(Shown is Pastor Doug ((our Interim Pastor)) and his wife, Elaine. Pastor is serving Bethlehem Lutheran Church and First Presbyterian Church of Florence- he has been there 29 years. He is serving as Secretary of the Northern Great Lakes Synod and serves on the Synod Council and Synod Council Executive Committee. This is the sixth time he has served congregations as their Interim Pastor.
He is the Chief Deputy Coroner of Florence County and serves as Chair of the Florence County Emergency Planning Committee. He recently retired from 23 years as an EMT on the Florence Rescue Squad.
Pastor Doug and Elaine have been married 12 years. Pastor Doug enjoys reading novels, traveling, working in his yard, and being with his famiy.
Pastor Doug is committed to making sure every Thursday and Sunday we will have someone leading our service while we continue our search towards a permanent pastor. He will also take care of funerals and weddings and assist the church council.)
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
We live in a world with a lot of fear. We human beings fear many different things in our lives. And one of the things that most of us fear is change. But change is a part of our lives. And fear is a real part of our lives. So somehow we need to learn to live with and deal with fear.
What does Christmas have to say to us about fear? An angel once appeared to a young virgin Jewish girl name Mary and she was afraid. An angel came to a young Jewish man named Joseph in a dream and told him not to be afraid. On that first Christmas night an angel appeared to a bunch of shepherds in their fields and told them to “fear not!” In Matthew’s gospel we are told that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt in fear for the life of their new son. And then, even after the angel tells Joseph it is safe to go back to Bethlehem, Joseph is still afraid for the life of his son.
Fear! What does Christmas have to say to us about fear? What does Emmanuel -- God with us -- have to say to us about fear?
When I look at the Christmas story in the Bible, I am reminded of how many people had to toss out their customary routines and expectations in order to participate in the adventure of faith God planned for them. Mary certainly had to change her views on things after the angel Gabriel announced she was to be the mother of God’s only Son! And what about Joseph? From the account in Matthew, we learn he had to be reassured that it would be appropriate for him to marry his betrothed, despite the fact that she was already pregnant. This was certainly in opposition to Jewish wedding traditions, or Jewish law which favored stoning or divorce for a woman who happened to have broken her premarital vows. Nor was it customary to deliver a child in a stable, and then cradle him in a cow’s feeding trough! When the shepherds settled down for a quiet evening on the hills of Bethlehem, they hardly expected to be serenaded by a choir of angels and sent on a midnight trek to the city center. And even the Magi, after a grueling journey across the Middle Eastern desert, were surprised to discover the King they sought, not in a palace, but in a tiny, nondescript house.
That first Christmas, nothing was in keeping with “the way we do things.” But look at the results: Mary and Joseph learned to trust God in a new way and found His grace sufficient for all their needs. The shepherds witnessed the most marvelous event in history and became the first Christian missionaries. And those determined sages from the East found the fulfillment to all their dreams.
Could it be that we too would discover great and marvelous things if we were bold enough to cast off some of our tired, old traditions and dare to venture off into uncharted territory? How often do we limit God by insisting that God work in the same old ways or the ways that I think is best? What if we truly faced the future with hearts and hands open to all the possibilities God might bring our way? It is true we could face some awkward situations. And we would probably be forced into uncomfortable circumstances. We might even encounter some unusual people -- ones we might not otherwise meet. But then we would be in good company, wouldn’t we? For Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the Magi all had to leave their comfort zones and step out into the unfamiliar. I suspect God would tell us exactly what God told those folks some two thousand years ago: “Fear not!”
You as a congregation have made the decision to extend a call to Kayla Keilholtz. And she has accepted that call and is now your Pastor-Elect. She will be the first young female pastor at Grace. It will be a change. And like any new pastor that comes to you she will come with new ideas and lots of excitement and enthusiasm for doing ministry with all of you. And that will be different from what you have known these past two plus years of interim.
Just as change is a part of all of our lives, change will continue to be a part of the life and ministry of the Grace Lutheran Church family. I say to you, just as the angels said to the characters of the Christmas story, “Fear Not!” We need not fear because of the message of Christmas, that Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us. And it is God’s promise to be with us every minute of every day for the rest of eternity. Whether the routines are comfortable and familiar or new and uncertain God will be with you. And if God is with you, there is nothing you need to fear.
Pastor Doug Johnson
Office Phone: 715-528-4851
Home Phone: 715-528-4458
Cell Phone: 715-938-0962
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 535, Florence, WI 54121