Christmas is soon upon us. We've been in the season of Advent. The time that Walter Brueggemann describes as a time of preparation "..for the demands of newness that will break the tired patterns of fear in our lives." There is much we fear...war and rumors of war, betrayal, hunger, loneliness, not living up to our personal expectations, illnesses...the list goes on and on and on.
But Christmas is soon upon us and we've cleared the dust of our souls. We've rehearsed what it is to live with peace, hope, joy, and through this we know a glimpse of what it means to live with the love of Christ.
Christmas eve is on Sunday. We will have our regular ten a.m service on Sunday. The 4pm Christmas eve service will be a joyful service with lots of activity including children. The 8pm service will be a traditional Christmas eve service of scripture, song, and prayer. The 4pm and the 8pm services will end with candles and the singing of Silent Night.
So, let those of us who can sing out with joy.
Rev. Janet L. Maykus
Senior Interim Pastor
As we approach our 3rd Sunday in December, we continue waiting in this season of Advent. We sit in the unknown, aware of our own stress, the challenges around us, war in the world. And in such difficult times, we might wonder – how can we find joy? When is the time for celebrating?
God builds joy into our lives – sometimes squeezing it into the most unexpected places. Advent actually has JOY built right into it on the 3rd Sunday!
Now, just in case you don’t know this about me, perfection is not one of my goals. Ever. I'm big on process and the adventure of the journey. So, I can really appreciate that the Christmas story is not perfect. It is a story full of complications and uncertainty. It is, in fact, a journey that we are all on - together. We are waiting with hope for the coming of the Messiah. We are on the dusty, rocky, and uneven roads to Bethlehem. We are tired… We are longing for some hope, yearning for peace, seeking joy...
We are looking for room - nothing fancy, just anywhere to rest, when there seems to be no space for us. We are finding comfort in simplicity and respite in unexpected places.
When all seems unmanageable and overwhelming, we find joy in celebrating a baby, born into this complicated and imperfect world. When all seems darkest, we are given this gift of JOY. Amidst all the waiting and wondering, we find ourselves on this journey, stopping for just a moment to hold joy in our hearts. The joy of remembering, together, the birth of a tiny baby, born in a stable.
On Sunday, we will remember the Christmas Story together with our Christmas Pageant. That’s some joy, right there! The joy of children crawling around on the chancel, the joy of lines spoken by brave readers into microphones, the joy of sheep, and donkeys, and cheetahs, and shepherds, all gathered together around a new family.
The joy of singing and playing and remembering that we are not on this journey alone. We are together, singing with hope, praying for peace, and celebrating in joy as we remember this meaningful, challenging, and imperfect journey. May we bring our whole selves, whoever we are at this very moment - our messy, complicated, imperfect, and beautiful selves.
I look forward to worshipping with you and celebrating this Sunday of JOY!
With love, always,
We are in the midst of the Advent Season, and I would like to take a minute to talk about the music of Advent that you are hearing every Sunday this month. Advent is a time of waiting, of the desperate hopefulness of refugees, of the joyful yet fearful anticipation of birth, and of the liminal time between the announcement of something wonderful and its fruition.
The music I have been choosing for services has been largely from the “Advent” section of our hymnal - I only just recently learned that most Christmas carols aren’t traditionally considered appropriate during Advent, as they are songs for celebrating the birth of baby Jesus, and we just aren’t there yet in the church calendar. So as we progress through December, the songs have been about waiting and hoping: hoping for peace, waiting for good news, anticipating what has been promised. As we wait and hope, however, let’s remember that Advent is also the time when we prepare for celebration! As in our Advent children’s gathering song says, “Come, celebrate, come and prepare, for the coming of love, this day and every day!”
Of course in case you aren’t spiritually or otherwise invested in Advent, or just want to join in the fun, you are more than welcome to join me and others at the Holiday Sip and Sing, after church this Sunday, December 10, at Aviator Pizza (just down the street from the church at 4005 W Parmer Ln. Suite E). We’ll be outside in their large patio area, singing Christmas songs, Advent Songs, secular carols, all the favorites!
If we haven’t already met, I look forward to meeting each of you. If you have any questions, concerns, constructive criticism, or just want to say "Hi!", please reach out to me in person at church, at the Sip and Sing, via email, or on Facebook.
Peace be with you,
Dear United Christian Church,
Did you know we’re not at the end of the year? The church calendar begins with Advent, so although it seems like we are at year’s end, we’re really at the beginning. Beginning the annual journey through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with the season of Advent can be frustrating. Who wants to spend time in reflection and preparation when a new baby, angels, and wise men are just over the horizon? But as any athlete or artist will tell you, time spent in preparation, practice, and review is important, even if you’ve been engaged in your endeavor for years.
