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St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church and School

1530 South Main Street, Lake Mills, Wisconsin 53551
920.648.2235

St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church
Monthly Newsletter

DECEMBER 2014

Weekly Announcements Monthly School Newsletter

St. Paul Ev. Lutheran Church Newsletter
1530 S. Main Street 
Lake Mills, Wisconsin 53551
Pastor Bruce A. McKenney   920-988-9500
Pastor James E. Rath  648-8033
Principal Steven J. Gartner  479-200-6626
Church-648-2235; School–648-2918
www.stpaullakemills.org
Principal James Grasby LLHS 648-2321 

DECEMBER 2014

“But when the time was fully come, God sent his son, born of a woman, born under law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” (Galatians 4:4,5)
  
Have you ever given or received the perfect gift at Christmas?  Maybe it was that new coat that was really needed.  Maybe it was that appliance that made life easier around the house.  Maybe it was that engagement ring with its promise of life-long love. Maybe it was just a gift card so that the recipient could buy the gift that he or she really wanted or needed.  As the Christmas shopping season is now upon us, people are looking for that perfect gift. If it’s the perfect gift for which one is looking this Christmas, then one doesn’t have to look any further than in the manger at Bethlehem.  In the Christ Child, God the Father gave to the world the perfect gift.                                                                                             

Why is Jesus the perfect Christmas gift? First of all, the gift of the baby Jesus was given at the perfect time.  Paul tells us that when the time had fully come, God sent his Son.  No one can know the mind of God and his timing, but we do know that at just the perfect time, Jesus was born.  Even though we don’t know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, it could have been on December 25th, we do know it was at the exact time God the Father wanted it to happen.  So even though our timing may not always be right on, God’s timing is perfect and at just the perfect time he sent us his Son.

We also know that Jesus is the perfect gift because he himself was perfect!  Jesus is the perfect Son of  God from all eternity.  In time, he took on human flesh when he was born of the virgin Mary.  He is both God and man in one person.  He was, and is, and always will be the sinless Son of God!  That the holy Son of God became one of us is the miracle of Christmas!  Although it’s beyond our comprehension, it’s the reason for our celebration.  In the person of Christ, God gave the perfect gift—his perfect Son.

As the perfect God-man, he was able to do what we couldn’t.  He did perfect work. He was born under the demands of the law so that he could keep it perfectly for us.  Then he died under the curse of the law and offered to God the perfect payment for the debt of our sin.  Jesus is the perfect gift because he gives us his perfect work of redeeming us from our sins.

Because he did his work perfectly, we now have the perfect righteousness we need for heaven.  By faith in him we are now the sons of God and we have the full rights to our inheritance which is the perfect peace and happiness of heaven.  That’s what an inheritance is—a gift.  In Jesus we have the perfect gift—eternal life!

Jesus is also the perfect gift because he keeps on giving.  When we hear, read, and learn his holy Word, he comes to us with his mercies that are new every morning.  When we receive the Lord’s Supper he comes to us and he not only gives us himself again in, with and under the elements of bread and wine, he keeps giving us the blessings of salvation.  Because he is the perfect gift that keeps on giving, we don’t have to keep him all to ourselves.  We can share him with others.  What is great about that is when we share with others the Savior and all his blessings we won’t have less for ourselves!   That’s an amazing thing about the gift of the Christ Child!  Unlike the earthly gifts we give, when we share him with others, we still have him for ourselves! 

So as you look ahead to the gifts you give and receive at Christmas, remember that you already have received and can give the perfect gift—Jesus.

Serving You in Christ,

Pastor Bruce McKenney

ADVENT SERVICES
As the new church year begins with the Advent season we hold midweek services on December 3, 10 and 17.  Service times are 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.  Theme for these services is “Jesus is Coming!”  The individual weeks present the series

1.  With Proof to Him Who Doubts (Luke 1:18-20)
2.  With Comfort to Him who Waits   (Luke 1:26, 31-33)
3.  With Enlightenment to Him who Does Not Understand (Matthew 1:20-23)

A light supper is served in the school gym from 4:30-6 p.m., with a freewill offering to cover expenses.

DOOR OFFERING
The third Sunday in Advent has the theme of “Rejoice!”  As we anticipate the celebration of our Savior’s birth and his second coming at the end, God’s people have reason to rejoice.  This year, Koine, will assist our worship during the Sunday morning services at 8 and 10:30 am.  To help defray the cost, a door offering will be taken on the weekends of December 7th and the 14th.  

