A Message from Pastor Ara: God Comes to Us — the Birth of Jesus

We need at least four weeks to unwrap the gift of Jesus. I have been unwrapping for 40-plus years, in a serious way, this gift of God in flesh appearing. It is a most wonderful endeavor.

This year Robin and I will be gathering with all who show up to consider the four Gospel ways that the gift is received. In our more efficient way, we have a fifth story of welcoming the Christ child, as witnessed in the Nativity scenes that include all the major characters at the same time and place, cows, sheep, shepherds, wise ones, Joseph, Mary, and the babe lying in a manger.

I am ready to hear the sixth story, your story. Join us on Sundays, Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s this Advent season, beginning this Sunday evening with dinner.

We have three locations, and three times and days for you to attend. We will be discussing the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth/The Divine present with us.

Sign up for Sunday evenings at 5 p.m.; Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. at the Pressley’s home in the Tower District; or Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Patty Parks’ in Sunnyside. Robin or Ara will be the facilitators. The Study begins on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2.

I am also on the edge of my seat, as I await ‘the Hanging of the Greens’ on Sunday morning.

Another great way to hear a sixth story is by daily reading the Advent Devotional produced in partnership with First Congregational Church (Big Red). Paper copies will be available on Sunday and each day’s devotional will be posted on our website and Facebook page.

Peace,
Pastor Ara

Advent candles.png

 

Four weeks of Advent projects

Each year the Missions and Social Justice Team plans Advent projects for the four Sundays in Advent, beginning this year on Sunday, Dec. 2. The committee picks four organizations that will benefit, and the congregation can bring requested items for each week’s project.

Here are this year’s recipients:

  • Dec. 2 — Cash Donations or gift cards for teens in foster care through Uplift Family Services. Many younger children in foster care receive gifts from things similar to the snowflake tree, but there is usually an age limit and the teens get left out. For this Advent project, bring $10 gift card to anywhere a teen may want to shop — Jamba Juice, McDonald’s, Target, Walmart, Claire’s, stuff like that.
  • Dec. 9 — Snowflake tree to buy gifts for underprivileged elementary-aged children at Robinson Elementary, our neighborhood school. Students have been identified by their teachers. The tree will be up for people to pick a child’s name on Dec. 2, return gifts by the Dec. 9.
  • Dec. 16 — Collecting small gifts for senior residents of Twilight Haven retirement facility, like mittens, socks and scarves to help residents stay warm.
  • Dec. 23 — Cash donations to buy bus passes for residents of  Dakota EcoGarden, a transitional homeless shelter with an environmentally-friendly approach.

For more information, contact Felicia Rocha at flearocha82@gmail.com.

 

Advent and Christmas Reflections 2017

Advent reflections

At the worship on Sunday, Dec. 4, copies of the Advent/Christmas reflection calendar were handed out. These daily reflections and actions help us notice “where God is breaking through,” wrote author Molly Phinney-Baskette.

You can view the calendar here, below Molly’s column, or check back on our Facebook page during this month for the daily reflections.

~ By Molly Phinney-Baskette

Beloved, it’s been a YEAR. Inaugurations, investigations, mass protests and counterprotests. Hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires (many of them, metaphorically, at the nation’s capital). Muslim travel bans, transgender rights rollbacks, open assault on the poorest and sickest people in America through cruel legislation. Two of the largest mass shootings our country has ever seen. White supremacists openly on parade, with torches, and without masks. Nuclear holocaust nightmares, redux. 

It’s also been the year of the largest single-day protest (the Women’s March on Jan. 21). The annulment of much of that cruel legislation by an engaged electorate. The takedown of wealthy and powerful sexual predators, and the unmasking of sexual harassment and assault nationwide, by women on the political left and the right. White people awakening to their privilege and showing up in greater numbers to protest white supremacy (it’s a start). And, momentarily, the seating of newly elected trans folks, women, and people of color in political office throughout the land. 

You probably know, because you are church nerds, that Advent is not just about the coming of itty bitty baby Jesus. It is the season of Apocalypse — the second coming of adult Jesus (look busy!) in judgment. Apocalypse means “uncovering.” Put that way, it doesn’t seem so threatening. It may even seem welcome. 

As much suffering as we have endured as a nation this year, we are also experiencing an unprecedented uncovering. 

We are more deeply aware of the ways in which our culture, society and even and especially our religion (I’m looking at you, Christianity!) have propped up the Powers That Be and condoned violence against black and brown bodies, women’s bodies, queer/trans bodies, immigrant bodies. More, if not all, is being revealed about the way we have failed to live up to Christ’s vision of Kin-dom. 

At the same time: we are struggling to articulate a Christianity and a Jesus that doesn’t live in luxury in Herod’s palace but is getting born, born, born into the margins of Bethlehem. In the comments section, they call us snowflakes, for daring to love recklessly and stand with the underdog, always.

Well then: let’s embrace snowflake Christianity. Let’s run out into the field with the shepherds, stare up at the sky with the wise ones, and stick our tongues out to catch the next flakes as they fall. Let’s be on the lookout for where Jesus might turn up next–what ways the most vulnerable will turn out to be the supernaturally powerful, after all.

This year’s Advent calendar is about noticing where God is breaking through, bringing attention to the minute and the massive, so-big-we-might-have-missed-it-otherwise hope and holiness in the New Creation.

A new thing this year: half the calendar is written by my brilliant friend Rev. Quinn Caldwell! It maps to the UCC Advent Devotional book, Watch (each day, the prompt matches the devo). The print edition is sold out, but you can still buy a Kindle edition if you want to read the devos here (though the calendar works just fine without the book): https://www.uccresources.com/products/watch-2017-advent-devotional-the-stillspeaking-writers-group

I’m so grateful to still be here, to still know you, to be in this together. A blessing upon each and every one of you, wherever you are.

Calendar of Advent reflections