Monday, December 30, 2013

Mary Did You Know?

This beautiful hymn was first performed by Michael English in 1992.  Since then, it has been sung by Clay Aiken, Cee Lo Green, Winona Judd and Kenny Rogers.  Here is the extended Hunt-Nuckolls family singing "Mary Did You Know?" in 2012 for St. Mark  worship.  Click here if video doesn't appear.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Birth of Jesus


Luke 2:1-20

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Birth of Jesus

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Candle Liturgy


Lighting the Christ Candle on Christmas Eve

Reader One: We have watched, we have waited
in hope. (light the first candle)
for peace. (light the second candle)
in joy! (light the pink candle)
with love! (light the fourth candle)
Now our redemption draws near! (light the center candle)

Reader Two: Hear the Word of the Lord from Isaiah 9:2-7
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied a nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
for the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of the oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lighting the Advent Candle of LOVE


Lighting the Advent Candle of LOVE

Pastor: Watch and wait for Christ’s coming!
Light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love,
remembering the promises of God with prayer.

Reader One: We light this candle in hope. (light the first candle)We light this candle for peace. (light the second candle)
We light this candle in joy! (light the third pink candle)
We light this candle for love!(light the fourth candle)

Reader Two: Out of love for the people of God, the Lord speaks through the prophet Isaiah, as found in the seventh chapter, verses 10-14:
The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test” Then Isaiah said “Hear then, O house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look… the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Reader One: (let us pray)
God of hope, Prince of Peace, Jubilee Judge, and Lord of Love,
your goodness is beyond our wildest imaginings.
You give us more than we can think to ask,
coming to us with impossible possibility
in the union of flesh and spirit.
Teach us to love this world and all people
as you love us in Jesus Christ, our lord.

All: God of promise, God of hope, into our darkness come.


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Eve Worship

Come join us at one of our three Christmas Eve worship services at 
St. Mark Presbyterian in Ballwin, Missouri.

5:00 PM Family Worship
7:00 PM Evening Worship
9:00 PM Communion Worship

The Family service (5:00) that tells Christmas story is designed for families with smaller children. It is a shorter interactive service. 

Carols and Candlelight is a service (7:00) where we read the Christmas story interweaving the singing of Christmas Carols that go with the various parts of the story, a special message titled "A Shepherds Tale", ending with the singing of Silent Night by candlelight. 

The later service (9:00) is the same as the 7:00 plus communion.

Discover St. Mark!  
601 Claymont Dr.,  Ballwin, MO

Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday House Tour

 Despite the Wintery weather, our St. Mark Presbyterian Holiday House Tour of five members' homes was successful.  We appreciate all of the people who opened their homes, who were hostesses in the homes, baked cookies and bread. We are also thankful for all of the people who came out in the snow to support this fund-raiser for Lydia's House.



Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Dream

Matthew 11:2-11
"And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way" Matthew 2: 12

How simple it al sounds, to be be able to get instructions in such a direct way:  to go to sleep, dream, and wake up with all the answers.  Lord, should I quit my job?  Should I move to another town?  Should I marry this person?  Should I divorce my spouse????

Why, even after making a decision, do we lie awake nights worrying if it was the right one?  Do you suppose God has really given up sending His messages or has He, perhaps, found different ways of communicating with His children?  Just because we don't get a personal telephone call saying, "Give up accounting and go on the the stage" doesn't mean that God has abandoned us to our own devices.  We must continue to believe that when certain doors are closed to us, it may be our Heavenly Father's way of warning us to "return by another way."

Prayer:  Lord, we pray for the patience to wait for your divine messages to come to us in whatever form you choose to send them.  We also pray for the faith to know that you are forever guiding us along the right paths. Amen

This is the December 19, 1984 contribution by Elaine Benson in the St. Mark Presbyterian book Thoughts on Advent.  If you have a Christmas or Advent memory or a favorite Christmas Carol, please feel free to share it.  Just send it to J. Morgan or put it in the Communications Committee mailbox.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Brunch for House Tour

 Saturday December 14 greeted us at St. Mark Presbyterian with several inches of snow.  Although our parking lot was clear, the streets were a problem in many areas.  But, we had prepared the food and decorated the day before, so the Brunch went on.

 With our theme of "All Aboard", one church member brought in her trains to show and display.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Joy to the World!

As many of us do some last minute shopping and mall visiting, let's remember we are celebrating Jesus's birth.  Here is a flashmob video of a hymn which is best sung by a large group.  Click here if the video doesn't appear.

This hymn is based on Psalm 98: 4 "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice and sing praises."  I think David would have approved of a flashmob breaking forth in song.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lighting the Candle of JOY!


Lighting the Candle of JOY!

Pastor: Watch and wait for Christ’s coming!
Light candles of hope, peace, joy and love,
remembering the promises of God with prayer.

