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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 funny choices from the start of the world.
Those who we think are empty-handed and poor
Are the ones who God comes to, and loves more and more.
“Those whose happy bellies are already packed,
God turns away — something new to enact:
The hungry get fed, the rich are dismissed
so the poor and the lowly cannot be missed.
“And if your thoughts are un-good or unkind or untrue
God will not let you hurt whoever you choose.
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 to-mor-row.”
“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.”
Advent Devotions, Week Two
Sunday, December 9th
On the second Sunday of Advent, we read the story of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. When you light your two Advent candles, think about the angels we reflected on during the past week. How is Gabriel’s impossible message to Mary an example of good news?
Monday, December 10th
Our second week of Advent takes us to the magi, the “wise men” who traveled from a mysterious land in the East to follow a bright star (Matthew 2:1-6). They believed it would lead them to a king. If you were going on a journey to meet a new king (or a president!) that you didn’t know much about, what would you take?
Tuesday, December 11th
The wise men brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). These are not normal gifts for a baby, but they are good gifts for a king, who the wise men would expect to be surrounded by riches and perfume all his life. What was Jesus surrounded with instead? What do you think happened to the gifts after this story?
Wednesday, December 12th
The wise men’s dedication, generosity, and courage remind us, too, what it looks like to follow Jesus. Of those three, what do you think you have in abundance? What do you wish you had more of?
Thursday, December 13th
This coming Sunday is a big one: our Christmas pageant plus Undie Sunday! Don’t forget to pick up a pack of NEW socks or underwear to give to the Drawer, who will distribute it to people in need.
Friday, December 14th
As we rush through the final days before Christmas, take a moment to pray for those who won’t have everything they want, or even need. When you light your candles, pray for the poor, the sick, and the homeless, that all may feel love in whatever way it finds them.
Saturday, December 15th
Tonight is our monthly free Community Dinner—a time when we give back to the community around us by providing a delicious meal and a warm space with kind hearts. Tonight is extra-special as we gather not just for a meal but for carol singing after dinner. Join us at 5:30pm!
Sunday, December 2nd
This year, our Advent devotions at Grace will focus on the “cast of characters” ‘round the manger: the angels, the wise men, and the shepherds. As you light the first candle in your wreath, think back: did you ever play any of these characters in a Christmas pageant? Which one? What do you remember about them?
Monday, December 3rd
Angels play a big role in the Christmas story. We usually think of them with long robes, big white wings, and golden halos. But the Bible doesn’t really tell us much about how they looked. If you were going to deliver a message from God, what would you want to wear?
Tuesday, December 4th
Read through this coming Sunday’s story, Luke 1:26-38. What do you notice? What do you wonder about? What surprises you?
Wednesday, December 5th
When angels appear to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20), their first words are “Do not be afraid.” Why do you think the angels begin this way? Where do you need to hear “do not be afraid” in your life?
Thursday, December 6th
The angels that appear to the shepherds say “On earth, peace, goodwill among people” (Luke 2:14). What do you think a world of peace and goodwill would look like? How can you spread a little more peace and goodwill today?
Friday, December 7th
Angels are often bringers of good news—sometimes shocking, always life-changing. Who has been an angel in your life, someone whose words or actions have changed you for the better? Send them a note to say thank you.
Saturday, December 8th
It’s one of the last Saturdays before Christmas and you may hurrying through errands, frantically cleaning, or worrying where to get that last perfect gift. Remember to slow down and to keep an eye out for people who need an angel—someone who can offer a kind word or just a smile to make a very busy time a little easier.
Our FREE monthly community dinner in December is hosted by the Northeast Lions!
The Mobile Menders will be with us fixing zippers, buttons, and other small clothing repairs. Feel free to bring clothing in need of mending!
Our December dinner also features Christmas carol singing!
Saturday, December 15
4:00 PM – 6:30 PM – Mobile Menders
5:30 PM – 6:30 PM – Dinner Served
6:00 PM – 6:30 PM – Christmas Carols
What is Advent?
The church’s 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.
At our Advent wreath-making event, we invite everyone and every family to work together to make their own wreath to take 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.