FIRST CONGREGATIONAL UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST – OUR OPEN AND AFFIRMING GREAT FALLS CHURCH WHERE EVERYONE IS WELCOME!

ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS WORSHIP SCHEDULES

*December 16th  – Third Sunday of Advent with Children’s Christmas Pageant, Baptism and Reception of New Members, and giving thanks for the service of Christian McClelland, Nursery Attendant

*December 23rd  – Fourth Sunday of Advent

*December 24th  – Christmas Eve. 6:00 P.M. Candlelight Service with Christ United Methodist leadership; 10:00 P.M. Candlelight Service with First Congregational leadership

Holly  will be out of the office December 24th-December 31st. Rev. Lynne will be away from service December 26th – January 5th

*December 30th  – First Sunday of Christmas. Joint worship at 10:00 A.M.

*January 6, 2019 – Celebration of the Baptism of Jesus and recognition of Baptisms in the past year.  Change of worship time to 9:30 A.M.

SALVATION ARMY ANGEL TREE

The Angel Tree is in the narthex with tags to choose from identifying age, gender, and special gift requests of children in our community. Please select one of the tags to help brighten the Christmas of a child who might not otherwise experience the joy of the season.  Simply purchase the item(s) and return them to the church by December 15th, unwrapped, with the tag you took from the tree. Wrapping paper is always very much appreciated!

CHRISTMAS FUND FOR VETERANS OF THE CROSS

Each year the United Church of Christ’s Christmas Fund for Veterans of the Cross helps provide pension and health premium supplementation to lower-income retired church workers, emergency assistance to clergy or lay church employees in need, and Christmas “Thank You” Gift Checks to hundreds of annuitants. You can be part of this vital ministry extended through the United Church of Christ Pension Boards by contributing to the UCC Christmas Fund. Although our official offering will be taken on Christmas Eve, you can make a donation anytime through the church. Simply mark “UCC Christmas Fund” on your donation.   Last year, we sent $1846 to the Christmas Fund. Can we raise that a bit and send off $2,000 this year?

CHRISTMAS EVE OFFERING

CHRISTAMS EVE OFFERING  (to be equally split between The Children’s Receiving Home and Intermountain Children’s Home)

The Children’s Receiving Home is a one of a kind resource for the Great Falls community. The home is able to accept children from infants to 18 years of age who have been removed from their parent or guardian care and may be awaiting foster placement or release to another family member. Children arrive at the Receiving Home with little or no belongings, so resources are always needed. In January we will publish in the Good News a wish list for the Receiving Home. But for now, we are asking for your donations to assist with their end-of-the-year expenses and everyday needs. Thank you in advance for your consideration of the only emergency shelter care service for these children in Cascade County.

Our Conference and conference churches have long been a partner denomination in support of Intermountain Children’s Home in Helena.  This is a residential placement facility for children and youth with severe emotional or behavioral issues.

OUR WHOLE LIVES (OWL)

Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education Sessions for middle school youth (grades 6 – 8) will be offered through a series of weekend (Friday & Saturday) lock-ins in 2019: January 11 & 12, February 8 & 9, April 12 & 13, May 10 & 11

OWL in Great Falls is led by trained facilitators from First Congregational United Church of Christ and Christ United Methodist Church. It is open to all middle school youth, including those who are not affiliated with either congregation. This is seen as an extension of our Open and Affirming mission within the community. Parents interested in learning more about Our Whole Lives can contact Rev. Lynne at 453-4316 or pastor@greatfallsucc.org.

FROM THE PASTOR    

        Christmas Comes To….. (My column this week is dedicated to the directors of Christmas Pageants everywhere)

It happens every year. Without fail, it happens. The weary Christmas Pageant Director gathers the children of the church together to start that exhausting and fulfilling task of putting together a play that will reflect correct theology while, at the same time not offending parents, grandparents, seminarians or the pastor AND while trying to make sure that every kid has the part they want. The appropriate Joseph and Mary are singled out. The role of King Herod is given to the kid (or sometimes the adult) who can be stern under pressure. Wise Men become Wise Ones because, well, nine times out of ten, beneath the robe and crown could be a little girl or two…. or three. A multitude of the heavenly host is put together and a flock of adorable sheep is rounded up.

And then it happens, in the midst of lining the kids up in accordance with scripture, someone wants to be something that isn’t part of the original script. A ballerina. A chicken. A farmer. You get the idea.  And you can’t say “no.” Not only will you avoid a major let-down (and perhaps an equally major tantrum), in the end, you are really being true to the story. Sometimes you have to let the whole thing play out to see it.

In the end, everyone, all creatures great and small, wise ones, smiling Herods, shepherds, farmers, ballerinas and even the barnyard chicken, gather around the manger and sing “Joy to the World.” And that’s when it becomes obvious…. Christ comes to the world. The whole world. Not just our little corner of it. Not just the ones that fit the traditional roles. Not just people but the whole world.

A long, long time before the shepherds gathered on the hillside and heard the heavenly host tell them to not be afraid, a song writer wrote “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.” It’s what we now know as the 24th Psalm. It gets lived out in churches year after year after year as Christmas Pageant Directors around the world work their magic to make room around the manger for some of the unexpected but always welcome additional characters.

Let’s give thanks to the kids who get that there is always room and to the Christmas Pageant Directors who help us see it.  I hope to see you in church this Sunday as we are given the gift of our own Christmas Pageant during worship at 11 am. There will indeed be room for everyone.

Rev. Lynne