Below are some photos from this year’s Christmas pageant. Enjoy!
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
It’s time to order your memorial poinsettia! These beautiful potted plants (3 per pot) are thanks to Shearer’s Greenhouse and 20% of the proceeds is donated back to the church’s flower fund! They will be displayed in church on Christmas Sunday (December 18), and can be delivered or taken home after the worship service unless you designate you would like it to remain through the Christmas Eve service. Click this link for the order form: 2016 Memorial Poinsettia Form
December is a busy month for the Sunday School! Click this link to see all that they are up to: Sunday School December 2016 Calendar
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
This is one of the most beautiful services of the church year. The children will bring in the greens to decorate the church during the Prelude, and they, along with members of the Search Committee, will light the Advent candle of Hope. We will sing three classic and beloved Advent carols, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” “Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying,” and “Watchman, Tell Us of the Night.” We will sing a Benediction set to the oldest Advent tune, a plainchant that has been sung daily during Advent in monasteries for over a thousand years. We will hear scriptures with a message of hope and teachings on how to live in hope.
The choir will sing an Advent hymn from Spain as the introit, “Toda la Tierra (All Earth Is Waiting).” They will sing “Ah! Think Not the Lord Delayeth” as the Anthem with a text by one of the great hymnodists of the early 20th Century, Percy Dearmer, set to a J.B.König tune. Organist John Atwood will play three pieces from the Baroque era, one by Johann Sebastian Bach and the other two by his cousin, J. G. Walther.
Here are two of the organ pieces, starting with a Walther chorale prelude based on the hymn “Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying.” The second is the Advent piece by J.S. Bach that John will play as the Postlude.
Serving the Whole Family
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
November 20, 2016, Twenty-seventh after Pentecost,
Reign of Christ Sunday, Thanksgiving Sunday
Psalm 95, Matthew 25:31-40
Psalm 95 says, “For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.”
It is important we understand what that means.
Christ calls us to follow him and be like him,
including being good shepherds to God’s sheep.
But who exactly are the sheep of God’s hand?
Who are the people of God’s pasture?
Who are the members of God’s family?
Astronauts looking back at Earth from space have seen it.
Saints and mystics of all times have seen it.
Hunters watching the woods all day have seen it.
Soldiers falling in love in a foreign land have seen it.
Thomas Aquinas, the hard-headed scholar,
put it this way:
“The immense diversity and pluriformity
of this creation more perfectly represents God
than any one creature alone or by itself.”
Meister Eckhart, the great-hearted preacher and mystic,
put it this way:
“Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God
and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—
even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
Jesus wanted his disciples to see
that everything in all creation is part of God’s family,
and each member of that family is full of God. Continue reading Sermon, November 20, 2016
This is one of the biggest Sundays in the church year–Thanksgiving, Reign of Christ Sunday, the last Sunday in the season of Pentecost, and New Year’s Eve–the new church year begins next Sunday, the 27th, with the First Sunday of Advent. In addition, this week we will be celebrating the Wild Game Supper (still tickets available, click here), and the highly successful Church World Service Kit drive of our Board of Mission and Social Action, and the completion of a program on God and Family by Cub Scout Caleb Peters. To top it all off, we will have a warned Congregational Meeting immediately following worship to consider whether to go forward with a study of what it would mean to become an Open and Affirming congregation.
This is one of those Sundays that has an evocative sound track–all many of us need to do is hear “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come,” or “We Gather Together,” or “Now Thank We All Our God,” and we feel an old familiar Thanksgiving feeling come over us, and memories of people and meals come flooding back. We will hear all three this Sunday, plus a Reign of Christ hymn, “Now Is the Time Approaching” (sung to the exuberant tune of “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus”), plus the beloved “Fairest Lord Jesus” sung by the choir. Organist John Atwood will play pieces by J. S. Bach (hear it below), William Selby and H. Clough-Leighter. Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes for November 20, 2016, Thanksgiving & Reign of Christ
The children were invited to wear their costumes at church, and it was happy chaos as they shared them with the congregation, and we sang “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”, substituting the characters they were dressed as for the list in the hymn. We had witches, princesses,a lynx, “a fourth grader”, a viking, and more!