CALL EXTENDED
On November 2 the voters extended a call to Rev. Daniel Cole to serve as our third pastor.  He graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in 2000 and currently serves at St. John Lutheran Church in Maribel, Wisconsin.  He and his wife Natasha have three children.  Please remember Pastor Cole and his family in your prayers as he deliberates his future service.

2020 VISION
What is your vision of St. Paul congregation by the year 2020?  That was the question answered by more than a hundred families this last week. They are sharing their vision of priorities for our joint ministry through their commitment cards. The results are being tallied to be shared soon.

Those same attendees reviewed blessings in our congregation and their lives to prayerfully consider their weekly gifts in thanks to God. We pray that the Holy Spirit working in their loving and trusting hearts will move God’s children to bring an increased thank offering.

For those interested in using electronic giving, stay tuned. A video to demonstrate the ease of this program will be shared in the next weeks.

Finally I would like to publicly thank all those who made the 2020 Vision effort work:  our faithful pastors, the Stewardship Board, the Fellowship Board, kitchen staff, snack providers, office staff, child care providers and countless others. Through their efforts we know that at least 265 people from at least 158 families heard the message.  Over 100 commitment sheets are returned so far.

We pray that the message, amplified through Word and Sacrament will,   “encourage one another and build each other up.”  1 Thess. 5

Gerry Heckmann, Stewardship Board chairman

PASTORS’ CORNER
Your pastors join Mr. Heckmann in thanking you for participation in the stewardship presentations and encourage you to return the response forms.  We are now preparing for the busy but special seasons of Advent and Christmas and look forward to sharing the message of our Savior with you.  May we grow in faith and in Christian unity! 

MISSION SOCIETY
The December meeting of St. Paul Mission Society will be held on Monday, December 1 at 7 p.m. in the school library.  All ladies are asked to bring hors d’oeuvres in celebration of Christmas.  The Lakeside Swing Choir will entertain.  All ladies are invited.

CHURCH DECORATING
Volunteers are welcome to come at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday, December 2 to decorate the church for Christmas. 

FESTIVAL CHOIR
St. Paul’s Festival Choir will again prepare music for our Christmas Eve 3:00 and 5:00 services on Wednesday, December 24.  All members of St. Paul are invited to join this choir. This year all 7th and 8th graders are also invited and encouraged to sing in the choir.
            Practices that have been scheduled so far are Monday, December 1, 7:30-8:30; Wednesdays, December 3 and 10, 7:30-8:30; Sunday, December 21, 9:30-10:15; and Tuesday, December 23, 6:30-8:00. Our first practice on Monday, December 1, will be a special one you won’t want to miss. Mrs. Lisa Uttech, voice teacher and member of Canticum Novum, a WELS chamber choir that is dedicated to performing challenging music, will be present. She will provide vocal training to help us get our voices ready for celebrating our Savior’s birth.
            If you have any questions please speak with Lois McKenney (920-988-0177; loismckenney@gmail.com).

HOLIDAY SERVICES
We celebrate the birth of Jesus with several special services.  The Children’s Christmas Service is Sunday, December 21 at 8:30 and 10:30 a.m.  Students of St. Paul’s School participate.  The 3K and 4K children take part only in the 10:30 a.m. service.  Both services are in the gymnasium.  Please note the later time of the early service.  Christmas Eve services are at 3:00, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 24.  The Sunday School children participate in the 3 p.m. service.  The Christmas Festival service is Thursday, December 25 at 9:00 a.m. (Please note that there is only one service this year.)

New Year’s Eve services are Wednesday, December 31 at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.

CHRISTMAS CONCERTS

Wisconsin Lutheran College

December 4-6

7:30 p.m.

 

December 7

2:30 p.m.

Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary

December 14

3 & 7 p.m.

Lakeside Lutheran High School

December 14

7:00 p.m.

Luther Preparatory School

December 14

3:00 p.m.

 

December 18

10:00 a.m.

CHRISTMAS CARD
Watch your mail for the Christmas card from the congregation (signed by the pastors).  For the last several years students at St. Paul’s School in grades 7-8 have prepared designs.  The card chosen this year was designed by eighth grader Ryan Ferch.  Thank you for your creativity!

CHRISTMAS SIGNS
In recent years many of our families have put up yard signs announcing the birth of our Savior.  Be sure to do so again if yours is in good condition.  We will have some more available in mid-December.  We are short a few wires, so if you have one that is usable from your Easter sign, please use it.  Signs may remain up for 30 days according to local ordinances.

MLC GRADUATES
Graduating from Martin Luther College at its mid-year commencement service on December 19 will be Hannah Hackbarth and Luke Schwecke from our congregation.  Congratulations and may God bless your future service in his kingdom!