The themes of Advent are hope, peace, joy, and love. Each of these words can be used in many ways, but in terms of Advent, these words are not just theological concepts, they are words of action. As people of hope, peace, joy, and love we live as if the beloved community is real to all. We live boldly, extending a helping hand when one is needed. We turn the other cheek when people ridicule or scorn, refusing to waste time on petty concerns. We celebrate the accomplishments of everyone without jealousy or envy. We know that love is not sentimental, it is a word covered in the grime and grit of a life fully engaged. We live with integrity. We live honestly, admitting our flaws, pursuing growth, asking for forgiveness and seeking reconciliation. When we live as people of hope, peace, joy, and love we embody justice and mercy.
This is all pretty heavy for the start of a new year! That’s exactly why we travel this same journey year in and year out. The path may be the same, but we will notice new signs along the way each time we pass. We will carry certain thoughts, notions, beliefs some years, and set those aside on others. Some years the journey is more difficult than others. The Advent pilgrimage takes us into the sometimes-painful work of spiritual growth. It takes us to the places where the answers are not easy, and decisions seldom fall in clearly delineated categories. Yet it is the discipline of annual reflection that leads us to spiritual maturity and helps us know that God is with us, that God loves us, and that peace and goodwill are for all people.
May this season prepare you for the presence of Good News in your lives. During this time once called the Little Lent, I pray you take time to practice hope, experience peace, find joy, and know divine love even while wars rage and suffering is all around. Even in the bleak mid-winter, the Light of God shines.
Rev. Janet Maykus
We hope that you and yours had a safe and happy Thanksgiving yesterday.
There are many things happening this Sunday, November 26, and we hope you can be a part of many!
On Sunday, our Community Connections Team is hosting a church potluck. Since it's the weekend after Thanksgiving, this will be our "UCC Friendsgiving" of sorts. All are invited to bring a finger food snack to share (savory or sweet) and the church will provide lemonade and tea.
All - children and adults - are also invited to bring an ornament to place on the "Church Family Tree" in the Fellowship Hall. These can be ornaments that kids have made, picture frame ornaments, ones that are special to you for any reason. We look forward to seeing the beautiful tree go up, and sharing the memories and meanings behind the ornaments.
Following the 10am worship service, the building will undergo the Advent transformation! Decorator Extraordinaire John Schwartz will be leading the efforts, but we need all hands on deck to put up the tree, wreath, garland, lights, and more.
In addition to that, the Children's Ministry is sponsoring an Advent Craft Workshop for all ages. We will have supplies out in the Fellowship Hall for making beautiful Advent wreaths, calendars, and more.
The youth group will join us for the Friendsgiving Potluck and will then drive down to Elgin, Texas, to the beautiful Down Home Ranch. There they will be packaging up the hundreds of poinsettias that the Ranch has been growing since the summer. The Down Home Ranch Gardens Team empowers the lives of people with disabilities, both through a positive financial impact for the entire organization and as a vocational training program. A portion of the poinsettia sale then goes to benefit our Youth Group's Mission Trip next summer. Click here to order poinsettias!
Come be a part of all of the wonderful, meaningful things happening this Sunday, and beyond, at UCC.
The Church Staff
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we pause to give thanks for the good work of our congregation. We may feel the joyful anticipation of gathering with friends or family this week. We may also feel anxious or alone. We may not understand what is happening in the world, or even with our neighbors. Sometimes we struggle to feel grateful.
But this Thanksgiving, we choose gratitude. We are grateful for the work of our congregation and the caring love we share in relationship with each other. We choose to accept life as a gift from God, from the unfolding work of all creation. We choose to be grateful for the earth from which our food comes; for the water that sustains us; and for the air we breathe.
We choose to see our ancestors, those who came before us, and their stories, as a continuing gift of wisdom for us today. We choose to see our families and friends with new eyes, appreciating them for who they are, thankful for our homes whether humble or grand. We will be grateful for our neighbors and strive to love them as we love ourselves. We choose to see the whole planet as our shared commons, the stage of the future of humankind and creation.
God, this Thanksgiving, we do not give thanks. We choose it. These words, inspired by a Thanksgiving prayer by author Diana Butler Bass, ask us to strengthen our resolve and pledge to give thanks.
As we approach Advent and invite each of you to engage in the wonderful activities planned for our church, we recognize we are collectively the church and give thanks with courageous hearts. We all are guests at God’s hospitable table around which gifts are passed and received. Love rules this table and is inviting and accepting of any who seek it. We choose to open our eyes to see grace and the gifts of life everywhere and serve alongside each other in love. In this choosing, we will share gratitude in the world, in our lives, and in the life of our church.
