Archive for December, 2011

Hear the Angels Sing

Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Spirit,

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus as a baby. We rejoice that God come to us, not with glamor, power, and wealth, but through a vulnerable child born not in the seat of politics but in Bethlehem. Emmanuel shows us God with a human face. But Christmas is just the beginning and we follow not a baby but an adult Jesus. So we look to our scriptures to discover what kind of person Jesus became and what his life reveals to us.

At the Christmas Eve service, we got a chance to relive one of those stories about Jesus, on a hillside when there were lots of followers but some unexpected circumstances meant they were unprepared to feed them all. But they took an inventory of what they did have, blessed it and shared it, and behold, it was enough for everyone (with even some leftovers). So while we weren’t sure how we’d celebrate Christmas Eve without our Music Director, we ended up experiencing a multiplying of the loaves and fishes in music. Matt Chandler stepped up with his guitar to lead the hymns, Star and Moon led the choir, and the band joined in everywhere without being asked!!! And the results proved more than enough. It was a spirit-filled evening. Thanks to all those who helped out: readers, those who brought in the creche pieces, Advent wreath lighters, greeters, ushers, and the worship team extraordinaire who stayed late and set-up for the Sunday morning service.

We were also missing our usher and bell ringer Ellen who died suddenly on Friday; we surrounded her family and friends with our prayers and shared in their grief.  The funeral is planned for the church on Friday at 10:00.  With our sextons, the Clean up Crew, on vacation this week Chris Hutchison has stepped up to lead the clean up of the sanctuary and building and ready it for the funeral.  She invites your assistance.

At the Christmas Day service, we reflected on the hymn, It Came Upon a Midnight Clear. The lyrics were written in 1849 in the aftermath of Mexican-American war and in the context of revolutionary movements sweeping Europe, slavery in the United States, and a growing agitation at the low wages, long hours, poor safety, and grinding poverty of industrial workers and child laborers. Its five stanzas develop the theme of the angel song of peace on earth (Luke 1:8–14), with a recurring emphasis on whether or not people listen to the song. Unfortunately, one of the stanzas is commonly left out of American hymnals:

But with the woes of sin and strife, the world has suffered long.
Beneath the angel-hymn have rolled two thousand years of wrong,
as warring armies clash and drown the love song that they bring;
O hush the noise of bomb and gun and hear the angels sing!

Starting this Christmas and beyond, we are invited to sing the angels’ song and follow in the way of the Prince of Peace.



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Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

Just finishing up some “baked goods” for the Coffeehouse tomorrow afternoon, although I notice that neither of my offerings — chili cheese logs or black forest fudge–are technically “baked.” Been listening to Christmas music all day — some very unusual arrangements of my favorites and it’s amazing how a new artist/band can make you sit up and take notice of a song that’s all too familiar.

Here are a couple of my favorites:
The Lower Lights offer a “O Come All Ye Faithful” version that knocks my socks off and Sarah McLauglin does a “In the Bleak Midwinter” that is haunting–unfortunately, the only full length sample I could find is a video postcard so if you click this link you must crank the sound and ignore the visuals. While you’re there, there’s also an overly dramatic cut of the movie “City of Angels” with her hit single “In the Arms of an Angel.” It shows one of my favorite scenes where the angels (all in trenchcoats) all gather on the beach to watch the sunset. We’re using a clip from the original, German, version of this film, Wings of Desire, in worship tomorrow to experience how there’s so much more to us than meets the eye.

What are the new arrangements/artists that make you listen anew to your favorites?

Last week our Advent study invited us to think anew about Joseph — what if he wasn’t a older widower but a teenager like Mary? How does imagining that scenario change the way you think of their willingness to say “yes” to a child? And what about when this young family flees across the border into Egypt to escape persecution?

And how does it enhance your understanding of the story to know something of the geography of the place: for instance, Bethlehem (city of David–a religious city with esteem) stood in the shadow of the great monument Herod built to honor his political superiority, and Nazareth was a tiny backwater place which no one considered worthy of anyone of importance?

This Advent, I hope you too are on the lookout for the details that make you rethink the story. I’m looking forward to the spin the fabulous line-up of artists at the coffeehouse will put on the season…. Looking for angels amidst it all.

Shalom, RevKelly

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Dear Kindred in the Spirit,

On this World AIDS Day, I’m challenged by Richard Rohr’s definition of Advent, “Advent is not about a sentimental waiting for the baby Jesus.” He asks us to focus our expectation and anticipation on the “adult Christ, the Cosmic Christ,” the Lord who challenges us to conversion and new life.

Jesus identified his own message with what he called the coming of the “reign of God” or the “kingdom of God,” whereas we have often settled for the sweet coming of a baby who asked little of us in terms of surrender, encounter, mutuality or any studying of the Scriptures or the actual teaching of Jesus.

This is what I am inviting you to this Advent. But be forewarned: the Word of God confronts, converts, and consoles us—in that order. The suffering, injustice and devastation on this planet are too great now to settle for any infantile gospel or any infantile Jesus.”
(Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr)

The One campaign offers a new program beginning today “The Beginning of the End of AIDS“. On their panel discussion streamed live, they spoke about the important role of the church in help disseminating information, in offering services, in being a place of hope.

Some of our youth wear the white ONE wristbands because they are in the forefront in solving many of the world’s problems. Bono spoke about the campaign on last night’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The ONE campaign also offers us a way to get involved in ending hunger — we have postcards in the office you can send to Congress.

These are just some of the ways you can get involved making this Advent a true advent of the kin-dom of God.

Pastor Kelly

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