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Christmas: Will it Be a Joy or a Letdown?

by Dn. Mark Oleynik

IMG_0378Many years ago, I had a conversation with a friend the day after Christmas and he said something which surprised me. He sadly said, “There is nothing more done than Christmas.” This was surprising because he was the most joyful and outgoing person you would ever want to meet—and a real ambassador of Christ. I learned much later that it was at that precise time he was going through a personal tragedy and that year Christmas was quite difficult for him. Fortunately, in time his pain eased and he was back to his old self. But I never forgot his words and what they meant to him that day.

In preparing for the Nativity of our Lord, most parents try to teach their children to be joyful givers. But we all know a child’s focus on Christmas is on “getting the gifts” and it’s probably likewise true for many adults. Most assuredly, parents do their best to provide at least some of items from their child’s wish list not to mention gifts for their spouse, parents, and friends. But when the presents are all unwrapped, the Christmas meal is over, and the house is probably turned upside down from the children and all the guests—do you feel kind of let-down? Do you feel Christmas is done?

In just the few short weeks preceding Christmas emotions are built up to a fever pitch: the shopping and baking, the plans to be made, and the endless commercials for the latest-and-greatest, all mixed in between the innumerable Christmas movies. To top it off, research shows that for many Christmas is one of the saddest times of the year. Not only sad memories of those who are no longer with them—but often the tragedies witnessed both in their families and in the world at large provide stark contrast to joy of the season. So, given the combination of too much emotion, too much excitement, too much to eat and to drink, and just the general chaos of the season…is it any wonder you might feel a slight letdown?

Certainly you and your family will receive wished-for presents, but will you receive the real gift at Christmas—the gift of Christ Himself? His peace, and joy, and presence in whom we find the only lasting source of Life. The true gift giver on this  and every day is Christ, but you must include Him on your Christmas list—invite Him to be the most important part of your life and your family’s life. Amidst all of the worship and singing of our grace and our customs, plan to take personal and family time and ask the Savior, “Lord, come and dwell with my family and me this day. Be by our side so that we may know and walk with you throughout all our days.”

If you have eyes to see it, the world is flooded with His joy. If you have the heart to receive it, your life will be touched by His. And if you have faith to live it, He will be with you all your days, and all your hours. For behold, truly we all have been given good news of great joy – for unto us, if we will receive Him, is born into our hearts Christ the Savior. And if we will receive this gift for Christmas, all our days will be blessed.

So what do you really want to receive this Christmas? What will you allow God to give you this Christmas? Will it really be the gift of Himself—or in all the busyness of the season will you not take the time and really ask Him.

It’s up to you. At the end of it all, Christmas can just be “done” … or it can be done rightly.

Angels Appearing this Month
Plan to stay after the liturgy on Sunday, December 18 for the annual retelling of the story of Christ’s birth by our Church School. Our students will once again present a living icon based on the Nativity scriptures, complete with angels, shepherds, wise men, and assorted animals. You will not want to miss it!

 

Sunday School Begins this Week

Sunday School will commence this Sunday, September 11 for children in Kindergarten through grade 12. Classrooms are located in multiple locations on the church’s campus, but all classes begin with prayer in the Parish Hall at 9 a.m.

Volunteers are needed to assist teachers in one of the five classes (grades K-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12); those interested should plan to attend the first teacher meeting this Wednesday before Vespers and Litiya for the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos. 

To register your child(ren) or for more information, please contact Dn. Mark Oleynik, Director of Christian Education.

Sunday School to Enjoy Day at Amusement Park

DelgrossosAumusementPark-forweb-120The Sunday School will enjoy a day at Delgrosso’s Amusement Park in Tipton (about 25 mins from State College) for a Sunday School Fun Day on Thursday, June 30!

All Sunday School student admission tickets to the park will be paid for from our Gertrude Hawk Candy Sale conducted earlier this year. All students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and are responsible for their children at all times.

The park is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Our group will meet at the entrance at 12:30 p.m. and enter the park together.

There are variety of rides and a water park. For more info you may visit the DelGrosso website or contact Deacon Mark Oleynik, Director of Christian Education.

VBS 2016 Daily News: Friday

VBS Friday 1VBS Kids Now Fully Staffed
“I Just Wanna be a Sheep” Now Latest Craze

STATE COLLEGE, PA — It was pizza day and as the VBS kids met for the last time this year, they gathered with our Archbishop Melchisedek to hear his words on being the shepherd of  a flock.  It was stated that his flock is different from flocks of sheep that the kids had the chance watch yesterday (see article below).

