We ARE Christmas

The first time I heard this song, I was preparing for an Advent sermon for my congregation in Des Moines, Iowa. I was a new minister and feeling very insecure about delivering a message during a pretty important season… this was not the time for an ordinary sermon (get it?), but I just didn’t know what to say.

My best friend James encouraged me to listen to the Spelman College Glee Club’s song, “We Are Christmas” for some inspiration. This song not only inspired my Advent sermon in 2016, but it continues to resonate in my heart.

We ARE Christmas because we are God’s hands, and God’s heart, and God’s hope. We are called to be Christmas to each and every person we meet. We are called to open our hearts to share the Good News of Christ’s hope, peace, joy, love and justice with our neighbors.

WE ARE CHRISTMAS.

We are Christmas

In the stable in Bethlehem; a baby was born
Born of a virgin, God’s only son
Angel Gabriel told them to have joy, have no fear
For this baby, our savior; he could dry every tear
Mary magnified the lord, Her soul and she cried
For this baby she would bear held all power and all might
Born for all people to be free and redeemed
And he lives today within us though we don’t always see

We are Christmas, we are God’s hands
To care for one another in these war torn lands
We are Christmas, the love that we share
Will carry one another ‘til we understand
We are Christmas

So this Christmas please remember what the true meaning is
Remember Gabriel and Mary and the savior who lives
Remember we are “Christ among us” and we live for his cause
To fulfill his purpose daily as we bring Joy to all
We are comfort for the hurting, mending each broken heart
We are friends to the lonesome and unite those far apart
We’re his Hands who touch the sick and they’re instantly whole
We are water for the thirsty and bring peace to every soul

We are Christmas, we are God’s hands
To care for one another in these war torn lands
We are Christmas, the love that we share
Will carry one another ‘til we understand
We are Christmas

He lives in me, He lives in you (repeat)

We are Christmas, we are God’s hands
To care for one another in these war torn lands
We are Christmas, the love that we share
Will carry one another ‘til we understand
That We are Christmas

Shared by Reverend Brittany Juliette Hanlin

Are you looking for a place to worship virtually on Christmas Eve? Here is the info for both the Family Worship and Christmas Eve Services.

Christmas Eve Family Worship – Online 4:00pm – 5:00pm EST

Join Rev. Brittany Juliette Hanlin, Brian Hampton and the Children, Youth & Families Ministry for this special online worship experience. Followed by a Birthday Party for Jesus.

Christmas Eve Worship – Online 6:30pm – 7:30pm EST

“Living with Wonder” is Dr. Michael Bos’ message today. Meditation by Dr. Michael Bos. Music prelude with The Marble Choir and brass ensemble at 6:10pm.

Heart and Hope

Our heart……that physical organ that beats within us

Pumping blood through a network of arteries and veins called our cardiovascular system.

Not my words and quite a mouthful but an apt description of this life-giving organ

Shared by official sources that define the meaning of words.

But we can also picture our hearts existing in this physical space of darkness

Enveloped in moisture that is warm and of measured density.

Our hearts are at home in this dark, wet, condensed space, requiring optimal conditions to maintain life.

Yet within what appears to be this opaque, unlit space, is life

Life that shows up with energized movement in humans, lived in wildly different ways.

Life that shows up as Christ did, sent by God to reflect love, light and hope.

Our God of mystery creates states of being that straddle opposing realities.

But in the midst of these realities are revelations, possibilities and openings

The nucleus beginnings and gateways that move us to states of being that make life rich

States such as love, light and hope to which God calls us.

And as believers, our hearts are at the center of that inner space that connects us to God.

The Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 1:18,

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he [God] has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people…… 

In writing to Ephesians in the early church, Paul through wisdom from God describes our hearts

Hearts with eyes capable of seeing and believing in that which is ahead of us

Not yet fully known but waiting to be embraced and manifested in our lives.

This is the opened heart and in times of darkness, this is the working muscle

The organ that pumps us with properties of love leading to breakthroughs of light and hope

Cutting through the perception of darkness

And accessing the light and hope to which God calls us.

May this be so for us now and always.

Shared by Reverend Susanah Wade

Are you Ready?

Luke’s story – a story about how God, in Jesus Christ, has touched the pain of the world in a new and wondrous and transfiguring way – begins with a priest. With a priest in the temple:

Then there appeared to Zechariah an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. (Luke 1:11)

We could be forgiven for thinking that miracles and visions and getting the goosebumps feeling God’s presence are things that happen to especially religious people and that happen in church. That’s how things seem to go here. Like Samuel and Isaiah before him, holy Zechariah has a powerful and overwhelming, life-changing experience of God in the house of God. No big surprise.

But Mary!

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)

Mary has her own powerful and overwhelming, life-changing experience of God — not in Jerusalem, the holy city, but in sleepy, little Nazareth; and not in the temple, but in her own home. Who knows what Mary is up to when the angel Gabriel knocks on her door: doing the wash? making dinner?

The way that God comes to Zechariah in the temple is nothing compared to the way God comes to Mary while she is at home. The one only sets the stage for the other. Encountering God in church is just preparation for encountering God at home. And at work. And out and about. And really any place we may be.

Most of us are spending more time at home than we ever have. And maybe less time in church than we ever have. For Luke, this is a great set-up. We are right where God wants us. Ready to be visited by an angel. Ready to be called and to put to work by God. Ready for something new. Ready for miracles. Ready for ‘the Holy Spirit to come upon us.’ Ready for ‘the Power of the Most High’ to overshadow us.’ Ready for Jesus.

Shared by Reverend Anthony Livolsi

Alright

We’ve spent a week at the Jersey Shore every summer for the last 17 years. We were so grateful when we found out it would be okay to return this year. The transmission rate of the virus was lower, and we could do the same social distancing there, as we were doing here. It was such a relief to think for a few days we could be some place so familiar, so loved by our family, and away from the incredible loss, heartache, and fear the last few months had brought. 


How naive to think we could escape. Less than 72 hours after our arrival, Tropical Storm Isaias took aim at the Jersey Shore. Of course it did. It’s 2020. There was no escaping that. We battened down the hatches and huddled in the living room. The storm raged outside. From our porch we could glimpse the ocean waves as they roared and crashed against the shore. There on that narrow barrier island it felt like the anguish of the world had come to life. Would we be alright?


After several hours, the rain slowed and then stopped, but the fierce wind had not. We peered out the door. My husband and daughter hesitantly stepped outside, and then dashed across the street and over the dune. I slowly followed. The sand felt like little pellets as it hit our skin and instantly covered everything we were wearing. We stared down at the roiling waves, and then up at the sky. The sun was beginning to break through. As we looked around – up and down the beach there were people in each direction as far as we could see. All timidly glancing around as if to say – “We’re here. We’re alright. Are you alright?” 

In this waiting season of Advent, as I look toward the birth of Jesus. Some days feel like that summer storm. Heavy, and intense. But I know God is near. He will light the way, and it will be alright.


The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

~ John 1:5

Shared by Kim Sebastian-Ryan

Great are You Lord

Almighty God, you are the source of our everything.

We are eternally grateful.

Here is a beautiful rendition of Great Are You Lord!

Here are the lyrics:

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
And great are You, LordIt’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You onlyYou give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore (You restore)
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, LordIt’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You onlyIt’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You onlyAnd all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, LordAnd all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, LordAnd all the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, LordIt’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You onlyIt’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

Finding Comfort In Where You Are… And Not Knowing Where You Will End Up

Yesterday, I was pondering over how Mary must have felt when she was told by an Angel that she was the favored one to bear Jesus Christ. Her life was definitely transformed and changed forever. She had no frame of reference to lean on, or a Mother’s guidebook for rearing the Christ child. She didn’t know when or where she would give birth. Despite her fears, she trusted God and his guidance for her life.

Waiting is not one of my virtues. However, this Advent season finds us all involuntarily waiting. Waiting for…… a vaccine, a job, getting to see our family and friends, getting our lives back again!

Yes, we do grieve the loss of our former lives, but Advent is all about the hope, gratitude and joy for the new life we will embark on. We are joyously waiting the renewal of our faith through Christmas and anticipate what God has in mind for us.  As I reflect over the many transformational events in my life, I must admit that just like Mary, (I may have taken a lot longer), I eventually threw up my hands, and surrendered to God’s will and guidance.  Then, things began to happen!

Isaiah 40:31 – “ They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

Submitted by

Brenda W. Walker

Nine Months…

It’s been nine months. Nine months of stay-at-home orders and daily briefings. Nine months of seeing family & friends through screens. Nine months of sadness, fear, and mourning. That’s such a long time.

But do you know what else we can do in nine months? We can grow and birth new life into the world. I think it’s oddly fitting that in our ninth month of the COVID pandemic we have come to Advent and Christmas. The last month of pregnancy is all about waiting and anticipation, discomfort and impatience, starts & stops, anxiety. You never quite know when the next great adventure will begin. And who doesn’t feel those things from time to time, right now. who isn’t feeling impatient, uncomfortable, anxious?

So in this ninth month I invite us to really take a look what this season means and what December 25th holds – a newborn baby. The birth of new hope, new life, new beginnings.  And they come so humbly, in a manger watched over by animals. What are you going to give birth to in 2021? What is this world going to be? What is our new hopeful, humble beginning that we are bringing into the world? Remember, like babies, they can start small and be nurtured and grow.

I hope that, like in that manger under a star, that it is the birth of Love.

Shared by Siobhan Tull

Reading to the Cat in Advent

Original Artwork by Vera Dimoplon

Story taking place in time – place being peace

a small room book-lined, a blue chair

grey cat upside down beside you pretending sleep, listening

as if knowing what the story is about in its own version –

a happiness of words taut with attentiveness –

the story tightens:  in the middle of the farmyard

fully visible in the moon’s glow housecat is out and about

oh! something muscular lurks in the shadows

hint of reddish fur, bushy tail, waiting –

Time for white-whiskered Tomten to appear in slouchy red hat

little footprints invisible to all but the animals awaiting

his presence – the little fellow circles the farmyard

in stillness of frosty cold, moon and starlight, cat safe

alongside, making the nightly vigilant round, checking on

hens on their roosts in the poultry house, horse in the stable

sow and sheep in their shelters, cow on clean straw in the barn –

to each in its place he brings quietude

children deep in their featherbeds in the farmhouse

bowl of porridge for Tomten placed outside the kitchen door –

Grey cat beside you now fully asleep breathes lightly

all the way to the end of a story writ at the heart of creation

and breathed across a world visible to animals and children

a world we do not see

but may briefly glimpse through velvety darkness

if our hearts are made ready by a simplicity such as theirs

quiet and simple as footsteps falling in snow –

a world where every creature waits in place

taking part once more in Advent’s providential pageant

of celestial peace unfolding across the planet.

By Margie Dimoplon


Author’s Note: The Tomten is an ancient figure in Scandinavian

folklore who watches over the farm. In more recent depictions he

is an elfish character, visible only to animals and children and

associated with Christmas season. In gratitude the family leaves

him a bowl of porridge Christmas night.

A Special Friend

Marble introduced me to Ed Drayton. His name and telephone number was given to  me as someone who might want a tele-friend. Our first call was friendly as we tried to discern if we were compatible. We agreed to talk weekly and thus began my weekly sessions with someone who was just a voice on the phone.


We bonded when I mentioned I had lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  He lived in Bed-Stuy on Halsey Street and I mentioned that my former boss also lived on Halsey Street. Our chats got a bit more personal as he shared how he arrived for Sunday worship at Marble early to get a parking spot.  He would then head over  to Trader Joe’s on West 23rd Street to buy assorted nuts and the newspaper and sat reading until it was  time to walk over to Marble. I too, bought nuts at Trader Joe’s. Funny how things we think of as irrelevant take on special meaning when shared. 


We also talked about how the Post Office kept losing his Postal money orders he tried endlessly to send his son. This distressed him and I listened and heard the loneliness in his voice. We planned to get together as soon as Marble reopened. He sat in the front row, I think, in front of the piano. 


I can’t explain why I liked Mr Drayton, I just did. Nor why we both looked forward to our calls. We never met in person, but we knew one another. I’m sorry to share that one day my call went to voice mail. I kept calling and calling and still no response. I finally learned that Mr. Drayton had died. He gave me the gift of friendship. We never met and yet we were kindred spirits dealing with the pandemic the best we could.  I think of Mr. Drayton often, especially when I’m picking up nuts at Trader Joe’s. I smile and send up a prayer. 

Shared by Carmen Matias

Love is the Answer

Love waits,
Love is kind,
Love is soft,
Love is sure.

Love seeps into the darkness,
Gently, allowing us to sleep,
Blanketing us in worry-free warmth.

When the bird whispers out into the dawn,
The light softly cleanses our soul,
We do not fear,
The darkness fades away.

The morning light has touched my soul,
I am no longer imprisoned,
I am at peace.

Words, music, and video by Chris Chalfant

Chris Chalfant serves in the Marble Arts Ministry and sings in Marble’s Gospel choir as well as Festival of Voices. She is a multi-media artist who has multiple recordings of her music and has performed internationally. Chris published “Book of Unstandards” collection of her original scores in 2006. After “Looking Through Trees” multi-media project in 2010 Chalfant has devoted more of her time in photography as a way of connecting to God in the moment. A number of Chalfant’s pieces have been shown at Marble and continue to show at Blue Door Art Center. 

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