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December 2022 Newsletter

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Hamburg United Methodist Church 116 Union St Hamburg, New York, 14075 (716) 649-8080 Worship Livestream: Sundays at 10 am Via Facebook Live & Youtube

From The Desk of Pastor David Nicol

Dear Saints,

Advent is upon us! There’s a series of things happening between now and Christmas at Hamburg, Four Corners, Versailles, and Gowanda. As some of you may have realized, Advent is one of my favorite seasons in the Church year. The Christian year ends with the Reign of Christ the King, a celebration and remembrance that the risen and ascended Jesus has already claimed rightful rule of the cosmos, and promises to set it all right.

Advent reminds us that Christ is coming—as the Communion liturgy proclaims, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” The Advent readings share the hope of the Prophets for the world to come, when God will set all things right, and the Gospel hope of Jesus’ reign in our lives and over the world. In a world where evil and sin seem to control the day, this season offers us a reminder that God has something better in store.

I am convinced that the Christian hope, while it includes assurance of life beyond death, is as much or more about life abundant today and what NT Wright calls “life beyond life beyond death.” In Advent we hear Mary’s Song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46b-55), where she celebrates that the child she will bear will turn the world on its head, and the words of the prophets, like Isaiah who promised a day when the Lord would enact justice and call forth righteousness in the world, and John the Baptist who called us to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 3:1-12).” Year after year, we hear the call to repentance, we hear the celebration of what Baby Jesus means for the world, and year after year we await Christmas and celebrate that God is with us, not just in the power of the Holy Spirit, but at a particular time, in a forgotten backwater of the Roman world, he walked with us as a human being.

The early Christians struggled to understand what happened long ago in Bethlehem. Who was Jesus, after all? A prophet? A great Rabbi? And the Church settled on a better answer—he is “the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word (Hebrews 1:3).” There is a reason that the lectionaries for Christmas Day almost always turn from Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth to Hebrews and John who reflect on what it means for “…the Word became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14).” Christmas begins with a birth, but it is Jesus as the presence of God in human flesh that changes the world.

In the 4th century, Gregory of Nazianzus, archbishop of Constantinople was instrumental in both reflecting on the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation, and on the doctrine of the Trinity. “What has not been assumed has not been healed; it is what is united to his divinity that is saved (Epistle 101).” Because God has become fully human in Jesus, the entirety of human nature has been healed—our sin and brokenness have been drawn into the life of God, so that we might be made new through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we enter the season of preparation, as the world around us lights trees, spreads garlands, hangs wreaths, and for a moment remembers that Jesus came into the world, let us rejoice about the fullness of what that baby means for those of us who have met him—because he was born, the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near, among us, even if we only see glimpses of the wonderous things God has promised to complete!

In Christ’s Service, with you,

Pastor David Nicol


Announcements from the Office

The office will be putting together an announcement slideshow for the gathering space. Content is accepted weekly and due on Wednesday Morning to the church office.

**Please note for repeating slides, the last Sunday it should be run.

Office hours

Monday- Thursday: 9am-2pm

Friday: 9 am-Noon

Email us!!

Jeannine Vanwey:

Patrick Fitzgerald:

Cristina Glover:



New Members:

Barbara Crispell – received by letter of transfer from First United Methodist Church, North Tonawanda, New York on November 6, 2022

Anne Nicol – received by letter of transfer from North Scottsdale United Methodist Church, North Scottsdale, Arizona on November 6, 2022

In Remembrance:

Rev. Charles V. Excell – joined the church triumphant November 11, 2022



I want to express my deep appreciation to everyone in the church family for your prayers, cards, phone calls, and words of concern and support before and after my shoulder replacement surgery. My surgery was successful, and I am making a slow and steady recovery. I am so thankful to be a part of the Hamburg UMC family.

Dick Caldwell




The Retired Men’s Fellowship of Hamburg UMC will have their monthly lunch gathering

on Tuesday, December 13 (one week earlier than our usual) at 12 Noon at ZJ’s Restaurant in the Hamburg Village Plaza. All retired men are invited. Come and bring a friend for food and fellowship.

Dick Caldwell, facilitator



Poinsettia plants for Christmas will be available for purchase after the worship services Sundays, December 4, 11, and 18. A variety of plants – red, pink, white, marble, and glitter – is available at a cost of $14 per plant. When purchasing your plant, you may designate the plant “in memory of” or “in honor of” someone special. The poinsettia plants will be on the altar for Christmas Eve.



