Thanks to everyone who came together to make our pageant happen!
Posted in Children and Youth
This year we explored the tradition of Las Posadas throughout Advent and Christmas, including our 5pm Christmas Eve service! Here are some pictures:
The youth are traveling through Advent with a variety of opportunities to connect with God and with one another. Opening our hearts and minds to the messages of Advent, we find inspiration and encouragement to slow down, to be more patient in our “waiting”, and to trust that the light of God’s Love really does overcome darkness.
In early December, the youth visited Harvard’s Memorial Church to attend the Kuumba Singers Christmas Concert: “Voice in the Night”. This gospel choir, which has been singing since 1970 in celebration of Black creativity and spirituality, beautifully captured the power of Christmas story – both the peace that Jesus brings and the hope that he inspires to continue in the struggle for justice. http://kuumbasingers.org
That same weekend, youth were invited to experience “Journey in the Light” at WCUC – an evening for contemplative prayer walking in a 12-circuit labyrinth that covered almost the entire floor in the sanctuary. Youth members engaged the program as participants and also as helpers so that the younger children could enjoy the evening too.
In recent weeks, the youth have been learning about Advent in their Sunday morning classes, exploring its history and its context in the larger liturgical church calendar. Themes such as “waiting”, “balancing stillness with active preparing”, and noticing “light in dark places” have all been prominent in our Bible study and class discussions. Particular attention was given to the virtues represented by the candles of the advent wreath: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace as we wrote, reflected, and shared on these four prompts/questions:
- “I really hope that…”
- Where have you experienced love/kindness in recent days? Given and received.
- What brings you joy?
- Who in your life especially needs to feel God’s peace right now? (We held a minute of silence to pray for these people.)
Finally, we celebrated Gaudete (Joy!) Sunday in style with donuts and a viewing of this incredible documentary about Walden Pond and the life of Henry David Thoreau. A local treasure and a man who was inspired by nature to believe in God’s transformative power as well as the power of people working together to transform the world. If you have 22 minutes to spare, this will be well worth your time!
May you experience many blessings during this Advent season and may you find moments of unexpected Grace as the Prince of Peace arrives yet again.
On Saturday, December 9th, amid New England’s very first snowfall, more than a dozen families joined us for a special Advent experience centering around the tradition of Las Posadas. We read a story and sang an interactive song dramatizing Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for lodging (las posadas) and then journeyed together in song to our darkened sanctuary and lit candles one by one around the large labyrinth. Our crafts for the evening included creating lanterns, decorating a celestial map, and coloring a huge Advent poster (and don’t forget snacks, stories, and special nativity set explorations in the parlor!). And of course, each person experienced walking our labyrinth (some people walked it many times!) – some with their lanterns, some with their children or parents, and some just by themselves – and journeying in the light. It was an exceptional night of wonder and joy and peace for all. Please enjoy the many photos!
On December 3rd, Jessica offered this sermon for all ages:
This year Advent has the fewest days possible: only 21. In fact, the fourth Sunday of Advent this year lands right on Christmas Eve. I feel like you blink and take a few deep breaths and Christmas is here. Seems to happen every year, but this year Advent really is quite rare in its brevity (contrast this with last year which had the longest Advent possible). So we only have 21 days now to wait for Christmas, right? Waiting is often the word that is used when referring to the season of Advent, especially in children’s literature and when explaining this season to young ones. But waiting can be boring. Waiting can make you feel anxious or nervous or frustrated (think about waiting on hold with your cable company or waiting for an important test result). Waiting is really not something anyone wants to do. So this isn’t really the right word to describe the mood and tone of this holy season. Instead, I would use the word preparation. And anticipation. And wonder.
Instead of sitting twiddling our thumbs for three weeks, we prepare. We bake cookies, we pick out a tree, we put up lights or add a festive touch to our dining rooms, we buy gifts, we go to parties. Maybe some of us make a concerted effort to slow down this season and embrace the quiet, slumbering world outside while some of us will be organizing and planning and arranging every day until Christmas. We may do it differently, but we all prepare in some way during Advent because we are anticipating that great gift of wonder and joy and love on Christmas day.
