From The Pastor’s Desk

Pastor Jen Hoffman Email:

Greetings and Happy Advent! We have entered together into the season of the church year that
lifts up a sense of waiting and expectation. We reflect on our life lived in Christ as we wait for the
day we will remember the incarnation (Jesus) and ponder the waiting still to come when Christ
will fully usher in a new heaven and a new earth and crying and pain and injustice will be no more.
Sometimes this period of waiting brings with it a sense of being “stuck”…unable to move forward
or back. And I must admit that I am terrible at waiting. There is a reason I put off buying
Christmas or birthday gifts until the last moment. If I don’t, I end up giving those presents out
early and having to buy another one later because I just can’t wait to give it to whomever I bought
it for! But God asks us to wait, and to be ready for what is to come. There is no being “stuck” in
this time. Readying ourselves for the coming of Christ involves both quiet reflection AND action. It’s a time of “spring cleaning” within ourselves and enacting God’s love for all people in the world around us. And most importantly, it is leaning on the trust we have in God that the “new thing” God promised to God’s people IS Jesus Christ, who was and is and always will be the source of our life and salvation.

Here is what awaits us this Advent season:

1) Mid-week Advent services will be taking place at 6:00 pm on Wednesday evenings on our Facebook page. These will be short,
reflective services that encourage all kinds of ways to engage your senses in worship as we watch
and wait. If you journal, draw, or color, you may want to have your favorite tools handy for the services. If you
prefer to just sit quietly and ponder, by all means bring your thinking cap! I pray these services will be a healing
balm for us in the coming weeks leading to Christmas.

2) In person Christmas Eve services. As I mentioned last month, the council voted to allow for four, 30 minute
Christmas Eve services this year. The services will take place at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, and 5:00 pm. Because attendance at these services will be limited,
we are asking you to call the church and reserve a seat(s) for ONE of the services.
To do this, call the church and LEAVE A MESSAGE with your NAME, NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WILL BE
ATTENDING from your family unit, PREFERRED SERVICE TIME, and your PHONE NUMBER. Nancy will listen to
the messages and call you back to let you know that she received it and whether or not there is still space
available at the service time you requested. If not, you may be asked to attend an alternate service time. Please be aware that masks and social distancing
will be observed during the services. We will also be streaming live all four
services for those who feel more comfortable joining from home! Also know that although we will do what we can to have our sanctuary familiarly
decorated for the season, the service itself will look different. Our hope is that it
will prove to be just as meaningful as we observe, once again, the birth of Jesus.

3) As you know, the pandemic continues to affect us. Some of us might be experiencing hardships for which we
weren’t prepared, whether monetary or assistance-wise. If you find yourself in a difficult situation, there are
resources available at St. Stephen to help you. To learn what is available, you may call me (Pastor Jen) directly at
715-581-7378. Due to a generous gift from one of our members, we have funds in our Good Neighbor account
specifically designated for helping you, our members, as well as additional funds for members of the larger
community. Thank you all for your generosity in thinking of the needs of others!

4) Hopefully you had a chance to watch the Thanksgiving Eve service done in collaboration with several of our local ELCA churches.
If not, I encourage you to do so! December is an excellent month to lift up our thanksgivings to
God and remember that God is the source of all that we have and all that we are.

Pastor Jen