In worship we celebrate Epiphany on the Sunday before January 6th . Usually this Sunday is in the early days of January but in 2017 it was on Dec. 31st , the Sunday right after Christmas, and that won’t occur again until 2028. Continue reading Epiphany
During 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
When we come together this 1st Sunday of Advent and sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” we will be participating in a sacred Advent ritual more than a thousand years old. It takes us back to monastic life in the 8th- or 9th-century. For the week leading up to Christmas, they would sing a sequence of Latin “O antiphons” (an antiphon is a short chant like a refrain based on scripture). The purpose of these O antiphons was to concentrate the mind on the coming Christmas with a sequence of scriptures. Each day was a different O antiphon, climaxing with this one. Click here for a lovely rendition of the Latin original.
Yet there’s more to this particular antiphon than just its advanced age. Continue reading Upcoming Worship Dec 3, 2017
Advent has another week to go, the week of deepest darkness that comes before the glorious Christmas dawn. The more we immerse in the spirit of Advent–making time for our spiritual life doing things like reading, praying, getting out in nature, serving people in need–the more joyous our Christmas can be. Yet joyous outbursts are part of Advent, too–we felt it last week on Pageant Sunday and we will feel it Christmas Eve in the first half of the 6:00 PM service.
We will begin this Sunday in joy, too, celebrating Christ’s birth by hearing some of the nativity story and singing “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” The choir will sing “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and a trio of Betsy Alexander, Bridget Peters and Marcia Tomlinson will sing “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.” John Atwood will be playing special music involving chimes and a major Bach Prelude and Fugue that is traditionally associated with Christmas. The sermon will reflect on the “Universal, Unconditional, Unstoppable Love” that we witness in the Christmas story, and that we continue to see at work in our lives and in the world today.
Yet like Christmas Eve, we will end the service quieting into the silent night of Advent still left ahead, singing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and the ancient plainsong benediction one last time. John’s postlude will be the Ukrainian Bell Carol.
Here is a Simon Preston recording of the Bach Prelude and Fugue in C Major that John will be playing:
This Sunday will be a glorious mix of high and low church art, all of it beautiful and moving. The children’s pageant will once again act out the story as our Diverse Musical Traditions Team sings the Gaither song, “Come and See What’s Happenin’ in the Barn!” We are hoping to have fourteen children participate, which is very exciting! The same team will also sing the classic bluegrass Christmas song, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” which has been recorded by everyone from Ralph Stanley to Emmylou Harris and over four hundred others.
Organist John Atwood will play the haunting Appalachian carol, “I Wonder As I Wander,” to complete the low church art. He will also play two pieces from the baroque high church art department, both by Johann Pachelbel, One of them will be a chorale prelude on the tune that the choir will sing as an Intoit, “From Heaven unto Earth I Come.”
Our congregational hymns will include “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Joy to the World” (the children will sing it with the choir at the end of the Pageant and the congregation will join in at the end) and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” as well as the Benediction hymn set to the ancient plainchant Advent tune.
We will light the candle of Joy and read responsively from Psalm 126 and hear Luke 1:39-45 and John 15:9-11. The sermon title will be taken from the John passage, “So That My Joy May Be in You.” We will reflect on what it means to have Christ’s joy in us in very practical terms–it is the peak experience, the highest meaning and pleasure in life, and Christ is very clear that he wants us to experience it to the fullest. Why let anything stand in our way?
To hear two of the pieces of music that will be in the service, Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, December 11, 2016, Pageant, Joy, 3rd Sunday of Advent
We light the candle of peace on the Second Sunday of Advent, and we immerse in the vision of Christ as the Prince of Peace coming to earth. Division, conflict, anxiety, terror, violence–all seem to be on the increase in our nation and in the world, so the Sunday of Peace has rarely been so welcome. We will immerse in its hope and joy and love this Sunday.
The prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist take center stage (Isaiah’s peaceable kingdom vision, 11:1-10 and John’s foretelling of Christ in Matthew 3:1-12), with a supporting role by John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah with his beautiful Benedictus about the tender mercy of God and the dawn from on high that is coming “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79)
For a list and a sampling of the beautiful music, Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes for December 4, 2016, Second Sunday of Advent
A Door That Can Be Opened Only from the Outside
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
November 27, 2016 First Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Hope
Isaiah 60:1-20, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 25:36-44
Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the author of the extraordinary book, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. The book shows how there can be a conflict between what modern medicine says to do and what really matters to a person whose life is nearing the end.
One of the reasons is that our perspective changes when we sense that our time is short. Modern medicine often asks the dying to endure isolation or debilitation for the sake of safety or prolonging life by weeks or months, whereas an end-of-life perspective tends to value most the continuation of connection, choosing to focus on love and home, family and friends with the precious time it has. Nearing death can open us to the spiritual realm more widely. It can spur us to share our remaining gifts for the good of a world we want to bless before we go. It can change the way we want to live the last stage of our life.
Of course, the prospect of death can also paralyze us with fear or negativity, but if we have the courage to open to its truth it can make us wise. It can make us more Christ-like and full of light. The world can look not more terrifying but more beautiful.
Paul guides us in that positive direction. He writes, “The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” He urges us to wake up and see that our time is short no matter what age we are, and to make our focus the spiritual life, not the life driven by our selfish desires.
Jesus says, “About that day and hour no one knows…. Therefore you…must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
Advent reminds us that something is coming, something bigger than we are, something beyond our control, something that will change our perspective and reorder our priorities of what matters. Continue reading Sermon, November 27, 2016
God Is in the Manger is a book of readings for Advent and Christmas by the 20th Century pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He was a leader of the Christian resistance to the Nazis from the time Hitler gained power until he was executed by them shortly before the end of the war.
Click here for more information on God Is in the Manger from a local bookstore.
Here are some favorite Advent and Christmas and Hanukkah books for children (but we know some adults who read these every year)! They are all beautiful and deeply moving. We have provided Amazon links because of the information that Amazon provides, but we urge you to support a locally owned bookstore.
Click on the title for information:
Favor Johnson: A Christmas Story, by Willem Lange, Illustrated by Bert Dodson
A Christmas Like Helen’s by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock, illustrated by Mary Azarian
The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco
The Story of Holly & Ivy, by Rumer Godden, illustrated by Barbara Cooney
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J. Lynch
The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate by Janice Cohn, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney
The Night Tree by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Ted Rand
The Gift by Aliana Brodmann, Illustrated by Anthony Carnabuci
Lucy’s Christmas, by Donald Hall, Illustrated by Michael McCurdy
Here are two more musical Advent/Christmas resources. The first is the 2014 service of Lessons and Carols from the Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge, in England. For a real treat that will enrich the experience greatly you can read the program handed out that evening by clicking here.
The second resource is another John Eliot Gardiner performance of a masterpiece of J. S. Bach, the Christmas Oratorio. This is a long piece–it is actually six cantatas put together to form the Oratorio. It is well worth listening to in entirety, but you could spread it out over six days of Christmas as it was originally performed. Below are links that give information and translations.
Click here for a good introduction to the Oratorio. Click here for background details on Bach’s Christmas Oratorio Parts One through Six. Below are very useful translations of each Part. (Click on the English-3l.)
Part One: English-3I
Part Two: English-3I
Part Three: English-3I
Part Four: English-3I
Part Five: English-3I
Part Six: English-3I