Archive for Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. ~~~Luke 2:6-7

The Manger Scene (pictured above) has been a part of my Christmas experience for my entire life. It was given to my mother from her boss at that time (Rear Admiral Edward Hutchinson) shortly after the birth of my older sister in 1944. An important part of ‘Decking the Halls’ each year for my family was setting up the Manger Scene. My sister and I would carefully position each of the manger pieces in what we considered the proper spots. Of course, we continued to reposition them throughout the Christmas season – sometimes using them to re-enact the various parts of the Christmas story. The figures were much loved by the we two little girls. Needless to say – all this love took a toll on the pieces which my Dad with great patience and love glued and re-glued various parts of the pieces (the lambs’ legs especially!) throughout the years. My mother gave the Manager Scene to me several years after I moved to California because she knew how much it meant to me.

Each year as I set up the Manger Scene I remember the story of the birth of Jesus, reflecting on how much God loves us, sending us Jesus to spread the message of love. A special Christmas song always comes to mind as I arrange the pieces in the stable:

Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead, Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus, but wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token, love be yours and love be mine;
Love to God and neighbors, love for plea and gift and sign.

It’s all about Love! Amen.

Trish N., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:   ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’   John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.   He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.   I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”~~~Mark 1: 2-4,7-8

John the Baptist has always intrigued me.  Here’s this guy, alone in the wilderness, living off the land and connected to God in ways we can only dream of.  I connected to him immediately because, as a young man, my only two passions were God and the wilderness.  I have always felt God’s calling strongest out in the mountains.

I remember one solo trip with my dog, Jazz.  We were in the Dinky Lakes Wilderness in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  We were off trail, just wandering, focused on God and His creation. There was a stretch of time that God and Jazz and myself were One in Spirit, connected like never before.  I was on top the mountain.  As I came to look around me afterward, there were crystals everywhere, hundreds of them, laying on the earth around me.  Were they there before my “One in Spirit” time?  I don’t know.  I don’t connect crystals with spirituality necessarily, except for the fact that they are an exceptional part of God’s creation, reminding us of His beauty. I didn’t take a single crystal from that mountain, considering it a sacred place.

The three years before that time were hard years.  I had been laid bare and raw.  But I feel God used those years to help me “Prepare A Way” for Him to enter into my being in a way that I could never doubt or forget.

John tells us to “Prepare A Way” – that we need to make a way for the Lord in the world, but it has to start inside ourselves first. Preparing a way for God’s peace and joy and love in our own hearts helps us to understand what we have and need to share with others to begin a “preparing of the way” in them.   We are called to set ourselves “apart” from the world.  That comes just by allowing the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts.  Imagine being “apart” from the world as much as John was.  Would you eat grasshoppers and fight the bees and bears off for the honey?  But people “flocked” to him to be baptized and to hear him speak.  He even got to baptize Jesus. Wow! That’s got to be worth a few grasshoppers.    John, what a guy!

Prayer for the Advent Day:  Help me, O God, to be prepared for your light, and to share your gifts each and every moment.  Amen.

Rick Z., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

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Sunday, December 20, 2020 . . . An Advent of Love

[A]s it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” ~~~Luke 3:4-6

Inner Peace. How many people think getting ready for Christmas simply means buying gifts that you may or may not be able to afford, and then going crazy running around doing a bunch of activities? Or maybe it’s preparing for the holiday by telling bad Christmas jokes. Did you hear the one about the family who owned an English pointer and an Irish setter? The dogs get together at Christmas time and have point-setters. Ha!

I can tell you what we should be getting ready for around here. Believers like us are looking for a spiritual and wonderful something called inner peace, especially in this chaotic, scary year. We want to prepare the way of the Lord, that is, invite the mystery and wonder of Jesus’ birth into our lives. I believe all of us seek God’s peace. The only problem is, how do we find it?

Here’s one writer’s take on it. Advent was here, so the mom and her husband thought they’d see what their children remembered from their family devotions the year before. “Who can tell me what the four candles in the Advent wreath represent?” the mom asked. Her son jumped in with seven-year-old wisdom and exuberance. “There’s love, joy, peace, and . . . and . . .” “I know!” his six-year-old sister interrupted to finish her brother’s sentence: “Peace and quiet!”

We could use some peace and quiet this week—across our nation and the world! But perhaps peace should start right here—within each one of us. What would it take to dedicate ourselves to peace?

Prayer for Advent Love (based on Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): I pray that I will let go of my desire to see too far beyond this season of love, so that my path of life may be filled with peace and quiet! Amen.

Robin M-J., Watsonville First United Methodist Church

 

Saturday, December 19, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

Hannah prayed, “My heart rejoices in my Creator; my strength is exalted in God. God raises up the poor from dust; lifts the needy from the garbage pile. God sits the rejected ones of society with the elect, giving them the seat of honor!”
~~~ I Samuel 2:1, 8

Hannah was without a child of her own. She prayed to God…and promised to give her child into God’s service. Hannah conceived and gave birth to Samuel (which means I Have Asked For Him), and brought Samuel to the Temple to be instructed by Eli. Samuel would eventually become the Spiritual Leader of Israel … the Prophet and Judge of Israel’s first two Kings, Saul and David.

I focus on Hannah this day because she prays with her whole being…so passionate in prayer at the Temple that Eli thought she was drunk. Hannah’s prayer ends up rejoicing in God … and as we come to the end of this week of Advent Joy … we can see how the light of God glows with the promise of redemption for the world. We anticipate this gift of redeeming grace in the birth of Jesus.

Joy truly comes with the dawn; the light of the new day that brightens the world with possibilities. The pink candle we have lit this week glows differently from the colors of purple … hope and peace are bright … but the pink of joy glows with the warmth of rich possibilities. Joy comes in the morning. Joy is our light of possibilities. Joy was Hannah’s answer to the misery that others had thrust upon her; yet she never gave up the hope…she prayed for the possibility of peace…and she was rewarded in the joy…not just of a son…but God’s Light!

Our Shelter Guests prayed for a Christmas Tree . . . this is their tree of Great Joy!

The Joy of this weeks brings us closer to the presence of God’s Grace made visible in our lives at Christmas. Where is you joy this week…even as we live with the new reality of the Purple Tier of Covid-19. . . .

Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): As we pray in God’s Joy, help us to trust that our efforts of kindness are bringing hope…peace…joy
to the world’s discouragement. Amen.

Jay P., United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Friday, December 18, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

Luke 4:18 reminds us of the prophetic words of Isaiah who spoke these familiar words; words Jesus choose to speak for his first sermon in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth:  The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and comfort all who mourn.  ~~~Isaiah 61:1

Isaiah spoke a word of hope; and he was calling the Hebrew people to live life in a desperate time in their history, during the 8th century BC, when facing captivity and exile by the Babylonian Empire; and in those desperate times, he called them to live by a different standard.  Isaiah went on to say in Chapter 61:1-4:  Provide for those who mourn give them a garland instead of ashes, give them the oil of joy instead of mourning, and they shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, from the devastations of many generations. 

To read Isaiah is like reading the front page of Newspapers today.  Things are bad, yet this prophet speaks to us, even today, in our desperate times and says:   I bring Good news!  Good news for the oppressed, good news for the brokenhearted, good news to captives and prisoners, good news to those who mourn.  And Isaiah tells us to give people garlands to decorate, oil to anoint themselves with joy, and festive clothes to dress up in.  Seriously?!  Decorations are nice and all, but they hardly serve to make things better.  And by doing that can it be counted on to change the world?  Isaiah is saying Yes!—he is saying decorate any way!