As part of their discussion, the students learned that just as a shepherd carries a staff to direct his flock for protection of his herd in case of danger a bishop carries a staff as a symbol of being our shepherd.  Additionally, the students found that the top of a bishop’s staff (crozier) is made to resemble two serpents’ heads, recalling the Saviors’ words: “Be ye wise as serpents”. As a serpent each year forces its way through thorny plants to shed its old skin, so also must the bishop lead others and follow himself along the thorny path which leads of the renewal of our souls.  (Ed. Note: Students made staffs this to help them remember Psalm 23.)

VBS Friday 2As the week began with the students uttering the first words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my Shepherd” today the VBS concluded with the affirmation, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The sheep are content and “at home” with the shepherd—and want to stay with Him forever.

Sheep Farm Tour Shows VBS Kids Life as a Sheep

On Thursday, the Holy Trinity VBS took it first ever field trip to a sheep farm in Sunbury, PA.  After a 1.5 hour bus trip, the students were greeted by an array of farm animals but mostly by a whole lot of sheep.

VBS Friday 3During the tour the students were able to pet the sheep, walk through the pastures, and learn about a sheep’s necessities (water & salt) and some of the dangers (copper, falling over). It was particularly fun to see the shepherd Caroline and her dog gather the sheep and run them back and forth – and how well the  sheep followed the shepherds commands.

At the end of the tour each student was given a piece of wool from one of the sheep as a keepsake.  All the “sheep” returned home safely and happily.

FPO — For Parents Only

VBS Friday 4It was once again a great joy and pleasure to be with your children this week.  It was a bit hectic but it was fun and they are going to be amazing sheep.  As much as possible include Psalm 23 in your daily prayers and with your children.  Knowing the meaning behind the words will give them great comfort and peace.  Thanks!

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2016 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2016 Daily News: Thursday

Students Take a Trip to a Sheep Farm
VBS Kids See First-hand What Sheep Are Like!

STATE COLLEGE, PA — Today there was no issue of the VBS Daily News because our reporters were in the field—literally. Here are some pictures from the remote location.

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FPO — For Parents Only

  • On Friday, there will be Vespers at 5:00 p.m. Please try to bring your children early so that we can pray together. Dinner and VBS will follow immediately. Additionally, our bishop will be visiting and will share some “shepherding” stories with the kids.

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2016 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2016 Daily News: Wednesday

Students Take a Walk Through a Dark … 
VBS Kids say they had no fear of evil!

VBS Wed 2STATE COLLEGE, PA — Today the VBS students reached the midway point of their week long study adventure of Psalm 23.  To start the day the “sheep” attended vespers which was followed by another great day of learning, singing, games, and fun.

Today the students discussed how shepherds lead their sheep to different pastures depending on the time of year. To get to the mountaintops in the summer takes the sheep through the valleys.  The valleys can be a dangerous and dark place for sheep.

The students also spent class time learning about how God prepares and takes care of us. Before sheep head to the high country, the shepherd goes ahead—checking out the pastures, pulling out the poisonous weeds, removing any dangerous objects.  He brings salt and minerals to set out in the pasture.  Only after the table is prepared are the sheep brought in.

Just like the shepherd, we know that Christ goes before us in every situation.  Because of all Christ has done—he was tempted as we are, he suffered, he grieved, we are confident that he understands us through and through.  Christ has gone before and prepared a table for us—in plain view of our enemies.

VBS Wed 3What’s the Big Idea?

Today’s verses teach us that no matter what God is always with us, He has all the right tools to help us, and He is a just God.

Can You Repeat That Please?

Here are the verses studied today and the children are expected to memorize:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”

FPO — For Parents Only

  • VBS Wed 1On Thursday we will visit a sheep farm. Please arrive at the church by 4:15 so that we may leave promptly @ 4:30.
    • Please pack a dinner for your child.
    • The farm team is expecting a drizzle so you may want to pack a jacket.
    • Students are to wear shoes or boots (NO flip flops/open toes) as we will be in the fields and barns.
    • We should arrive back at the church ~9:30 p.m.
  • On Friday, there will be Vespers at 5:00 p.m..  Please try to bring your children early so that we can pray together.  Dinner and VBS will follow immediately.  Additionally, our bishop will be visiting and will share some “shepherding” stories with the kids.

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2016 Vacation Bible School homepage.

VBS 2016 Daily News: Monday

New Sheep Herd arrives at Holy Trinity:
The Good Shepherd is leading us forever

VBS Mon 1STATE COLLEGE, PA —  School’s out so what’s a kid supposed to do? For the children of Holy Trinity Church in State College it could only mean that it’s time to go to Vacation Bible School (VBS)!  This year’s VBS theme is “I Wanna be a Sheep” and will be based on Psalm 23.

