leading up to Christmas Eve, when he will present “The True Light.”

Bain started with “The Ancient Light” to the people in darkness on Dec. 1, “The Great Light” to the shepherds on Dec. 8 and “The Guiding Light” to the wise men on Dec. 15.

He will conclude with “The Quiet Light” to Simeon and Anna today and “The Eternal Light” of the lamb on Dec. 29.

“There are five or six biblical narratives that relate to Christmas, and every year for Advent I try to figure out how to package it,” Bain said.

“It’s another way to look at the traditional in a creative and contemporary way.”

He is taking the light theme from ancient prophecy to the lamb of God, hoping to build the kingdom of God one soul at a time by issuing individual invitations and altar calls.

“The Word Became a Whisper” will be the Christmas message at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church, 1000 Scalp Ave., Richland Township.

The message is based on the Scripture in John 1, which states “The Word became flesh,” said the Rev. Scott Custead.

“We’re living in a noisy world, and in the midst of the noise, the loudest sound is a whisper,” Custead said.

“God could have shouted the Christmas proclamation and made a big splash, but he whispered quietly in the back streets.”

Custead added that today God still whispers, but can we hear his whisper?

He said the last sentences of his message will be “The word of God became a whisper. He desires nothing more than to dwell in the deepest and quietest place in your heart.”

“Laid in a Manger?” will be the meditation by Pastor Norma Prina Murphy at Westmont Presbyterian Church, 601 Luzerne St.

“I will be preaching on the text from Luke 2:1-20, focusing mainly on Verse 7,” Murphy said.

This Scripture tells the story of the birth of Jesus, and this verse states “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

The Christmas message by the Most Rev. Mark Leonard Bartchak, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, focuses on the question, “Where Is Your Bethlehem?”

He said the question means “Where is Jesus Christ born into your life?

While reading a reflection about the travel involved in the first Christmas by author Marilyn Ehle, Bartchak started thinking about GPS technology.

“In a straight line, it is a little more than 100 kilometers from Nazareth to Bethlehem, but given the countless hills, valleys and rivers, there was no straight line,” Bartchak said.

“And there was no GPS and no modern highway when Mary and Joseph made that journey. Many of us have had to make unexpected journeys under circumstances that we would prefer not to experience.”

There have been many times Bartchak has stopped to ask directions, and over the years, he has met countless people who asked him for direction when it felt like God was far away.

“In those personal moments, the Lord Jesus Christ has been born again into their lives and into mine through our encounter,” Bartchak said.

“So where is your Bethlehem as we celebrate Christmas this year? The gospel of Jesus Christ, his sacraments and his church remain the components of the most enduring and reliable GPS that anyone could imagine.

 “We are all on a journey of faith. We are all invited by the Lord Jesus Christ to build his kingdom on earth with living stones. Those living stones come in all ages, sizes and shapes. We are to profess the faith we have in Christ by sharing with others that he is the way, the truth and the life.”

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