Reader One: We light this candle in hope. (light first candle)
We light this candle for peace. (light the second candle)
We light this candle in joy! (light the PINK candle)
To those who live as exiles from home in a dark time, to those enslaved as exiles due to others’ oppression, to those who are sin’s exiles from their best God-promised selves, the Lord speaks the joy of good news! A reading from Zephania 3:14-20

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Alternatives Mission Projects

 Our Mission Committee at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, has several ongoing projects during the Christmas season.  First, they offer Christmas Alternatives, a way we can donate to charitable missions in stead of Christmas gifts. So, your aunt who likes to garden, might like a pound of earthworms for our mission in Haiti:  maybe you could include some gummy worms with your card.  Here are some of the other mission offerings:

Friday, December 13, 2013

We Three Spies

Our children's choir performed "We Three Spies" by Christy and Daniel Semsen last weekend at St. Mark Presbyterian.  Lisa Marsh, the director, always puts together a wonderful program with each child featured with speaking parts. It is wonderful watching these children over the years grow and become more more poised and skilled.
 In the program Lisa says, "During this joyous holiday season, we have so many people to thank for all of their help.  Of course, we want to thank the entire staff at st. Mark, for everything from assistance with all our office needs, to moving heavy stage pieces, to providing invaluable support and words of encouragement throughout the year; the sound the light crew, who make us look and sound terrific. . . .all the parent volunteers who transformed the sanctuary into a warehouse and provided essential props for this production. . .HUGE thanks to all the choir's families, for getting their children to all our rehearsals, as well as listening to the songs over and over and helping with memorizations of all the lines; and finally a heartfelt thank you for the members of the St. Mark community for their continuous love and support of the children's music program.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Treasures in Heaven

Matthew 6:19-21

In 1985, Bob and I bought our first house.  As usual, that year we traveled to St. Louis with six year old Megan and four month old Lauren to spend Christmas with both sets of grandparents.  On Tuesday, December 24, we got the phone call.

A fire had broken out in our house in St. Joseph, Missouri.  My daughter Megan's room was gutted.  The rest of the living area had suffered heavy smoke damage.  We were in shock and overwhelmed by what we would face when we got home.

We made it through Christmas without telling any of the children.  That evening, I broke the news to Megan.  She cried a few tears and then she said, "Well at least we didn't lose anything really important. We're all right."

Thank you, Lord, for wise words out of the mouths of children.  Help us to remember when the weight of our responsibilities and the things we possess press in upon us that Jesus instructs us to "store up...treasures in heaven."  It is the only real security we have.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Go-getters Christmas Luncheon

 Jan and Sharon are the leaders this year of Go-getters, a group of senior women at St. Mark Presbyterian Church who go out to lunch once a month (beginning January---the 2nd Tuesday).  December is always held at the church with a White Elephant gift exchange in addition to food, fun and fellowship.
Delores showing off her gift
 Each of us went home with gifts and these favors:  a candy sleigh and a Prayer Rock:

Monday, December 9, 2013

O Holy Night!

O Holy Night! is a favorite Christmas hymn of many----this Celtic Woman version is particularly beautiful.  It was originally a French hymn written in the 1800's.  For the French version and the English translation, Click here.  Our worship is enriched by the many hymns from other countries and cultures. What is your favorite Christmas Carol?  Respond in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent Candle of Peace

The oldest complete Jesse Tree window
 is in Chartres Cathedral, 1145.


Pastor: Watch and wait for Christ’s coming!
Light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love,
remembering the promises of God with prayer.

Reader One: We light this candle of hope. (light first candle)
We light this candle of peace (light second candle)
Hear God’s promise of peace from Isaiah 11:1-10

Reader Two: A shoot will grow up from the stump of Jesse,
a branch shall sprout from his roots.
The Lord’s Spirit will rest upon him,
a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might,
a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He will delight in fearing the Lord.
He won’t judge by appearances,
nor decide by hearsay.
He will judge the needy with righteousness,
and decide with equity for those who suffer in the land.
He will strike the violent with the rod of his mouth;
by the breath of his lips he will kill the wicked.
Righteousness will be the belt around his hips,
and faithfulness the belt around his waist.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas


 St. Mark Presbyterian Church has many signs of Christmas from the front door decorations to the large Christmas tree in the Narthex, but others signs are the generous, loving nature of our congregation.
We have Christmas cards at the Welcome Center to send to our troops.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent---What it Means To Me



Scripture:  Isaiah 35:1-6, 10

One of the many joys of life is reminiscing.  As a boy,  I remember how Advent was a time of preparation for Christmas with special church services and sacrifices;  a time when the house had the wonderful smells of Yuletide cookies being baked and the sweet odor of candy bubbling on the stove.  The fruit cake was aging.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the woods to cut our tree---it was placed in its stand, and the smell of cedar dominated.  Then, on to church for the beautiful candlelight service.  It was then that an image of the Baby Jesus was placed in the manger, while we all sang Silent Night in German.

Toward the end of the service, the minister would give each boy and girl a bag of candy.  Then we couldn't wait to get home.  We always found our tree decorated and our gifts under it:   the Wonders of Santa, but later I learned it was a Dear Aunt who was our Christmas Eve Santa.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Liturgical Year

Thanks to Jerie for this wonderful explanation of the liturgical year by Dr. Mark Roberts.

Happy New Year in Late November?

