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In his Christmas Message, United Church of Christ General Minister and President the Rev. John C. Dorhauer invites all in the wider church to commit to making sure that ‘Love Wins’, no matter the season.
I greet you all in the name of our Risen Savior.
Merry Christmas to each and all!
In this last year the United Church of Christ has been asking what it means to share a common purpose: “to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength; and our neighbor as ourselves.”
It was Jesus who taught us what love of God incarnated looked like. We are his disciples. Our own devotion to God and to Jesus manifests itself in our love for others. Jesus once was asked, “When did we see you hungry and feed you; or naked and clothe you?” His answer was not only tenderly beautiful, it was fully instructive: “Whatsoever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.”
Therefore, as a means of taking our purpose to love God seriously the United Church of Christ has entered into a season of what we are calling our 3 Great Loves: love of children (“bring them unto me, for to such as these belongs the Kindom of God); love of neighbor (“…whom you shall love as you love yourself”); and love of creation (“when I consider Your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you have made — who are we that you are mindful of us? Yet you have made us little lower than the gods, and entrusted to us care over the work of your hands.”).
What better time than this season to commit to our own acts of love for God’s children, our neighbor, and the handiwork of God’s vast imagination — our mother Earth?
In this past year, I have borne witness to what your own commitments to love incarnated look like. I have seen your acts of kindness and compassion change lives.
In Maine, I sat in a church/restaurant where once a week members present a fine dining experience to about 85 homeless residents. In Colombia, I met with peace activists who serve as our co-mission partners and who worked with the government and rebel factions to negotiate a peace settlement that has helped end the longest armed conflict on the globe. In Italy, I met with Reform partners who daily receive refugees from Africa landing on their shores in search of food and freedom. And in Standing Rock we demonstrated with first nation peoples for water rights.
This baby Jesus we will soon celebrate the birth of inspires in all of us an impulse to love. Borne of God’s love for us, we extend that love daily to those most in need of our acts of compassion and kindness. Our own lives are daily transformed by the kindness and compassion of others.
This Christmas, love wins.
May the joy of this season inspire you to know the love of God, incarnated once in Jesus and today in your acts of love — of children, to neighbor, and for creation.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Rev. John C. Dorhauer
Earlier this year I went cold turkey and gave up on caffeine. Seven weeks without coffee, the entire Lent season from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. The start was rocky and painful, eventually I adjusted. But guess what: A few months later I was totally back on with my coffee habit. It started out slowly. At first I did not drink two pots of drip coffee anymore but just a few shots of espresso twice a day. Then came multiple situations where there wasn’t any espresso, so I went back to drip coffee as well. By now I needed my regular fixes again.
This ended last Sunday. I reminded myself that Advent, just like Lent traditionally is a season of fasting. The two major Christ holidays – Easter and Christmas – each have their own preparatory fast season leading up to them. That’s why we have all these goodies in December. The four weeks leading up to Christmas used to be as strict a fast as the seven weeks leading up to Easter. People weren’t allowed to eat except one tiny meal of bread after dark. And they made sure to make it count. That’s where ginger bread originated.
Pretty soon the originally scarce nutritional boost of the fast turned into a seasonal treat. The bread got sweeter over timer. It got covered in chocolate. It got accompanied by all other kinds of baked goods and voila the indulgence escalated just like my coffee habit. From an innocent shot of espresso to thousands of sugary and buttery calories the original fast is but a distant memory.
To make a long history short: I am giving up caffeine for Advent this year. And I invite you to find something that you can do differently this time of year. Any habit change is good. It doesn’t matter whether you give up something or add something to your routine. Any intentional change helps to focus on the coming of Christ regardless of time of the year. Don’t get me wrong: I will not pass on any goodies, I just won’t have coffee with them.
As a pastor I get to visit all kinds of groups and learn what they do. The other day I went to a group who call themselves “mature adults” – dozens of people who get together for an afternoon of games. That afternoon two ladies introduced me to Farkle. All the other tables were playing different versions of dominoes. One of the dominoes tables raised a good question:
Does God help you with dominoes?
I had to leave and I did not want to rush the answer. That is why I punted to the time of this writing. So the very short answer is YES!
God helps you with dominoes: Look at you! God called you out of the house this afternoon. God said get out and don’t worry about dusting or dishes. God wants you to be connected this afternoon and have a good time with people you enjoy being around. God uses dominoes to help you not be home alone. God uses dominoes to help you bring joy to others.
In classic Western movies and children’s games cowboys are the good guys with revolvers in their hands. Indians with bows and arrows are the bad guys who are after your scalp. Thanksgiving is one of the few stories that interrupts that image. Here the natives are good because they help the newcomers. There are other stories where Native Americans have positive images: the love story of Pocahontas or the image of the noble savage who is so civilized and gentle to animals and the natural environment that he becomes a romanticized role model.
One thing that strikes me is that all these stories, positive or negative live off a stark contrast and an oversimplified dualism. Good versus bad, us versus them, white versus colored, civilized versus savage. I would love to think things have changed. But I guess this pattern is too tempting to give up. America continues to be divided between native and immigrant, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, urban and rural, liberal and conservative, turkey or ham on the Thanksgiving table.
The world has always been divided. That is part of human nature. It is the original sin. The emblem of the United Church of Christ recognizes this reality by displaying the globe with lines cutting across the orb. God’s children live divided into different nations and religions. From that divided world rises the cross. It is a symbol that Christ has suffered as one of the least of us, an outcast among outcasts, a Jewish radical crucified by the Roman Empire, a Native American speaking up against occupation, a pilgrim trying to establish a safe haven. The crown on top reminds the church that Christ reigns. That is what the last Sunday of the liturgical year is all about: The reign of Christ. Your nationality, your religion, your education, your wealth, your political leanings, none of that has the final say. None of that is supposed to govern how you live your life, but the person of Jesus Christ. The cross reveals that all the labels that divide us are false idols. This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for diversity and nuanced conversations.
On November 28 and December 5, 2017 family ministry will host two presentations on Alzheimer’s Disease. Everyone is welcome to learn more about the challenges of living with dementia. The events go from 10 am to 12 noon and light refreshments will be served.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for supporting the caregivers and family of people who have dementia:
Keep in Touch
Cards, calls, and visits to the family are always appreciated.
Do Little Things
Cook and drop off a freezable meal. Ask the family members if you can pick up something for them while you run errands. Surprise the family with gift certificate for a dinner out and offer to help arrange care for their loved one for that evening.
Care For and About the Family Caregiver
Family caregivers are easily depleted, overwhelmed and often feel alone. Let them know they are important to you, not just as caregivers, but also as themselves.
Remember All Family Members
Alzheimer’s affects all family members. They may not seek out help because many families feel they should be able to “handle it” alone. Let them know that there is a spiritual community there for support and help.
Give Them a Break
Spiritual community members can offer to give the caregiver ‘a rest’ by staying with the person who has Alzheimer’s; the caregiver can get out of the house for a couple of hours of private time.
Ask the Family for a To-Do List
Family caregivers could often use a little help with chores like yard work, car repairs, grocery shopping and the like.
Learn about community resources and how to help the family find appropriate help for their loved one.
Offer a Change of Scenery
Invite the family to community activities that will allow them to see familiar faces and stay connected to the spiritual community such as festivals and breakfasts.
Families facing Alzheimer’s may just need someone to talk to about their feelings and needs. You do not have to fix the problem for them — rather offer support and comfort until they feel better.