After a year of pandemic postponements, it’s good to see everyone together again for this heartwarming hour of stories, carols. and cute kids (and adults!)
Dear friends in Christ,
I hope you’re all doing well as we head into the homestretch before Christmas. We’ve got a number of things going on at the church during this season:
Christmas Pageant 12/19 & Pageant Rehearsal 12/18
Our Christmas pageant returns this Sunday during worship! For everyone who has signed up to participate in the pageant (singing, reading, narrating, acting, etc.), there is rehearsal at the church this Saturday at 10 a.m. for singers, actors, and narrators. If you have any pageant-related questions, please get in touch with Valerie B.
December Mission Projects
- Star Tree: Star Tree gifts need to be into the church office by Thursday (12/16) at 10am. Many of you have already dropped off your gifts, and I’ve attached a picture of all the gifts so far! Thank you!
- Christmas Baskets: Donations for the Christmas baskets for Middlebury families are due by Monday, 12/20. Thank you to everyone who has donated!
Various settings of the United Church of Christ are collecting donations to help bring relief to the communities affected by the recent tornadoes.
The national office of the UCC has issued an appeal for funds, and donations can be made here: https://www.ucc.org/appeal-severe-storms-2021/ (As a heads up, when I last checked, their website was having an issue and not displaying the part of the page to actually donate, but I assume that will be fixed.)
The Indiana-Kentucky Conference of the United Church of Christ has their own local disaster relief ministry, and they are asking for funds as well: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Call-for-Prayer-and-Assistance-for-Kentucky-Natural-Disaster-Response.html?soid=1103630262312&aid=RV-aWk2ZQpU
Christmas Eve Service Schedule
5pm: Choir, Carols, Candlelight, and Children’s Christmas Story
11pm: Carols, Candlelight, Communion
We will be singing a few carols at each service, and there will be special music at both services. Choir is at 5pm, and we’ll have a smaller ensemble at 11pm. Like on Sundays, please remember your mask.
Advent and Christmas Music from Our Church
If you want to get in the spirit of the season, we have recordings of many carols, solos, and choir anthems on our YouTube channel: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLckQ_4M4FSl11KzPq5E68CpWtZW0rFk-i
Dealing with Holiday Stress Presentation
The video of Janine SW’s presentation on managing holiday stress is up on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/w45lxaFTQyc
Last week we had our first proper dusting of snow. I’ve attached some pictures I took at night when it was falling and the morning after. You can really see how great the front of the church looks when the snow is there!
As we head into the Christmas Pageant, I thought I’d share some reflections on Christmas Pageants. Each year we have the pageant, I usually hear adults comment on what parts they played when they were children in Christmas pageants. We have a congregation full of former angels, shepherds, Marys, Josephs, farm animals, kings, baby Jesuses, narrators, and innkeepers. During my childhood I was an angel, shepherd, narrator, and innkeeper. (For fun, I’ve attached a photo of me narrating the Christmas pageant circa 2002 and then me at our last pageant in 2019.)
Christmas pageants are fun, but they also fit squarely into the important work the church does of collectively remembering the story of our faith, making those memories our own, and bringing them into the future. The most explicit time we do this work of remembering our story is during communion, when we say “We remember on the night he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread…” Statements of faith or creeds also do a similar thing. Our special services like Christmas Eve and Maundy Thursday do that as well. More broadly, the whole church year is constructed to take us through the story of Jesus life, from awaiting his birth all the way through his birth, life, death, resurrection, and reign.
But, what is unique about the Christmas pageant is that it’s one of the few times where we actually regularly act out the story and get to be the people in the biblical narrative during worship. We don’t just tell or remember the story; we get to be the story and make it our own.
In hearing all of the comments about Christmas pageants past, it made me think about communion and the communion of saints. One of the things going on when we have communion is that we are united with Christ and with all the believers in every time and place. All those people, those known to us and those we’ve never met, are the communion of saints. And while we’re always connected through the love of God to all the saints, communion is a time where heaven and earth are brought together so the saints are particularly close then. And it’s a celebration of all the times the Lord’s Supper has been shared, will be shared, and of the heavenly banquet always going on in God’s kingdom.
Now, I’m not saying the Christmas pageant is a sacrament like communion, but I do think as we watch and remember the story year after year, and remember who we’ve been in the story we’re doing something very similar to what’s going on in communion. It’s a time where the distance between past, present, and future collapse a bit and the communion of saints seems nearer as we remember and tell the story that countless people have told, acted out, and remembered before us and will remember and act out after us. And perhaps we even experience a time where the kingdom in heaven breaks a little bit into this kingdom on earth.