We just witnessed, through masterful dramatic retelling, the moment that Mary learns she is to be the mother of Jesus. This young teenager is perhaps at home. By herself – this is important – maybe cleaning or making bread or getting ready to collect water. And the angel Gabriel suddenly appears to her. After the angel calms her surprise and fear, he gives Mary this HUGE news that she will become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and give birth to God’s own son. I don’t have to remind you that in the first century in Israel, getting pregnant before marriage was a big no no. Mary knew this, but instead of questioning or disbelieving or simply refusing Gabriel’s proclamation, she said, “Yes. I am ready to serve. Let it be just as you have said.”
Now, in Sunday school every week we are experts at Wonder Questions. We wonder a lot and we ask lots of questions that often result in pretty dynamic discussions. So this is automatically how I approach our bible stories. I wonder. I find it very significant that Gabriel appeared to Mary herself to deliver this good news. In just the previous verses before this passage, Luke describes another encounter with the angel Gabriel and Zachariah, the husband of Elizabeth, who is Mary’s cousin and becomes miraculously pregnant in her advanced age. Gabriel told Zachariah this wonderful news – he didn’t appear to Elizabeth at all. So why come to Mary? I wonder why Gabriel didn’t appear to Joseph instead. Or at least Joseph and Mary together. That certainly would have cleared up any questions of dishonesty or infidelity. And although the book of Matthew does describe a dream in which Joseph is visited by an angel of the Lord and reassured of Mary’s immaculate conception, this happens well after Mary herself is told the news.
So Mary is told first. And Mary is alone when she receives this news. Why? I think it comes back to preparation, anticipation, and wonder. For a little while, Mary is the only person in the world who knows she is to become the mother of God’s son. Just Mary. God has given her an exceptional gift to prepare herself and revel in her anticipation and wonder in her own personal way. God allowed Mary to process this huge news however she needed to in order to embrace it. The unique and personal ability to prepare was God’s gift to Mary, and it is God’s gift to us as well during Advent.
I’d like to read a very short children’s book now, called Who Is Coming to our House? by Joseph Slate. It has simple words and very simple pictures of animals in a barn preparing for someone.
“Someone, someone,” says Mouse.
“Make room,” says Pig. “I will butt aside the rig.”
“We must clean,” says Lamb. “Dust the beams,” says Ram.
“Who is coming our house?”
“Someone, someone,” says Mouse.
“Sweep the earth,” says Chick. “Stack the hay,” says Goose, “and quick!”
“Spin new webs,” says Spider. “I will line the crib with eider.”
“Someone, someone,” says Mouse.
“Someone’s coming from afar.” “I will nose the door ajar.”
“But it is dark,” says Cat. “They will never come,” says Rat.
“Yes, they’ll come,” says Mouse. “Someone’s coming to this house.”
“I will lay an egg,” says Hen. “I will spread my tail for them.”
“Who is coming to our house?”
“Mary and Joseph,” whispers Mouse.
“Welcome, welcome to our house!”
This season of preparation and anticipation is such a gift to us. Just like these barn animals, we get ready in all different ways to celebrate Christmas. All are unique and special and personal. We thank God for this time to prepare and anticipate the wonder of the birth of Christ, just as Mary was able to do. How will you prepare this Advent season?
God of Life. We lift up the Advent story of preparation, anticipation, and wonder. Of a young mother embracing her astonishing news and a king appearing when we’d least expect it. Open our eyes and our hearts that this might be an Advent of hope to the world. Amen.
Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible to make wreaths and cards, and all who participated and added to our fellowship!
It was a joyful Sunday as we began a new church year, explored themes of expectation and preparation, celebrated a baptism, and heard our combined choirs. Take a look!