Happy New Year! Are you having a Happy New Year?
Yes, I know it’s late November. Yes, I know we still have over a month until the giant crystal ball in Times Square falls, signifying the change of calendar year. Of course I’m aware that we haven’t even celebrated Christmas yet.

The crystal ball that fell in Times Square at the beginning of 2008. Photo by Clare Cridland, Wikimedia Commons.
Still, I want to ask: Are you having a Happy New Year?
If you’re a member of a highly liturgical church, such as Catholic, Episcopal, or Lutheran, what I’ve just said makes sense. (If you’re Eastern Orthodox, you think I’m three months behind the time.) But if you’re not involved in such a church, I had better explain what I’m talking about.
The Christian year, sometimes called the church year or the liturgical year, is a centuries-old way that many Christians have ordered the 365-day year. It depends, not on the positions of the sun and moon, nor on the start and end of school, nor on the requirements of the IRS, but rather on key aspects of the life of Christ that are coordinated with the solar calendar. The major holidays (literally, holy days) in the church year are Christmas (December 25), Good Friday and Easter (in the spring, dated according to Jewish Passover), and Pentecost (seven weeks after Easter). Every other special day or season fits around these crucial days (Advent, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, etc.).

Monday, December 2, 2013

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

When singing this hymn last weekend at St. Mark Presbyterian Church, some of us noticed the notes at the bottom of our new hymnals. In his book Then Sings My Soul Book 2, Robert J. Morgan went into a little more detail:

In the 800's, a series of Latin hymns were sung each day during Christmas Vespers from December 17 to 23.  Each of these hymns began with the word "O," and were called the "Great" or "O" Antiphons (the word antiphon meaning psalm or anthem).  These hymns were apparently restructured into verse from in the 1100's, and finally published in Latin in 1710.  In the mid 1800's, they were discovered by an English minister named John Mason Neale, who wove together segments of them to produce the first draft of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," which was published in 1851. . .


Veni veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Sunday in Advent: Hope



First Sunday in Advent : Hope

Reader One: “We light this candle in hope” 

Reader Two: Hear God’s promise of hope from Isaiah 2:2-4
In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
Many peoples shall come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Claymont Preschool's Halloween


Claymont Preschool children enjoyed dressing up in their costumes for their Halloween celebration at Preschool.  We had a lot of variety. It's always fun to see which costume ideas the children will have and  how creative their parents will have to be to fulfill their children's expectations!  We parade through the church, each other's classrooms, and the halls which are lined with our parent and grandparent spectators.  One of the things we learn with Halloween is the difference between real and make-believe.   

Monday, November 25, 2013

"We Gather Together"

Thanksgiving Hymns

Theodore Baker, 1894

We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

According to Robert J. Morgan in his book Then Sings My Soul, Book 2: 
. . . "We Gather Together", which Americans associate with their Thanksgiving holiday, was actually written sometime in 1597 to celebrate Holland's freedom from Spain.  Its author, an unknown Dutchman, was full of thanksgiving that his people were finally free from Spanish tyranny and free to worship as they chose.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A St. Mark Thanksgiving Memory

 Back in the late 1970's or early 1980's we had a Thanksgiving Eve Dinner where we each brought an assigned item: stew, bread, fruit salad, dessert.  When we got to Fellowship Hall, we were assigned seats.  One family sat on the stage at several long tables filled with food set on linen table cloths, candelabras. Many of us sat in folding chairs, with paper covering the tables with one pot of stew, no dessert or fruit.  But most stood crowded around a table covered with newspapers, having to share one loaf of bread


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Labyrinths of West County Part 3

The third stop of St. Mark's Presbyterian Women's Labyrinth Tour was Mercy Center, a Catholic Retreat Center on Geyer Rd.
 "Labyrinths, unlike mazes, offer one path.  They are a tool for meditation.  By following the one path to the center, the seeker can use the labyrinth to quiet the mind and find peace and illumination at the center of his or her being.  The labyrinth serves as a metaphor for one's spiritual journey.

Monday, November 18, 2013

John Newton & Amazing Grace

(found on page 649 of “Glory to God”, our new Presbyterian hymnal.)


John Newton was born in London July 24, 1725, and at age 7, his mother died. When he was 11, he went to sea with his father, making a total of 6 voyages with him before his father retired.
In 1744, Newton was impressed into service by the Royal navy. He deserted and was flogged and demoted. He was exchanged for service on a slave ship, was himself enslaved by the African tribal wife of a slave trader, and then finally rescued in 1748.  While at sea, a huge storm made him confront his fear and the faith his mother had tried to instill in childhood prevailed. Newton always considered May 10, 1748 as the day of his conversion to Christianity. He married in 1750.
He continued to ply the slave trade, making at least three more voyages until he suffered a seizure in 1755.  Between 1755 -1760, he worked in Liverpool as surveyor of tides.  He taught himself Greek and Hebrew and came to know George Whitefield, an evangelist preacher and leader of the Calvinistic Methodist church. He also met John Wesley during this period. Newton heard God’s call to ministry, but was denied permission to be ordained in the Church of England.  In 1764, he was finally ordained.