January birthdays

Each month we recognize the birthdays and anniversaries of our church members. Here are the ones for the month of January:

2 — Theodore Dutton

5 — Stacy Fazio, Paige Newport

6  — Mike Mighaccio

11 — Kellin Chaffin, Nancy Parks

12 — Nancy Bailey

15 — Jeff Jones

16 — Helen Winkel

17 — Joseph LeBeau, Patty Parks

19 — Joel Van Patten

21 — Betty Lundberg

24 — Sue Hipp

25 — Ben Parks

29 — Carter Reynolds

31 — Roger Wall

NO Anniversaries in January

Saturday Breakfast Group to meet Jan. 12

Mark your calendars for the next meeting of the Saturday Breakfast Group at 9 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, in the Conference Room. Elizabeth Davis Russell will talk about her experiences as the founder of a university in Liberia. EJ Hinojosa will furnish breakfast.

Usually, the group will meet on the first Saturday of each month, but we shifted the January meeting since some people might still be traveling or on vacation for the holidays on the first Saturday in January. Contact Phil Fullerton to learn more.

(Photo from the December gathering)

Advent Devotional: Tuesday, December 25

Theme: Living Into Joy

Written by Rev. Raygan Baker, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Luke 4:16-20

Mary treasured these things in her heart.

The Advent calendars have counted down, the carols have been sung, the candles have been lit and extinguished. The baby was born, and the presents (which took hours to shop for and wrap), have finally been opened (in a matter of seconds). So, what did you get? Was it what you wanted? If so, was it as wonderful as fulfilling as you thought it would be? If not, was the countdown a bust? In short, did it work? Did your traditions live up to your memories of them? Did you ever really buy that that baby was a greater gift than everything else on your wishlist? Was whatever you hoped for, longed for, or watched for throughout Advent, even with guarded suspicions, as good as it was promised?

Personally, my favorite part of Christmas is late in the evening of Christmas Day. At least for me and my family, there’s nothing left to do. No more gifts to give or receive, no more big meals to prepare for, and in fact, leftovers will take care of the next several meals. Even more, whatever was left undone in the preparation for the season will now have to be left undone. For some, Christmas Eve feels like the big celebration, and by late on Christmas Day, it is over; but for me, it’s my best chance during the whole season to find silence. And I find that silence to be pregnant with an ineffable hope.

Whether your deepest longings and desires were fulfilled or not, Christmas worked. God came to us in the most intimate way, in a body. God longed so deeply to be near us, that God removed every barrier between the Creator and the created people. This is our “Good news of great joy.”

However your Christmas Holiday has gone to this point, can you find a time and a place to treasure these things in your heart? I find that this is often best experienced in silence, while being mindful of your body. Sit comfortably, breath deeply and intentionally, and don’t worry about where your thoughts wander, just point yourself toward what you treasure.

Advent Devotional: Monday, December 24

Theme: Living Into Joy

Written by Peter Wall, First Congregational Church of Fresno

Luke 2:8–14

I never understood how it could be that God “sent” his son. Sending is done from a distance. But God is supposed to be everywhere, always. “Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord.” (Jer. 23:23–24.) Or, as it is put so evocatively in the Quran, “We created the human being, and We know what his soul whispers to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.” (50:16.) If anything, God must be immediate and intimate.

If you share my concern about “sending” and “distance,” then you will be rewarded by a close but imaginative reading of the passage today from Luke.

First, there are shepherds in fields—not one shepherd, and not one field, but shepherds in fields. Without warning their multiplicity in those fields is met with a surrounding but singular angel of the Lord, which, despite being in fields, neither sings nor shouts, but merely speaks to them the news of a savior. Their presence is immediate and intimate.

(I think of Elijah, standing on the mountain, hearing God not in a wind, or an earthquake, or a fire, but a “still small voice.” Or “a sound of sheer silence,” as the New Revised Standard Version puts it. Closer, perhaps, than the thrum of his own jugular.)

The shepherds in their fields receive the news of a savior and suddenly there is a multitude of the heavenly host. The intimacy and immediacy of these angels tells a story in itself. It is not so much an arrival after a journey from afar as it is a revelation of alreadyness — they are messengers from what already fills the fields, with all of heaven and earth.

And as this season of Advent comes to a close, we should also notice that the shepherds in the fields were not waiting for God, or for the news of a savior. They were watching over their flocks in the night. Peering into a murky darkness. And the glorious good news was already there, surrounding them. Closer, maybe, than their own jugulars.

Advent Devotional: Sunday, December 23

Theme: Living Into Joy

Written by Miranda Deis (age 13), First Congregational Church of Fresno

Luke 1:46-55

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

Call to Action

You should love and respect your neighbor regardless of how much money they have, their skin color, where they live or who they love. If money and titles were not the most important thing to God they shouldn’t be the most important things in your life either.

Instead of a prayer, I want you to be a mirror to reflect God’s plan by putting it into action. On this day, two days before you celebrate the birth of Jesus I want you to get out in your community and show the disadvantaged people some love, show them that you care and that they matter.

Advent Devotional: Saturday, December 22

Theme: Living Into Joy

Written by Kimberly Williams, First Congregational Church of Fresno

John 1:9-18

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Where do you keep your Christmas decorations? We store ours for 11 months of the year in the garage. Our garage is organized exactly the way you’d imagine two adults with ADHD would have it organized. Best intentions in January, the boxes clearly labeled and stacked together. By June one box has been ripped open because one of us (not pointing fingers, but it wasn’t me) didn’t read the label and it *wasn’t* filled with whatever it was that was being searched for. The tape is not reapplied. By November your guess is as good as mine about where everything went. We found the light up village, but where did the twinkle lights go? Ah, they’re on the shelf with the chlorine for the hot tub—of course. That makes sense.

“Hey babe! I found the lights! And, funnily enough, that dog harness we couldn’t find last April!”

We will have to wait for nightfall to enjoy the display. All afternoon is spent on a ladder with kids running around sugared up with hot cocoa, one of us hanging the lights, the other offering “helpful” commentary from the ground.

I dunno, maybe you know exactly where everything is and this isn’t helpful for you at all. But it’s exactly this dash through utter disorganization and chaos that makes the lights seem so vibrant when we finally see them lit up. The lights have been here all along in the garage, but who could know we would have such a display based on the contents of ripped cardboard boxes that have been haphazardly stashed away?

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.

Our light display is a good reminder that in this season while we anticipate the birth of Christ, God has always been here. Obscured by our own chaos, no one has ever seen God, yet still here with us in the mess.

When Jesus is born, a true light is shone. Not the kind that gets turned off at dawn and on at dusk thanks to a photocell sensor, but light that stays, reaches everyone. Is isn’t merely seasonal, rather it is always available for guidance, clarity, or sometimes it’s there for us to just sit back and marvel at.