I have a distant memory of singing Jingle Bells when I was three years old. It's memorable because of how much I enjoyed singing and how much those listening became slowly irritated. You see it wasn't December, it was July, a hot July day, and my parents and I were riding in a yellow cab in New York City.
My childhood images of NYC in the 1960's are gray: gray sidewalks and gray buildings. As a little child I guess I didn't look up too much to look at the people -- I was too busy hurrying to keep up with my mom and dad as their long legs walked along the city blocks. It was a treat to catch a ride in a cab.
The bright yellow cabs were big inside. A long, deep seat (no seatbelts, then) to slide into. And there were two jump seats; these were round seats that flipped down from the back of the front seat. I loved to sit there because I could wiggle and twirl around on them.
That day I wiggled and twirled and began singing my favorite song. Perhaps I imagined myself to be like one the singers on my parents' favorite show, the Ed Sullivan Show or maybe even Sing Along with Mitch. I don't know how many times I sang through Jingle Bells, but I do remember my father becoming increasingly annoyed -- he must not have been aware of my toddler's aspirations of becoming Rosemary Clooney. And, I believe that even the cab driver asked my dad to get me to stop singing. Jingle Bells made me think of snow which made me feel cooler -- but everyone else was getting hot under the collar. They didn't see images of snow covered streets like I did. So I was told to wait until Christmas to sing that song again.
Waiting for Christmas. Such a long way from a hot summer day.
Counting down to Christmas even seemed long from the start of Advent. At least by then my mother would start reading Christmas stories -- and sing Christmas songs with me.
As a mother, I've sung Christmas songs and read Christmas stories to my children. I've counted down the 24 days of December with them with various types of candy-filled calendars. Each child (and me, too) would get a piece of chocolate after dinner. Then we'd read a story.
This year is a little different. My children are now 26, 24 and 21, with two girlfriends added in, not to mention a little grandson. So there were six Advent calendars to hand out over Thanksgiving weekend. I hope to that they are keeping the Christmas story in their hearts.
Since there is no one of quite the right age for me to share these stories with this year, I am turning to you, the friends and family of Gorham Congregational Church. As you have time you may folllow along with a blog version of the Advent countdown. You can count my story as the first installment, Advent 1, a day late.
Now, here's for Advent 2:
The first chapter of Luke begins:
Dedication to Theophilus
Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.
(the image above is the central tryptich from the Ghent Altarpiece depicting the Anunciation of Mary. You learn more about it here on Wikipedia.)
We turn to these verses from Luke 1:26-27
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
You can read the rest of Luke 1 on Bible Gateway.
I'm so glad that you've joined me here today. I'll be back tomorrow.
Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.....
The November Newsletter is -- finally -- published, albeit four days late. As usual I had good intentions of being timely; this month I was thwarted by a bad cold (Thanks to the many hugs and kisses shared with my grandson, John).
But I also had difficulty completing the newsletter before falling ill. Looking across our sanctuary on Sunday mornings I’ve seen the pews emptying. Some families are busy with activities. Some church family members have been ill and unable to attend. Others travel.
Just two weeks ago, one spot in our pews became forever empty. June York passed away on October 22; she was 94. As I filled out the November calendar, for the first time I didn’t include her birthday – which would have been on November 18. Our church is blessed by the continuing presence of her family – four generations are part of our history. June brought her husband, Bill, then her children, Bill Jr., Sally, and Betty. Betty and her daughters and granddaughter, Kim and Kelly and Demri, and Sally’s daughter, Shelli, are still here. And Shelli’s family, her husband Paul and their children, Scott, Kyle, Taylor and Libby, are still here. It was always a joy to see their extensive family attending church together. Together they fill well more than one pew, and, thus, June’s legacy of faith continues with us. I look forward to a fifth generation coming through our doors. But, for now, we grieve with her family, for her passing leaves a void that will not be filled.
As much as empty pews, there are other voids in our church life. Some created by the loss of those we care for, as well as by the passage of time. It is all this that can make writing the church news difficult.
Now, l say my prayers, asking for solace and comfort for June York’s family and friends, asking for time for them to grieve, to share, and to feel the love of our church and God embrace them at this time.
