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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPSDiP1v6AM

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA5SCcTlje0&t=2060s

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgQfb5KQDds

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqRXP1zkorw

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: https://youtu.be/cYwf7p8rvaY

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: https://youtu.be/NaNq8KlY1lI

Mary

The opening lines to William Chatterton Dix's famous Christmas carol ask a poignant question, "What child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?" Dix goes on to answer this question in part during the last line of the repeated chorus. This child is "the babe, the son of Mary." The One that the angel said would be conceived by the Holy Spirit is also the son of a very ordinary, very human, young woman. Jesus is not just the Son of God, the Prince of Peace, and the Wonderful Counselor that we sing about and worship at Christmas. Jesus is also the One who walked the same dusty roads that humans walk. He knows real physical pain, real emotional angst, real spiritual need. He has felt the same hunger, knows that same thirst, that we have. God came to earth in Jesus not just to bring a cosmic realignment of all of creation. God came to bring real human comfort and care, to feed our hungry spirits, and to quench our deepest longings. If your Christmas list this year includes wishes for things that can't be wrapped and put under the tree... healing, hope, comfort, community, acceptance... know that the child we worship brings all that and more. What child is this? This is the One who knows you like no other because he has been where you are. Worship Link: https://youtu.be/IphC5qM0xDc

The Shepherds

In 1865, an Englishman named William Chatterton Dix penned the words to a poem entitled "The Manger Throne." A few years later the first three stanzas of that poem were set to the music of an English traditional folk song called "Greensleeves." That song soon became known as the beloved Christmas carol "What Child Is This?" This combination of poetry and music first was published in the United Kingdom in 1871. For close to a century and a half the question found in the title of this carol has become an annual reminder that something significant happened on that night in Bethlehem as someone special lay wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. This child would change the world forever; but what child is this? In the biblical Christmas story, the shepherds are among the first to learn of the birth of the baby Jesus. During the night the angels visited the shepherds and told them of Jesus' birth. A shepherd's job stretches on day and night without much to break up the monotony. No doubt it is difficult to stay awake through the night to watch for thieves and wolves. But had they been asleep, they would have missed the angels' message and the birth altogether. Staying awake, though, they were able to know about and meet the Christ child. What threatens your experience of Christmas? Will you miss the visit from the divine because you are too busy, too distracted, too stressed, or too tired? Stay awake this season so that you can discover for yourself, "What child is this?" Worship link: https://youtu.be/uTgIZ-bdk0g