I first heard this poem as a song. Although initially I was captivated by the beautiful melody and setting by the music composer, Jandi Arboleda, it is the lyrics and its message that made me connect to it in a deeper level. And every time Christmas season comes, I often find myself humming its melody or singing out its words. It goes:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
This poem was written by Howard Thurman, an author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and more notably, a civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, Thurman played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations, and was a key mentor to leaders within the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King Jr. Learning this about the author almost makes me think that the poem’s meaning and message are deeper and implicit. However, I believe that its words and commands are actually quite simple and straightforward. It conveys in an eloquent way what we need to do, especially as followers of Christ, when the Christmas season comes to an end. Find the lost - share the good news of Christ’s birth and salvation. Heal the broken - aid the sick, the elderly, and the vulnerable, especially in this time of pandemic. Feed the hungry - provide sustenance to people who are in need, like the homeless in our community, or donate to Second Harvest and Rise Against Hunger. To release the prisoner - help and support friends, family, or people in our community to break free from any form of addiction or abusive relationships. To rebuild nations, to bring peace among brothers - especially relevant in these times, get involved and support our government towards the path of healing and reconciliation from division due marginalization because of race, sexual orientation, religion, or political beliefs. And my favorite, To make music in the heart - to do all these work with a song and joy in our hearts. I love that the author closes the poem with this line, that after all the preceding “outward” commands, he reminds us at the end not to forget to take care of the “inward” - ourselves. With the new year ahead, and as the work of Christmas begins, I pray that the music-making in our hearts also continues and help us face our tasks with cheerful attitude.
- REY LAMBATIN, Choir Director
Matthew writes that when the magi saw the shining star stop overhead, they were filled with joy. “On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Matt. 2:10-11). When you think about the people who have walked into your home this year, was it anything like the magi’s visit to Mary’s home? Our homes have become something entirely different to us. They’re not just our hideaway, they’re now the place where we work, eat, sleep, exercise, play, and get trapped. Now we have all this new data to ask ourselves if Christ is present in our home.
Epiphany of Our Lord (January 6) every year offers us the occasion for blessing our homes. An eastern European tradition of the Church is to inscribe a visual blessing on the main door with white chalk. A family would hold a short service of prayer to ask God’s blessing on their dwellings and on all who live, work with, and visit them. For example, they would inscribe 20+CMB+21. The numbers change with each new year. The three letters stand for either the ancient Latin blessing Christe mansionem benedicat, which means “Christ, bless this house,” or the legendary names of the magi (Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthasar). In this way, they would invite Jesus to be a “guest” in their home, a listener to each conversation, a guide for troubled times, and a blessing in times of thanksgiving.
In the Old Testament, the Israelites were told to mark their doors with the blood of the lamb on the night of the Passover to ensure that the angel of death would pass them by. Deuteronomy 6:9 says that we shall “write [the words of God] on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, … and you shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”
Our homes have become our base for all things. They are the place where we sleep, eat, work, and play. Now, visitors crossing our threshold have taken on new meaning for us. Chalking the door or the doorstep of our houses invites Christ to be a part of all these activities and the whole community that surrounds our homes. As the image of the chalk fades, we will remember the sign we have made and transfer it to our hearts and our habits no matter where or how we might live in the year to come.
I invite you to join me for a Blessing of Our Homes tonight at 7:30 pm. You can join us here on Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89071751168. Bring a piece of chalk, pencil, post-it notes, paper, or whatever you might want to use to mark our blessing on your house.
Fifty and Better (FAB) Winter Session & January Lectures
FAB’s 6-week Winter Session begins on Jan. 19, and registration is now open! Courses include: History of Women Artists, America and the Cold War, American Life Through Broadway Musicals, Pioneer Women of the Movies, and more! We hope you will join us for these captivating courses. Individuals 50+ are welcome, please share with your friends and family! FAB will also be hosting lectures in early January. Join us as JPL’s Luis Velasco talks about the Perseverance Rover and the challenges leading up to the February landing, and Eleanor Schrader takes us on a journey out West through Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. Lectures are open to all. For more information visit: https://www.callutheran.edu/centers/lifelong-learning/fifty-better/
Encompass Ministries continues their work with the houseless this season. They are always taking donations. You can drop any items into the blue bins just outside the office door inside the building.
