Advent Devotional, Dec. 3: “The Loneliness of the King” by Molly Baskette

dec-3

As I write these words, it is high summer. My Facebook feed is filled nonstop with speculation, intrigue, lament and diatribe, as my friends implore each other to vote the right way in November.

By the time you will read these words, America will have a new king, but the “he” of the psalm may in fact be a “she.” You may be disappointed in the choice. You may be fearful of the future. Whoever is king, may they remember the highest calling of their office: to protect and defend the “lowest” people in their care, championing the cause of the broke and vulnerable. In case we’d forgotten that care for them is God’s highest earthly priority, we await in Advent a God who came naked, poor and powerless into the world to remind us of the core values of kingship.

Whoever is president, one thing is for certain: they need your prayer. Not once, but continually. As Obama’s weeks wane, as they ready themselves for perhaps the loneliest job on the planet, as they move into a position without human peers, they need to know Who they can trust. And they need to be able to hear God’s voice speaking directly to their heart.

God, You can change any heart. Even our new president’s. Give our new ruler Your justice, O Lord, that all your people might live and thrive.

###

United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.

Hanging of the Greens this Sunday!

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 pm

wreaths-new

All are invited to join the fun as we transform The Park into that magical place that eagerly awaits the birth of Jesus Christ.

Last chance to donate to our successful Annual Winter Coat & Clothing Drive

Now through December 4

We have already collected
three 55 gallon containers of clothing

Now is the final weekend to contribute!  We are collecting gently used and new winter items to disperse to homeless shelters in the NYC boroughs by mid-December. Monetary donations are also accepted as we will purchase items that are not received from the requested donations. If you are impressed to give, please make a check or money order to Park Avenue Christian Church. Your monetary donation is tax deductible.We here at The Park have a mission of helping the underprivileged and those in need. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a pick-up of the items, please contact the church office at 212-288-3246.

What we are looking for:
~ Winter coats, hats, gloves, scarves, and boots
~ Pants; jeans
~ Sweaters; shirts
~ Socks
~ Thermal underwear
~ Please no unmentionables unless new and in brand packaging

All donations must be in a plastic garbage bag. Bags will be recycled.  If you need assistance with transporting your donation, please contact the church office to make arrangements.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 2: “Liberation” by Kenneth L. Samuel

dec-2

Make no mistake about it. When the Apostle Paul stood up to declare the Gospel to a gathering of believers in ancient Turkey, he made it clear that Israel’s devotion to God is based on the liberating work enacted by God in Israel’s history. Israel follows the Lord supremely because the Lord is Israel’s Supreme Liberator.

We can all give a host of reasons why we believe in God, why we love God, why we follow God. But as a person who strives to overcome historic and systemic oppression on a daily basis, I do not have the luxury to devote myself to anyone or anything that is not invested in my liberation.

And I am clear that God’s liberation is not limited to just the realms of spirit and emotion.

Israel’s bondage in Egypt was not just a metaphysical bondage. Egypt’s economic system had to be transformed; Egypt’s social hierarchy had to be unraveled; and Egypt’s political power had to be altered in order to effect Israel’s liberation.

Advent means nothing if it doesn’t mean greater freedom for all people who still live under the oppressions of social stigma, racial profiling, religious intolerance, gender bias, transphobia, and economic exploitation.

Advent means nothing if it doesn’t mean that wolves and lambs can co-exist with equal and mutual respect for life.

Advent means nothing if it doesn’t mean that the babes born in mangers have the same dignity and the same opportunities afforded to them as the babes born in mansions.

Lord, this Advent Season, give us greater capacity to see ourselves as your agents of liberation.

###

United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.

We can Help #CLOSErikers

#CLOSErikers is a grassroots effort to transform NYC’s criminal justice system that is being led by directly impacted individuals. Rikers Island is an institution that threatens the health and vitality of our communities, squanders human potential, & misuses scarce taxpayer resources. Faith communities committed to social justice and healing, in particular, play a critical role in our efforts to close these violent and corrupt jails.
There are several ways that The Park can support this important, community-led effort:
Join the Vigil to CLOSErikers
(being led in collaboration with inter-faith leaders from across the city).
Sunday, December 4
3:30 pm – Meeting at Carl Shurz Park, East 86th Street & East End Ave.
4-5 pm Vigil outside of Gracie Mansion, East 88th Street & East End Ave. (Inside the Park)
Distribute this flyer and share this Facebook event about the vigil
Sign-On to the campaign to #CLOSErikers
and formally express your support for this effort (see sign on letter here)
Follow @CLOSErikers on Twitter and Facebook
to stay up to date on what you can do to support!

December 4 Sunday Preview, from The Rev. Kaji Douša

Dear Church:

Last week, Peter Heltzel invited us to reflect on the following:

In No Name In the Street (1972), James Baldwin sang of a song of death and resurrection: “An old world is dying, and a new one, kicking in the belly of its mother, time, announces that it is ready to be born. This birth will not be easy, and many of us are doomed to discover that we are exceedingly clumsy midwives. No matter, so long as we accept that our responsibility is to the newborn: the acceptance of responsibility contains the key to the necessarily evolving skill.”

