Sunday, December 17, 2017: Music Sunday, Revisiting The Christmas Story


“In order for light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”

(by Francis Bacon)

PRELUDE: Chorale Prelude on “Away in a Manger” (accompanied by Paul R., pianist)






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.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

INTROIT: “Carol of the Bells” (M. Leontovich/Peter J. Wilhousky)


We light this chalice

A holder of joy

A cradle of life

A bright light of life unfolding.

(by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

OPENING HYMN: “Sing We Now of Christmas” (#254)


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.


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.




(presented by Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson)

This story, which you may already know, takes place a long time ago – so long ago it was before Jesus was born, about one hundred and sixty eight years before Jesus was born. That’s a long time ago, so long ago that none of us were born then, and neither were our parents born then, or our grandparents. But they tell us the story, because it is important that we know and remember.

The story takes place in Jerusalem, a city in Israel. In the city of Jerusalem was the holy Temple where the Jewish people worshipped. And in the Temple was a special lamp that burned with oil – it was called the eternal light.

But the city was overrun by the Syrian army.

The Syrians did not worship the God of the Jewish people. They worshipped different Gods, and they did not like that the Jewish people had their own way of doing things, and their own way of worshipping. They wanted the Jewish people to give up their ways, to give up their God, their way of living and worshipping, and become like them. So they took over the holy Temple, and they made a mess of it. They ran animals through, including pigs, which horrified and offended the Jewish people. And they set up a statue, an idol to the Greek God Zeus and threatened to kill anyone who did not bow down and worship that statue of their God.

There was a family with many sons called the Maccabees. Judah, the eldest son was outraged and he rallied his brothers and friends and neighbors to fight against the Syrians and get back the holy Temple. There were only a few, badly armed Jews and a huge Syrian army, but the small band was clever and beat back the Syrians, winning back the Temple.

They were so happy. The first thing they did was clean the Temple. After all, the Syrians had made a dirty mess of it.

The next thing they had to do was relight the lamp with the eternal light. But when they went to do that, they found there was only enough oil for one day.

Oh dear! It would take eight days for the messenger to go get and bring back a new supply of holy oil. There was nothing they could do about that. They sent the messenger off to get more oil and lit the lamp for the one day, day when they reclaimed their holy place.

Miraculously, the single jar of oil continued to burn until the messenger returned. The rabbis of the Talmud attributed the eight days of Hanukkah to the miracle of this single jar of oil.

And while the miracle of the burning oil is interesting, what makes Chanukah important, and worth the telling and retelling of the story every year, is that it is the story of being true to your beliefs, and defending your right to be different.

There will always be a majority who look or think differently from you or from your neighbor, and who might want to try to make you be just like them.

The Maccabees, and the story of Chanukah remind us of the importance of defending your right to be who you are and live according to your deepest values, even if the people and the culture around you are different.

(Light the Menorah for day 6)

SONG: Light One Candle” (by Peter Yarrow)

Chorus: Don’t let the light go out, it’s lasted for so many years. Don’t let the light go out, let it shine through our love and our tears.




OFFERTORY: “What Child is This?” (arr. Tom K., MUUC member)


Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)

Last week we set up our little crèche, remembering the characters in the Christmas story. There was Mary, the mother, Joseph, the father, and Jesus, the baby. There were animals who came with shepherds to see this thing that had happened, and there were three wise people, who came to honor the child, bringing him gifts. Those were the characters, but they were all part of a story. An amazing story that has so captured our hearts and imagination that we tell it over and over again each year.

In its deeply human and compelling sense, it is a story about journeys, about life taking us places we had not expected. It is about risk, about taking a chance, choosing the unknown and learning to embrace the surprises, often unpleasant or uncomfortable surprises, because within them, is also the magic and sparkle of life.

Our story starts with a surprise. Long before the journey to Bethlehem, Mary was visited by an angel who told her she would have a child. That was a surprise. She didn’t want to hear that. She had other plans. Like, to get married first. But that was not how it was going to be. Honestly, she was terrified. I’m not making this up. It says right there in the Bible, that the angel had to calm her down. “Be not afraid”, the angel says to Mary. The angel assured her that she had been favored by God, that it was a blessing (it surely didn’t feel like one). So Mary said yes, and then went to visit with her cousin Elizabeth who was also surprised to be expecting a baby. Together they could support each other while they figured these things out. It was confusing, but while she was hanging out with Elizabeth, getting excited about their babies to be, Mary got with the program, and said an authentic yes to the adventure, even though she had no idea where it would take her. The song she sang when she finally accepted what was happening, with anticipation and joy is called the Magnificat, and in it she speaks of how wonderful God is who has chosen her for this honor and this adventure.

Excited and happy, she returns to Joseph, who himself had had to struggle to say yes to this baby on the way that he had not expected. With a new and different life now ahead of them, they pack themselves up to travel all the way to Bethlehem, trusting that somehow a way will be found to make this all work, and come together. No whining. No complaining. With probably a little resignation and a lot of curiosity they gathered their things and set out to follow the road and the future that was opening before them.

