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There are hundreds of carols we sing every year,
filling the season when Christmas draws near.
These hymns are familiar and loved very dear,
And we sing loud and proud about midnights so clear.
But some songs get forgotten in the midst of the season,
Songs that have been with us long for a reason.
Songs someone carefully thought up and wrote out,
Songs that are all what the season’s about.
Today’s story is that — the song of sweet Mary,
Who faced some good news exciting and scary.
She was carrying Jesus, God’s very own Son,
And sang today’s story in a-dor-a-tion:
My soul is enraptured, uplifted, fulfilled,
For God has seen me and a purpose has willed.
Though I am quite humble, unimportant and small,
God has chosen me to bear the Savior of all.
But I should not be shocked that God chose a girl —
God’s made unusual choices since the start of the world.
You’d think God would choose big names, the mighty, the strong,
God should rain down power to fight and right wrongs.
But in all the stories I’ve ever been told,
God works in the outsider, the young or the old,
Those who we think are empty-handed and poor
Are the very ones God comes to and loves more and more.
God isn’t impressed by riches or appearance,
God looks at the heart and sees what is nearest.
If your thoughts are un-good or unkind or untrue
God will not let you hurt whoever you choose.
God isn’t excited about rulers and kings,
God knows earthly might is a dangerous thing.
God remembers the promises and seeks out the lost,
God is righting the world, no matter the cost.
All the Whos down in Whoville loved the Magnificat,
but the Grinch, still learning his lesson, did NOT.
“I’m confused,” the Grinch said, “At first it seems sweet
That God looks at the lowly and thinks that they’re neat.
“But Mary says God takes the strength from the strong,
And sends rich away empty, and — well, that seems wrong.
I thought God loved us all, exactly the same.
Choosing some over others sounds like a shame.”
“This isn’t a song we should sing in this season,
This song is confusing and feels without reason.
Life isn’t fair, and I do wish it would be
But now’s not the time to talk about should-be.
“We’ve got to get ready for family and feast!
For singing, and joy, and cooking roast beast!”
Cindy Lou Who, the little Who whom you may remember
Listened kindly to the Grinch’s grumps through December.
“I think,” Cindy said, after thinking a lot,
“There must be a reason for the Magnificat.
Christmas began with the birth of a child,
And while it sounds cute, the scene was quite wild!
“Rich men called magi, who studied the stars,
Packed up their camels and brought gifts from afar.
Expecting a new king to be born very soon,
They checked at the palace, as one ought to do.
“But he was born in a stable, filled with smelly old sheep!
His parents were homeless, had nowhere to sleep.
His dad was a carpenter — not very wealthy,
And I can’t imagine sleeping in hay is healthy.”
“But still,” the Grinch said, “I thought God was fair.
I thought God viewed each of us with just the same care.
If that’s so, why does God feed some and not others?
Shouldn’t we split it between all sisters and brothers?”
“I think,” Cindy said, after thinking a bit,
“That God’s idea isn’t unfair or unfit.
The rich Whos have money. They’re already eating.
But for those on the edges, there is no more seating.
“If God is ensuring the poor get some too,
God isn’t unfair — God’s thinking it through.
God’s evening out what is unfairly done,
Feeding the hungry and forgetting none.”
“This is called justice,” Cindy Lou Who reminded,
“Making things equal and right for all Whomankind.
Some Whos already have more than they need.
God’s concern is for those who are trampled by greed.
“Justice means when something goes wrong, God will right it.
And to that hard work of change we’re invited.
To fixing what’s broken. To righting old wrongs.
I think that is why we sing Mary’s great song.”
“But still,” the Grinch said, “it doesn’t seem fair
To take from one person to even the share.
If I earned it, I keep it. I can give it away
If I want to, but God taking it isn’t okay.
How can I buy gifts if God looks down on money?
Can we cook roast beast if God sends us off hungry?
Once I stole food, but brought it back to you.
Now when I make food, I buy it all new.
If I’m not the one causing any unfairness,
Why am I being charged with justice awareness?”
“I think,” Cindy said, after thinking quite quietly
“God worries how the mighty got so very might-i-ly.
“We’re all loved by God, but not all born the same.
Some Whos get a bonus in life’s complex game.
“I think justice,” said the wise little Cindy Lou Who,
“Is recognizing you’re not just a product of you.
“There are systems in place that we didn’t start,
And some without the tiniest shred of a heart.