Blessings to you this Thanksgiving holiday!
Your Church Family
Greetings Friends in Christ,
I’ve not had the chance to meet most of you yet, but I want to introduce myself and let you know that I hope to see you soon.
A bit about myself. I’ve been a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) all my life. I studied at TCU and Duke, was ordained in 1988, and I’ve served in various settings over the years. I will travel with you for the next 18 months as your interim.
During this time I will ask everyone three questions:
1. Who are we as a congregation?
2. Who are our neighbors?
3. What is God calling us to do/to be?
All of these questions are shaped by five areas that are reviewed during an interim period.
This dynamic reflection will help you as you develop your congregational profile and begin your search for a settled pastor.
You are a wonderful congregation. Thank you for allowing me to explore with you for a while.
Rev. Janet Maykus
Interim Senior Minister
Dear United Christian Church,
This Sunday we will recognize the beautiful Indigenous Mexican tradition of el Dia de Los Muertos, a tradition inscribed in UNESCO's Representative List of The Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
You are invited to bring a photo of a loved one (or many loved ones) who has/have died. If you have a photo that you want to email to the office (email@example.com). we will print it and place it on the altar/ofrenda for you. If you bring your photo(s) on Sunday, you can place them before worship or when you come forward for communion. The ofrenda will stay in place until the All Saints Day service on November 5.
NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...There may be some of you who would like to talk to me about the church, where it has been, where it's going, or just to visit. I have set aside Mondays for time to talk. If you'd like to meet at another time, just contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the office and we can arrange a time.
If you'd rather talk church in a group, fear not! I'm going to schedule some times in November when small groups can meet in person and others via Zoom. I will also visit the regularly-scheduled Small Groups in the next few weeks. I look forward to hearing from as many of you who want to talk about your concerns and dreams for this wonderful congregation.
In the meantime, don't forget Game Night and Trunk or Treat...let's have fun!
One of the things we see all the time, but might not always notice, is our logo. It's a delightful symbol of growth in Christ. A beautiful flourishing tree of life sprouts from a rainbow.
In staff meetings and at the recent Executive Committee meeting, it was discussed and agreed upon to freshen the look of the logo and bring it into some of our worship ideas for the next year. Our ideas reflect the Christian Calendar, valuing how the lectionary takes us on an annual trip from anticipating and celebrating the birth of Christ, and then through journey up to the cross and onwards from the resurrection. Through these conversations, we have made a few updates to the current logo.
As you can see, the center symbol and the colors of the rainbow have been updated. The rainbow serves a dual purpose. It hints at the diversity and affirmation of all the world, and the new version is composed of the liturgical colors of the church calendar: purple/blue, green, gold/white, and red. Within the tree of life and the colors of all the world is the symbol of Jesus who became the Christ: a cross.
We are excited to begin a new year where our refreshed colors will be reflected in slides, social media, the website, and church publications. These colors and symbols speak to us as we reflect on all of the meanings they have for us. As we lean on the truth of the cross, we rejoice in the resurrection and life that emerges from it.
What symbols are touch points for you? What helps you feel grounded in your faith? Are they visual cues or auditory or olfactory? Signs and symbols point us to things that may be just beyond our grasp to explain...without a lot of words...yet lead us in the directions we hope to journey.
The church and our worship services are full of signs and symbols. Take some time this week to look around to find them in your lives and in our church.
With you on the journey,
Rev. Janet, the staff, and Executive Committee
Thank you for inviting me to travel with you for a while on your journey. You are a congregation dear to my heart. I first worshiped with you many years ago when you were located on Cameron Road, and I’ve popped in over the years for a visit now and then. To be your Interim Minister is an honor.
A bit about me: I was born into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), but I’ve worked within many denominational settings…Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian USA, United Church of Christ...and I’ve served in community based non-profit organizations. Although I’ve moved a bit, Austin has been my home base for the past thirty-two years (I’m one of those who’ve never quite gotten over the loss of Liberty Lunch!). I’m the mother to three grown sons, Austin, who lives in Austin, Ben who lives in Indianapolis, and Nico who lives in Kalispell, Montana. I have a giant fluff ball of a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix named Pearl. And, I perform as Ma Gothic with my partner Tom Booker. Once boxes are unpacked and I have my feet grounded at work, we will re-launch our monthly show, Texas Gothic.
Please let me know if you want to meet with me. I am available to meet with you Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. There are certain standing meetings I’ll need to work around, but I can make time for you in the mornings or in the afternoons. If you’d like me to come to you, I can do that as well. I look forward to getting to know you and to hearing your hopes and dreams for United Christian.
You are a wonderful congregation, and I’m so happy to be here.