• The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

The Mood of Christmas Service | December 5, 2021

Reverend Dr. Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister

Reverend Dr. Kathryn L. Benton, Co-Minister

Dr. Carl Blake, Director of Music

Reverend Dr. Martin Todd Allen, Song Leader


Prelude | Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by Johann Sebastian Bach

Dr. Carl Blake


Sacred Reading | Isaiah 9: 2, 6&7

Dr. Kathryn Benton

(2) The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light:

they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them

hath the light shined


(6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the

government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be

called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting

Father, The Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government

and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David,

and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment

and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the

Lord of hosts will perform this.


Sacred Reading | Christmas Is Waiting to Be Born by Howard Thurman

Dr. Dorsey Blake

Where refugees seek deliverance that never comes,

And the heart consumes itself, if it would live,

Where little children age before their time,

And life wears down the edges of the mind,

Where the old man sits with mind grown cold,

While bones and sinew, blood and cell, go slowly down to death,

Where fear companions each day’s life, And Perfect Love seems long delayed.

Christmas is waiting to be born:

In you, in me, in all of humankind.



Procession | Jesus, A Light of the World

Congregation


Sacred Reading | Let Christmas Come by Leona Sansom

Rev. Elena Rose Vera and Ari Thompson


Let Christmas come

to the forsaken and downtrodden

where life is flat and rigid

and arduous day follows arduous day,

where futures seem bent to earthward.


Let Christmas come

to those who lives are feckless

and have lost the desire to live,

to the imprisoned who long for freedom

when there is no freedom in sight,

to the many shelterless who roam

our richly paved city streets

seeking an acceptable life style,

to the beggars who hold out their dingy hands

as we pass them by with averted eyes,

and to those whose days are spent seeking food,

Let Christmas come to the lost and the hungry


Let Christmas come

to those whose minds are tight and cannot see

that all human blood comes from one common ancient fount,

to homes that have ceased to care—

where bickering is constant and abrasive

and to the communities where drug traffic is rife

and guns are more commonplace than books.

For the children—let Christmas come to the children—

children who are abused, alone, frightened and unloved.


Let Christmas come

to the aged who think their lives are useless,

to those who are sick in body and mind,

who are trapped in beds and yesteryears,

the comfortless, bereaved and the lonely,

to the war weary who are tired of blood drenched lands,

to the vain and haughty

and to those who do not believe.

Let Christmas come to them.


Let Christmas come

to our floundering nation.

Let it have one shining

moment of unburdened peace.

And let Christmas come to you and to me.

Let the all abiding love and hope and joy

of Christmas find a home inside each heart,

lifting it from the insipid and the ordinary

and fitting it with celestial fire!


Let Christmas come!

Opening Hymn | #253 O Come All Ye Faithful

Congregation



Sacred Reading | Luke 2:1-14

Carol Verburg

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be

taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took

place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

3 And everyone went to their own town to register.


4 So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,

to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and

line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged

to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there,

the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn,

a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,

because there was no guest room available for them.


8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby,

keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared

to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will

cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior

has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you:

You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”


13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel,

praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”


Hymn | #251 Silent Night, Holy Night

Congregation


Sacred Reading | The Singing of Angels by Howard Thurman

Edmundo Torres Rico


There must be always remaining in everyone's life

some place for the singing of angels -- some place for that

which in itself is breathlessly beautiful and by an inherent

prerogative, throwing all the rest of life into a new and

creative relatedness -- something that gathers up in itself

all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace

areas of living and glows in one bright light of penetrating

beauty and meaning -- then passes.


The commonplace is shot through with new glory -- old burdens

become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old,

old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest

of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear.


Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness

of life, despite all of the harsh discords of life, life is saved

by the singing of angels.



Sacred Reading | De Profundis by Howard Thurman

Shashi Dalal


Oscar Wilde says in his De Profundis, There is always room

in an ignorant man’s mind for a great idea. It is of profoundest

significance to me that the Gospel story, particularly in the Book of Luke,

reveals that the announcement of the birth of Jesus comes first to simple

shepherds who were about their appointed tasks. After theology has

done its work, after the reflective judgments of men from the heights

and lonely retreats of privilege and security have wrought their

perfect patterns, the birth of Jesus remains the symbol of the dignity

and inherent worthfulness of the common person.


Stripped bare of art forms and liturgy, the literal substance of

the story remains, Jesus Christ was born in a stable, he was born of

humble parentage in surroundings that are the common lot of those

who earn their living by the sweat of their brows. Nothing can rob the

common individual of this heritage – when he beholds Jesus, he sees in him

the possibilities of life even for the humblest and a dramatic resolution

of the meaning of God.


If the theme of the angels’ song is to find fulfillment in the

world, it will be through the common individual’s becoming aware of his

true worthfulness and asserting his generic prerogatives as a child of

God. The diplomats, the politicians, the statesmen, the lords of business

and religion will never bring peace in the world.

Violence is the behavior pattern of Power in the modern world, and violence has its own etiquette and ritual, and its own morality.


