Readings and reflection from Sunshine Cathedral in Second Life on Sunday, December 27, 2015 Christmas
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The Call to Worship
We gather together today as we are
ALL: With both our shadows and our goodness.
We welcome you today to Sunshine Cathedral. Please know that whoever you are and where ever you are on your spiritual journey you bring special gifts to share. And we pray that you will find spiritual nourishment for your journey here.
We gather today on this Sunday after Christmas, gracious and gift-giving God, to continue offering you praise and thanks. For the gift of Jesus to the world, we give thanks. For your continued presence with us through our journey of life, we offer praise. For your promise to reshape and restore our world, we present our worship.
The Call to Worship
Praise God, angels in heaven.
Praise God, shepherds, sages and saints.
ALL: Let all praise and worship God!
Praise God, rushing waters and soaring mountains.
Praise God, rolling hills and sprawling plains.
ALL: Let all praise and worship God!
Praise God, all humankind, the fish of the sea, the beasts of the land, and the birds of the air.
ALL: Let everyone and everything praise and worship God!
O God, as we look at the world around us, it is sometimes hard to imagine the birth of Christ ever happened. Our faith sometimes runs low, even now in the midst of this Christmas season. Hear our earnest desire to receive the child of Bethlehem into our hearts, establishing his teachings as our pattern and guide. Amen
Call to worship and opening prayer (with adaptation) from https://www.hummelstownucc.org/bulletins/bulletin_12282008.pdf
The wisdom of Bob Marley
“One love, one heart, one destiny.”
The wisdom of Arthur Schopenhauer
“Compassion is the basis of morality.”
In these human words God’s voice is heard
All: Thanks be to God
“Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as Christ was forgiving, so you also must be forgiving. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing to God.”
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Welcome to Christmas. We’ve spent the past four weeks preparing ourselves for the birth of the Christ child, preparing ourselves for the birth of hope, peace, joy, and love in our own hearts again. We have put up our decorations and Christmas trees. We have enjoyed the lights on the houses of our neighbors and listen to the music of the season as we shopped for gifts to give our family and friends.
We have passed out the presents from under the tree. They are all open and even though the tree is still up for most of us, the gifts are gone for another year. Even though my heart is full and the warmth of love is all around me, I always feel a little unsettled, a little bit confused really, about where we go from here.
We find ourselves in this liminal space between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The year behind us has ended for all practical purposes. But the New Year hasn’t quite yet begun. I haven’t even begun to work on my resolutions for the coming year. There are taxes to complete and financial paperwork to file. But still I’m in the holiday mode finding it more difficult than usual to get back to the regular work routine.
I want to hang on to Christmas just a little longer. I want to feel the warmth in my heart when I look at the tree, when I listen to the carols. I want to hold on Christmas just a little bit longer. I want to find a way to carry Christmas with me into the New Year. I want to keep this feeling of a full heart. I want to keep compassion alive in my heart. I want the feeling of goodwill to last. I want to feel peace, not just at Christmas time, but all through the year.
I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you that I discovered, for the first time this year, a poem written by the great civil rights leader Howard Thurman. It’s called…
The Work of Christmas
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among our brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.
- Howard Thurman
What a lovely poem that reminds us that our Advent preparation and the joy of Christmas is not just a day or a weekend or a week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Christmas is a frame of mind, a spiritual discipline, a goal to which we aspire. Christmas reminds us of the compassion of Jesus whose life is our pattern for living a good and ethical life.
Jesus went to the temple on the Sabbath and at the High Holy Days. Jesus studied the Torah and knew it well along with the writings of the prophets. But his life was not about empty piety. His life was about love, service, and compassion. His actions brought hope to the hopeless, health to the sick, and a vision for a world of peace to those who could see only hatred and violence.
The work of Christmas is not putting up the lights or bringing in the tree. The work of Christmas is not buying and wrapping the gifts that we give to our friends and family. The work of Christmas is not preparing the festive meal or running the shuttle to and from the airport to fetch our family members.
The work of Christmas is in the days that follow and precede Christmas Day 2015. That work is in every kind word, every deed of compassion, every expression of love, every moment of hope. The work of Christmas calls us to our better selves, to a vision of a world at peace where the hungry are fed, the homeless have shelter, the prisons are emptied, and where love reigns. It is our calling to hold this image in our minds and hearts and work and pray everyday for the realm of God to be realized on earth.
But this is not our work alone to do. We are called to do this work in community. We are called to support one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another. We are not expected to do it all. But we are required to do our part without judging whether our part or another’s part is more or less valuable. We are called to live in an attitude of gratitude as we study the sacred texts and interpret them for our own time.
May we be blessed as we do this work together, one day at a time. The spirit of Christ lives in us and between us in the love of our relationships. Love is stronger than hate, light can overcome the darkness. Our task is to open our hearts to the work of Christmas every day of the year. Amen.
Suggestions for music: