After the Star…

We will soon be peering beyond the glow and celebrations of the holidays into the new year. We eye its coming with expectation and uncertainty, hope and anxiety. We know for certain that change is on the way – for you, and for me. The church family will be entering an important time of both saying goodbye and affirming its strengths as my time for retirement approaches at the end of April. More importantly, we know that the challenges of staying faithful to the meaning of the Incarnation, of Christ’s presence in human life, of the message of his coming in peace and with good news for the hurting, will go on. It was his work; now it is ours.

I’ve used this quote from Howard Thurman many times, so I hope you’ll be patient with my offering it one last time. Thurman was the Dean of the Chapel at Boston University for many years, the first African American to hold this post at a mostly-white educational institution:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.”

— from The Mood of Christmas

Another quote from Thurman points toward the hope we can have as we try to follow the Christ of Bethlehem into a struggling world:

“In the conflicts between man and man, between group and group, between nation and nation, the loneliness of the seeker for community is sometimes unendurable. The radical tension between good and evil, as man sees it and feels it, does not have the last word about the meaning of life and the nature of existence. There is a spirit in man and in the world working always against the thing that destroys and lays waste.”

This “something” we know as God’s Holy Spirit. It is at work in you and me, in the Burlington church, and everywhere people are trying to do “the work of Christmas”.

Good hope for this new year!

Rod

Christmas Eve Service

Image

Hello Friends

Hoping you will come – and invite friends and neighbors:

Tuesday, Christmas Eve, 7:00 p.m. – Our traditional Family Service for all ages with Nativity tableaux (scenes), carols and candlelight. The nursery will be heated for any parents and young children who need a break.

A great time to invite others!

Reminder for all those who are part of the tableaux – rehearsal is Monday night, 6:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 29 – Worship at 10:30 (no classes except for preschool)
A visit from Bethlehem’s innkeeper

A blessed Christmas to you and all your loved ones.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel!

Had it been a big year in the Empire? Caesar Augustus maintained his grip. It was the year of the first Empire-wide census, which was sure to bring taxation to support his wars in the north. Astrologers might have proclaimed the discovery of a new star. Herod and Quirinius, meanwhile, had kept things quiet enough near the eastern frontier, with its ever-present threat of Jewish rebellion.

Hardly anyone had noticed the coming of the child of a Nazareth carpenter and his wife, born in a stable in an over-crowded town.

So much has happened in our world in 2013 A.D. The Marathon bombing, the Philippines typhoon, Edward Snowden’s revelations, Syria’s agony, the health care rollout, the Red Sox… all important in their different ways.

Advent, though, is a time for recalling that long-ago stable birth, and to search today beneath the headline events, in the quiet shadows, for the revealing of the God of the simple and the small. The God who acts through barely-noticed deeds of kindness, love, and justice – person-to-person, like the gradual spreading of a candle’s glow.

This will be the last Advent and Christmas for Cathy and me here in Burlington. I look forward to sharing their traditions with you. But this is not the real news for us as people of faith: for that, we look to the ongoing work of God in Christ, giving birth to the way of hope for us and for all people, today, tomorrow, and always.

O come, O come, Emmanuel!

Help others with the gift of music

Legacy Christmas: treasured carols of the Kirk, is a beautiful album of Celtic-influenced carols supporting Living Waters for the World and the Presbyterian Women Birthday Offering fund. Featuring acclaimed musicians and Irish vocalist Alyth McCormack (The Chieftains), the record is receiving rave reviews, with all proceeds benefiting clean water and wellness for children and their families throughout the world. Legacy Christmas makes a wonderful stocking stuffer (complete with a gift card describing the project) and is available at The Presbyterian Church in Burlington at our Sunday coffee hours or by calling the church at 781-272-9190.

Christmas in Burlington MA

Our children's nativity scene

Our children’s nativity scene

Dear BPC Family,

We each come to this Christmas with our individual and shared thoughts and feelings. There are many realities to darken the skies over Bethlehem, and the world, as this holiday draws near. But isn’t that true of every Christmas? I think the carol says it well: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight. And we do have hope: the Child of Bethlehem is the assurance of God’s incarnate, en-fleshed, presence with us, the power of love that nothing can destroy.

Our Christmas Eve service, at 7 p.m., is a tradition for all ages, with Nativity tableaux (scenes), carols and candlelight. It is one of our opportunities to welcome many guests and to share our warmth and hospitality, as well as the Good News. Please come, and invite someone to come with you!

This Sunday (December 23) we will mark the 4th Sunday of Advent, with a message of “Songs in the Night.”

On Sunday, December 30, we will have an informal, family-style service to include children, who will not have Sunday School classes that day.

If you are traveling for this holiday, we pray for your safe journey and a blessed holiday.

May you experience the true joy of Christmas.

