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At Christmas, Love Wins

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

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What are you giving up for Advent?

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.