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Welcome to Messiah Lutheran Church!

Located at the corner of West Southern Avenue and Howard Street in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, a small community nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Allegheny mountains, Messiah Lutheran church is a large congregation of the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  One of the most recognizable features of our church is the crescent moon on our steeple.  Click on the link below to learn more about its symbolism.

Whether you live in the area, are traveling through, or planning to relocate in north central Pennsylvania, it would be our joy to have you worship with us.

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The Jesse Tree

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  h Isaiah 11:1

      Last January, Children in Grades 1-6 (now in grades 2-7) embarked upon an exciting journey during Sunday School.  The children spent many weeks creating the ornaments for a “Jesse Tree” while learning how their own lives are a part of the great faith story that still continues today.  Each ornament has a specific meaning and represents a milestone along the way – a significant event – in preparation for the coming of Christ.

As they made the ornaments, the children learned the wonderful Old Testament stories telling of God’s plan for our world.  They learned about people and events that show God’s promises and faith moments.  The people in these Old Testament stories were chosen by God to be part of His family.  You, I, the children, people today, and people who lived long before us are part of God’s family.  These stories help to tell us God’s plan and to show us how our own lives are part of the Story, and to learn that God is always faithful.  The last few stories were New Testament stories culminating in the birth of Christ – God’s promise to the world.

The project is finally complete, and each child has been presented with a specially made heirloom quality wooden tree on which to hang the ornaments.  The Jesse Trees are being used in their homes to countdown the days to Christmas and include a devotion to be read as an ornament is hung on the tree each day throughout the season of Advent.  It is our dearest hope that this will become a treasured family tradition that the children will go on to share with their offspring as they grow into adulthood and begin raising families of their own.

On December 14, the children will presented the Word of God to the congregation as they shared a sampling of the lessons they have learned.  As part of the presentation, a set of ornaments specially made for Messiah was placed on a tree in the East Portico of the church to represent the journey from Creation to Christmas.  On December 21, the crèche scene will be added to the display.  And just in time for Christmas, the Chrismon tree – a tree decorated with symbols representing Christ and the many ways He comes to us – will complete the array.

But the story does not end with the birth of Christ.  As we observe Advent and await the coming of Christmas, we observe many traditions in remembrance of the birth of the Christ Child – the first coming of Jesus.  Yet we often forget that He has promised to come again.  It is the second coming of Christ that often is relegated to the shadows during our time of preparation.  But indeed, as Christians, every day of our lives is spent in hope of His second coming and in preparing our hearts to receive Him.  Let us stay awake and keep watch, for the time is near!  Grace and Peace be with you, Kathy Wither

“Therefore, keep watch, for you know not the day or the hour.”   – Matthew 25:13

To learn more about the Jesse Tree, click here.

OAK LEAVES AND ADVENT 

      What do oak leaves have to do with Advent?  Absolutely nothing . . . and everything . . . depending on your perspective.  As I was reading the scriptures for this coming Sunday, this verse from Isaiah 64:1 struck me:  “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence . . .”  As Christians, we often look for “signs” – and sometimes we expect God to hit us over the head with them!  But our heavenly Father does not always come to us in the ways we expect.  And sometimes, we simply do not see what is right in front of us.

In I Kings, Elijah is facing some seemingly insurmountable challenges and is about to give up.  But the Lord told him to stand on the mountain, and that He would pass by:  “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart . . . but the Lord was not in the wind.  After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper . . .” (I Kings 19:11b-12)

This reminds me of my own recent experience.  My husband, Jamie, and I had planned to purchase grave plots soon so that our children would not have to worry about it.  But with his untimely passing, the task fell to me.  My son, Elliot, offered to go with me to find a final resting place for Jamie.  But when we went to choose grave plots, nothing seemed right to us.  Then I remembered that the woman in the office had mentioned there were a few plots available by the Civil War circle.  Remembering that Jamie had always loved history, we decided to look at those, and after a few minutes standing there, they just “felt” right.

A week or two after Jamie was buried, I visited the grave site and sat and talked with him.  It felt so very peaceful there, almost uncannily so.  A few days later, I returned and sat and talked with him some more.  But this day it was quite windy and the leaves had begun to fall from the trees.  I noticed for the first time that oak leaves were scattered around and on his grave, and entwined in the flowers that lay there.  I smiled as I thought how the oak leaf is a symbol of strength and perseverance.  Have you ever noticed that an oak leaf will cling to the branches long after all the other trees have shed their leaves?  Sometimes an oak leaf will even remain on the tree until the following spring.

I felt the ring that hung around my neck and looked down at the ring that I wore on my own finger.  About a year and a half ago, we had decided to splurge and buy each other matching oak leaf rings.  Jamie had lost his wedding band years before and this always bothered him.  We were coming up on 20 years of marriage and had come through so much together that it only seemed fitting that we commemorate it with these rings as a symbol of our own strength and perseverance – and as a symbol of God’s unfailing presence and love.  Jamie especially loved the rings because he himself had been the last person left at the plant where he worked before the business closed its doors for good – just like that oak leaf in the spring.  And just as spring is a symbol of new birth, he walked out of that job and into a new beginning at another company the very next day.

It was then that God opened my eyes and I saw that He had led us to that very spot.  The Lord did not come to me in a dramatic way, but in the still, soft whisper of the falling leaves.  He was speaking to me on that day through that oak tree, reminding me that He is with us to give us strength, and just as our family had come through so much together, He would see us through this, too.

As I thought about this, I remembered how Jamie had always picked up pretty leaves in the fall and tenderly handed them to me as “gifts” and I imagined that he had collected all the leaves on his grave especially for me.  I scooped up a handful of them and took them home to remind me of his love for me, and to remind me that life is filled with blessings if only we will allow ourselves to see the signs.  We don’t always see the blessings clearly, but God opens our eyes to them when the time is right.

Where are the oak leaves in your life this Advent?  As we enter the season of Hope, let us remember that the King of Kings did not come with great fanfare but rather as a humble child born in a stable.  And as we set about the busyness of the season, may we seek some quiet time to allow the Lord to open our hearts and our minds to receive the simple blessings that come to us in the stillness as signs of His unfailing love – and look forward with joy to the precious gift of His Son to our waiting world.

(Oh, by the way . . . most of the trees in the cemetery are maples.)

Peace and grace,

Kathy Wither

Did you know . . . 

That Camp Mount Luther offers a daily devotional on their web site?  To access it, visit http://cmlfaithformation.weebly.com/first-light

You are blessed to be a blessing.

God loves you . . . serve Him faithfully, serve Him well!