Friday, November 30, 2012

Advent

Advent is a time of looking forward.  Traditionally it is celebrated as "looking forward to Christmas."  In my family, we lit the five candles of the advent wreath every Christmas.  Some families remember the classic advent calendars with a door or a pocket filled with little treats and the kids get one treat per day leading up to Christmas.  But it is also a time to stop - just for a moment - and be together as a family in a time when we are often pulled in many different directions.

In the past First Unitarian has celebrated Advent in a variety of ways, first offering traditional calendars to families and later offering creative calendars full of family activities that form a wreath with stickers.

I have created a completely different kind of Advent calendar to share with you this year.  It is a simple paper calendar, though it is double-sided (or two paged) because it is so full.  On this calendar, I have included the dates and quotes to correspond with many different Festivals of Light.  First there is Chalica, a unique UU candle celebration where rainbow candles are lit for each principle.  Then Hanukkah, the Jewish celebration of the extension of light.  The traditional Advent candles for Christmas are included.  Some general quotes about winter lead up to the Winter Solstice, which has always been about the rebirth of light in the darkness.  The calendar concludes with Kwanzaa, a cultural celebration of light.


It is my plan with my family to light a candle each night during this advent month and to read the quote.  Then we will either cross it off or put a sticker on it.  If we have time and inclination, we will talk about it or do some sort of activity related to it, but at the very minimum we will light our candle and read the quote.  Just for this moment, we will allow the light to penetrate the darkness.  Just for this moment, we will allow the wisdom sink in.  Just in this moment of the busy holiday season, we will be still, together as a family.  We may light special candles (rainbow candles for Chalica, the menorah, our Yule log), or we may just light a single candle every time.

I hope your family will consider doing this as well.  We will have printed versions of the Advent calendar available on Sunday, and it is also available online at:


https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9WMPj_SmaHuZ3I0QzJhVzNvbHc




Additionally, we will be lighting the Advent candles during Sunday worship at First Unitarian.  Traditionally, we have had families say a few words about the topic and light the candles together.  We need families to volunteer for this honor.  Please let me know as soon as possible if your family can do this and which date you would like:
  • December 2 - HOPE
  • December 9 - LOVE
  • December 16 - JOY
  • December 23 - PEACE

And may the spirit of light shine upon you this holiday season!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Rainbow of Possibilities

The following is a story I shared with the children as part of our Thanksgiving Bread Communion worship on November 25, 2012.  It corresponds with a sermon, The Threshing Place, which I have posted here.

I want to share with you a true story.
 
When I was born, the first thing my dad said about me was “Look at all that hair!” 











Over the years I have had lots of different hairstyles. 

Sometimes I had curly hair.
 


Sometimes I had really long hair.  
 

Sometimes short.  
  

And sometimes in different colors.  I really liked having purple hair.  

And one time, I actually dyed my hair into a rainbow.
 











  
Well, just two months ago, I found out that my body has a disease called cancer.  Do any of you know someone who has cancer?  And the best way my doctors knew how to treat the cancer is by giving me a strong medicine called chemotherapy.  This particular medicine helps to get rid of the disease, but it also sometimes makes me feel tired or sick, and it also changes my hair.  For the first time in my life, I have no hair.

(In person, I took off my wig to show my bald head.  But here on the internet, I'll just share with you a picture of me in all my bald glory... standing with my bald dad, uncles and cousin... it runs in the family.)
 

At first I was a little bit scared about losing my hair.  I thought I would look different and people might treat me differently. 

But when I was talking to my little girl, Ariana, about it, she reminded me that when she was a baby she didn’t have any hair.  And that I would still be her mommy, with or without hair.  What really mattered was what I have inside here (point to head) and inside here (inside heart).


 
I had to let go of one way of being, but I found a whole rainbow of possibilities… I can wear a wig or a hat.  My favorite thing to wear is a really soft scarf.  Feel how soft this is.   

Sometimes I can wear nothing at all… but that can get a little bit cold.

So, the point of my story is that there are a lot of ways to look at it when things don’t happen like we expect.  I could cry or get upset because the medicine made my hair fall out.  Or I can have fun with my rainbow of possibilities.
 
I have one more rainbow to show you.  My mom and dad’s friends made a quilt for me of prayers – it looks like a rainbow too.  There are lots of little strings on the quilt, and people tied knots in the strings as prayers. 

It’s a little thing to tie a knot, but it gives people a chance to take a moment to remember and send positive energy.  I like to tie the prayer knots, too.  These prayers help me remember that there are a lot of people out there who are also hurting and sick or learning how to deal with things they didn’t expect.  So, if you want, after church you can tie a knot in my rainbow quilt.  Just say a little prayer that I will get better – and that everyone else who is sick will get better, too.  Your prayers are part of the interconnected web of all existence. 



Sunday, November 18, 2012

Christmas Pageant!!!

On Sunday, December 16th many of our children will perform in our annual Christmas Pageant.  Participation is optional, but for a number of our children this is one of the most fun and rewarding traditions of the year.  Children who participate enjoy the feeling of accomplishment through this mixed age event.  Most of all, annual traditions like this that remain relatively unchanged over many, many years hold great meaning and are both joyful and comforting for kids and adults alike. 