The roast beast we eat — were they cared for and fed?
Who stitched the red Santa cap you wear on your head?
“Some Whos are quite wealthy because they make choices
That hurt others, and wealthy Whos silence hurt voices.
When God questions wealth, it’s because all too frequently
Wealth has been made from Whos who are hurt secretly.
“So I think,” Cindy said, after rubbing her chin,
“The challenge is for us to see the systems we’re in.
We have to ask questions. We have to keep checking.
If Whos do go hungry, it’s time for inspecting.”
“It’s hard to keep learning,” the Grinch grumpily said.
“This information feels like too much for my head.”
“That’s OK,” little Cindy Lou Who let him know.
“You don’t have to change everything by tomorrow.”
“The power of community helps us keep going.
We gather together to share questions and knowing.
By hearing our stories, we change and we grow,
And become a force for justice in the world that we know.”
“Hmm,” hmm’d the Grinch, his grinchy face wrinkling.
“This idea of community has got me thinking.”
He thought of how life had been pre-Cindy Lou.
How he grumbled, and grimaced, and hated the Whos.
He thought of how feeling left out made him feel —
Like he would never sit with a friend for a meal.
“I hated Who Christmas because I felt ignored.
I tried to ruin it and even the score.
“When you sang your Who songs, I was angry and rash.
I stole all of your presents, your gifts, all your stash.
I stole all of the food and the Christmas trees too.
I was so very angry, my dear Cindy Lou.
“But I realized the day when you all still sang songs
That Christmas is all about repairing wrongs.
I wanted to fix all I’d broken and wrecked,
Even if you despised me for the thoughts in my head.
“But you didn’t!” the Grinch grinned. “You invited me in.
You gave me a seat, said I was for-giv-en.
The injustice of me being left out was repaired.
You welcomed me even though I’d been unfair.”
The Grinch smiled. “Thank you, little Cindy Lou Who.
It’s hard to accept, but I know what to do.
I’m part of a problem that’s quite hard to see,
But you know what? I’m stronger than its secrecy.
“Justice is a word I want to keep hearing.
And knowing that fairness is a hope to keep nearing.
When I have been hurt, I want to declare it.
And when I am the hurter, I want to repair it.
“I want to help others. I want to learn lots.
And I want to sing Mary’s Magnificat.
God remembers the promises and seeks out the lost,
God is righting the world, no matter the cost.”
Sunday, December 10 – You’re Here by Francesca Battistelli
Christmas is full of impossibilities. How is it possible that the hands that created the universe are now the hands of a tiny baby? Yet this was the way God chose to come to us: humble, vulnerable, small and needy. We needed God, but now God needs us. By coming to us as a baby, God shows amazing trust and hope in who we can be when given the opportunity. Who will you meet today who needs you?
Monday, December 11 – Winter Snow by Audrey Assad
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures we witness the beautiful diversity of ways in which God speaks and acts. Through the flood that covered the earth and in the burning bush, God moved in the lives of Noah and Moses. In the whirlwind, God spoke to Job. But it was in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:13) that God spoke to Elijah, promising protection for the prophet’s holy mission. It is that same still small voice that we celebrate at Christmas, an almost-missable moment in the life of the world when everything changes. In what small way is God speaking to you today?
Tuesday, December 12 – Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant
At Christmas, the greatest gift — God in flesh — is entrusted to an unmarried girl, possibly a teenager. Mary’s courage in accepting God’s offer is almost beyond our comprehension. As she faced everything to come, including the arduous journey to Bethlehem, she needed that same courage to continue. The angel had promised that the Holy Spirit would come to her, and it is to that same spirit (the Greek words for “breath” and “spirit” are the same) that she cries out to now. Who in your life is looking for courage right now? How can you be a breath from heaven for them?
Wednesday, December 13 – Sing Mary Sing by Jennifer Knapp
Mary’s courage did not end with the birth of Jesus. She and Joseph had to flee the wrath of King Herod, who ordered every baby boy in Bethlehem killed to eliminate any threat to his own power (Matthew 2:16). After living as refugees in Egypt, Mary and Joseph and the young Jesus would stay in hiding in Galilee rather than returning home. Thirty years later, Mary would see her firstborn son executed on a cross. How could she still have dreamed of a God who would soften what was hardened, who would bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly (Luke 1:52)? Yet Mary kept singing, kept holding on to the impossible hope that had begun in her willingness to bear the son of God. When have you held on to hope?
