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Archive for December, 2015

Light has shinedVernon K. Rempel

For Beloved Community Mennonite Church

and Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church

December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve
In the Christian lectionary for Christmas Day, 

 we are given these readings:
Isaiah 9:2-7 (NRSV)

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness–

on them light has shined.
And this:

Luke 2:8-14 (vkr paraphrase of NRSV)

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Holy of Holies stood before them, and the glory of Spirit shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Human One. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising the Divine and saying,

“Glory to the Holy One in the highest heaven,

and on earth peace for Spirit has favored all humanity!”
To hear this story at its heart, perhaps,

 let us set aside for a moment

  some beloved holiday traditions:
Set aside Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol,

 which is apparently the origin of meat eaters

  wanting to eat turkey on Christmas.
Set aside Love Actually

 with the part where I always cry

  when Jamie – Colin Firth – proposes to 

   to Aurelia – Lucia Moniz.
Set aside David Sedaris’ dry and so very funny

 telling of his time as a Macy’s store elf.

David Sedaris: I wear green velvet knickers, a forest green velvet smock and a perky little hat decorated with spangles. This is my work uniform.
Set aside Wynton Marsalis’ Crescent City Christmas Card album

 and Run-D.M.C.’s Christmas in Hollis

    

Set aside even, for a moment, John Henry Faulk’s

 lovely story of Christmas scarcity and abundance

  in an old Texas town

   in which an orange brings great joy to a boy.
And let us consider our story:

The people who walked in darkness

 have seen a great light.
It is, of course, a refugee story.

 Refugees walk day and night,

  in light and in darkness,

   

seeking not merely opportunity

 but the chance to live,

  the chance for a sliver of human dignity.
In our Christmas Biblical story,

 soon a young family will be fleeing to Egypt

  to avoid murder at the hands of the state.
Could they have gone to Germany? Or Canada?

 Or even the United States?
Who has the resources to share?

 Who’s heart is not three sizes too small?
At the end of the story, the Grinch’s heart grows great?

 Who else’s heart will grow great?
The light that shines into the darkness,

 the angelic announcement to shepherds

  in the ancient story
is the glory of the Spirit

 and a joy to all people.
And just as it goes from one angel to a heavenly host

 and pretty soon in the story

  we’re talking about all humanity

   and it’s all very big and exciting
So hearts that experience the light of Spirit

 find that from small beginnings

  come great and wondrous surprises…
Housing for all – the homeless, refugees,

 food so that no one is hungry,

  shoes for those who have walked a very long path.
What else? The Angels invite us to think big,

 to act locally but think globally:

  clean water, clean air,

   an earth, our lovely blue orb in space,

    not too overheated to be a place

     for the joyful living of all humankind.
And in that earth, joy to all.

 All the joy of Sedaris, Run-D.M.C., Faulk, Marsalis, Dickens, Moniz and Firth
And for each one of us,

 the joy of those who love us.
Those who do not consider our shame and embarrassment

 Worth a moment’s mention
Those who do not leave us in darkness.

 no need for achievement or dazzling performance

  but only love sparking eye to eye, ear to ear, heart to heart

   

The love of those who know us well and love us 

 in the very heart of what we are, what we completely are,

  not just the shiny bits.
Those people who feel so warm and true

 in our lives.

  

In this same way, we are beloved of the Spirit,

 we are light of the divine

  we are light shining in the darkness

   lamps held to look out for each other

    as the evening lengthens.
And we see this light and we rejoice

 and open our hearts
And make room for all,

 the young family walking to escape danger
To them and to all, a great light has shined in the darkness,

 a great joy for all the people.

  This is our prayer.

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“The light before us”: Christmas reader’s theater for 10 and allAdvent 3

December 13, 2015

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2015

Lectionary Readings 

(excerpts from Advent 3, 4, and Christmas 1)

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. –Luke 3:7,8
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. –Luke 1:46-48
She gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. –Luke 2:7

A Christmas Reflection – for 10 readers and all

John

1: Long, long ago – two thousand years – a man named John was standing by the Jordan River. 
2: He was not happy. 
3: He was sick to his heart about the social fabric.
4: About questions of honesty and sharing.
5: He said: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
All: He even called the people who came out to hear him “you brood of vipers!”
6: People who may have been treating him as a wild-eyed spectacle.
7: But many wanted to confess their sins and be baptized.
8: Not from shame or manipulation, but because they also were sick of the way things were and wanted a better life.
9: A better life for all people.
All: For all people.
Song – Hark, the glad sound! blue hymnal 184
10: John also baptized Jesus.
1: His vision was that Jesus would would walk across society with a fork, separating grain from chaff.
2: Separating what is useful and nourishing from husks that are tossed aside.
3: Separating people from each other?
4: Sheep from goats?
5: The saved from the sinners?
6: John was angry with injustice.
7: He saw that Jesus would divide justice from injustice.
8: And at last people would be free.
9: “Free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

(Martin Luther King)
Song – We shall overcome
All: Today, we might wonder…
10: How am I like John the Baptist?
1: How am I like the people coming down to the river to be baptized?
All: We do want justice.
2: I wonder what my next best step for justice will be?
3: But to carry justice well, we will likely need to put down some other burdens we are carrying.
4: Otherwise, it all gets to be a big load.
All: We may want to put these burdens down:
5: I do not deserve my friends.
6: If I don’t achieve this thing, I will be less than beloved.
7: I am embarrassed beyond belief about that one thing. It is so shameful; so unforgivable.
8: If people really knew me – really knew me! – they would laugh or walk away.
9: I haven’t done enough; I have never done enough.
All: We may want to put these burdens down, and burdens like this.
10: John’s invitation is this: come to the river. Confess your sins. Put down your burdens.
1: What does this look like?
2: Twelve steps.
3: Therapy.
4: A conversation.
5: A prayer.
6: A heartfelt apology.
7: Thanking the voices in my head and then saying to them: “I will now move on to better things.”
All: That’s part of the story of John the Baptist. We are grateful for it.

