WHEELING - As he prepared the altar at St. John's Episcopal Church for Monday afternoon service, the Rev. Mark Setiz also was preparing to give a sermon similar to the one he gives every Christmas.
This year, though, the sermon took on a new meaning, as he said recent national events have been an unwelcome reminder of the "darkness" that often appears.
"The sermon will have a little different feel with what's been going on, the Connecticut shootings in particular," Setiz said as parishioners gathered in the intimate chapel. "Still, it is a message of hope and promise."
Photo by Scott McCloskey
The Rev. Mark Seitz lights a Christmas candle Monday afternoon during a service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Wheeling.
Indeed, once the parishioners shared hugs and greeted each other with well wishes, Setiz, much like congregation leaders across the Ohio Valley and around the world, told the story of Christmas. As he talked about the birth of Jesus Christ, he referenced the Connecticut incident as an opportunity to use God as a light in times of darkness.
"Sometimes we ignore that darkness and hope it gets better on its own, but then we see the world we live in has darkness beyond our comprehension," he said. "We are in desperate need of a savior."
Setiz told those gathered to not only accept and allow God to be their guiding light in troubled times, but also to use him as a means of being a light themselves for others. He also told a story of an individual who offered his home to children who escaped the Sandy Hook school after watching as their teacher was shot and the effect it had on the lives of everyone involved. He said the incident, while being the definition of darkness, also has the potential to be life-changing in a positive way.
"I think it will change this country and show us that we all have the power to be the light and come together to praise and glorify," he said.
A crowd of about 30 people attended the afternoon service at St. John's, and a large crowd was expected at the early evening service at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.
Other Wheeling churches are celebrating Christmas with services today: