Dec. 29th FUUN Weekly Email


So come, Christmas, most needed of seasons.
Come with the reminder that love does not depend on
Perfection but on willingness to risk connection.
Come into the unready manger of our hearts
That we may feel the warmth of new life
And give flesh to the promise of hope
That cries to bring healing into our world.

— from “Come Christmas” by Maureen Killoran

Today is the fifth day of Christmas. In the mythic storytelling that we do in both our services on Christmas Eve, we include the part about the magi travelling across the land, following a star. What’s glossed over in our pageantry is that it doesn’t happen the same night that Mary gives birth; they arrive twelve days later, giving us the twelve days of Christmas and the celebration of Epiphany in early January.

On this, the fifth day, the major players are in states of liminality, both in the stable and on the roads. Mary is still recovering from giving birth, and learning her new role as mother. Jesus is getting a crash course in what it means to be out of the womb, where there’s things like hunger, and cold. Joseph is figuring out his place in this family that has grown from two to three. The magi put their faith in their learning, risking days of travel entirely on the appearance of a star in the sky. They encounter Herod, and are wary enough of his abuse of institutional power and privilege to return home “by another road.” They are changed by this experience as much as the holy family in Bethlehem.

What, then, does this time of year offer us as Unitarian Universalists? I would offer up the twelve days of Christmas as a time for us to experience the stable and the roads. In the stable, we can contemplate ourselves, our roles in our families and communities, our fears and anxieties. On the roads, we can turn ourselves outward, to take stock of where our reason and values intersect with the work of justice. We can reach out to those for whom the holiday season is anything but joyous — be it for grief or injustice or any reason — and let them know that they are supported.

In faith,



On A Starry Night


He was singing a melody he did not know, and yet the notes poured from his throat with all the assurance of long familiarity. They moved through the time-spinning reaches of a far galaxy, and he realized that the galaxy itself was part of a mighty orchestra, and each star and planet within the galaxy added its own instrument to the music of the spheres. As long as the ancient harmonies were sung, the universe would not entirely lose its joy. — A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Madeleine L’Engle, p.77

This past Sunday I attended a concert performed by Portara Ensemble, one of our very talented music groups here in Nashville. I knew it was going to be good, but I was unprepared for how deeply and profoundly the performance would affect me. The theme of the evening was “On a Starry Night,” and it featured songs written about the stars from a stunning variety of sources. More than that, however, was the music itself, the live performance of the voices and instruments.

I grew up reading the work of Madeleine L’Engle, and have carried with me her descriptions of the stars of the universe as living beings, interconnected, who sing songs and speak to humans willing to tune themselves to the earth around them and their fundamental link as part of the larger cosmos. I have spent many an hour contemplating the songs of the stars: what they sound like, how hearing them would make me feel, and what else must I do in my life, with my life, by honouring the earth and the interdependent web, to be able to hear the stars singing back to me.

photo by Kartik Ramanathan ‘Milky Way - Mobius Arch” (cc) 2013.
photo by Kartik Ramanathan “Milky Way – Mobius Arch” (cc) 2013.

On Sunday night, I heard the songs of the stars. Not only were the lyrics a multitude of stories about the stars and how they reach us, but the performance itself, the vibrations made by voice and piano and flute seeped into me, saturating my being until I could hold no more and it flowed out as tears of joy. In A Swiftly Tilting Planet, when Meg hears her brother join the cosmic song, she says, “the music–it was more–more real than any music I’ve ever heard. Will we hear it again?” I did not need to be singing myself to feel, to know, in that moment, that I was also a part of the cosmic, galactic song sung through the ages.

It was one of the few times in my life that I have experienced simultaneous immanence and transcendence. I had the sense of the full power within me, the life force of my individual essence and its physical, emotional, and mental forms, and the ability to bend the arc of the universe towards justice. At the same time I was dissolved into the interdependent web, inextricable from the people around me, the ground below me, the sky above me. I was what Nicholas of Cusa called a “coincidence of opposites”, the finite and the infinite folding and enfolding into one another to make something larger than either thing standing alone.

Of course, not everyone reads Madeleine L’Engle. Not everyone reacts to music in the same way. I share this with you only to express my joy at having experienced such a moment of deep connection with nature in a culture that is constantly trying to teach us to disassociate from our bodies and the world around us. What brings you that sense of connection? What sustains you on Nature’s Path? How can you sustain our efforts as Unitarian Universalists to bend the arc towards justice, not just for ourselves, but for the cosmos?


Originally posted on the Patheos blog Nature’s Path.

Picture by Kartik Ramanathan and used unaltered under Creative Commons license.

Small Group: Myths


First UU Church of Nashville Covenant Group Session Plan #141
Meghann Robern, Intern Minister

December Worship Theme: Gratitude

Opening Words: Thomas Merton, adapted (Lifting Our Voices #43)

We are living in the greatest revolution in history–
a huge spontaneous upheaval of the entire human race:
not a revolution planned and carried out
by any particular party, race, or nation,
but a deep elemental boiling over
of all the inner contradictions that have ever been,
a revelation of the chaotic forces inside everybody.
This is not something we have chosen,
nor is it something we are free to avoid.

Chalice Lighting and Covenant

Check-In and Sharing


“As you may have heard, the first film in the third Star Wars trilogy will be opening around the country this coming Friday. You may have also noticed how this is a big deal. It threads my own generation, who were the first to be captured by Hero’s quest pasted onto a space opera with verve and panache. But also it also threads together the generation following who lived into the much higher production values and rather darker themes of the prequel trilogy. And now it looks like that thread will be running through a third generation, who already knew all six of the previous films looping them as technology allowed, as many times as their hearts desired.

Many who wonder at the staying power of these films over generations have pointed to that connection to Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, with its thesis of a great myth that plays out in culture after culture. Now I watch a third generation caught up in this story with at least as much enthusiasm as so many of us felt in May of 1977, and I find it hard to argue with Professor Campbell’s premise.”

(excerpt from a homily given by James Ishmael Ford at Pacific Unitarian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA on 13 December, 2015)

Even if you’re not a fan of Star Wars, the idea of mythology and archtypes as fundamental to human development through storytelling is compelling. Often these stories, that are told over and over again in different iterations, are not factually true, like a historical document, but are true in what they teach us about each other and living in right relationship. They help us discern not only what is worth fighting for, but how we fight when the time comes.

What stories have informed your development as an individual? As a person in relationships with others? What stories have you discovered you interpret very differently from someone else? How did you react? Have you ever started a relationship with someone (friendship counts!) based on a shared love of a story?

What stories are precious to you, and why?

Closing Check-Out and Chalice Extinguishing

Closing Words: Rebecca Parker, adapted (Lifting Our Voices #47)

Your gifts
whatever you discover them to be
can be used to bless or curse the world.
The mind’s power,
The strength of the hands,
The reaches of the heart,
the gift of speaking, listening, imagining, seeing, waiting
Any of these can serve to feed the hungry,
bind up wounds,
welcome the stranger,
praise what is sacred,
do the work of justice
or offer love.
Any of these can draw down the prison door,
hoard bread,
abandon the poor,
obscure what is holy,
comply with injustice
or withhold love.
You must answer this question:
What will you do with your gifts?