Thursday, December 14 – Real by Nichole Nordeman
The images of Mary that surround us this Christmas season are often porcelain sculpted to perfection. In most nativities she looks quiet and composed, in silent contemplation of the child before her. But she had just given birth — and laid him in a feed trough! She was tired from the journey, hurting from her labor, crowded in by smelly animals. It was not a perfect picture by any means. God came to us in a real and messy way, and still comes in the same way. Where is there mess in your life right now? How might God be being born there?
Friday, December 15 – It’s True by Sara Groves
Mary’s first words to the angel Gabriel are, “How can this be?” We ask the same question in many different ways. How can it be that God comes down to us? Sometimes we ask it in awe, or in skepticism, or in joyful hope. Sometimes we ask it in our lives without knowing it, by trusting in the “kingdoms and crowns” of this world, by working toward money and power instead of caring for those around us. But the story will always be there for us — full of mystery and impossibility, and ready for our questions when we are ready to ask. What questions do you have today?
Saturday, December 16 – Good King Wenceslas by Blackmore’s Night
This classic British hymn tells the story of Wenceslaus, the tenth century duke of Bohemia. Wenceslaus legendarily went walking every night, barefoot, giving generously to local churches and widows and those in prison. Tonight we celebrate our last community dinner of 2017, a time when we with Wenceslaus remember the promise of Jesus: “whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me” (Matthew 25:40).
Sunday, December 3 – May You Find a Light by The Brilliance
On this first day of Advent, we light one cande in our Advent wreath. Light has long been used as a symbol of hope amid struggle, and it is especially meaningful in climates where winter is dark and cold and grey. This song by The Brilliance particularly reminds us that light is meant to help and guide; it makes our way more clear. Sometimes that light is leading us home, where we are welcomed and loved; sometimes it is drawing us out into the world, like the wise men who followed the star. What kind of light are you looking for today?
Monday, December 4 – Strange Way to Save the World by 4Him
As we begin our celebration of Advent, this song reminds us of the strangeness of the miracle of Christ’s birth. God chose to save the world not by tearing open the heavens with a loud declaration or by setting up rules and regulations to follow or fail. God did not use power and might to change the world, but rather became human and trusted the Divine into the care of “a simple man of trade” and “an ordinary girl.” Advent asks us to remember, as we wait for the arrival of Jesus, that God does not often come to us in ways that we expect. Where does God catch you by surprise today?
Tuesday, December 5 – Emmanuel, God With Us by Amy Grant
“Emmanuel” (or “Immanuel”) is a Hebrew phrase that means “God with us.” It appears first as a name promised to the prophet Isaiah: “Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The writer of the gospel of Matthew takes this name and prophecy and applies it to Jesus, saying that “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23). Jesus is still given the name Jesus (or Joshua, in Hebrew), but Matthew uses the symbolic name to declare that this baby born of a virgin is the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise. What is a promise you are still waiting on?
Wednesday, December 6 – O Come O Come Emmanuel by Pentatonix
This hymn, over one hundred and fifty years old, recalls many of the trials that the Hebrew people have survived. Israel, the people of God, had been in captivity in Babylon, dragged into exile away from their homes and their holy temple. Hundreds of years before the exile, the people had also been in a time of questioning and struggle, as they wandered in the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt. At Mount Sinai, they received the law of God, the ways that God called them to live as free people. Although the coming of God as a baby was entirely new, the Hebrew people (of whom Jesus was one!) had many stories of God’s continued work to free them from sin and oppression. What is a lesson in your life that you keep having to learn again?
Thursday, December 7 – Immanuel by the Liturgists
As we wait for the arrival of Christ, we recognize how far we can feel from God. Our homes can feel like less than home; our world seems more interested in pursuing riches and prosperity than caring for those in need. How can we say that God is with us when we can sometimes feel so alone? One of the promises of Christmas is not only that God is with us, but that God is with us in our hardest times. God doesn’t enter the world in glory and riches, but to a poor engaged couple with nowhere to sleep. Maybe it is in the most desperate times of our lives that God is working the hardest to be with us. Where are you longing for God to show up today?
