Recording of our December 20, 2020 Music Sunday worship service
Our Children & Youth Winter Social is TODAY at 1:00 pm! Join us on Zoom for an hour of music, games, and laughter. All ages are welcome. Zoom access info is on the calendar on our website.
This Thursday’s all-ages Christmas Eve worship service will include a virtual version of our traditional candle-lighting. You may use candles that you have at home, but if you would like to borrow an LED candle from BUC to use during the service, please stop by the building anytime between Monday, December 21 and Thursday, December 24. Candles will be in a bin right outside the front doors; please do not enter the building. Return your borrowed candle to the same bin between Friday, December 25 and Monday, December 28.
Capture the Christmas spirit and join us for a Christmas Day Zoom gathering from 3:00-5:00 pm on Friday, December 25. Instead of our usual potluck meal, we will be sharing items that give each of us a sense of the holiday and the season. Bring a reading, story, song, short YouTube video, poem, artwork, screenshot or picture of your holiday decorations, or just an enchanting seasonal picture you like. Please contact Carol Winslow to RSVP for this gathering. Zoom access info is on the calendar on our website.
Chalice Lighting/Opening Words
As we gather today, on one of the two darkest days of the year, much of the world waits to mark the anniversary of a birth. Today, we also focus on the idea of rebirth.
In many traditions, the transition from waning light, to the pause and shift of the solstice, to the gaining light is celebrated as the rebirth of the sun. The sun’s rebirth begins our anticipation of seeing the natural world respond with its own renewal. The sun’s rebirth offers reassurance that the cycle begins again, and many of us find our own energy returning as the light grows.
The sun’s rebirth reminds us that, in the midst of darkness, there are always new beginnings. Welcome to our morning celebration.
"Normal Day" by Mary Jean Irion
Read by Kathy DuHame
Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, savor you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it will not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky, and want more than all the world your return. And then I will know what now I am guessing: that you are, indeed, a common rock and not a jewel, but that a common rock made of the very mass substance of the earth in all its strength and plenty puts a gem to shame.
Introduction to "There Is No Rose"
“There Is No Rose” exalts the event of Jesus’s birth: the union of heaven and earth, as well as Father/Son/Holy Spirit, in this new life. It is a song of wonder and rejoicing at the miracle that has occurred. The text is as follows:
There is no rose of such virtue
As is the rose that bare Jesu.
For in this rose containèd was
Heaven and earth in little space,
By that rose we may well see
There be one God in persons three,
Of equal form
The angels sung-en the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis, gloria in excelsis Deo!
Let us rejoice
Leave we all this worldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth.
Let us go across from worldly to heavenly things
"Holiday Blues" by Barb Eschner
I don’t know who is the boss of colors, but someone once decided that for Christmas, it’s red and green… with maybe a sprinkle of silver for tinsel and sunlight sparkling on snow. Today I am asking you to think of different colors: of blue and yellow… as in kitchen sponges.
The coronavirus has us buying more things in bulk, like sponges. I always used to buy the yellow ones with the green scrubbing side—getting at those pots and pans is an aerobic exercise for me. But last month I had to settle for a bag of blue ones—the non-abrasive type. Then I saw a lament about blue sponges in a Traverse City publication, and that got me thinking.
If there ever was a kinder, gentler sponge, this is it. But how frustrating for a scrubber like me! Since childhood, I have been the rip-the-Band Aid-off type of person. I am sure I was influenced by such advice from grown-ups as “Walk it off”… “Turn the other cheek”… and even “Offer it up for the poor souls in Purgatory.” I have always been tough on myself.
At the same time, I have grown to have deep empathy for others. Sometimes that empathy fills me up so much that it drowns out the essence of “me”. Do you ever feel that way? I bet a number of you compassionate souls do.
But life in this pandemic is hard enough. At our core, we fear the virus and worry about the health of our loved ones… and whether our schools are open or closed, and about our jobs. We are afraid for our healthcare and essential workers. We wish there were something more that we could do for those who live alone… or that the government would do for the unemployed. We are so done with lockdowns and yet we know there will be more time like this to come. And added to that was the election cycle. Hope is on the horizon, but no wonder we are tired to the bone!
So, what do we do to revive ourselves… to renew our spirit for the year to come?
Self-care is the answer. It is legitimate and important. In her Wednesday fireside chats this summer, Reverend Mandy coached us on methods of self-care… from making lists of our worries and then our gratitudes… to practicing deep cleansing breaths, meditating, and stretching through some yoga floor exercises. We can replace our doom-scrolling or TV news time with listening to our favorite music. Maybe best: phoning a friend. Reaching out to one of the many friends we have in this caring community is a stress-relieving win-win.
I am going to remember my blue sponge. It does work; it might take a minute more to get things clean, but it won’t leave yet another scratch on the surface. And when it soaks up enough water—as when I might still feel on the verge of tears--I have the power to squeeze that out to start again.
Less abrasion, more self-care. Here’s to a New Year that’s softer on us all.
"Rebirth and Renewal" by Kelly Taylor
The theme for today’s service is Rebirth and Renewal and 2020 has certainly been a year of both for me, personally.
I entered 2020 just like everyone else, with enthusiasm and optimism. In our household we had a 2020 graduate, so the spring was to be filled with a multitude of exciting events, only to be cancelled in a matter of weeks.
A few years ago friends and family encouraged me to write a book about all of the experiences I have had in my very colorful life. So, throughout the quarantine I began to journal, so I could keep track of the details for this eventual book I planned to write.
