12/26/21 Kwanzaa Service

Posted on : Dec 24th, 2021 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

We are back in the Sanctuary at 11am on Sunday Mornings!!!! Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide the worship experience on zoom, but it is our hope to record on the church Facebook page. You can access the service live streamed from the sanctuary at https://www.facebook.com/WestHollywoodUCC. If you are not able to attend worship in person, we ask for your patience and understanding as we do our best to link to our FB page.

It’s all about giving

As I reflect on the meaning of Christmas it was apparent to me, as it might be to you, that the season is all about giving. In the Christian tradition, we emphasize the birth of Christ, the Christ child, the baby boy born in a manger. Traditionally, people believe that Jesus is God incarnate while others would argue that Jesus is a representative of God, sent to accomplish the mission of reconciling the world to God and to bring about the Kin-dom of God here on earth.

Whatever perspective we choose, it is certain that this holiday is recognized around the world with great fanfare, celebrations, festivals, and worship services. For others, it is a time of sorrow, depression, abandonment, pain, and despair. Instead of reflecting on the birth of a baby, people focus on the death of a loved one. Instead of preparing for a great feast, others are wandering the streets looking in garbage cans for any kind of food. Instead of decorating the Christmas tree and decking the halls with holly, our homeless and houseless siblings are sleeping under trees and on the streets gazing up at all the lights and decorations from their tents and vehicles full of their personal belongings. With all these truths in mind, it can be challenging to be in a celebratory mood, or to focus on joy and celebrations. Balance is the key to living in this world and finding solace amid chaos, tragedy, and injustice.

You might be surprised to know that symbols and rituals that we practice today as Christians, preparing for Christmas were common in Folk religions [also known as paganism or polytheistic religions] including, Native American religions, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Such religions believe in multiple Gods and deities. Christianity teaches that there is one God, one faith and one baptism – also known as monotheistic teachings and trinitarian doctrine. Pagans observed the “festival of the sun” with decorating trees. In Europe, when the practice of setting up evergreen trees originated in pagan times, the practice was associated with the Winter Solstice, around December 21st. Tree decoration was later adopted into Christian practice after the Church set December 25th as the birth of Christ, thereby supplanting the pagan celebration of the solstice.

I don’t know about you, but I find it interesting that we celebrate the birth of a Jew, Jesus Christ, on a Christian holiday and Jews do not celebrate or believe in Christmas as a religious event. Yes, some Jews observe Christmas as a secular festival celebrated along with Hanukkah. [Festival of lights or a time of Dedication]

There are two different accounts of the birth of Christ. In the book of Matthew and Luke the 2nd chapters, Jesus is born to a virgin and the Holy Spirit impregnates Mary. But there are subtle differences in the two stories. In Matthew there are Emperors and Kings and people of immense importance involved in the birth of Christ. King Herod, the Magi [a class of learned people, experts in science and in the interpretation of dreams.] They were also known as “magicians,” having extraordinary knowledge in astronomy. Some were high priest; they had political and academic influence. And so, Matthew’s account paints a different landscape for the birth of Jesus, surrounded by important people, trying to find this new King who would lead the people of Israel. After the Magi found Jesus, they opened their treasure chest and offered him gifts, such as gold, frankincense, and myrrh. [Quite befitting for a King.]

However, Luke’s account of the birth of Christ is not one of a King but as the Savior, the Messiah, [God with us]. The people involved in Luke’s account are not politicians, Kings, or wise men with extraordinary knowledge in science and academics. They were shepherds living in the fields and the angels of the lord. Here the Christ child is among animals in a farm like setting. In Luke’s version, there are no extravagant gifts except praise and thanksgiving to God.

You and I get to choose how we want to see Christ. As a King, from royalty or as Savior, born in humble beginnings; surrounded by shepherds, angels, and animals on a farm. Of course, we can always choose both/and instead of the either/or.

In any case, the significance of the two accounts is the giving. For Christians it is the continuation of God being the giver and sustainer of all life, God giving God’s Son in the person of Jesus Christ, the Magi giving extraordinary gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the shepherds giving praise and thanksgiving and, Christ giving his life. Christmas is all about giving.

I give thanks to God for you; I am thankful that throughout a year of covid restrictions, you hung-in there with me. I give thanks that you continued to love and support your church through the giving of your time, talent, and treasure. I am giving thanks for your willingness to honor the past, embrace the present and visualize the future as the beloved community. I am thankful for our staff and volunteers who continue to honor God with your gifts.

May the spirit of Christ surround you through these uncertain times. May the light of Christ dwell in your hearts and minds as we welcome the new year. For You are a glorious stream of lights that cannot be hidden. Each of you is a designer original, one of a kind! Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and blessings to you and your families as we celebrate a new year!!!

 

Pastor Janice Steele

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