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Homily, Christmas Eve 2017



“It’s Time to Go”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC

Luke 2: 1-20   

Christmas Eve



The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”  – Luke 2:20i

I don’t know what I would have done if I had been one of the shepherds. Angelic chorus. Voices from heaven. The glory of God.

I don’t know.

Knowing me, I would have sought some reasonable explanation. Like you I live in the twenty-first century. No angels have come flapping by. No voice from heaven. Indeed, I wonder if they would have admitted me to seminary, prepared me to lead a church, if I had claimed anything like what happened to the shepherds. All I know is that I would attempt to hold onto the reality I know. The world of cause and effect. The science of replication. I do know I would have put down the wine skin!

A first century Palestinian might have sought to obey more than understand. They lived in a world more alive with mystery, with forces unknown. Continue reading Homily, Christmas Eve 2017

Sermon Dec 24, 2017

“Risky Business”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC

Luke 1: 28 – 38                                                                                                                 4th Sunday of Advent

Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.”                           — Luke 1:38i

Maybe it’s because she was so young. Some scholars suggest Mary may have been all of twelve years of age, most put her at 15 to 16. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have this to say about the adolescent brain:

…recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part. This is the part of the brain that responds to situations with good judgment and an awareness of long-term consequences. Teens process information with the amygdala. This is the emotional part. Continue reading Sermon Dec 24, 2017

Christmas Eve, 2017




Our worship times for Christmas Eve:



10 a.m. Morning Family Worship, lighting of the 4th Advent Candle of Love, and a baptism! Guest soloist Betsy Alexander will sing Schubert’s “Ave Maria.”

6:30 p.m. Candlelight Service of Lessons & Carols, lighting of the Christ Candle, and the traditional singing of Silent Night. Guest flutists Danelle Sims and Lisa Barfield will join organist John Atwood.

Both services are a time for whole families to worship together. We welcome all ages to join us for these special experiences. We are an Open & Affirming church. Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, you are most welcome here.

12:00 – 2 p.m. Christmas Day is the annual Community Christmas Dinner. Come one come all!



Sermon, Dec. 17, 2017

“Powering Through”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC

I Thessalonians 5: 16-24
December 17, 2017

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”                                                  — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18i

Here we are. The third Sunday in Advent. If you’ve been following the theme of each candle lit, this Sunday is the candle of joy. 1 Thessalonians 5 speaks directly to God’s desire for us to know joy. Our text puts it strongly. This is God’s will that we give thanks in all things.

Hard to do, right? But let’s take the text at its word. Our joy is God’s will. Continue reading Sermon, Dec. 17, 2017

See our 2017 Christmas Pageant!

We were so filled with the Spirit of Joy on this 3rd Sunday of Advent when the Sunday School and the Diverse Tradition Singers presented this delightful nativity pageant!

The morning service was so filled with music, too, when Phyllis Shea accompanied our hymns on her cello, the choir sang carols for the Gathering Music time, and John Atwood filled the sanctuary with his astounding Postlude to spontaneous applause.

A double baptism immediately followed the pageant, enabling all the children to watch in wonderment as Pastor Jeff lovingly welcomed the two young ones to this body of Christ.

And at Fellowship Time downstairs the whole group sang out Happy 90th Birthday to our own Margaret Staples and helped eat the birthday cake and sip at the hot mulled cider!

Upcoming Worship Dec 17, 2017

300px-In_dulci_jubiloOrganist John Atwood’s prelude for our worship on December 17th will be Johann Michael Bach’s delightful arrangement of In Dulci Jubilo, which means “In Sweet Rejoicing.” Johann was the first cousin once removed and father-in-law of J.S. Bach.

In Dulci Jubilo was composed in the early 1300s by a German mystic who, the legend says, heard angels sing the words … and then joined them in a dance of worship. Continue reading Upcoming Worship Dec 17, 2017

our Advent Candle tradition

candle traditionDuring Advent, Christmas and Epiphany our sanctuary has its Advent candles displayed in front of the altar platform, on a table festooned with greens on a white cloth. Each week a child is called to light the new candle as we all pray together.

Many years ago our minister John Knight made the wood stand for the 4 large candles: 3 (penitential) purple and 1 (joy) pink. On each Sunday a new candle is lit. A separate white candle stands alone as the Christ Candle for Christmas Eve.

1st candle is HOPE, recalling God’s promise: There shall be a root of Jesse; And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15: 12-13

2nd candle is PEACE, proclaiming the prophecy to be fulfilled: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

3rd candle is JOY, breaking into our penitential time with the proclamation, But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2: 10-12

4th candle of LOVE, in the assurance that ” … God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

CHRIST candle, lit at our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service, is white to symbolize the purity of the Savior, who John the Baptist proclaimed, saying, Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!“John 1:29

joy sunday


Guest cellist Dec. 17, 2017

PSheaCellist Phyllis Shea will be our guest musician for the morning worship service on December 17th.

She has been improvising on the cello for fifteen years, playing harmony and bass lines with local musicians.  She plays every week at the Colatina Exit and Salt Hill in Hanover, and she frequently plays at Peyton Place, the Greenhouse, First Night venues, and other places.

Phyllis lives in Bradford and works at Oxbow High School as the school nurse.

Sermon Dec. 10, 2017

“The God Who Brings Us Comfort”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC

Isaiah 40:1-11
December 10, 2017

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God” — Isaiah 40:1i

Sometimes it is difficult to square the wrath of God with the love of God. This has led some to dismiss the Old Testament in favor of the New. For many, the Old Testament view of God is one of a judge who meats out punishment while the New Testament’s view of God is more forgiving and loving. But to jettison the Old Testament does violence to the reality of Jesus. If Jesus was anything, he was a Jew. The idea of dismissing the Hebrew scripture would have struck Him as absurd. How do I know? Because Jesus bases His ministry on the words of an Old Testament prophet. Continue reading Sermon Dec. 10, 2017