Dear First Congregational Church of Los Angeles:
During this Christmas season, like so many of you, I’m filled with thoughts and feelings. But most of all what I want to say today is that I love you, I care about you, and I always draw inspiration when I see you. I know church is not easy. I know attending church is not easy. But nothing gives me more courage and joy than when I see you on a Sunday morning, and we sing and pray and share together as a community of faith. There’s really no such thing as a “virtual church.” Community is still about showing up. I show up for you. You show up for me. We show up for one another.
I know people are all over the map when it comes to Christmas. Some dread it. Some love it. Some are ready to do battle at the airport! I hope for each of you a season of renewal and love. Reach out to friends. Reach out to family. Open your heart to the simple joys that knock upon your consciousness each day. A carol. A candle. A quiet moment. A Christmas movie or good book. With the birth of Jesus our world experienced a God-Burst, a God-Burst of love and peace and compassion, and just as Jesus found the courage to live into his spiritual journey, so we too are called to do the same. Not merely to be like Jesus, but more importantly, to become truly ourselves.
These next few days will be filled with wonder at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Our Sunday morning service will be filled with joy as we open our hearts to the story of Mary. And then on Christmas Eve we will have three services. Our 5 pm service will be for children and families, though anyone is invited to attend. And then at 8 pm and 11 pm we’ll have candlelight services of Lessons and Carols. The music will be extraordinary. The sanctuary will be beautiful. I look forward to seeing you. I also hope you will invite others to be with you, too.
Thank you, dear friends, for the joy of being your minister. I thank the staff. I thank our lay leaders. I thank those of you who especially reach out to me with words of encouragement. I believe with all my heart that we have a purpose in this great city — to be a place where deeper conversations of life can be engaged, where deeper feelings of community can be experienced, and where deeper actions of compassion and justice can be shared with others. I wish each of you a Merry Christmas. And don’t forget to Take a Breath and open your heart and remember the words of the poet W.H. Auden who wrote years ago, “If on Christmas Day God invites you to dance — then dance!”