JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – The importance of Christ in the lives of people, the coming of Jesus, the sight of the face of God, and the story of Saint Joseph are some of the Christmas messages that will be heard in churches across the region.
Pastor David Streets, of West Hills Community Church, 2301 Sunshine Ave., Westmont, said that throughout Advent he has focused on hope, peace, joy and love.
“The first week we talked about hope and how the world is uncertain with everything that is going on, so we focused on the hope in our uncertainty,” he said.
Streets said week two focused on peace in times of struggle.
“A lot of people have a lot of different struggles in their life, so how can we have peace in our life? ” he said.
“After these two services, people said that there was something relevant in their lives to feel hopeless or to feel like they were struggling with strength.”
Streets said week three is all about finding joy despite being discouraged.
“We all have disheartening times in our lives because life doesn’t turn out the way we think it is, so what do we do? ” he said.
Focus on love, the differences
The fourth week will focus on love and the differences between people.
“We all know this world is divided and chaotic – whether it’s political, racial or economic,” Streets said.
“We’re different, but we firmly believe that the answer to all of this chaos is Christ, and that’s what we’ve preached. If you follow the Bible and follow Christ and look at who’s come the first time and who’s coming back, a lot of that division will go away.
He said the Christmas message will wrap the Advent themes together to say that what the world needs is Christ.
“He came to give us hope, he came to give us peace, he came to give us joy and he came to give us love,” Streets said.
“He wants to change the world and change us. He came the first time humbly, and the second time he will come back as a king, so there is that great hope and something to look forward to in the midst of the darkness and doom that reigns there. “
Hope in jesus
He said that in Jesus there is hope.
“We have so many injured people in our own congregation who have lost loved ones and jobs, are worried about COVID and separated from their families, but I want them to know that there is a reason to stand up and get moving, and that’s what Christmas is all about, ”Streets said.
“We don’t have to let life’s circumstances define us or get us down.
“I want people to be drawn to the church, and more importantly, to the Lord.”
Christmas Eve services will take place at 1, 3 and 5 p.m. The 3 p.m. service will be broadcast live via the church’s website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.
“Christmas is one of the two highlights of the year, and it should be life changing,” Streets said.
“We have to carry this through 2022 and show that Christmas makes a difference, it’s not just a day, but forever.”
Alliance pastor Walter Startzel, of First Lutheran Church, 415 Vine St., in downtown Johnstown, said that during Advent people should look forward to Christ’s return.
“The first week we focused on God’s promise to bring a new creation, a new world,” he said.
“Even when talking about the coming of Jesus as judge, I tried to emphasize that God has a new beginning for us, not just an end. “
He said that the second and third weeks of Advent focused on John the Baptist’s ministry to prepare the way for Jesus.
“I talked about how in our lives we can prepare the way for Jesus by living him, proclaiming him and showing his love to others, so that they will recognize Jesus in us,” said Startzel.
He said that the fourth Sunday of Advent will focus on Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus.
“Even though we are a Lutheran congregation, we believe very strongly that it is important that we remember that God chose this young woman, a human being, to carry her son into our world,” said Startzel.
“I will speak about this fact because she was willing, obedient and faithful to carry Jesus in her body to the world, so we are privileged to be grateful and obedient to carry Jesus to the world in our flesh as we live our desires. lives.
“We can all be like her in that we can carry Christ. We can bring the word of God into our flesh and show the love of God in our lives, just as she did when she carried it in her womb.
He said his Christmas message will focus on Jesus.
“In the child that God sent to us, God himself came to Earth,” Startzel said.
“Christmas should always be about God’s choice to come into the world and unite with human flesh despite all that was going to cost him later in his life on the cross. He remains faithful to us and teaches us and shows us how to love one another as he loved us.
Christmas Eve services will be held at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., both ending by candlelight. The recorded service will air at 8 p.m. on December 27 on Atlantic Broadband Channel 9.
Throughout the holiday season and at the start of the New Year, Startzel said he hopes the congregation will continue to have confidence that God is present in their lives and in charge.
