Upcoming Service Notes, January 3, 2016 and Epiphany Season

Epiphany is always a season of beginnings and increasing light.  This year it will be especially hopeful and exciting with the launch of our Search Committee for a settled pastor.  Sunday the 10th will be the official service of dedication, and this week we will be reflecting on the journey ahead.

This Sunday is a transition day.  It is the Second Sunday of Christmas when we sing our last Christmas carols.  It is also Epiphany Sunday when we start this beautiful, light-filled season. The word Epiphany comes from a Greek root meaning manifestation or appearance.  This Sunday we will celebrate the wise men’s recognition of God’s manifestation in the Christ child.  We will read Matthew 2:1-12 (the story of the wise men) and Isaiah 60:1-6 (some of the most uplifting lines of poetry in the Bible).  The sermon will explore how we can follow the guidance of the Spirit in our daily lives and in our search for a new pastor, as the Magi followed the star.  To read about and listen to the music for this Sunday,  Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes, January 3, 2016 and Epiphany Season

Sermon, December 20, 2015

Love: The Blessed Vulnerable Mary
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 20, 2015
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Love, Christmas Sunday
Luke 1:26-56; Matthew 1:18-25

Mary is the model for all Christians, not just Catholics, not just women, but for all of us.

A central doctrine of our faith, far more important than the virgin birth, is the belief that Christ lives within every one of us. Jesus prayed that we would recognize this truth. (John 17:23) Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Every time we take communion we ritually renew Christ’s body and blood living within our body and blood. Every one of us at our baptism receives affirmation that the same Spirit that made Christ Christ is present in us.

Our calling as a church is to be the body of Christ. Our calling as individuals is to do our part as members of Christ’s body. (I Corinthians 12) Jesus sends his followers to bear into the world his power for healing and reconciliation with God, so that the world may turn from its selfish ways to the ways of God’s realm of mercy, justice and peace. Most of all, we are called to bring Christ’s love into the world by loving God and loving our neighbor—neighbor meaning everyone in the world who is in need of love, especially the stranger or wrongdoer or enemy.

Like Mary, we have something of Christ to bring to birth that the world desperately needs. The scriptures and the news headlines tell us this as clearly as if the angel Gabriel were standing in front of us announcing it. And like Mary, we have to decide how to respond. Continue reading Sermon, December 20, 2015

Upcoming Service Notes: Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve, and the Sunday after Christmas

CHRISTMAS SUNDAY  On Sunday, December 20th, at 10:00 AM we will have our traditional Christmas Sunday celebration, with the story of the Annunciation and Birth read by Bridget Peters, Storme Odell and Tony Brainerd.  The readings will be interspersed with the beloved Christmas carols, God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen and Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming and It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. Ted and Dotti Unkles will light the four Advent candles, Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, with the children’s help, reminding us that Christmas is not here yet, even though we already have begun the celebration.
Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes: Christmas Sunday, Christmas Eve, and the Sunday after Christmas

Advent and Christmas Books for Children (and Adults,Too)

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

 

 

More Classic Advent and Christmas Music

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

Sermon, December 13, 2015

Rejoice Always: Christ Is Near    
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 13, 2015   Third Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Joy, Pageant Sunday
Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-9

Last Sunday I talked about how refuge is at the heart of our religion. Refuge is a place where we are free from the pursuit of danger or trouble and can live in peace.  Mary and Joseph were refugees the night Jesus was born. Today there are Syrian refugees and many others, including neighbors in Bradford seeking refuge from the ravages of war, addiction and poverty. The truth is, we all are refugees. We all seek peace from whatever threat or trouble pursues us. To feel we have found refuge is to feel deep joy.

Brother Lawrence was the 17th Century working class Frenchman who developed the practice of the presence of God. Here is one of his Spiritual Maxims: “The greater the perfection a soul seeks, the more dependent it is on grace, and the help of God is more necessary for it each moment for without it the soul can do nothing; the world, human nature and the devil together wage a war so fierce and so continual that without this actual help and this humble and necessary dependence, they will carry the soul away in spite of itself; this seems hard on human nature but grace makes it acceptable and a refuge.”
Continue reading Sermon, December 13, 2015

The Children’s Pageant and Candle Lighting on the Third Sunday of Advent

On December 13, the children performed their annual pageant, and afterwards, lit the three Advent candles of hope, peace, and joy.

Click the arrows under the photo to scroll through the album.

Waiting for their cue
Waiting for their cue
« 1 of 10 »

Upcoming Service Notes: December 13, 2015 and Christmas Services

This Third Sunday of Advent will be a mix of Advent and Christmas as we rejoice in the Children’s Christmas Pageant and light the Advent Candle of Joy.  Once again this year the Pageant will be based on the Gloria and Bill Gaither song, “Come and See What’s Happenin’ in the Barn!” sung by John Atwood, Randy and Storme Odell, Bridget Peters and Marcia Tomlinson, with Randy Odell on guitar.  The same performers will also sing “Light of the Stable” by Elizabeth & Steven Rhymer as the Anthem.  (You can hear an Emmylou Harris recording of it here. “Light of the Stable” is the second youtube recording on that page.)

The congregation will sing O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (set to the beautiful tune, Hyfrydol).  We will end again this week by singing the benediction set to the music of the oldest Advent hymn, the plainchant Conditor Alme, that has been sung daily in monasteries during Advent since the 7th Century.  Continue reading Upcoming Service Notes: December 13, 2015 and Christmas Services

Sermon, December 6, 2015

Refuge: By the Tender Mercy of Our God   
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
The Congregational Church of the United Church of Christ,
Bradford, Vermont
December 6, 2015
Second Sunday of Advent, Sunday of Peace
Micah 5:2-5a; Luke 1:68-79

Peace requires certain conditions
in order for us to experience it.
We long to feel peace inwardly,
we long to live in peace outwardly,
and when the conditions are not right
and we cannot find peace,
we suffer. When we suffer long enough
and deeply enough, we will feel moved
to go searching for those conditions
that will make for peace,
and we will do whatever it takes to find them.

A place that has the conditions
that make for peace is called a refuge.
A person who is searching for that place
is called a refugee.
Refuge and refugees are at the heart
of all three Abrahamic religions.
Continue reading Sermon, December 6, 2015