Returning your cans and bottles can be an easy way to donate $$ to Little Lamb Preschool. Just take them to Can Bottle Return, 4255 Clark Street in Hamburg (next to the former Vara Cleaners) and designate your refund to Little Lamb. They keep the money on record and periodically send Little Lamb a check. Easy for you…easy for them…and much appreciated by Little Lamb.



  1. The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren. Regardless of religious background, religion, problems, or circumstances, Christmas really is the best news you could get. In his powerful yet compassionate voice, Rick Warren explains how God designed Christmas to meet people’s three deepest needs, and how understanding and receiving God’s three Christmas gifts to the world can transform lives. An instant classic, this book is one to be read and passed on to family members, friends, and loved ones.

  2. Grace by Shelley Shepard Gray. It’s Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast, and everyone is excited about the holidays. But when two unexpected guests arrive seeking shelter, the family’s commitment to hospitality is tested. First is Levi, sullen and angry, wanting to stay for five days. Then comes Melody, nine months pregnant coming from Kentucky all by herself. As they settle in, Katie is determined to find out their secrets. This novel reaffirms the old adage that it is never too late to go home.

  3. All is Bright by Katherine Spencer. In the town of Cape Light, Rev. Ben Lewis reflects on Christmas past, when as a new pastor, things at the church did not turn out as he expected. He recalls the many challenges and joys the season brought him as he struggled to win the church’s confidence and respect. As he looks back, his daughter, Rachel looks to the future and wonders if she can open her heart after the passing of her husband and trust the gifts that Christmas brings. She is torn between deep loss and a future of bright possibilities. Artwork by Thomas Kinkade is an inspiration for this book.

During the busy Christmas season take some time to read one of these books or one of the many other Christmas books in our church library. You may find new insights, hope and joy, and the blessings of Christmas for your heart.


Book Club will meet on Monday, December 19th at 10:30 am in the Church Library. We will be discussing The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict.


Letter from Zimmermans, Missionaries in Nepal

13 October 2022

Be still and know that I am God

Psalm 46:10

Dear Friends,

As if taking me by the arm, something stopped me in my scurrying around our apartment and slowed my racing thoughts. I sat down on Deirdre’s side of our bed and drew a breath. “I think we’ve got to make a decision, my dear.”

She stared at me expectantly, her sunken eyes rimmed gray and her hair frazzled. “You’ve hardly taken any liquids all night; we’re just not keeping up with the vomiting, and your urine’s now down to a trickle.”

“I’m trying. I really am.”

“I know you are. But this is how this illness goes. I think you need an intravenous now. We have to decide whether to admit you to the hospital or put in an IV here.” “I really don’t want to go into the hospital.”

Throughout the month of August, Deirdre and I shared stories across dinner about the unexpected epidemic of dengue fever rising in the Kathmandu Valley. Benjamin resigned to being the lone non-medico at the table and listened with glazed eyes. I said most of the patients I was seeing were not as sick as those of last year’s COVID surge. Deirdre, who works in the ICU, pointed out two recent deaths of young people who’d gone into shock. The dengue (DENG gee) virus is carried by Aedes mosquitoes, known to Nepalis as ‘tiger mosquitoes’ because of their alternating black and white stripes. Although we’re used to seeing these pests late each Nepali monsoon, during past years we’d only treated a handful of patients with dengue; it was mainly in the tropical lowlands. This September, half of Patan Hospital’s 140 medical ward beds had patients with dengue complications.

The storm hit our household on a weekend. That Saturday night Benjamin excused himself from our pizza dinner (unheard of) and went off to bed with a high fever. Sunday afternoon Deirdre succumbed. Both were vomiting by Monday morning, so I took off the day to nurse them in adjacent rooms, Benjamin having moved downstairs to our study. The bathroom lay strategically between the two, wide plastic basins that stood beside each of their beds, and around the apartment, I bustled.

Since his toddler days, controlling Benjamin’s fever during infections has always been a challenge and so it was this time: peaking at 104o and hardly dropping below 102*F even with higher than advised doses of Tylenol (paracetamol). I’d been hearing from patients that pharmacies in town were running out of this medicine, so widespread had its use suddenly become. I watched us put a sizeable dent in the bottle we’d brought from the U.S. and wondered how many days I’d need to tamp down these fevers. Our kitchen whiteboard, usually jotted with phone numbers, reminders, and shopping lists, took on the appearance of a hospital record chart with times of temperatures, drugs, urine, and other bodily excretions arrayed in two broad columns, one headed BZ, the other DZ.