They are looking for:
empty 8oz water bottles
yarn for hats
empty 8oz water bottles
empty 8oz water bottles
paper bags (for Martha's)
and did I mention - empty 8oz water bottles
And you can always donate through our website; www.encompassministry.org.
It is apparent that we will have a different Christmas this year. The pandemic affects all of us in one way or another, some more than the others. While some of us are inconvenienced by wearing a mask while out in public, or waiting in line to get into a store, or not being able to dine in our favorite restaurants, I also know of friends who are going through the pain of losing a friend or a loved one because of COVID. With the implementation of another lockdown, plans are changing, and a few Christmas traditions will have to wait till next year to happen. In CGS, we will not have our yearly Christmas concert that the choirs put together to help raise funds for our ministries, or get together in person to sing carols and hymns, and share food or treats. Mike and I will not be traveling to Montana this time to spend Christmas with family. So, for now, we’re holding on to the fond and joyful memories of past Christmases, and I’ve got plenty to get me through. Some of my happiest Christmas memories go back to when I was a teenager in the Philippines. I remember going house to house with my choir, singing carols, receiving gifts, and at the end of the evening, sharing lots of laughter over simple food. We would also go to amusement parks that were only open around the season, and enjoy the rides and whatever tasty munchies that we could get our hands on. In our home, Christmas Eve dinner, which is traditionally called “Noche Buena”, was always special. Mom would prepare foods that were only served during special occasions, like roasted chicken, ham, “arroz valenciana” (savory sticky rice with meat and vegetables), and Filipino-style spaghetti (don’t laugh, but it’s sweet, with cut-up hotdogs, ground meat, and the usual tomato sauce, with maybe a little bit of banana catsup). Coming to the US, I’ve made new fond memories with different people in different events and places, like singing with dear friends in the Christmas concerts of the Silicon Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, and engaging in some traditions we have at CGS, like sprucing up our church at the beginning of the season and putting together our own Christmas concert and pageant. And this year, what I will miss the most is spending time with friends in our homes, singing together, and sharing food and laughter.
However, pandemic or not, as different as it will be, Christmas is coming, and its message stays the same – the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that gives us hope.
A safe and merry Christmas to all!
-Rey Lambatin, CGS Choir Director
Christmas is my favorite time of year… I spend extra time thinking of special things to do with and for my friends and family. I decorate my home with sparkly ornaments, stockings, snuggly quilts, and my nativity scene. I bake like a crazy person and share my creations with people in my circle and I sing Christmas pretty much non-stop. So, this year, 2020 things are different for so many reasons. Not only are we dealing with a global pandemic and all of the things that are involved with that, I am also going through treatment for Breast Cancer. Yes, 2020 has been a gut punch for so many reasons.
But, as my family of four sat around our Thanksgiving table last week, we talked about the things are we are thankful for, and even in the midst of all the crap that we are dealing with we each were able to think of things that we can give thanks for. My boys are thankful that even though they can’t hang out with their friends in person, we have technology that they can use to connect with the people that they miss. My husband and I are thankful for the access to the healthcare team that was able to get my treatment moving within a week and a half of my diagnosis. Also, I am thankful that at the 8-week mark of my treatment, (I am currently at week 19) an MRI showed that the chemotherapy that I had been having, shrunk the tumor from 1.5 cm to .5cm. Hopefully, the additional 12 weeks of chemo will shrink the tumor completely and there will be virtually nothing to remove at my lumpectomy in January. I am also thankful for the number of people who have supported me and my family through this cancer journey. You all, my CGS family have reached out so many times with words of love, prayers, and support over and over again. I feel like even though I have been going through a dark time, I have seen the face of God through so many of you.
So, even though this year’s Christmas will be different, I am determined to soak up all the good things about the season that I enjoy. I can still connect with the people I love, I can sing my heart out to all the Christmas music that makes my heart happy, and I can put out my decorations to make my home extra festive, although I admit that I am scaling things back this year. Even though I miss seeing you at church each week, I still feel connected to our church community and I am thankful that our special family exists. I am thankful for the continued ministry of CGS. Merry Christmas to you all.