Just before the quarantine I experienced some abnormal physical symptoms and in June I saw my doctor. I requested an abdominal CT and the results of this test revealed something on my liver. Two MRIs and a biopsy later, I learned the scary truth: My breast cancer had metastasized to my liver. I was at work when the radiologist told me the news and I couldn’t stop crying. I assumed this was a death sentence and that my girls would lose their mother.
I later learned that I would endure 12 chemotherapy treatments, once a week and then have a test to see how the chemo affected the tumor.
Soon after my diagnosis and subsequent doctor’s appointments, I realized I was being given an opportunity to write about this new, very terrible experience. I started a CaringBridge site which allowed me to journal about my health progress while updating friends and family at the same time.
While the world continued to crumble from divided political parties, racism, violence and natural disasters, I was also having to fight a terrible disease. And to top it off, black mold was found in my house a week after my diagnosis and so my house was torn apart to repair it. My moods dipped and then rose again. I didn’t know how to behave to handle any of this, but what I could do was journal about it. And so that became part of my therapy along with meditation, to calm my nerves.
Unexpectedly, while struggling with the thoughts of my diagnosis and my future, I was surrounded by much love and kindness. I have had friends and family give me food, drinks, gifts, cards, money and lots of expressions of love. Many of my BUC choir friends provided delicious food for Emma and me and we couldn’t be more thankful. My sister who lives in Virginia drove up to Troy to spend 3 weeks with me to not only care for me, but to handle the construction going on in the house.
After my last chemo treatment, my best friend Diann surprised me by hanging a banner on my front yard fence with balloons. It reads: "A Warrior Lives Here! You Did It Kelly! Congrats honey on 12 chemos completed! You are a rock star!! We love you! From all your family and friends xo" What a wonderful surprise that banner was.
The next day a neighbor, whom I had never met, brought me a bouquet of flowers. She said that she read my banner and wanted to be part of the happiness. She said it was nice to hear some happy news for a change. Her kindness warmed my heart and gave me faith in humanity.
This whole cancer experience has shown me that no matter what is going on in the world around us, goodness prevails. People love people and want to give when they can. I have learned what I can do for others when they are in need, and I plan to give as much as I can moving forward through volunteering, giving to others and, yes, writing my book.
This story is my rebirth. Cancer is not easy or a breeze, not at all, but it will make me stronger and teach me along the way. I intend to enter 2021 looking forward to my own growth and renewal. I have been through quite a lot in my 56 years on this earth, and will face anything new head-on with resilience, confidence and, yes, humor. Oh, and one more thing. Last Monday I learned that my cancer is gone and I am now in remission!
"Renewal" by Keith Ensroth
VENI veni, Emmanuel
captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exilio,
privatus Dei Filio.
R: Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
nascetur pro te Israel!
When I was a kid, singing this song in the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas, had about the same meaning as “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”. When I was in the seminary, its meaning had evolved to preparing for rebirth by celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth that had been foretold by the prophets of old. Most of the writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, that the Christian church had reinterpreted to be the foretelling of the coming of Jesus – Emmanuel, God with Us – had been written during the time of the decline of the kingdom of Israel. This was a time of devastation as the kingdom was under attack by the Assyrians and other nations, culminating in the exile of the Israelites in Babylon.
This song has taken on new meaning for me this year. The major prophets had a recurring theme. While the people were mourning the loss of their nation, the message the prophets were speaking was yes, it is terrible that we are losing our nation. But don’t look to others as the cause of this loss. We are a nation that was formed by a covenant. But we have broken that covenant. We don’t have our past glory because we brought this on ourselves. We must return to our covenant and make it come alive for our times if we want to make Israel, Israel again.
The dots that can be connected to our times are all too easy to see. If we want to celebrate rebirth, then we are called to renewal. Stitching our connections to each other together is how we renew our covenant to make this a nation where all are created equal, and endowed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And today, we are learning that we can only do this if we also recognize our interconnectedness with the entire world. But we have picked up the challenge and responded with renewal before. As we look forward to doing this, we can rejoice in the upcoming rebirth.
Rejoice! Rejoice! O Israel,
to thee shall come Emmanuel!
Introduction to "This Little Babe"
“This Little Babe,” despite its darker imagery and urgent pace, is a celebration of the purpose of Jesus’s arrival in the world and the power he holds to disarm those who will underestimate him. It promises that one’s allegiance to him will provide protection and a joy that is capable of vanquishing one’s enemies. The text is as follows:
This little Babe so few days old
Is come to rifle Satan’s fold;
All hell doth at his presence quake,
Though he himself for cold do shake;
For in this weak unarmèd wise
The gates of hell he will surprise.
With tears he fights and wins the field,
His naked breast stands for a shield;
His battering shot are babish cries,
His arrows looks of weeping eyes,
His martial ensigns Cold and Need,
And feeble Flesh his warrior’s steed.
His camp is pitchèd in a stall,
His bulwark but a broken wall;
The crib his trench, haystalks his stakes;
Of shepherds he his muster makes;
And thus as sure his foe to wound,
The angels’ trumps alarum sound.
My soul, with Christ join thou in fight;
Stick to the tents that he hath pight.
Within his crib is surest ward;
This little Babe will be they guard.
If thou wilt foil thy foes with joy,
Then flit not from this heavenly Boy.
From our darkest days and most challenging times, we can emerge renewed: perhaps more energized, perhaps more focused, perhaps completely reborn and redirected.
We hope the words and music we shared with you today spoke to you at whatever point you are on that journey. And as you move forward into a new year, know that this beloved community moves with you. May it be so.