Thanksgiving through New Year is a painful season for those who are struggling. Our culture is focused on bustling activity, consumption, sentimental self-indulgence, and fantasies of holiday happiness. Our churches — at their best — are focused on deeper levels of compassion, joy, hope, and peace. Who remembers those of us who are hurting?
Each of us will experience holidays that are hard, if we haven’t already or are not in that place now. The causes are myriad: the loss of a loved one, health issues, marital or family strife, financial hardship, unemployment, depression ….
Recognizing that this season isn’t easy for many, Pilgrim Church will ease gently into the Advent-Christmas season on Sunday, November 29, 10:00 a.m. We will “hang the greens,” but will reflect upon the scriptures and season with deep sensitivity, and sing Advent carols and hymns that acknowledge our longing for healing, peace, and hope.
If this holiday season looms for you, let this service minister to you. If you know of someone who may find this service healing and comforting, please invite them to join you; offer to pick them up, if they like — it can be easier than venturing out on one’s own when one is already feeling a burden. Together, we will ease gently into this next season.
With wise and openhearted people of many faiths and no religious faith, we too grieve with Paris, with Beirut, with Russia, and all places where ISIS / ISIL / DASH has wreaked horrendous death and violence against persons simply for not being one with them. We join the cry for justice, a healing of the nations, a new hope for those caught in cycles of violence. And while we feel anger and fear, we refuse to capitulate to them, and choose instead the path of wisdom and hope.
The following is excerpted from a joint letter from the leadership of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ with whom we work closely in Global Ministries (see full text here):
“An unfortunate consequence of these attacks is the strident rhetoric of many politicians—including United States mayors, governors, and members of Congress—that effectively calls for the closing of the door and borders to innocent victims of the war in Syria. The Syrian war is the worst humanitarian crisis of our generation, and it has no resolution in sight. More than half the Syrian population has been forcibly displaced from their homes, and more than four million Syrians are now refugees in neighboring Middle Eastern countries and Europe. Over half of Syrian refugees are children. The people of Syria did not choose such horrific suffering. The “Islamic State” and the Asad regime are now the main visible protagonists, but they are surely not the only parties….
“We are appalled by the punitive and discriminatory rhetoric and actions by many political leaders to restrict and deny the admission of Syrian refugees because they are Syrian, or because they are Muslim. Such attitudes are contrary to our understanding of our nation’s values; and to our reading of our sacred scriptures. Such restrictions and limitations only make the displaced Syrian population doubly victimized: victims of the violence of war, and victims of the violence of hatred and bigotry.
“We aspire to something greater than this. We celebrate the human community. We recognize evil in the world, but the answer is not to shut out whole populations collectively; we know that each and every one of us could be excluded based on some aspect of identity. Refugees are already the most heavily scrutinized entrants to our nation, subjected to multiple and repeated security screenings. Such safeguards are essential, should be adequately supported, and should be efficiently managed. The US should continue offering welcome to the world’s most vulnerable peoples, including refugees from Syria.”
I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”—Matthew 25:36-40