Local pastors speak of a message of hope this Christmas
Across denominations, there is a common message being preached this Christmas.
Tidings of comfort and joy are being preached to the people of Jamestown this holiday season.
"God is with us," said the Rev. Linda Schauer, pastor of Atonement Lutheran Church. "I think that message of 'God with us' is something that we always need to hear but especially in these COVID times we need to hear that and that God loves us and that he'll never leave us."
Schauer said Atonement Lutheran will be holding one in-person Christmas Eve service at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 24. In order to keep an appropriate social distance between church members, Schauer said the church is requiring an RSVP which can be done by calling the church office. Schauer said the Christmas Eve service will also be streamed via Facebook Live and then uploaded on Atonement Lutheran's YouTube page.
"It's actually cool because people can watch the services with their families on their own time - whether it's at midnight or in their pajamas," Schauer said of the online platform. "It's something that is very unique that we are doing this year. I think (virtual services) are opening up the door for them to hear the news that God is with them no matter what."
While Schauer will be broadcasting the message of 'Immanuel' to her congregation on Christmas Eve, she also provided church members and visitors an opportunity to mourn what they have lost in the last year.
"The 'Blue Christmas Service' is a service I have personally done for many, many years," Schauer said. "I started it back in 2005 before I was even a pastor. It's a service that is very near and dear to my heart. We remember our loved ones who are not with us. In this time of COVID that has taken on a unique meaning - remembering not only those who have died but remembering our family members who we normally would be getting together with."
The Blue Christmas Service was streamed via Facebook Live on Dec. 14 and uploaded on the Atonement Lutheran Church Jamestown YouTube channel. Schauer encouraged her congregation and others to watch the recorded service in efforts to recognize, acknowledge and own the grief life has thrown their way.
After church-goers watch and acknowledge the challenges of 2020, Shauer encouraged them to, in true holiday fashion, remember the reason for Advent and the Christmas season.
"The hope was born on Christmas morning when Jesus was born," Schauer said.
Across town at St. James Basilica, Father Bernard Pfau, acting administrator of the basilica, said no pandemic can overcome the message of Advent - drawing similarities between the Old Testament Jews who were under oppression and those in Jamestown who are worn out by the pandemic restrictions.
Pfau said he and the staff at the basilica are ready to accept their God-given duty to proclaim the message of hope to those in Jamestown. The basilica will be holding a Christmas vigil at 4, 6, 8 and 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and services at 8:30 and 10:30 Christmas morning.
"We are providing a message of hope," Pfau said. "The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is still the center of our message and each year it seems to have its special meaning for people and the world. Christmas should be a message of hope for people who are maybe getting a little bit weary and tired. Joy to the world."