Last Sunday our Sunday school children capped off their four-week hands-on learning experience about Congregational Giving, and what a finale it was! Since October the children had been busy creating handmade cards and scarves for a special sale on November 12th. As we spent the weeks creating, we talked about our church and what it costs to support all its programs and ministries (see my previous blog post for the kids’ creative thoughts on that!) and how people decide what and where and how to give. We agreed that the money from our card and scarf sale would be given right back to the church on November 19th – the day the adults submitted their financial pledges for our 2018 budget year. Our November 12th sale was a wonderful success (thank you to all who supported it!), and this past Sunday the children eagerly counted out the money that we made – the total was $294.20! The kids were amazed! We wondered what the church might be able to do with $294.20. With a $400,000+ budget, would $294.20 even help? Here are their thoughts:
“That could buy a lot of toilet paper.”
“Maybe buy some food?”
“Give it to the poor!”
“We can get more supplies for Sunday school.”
“Help with the renovation.”
“Buy candles for the Advent Spiral.”
We spent the remainder of class decorating wooden pledge tokens that we then brought upstairs as we rejoined worship. The children offered their tokens, as well as our $294.20 gift to the church. It was a proud and joyous and empowering moment for all of us – truly lifting our sweet, sweet spirits together as one. Thank you to all who supported our learning journey in giving. It is certainly a life-long lesson, and one the children have easily embraced!
On November 19th, the adult members of our congregation will come forward with their annual pledges for WCUC, supporting all our missions and ministries and effectively forming our budget for 2018. This year, the Sunday School teachers decided to teach our children a bit about the process of congregational giving and Stewardship, starting with conversations about what it costs to run a church. Does it cost anything? Does Pastor Hannah get paid? What about the Sunday School teachers? Who pays for the lights and the heat? Where does our Sunday School curriculum come from? The children were quite sure that it does cost money to operate WCUC, but probably only “$800, or maybe $850.” When asked where the money comes from to pay for these things, the children had to think. After a bit, they offered their ideas:
“The money comes from God. Hannah gets paid from God.”
“I think the town pays for the church.”
“Maybe it’s the bank?”
“Maybe it’s the town and the bank together.”
“I think God has the money and Jesus delivers it somehow.”
Finally, one child wondered, “is it the grownups? The people in the church?” We then discussed how the grownups in the congregation decide how much to give (it’s not like a membership or a bill) and what role God does play in the whole giving process. We wondered how we could participate in Congregational Giving Sunday as well, as all of the children want to support our church, and we came up with the idea of a handmade card and scarf sale! For the past two weeks, our children have been working hard cutting and tying scarves and decorating Thank You, Birthday, and Get Well cards that will be displayed for sale after worship on November 12th. All proceeds from our special sale will go right back to WCUC – literally! On November 19th, our children will visit the worship service as all the adults are offering their pledges and gifts for 2018, and our Sunday School children will offer our monetary gift too! Please come to North Hall on November 12th to help support our children in their learning journey about Stewardship and giving. Plus, I guarantee you’ll leave with some adorable cards and scarves!
If you see some brightly colored rocks in the Welcome Garden next to West Concord Union Church, you’ve just discovered WCUC Sunday School’s “Kindness Rocks Project.” This simple yet powerful way of sharing messages of hope originated in the mind and heart of Megan Murphy, a mother of three from the Cape going through a life transition.
Each day she would walk on the beach looking for signs that closing her business and going back to school was the right decision. One day in 2013, she was inspired to decorate five ordinary beach rocks with messages of encouragement and return them to the beach. The next night, knowing nothing about their origin, one of Murphy’s close friends texted her a photograph of a rock she’d found on the beach with the message, “You’ve Got This!” It was just the sign Murphy needed to continue on her path. Just four years later, there are kindness rocks being made all over the world from the Cape to New Zealand!
The WCUC Sunday School decided to adopt this Kindness Rocks Project as a way of resisting hate and spreading hope within our community. Come on by the Welcome Garden and check out the messages our children have created. Feel free to take a rock with you or add one of your own. But you might want to come over soon! Kindness rocks have a way of finding new homes quickly! For more information about the Kindness Rocks Project and how to make your own rocks go to: http://thekindessrocksproject.com