The pageant sign ups are now online (click here) or you can sign up on Sunday during fellowship hour (“coffee hour”) after class.
 
The pageant takes the place of the usual Sunday worship service on December 16th.  Children in first through fourth grade are invited to participate in the play as angels or shepherds.  These parts are offered first to fifth and sixth graders: Herod, Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, the innkeeper, and the three wise people.   The narrator parts are offered first to those individuals in 7th and 8th grade.  Those who prefer to continue this year as angels or shepherds, along with the younger children, are always welcome to do so. 

The narrator parts are the sole speaking roles in the play.  We always hold an informal, low-key “try out” to help the play director become familiar with narrator styles.  As has been done in years past, we make final assignments of narrator parts at the “try out.”   Those who wish to play Herod should also plan to attend the “try out.”   Please attend the “try out” after church on Sunday, December 2nd at 11:45, immediately after dismissal from class, if you have signed up as a narrator or as Herod.  If you can’t make it because you are out of town or ill, you can contact me to make alternative arrangements to read for Kris Johnson, the director.

Again, the pageant sign ups are now online (click here) or you can sign up on Sunday during fellowship hour (“coffee hour”) after class.

Children who sign up:

·    Will need to attend rehearsals on Saturday, December 8th, and Saturday, December 15th, from 9:00am to Noon (shepherds and angels from 10:00-noon).  Our rehearsals include time for costume fittings.   During downtime at rehearsals, the children enjoy social opportunities and a chance to do seasonal crafts. 

·    Will also need to come to church by 8:45 am on December 16th for the dress rehearsal followed by pageant performance.

Help With the Christmas Pageant!

Parents and Guardians, thank you so much for your willingness to help with the Christmas pageant.  This annual event is a community effort that requires all of us to pitch in.  Your pageant hours do count toward the total volunteer hours required from you annually.  Parent helpers can also sign up online (click here) or on Sunday.  You can sign up for one day or for multiple days:

·    Kid wranglers help shepherd (pun intended) our young children through rehearsals and the performance.  These people guide the children through the blocking/staging of the performance as this blocking is directed by Kris Johnson, direct the children to costume fittings, assist the children in finding their costumes as needed, and help the children with activities during rehearsal downtime.  We need six wranglers.

·    Holiday Craftspeople set up and assist the children with holiday crafts during rehearsal downtime.  Bring your own ideas (or supplies), or simply come ready to help and we’ll provide the activities (or supplies).   We need two craftspeople at each of our two Saturday rehearsals.

·    Costumers attend the Saturday rehearsals and help the children with costume fittings, do minor alterations as needed when an exact-fit can’t be located (this is in a minority of cases), help locate and keep the costumes organized, make new tinsel garlands or other simple costume accessories as needed.  Only very basic sewing skills are necessary.  We need two or three costumers.

·    Props Assistants come a little early to the rehearsals, particularly the morning of the first rehearsal to help us get out the props and costumes and place them appropriately. 

·    Hair Accessory Masters help the children to get hats, halos, and other accessories securely in place on the day of Pageant, Sunday, December 11th.  These folks need to arrive with the children for dress rehearsal, and should be available until show time.  If you can manage bobby pins, you can do this job!

·    A Director’s Assistant is on hand to assist the director in any way needed at the rehearsals and during the pageant.  

·    Snacks: Bring snacks to our rehearsals and on the morning of the big show.  Can you bring snack on Saturday, December 8th or Saturday, December 15th, or on Sunday, December 16th?   We need just a few snacks per rehearsal.

Note: Snacks will need to be nut free.  Please try to avoid large amounts of heavily processed and overly sweet foods.  Some good snack suggestions include sliced fruit, carrot and celery sticks with dips, pretzels, popcorn, sliced bagels and cream cheese, and cheese and crackers. 100% fruit juices are also popular drinks.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pinocchio Pajama Party

While the parents play at the December Gala, the kids are invited to a
Pinocchio Pajama Party
Saturday, December1

When you wish upon a star...


During the Dinner and Dance Gala, our teens from BYKOTA and YRU2 will lead the kids their own celebration downstairs:

6-7 p.m.
(during the adult Cocktail Hour)
Kids' Dinner - Pizza and snack foods - Parents are encouraged to bring a snack to share, but we'll have the basics covered. Let me know if your children have any special dietary needs we should consider.

7-8:30 p.m.
(during the adult dinner)
Puppet-making and creation of a puppet show.

8:30-11 p.m.
(during the adult Dance)
Quiet star-related activities and watching "Pinocchio," the movies.

Kids should wear their pajamas and bring a pillow and blanket (or sleeping bag) and a stuffed animal from home (but we've got extras here if you forget). The games are designed for kids of all ages. We will have a quiet room available if the kids get tired at any point. And the adults can stay as long as they like, knowing their kids are in a safe space. It's like camping out at church! Parents must stay on site, but kids can attend all or part of the evening. Adult volunteers are needed to help with each shift. Sign your kids up when you buy your tickets to the Dinner or Dance Gala! There is no charge for the Pinocchio Pajama Party.

Any questions should be directed to Lesa McWalters, Youth Ministries Coordinator, at lmcwalters@firstunitarian.com.