RECENT OFFERINGS
The continuing goodness of our Lord enables our offering response.  The amazing grace of God in sending Jesus to save us from sin motivates to present thankful gifts for his work.  Offerings for the operating budget of the congregation in recent weeks are listed below.  Average weekly needs are $19,760.

October 26

$ 17,873

November 2

$ 16,807

November 9

$ 15,465

November 16

$ 10,708

November 23

$ 12,467

Also received during those weeks were gifts of $513 for the Improvement Fund, $11,096 for the Building Fund (Bountiful Blessings), $446 for Tuition Assistance, $120 for Mission Festival, $979 for the Lakeside mortgage, $56 for Wisconsin Lutheran Institutional Ministries and $157 in the door offering for Camp Phillip.

SPECIAL ENVELOPE
Your offering packet in December includes a special envelope for Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Services.  This WELS-affiliated agency provides counseling services for a variety of family circumstances, both at its offices and via computer.  They also operate assisted living facilities and provide in-home care.

DISTRICT SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Our Western Wisconsin District has a Scholarship Fund to assist students from our district who are preparing for the public ministry.  Grants of $10,150 were recently announced.  There were 81 applications, with 51 students receiving aid, including 3 students at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 26 at Martin Luther College, 13 at Luther Prep, 6 at Lakeside, 1 at Luther High and 2 at Northland.  Contributions to the fund are always welcome.

MEALS ON WHEELS
Thanks to our Meals on Wheels drivers:  Roger & Judy Mundt (2), Marianne Hafenstein, Jan McFarlane, Vi Topel, Tara Topel, Rose Pfeifer.

TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD
In this month’s newsletter and subsequent issues, the Stewardship Board wanted to share excerpts of a paper they are studying.  It was written by Professor Emeritus John Jeske.  Its purpose is to remind God’s people that Christian stewardship is all about taking God at his Word.  We hope you enjoy the 29th installment.

Spiritual Yardsticks for Bringing Offerings

A third yardstick to offer Christians is that God asks for gifts that are proportionate to the gifts he has first given us.  Instead of looking only at the size of the gift placed in the offering envelope, God’s stewards are asked to look at the size of the income it came from.  God has no intention of being unreasonable with his children, of asking for gifts that would work a hardship on his loved ones.  He asks us only to give in proportion to his gifts to us.  And as we give proportionately, we do so in the confidence that God will not allow us to have less for our own needs because we have first honored the Giver.  This is not tempting God; this is trusting him.  “Test me in this,” God once announced through the prophet Malachi, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it”  (Mal 3:10; also 1 Co 16:2; Mk 13:41-44).  What does the last Scripture reading in particular, the Widow’s Pennies, suggest about the limited value of a statistic such as “average contribution in dollars” per member?

The congregation itself will do well to remember that when it encourages its members to practice proportionate giving, its own actions may very well speak louder than its words.  At your congregation’s budget-setting meetings, is a concern expressed for overall budget proportions? What fraction of your congregation’s estimated annual offerings will stay at home, and what proportion will be sent away-for world missions?  for neighborhood missions? for mercy and charity? for worker training?  What do you think the proportions ought to be?

Don’t Christ’s words “Love your neighbor as yourself” have something to say to us here?  I cannot speak for you, but those words of Jesus suggest to me that a 50-50 division would seem fair and God-pleasing.  Of every dollar that God’s stewards place into the congregational treasury, fifty cents stays for work at home and fifty cents leaves to work elsewhere.  I’ll confess frankly that in the congregations I served during twenty years of parish ministry we never reached that 50-50 level (in part because of the financial demands of a large Lutheran elementary school), but it wasn’t because we didn’t try.  That remained our goal, even though the closest we got was 65-35.  But let the congregation teach and practice proportionate giving.  What percentage of your congregation’s total weekly offering is presently considered to be “all that anyone could ask of us?”  5%? A tithe? 20%? A “love your neighbor as your self” 50%?  Wherever you are, let’s remember, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code with it regulations that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Cl 2:13,14).

Perhaps the more important question is “Why?” “How did we get to this point, and is it where God has equipped us to be and called us to be?”

May I in this connection share a delightful example that came to my attention of how one family in our synod is teaching proportionate giving (as well as responsible money management) to its three school-age children?  Each week each child receives an allowance of one dollar, in the form of ten dimes.  Each child also has three little jars, labeled respectively “For Jesus,” “For Saving,” and “For Spending.”  The child determines the allocation each week-and then has to live with his/her decision.

Question for each of you:  How will you (or how did you) teach your child(ren) to set aside an offering from their income?