This Friday, February 5 there will be a Family Game Night; all are invited for a fun evening from 6 to 8 p.m. Bring a favorite game or come and join in a game of Settlers of Cataan, Cribbage, or Guess Who. Who knows who you'll meet or what you'll learn. A great time is guaranteed!
Tomorrow at 10 a.m. Palm Sunday worship begins.
With it begins the journey from colt to cross as we remember Jesus last days.
Please join us in worship this week.
Below is poem written by pastor-poet Rev. Maren Tirabassi, the story from Mark 11: 1-6
11 When they were approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden; untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 They went away and found a colt tied near a door, outside in the street. As they were untying it, 5 some of the bystanders said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 They told them what Jesus had said; and they allowed them to take it. (NRSV)
Here is Maren's 21st century version that brings us into the story.
for those sent to un-tie donkeys...
First, untie the donkey
the one that’s standing at the gate
waiting to be untied --
from some sorrow or some guilt,
from somebody else’s judgment --
too young for the ride or too old,
too much ink on the skin,
Parkinson’s in the hands,
pregnant in the belly.
First, untie the donkey,
the one that’s standing at the gate
waiting to be untied –
from some abusive relationship
or some really intricate self-made knots,
because what binds
always pretends to be a blessing.
This is just the donkey God wants
for the ride –
this burro with no documents,
or others not-yet-ridden
because they are --
So, first untie the donkey –
this one --
the one who needs a parade,
the one willing to carry both joy
and the premonition of cross,
the one embracing
a day of song and danger,
fetlock deep in palms,
and a life that will echo, Hosanna.
MarenTirabassi on Mark 11:1-6
Bible Study is held each Wednesday afternoon from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
However, there will be no Bible Study on Ash Wednesday, February 18.
Pastor William Jones will be leading Bible Study during Lent, on The Prayers of Jesus, from February 25 through April 1. This will be a look at the prayers Jesus gave his disciples. Please join us.
It's been so cold, such bitter cold, in northern New Hampshire. Winds blew so hard this weekend that the house creaked in ways I hadn't heard before. It is in bleak mid-winter that I know that spring will come, I know because I want it so very much.
I know that spring will come because Lent is beginning. Lent takes me by the hand reassuring me that no matter the tribulations we will go through this together, God, Jesus and I. The cold and snow and ice will be with us for a few more weeks. The darkness of Good Friday will come upon us. And the light of Easter Sunday will melt the ice and cold in my thoughts. And joyous, bright, warm, green spring will come.
Let us begin the journey of Lent together. Pastor William Jones will lead us in worship on Ash Wednesday, February 18 at 7:00 p.m. Please be with us.
This painting, Blessing the Dust, is from artist Jan. L. Richardson. It comes from website, The Painted Prayerbook, as does this poem:
Blessing the Dust A Blessing for Ash Wednesday
All those days
you felt like dust,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
NHC UCC Prepared To Serve Annual Education Conference Saturday, February 21 at Pembroke Academy, Pembroke, NH
This annual training education and training event is designed for all church members and attenders. You can see what is being this year by viewing the course catalog online at: Prepared to Serve.
You can also register online, too. Early Bird Registration is $40 per person which includes the costs of resources, breakfast, lunch, and refreshments.
Day of Registration will be $50 at the door.
Let' s get together during Coffee Hour to discuss ride sharing to Pembroke!
The 2015 Annual Meeting was held this past Sunday, January 26. it began after worship and a delicious lunch (prepared by Bruce Lary).
To read the Gorham Congregational Church Report of the year 2014, just go the link (in the left side column) for the Annual Report.
It is in full color; it includes the reports from the board and committees; color photos recall the events of the past year.
On Sunday, December 21, worship begins at 10 o’clock in the morning. This is the fourth, and final, Sunday in Advent, when the candle representing Love is lit in the Advent wreath.
That same morning, the church school children will be performing A Night in Bethlehem under the direction of their church school teacher, Alison Bernier. Mary, Joseph, kings and shepherds will be on hand to tell the story.
Christmas Eve is this Wednesday, December 24. And the Candlelight Service will at be at 7 o’clock in the evening. During children's time a new Christmas story will be shared, The Groundhog at the Manger.
We do hope you can join us as we celebrate Christ's birth.