The world as we know it has changed – dramatically! Nothing is what it once was; an invisible virus has touched the face of the earth; governments are issuing mandates ordering people to wear masks and/or stay at home; businesses have gone “belly-up” as a result; individuals have become unemployed; families are short on food and money to pay bills; protests have risen around the globe; racial disharmony has increased exponentially. As a result, millions are living with a profound sense of anxiety, hopelessness, with fear wrapping its fingers around many minds and lives. “When will things return to normal?” is the question on everyone’s mind and in conversations. As leaders scramble to find quick answers to the inquiry, no one knows for sure what to expect.
In antiquity, the people of Israel struggled with similar questions and circumstances. Continuously, they were overtaken by foreign nations, experienced living under the rulership of foreign kings, struggled to make ends meet, lived looking for a brighter day. Amid their national circumstance and insecurity, they were expecting the fulfillment of One who the prophets had mentioned time and again. Isaiah, in particular, said, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this,” (Isaiah 9.6-7). There was a hopeful expectation; a preparation that they, as a people, needed to do; a knowledge that God loved them enough to make such a promise; a joy that the promise would be fulfilled; an adoration to God for His sovereignty.
As we enter the Christmas season of 2020, amid the turmoil our world is living, let us turn our sight to the One who is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace. He came once as a baby, lived among first-century Jews to show the very character and essence of the Father, offered His own life on our behalf so that we could have a relationship with God, and promised that He will return for His people. This Christmas, may the peace that surpasses all understanding fill our hearts and minds and, like the shepherds that night, may our hearts be filled with joy, “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds,” (Titus 2.13-14).
Have a blessed and safe Christmas,
Pastor Anthony Rivera
As we begin the holiday season with the arrival of Thanksgiving this week, we are at a loss for how our normal routines, and lives, are no longer what they use to be. At large, the world is in such a state that it is unrecognizable from just a year or two ago. Yes. Things have changed. But God has not; God is consistent; God is unmovable; God is sovereign. Amid the changes taking place around us and in our personal lives, God has everything under control. That alone should provide us with a sense of peace and hope. The apostle Paul knew what it meant to trust God, in spite of what was occurring around him, and to him. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4.11-13). “In everything,” he says, “give thanks,” (1 Thessalonians 5.18a). As we gather at the dinner table this Thanksgiving, let us be thankful for God’s provisions, God’s providential care, and God’s sovereignty. Let us be at peace, for all things are in His hands.
Have a blessed and safe Thanksgiving.
On November 13, 2020, an emergency Session meeting was convened to discuss the rise of COVID-19 cases across Allegheny County. As a precautionary measure, and for the safety of the members of FPCE, it was determined that in-person worship will be suspended effective November 15, 2020. As such, online worship will resume, and live-streamed on Facebook that same day starting at 11 a. m. An edited version of the worship service will be uploaded on YouTube and SoundCloud the following day. A PDF version of the bulletin will be emailed Fridays, and also made available on the website for everyone to download and participate in worship and follow along in Scripture reading. When conditions become favorable for the return for in-person worship, an email will be forwarded as well as posted on the website. While you are at home, make the time to seek the face of God. Pray, and trust in the God that is sovereign. “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me,” (John 14.1).