A View from the Pew: Aging of the Choir

I’ve had a fondness for Christmas cantatas, lessons and carols services, and other performances of sacred Christmas music since I was a boy fidgeting in the third-row pew while my parents rehearsed portions of Handel’s “Messiah.” Our choir this Sunday was as intriguing as their performance was beautiful.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Merry Christmas! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, we have explored what each group was waiting for. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus and, as we celebrate, we remember that Jesus waited for just the right time to enter the world.

Making Room

There was no room for Jesus in crowded Bethlehem, but that did not stop him, and it did not stop God. God became flesh, regardless of the space limitations. Christmas this year comes at a time when millions of people have no room, no home, no space to live in safety, without fear.

Crossroads: The Angel Candle/Candle of Love

Today we light the last purple candle. This candle is the angel candle, or the candle of love. This candle reminds us of the love God has shown us through Jesus.

Formations 12.25.2016: God Is Born and Don’t Own a Car

This week, after a month and some change of waiting, Christ comes. Luke introduces us to the one who brings hope, love, peace, and joy, the one we’ve come to call God, as an infant lying in a feeding trough.

Connections 12.25.2016: Ridiculousness

The whole thing seems ridiculous to me. God Almighty cares enough about this world and the people in it to come down and spend a few years in it and with them. And when God Almighty comes, it’s as a helpless baby who has to be protected, fed, and burped.

Coming, a Prayer for Advent

Come to us, Lord Jesus,
in every purple-patterned life,
every wrap of loving arms
in shivering December.

Helping Each Other Grieve

As well as being a joyous time, Christmas can be difficult for people touched by tragedy or loss in the past year. Grief is isolating. While the rest of the world seems to be celebrating, tragedies years and decades old resurface.

Crossroads: The Shepherd Candle/Candle of Joy

Welcome to the third week of Advent! Advent is a time of preparation, when we wait and prepare for the Christ child. Each week, you will light a new candle as we recognize the things that Christ brings to this world: hope, peace, joy, and love.

Formations 12.18.2016: A Glimpse of Holiness

Angels almost always appear on the biblical scene saying, “Don’t be afraid.” And they are indeed frightening creatures, at least in the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic writings.

Connections 12.18.2016: Father of the Forerunner

Two weeks ago, I encouraged us to put ourselves in Mary’s shoes—to truly feel empathy for her when she heard the news that was both devastating and life changing. Can we do some imagining about Zechariah, too?

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy/Hope

Welcome to the first week of Advent! Advent is a time of preparation, when we wait and prepare for the Christ child. Each week you will light a new candle as we recognize the things that Christ brings to this world: hope, peace, joy, and love.

Formations 12.04.2016: Pace Yourself

I was late coming to Advent. The church of my childhood and youth never observed a season of preparation leading to Christmas day. We were left, then, to “get ready for Christmas” the same way secular people did.

Lent. The Ugly Step-Sister Season.

Lent… It’s not Christmas, that’s for sure. It’s not a season when we’re hanging the holly and lighting the tree, twinkling and throwing gifts around like confetti and singing carols to strangers. It’s not a season that glitters.

Formations 01.03.2016: Baby Names of 2015

Jackson and Sophia are the most popular baby names of 2015, but there are some interesting trends further down the list. According to a USA Today report, the gender-neutral name Royalty is up 90% this year.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Light the three purple candles, the pink candle, and the white candle in the center. Say: “Today we light the white candle, the Christ candle, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

A View from the Pew: What Are We Waiting For?

I wasn’t introduced to Advent as a season of spiritual reflection and anticipation until well into adulthood. But for nearly 20 years now, this season has enriched my spiritual journey leading up to Christmas.

It’s so Hard to be Humble

This past year, I have started a new job, moved to a new town, enrolled my children in a new daycare, and bought a new house. That’s lots of “new”, which has brought with it many opportunities to be completely unsure of what I’m doing.

Crossroads: The Angel Candle or Candle of Peace

Today we light the last purple candle. This candle is the angel candle, or the candle of peace. This candle reminds us of the peace Jesus gives to us. We also light the other two purple candles, candles that remind us that Jesus brought hope and love to the world.

Formations 12.27.2015: Only the Beginning

This December, we reach the 150-year anniversary of when the United States officially ratified and adopted the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Uniform 12.27.2015: A Generous Gift

I have a confession to make. There was a time when I thought Christmas was about me. Now, don’t think I was worse than I was. I knew that Christmas was really about the birth of Jesus.

Christmas Time

When I was a child, I was very confused by the tense of the verb “to be” used in the Christmas hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful.” We’d sing, “With angelic hosts proclaim, Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

An Invitation to Joy

If we relied on Mark, we would have to stretch to get a story worth a Christmas carol. Mark has no shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, no wise men, no Herod.

Crossroads: The Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy

Today we light the pink candle, known as the candle of joy. We also light the candle of hope as well as the candle of love. Today we remember that Jesus is the hope of the world.