“We must trust God to guide us in how to act, to treat each other with love and not to give in to selfishness,” he said.
“As Christians we are to love and care for one another as God loves and cares for us. “
Pastor Carol Hickman, of Grove Avenue United Methodist Church, 501 Grove Ave., in the Moxham section of Johnstown, said the Advent theme focused on what God is calling people to do.
“Do we have to give up some good things in order to do the best things?” she asked.
“And how does God call us to be in community, not just with ourselves, but in our community, and how can we be of service to others? “
Significance of Advent
Hickman said that throughout the season she has focused on the coming of God to the world through Jesus Christ.
“That’s what Advent is for, but Christ comes all the time,” she said.
“We are looking for ways to see how Christ comes each day, how we see Christ in others, and how we see Christ in ourselves. “
The Christmas message focuses on a volatile time when Jesus was born.
“God did not wait for everything to be perfect. He sent Jesus into this mess of the world, and I really see a connection to us and our time now, ”Hickman said.
“The whole theme is seeing the face of God and God being with us, and that’s the Christmas message. We must ask God to be shown and to be connected to him in a powerful way.
The Christmas Eve service will take place at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the church’s Facebook page.
“My hope for the New Year is that people will be renewed, revived and restored,” Hickman said.
History of Saint Joseph
The Christmas message from Most Reverend Mark L. Bartchak, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, focuses on the story of Saint Joseph as it is an integral part of the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Bartchak said that Saint Joseph was a righteous man who wanted to do the right thing by following the commandments of God.
“He could have ‘divorced’ Mary by canceling the marriage when he found out she was pregnant,” Bartchak said.
“But Joseph learned in a dream that he had nothing to fear from taking Mary for his wife. All that was happening was to show that it was God’s plan how the Savior would be born.
He said Joseph had always inspired him with his sense of righteousness, prayer, honor, and commitment to his obligations to others.
“St. Joseph reminds me of so many men and husbands I have known who are calm, but not withdrawn,” Bartchak said.
“They are like Saint Joseph, who was strong and decisive. He did not hesitate to listen to the angel who told him to take Mary and the baby Jesus immediately because the jealous Herod was there to seek him.
He added that “Joseph brought Mary and the baby Jesus through difficult times and circumstances, suggesting that even when Christmas may still be a bit ‘out of date’ this year due to the pandemic, the way to go. that all goes well is to follow Joseph’s example, ”Bartchak said.
He said that at this time of year, eyes and hearts focus on images of a baby asleep on hay in a feeder.
“It’s a picture of calm and rest,” Bartchak said.
“From the tradition of Saint Joseph having heard an angel share God’s plan in a dream, there is an image of Saint Joseph who is lying down, asleep.
He added that Pope Francis has observed that it is difficult to sleep when life is turned upside down, such as during the pandemic.
“Pope Francis has a statue of Saint Joseph who is lying, asleep, and every night he writes a prayer intention on a piece of paper and places it under the image,” Bartchak said.
“It has helped the Holy Father find a place to go with the burdens he carries for the good of others in the church and in the world.
He said Pope Francis does not hesitate to describe how he can sleep more peacefully knowing that he has entrusted these questions, challenges and burdens to Saint Joseph, who is the patron saint of the Universal Church.
“Thank God for the Mother of God, the one called the Immaculate Conception,” Bartchak said.
“How many Hail Marys have come a long way in the past year. And thank God for Saint Joseph, who slept well and lived so well because he shared all his questions, challenges and burdens with the Lord in prayer, and it is the same Lord that Joseph watched in the stable in Bethlehem. “
He added that as people move forward on their journey of faith in a new year, he encourages everyone to find in Saint Joseph a person who understands the best and the worst in life.
Bartchak will be celebrating Christmas Eve Mass at 7 p.m. at St. John Gualbert Cathedral, 117 Clinton St., in downtown Johnstown, which will be broadcast live on WWCP FOX 8.
The Mass will be rebroadcast at noon on Christmas Day on WWCP FOX 8.