Sunday, December 11, 2016: Waiting and Decorating Within The Fertile Void

2016-solstice-treeTHOUGHT FOR CONTEMPLATION:

A new moon teaches gradualness and deliberation and how one gives birth to oneself slowly.

Patience with small details makes perfect a large work, like the universe.

(Rumi)

PRELUDE: “Stars Were Gleaming” (Infant Holy, Infant Lowly) (arr. Jon Schmidt)

WELCOMING WORDS: Muncie M.

 

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Come now, into warmth

From the cold

into community

From loneliness

Come into moments of song, of reflection and of silence

From a cacophony of noises

Come into this place

To renew your strength

To find your own thoughts

To hear your own voice

To join with others in the affirmation

That life is good,

That love is possible,

And that together we are emboldened

to bless and heal our precious world.

(Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT: “Within Our Darkest Night” (Jacques Berthier)

LIGHTING OF THE CHALICE: Molly & Bridget B.

To face the world’s shadows

A chalice of light,

To face the world’s coldness

A chalice of warmth,

To face the world’s fears,

A chalice of courage,

To face the world’s turmoil,

A chalice of peace,

May its glow fill our hearts, our spirits and our lives.

(Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “People Look East” (#226)

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. Anne Principe, DRE

SINGING CHILDREN TO THEIR CLASSES:

Go now in peace, go now in peace;

may the love of God surround you,

everywhere,

everywhere

you may go.

CANDLES OF JOY AND SORROW

MEDITATION AND PRAYER

MUSICAL MEDITATION

READING: “The Best Poem Ever” (Brian Doyle)

What if, says a small child to me this afternoon,

We made a poem without using any words at all?

Wouldn’t that be cool? You could use long twigs,

And feathers, or spider strands, and arrange them

So that people imagine what words could be there.

Wouldn’t that be cool? So there’s a different poem

For each reader. That would be the best poem ever.

The poem wouldn’t be on the page, right? It would

Be in the air, sort of. It would be between the twigs

And the person’s eyes, or behind the person’s eyes,

After the persons saw whatever poem he or she saw.

Maybe there are a lot of poems that you can’t write

Down. Couldn’t that be? But they’re still there even

If no one can write them down, right? Poems in

Books are only a little bit of all the poems there are.

Those are only the poems someone found words for.

CHORAL ANTHEM: “Something Told the Wild Geese” (Rachel Field / Sherri Porterfield)

Reflection: Rev. Anne Principe, DRE

Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church

December 11, 2016

Last week I said to the children about advent that the Ancient people tried to trick the sun into thinking that it was springtime, or summertime.

No matter how hectic our lives are, chances are we try to do something to celebrate the holiday season. Because even if has been bad for us, that must mean that something disappointed us once during a holiday season that was supposed to be about huddling closer in the darkness and figuring out ways to bring comfort into our small and sometimes helpless lives.

If we are here today, can we agree that by our presence we are acknowledging that together, we are in a holiday season? Truly, I hope this question comes as an affirmation that it must be so. We have a choice to be here. And here we are, together.

Right now we can be like the Ancient peoples and claim this time for what it is – a time to take refuge from the insistence and pressures of culture. We can claim this time to celebrate, yes. The triumph becomes in what we did while waiting. Advent. How did we learn to celebrate with each other even in darkness?

When there is darkness, we cannot see. Or rather, in the dark, it is difficult to see what may be right in front of us. Our eyes cannot make out the shape, the color, the texture or even the location when darkness surrounds. For some while in darkness, what can be least seen is the capacity within ourselves. This is why the darkness is a metaphor for despair, depression.

There is a reason for despairing now. And yet is it possible that there was ever a time in humanity when there wasn’t some sort of despair? A despair for the Ancient people was they noticed the sun going away. They weren’t sure if it was going to come back. They needed it. They were afraid.

How could they know? What was the proof? They couldn’t rush it.

They had to go without the sun’s light and warmth, overflowing their homes, and growing their crops and lighting their way. They had to survive for a period of time without the only thing they thought kept them alive. In time they learned that there are cycles to light and that the darkness provided the chance to learn more skills of how to survive together.

No matter what, we know that Ancient people tried to trick the sun into thinking that it was springtime, or summertime. Or was it that they just figured out ways to trick their own thinking that the feeling of darkness is something to fear?

The ancient people put greens all over the place, they brought trees into their houses, and if they lived at the top of hill — in order to get the greenery up there, they made it into a circle, a wheel they rolled it up the hill. Overtime this became the tradition during the darkness and expectation of new light during advent.

Decorating, baking, making music, raising a toast, giving a gift.

The Ancient people didn’t know that the sun would return. If we are the post-modern people, how do we move past of our primal fear that there isn’t a hopeful future?

It isn’t easy. This Sunday, like every other Sunday, we enact life as a community – sharing the good and soothing the bad, walking through ritual, making tradition with an insistence on reminding each other to make what’s simple, abundant and what is abundant simple.

