The Stories of Christmas: Advent 2015

The Stories of Christmas: Advent 2015

Advent Flyer.pages

“…What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens. Events matter little, only stories of events affect us.” ― Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati

Advent, the church season leading to Christmas, will focus on “The Stories of Christmas” at the Condon United Church of Christ. Advent begins Sunday, Nov. 29 with a Hanging of the Greens service at 10:30 a.m.

“We all have stories,” says Rev. Tim Graves, pastor of the Condon United Church of Christ. “Stories are a way of making sense of the unpredictability of human existence. The Christmas stories found in the gospels helped people to understand who this man Jesus was, according to Rev. Graves.

“We will explore the various stories and why the gospel writers contradict one another. Why, for example, does Luke tell us about shepherds and Matthew talks about the magi?” he says.

The Hanging of the Greens service this Sunday, Nov. 29 will feature Christmas hymns, scripture readings, and special music by Al Graves, Rev. Graves’ father visiting from St. Louis. By the end of the service the sanctuary will be fully decorated for the season.

Local musician Dan Robinson will provide special music for the Dec. 13 Sunday morning service. “Dan’s guitar playing is always a joy to us,” says Graves.

In addition to 10:30 a.m. Sunday services throughout December, a Longest Night Service will be held on Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m. Sometimes called Blue Christmas, the contemplative service recognizes that this time of year is difficult for many people. The pressure to be joyful, memories of lost loved ones, or current struggles make this a difficult time of year for many, according to Graves.

A candlelight Christmas Eve service at 6:30 p.m. The stories of Christmas will come together in what the church is calling “The Miracle Mashup” celebrating the birth of Jesus.

For more information call 541-384-3681, email, visit or

Click here for a downloadable flyer of events of the season including scripture references.

Loving Our Syrian Neighbors


We’ve gone from the horror of the images out of Paris to a week of anti-refugee talk from media and politicians that is not only distasteful but contrary to the teachings of the Old Testament and of Jesus.

Sadly, we’ve been down this road before. Our immigrant-founded nation is filled with historical periods of fear and disdain of the newcomer. From fear of the Irish to the rejection of a ship of Jewish immigrants in the 1930s we too often reject our neighbors in need.

Giving in to fear has also created a context in which we blame Syrian refugees, victims of the same terrorist group as those in Paris. At a time when Syrian refugees need us the most, instead of loving our neighbor, we choose to fear them.

Our human inclination to be fearful is not new. There is a reason “do not be afraid” is such a common phrase in both testaments of the Bible. Like our ancient forebears, we need to be reminded to live into the people God dreams we can be.

When asked, “what is the greatest commandment?”, Jesus replied, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:29b-31 CEB)

Jesus named these two because loving God and neighbor are foundational. We show our love for God in our love for others. When we share items with our local Food Pantry, we show love for God. Similarly when we show compassion for Syrian refugees we show love for God.

Our stories of faith are brimming with commands to be hospitable to our neighbors. Immigrants, strangers, and aliens are frequently named as those who are worthy of our loving embrace. Whether we approach the Bible literally, as some do, or critically, as I do, hospitality for strangers is an expectation of the divine.

The most disturbing aspect of the hateful rhetoric spewed toward Muslims, Syrian refugees, and others is that too many of the speakers claim Christianity as their faith. It can be argued, given our history, that hospitality for the stranger is not an American value. However, claiming the Christian faith and not welcoming the stranger takes mental and spiritual gymnastics that are inconsistent with the biblical narrative.

The best of Condon is about compassion and love for our neighbors in need. As we move into Thanksgiving week and the Advent season that precedes Christmas, the writer of Deuteronomy reminds the faithful, God “…loves immigrants… That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:16-19 CEB)

Let us love our neighbors as ourselves by opening hearts to Syrian refugees. In so doing we will share our love of God.

Rev. Tim Graves
Pastor, Condon United Church of Christ

We Didn’t Start the Fire

We Didn’t Start the Fire

Words of Wisdom We Didn’t Start the Fire, Billy Joel
Sacred Words 1 Kings 18:21-39

Our scripture is set during the reign of Ahab in the northern  kingdom that came into being as the unified kingdom fell apart in our reading last week. Thirty-eight years later Ahab begins his reign as the seventh king of the northern kingdom, of Israel.Elijah-the-prophet (1)

Israel has been plagued with one king right after another since the time of Jeroboam and now they have Ahab. Ahab is not a good king. He marries Jezebel, a worshiper of the storm god Baal, and together the monarchy moves away from YHWH. (YHWH refers to the one we call God. YHWH is translated in English as “the Lord.”)

As Ahab moves the kingdom further and further away from YHWH, many people kind’ve follow YHWH and kind’ve follow Baal. God calls Elijah to the prophetic life in this troubling time.

In our scripture lesson this week the prophet Elijah challenges the followers of the god Baal to a contest to determine who is the one God. The Baalists go first calling upon their god to start the fire over the bulls being sacrificed. Elijah mocks them as morning becomes afternoon and evening.

In the end, Elijah calls upon YHWH whose fire lights the sacrifice even after being drenched in water.

This scripture raises multiple questions for us:

  • Do we really follow God and Jesus or are we just kind’ve Christians and kind’ve secularists and kind’ve something else?
  • Do we, like the Baalist priests dancing around their altar believe that if we just put on the right show, God will fix everything? Do we somehow think we can start the fire?
  • Though tolerance and understanding are consistent with the arc of the biblical witness, do we risk losing our own faith when we pull in too many ideas from other faiths? Is there a line and, if so, where is it?

Please read 1 Kings 18:21-39 prayerfully before Sunday in your favorite translation or in the Common English Bible included in this email. (If you’d like to participate in a Bible Study about this passage, please go click here. )