CHORAL ANTHEM: “One More Redeemer “ (by Elizabeth Alexander)


Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson (copyright)

You know what happened. They trundled on, Mary and Joseph, until they found a barn in which they could stay. It was crowded in Bethlehem. No rooms at the inn. So they made themselves a place in the barn, where it was warm from animals, and there was soft straw from which they could make their beds. And that night, after all that travel, Mary had the baby, Jesus. As the story goes, a star appeared in the night sky, bright and bold, right over where the little family cuddled in the barn.

The shepherds were out with their sheep. They saw the star, and they were dazzled by it – and intrigued. They were supposed to be watching over their flocks that night, but instead, they created what was probably the first Christmas parade. The shepherds and their animals slowly drifted over the hills toward where the star was shining in the sky, until they came to the barn, with the little family inside. They didn’t know what they were seeing, or why they were there. They only knew that this was something special, and they were getting to be there and be a part of it.

Maybe that has happened to you. That you heard about something happening, or about to happen, and you went. You weren’t sure what it was going to be, or why it felt important to go, but somehow it did, and you went, and you were right- something special happened and you had gotten to be a part of it, a part of some story that went on and on. Maybe you tell that story still.

CHORAL ANTHEM: “Star of Wonder” (Terre Roche)

READING: Meditation on Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (adapted from Edward Harris)

John P: What can we say about Rudolph?

Rebecca M: He was excluded by other reindeer. They did not let him play with them. They made fun of him and his red nose. It is possible that they hurt poor Rudolph. He was on the outside.

John P: The other reindeer had a special relationship with Santa Claus. They were the elite: Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Comet, Blitzen, fine names, sturdy names, bespeaking solidarity, stability, education, training, ability, access to the very best. These reindeer were strong and fast.

Rebecca M: Rudolph was smaller and his only distinctive feature was a shiny red nose. It seemed to have a glow about it.

John P: It made the young Rudolph a figure of fun. “See Rudolph the Red-Nosed. Ha! Ha! What’s it like to have a Christmas lightbulb on your face?”, they’d say.

Rebecca M: He may have been content to be red-nosed by himself. He probably muttered more than once, “I don’t care. Let them have all of their fun. I can have fun by myself.”

John P: Did Rudolph wish to be included?

Rebecca M: We don’t know, but probably he did. It is the deepest wish of all creatures to belong and be accepted.

John P: So what happened?

Rebecca M: One foggy Christmas Eve, Santa realized he needed Rudolph’s help. Rudolph could lead them through the dark with his special, ugly, shiny, red nose. It was this nose, his nose that was needed. So Santa goes to little Rudolph and asks him to lead the sleigh. He would be in front of the other reindeer. Because their mission of getting Christmas to the boys and girls of the world was so important, it became necessary to rethink how they did things in the past.

John P: When Rudolph was asked, what did he say?

Rebecca M: Well, we don’t know; it’s not recorded. But we do know he did not say: “I can’t. I’m too little.”

John P: He didn’t say, “Me? The others always make fun of me.”

Rebecca M: He didn’t say, “Now you ask me, I’ve got something else to do. It isn’t fair.”

John P: He didn’t say spitefully, “Get somebody else. Let Dancer do it.”

Rebecca M: He didn’t say, “I hope you crash, you and all the others.”

John P: So we have a classic story of the insiders excluding the newcomer and making fun of his special traits. It happens all of the time in schoolrooms, playing fields, classes, society, and, yes, churches.

Rebecca M: We say: “They just don’t have it. And if they do, well, we got here first and don’t have to let them in our group, our company, our church, our country club, our political party, or our games.” But even after Rudolph had experienced being excluded, he said “yes.” He could have said “no,” but he didn’t. He led the sleigh through. He did the hard job.

John P: What does the little story mean? What can it teach us?

Rebecca M: Anybody can serve;

John P: We need everyone to be part of the team;

 Rebecca M: The mission is more important than personalities;

John P: We all have our own gifts and special contributions to make

Rebecca M: There are perhaps others. (Can you think of some?) Remember them when you hear the song.

CONGREGATIONAL SONG: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)”

CHORAL ANTHEM: “The Work of Christmas” (Elizabeth Norton)

CONGREGATIONAL SONG: “This Little Light of Mine” (African-American folk song)

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.

CHORAL BENEDICTION: “Let Us Go Out” (Pam Blevins Hinkle)


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: “Joy to the World” (arr. Dave Brubeck)

(So that those who choose to stay and listen to the Postlude can hear it well,

we ask those who choose to leave to do so quietly.)

Participants in todays Music Sunday were:

Minister: Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson

Affiliated Community Minister: Rev. Jay Libby

Music Director: Tara Tresner-Kirsch

Worship Lay Leader: Patricia F.

Ushers: Adrienne H. and Joyce R.

Coffee Hosts: Mari and Sammy M.

Greeter: Nancy N.

Guest Musicians:

Organist/Pianist: Paul R.

Brass Quartet: Austin F. and John P., trumpets; Tom K. and Dominic T., euphonium

Song Leader: Clio Moock

Guitarist: Alastair Moock

Adult Choir: Martha B., Cindy C., Joan C., Karen G., Randall G., Beth H., Mary H., Rebecca M., Jeff M., John P., Mary Lou S., Josh S., Jim T., Sandy T., and Bran Z.