-Petra Menard, CGS Council Vice-President
CGS is seeking a Community Coordinator for 2021. Please share this job description and invite interested parties to send a cover letter, resume, and at least 2 references to: Paul Thomas by email: email@example.com or by mail to Paul Thomas, care of Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 1550 Meridian Ave., San Jose, CA 95125
Click the file for the job description:
What should we be thankful for? What should we be grateful for?
Last week I started Monday morning with what felt like cramps. Perhaps some bad milk? No big deal, soldier on through. Around noon, though, the debilitating pain hit me like a truck. We called the phone advice line and headed to the hospital just to be safe. They confirmed we were doing the right thing, and 11 hours later I was heading home, minus my appendix. Certainly I am thankful for the countless doctors, nurses, assistants, and medical staff who are busy enough (and risking their lives) dealing with the pandemic while still handling all of their regular workloads. They were gracious, informative, and supportive. And I am beyond grateful to my wife, who did double-duty taking care of the family while I was recovering, and my family and friends for their well wishes and prayers.
While I was waiting in the hospital for my surgery - alone, thanks to the pandemic - I had some time to think. And to keep my mind off the fact that I’d never had surgery before, had never been put under, and was freaking out just a little bit, I tried to think about other things for which I am thankful. Here’s a partial list:
-The unencumbered innocence of children and dogs.
-The miracle of existence.
-The millions of people who, each day, make the world just a tiny bit better than it was the day before.
-The billions and billions of plants, animals, and bacteria that go through generations upon generations without any interference by, or even awareness of, human beings.
-The unknowable vastness of space.
-The power of positive thinking.
-The fact that, on the whole, each succeeding generation is more compassionate, more tolerant, more caring, and more active in their protection of the planet.
-The incredible diversity and beauty of the planet, its biomes, and its inhabitants.
-The power of God, God’s love, and God’s influence, direct or indirect, felt or unfelt.
Now these are mostly big-picture philosophical musings that make sense for someone about to go under the knife. But in a year that most everyone wishes would just hurry up and finish; looking ahead to a Thanksgiving apart from friends, family, and loved ones; and when so much of mankind’s sloth-like progress seems to have been eradicated in a matter of months - this big-picture thinking made me remember that, even in the morass of 2020, that the world is an awe-inspiring place. Each of us will one day be gone from this planet; but the list above, by God’s grace, will continue unabated.
I hope you are able to connect with those you love in some way, shape, or form this week, and I hope you can find much to be thankful for.
-Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
Thank you everyone for a wonderful congregational meeting yesterday! It was a delightful treat to see everyone on Zoom and to hear a chorus of praise from our community!
In our meeting we elected Rey Lambatin, Judith Steger, Daniel Thomas, Sarah Janigian, Sarah Erickson, and Chuck Witschorik Jr. to the nominating committee. After Christmas they will start the process of finding our new council persons for election in May.
We also elected to send Bob Blough and Jean Herriges to the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly as voting members. They'll attend the synod assembly in May of 2021 from the comfort of their living room computers.
Delightfully, we approved a mission plan for 2021 in the form of a budget. To see the high level financial reports and budget presentation, you can click here.
In case you missed it, our council also announced that CGS will be seeking a new staff position in 2021. At the same time we will be ending our Office Manager staff position. Our new staff position will be Community Coordinator. This person will work with all the members of CGS to carry out their ministry and mission in the world. They will also work with our partners and friends as part of our call to serve the community with this property.
We also announced that worship this Christmas Eve will be online due to the Tier 1 restrictions of the county. Worship will be at 2pm (in German) at 5pm and at 11pm as usual. Keep your eyes on these newsletters for more information as it develops.
A huge thank you to our council for all their hard work preparing this meeting as well as to our President, Vice President, and Secretary for preparing thoughtfully and making it run so smoothly. Thank you also to our personnel chair & team, property committee, staff, and especially our treasurer and finance team for all their hard work preparing our budget.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.