Pastor's Corner

A Christmas Reflection

A study was recently done where participants were to wear large earphones that were producing "white noise" – an indistinct noise often used to mask other noises. They were told that if they listened hard enough, they could hear Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas." In fact, this wasn’t true. But it turned out that those who were drinking coffee at the time said they could hear the music.

Some would say that we who hear the story of Christmas under the "white noise" of the reality around us – a reality with seemingly no meaning or pattern – are simply kidding ourselves: we’re simply hopped up on what we’d like to believe. But we all have chaos, suffering, and "white noise" in our lives, and we all need to find what it is that we can really commit ourselves to – whether Christian or not.

And for those of us who trust the promises of God, the song that we hear is the song of the Incarnation: God in the flesh of Jesus. The author of Hebrews tells us that Christ is the perfect image of God – Christ reflects perfectly who God is for us and what God wants for us. Perhaps first and foremost, God wants for us peace, wholeness, healing. God rules a world founded on peace, not the violence that stands at the heart of virtually every human society – violence that’s clearly hard to overcome, and at the international level, leads to endless war. God has also told us in Jesus something about where the focus of our energies and caring should be: with the poor and the marginalized. I don’t think God would hold it against us that we love and care for our families; but beyond that, there’s a moral to be learned from the story that God chose to be born of a poor teenage girl, who didn’t have a decent roof over her head when she gave birth; that Jesus began his ministry proclaiming good news to the poor; that Jesus ended his earthly teaching with the pronouncement that we would be judged on how we served the least among us.

Jim Wallis notes in his blog the contrast between the real meaning of Christmas, and the Christmas that some in the media, especially Fox News, has set about to defend:

The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice. The Fox News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty. The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind. The Fox News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance. The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: "He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away." The Fox News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as "class warfare."

So if there is a war on Christmas it's the one being waged by Fox News.

Something for the new Adult Study group looking at Christianity and Politics to chew on!

General Conference, 2012…

At its quadrennial General Conference meeting in Tampa, Florida, next spring, the denomination will be considering a myriad of issues, not the least of which is a major restructuring of the way the denomination does its business. Among the proposals is the collapsing of most Boards, Commissions and Agencies (General Boards of Global Ministries, Church and Society, Higher Education and Ministry, and Discipleship; Commissions on the Status and Role of Women, on Religion and Race, etc.) into a single Executive Board of 15 members, with an Advisory Board of 45. A real question is how such a small group could begin to do what the current administration has been able to accomplish. Case in point, the General Board of Church and Society. To read a piece by Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society, on the far-ranging work of that board and his assessment of the new direction that is being proposed, Click here .

Twenty-First Century candidates for Scrooge…

The (mean) Spirit of Scrooge is alive and well in the 21st century – hardly news, but the short list is pretty impressive. To read about some their shenanigans,

Click here

 - you can’t make this stuff up!

See you in church!

Mark Zier

Damien's Deliberations

This month marks the end of the Sunday School study of Genesis. We will continue on into Exodus and the Gospels simultaneously starting in January. I'd like to thank all my teachers for during such a wonderful job this past year and for being there for the children. The Youth Group has welcomed another new member to its attendance. The new youth has been at two of the last three gatherings and we look forward to having him return again.

This month the Youth gathered on December 4th, with the rest of the church to celebrate Aldersgate’s 50th anniversary. On December 11th , we assisted with putting together the care packages for the Marin abused women's shelter. Then on December 18th, we convened at the Grgurina's home in order to celebrate Christmas with a Christmas Party. This event was lots of fun with traditional Christmas treats, games.

The new Adult Bible Study will begin January. We will be looking at Christianity and Politics for the first four weeks of January on Wednesday afternoons. After that I encourage all adult members of the church to join the Lenten Bible Study. Again, I would like to thank my Sunday School teachers and all the other people who have made Christian Education possible and wish all person a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Damien C. Brooks

Ministry Intern/Youth Educator

The Church Council recently entered into a Covenant agreement with Katherine Parker. Katherine grew up in nearby Mt. Tamalpais UMC, and now serves as a missionary in Cambodia through the UMC’s General Board of Global Ministry. She sends the following note:

Katherine Parker responds to the death penalty debate from her experience overseas

In response to the notice regarding the renewed debate over the death penalty in California posted here in the Key over the past couple of months, Katherine Parker, a Global Ministries missionary with whom we have covenanted to support, has written this:

Living here in Cambodia has opened my eyes in new ways to the power of God's forgiveness and the gift that then allows us to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. A dominate (and likely wrong) interpretation here of Buddhism (the majority religion), views that you are going to suffer or benefit in the next life because of your actions now, but that if you have done something wrong already there is no need to improve your current life because you are already condemned to future punishment. In a country that has been hurt by a devastating civil war and genocide, where revenge and extra-judicial killings still take places and grudges are held for generations, the offer of reconciliation and restoration to right relationship with God and with each other is life transforming. The realization that we can turn back towards God and that God will welcome us changes people's lives. The death penalty, to me, denies this possibility. peace,

Katherine Parker

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