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The Congregational Church of West Medford is now doing business as Sanctuary UCC.

O Holy Night?

O-Holy-Night-390x250What an exciting week – further visioning with the staff team, raging floods in the back room (ask me to see the video if you have not), rumors of locusts headed down High Street, interviews with candidates for the Business Manager, a powerful testimony of community and care at the Medford Citywide Peace Vigil, a lovely and holy Christmas Carol Sing and a highly successful Cookie Walk!  Is it time for us to head home and wrap presents and light a fire?  Hmmmmmmm….

Ruth Roper invited us to think deeply about peace and justice as we sang our way though the Christmas Story, and the circumstances of the world have certainly left us feeling conflicted about “Merry Christmas” songs when there are homeless Long Island refugees, addicts without recovery programs, hungry kids everywhere, and black brothers and sisters being gunned down in the streets.   Ruth did a great job connecting the story of Jesus’ birth with the call of our faith to make peace and work for justice in the world and I heard the story in a new way through the music we sang-both secular and sacred. But I find myself struggling to stay attentive to the celebration of the season when my heart is broken by the stories and the stuff of our brokenness.

This year, the context in which we are trying to hold on for Joy to the World seems particular poignant.  Yet, our faith teaches us that there is always hope-heck, The Prince of Peace is coming.  And so we do hold on – to the joy of Christmas and the sorrow of our losses, to the call to action and the need for rest, to the angst in the world and the peace which passes all understanding.  Yes, we do hold on – for what else can we do.  We hold on – for God with us is coming – Emmanuel. We hold on and we take action as well…

Ruth also taught us about the final stanza of what she referred to as one of the most powerful peace songs every written-”O Holy Night”. Sing with me these timeless words penned by a Frenchman in 1847:

Truly he taught us to love one another.
His law is love and his gospel is peace.
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise his holy name


Christ is the Lord! O praise his Name forever,

His power and glory evermore proclaim.

His power and glory evermore proclaim.


Fall on your knees, O hear the angels’ voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night divine, O night divine!

Friends, the distress in which we find ourselves, the lack of peace and love in the world that breaks our hearts and makes us angry, the fear and self centeredness that drives us to value human beings who are like us over others-this is the very mess that Christ came to save.

Let us fall on our knees-for often in that posture we have the humility to see. May we see the spirit of God when Jesus is sitting right in front of us, may we know deeply the love of God when Jesus crawls into the messy stable with us, may we find the Grace of God when look into the face of the other, may we give peace a chance. O Holy Night.

Rev. Wendy Miller Olapade (


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