The theme of this morning’s service is: The Wisdom of the Pine. Later in the service the children will perform their play, where you’ll learn what wisdom the pine has to impart to all of us.
Prelude: “Oh Christmas Tree” performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodl
Call To Worship:
“You Are The Holiday Miracle” by Gwen Matthews
As December opens up before us, we welcome in the gift of reflection. We turn toward our holiday celebrations and search for common threads of meaning. We begin with Yule, the winter solstice, and we are invited to explore duality, cycles, and seasons, and to witness the Holly King being overcome by the Oak King. Yule reminds us that we all partake in the miracle of renewal.
Hanukkah, the festival of lights, commemorates a time of miracles when the faith of the Jewish people sustained them to reclaim their holy temple and keep the light of the menorah burning for eight days.
Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ humble birth in a manger, offers us to revisit the miracle of birth and the desire to find saviors to heal the scars of humanity.
Here, in our church, you are just as much a holiday miracle as the turning of the earth, as persistence and dedication to a faith, as the creation of each new life. We see the love you give to others, the space you create to hold one another’s joys and sorrows, and the generosity and spirit you entrust to this community.
You are the holiday miracle. This community is one of miracle-makers.
Kindling The Chalice Flame:
Why do we celebrate Christmas? As Unitarian Universalists, most of us believe Jesus was a human being, that he was an inspired spiritual teacher and compelling social revolutionary. Most of us do not believe Jesus was a Divine Savior sent to redeem us from our sins. If Jesus was the child of God, many of us believe he was so only in the way that each human being is a child of the Holy. So, why do we celebrate Christmas?
Because, like all great religious myths that have been told through the ages, this story holds essential spiritual truths. As Ernest H. Sommerfeld once wrote:
We believe that some stories deserve to live forever because of what they tell us of ourselves [and our world]. The angels singing an anthem of peace and goodwill deserve to be heard forever because they are the angels in human hearts. The humble shepherds, who had ears to hear and hearts to receive a message of joy, deserve to live to the end of time. [They remind us of our responsibility to make this world into a better place.] The three wise persons, so faithfully seeking the way of a star, deserve to go in search again each year as long as years shall be, for they are the story of our quest for [what is best in] ourselves [in each other], and in our broken and beautiful world.
Hymn: #1031 Filled with Loving Kindness
May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be filled with loving kindness. May I be well. May I be peaceful and at ease. May I be whole.
Second time: Replace “I” with “you.”
Third time: Replace “I” with “we.”
Message For All Ages: “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” by Gloria Houston
Song of Reflection: “Lean In Toward The Light” by Carrie Newcomer
The Olympia Brown Unitarian Universalist Church is a community of generosity and abundance. Especially now, in this challenging and anxious time, your generosity is what keeps this community as vital as it is.
Each month we share the generosity of our collection with a local partner. Our outreach partner for December is the Health Care Network of Racine County which makes quality medical, dental, and social services available to all county residents.
For more information on how to donate to OBUUC and Racine’s Health Care Network, please visit our church website, obuuc.org.
Offertory: Susan Cooper’s “The Shortest Day” by Barry O’Brien
Invitation to Thought:
A pine tree is a timeless symbol of the holidays for most of us. For all that trees do–provide all life on Earth with oxygen, combat climate change, generate food and shelter, clean the air and soil, foster vibrant ecosystems, etc.–they are undervalued.
I mean, do you ever thank a tree for all it does?
From the outside, trees may seem like static objects. Big, rough trunks and leafy heads that sit there and sway in the wind. Their leaves fall and then they grow back. And that’s that, right?
Well, trees are a lot more intelligent and sociable than you might think.
In fact, researchers have demonstrated that trees have vibrant social networks that operate on one basic principle: harmony. Trees embody selflessness when it comes to providing for humans, but, it turns out, they also happen to be altruistic to one another.
In the vast network of roots that burrow through the soil, trees are talking, checking in on one another and adapting to their environments to help each other thrive.
As trees form in a forest, they grow their branches in ways that help other trees get sunlight.
If a tree gets sick, other trees help nurse that tree back to health by sending it nutrients through their underground root network.
They share immunities, nutrients, water and special sugar solutions.
Trees can also warn one another of incoming danger with electrical signals across a fungal network called the “Wood Wide Web.”
This behavior can encompass an entire forest and allows trees to thrive.
But what does all this mean?
First, it means that the world is far more complex than is often realized. So much is going on outside of the immediate perception of humans. Pausing to reflect on the depth and complexity of life leads to, among other things, a better understanding of why conservation efforts are important.
When trees are just viewed as sources of wood or palm oil, or as nuisances in the way of livestock grazing, then deforestation becomes easier to justify.
When they’re viewed as complex beings that provide so much benefit to the planet–humans in particular–then their widespread destruction becomes less likely.
Second, trees hold lessons for how humans can live.
Trees, rational as they are, realize that helping one another is the best way to achieve their own health and wellbeing. By taking care of fellow trees, they ensure that they will also be taken care of.
This sort of reciprocity and cooperation must be an essential part of human life.
Only if humans work together in the years ahead will the biggest challenges of today be overcome: extreme poverty, hunger, gender equality, climate change, pollution and so on.
Trees will play an indispensable role in helping humans create a better future.
But for all the tangible benefits that trees offer us, the most useful thing they provide may be a lesson: how to work together.
Children’s Play: The Wisdom of the Pine
Closing Hymn: “Where is the Light” by Peter Mayer
Our Benediction this morning is the Children’s Blessing.
We are blessed,
We are blessed by being,
We are blessed by being here,
We are blessed by being here together.
Postlude: “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” performed by Anna Kojovic-Frodl