Rod

Advent begins at BPC

Dear BPC Family,

Two special events to bring folks together as Advent begins this weekend:

Saturday, 6:30-7:30 pm Community Christmas Sing Along (followed by cookies, hot chocolate, and a “special visitor”)
Bring friends and sing!

Sunday, after worship Advent Event for Sunday School families
After a hearty coffee hour, we will create a Nativity Scene (Creche) for
our church – there’ll be something to do for children, youth and parents

…and a big Thank You to all who contributed to our food-and-checks collection for the food pantry of the Presbyterian Church of the Moriches in Long Island. It will be on the way to its destination tomorrow.

Advent peace,
Rod

Christmas Community Sing-along – Saturday December 1

Christmas Singers from the past

The Presbyterian Church at 335 Cambridge Street, Burlington, MA is hosting a community Christmas sing-along for the whole family on Saturday, December 1. The time is 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., with time for cookies and hot chocolate afterward. Adults and children of all ages are invited to come and “make a joyful noise,” joining in a wide selection of carols and songs both spiritual and secular. From “Silent Night” to “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” from the “Coventry Carol” to “Jingle Bells,” we’ll join our voices in a spirited time of fellowship. Several accompanists will take part and all will see the words will be projected on a screen.

Please plan to take a break from shopping and join us for a warm introduction to this special season. The Presbyterian Church welcomes the believing and the seeking, the questioning and the doubting, God’s children of every background and lifestyle. So whoever you are, come and sing!

The church is wheelchair accessible.

If you need more information please call the church at 781-272-9190.

Joining with the Characters of Christmas

This year, the Sundays of Advent will be filled with people who play beloved roles in the story of God’s coming among us in Jesus. But we won’t be trying to rush into Christmas early!

Instead, we’ll explore each week the ancient Hebrew and Old Testament roots that help explain the meaning of the wise men, shepherds, Mary and Joseph. They don’t spring spontaneously onto the scene, but come filled with old understandings as well as fresh significance. They help to shape the nativity stories of Matthew and Luke in very different ways. And they reflect many of the same longings, struggles, and conflicts that are part of our world in 2011.

Our children and youth will be important in this journey. Sunday classes are preparing banners based on these characters to be presented each week, and each group will take a turn in the lighting of the Advent candles.

As you’ll see later in Crossroads, adults have an opportunity to delve more deeply into the scriptures and characters for each Sunday during their study group at 9:15 a.m. New folks are always welcome!

And the season will also have regular BPC traditions: Christmas caroling to seniors and shut-ins on December 18; and our Christmas Eve Family Service featuring children and youth in Nativity Tableaux (“scenes”).

Because Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Sundays this year, special plans are underway. On Christmas we will have a family-friendly Service of Lessons and Carols. New Year’s Day will feature a brunch, with communion around the tables, as a meaningful way to begin the new year.

Many of our members (and some friends!) will be helping to staff People Helping People’s Wish Tree at the Mall for three days during the shopping season to help bring holiday blessing to families having hardships. Our Deacons are planning a special offering opportunity, which will include assisting local nursing home residents with clothing (as you’ll see later in Crossroads).

Come, be part of the real blessings of God’s Christmas. Is there a friend you could invite to share the gift, too?

Peace,

Rod

Gifts of the Season

Without question, this will be a hard Christmas for many neighbors, near and far.

Unemployment nationwide is still above 9 percent. The Boston Globe just this morning carried a front page article on the steep increase in requests for help from food pantries and fuel assistance. The pantry here in Burlington served 131 families in October, a new high.

Meanwhile, the big Christmas retail push began even before Halloween this year. Many of us know that we want our celebrations to reflect a spirit of giving much more in keeping with God’s gracious gift of life, his own Son, Jesus.

This is a very good year, then, for you and your family to continue or to begin an emphasis on Christmas as a time for giving to others.

We are hoping that our church’s opportunities for the season will help you shape this commitment. The Advent Family Event (open to all!) on December 12 will be an opportunity for fellowship and bringing cookies to package as gifts for diners at The Dwelling Place the following Wednesday (and you are always welcome to come and help serve there). You can consider signing up for one of the shifts at The Wish Tree at the mall (another good experience for children, too). Our annual caroling expedition, planned for December 19, offers another sort of giving opportunity.

You might also consider a personal, or family, gift to an organization that cares for people or the earth. People Helping People in Burlington is one. Heifer Project is another (catalogues available in our church library).

Much closer to home, maybe there is a neighbor who could simply use some help with snow shoveling, or a plate of cookies…

Whatever “gifts of the season” we may choose to share, the focus is not on our own goodness, but on the love of God. Jesus came into the world at a hard time, and in the most humble way, as the gift of life in its fullness for all people.

Let our hearts receive this as the greatest gift we can have this Christmas.

Peace and joy,

Rod