Alka Hospital is a 10-minute bicycle ride up the hill from our apartment. Its accessible pharmacy and lab made it my choice for quickly picking up medicines and supplies and dropping off blood samples. Tests showed both of their white blood counts falling to low levels and Deirdre developing hepatitis from the virus.

Alka’s pharmacy counter opens onto a long section of sidewalk beside a bustling road, so one can just turn up and order. On Wednesday, I handed the young man inside a long list of needed supplies – bottles, tubing, and cannulas for intravenous fluid, anti-vomiting drugs and potassium, bandages, tape, and antiseptic. I leaned on the counter beside others crowding in to buy medicines for their loved ones, many admitted into the adjacent Alka Hospital. The usual supply chain for Nepali hospitals runs through patients’ relatives’ hands.

As I waited, I looked around and noticed the faces. I guessed some of these folks were purchasing medicines or supplies for inpatients a lot sicker than Deirdre. Yet, they seemed calmer than I felt inside. Were they just better able to mask their concern? It occurred to me that maybe I’d long been underestimating the anxiety of my patients’ relatives. Back home, I fashioned a spare curtain rod into an IV pole and by late afternoon had fluids coursing into Deirdre. The device’s portability was essential, as she frequently had to snatch it up and hurry into the bathroom. Each evening I considered going in to work the next day, but each morning’s reality dispelled the notion. My colleague Dr. Bimal called repeatedly to check in and said, ‘Don’t bother coming in; we’ll manage here.’ Our friends Drs. Buddhi and Madhu brought fruit (though Deirdre couldn’t manage a bite) and extra bottles of IV fluid.

This was Benjamin’s second brush with the effects of climate change. During the first half of the last summer, he’d stayed with friends in Weed, California working as a lumberjack. In August, the house where he’d stayed missed by just 200 meters being burned down by the Mill Fire (he was back here in Nepal by then). Nearer to us, in Pakistan, this summer, unprecedented rains, and glacial melts caused devastating flooding in a country that contributes less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gases. Our concern grows when we consider how many people back home still disregard this worldwide threat.

By the second weekend, Deirdre had stopped vomiting and her IV was out. It would take another week before her meals consisted of more than a single cream cracker with Marmite spread and a cup of tea. Emerging from a routine of two naps a day, she gingerly returned to hospital work in the third week.

One late afternoon we sat in the kitchen debriefing the day – her recovery landmark and my hospital work. After a pause, she said, “You know, you’re my hero, the way you pulled me – pulled us both – through all this.” I couldn’t deny it felt pretty good to be thus hailed by my dear one, but I also had to admit I went through most of that week feeling grateful. Glad for the energy to help them and the appetite to keep eating (fueling) – and, finally, relieved to see them recover.

During my prayer time, following one of our rougher nights, I’d closed my eyes and felt a sense of darkness wafting through our apartment. Rather than turn from the vision, with some wonder and hope, I focused my inner gaze on these clouds. Paradoxically, I began to sense a solid, resolute Presence on just the other side of the murky veil. Steadfast love behind, or even within, the ephemeral shadows. When they dissipated, the Presence also seemed to recede from my view. It was as if the clouds themselves had provided a lens through which to behold the Eternal.

We came through these weeks feeling a closer kinship to those with whom we share this vibrant, untidy city. Our housekeeper Anuja, many folks in our church, local shopkeepers and their families – many endured dengue in more challenging home situations than ours, or had to be admitted to hospitals.

For some months we have been in prayer about where we’ll be located after next summer (2023). Family support needs, Nepal visa permission to stay, and our work situations all seem in flux. Not so our Lord. He remains, His love steadfast.

And we thank you for your prayers.


Mark, Deirdre, Benjamin (and Zachary)


Join us for a virtual fellowship! This group is a place to share prayer requests, devotions, concerns, joys, and even some humor with your church family. Join the Hamburg UMC Fellowship group on Facebook.


PRAYER CONCERNS? If you would like someone added to our church prayer list, call Barb Meader (648-1273) or email her at, or contact anyone who is a Prayer, Care, and Share member. Daily we lift the concerns that have been shared with us.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 4-7)

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