Because when we decorate our homes and our churches, we are not saying that we are unaware of difficulties, we are not saying that we are oblivious to bad news.  Rather we are saying that we choose to live; we choose to live the good news; we choose to live by HOPE and not despair; we choose to live by LOVE and not by hate; we choose to live with JOY in our hearts, and not by division, fear, and lies; and we choose to live the PEACE of Christ with ourselves and one another.  The Angels said it on that first Christmas:   “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth Peace among those whom God favors!”  ~Luke 2:14 NRSV.  This is the Good News!

Prayer for Advent (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): God of Emmanuel, I will risk saying a kind word or doing a good deed for the sake of your love.  Amen.

Patrick D., Morgan Hill United Methodist Church

Wednesday, December 16, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward (all the earth).” ~~~ Luke 2:13-14

I always loved the angels in our church tableau every Christmas Eve. My brother was the angel Gabriel and he looked so handsome up there on the highest step, for all to see. The angels seemed so beautiful and majestic, a precursor to the birth of the baby Jesus. What a glorious message and witnessed by the most humble of men, so that we could believe it was for all of us.

As a little girl, I felt this was the grandest story, a special night to hear a story of love and glory, the birth of a king, who would bring peace on earth. We forget the message, when we have commercialized the Christmas season, but I remember the awesome feeling of magic and spirit of that night. It is still the most beautiful message and I feel the angels around us think so, too!

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.): God of the season, help me to slow down enough to listen for the way Emmanuel is revealed in my life. Amen.

Sarah Lampland, United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 . . . An Advent of Joy

O satisfy us in the morning with thy loving kindness

That we may rejoice and be glad in all our days.

Make us glad according to the days wherein we have been afflicted

And the years we have seen evil.  ~~~(a version of Psalm 93) 

I read this verse daily. I learned this ritual at a friend’s memorial service and remember his practicing to be a more spiritual person. During Advent these words remind me to be hopeful and to be in service, bringing my gifts to share to offer light and hope, knowing that all of us together can change the world.

This can be a time of reflection and contemplation concerning my beliefs about service and whether or not I follow them in my daily life.

My Swedish Dala horse reminds me of the Swedish tradition of Santa Lucia Day; the bringing light to the world and remembering the Saint who shared her beliefs and her service to the Swedish people, helping to bring them food in a time of need.

I was one of the girls who performed this ritual at the Swedish Lodge. 

We wore white dresses, and the older girl wore a crown of greenery and lighted candles.

We sang a Swedish song about Santa Lucia and served cookies to the people.

Prayer for Advent Joy (adapted from Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.):  In this season, O God, help me to refill the oil in my inner lamp by seeking to trust more deeply in you. Amen.

Diane C., United Methodist Church, Santa Cruz

The story of Christmas: a live nativity 2018 // La historia de la navidad: una natividad en vivo 2018

On the road with Mary and Joseph
Caminando con María y José

Where // donde: Watsonville First United Methodist Church
Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Watsonville
229 Stanford St., Watsonville, CA 95076

When //cuando: Sunday // domingo
December 23 // 23 de diciembre  
10:00 am // 10:00 de la mañana

For children, youth and the young at heart!
¡Para niños, jóvenes y los jóvenes de corazón!

 

Christmas Concert and Sing-along // Concierto Navideño y Canto

The Christmas Concert and Sing-along is on Thursday, December 6, 2018 at 6:30 pm and Sunday, December 9, 2018 during worship in the Sanctuary. The Watsonville Music Program Youth Chorus, and our church Worship Choir will join together on December 6th to present a Christmas Concert and Singalong. Please invite guests to attend and participate as we come together to share the joy of the season! 

El Concierto de navidad y canto es el jueves 6 de diciembre del 2018 a las 6:30 pm y el domingo 9 de diciembre del 2018 durante el servicio. El Coro Juvenil del Programa de Música de Watsonville y nuestro Coro de Adoración de la iglesia se unirán el 6 de diciembre para presentar un Concierto de Navidad y Canto. ¡Invite a sus amigos y familiares a asistir y participar mientras nos reunimos para compartir la alegría de la temporada!