Prayer Hymn #244 It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Congregation


Prayer | Against the Background of the Year by Howard Thurman

Mike Brown


Our Father, another Christmas has moved within our ken and our

minds linger over many moments that stand stark against the back-

ground of the year –

Moments that filled our cups of fear to the brim, spilling over into

the byways of our mind until there was no longer room even to

know that we were afraid –

Moments of decision, when all that we were seemed to hang in the

balance, waiting for a gentle nudging of Thy Spirit to break

the tie and send us on with a new direction, a new desire,

and new way of life –

Moments of sadness, brought on by the violent collapse or quiet

sagging of a lifetime of dream-building upon which our hopes

and aspirations rested in sure integrity –

Moments of awareness, when our whole landscape was invaded by the

glow of Thy Spirit, making dead things come to newness of life

and old accepted ways turn into radiant shafts of beauteous

light –

Moments of joy mingled with the deadly round of daily living,

when all our inward parts clapped their hands and a new

song was born in our heart –

Moments of peace amid the noisy clang of many conflicts

within and without –

Moments of reassurance when we discovered that our searching

anxieties were groundless without foundation –

Moments of reconciliation, made possible by a deeper understanding

and a greater wisdom –

Moments of renewal, without which life would have been utterly

impossible and for us this day there would no Christmas

and no day –

Moments of praise and thanksgiving when, in one grand sweep,

the sheer wonder and beauty of living overwhelmed us –

Our Father, another Christmas has moved into our ken and

our minds linger over many moments that stand stark against the back-

ground of the year.


Prayer Response | Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Congregation


Music Meditation | Medley of Christmas Songs

Dr. Carl Blake

Meditation | Madonna and Child by Howard Thurman Dr. Kathryn Benton


During the season of Christmas in many art galleries,

in countless homes and churches, and on myriad Christmas cards,

there will be scenes picturing the Madonna and Child. There is a

sense in which the Madonna and Child experience is not the

exclusive possession of any faith or any race. This is not to

gainsay, to underestimate, or to speak irreverently of the far-

reaching significance of the Madonna in Christianity, particularly

in Roman Catholicism. But it is to point out the fact that the

Madonna and Child both in art and religion is a recognition of the

universality of the experience of motherhood as an expression of

the creative and redemptive principle of life. It affirms the

constancy of the idea that life is dynamic and alive — that

death as the final consummation of life is an illusion.


The limitless resources of life are at the disposal of the creative

impulse that fulfills itself most intimately and profoundly in the

experience of the birth of a child. Here the mother becomes one

with the moving energy of existence — in the experience of birth

there is neither time, nor space, nor individuality, nor private

personal existence — she is absorbed in a vast creative moment

upon which the continuity of the race is dependent. The experience

itself knows no race, no culture, no language — it is the trysting place

of woman and the Eternal.


The Madonna and Child in Christianity is profoundly rooted in this

background of universality. Specifically, it dramatizes the birth of a

Jewish baby, under unique circumstances, calling attention to a

destiny in which the whole human race is involved. For many to

whom he is the Savior of mankind, no claim as to his origin is too

great or too lofty. Here is the culmination of a vast expectancy

and the fulfillment of a desperate need. Through the ages the

message of him whose coming is celebrated at Christmastime says

again and again through artists, through liturgy, through music,

through the written and spoken word, through great devotion and

heroic sacrifice, that the destiny of man on earth is a good and

common destiny – that however dark the moment or the days

may be, the redemptive impulse of God is ever present in human life.


But there is something more. The Madonna and Child conception

suggests that the growing edge of human life, the hope of every generation,

is in the birth of the child. The stirring of the child in the womb is the

perennial sign of man's attack on bigotry, blindness, prejudice, greed,

hate, and all the host of diseases that make of man's life a nightmare

and a holocaust.


The Birth of the Child in China, Japan, the Philippines, Russia, India,

America, and all over the world, is the breathless moment like the stillness

of absolute motion, when something new, fresh, whole, may be ushered into

the nations that will be the rallying point for the whole human race to move

in solid phalanx into the city of God, into the Kingdom of Heaven on the earth.

Music | O Holy Night

Dr. Martin Todd Allen




Offertory/Sacred Reading | Gifts on My Altar by Howard Thurman

Courtney Brown


I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas;

Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine.

The quiet hopes that flood the earnest cargo of my dreams:

The best of all good things for those I love.

A fresh new trust for all whose faith is dim.

The love of life, God’s precious gift in reach of all:

Seeing in each day the seeds of the morrow,

Finding in each struggle the strength of renewal,

Seeking in each person the face of my brother.

I place these gifts on my altar this Christmas;

Gifts that are mine, as the years are mine.


Remarks & Sacred Reading | Christmas Returns by Howard Thurman

Bryan Caston


Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good.

It is the time of lift to the spirit,

When the mind feels its way into the commonplace,

And senses the wonder of simple things: an evergreen tree,

Familiar carols, merry laughter.

It is the time of illumination,

When candles burn, and old dreams

Find their youth again.

It is the time of pause,

When forgotten joys come back to mind, and past

dedications renew their claim.

It is the time of harvest for the heart,

When faith reaches out to mantle all high endeavor,

And love whispers its magic word to everything that breathes.

Christmas returns, as it always does, with its assurance that life is good.


Closing Hymn | #239 Go, Tell It On the Mountain

Congregation




Sending Forth | The Work of Christmas by Howard Thurman

Dr. Dorsey Blake


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 sisters and brothers, To make music in the heart.

Postlude | Gesu Bambino by Pietro Yan/Fred Bock

Dr. Carl Blake


_________________________



With the exception of the Biblical scriptures and the poem, Let Christmas Come by Leona Sansom, all the writings are from Dr. Howard Thurman’s Book, The Mood of Christmas.


Remember, we have in-person worship services at 2041 Larkin Street every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sunday. We have a zoom check-in each 2nd Sunday. The 4th Sunday is unprogrammed and open for personal exploration of the meaning of your life which when shared with our “fellowship” will greatly enhance it.

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