Mary

8: The mother of Jesus was a very young peasant woman.
9: An angel named Gabriel visited her one day with this message:
10: “Fear not, for you are now going to be the mother of a child who will be a great leader of the people.”
Song – The angel Gabriel (vss 1 & 2 with Connie, vs. 3 all) blue hymnal 180
1: She was, of course, very shocked and surprised.
2: She wondered what sort of greeting this might be.
3: Is this really an angel or just some guy?
4: Or maybe voices in her head.
5: But after holding the question for a time, she simply said “Let it be.”
6: “Let it be to me as you have said.”
7: “God has regarded my lowly estate.”
All: Words we might say when we receive an invitation to bring joyful justice onto the earth.
8: Let it be to me to help a prisoner to be released, one who has been sitting in jail on a minor drug offense.
9: Let it be to me to preach good news to the poor, those who want to be contributing American citizens but run into a bizarre barrage of immigration rules.
10: Let it be to me to bring sight to the blind, meaning I will work for access to health care for all.
1: Let it be to me to proclaim the year of God’s jubilee, when we will finally, finally, after all these years, forgive each other our sins, our debts, our trespasses and wholehearted struggle toward living in peace with our neighbors.
2: Our global neighbors and our local neighbors.
3: Let it be.
All: Let it be to me to find the flow of love.
Song – Let it be

When I find myself in times of trouble, 

Mother Mary comes to me

Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

And in my hour of darkness, 

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be
4: Here’s a surprise, perhaps.
5: The invitation is not just to live out of my strength. 
6: But also to live out of my “lowly estate.”
7: The places of my need, where I feel I lack ability, where I don’t think I have the capacity to do something.
8: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. –Luke 1:46-48
9: Out of my weakness.
10: The place where I need other people.
1: How beautiful it is to see them walk in the door.
2: How wonderful to be invited into the door.
Song – My soul is filled with joy green hymnal 13
All: That’s part of the story of Mary, mother of Jesus. We are grateful for it.

Jesus

3: Joseph and Mary were two young peasants.
4: As is usually the case, they lived in an empire.
5: A system of vast control.
6: A system of dominance that did some good:
7: Road building. Water supply. Security from crime.
8: A system of dominance that could be crushing:
9: Taxes and other economic arrangements that made it hard for the poor and favored the rich.
All: But Joseph and Mary had to go.
10: They had to go to Bethlehem to be counted for tax purposes.
1: Even if you’re pregnant and have to walk, and you’re poor, you had better go.
2: So they went to be registered in the city of David.
Song – O little town of Bethlehem (vss 1 & 4) blue hymnal 191
All: And in that time, Mary gave birth to a baby.
3: They were too poor to find regular accommodations.
4: But they were able to stay warm in a stable with the animals.
5: And there, they found a bit of straw that was on the clean side.
6: And there, she gave birth to her baby.
All: The one the angel announced.
7: And when he was born, it was as if the heavens themselves sang out, as if the stars pointed the way.
8: And mysterious things happened.
9: Angels came to poor shepherds in the field.
10: The animals seemed to want to cooperate to help with the birth.
1: Magi, wise scholars of the stars, came from the east.
2: The wicked king Herod began to kill children, because he feared this child.
3: They had to run to Egypt.
All: They had to become refugees!
4: Immigrants!
5: And they were given hospitality, thank goodness.
All: Thanks be to God.
6: We are thankful, because the great mystery of this child was that he would bring the Holy word of God close to all people.
7: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God….
8: Or, as the Celtic scholars say: In the beginning was the sound, and the sound was the song of God, singing all creation into being.
9: Singing all light and goodness into being.
Song – It came upon a midnight clear blue hymnal 195
All: Today, we might wonder…
10: How am I like the infant before anything has happened, when all light still lies before me?
1: How am I like one who lies at the very beginning of creation?
2: The very beginning of the Spirit’s next good artistic works and plans in my life.
3: Whatever my age, or place in life, or history, or plans…
4: How might I be the infant, the one with the new mind, the beginner’s mind, ready to open to God’s creation on the morning of a new day.
5: How is the ancient gift of the child also a gift to me?
6: What new and surprising joys lie before me?
7: Will there be a child of my body? Of my heart?
8: Or of creativity that will come over me like an angel speaking words of greeting?
9: Maybe I will have a part to play in reducing gun violence in America.
10: Or will I be surprised to find I am somehow helping a refugee from the fighting and desperation in Syria?
1: Will there be a new friend around the corner at the end of a street that I am only beginning to step into?
2: Will my heart come unbound so that I will find myself weeping for joy in the midst of it all?
3: Will I find a place and a people where I can carry my loss, people who love me wholeheartedly?
4: And even this: when I die, how will the ethereal vaults of heaven, time, and space greet me?
5: How might I be like the infant, full of promise and grace for all people?
6: For all times and places? Unto all people – goodwill.
All: That’s part of the story of Jesus. We are grateful for it.
Song – Hark! The herald angels sing blue hymnal 201

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