Peter asks: What does it mean to be midwives of the new world?

I didn’t know it was coming, but this will be my Advent reflection for the season.

And isn’t that the way? Advent ushers in nothing but the unexpected, even if we thought we’d named what we need.

Meanwhile, who wants to be a midwife? Well, some. I have a few friends who are preparing for the holy orders of ushering in new births, thanks be to God. But the rest of us want nothing to do with births for which we aren’t directly responsible. I’ve been to births. I’ve had one (without medication, no less). They’re painful, they’re messy, they might even be embarrassing. You should never hear the kinds of bargains I offered to the nurses and assistants who ushered in my child’s birth. At one point, I’ll admit that I tried to bargain with them: let me go now and I’ll just come back tomorrow when I’ve had more rest.

And isn’t that the way? Don’t we try to argue, to bargain for when we’re ready for God to be born in our lives? Wait till tomorrow, we plead. We’ll be ready later. I think some of this is that we aren’t necessarily ready to hear or to be where God needs us to listen or to hear. Such is the plight of human life.

But resisting the plight of human life is part of what it means to be Followers of Jesus.

So, this Second Sunday of Advent, let us come together to see where Jesus is asking us to listen, rest, plea, resist. How is the world we know being asked to change? That’s the urgency of the Advent question, and I can’t wait to explore this with you as we reflect on God’s word.

Please bring a friend or two. You shouldn’t have to face these questions without them.

See you Sunday!

Pax Christi,
Kaji

Christmas at The Park

Sunday, December 4, 1:00 pm

Hanging of the Greens

wreaths-newAll are invited to join the fun as we transform The Park into that magical place that eagerly awaits the birth of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 10, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Parents’ Day Out – Leave Your Kids With Us & Get Your Shopping Done

The Park Avenue Christian Church Youth and Children’s Ministries would like to invite parents to a day off, in order for you to enjoy your holiday shopping without your kids seeing their gifts)!! We can help by taking your kiddies off your hands!!   Please let one of the Youth and Children’s Ministries staff know if your child will be able to attend!  If you have any questions or concerns, contact Margie at mwatrobski@parkavenuechristian.comPlease share this flyer with others

Until December 11

Annual Giving Tree to benefit Harlem United

Please choose a tag and buy a gift for a child of the age indicated on the tag.  Then, return the gift, UNwrapped, with the tag, to the church by Sunday, DECEMBER 11, 2016.  Harlem United’s housing program serves people living with HIV/AIDS, and works to ensure that the clients they serve receive the support that needed to manage the multiple challenges they face, with a focus on getting them good physical and mental health and into stable housing.

Gift Ideas: Books, Arts and Craft kits, Learning Toys, Visa Gift Cards (older youth)

Please help spread the word about the Giving Tree – a flyer is available here.

The Youth and Children’s Ministries at the Park Avenue Christian Church appreciate your support!!  Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 15, 8:00 pm, The Park

Christmas Concert

Light up the holiday season with an evening Christmas concert for you, your family, and your friends featuring our choirs, wonderful soloists, recorder music, violin music and much much more!

Program includes: O Holy night, Joy to the world, Ding Dong Merrily on high, Go tell it on the mountain, many more all-time-favorite-carols and movements from Vivaldi Gloria.

Please share this flyer and tell your friends and loved ones – we look forward to seeing you!

Saturday, December 24, The Park

Christmas Eve Services

Christmas Eve Family Service ~ 3:00 – 3:45 pm. Instant Pageant for any child who wishes to participate!

Christmas Eve Lessons & Carols ~ 7:00 pm.

Advent Devotional, Dec. 1: “Locusts and Chocolate” by Emily C. Heath

dec-1

A non-Christian friend of mine registered a complaint last year. She had just found out that Advent does not begin in December, but usually on one of the last days of November.

“If that’s true,” she asked, “why does my chocolate Advent calendar start on December 1st? I am only getting 24 pieces of chocolate.”

“You’re being cheated,” I told her. She nodded sagely. I think she may have gone back to the store and demanded satisfaction.

Chocolate aside, there’s a lot that we miss out on during the Christmas season if we let the shopping malls and stores dictate our Christmas. Take, for instance, John the Baptist. He’s hardly a Christmas card-worthy character. The camel’s hair clothing. The locust-eating. The yelling in the wilderness.

And yet, John the Baptist’s story is intricately tied to the season of Advent, and the birth of Christ. He’s the one who shows us that something big is coming. He calls us to get ready for Christmas, not by sending out the cards and packages, or trimming the tree, but by preparing our hearts for love incarnate.

What I love about reading Scripture in Advent is that it calls me in. It reminds me that all the trappings of Christmas, which I love, are only signs of something better which is to come. It makes me slow down and get ready. It helps me not to miss the season because I am so caught up in preparations.

John the Baptist’s cries are a little different from opening the doors on an Advent calendar, but what they are calling us to is even sweeter than what we might find inside.

Dear God, help me to open my heart up to you this Advent, and help me to prepare the way for your love incarnate.

###

United Church of Christ Stillspeaking Devotional Published by Pilgrim Press. Shared with permission of the publisher.