We joyfully live into the trick of caring for and enjoying each other, being stewards of a place open for all to participate with a covenant of love with justice and justice with love.

We deck the halls.

OFFERTORY:Winterszeit I” (Wintertime I) (Robert Schumann)

Reflection: The Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church

December 11, 2016

My mother-in-law and I had some different approaches to child rearing. Maybe that has happened to you. For example, I remember when my son lost a toy and he was crying. My mother-in-law distracted him with another toy until he was engaged with that one, and no longer crying. It made sense; I could understand that. And, it reminded me of another time, when he was sad and upset because we were moving and he would be leaving behind his best friends who lived on our street. She kept reassuring him that it would be fine, he would make new friends.

“It’s okay, Fay,” I said to her. “He can be sad. He will miss them. They were his first friends. They are sad too,”

Fay, my mother-in-law, felt compelled to distract or trick my son into not being upset or sad about things. I didn’t. While sometimes I would engage in that distracting behavior, there were other times when I thought it was reasonable for him to be feeling sad, or disappointed about something, and I wanted to let him have that feeling. To be in the sadness. It wouldn’t last forever, but it was real and it was important. And the truth is that for a year after we’d moved to the new town where there were children who lived across the street with whom he played every day, when you asked that little four year old, who his best friends were, he’d answer with a missing a beat, Dorothy and Tommy, the children he’d left behind in another state. He did make new friends. He enjoyed them. And he did miss his other friends. That was true too. He would have preferred to have them all together. He would have, but he would have to settle for less, for occasional visits with the old best friends, and warm memories and stories he could tell and carry with him.

The Ancients they say, brought greens in the house to trick the sun into coming back. That is one way to interpret it. But it might be just as fair to say they gathered the greens to entice the sun into coming back. Yes, I think so. That seems right and true, for the people loved the sun. Didn’t they often call it brother sun, just as they called the light in the night sky sister moon? The beautiful silver light in the night sky a sister. The warm yellow ball in the day sky a brother. All part of the family of life. They missed them when they were gone, just as we do. The relationships are essential.

What the Ancients learned was not only that the seasons were cyclical, but that they were essential. That seeds and soil needed resting times. And that while they might be sad that the sun went away, over time they came to trust that the love of life and its sustenance was built into the very essence of life on earth. That didn’t erase the sadness, any more than my son’s knowing he would get to visit his friends erased his sadness at the distance between them. And we know that maintaining relationships when parted takes work. It is no wonder that the Ancients lavished energy on enticing the beloved sun to return, even while they resigned themselves to the sadness, the darkness and the cold of brother sun’s absence.

“You may be gone, but not forgotten, scarce but beloved. We hold a place for you in our lives and our hearts.”

“We hold a place for you in our lives and in our hearts.”

How do we do that? How do we do that now? Holding space for the missing, the absent, the disappeared of every sort, feeling the absence which paradoxically evokes their presence?

It is powerful, isn’t it? The way that acknowledging and holding the space for the absent one brings them closer, more accessible, sometimes more real in memory and aura than when they were when they were physically with us.

Come then, with us, into the wisdom of the ancients and of the poets who understood that the darkness is fertile, and that the spaces can hold love.

HYMN: “The Hills Are Bare at Bethlehem” (# 232)

CREATION of OUR SOLSTICE PRAYER TREE: Rev. Anita, Anne Principe & Congregation

READING: “The Best Poem Ever” (Brian Doyle)

What if, says a small child to me this afternoon,

We made a poem without using any words at all?

Wouldn’t that be cool? You could use long twigs,

And feathers, or spider strands, and arrange them

So that people imagine what words could be there.

Wouldn’t that be cool? So there’s a different poem

For each reader. That would be the best poem ever.

The poem wouldn’t be on the page, right? It would

Be in the air, sort of. It would be between the twigs

And the person’s eyes, or behind the person’s eyes,

After the persons saw whatever poem he or she saw.

Maybe there are a lot of poems that you can’t write

Down. Couldn’t that be? But they’re still there even

If no one can write them down, right? Poems in

Books are only a little bit of all the poems there are.

Those are only the poems someone found words for.

And now, we will create our own best poem ever, a Solstice Prayer Tree, a poem, and a prayer without words.

Choosing an object from the baskets we are passing around, an object that speaks to you of the season, or of your heart, you will find your way into this poem without words, with prayer from the heart.

(baskets pass)

(Anne explains about taking a piece of yarn and hanging your object on the tree. When the objects are all hung, the congregation is invited to stand and take it in.)

CLOSING HYMN: “Deck the Halls” (# 235)

EXTINGUISHING THE CHALICE: (read by the congregation)

We extinguish the flame but not the light of truth,

the warmth of community, or the fire of commitment.

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.

BENEDICTION

CONGREGATIONAL RESPONSE:

May the long time sun shine upon you,

all love surround you,

and the pure light within you

guide you all the way home.

POSTLUDE: “In the Bleak Midwinter / Away in a Manger” (arr. Phil Perkins)