Sources close to the VBS have stated that the theme this year was selected because although the scriptures were written so that that they made sense to the peoples of the times we no longer live in an agrarian society.  However, we know that the Scriptures are timeless and we need apply them for today’s world.

VBS Mon 2Parents, teachers, and leaders need to convey to children that in Our Savior and in His scriptures we can find calm and peace and hope for the world which awaits us.  The students need to learn that the words of scripture were written for them.

Say What?

The Shepherds ultimate concern for the sheep:   He is the Way, because He leads us through Himself. He is the Door who lets us in, the Shepherd who makes us dwell in green pastures, bringing us up by waters of rest and leading us there. He protects us from wild beasts, converts the erring, brings back what was lost and binds up what was. broken. He guards the strong and brings them together into the fold beyond with words of pastoral knowledge.

— Gregory of Nazianzus, On the Son

Can You Repeat that Please?

VBS Mon 3Below are the verses we studied today and the children are to memorize: “He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”

Family Time

To make the most of this week for you and your child you will need to also be prepared to discuss Psalm 23 and the many instructional points which can be found in it.

FPO — For Parents Only

  • VBS Mon 4Question for you to discuss with your child before VBS tomorrow: What has God done to restore your soul?
  • On Wednesday, there will be Vespers at 5 p.m.  Please try to bring your children early so that we can pray together. Dinner and VBS will follow immediately.
  • On Thursday we will visit a sheep farm. We will leave @ 4:15.  Pack a dinner for your child.

Learn More

For more recaps, pictures, and information, visit the 2016 Vacation Bible School homepage.

First Children’s Choir Practice to take place Sunday

Children’s Choir (grades 3-8) will practice on Sunday, January 16 at 9:30 a.m. in Trinity House. Students will be accompanied to the rehearsal and then to the church.  All students in these grades are invited to be a part of this ministry.

Parents are encouraged to spend some time with your child(ren) discussing the importance of music in the Church music is not an ornamentation to the liturgical services but is an essential element of the services, the medium by which the Church instructs the faithful. Prayerfully consider taking advantage of this readily available means for your child(ren)’s spiritual growth and education.

It is understood that not all children may want to be part of the choir, but perhaps they can attend a few practices first to get a “feel” for it (students not rehearsing this Sunday will be dismissed to you).

Sunday School Moves to Trinity House this Sunday

IMG_9906 (1)Trinity House Ministry Center officially opens on Sunday, January 10. For students in the Sunday School and their parents, here is some important information regarding classroom changes:

  • Parents, teachers, and students will assemble in the Parish Hall at 9:00 a.m. sharp! for our opening prayer and then proceed immediately to our classes with the the Sunday School teachers:
    • Students in the Pre-K and Kindergarden class will  meet in the Holy Trinity Nursery (i.e., Father John’s former office in the Parish Hall);
    • Students in grades 1-5 will meet in the Trinity House Lower Level entering via the rear  entry door;
    • Students in the middle school (Conference Room) and high school (Atty Lounge, Second Floor) classes will enter Trinity House Main Floor using the Sparks Street (front door) entrance.
  • The driveway between Holy Trinity and Trinity House will be closed for the safety of students traveling to and from class. Motorists will be asked to enter the parking areas from Calder Way and Lark Alley only.
  • At the conclusion of the classes (9:45 AM) students in grades Pre-K to 5 will return to the Parish Hall to meet up with parents so that you may go together to the Liturgy.
  • Older students will be dismissed directly from class to return to the church for the Liturgy.

Next Sunday (January 17) during the Parents Session (we will meet in Trinity House Lower Level) Deacon Mark will lead parents in a discussion on these new procedures and make adjustments as necessary using your feedback.

Children to Prepare Blankets for Charity

In conjunction with rehearsing for Holy Trinity’s annual Christmas play, children will also have an opportunity to participate in a charitable project this Saturday.  While the children practice the songs, students will “finish” a few winter blankets for the less fortunate of our community. This will be a simple activity of tying knots on the fringe of the blankets. The blankets will then be given to the residents of the House of Care, a group home just a few blocks from our church on Beaver Avenue, which serves people with mental/physical illness who don’t have any family to support them.

Teens and parents who wish to participate should arrive early at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 19 to complete the final preparatory steps.  This will include the cutting of some material to precise measurements.

For more information, please contact Dn. Mark Oleynik, Director of Christian Education, at dnmark@holytrinity-oca.org.