Uniform 12.20.2015: What Can I Bring?

Our unit title is “What We Bring to God.” Have you ever thought about that? Often, we focus on what God gives to us. The list is both lengthy and weighty: salvation, grace, a Savior who identifies with us, a Scripture text for guidance, the Earth with all its provisions.

Formations 12.20.2015: A Disturbing Story of Peace

It was a Wednesday-night Bible study in December. I was walking my parishioners through the Christmas story in Luke, making a point of how Jesus entered our world in lowly, unassuming, even harsh surroundings.

Crossroads: The Bethlehem Candle or Candle of Love

Mary and Joseph waited for a miracle to happen for nine months. They knew that Jesus, the Son of God, would change their whole lives. And so they waited with anticipation for Jesus’ birth.

Formations 12.13.2015: Freedom to Hope

Zechariah’s song leads us through the second week of Advent in celebration and hope. But in this Scripture text, Zechariah’s song is almost as important as his months of silence leading up to it.

Crossroads: The Candle of Prophecy/Hope

Welcome to the first week of Advent! Advent is a time of preparation, when we wait and prepare for the Christ child. Each week you will light a new candle as we recognize the things that Christ brings to this world.

A View from the Pew: The Resurrection Applies to Chreasters, Too

The Resurrection is for everyone. Infrequent attendance at worship services does not exclude a person from accessing the hope of the risen Jesus Christ. But for consistent church attenders, high holy days such as Christmas and Easter can create a sense of protective exclusion.

Christmas Card Boxes and Advent Calendar

I always keep my Nativity themed Christmas cards because the children, especially at our school, love to look at them and talk about the Nativity story.

Crossroads: The Christ Candle

Christmas Day has finally come! Christ is born! Today, we light the Christ Candle in the center of our Advent wreath. All the candles glow today. The world is bright and warm.

Catching a Glimpse

The first Christmas comes and goes, and most people don’t notice. Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and a few others catch a glimpse of what is happening, but they’re just a handful.

Pass the Parcel Nativity Story

I wanted a simple, interactive way of telling the Nativity story, as my Sunday group can be a bit lively, so I decided that we would use some of our leftover Christmas cards.

Uniform 12.28.2014: Faith for the Unexpected

One of my favorite movies to watch at Christmas is The Bishop’s Wife. In it, a frazzled bishop, played by David Niven, prays for God’s guidance as he struggles to raise funds for a new cathedral and maintain a healthy relationship with his wife (Loretta Young).

Crossroads: The Candle of Peace/Love – Angels

During the fourth week of Advent, you will light three purple candles and the pink candle. The first two purple candles are the candle of prophecy/hope and the candle of Bethlehem.

As Slow as Christmas

It was late on Christmas Day; the sun had set and my parents and I were somewhere between Yatesville and Barnesville on our way back home after the day-long celebration of Christ’s birth through the eating of food and the exchanging of gifts.

Thrive: The Gift of Acknowledgement – Amy Shorner-Johnson

During the Christmas season, we often talk about loneliness and remembering those who are marginalized, those who might also feel abandoned as they get lost or overlooked.

Formations 12.21.2014: City Rallies around “Ugly” Tree

Yesterday was officially Charlie Brown Day in Reading, Pennsylvania. It all started in November, when the ground was too wet to get a truck close to the Christmas tree the city had already picked out from a nearby farm.

Uniform 12.21.2014: A Shepherd’s Memory

We sat in the grass watching the sky, tired and dirty from a long day. My friend and I propped our staffs on a leaning tree and breathed the cold. The sheep, like white patches of fog, slept around us, quiet.

A View from the Pew: Counting the Choir

I have a confession: for reasons I’m about to explore, each week during worship, I silently count the members of the church choir. Bizarre, I know.

Formations 12.14.2014: Controversies and Hard Feelings

Holiday travel means time with family. For many, such reunions are a welcome opportunity to reconnect with relatives we may not have seen for a year. For some, a visit with folks on different branches of the family tree brings the possibility of disagreements—or even heated arguments.

Uniform 12.14.2014: Communal Noise

Advent is perhaps the most audibly rich time on the Christian calendar. Bells ringing, fires crackling, people singing—the sounds of the season prepare us for Christmas in a way that sights alone cannot.

Crossroads: The Candle of Preparation – Mary and Joseph

This week we light the second candle on the Advent wreath. This candle is often referred to as the Candle of Preparation, or the Bethlehem Candle. As we light the second candle, our focus centers on Mary and Joseph, the earthly parents of Jesus, the Christ child.

Holiday Interrupted

I’ve been busy with the holidays since last week. When the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson was announced, I was picking up extended family from the airport. When a local action took place in my city the next day, I was gathered at my church for our annual Thanksgiving meal and service.

In Pursuit of the Spirit: Picking Our Way Through Advent

Our son, Caleb, will turn three a few days after Christmas this year. For the first two years of his life, we didn’t worry too much about holiday traditions, recognizing that he was too little to understand or remember much.