Sunday, December 10, 2017: The Loser’s Joy

THOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

Care more than others think wise.

Risk more than others think safe.

Dream more than other think practical.

Expect more than others think possible.

(by Howard Schultz)

PRELUDE

WELCOMING WORDS: John P.

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Whoever you are, from wherever you have come,

Come in.

If you come with joy and hope, welcome.

Bring those here to this community of love and wonder.

If you come with sorrow or despair, welcome.

Bring those with you, and feel the arms of compassion around you.

If you have come uncertain, unsettled, with questions, welcome.

Bring them all into this day of sharing and story.

A day for us, living beings, to remember the birth of hope and wonder in each of our souls once again.

Welcome to this day.

(by Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Evelyn & Beatrix W.

Let this Chalice be a light

To open our hearts

And lift our spirits

This day and every day.

(by Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” (#225)

OUR COVENANT:

Love is the doctrine of this church,

The quest for truth is its sacrament,

And service is its prayer.

To dwell together in peace,

To seek knowledge in freedom,

To serve humankind in fellowship,

To the end that all souls

Shall grow into harmony with the Divine.

This is our great covenant,

One with another, and with our God.

SONG OF ASPIRATION:

From all that dwell below the skies,

Let songs of hope and faith arise,

Let peace, good-will on earth be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.

Amen.

CHILDREN’S TIME: Rev. Anita (Constructing a Crèche)

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES: “Joy to the World” (v.1)

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

OFFERTORY

READING:Advent” (by Wallace W. Robbins )

The Loser’s Joy

The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)

It is December (finally it feels like it!) and we are in Advent, a time of waiting and of preparation. But waiting is difficult. So we fill it up with busyness. But for somethings, you just have to wait.

I remember when I was awaiting the birth of my first child. The waiting was both exciting, and extremely anxiety-producing.

“If we have an ugly baby, will we know it?” I asked people. My father-in-law laughed, assuring me I would. His first child, my husband’s sister Leslie, he said was an ugly baby, and he knew it. She was all nose. It was safe for us to laugh now, since we all knew Leslie as an adult had grown up to be a beautiful woman. Her face had indeed grown to fit her nose. All of this was reassuring.

I worried that my child would be born with defects, malformations. It was too scary to talk about, so I didn’t talk about it with anyone, didn’t share the unsettling dreams I had about that. It is unfortunate that I did not share those fears, because if I had, I would have learned that most woman expecting babies have those fears. It was normal. It is a shame, what private terrors we carry that would be reduced or made manageable, if only we shared them. Live and learn.

Wallace Robbins talks about the secret terrors that are hidden in the anticipation of the birth of the baby for whom we are preparing.

In all the happy sounds of Christmas preparation there is still a solemn bell of judgment. The peace of the world cannot come without forcing out a private peace of mind. God is an intrusion in a world of neighborhood fences and national boundaries, in a world of private success and social failure, in a world that is self-seeking, pleasure-loving, and insecure. A burglar will threaten your possessions, but a holy (person) is worse. That one will threaten your most treasured illusions of contentment. [1]

I wonder about the unacknowledged terror of what would happen if the Prince of Peace were really born into our world; if that unacknowledged terror is what feeds our jovial trivializing of the story. For surely Robbins is right. In order for Peace on Earth to really come, our world, our social order, our economies and our own social location, would be thrown up into the air like match sticks, revealed for their illusory nature, and brushed away so a new world order, of justice, equity and compassion could be constructed in its place. That is what the baby symbolizes. The hope of such a world breaking in and thereby evoking the terror, for those of us who are befitting from the way things are, and of the inevitable loss if we got the world for which we pray.

Robbins reminds us:

The truth is this child will disturb our moral sleep; this child will become more favored of the parent then are we.[2]

By that he means, what that child stands for, is what we know to be the way of integrity and honor, the way of living the values which we proclaim and becoming the people we mean to be. In truth it would be the time when the proverbial rubber hits the road, when what has been possibility actually opens before us and we are tested to decide if we have the courage and the integrity to step through the opening into a re-ordered life.

There was a reason why the ruling forces eventually killed this child/man. The reasons have not changed. Only now he is killed with our trivializing and distancing.

“If I don’t believe the stories about the virgin birth or bodily resurrection, I don’t have to deal with the message of the messenger”…the provocative message; the challenge to inhabit our values, embody them in our lives in such a way as to bring into being the world that our values proclaim, to accept the losses necessary, if we are to realize the dream.

We often talk about wanting our church to be a safe place, a place for everyone, where all can be cherished and held in esteem. But safe for whom? What does safe look like? Feel like? Can it feel uncomfortable? Can it feel like sorrow? Like loss, in addition to feeling like comfort, hope and joy?

I think that for any faith community, for this faith community, to be a safe place, it has to be able to hold all of that – the dreams and the terrors the dreams can evoke, the wonder of possibility, and the inevitable losses the possibilities will require if we really want to bring them to fruition.

John Corrado says:

This is a place for losers.

This is a place for people who have

Lost their hair,

Lost their teeth,

Lost their place,

Lost their memories,

Lost their savings,

Lost their jobs.

It’s a place for people who have

Lost their parents,

Lost the love of their life, and even

Lost their children.

It’s a place for people who have

Lost their way,

Lost their faith, and worst of all,

Lost all hope.

This is that place, the safe place, to gather as losers, and as wannabe losers, as people willing to lose power and privilege so that in the words of our song, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”

I name the sorrow, and the fear, because unnamed, it has a power to control. But the truth is, it does not have the ultimate power, it does not have the final say. That is the message of the story.

We are more than our fears, we are hope.

We are more than our losses; we are visionaries.

We are more than our disappointment, our cynicism, and our sorrow.

We are our joy – as people of this faith community, covenanted to affirm and promote the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.

Covenanted to live it into being, so that

No more will sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground.

(to ) Let righteousness its glories show as far as love is found.[3]

It is for that we prepare, that place where both righteousness and love are found. It is to that we are called, and for that we are brave, and for that, for that, our spirits sing, and sing again.

Amen.

Join me in singing, of that place and of that time.

Joy to the World

[1] Wallace W. Robbins, For Everything there is a Season, UUCF, 1978

[2] Ibid

[3] Isaac Watts,