The following press release was issued by Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church in the Bethlehem Community on Friday, March 20, 2020:
Since 1977, the Bethlehem Star has graced the skyline as a treasured symbol of the Bethlehem Community in Alexander County. On October 23rd of 2017, the Star was damaged beyond repair by the EF2 tornado that passed through Bethlehem.
The new star was successfully funded (over $40,000 was raised—much, much more than needed and anticipated). The remaining funds are being held in escrow to fund further activities). On December 3rd, 2018 the new Bethlehem Star was lit in front of a crowd of over a thousand people.
As the public is notified of more and more news about the COVID-19 virus and schools, activities, and gathering are cancelled, our religious leaders struggle to support their church families as services, weddings, even funerals and memorial services are cancelled or postponed. Pastor Mike Stone of Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, NC is one of those religious leaders, supporting a congregation of over 850 people, along with Pastor Kate Crecelius—who was newly installed as a part-time pastor.
Pastor Stone states, “This past Wednesday evening after coming home from presiding and preaching at a friend’s memorial service, I turned on the news to hear about the alarming COVID–19 virus. It seemed that there was no good news. That was until they shared about people putting up Christmas lights in this challenging dark time. It was impossible not to smile, hearing about and looking at those lights. The lights reminded me of what I had shared shortly before in the service, “We are Easter people of Hope because we know Jesus the Light and Love of the world.” So, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it bring great joy every morning and every night for people to see the Bethlehem Star lit up? I envisioned a smile as each person was buoyed up in hope realizing that, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” and as John reminded us, “The darkness has not overcome the Light.”
Stone reached out to the other Pastors in the Bethlehem Community, as the Bethlehem Star, while located on Mt. Pisgah property, belongs to all the churches and the community in Bethlehem. His proposition to re-light the Star—an act that has never before been done outside of Christmastime was received with enthusiasm, and together this letter was written for the community and all who pass through it.
“To the Bethlehem Community (and those passing through it):
Just a few months ago, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and masks were not very high on our lists of purchases. Unfortunately, they now have become symbols of our daily fears of contracting the COVID–19 virus. We have been given all types of restrictions on our daily lives—the closing of schools, church buildings, restaurants, and other public gatherings. We fear for the continuation of our incomes. Many older people are sequestered in their homes with the constant bombardment of the negatives related to COVID–19. We wonder where all this will end and sometimes struggle to understand the hope that “all this too shall pass.”
So, what can we do in Bethlehem to maintain hope? The one absolute in our lives as Christians is the belief that we may be sustained in the loving arms of Jesus. In times of crisis, we often rely on the promises provided to us through our faith. With the closing of church buildings, our church leaders are working diligently to change our worship practices and provide us with guidance and care for those around us.
Christians believe in showing symbols of their faith, especially in times of crisis. Our own Bethlehem Star has become a symbol of the hope provided by God through the birth of his Son. These promises are bigger than the Coronavirus. The Star tells us that whatever may threaten us, our God is bigger and provides his peace through the enfolding arms of Jesus.
Accordingly, the Bethlehem Star will be lit to serve as a signal that the hope of our loving Savior will be there to protect and guide us through the challenging days ahead. As you pass by the Star, we hope that you will be inspired by the gift of the Christ Child, and by a Savior who went to the cross for us, and by our Risen Lord, who is present with us always. May the light of His great love sustain, empower and inspire us today and always.
–Approved for this day, March 21, by The Bethlehem Star Committee and the Bethlehem Pastors.”
The Bethlehem Star will be lit tomorrow, Saturday, March 21st, after sunset, to shine as a beacon of hope, comfort, and solidarity—a symbol of light in dark times. Cognizant of the request to avoid gatherings, there will not be any ceremony, but plans for a celebration and joint worship are being made for the night the Star goes dark again, waiting to be, once again, a symbol of joy at Christmas time.
Visit Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church ELCA and experience the community of its warm and welcoming church family. Mt. Pisgah is located in front of the Lowe’s shopping center on Route 127 in Bethlehem. For directions and further information, please call the church at 828-495-8251; visit our Facebook page at Mt. Pisgah Lutheran Church ELCA or our website at www.mtpisgahelca.org.