The Christmas season is one of many joys and wonders. Family gatherings, parties with friends and coworkers, decorations, gift giving and receiving, special food, beautiful decorations, and all the lights, celebrate Jesus' birth! If it seems a little over the top, maybe that's because it is! What else can we do to honor the God of abundant provision, generous love, and beauty beyond anything we could imagine ourselves? As God's goodness shines through the darkness of December in the child of Jesus, may our gratitude and thanksgiving shine God's love into a dark world - in our Christmas observances and in all we say and do through this special season and beyond! Worship Link:

When you think of Advent, your mind might not immediately go to John the Baptist, but this saintly prophet plays a pivotal role in the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent. He was the herald, the forerunner who spoke about Jesus’ coming deliverance. No one does a greater job living for and preparing others for Christ than this saint. His entire life, mission, words, and works were breathing examples that pointed, not to himself, but to Jesus. In the midst of our own Advent journeys, there is no better exemplar who can show us the way. John the Baptist was known for his simplistic clothing as he proclaimed the coming of the Messiah. What will you wear this week, and how will you proclaim the good news as you point the way to Jesus? Worship Link:

Christmas in Plain Sight: Advent 2

The happy season of Christmas is upon us! Everywhere around us is joy and merriment and fun and frolicking! And we are so glad to join in with glad hearts... unless we aren't. For many, the joy around us puts our own pain, heartache, and hurt into stark contrast. For many, loss and troubles seem all the more poignant when placed against all the hype and happiness of the season. The good news of Christmas, though, is that the season is not one of superficial optimism. It is one of eternal, tenacious hope. Jesus came to us not because the world is already full of peace, hope, joy, and love. Jesus came to bring light to those who sit in deep darkness. Be at peace if you are not happy this season, Jesus came especially to be with you. Worship Link:

There is so much to enjoy about the Christmas season! The music, the gatherings, the gifts! And of course, the decorations! Some start to decorate the day after Halloween. Others have traditions of bedecking on Thanksgiving, or December 1, or even Christmas Eve. We put up trees, string lights on the house, and as a way to welcome family, friends, and travelers, we festoon our gates and doors with garland, wreaths, and holly. It is through these entryways that those we love most come home for the holidays, our friends enter and become family, and people join us in celebrating all that is wonderful about the season. When those within and those without come together, love is shared, joy is spread, and we are changed. As we welcome others in - as we are welcomed in - we can proclaim with the biblical writers, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Worship Link:

The Christmas season is a time of wonder and anticipation and joy... and stress and angst and being overscheduled and underfunded. Especially if you are an adult responsible for so many of the details of the season! Oh, that we could return to the innocence of a child at Christmas and experience the holiday without all the trappings we adults find ourselves wrapped up in. While we can't go back in time, we can let the children around us remind our hearts and spirits of the sweet anticipation and genuine excitement the season holds. This week in worship we are invited to rediscover the significance of Christmas by connecting with the Child of Christmas - and the child-like spirit in all of us. Worship link:

The Christmas story is one that has transcended time, culture, and context. We return to it year after year to refocus our faith and discover again its message of hope. It's comforting and encouraging to hear each year how God has come to walk through this often confusing, difficult, and uncertain existence with us. It's a theme so attractive, so powerful, that it is retold in countless ways. From "It's a Beautiful Life" to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" we love to be reminded of how God interrupts our lives, agendas, and plans, to do a new and beautiful thing in us. What is your favorite Christmas story? And even more importantly, how is God telling God's story of hope through you? Worship link:

It has been said that "music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends." Indeed music has the power to transcend words, whether spoken or written. Most of us have songs deeply embedded in our spirits that connect us to special times and poignant moments. These are the songs that make up the playlist of our lives. And for many of us, it wouldn't be Christmas without the music of the season. As we celebrate this first Christmas together in two years, we look to the familiar songs of the season to rediscover the story of Christmas... the story of love of grace for each of us and the world. Worship link:

Beauty Made Real

What is Christmas without the decorations, the lights, the trees, and the nativity scenes? The red and green that grace every store display, the colorful lights that show up on so many houses in our neighborhoods, and the decorated trees in our homes all signal that it’s a very special time of the year. And many of us put out a nativity set with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men and baby Jesus so that we feel like we are keeping the season ‘sacred.’ But truth be told, wherever we find beauty, we find the holy. If we only look, we will find the hope, love, joy and peace of God revealed, not just in the baby of Christmas, but also in the images and art of the season. This year rediscover the heart of Christmas as you enjoy the beauty found in simple decorations, extravagant light displays, lavish trees, or even a single ornament. The beauty of Christmas is that in the images of the season God is revealed - personally, gloriously, for all to see. Worship link:

As we prepare to celebrate this most holy night, we invite you to gather into your space your advent wreath, if you've been using one this season. And you might also want to gather additional candles, one for each person worshiping in your location. Of course, if you don't have these things nearby, please don't give it another thought. Worship Link:

What Child Is This: Joseph

The lyrics of the famous Christmas carol, "What Child Is This?", were written in 1865 by an Englishman named William Chatterton Dix. The song poses an important question worth pondering: "Who is this baby in the Bethlehem manger?" while working one's way through the various stanzas of the hymn. It is interesting to note the characters mentioned overtly such as the Christ child, His mother Mary, shepherds, angels and even two forms of feeding livestock. While not specifically named, the recognizable actions of the wise men are referenced as the ones who brought their well-known gifts of incense, gold, and myrrh. All the characters normally present in a Nativity display are accounted for except one. Who is missing from the stable scene? Joseph. There is no mention of the man who would help raise the "Son of Mary." The primary man who would love and invest himself in the life of this special child is not mentioned in this classic Christmas song. Even in Scripture only a few of Joseph's actions are recorded during the early years of his relationship with Mary and into Jesus 'early life, and none of Joseph's words remain in print. Only Joseph's actions of obedience, care, and presence are mentioned. But Joseph was present at the manger. He was present before the manger. He was present after the manger. He was present at least up through Jesus' twelfth birthday as recorded in Luke 2:41-52. What child is this? He is a child adopted by a father who loved him. What child is this? The One who makes the way for us to enter in to God's family, too. Worship link: