Christmas Eve 2021 – NPUMC will NOT have in-person services.

A message from Pastor Grace:

December 22, 2021

Beloved NPUMC Family,

Advent: Season of Anticipation has had a new flavor the last couple of years: will we be able to travel? What will the numbers look like? Should we plan a big dinner, or stay home…. for us church loving types a big question has been ‘will we have in person worship for Christmas Eve?’ 

It pains me to say the answer has to be ‘no.’ It is a bitter pill to swallow, I know. As nice as it would be to gather together, hear other voices raised in song together, nice is often the enemy of good. Our task as the body of Christ is to be good, even when it isn’t nice. This is one of those times when we can’t fully manage both. And the short-term niceness of in person worship cannot be good given the long-term harm we could do if we were to gather.

Here’s what we can and will do: we will give thanks to God that we arranged our services to be rich and meaningful from home. We will go ahead with our remote communion service, and you will be able to sing like no one is watching, because they really, truly can’t (thank you zoom!).

Our Christmas service this year has so much in it! Not only can we all be together on Zoom, but this is also an ideal opportunity to host a watch party on Facebook. Invite friends to ‘come to church’ with you for Christmas – from home. Share the service and comment on it. 

People need what we have to offer: a way to make sense out of the everyday madness with the sacred wisdom of the Gospel, a belief that in the darkest times Emmanuel, God with us, is taking a first breath to announce the new life is here, the baby is born, what feels like a grim moment is the beginning of a wondrous new era of possibility.

Our schedule will even remain the same: at 5:15, tune in on Facebook or the website for caroling with Lee. At 6 we will begin our shared service with our neighboring churches, which you can access on FB, Zoom or the website. If you are staying for communion, definitely join on zoom, since communion is in real time, not recorded for later viewing. 

I wish you all of the blessings of the season, each and every one of you. Most especially I pray that you have good health, safe gatherings, find peace within, and share peace with the world around you. 

In love and anticipation,
L. Grace 

About this service:

We have borrowed from two Christmas traditions in creating this service, the Christmas Pageant and Las Posadas. Los Posadas is a traditional Mexican worship event running nine evenings (for the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy) during which a family plays Mary and Joseph, visits houses of the congregation in turn seeking room at the inn and is turned away in song until the last night, Christmas Eve, when finally room is made. Each night is a community celebration with food and singing. Each stop is, most of all, an opportunity to ask how, when and why we welcome the stranger, the outcast, the other…and how, when and why we do not, and what the consequences or blessings of our choices are, as Christians.

As our collective denominations are institutions which were founded on social justice and mission, and have taken a stand for welcoming refugees in this most current moment of a seemingly endless wave of human forced migration, it seemed like an opportunity to make the Christmas story one that had meaning and resonance throughout time and space. Great liberties were taken with the original idea of a Las Posadas. It became a starting point. Please consider this service to be an experiment, something akin to what might happen if a Las Posadas service were to get tangled up with A Christmas Carol. And perhaps Dr. Who for good measure. Liberties were taken. We beg both indulgence and forgiveness. In a longer version, such things would be remedied, clarified, nuanced. Prayerfully, this piece might instill a hunger to know more.

The Huguenots were French Protestants who flourished in the century prior to 1685.  While there had been tension between Catholics and Protestants before, in that year the Edict of Fountainbleu decreed that all Huguenots should either be forced to convert to Catholicism, or killed. Of the more than two million Huguenots in France, only roughly five hundred thousand managed to emigrate or escape in time, a significant number becoming founders of this community.

The Trail of Tears is the name given to the forced migration of Native Americans of many tribes across the southern United States into the then territories farther west following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Over 20,000 Native peoples walked the trail, most in forced marches overseen by U.S. soldiers. These same soldiers were ordered to hand out blankets infested with small pox, to which native populations have no natural immunity, thereby ensuring the death of thousands. In some cases, whole villages were lost at a time. Protestant churches aggressively worked to Anglicize Native peoples through schools which separated children from parents, removed names, and forbid use of native languages, to name a few techniques. Please note: Gitchi Manitou is a native name for God that would NOT have been used by those on the trail of tears. This is creative license and complete geographic inaccuracy, largely to give a clear reason to sing the remarkable French Canadian hymn in which the name appears.

Greenwood, the Tulsa neighborhood that was known as ‘Black Wall Street,’ was a thriving community in 1921. There were hotels, doctors, banks, educational and entertainment facilities, all by and for Black people. It took very little to incite white Tulsans to riot – rumor of a young Black man riding an elevator alone with a white woman. Literally overnight 35 square blocks were burned and destroyed. Every Black Tulsan who did not flee the city was interned, without charges, over 800 were treated for injuries, and historians believe over 300 people were murdered in the massacre. No redress has been made and until recently, virtually no white Americans were aware of this part of our history.

Home to a rich and ancient wealth of art, culture and learning, the capital city of Kabul was known as the Paris of Central Asia. This came to an abrupt end in 1979, when Afghanistan found itself a battle ground in a proxy war between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union. The decades of instability since created a perfect incubator for extremists, leading to the rise of the Taliban. As the U.S. pulled troops from the longest overseas occupation in our nation’s history the 40 million Afghans left behind scrambled to leave, find safety or otherwise protect themselves from the violent interpretation of Islam espoused by the terrorist Talibani. Of note for us, after having written this piece, we have learned of a family, much like the one we portray, fleeing their home and looking to rebuild their lives here in New Paltz

*Inshallah – if/as God/Allah wills it.