Friday, December 8 – In the Bleak Midwinter by Brandon Heath
Another classic Christmas carol, this hymn was likely written shortly after the end of the American Civil War. Although there was probably little snow in the Middle East at the time of Jesus’ birth, the author Christina Rossetti sought to convey the miracle of God’s presence at a time when all seemed bleak. The final stanza asks, “What can I give him, poor as I am?” The answer is that God is honored by whatever we give, no matter how seemingly humble; the greatest treasure we can give is our hearts, preparing ourselves to receive the arrival of a surprising God who transforms the world.
Saturday, December 9 – The Earth Stood Still by Future of Forestry
Historically, it doesn’t seem that anything significant happened in the years in which we guess Jesus was born. (Scholars aren’t sure — it could be anywhere between 6 BC and 9 AD.) Empires and nations rolled on, unaware of the King in their midst. Only a few knew that the creator of the world had put on skin and was born among us. Yet something did change that day, on both a worldy and a cosmic level: God’s promise to always be with us was coming true in a whole new way. When in your life has it seemed like nothing was happening, yet later you realized it was the beginning of something new?
What is Advent?
The celebration of Advent counts down the four Sundays before Christmas. “Advent” comes from a Latin word meaning “arrival” — the arrival of Christ. We know many different ways of getting ready for Christmas: picking out a tree, decorating the house, buying and wrapping gifts, making travel plans to see family. But Advent asks us to “get ready” for Christmas in another way: to prepare ourselves for the arrival of Jesus. Are we ready to receive a God who puts on flesh, who sees our suffering and becomes one with us, who trusts the divine into the care of a teenage girl and her fiancé, whose arrival in our world was not recognized by the supremely religious or the politically powerful but by humble shepherds out in dirty fields and pagan astrologers who followed a star?
The most honest answer to this question should probably be no. We are never perfectly “ready” to receive the mystery of God born among us. Yet every year we celebrate it again and again. We remember that Christ comes to us in many ways: in the flesh in Bethlehem over two thousand years ago; every day in our hearts, comforting and transforming us; in the needy and poor around us; and in Christ’s future glory at the end of the age, when all the hate and pain of this world will be overturned and creation will be made new.
Advent is a time when we try (and admit that we can never finish trying!) to be ready for the mystery of the incarnation, the miracle of Immanuel — God-with-us.
What’s with the colors?
We know our Christmas colors, of course — red and green. But the church, during Advent, puts on different colors: purple, pink, and blue. Using these colors dates back at least six hundred years! Because Advent was originally thought of as another Lent — a time of waiting and preparation — the purple of Lent was first used to mark Advent as well. Many churches still use purple. Within the past hundred years, blue has also become a common color for Advent. It distinguishes the season from Lent, while still using a royal color to symbolize our waiting and preparation for the coming of a King. Blue also is the color most often associated with Mary the mother of Jesus.
Some churches add pink on the third Sunday of Advent. For church traditions where Advent was a particularly solemn and self-reflective time, the pink colors and candles (sometimes called “rose”) were a visible reminder that Christmas was also a joyful time to be celebrated.
What’s an Advent wreath for?
An Advent wreath helps us “count down” to Christmas by lighting a new candle each Sunday of Advent. On the first Sunday, one candle is lit; on the second Sunday of Advent, the first candle is lit and then a second candle is also; and so on. Many churches also have a candle in the center of the wreath, to be lit on Christmas Day.
Families often have their own Advent wreath at home. Some choose to light their Advent wreath for a few minutes over breakfast or dinner, or at some other time during the day when there is time to pause, think, and pray.
What are Advent devotions?
There is an entry for each day of Advent. This year, we are listening to the songs of Christmas, both old and new, and taking time each day to reflect on them. Each day, you can light your Advent wreath, listen to that day’s song, and read the devotion.
We have printed copies of the devotions available — just ask on Sunday.
All are welcome! Bring your family, friends, and guests to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Intergenerational Advent Wreath Making
Sunday, December 3, after worship, 11:15 AM-noon
Kids and adults gather together to make Advent wreaths — a traditional way of counting down to Christmas.
Sunday, December 17, 10 AM
Our Sunday School children will continue the beloved tradition of retelling the story of Jesus’ birth with singing and a lively sketch during the 10 AM Worship Service.
Stories & Songs of Christmas
Sunday, December 24, 10 AM
Start your Christmas Eve Day with us as we sing and read through the classic stories and hymns of Christmas!
Christmas Eve Candlelight Service (with Communion)
Sunday, December 24, 4:30 PM
We gather together to hear the story of Christ’s birth.