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TORRINGTON, CT (SZS) During this time of the church year called Advent, the church anticipates the celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and prepares for His coming again, whether in our hearts or in the ultimate fullness of time.

In addition, although we experience the growing darkness of these days of winter and the challenging darkness of life events, we nevertheless recognize that with the coming of Christ, we are recipients of the Light of the world, which no darkness can overcome. It is a time when many congregations observe the coming of Christ with a variety of festivities and observances, among them the singing of carols, the lighting of trees, as well as special worship events, fellowship, and service projects.

We’re happy to highlight some of the specific ways in which the people in our congregations have prepared for Christmas during this Advent season.

Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, December 1, Nativity Lutheran Church in Windsor, Ontario, Canada hosted a visit by Bishop Wilma S. Kucharek, who preached at the worship and then joined the congregation at a dinner cooked by congregational members. Afterwards, the congregation viewed videos featuring various members of the Synod, which illustrated the purpose and meaning of the Slovak Zion Synod in the mission and life of people here and internationally. The Rev. Rastislav Micovsky, pastor of Nativity, was the gracious host who welcomed the bishop and the ecumenical guests present with words of welcome while also pointing out the significance of the Slovak Zion Synod for the ministry we all do together in the United States, Canada, and globally.

On December 12, Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church in Riverside, Illinois observed a Štedry Večer luncheon for members of the congregation and those from area congregations, including members from our congregations of Trinity, Chicago and their pastor, the Rev. James Kuemmerle, St. Peter and St. Paul in Blue Island, Illinois, and local Missouri Synod Slovaks.

After traditional devotions in Slovak led by the Bishop, and opening words of welcome by Vera Borysek, president of the Ladies Altar Guild, and the pastor, Rev. Dennis Lauritsen, the luncheon began with the sharing of the oplatky wafers with honey and homemade poppyseed bobalky; the menu was based on the traditional Slovak Christmas Eve meal observed in Slovak families for many years. Afterwards, those present joined in singing Christmas carol favorites in English and in Slovak.

Also on December 12, the Ladies Altar Guild of St. Peter and St. Paul Lutheran Church in Blue Island, Illinois took advantage of the bishop’s presence in the area and hosted their Christmas party and exchange of gifts. In addition to Bishop Kucharek, pastor loci the Rev. Marjorie Vander Wagen, retired pastor, the Rev. Karen Knutson, and women and girls of all ages were present for the festivities. The evening was full of food, fun, and fellowship, with the exchange of gifts and games, ably hosted and prepared by Vicki Dieska and women from the Ladies Altar Guild.

Many congregations make oplatky available to members during Advent for their use at their family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. Trinity Lutheran Church in Chicago extended the meaning of this by a sharing of the oplatky and honey as an addendum to the Sunday morning worship service on December 15.

The Rev. Marjorie Keiter and the people of St. John’s in Lansford, Pennsylvania observed Advent by participating in Advent skits tied to the themes of Advent preparation.  Meanwhile, the people of St. Matthew’s in Mt. Carmel, Pennsylvania rehearsed together special music for inclusion in their Christmas Eve worship program.

As we journey toward Christmas and you share the special gifts of hospitality and service which God has given you, may your personal and congregational observances always serve to point you toward the best Christmas Gift of all, Jesus Christ our Savior!