Centre Congregational Church
We Welcome Everyone: An "Open & Affirming" Church
Phone: (781) 334-3050; Fax: (781) 334-6463; Email:
Douglas W. Hodgkins: Organist/Choir Director
December 19, 2007
Blessings of God Bring Change
Is your name the same today as it was when you were a child? Sometimes we are called a nickname while growing up and then, as an adult, we claim for ourselves a different version of the same name. Other times we may keep the nickname.
My name is the same as it has always been, but while growing up people called me “Dennie.” It started while my parents were bringing me home from the hospital for the first time. My mother tells me that my father wanted to give me a name that could not be changed into a nickname. So, they named me Dennis. But, on the way home my father was already calling me “Dennie.” That nickname stuck with me throughout my childhood, even into early adulthood.
When did it change? It changed once I started going to college, meeting new people in places different from the places of my childhood, my family, my church, my school. As I met new people I introduced myself as “Dennis,” not Dennie. It symbolized, for me, growing up, claiming my life, and how I wanted to be seen as something more, someone more than a child. The Apostle Paul speaks of this: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
God blesses us. God can give us a blessing even before we are born, a blessing that we come to know in us as we grow. Sometimes others see that blessing in us before we do. God can also bless us later, after our birth. Such blessings can take the form of covenantal promises. Such was the case with Abraham and Sarah as depicted in Genesis 12. God promises “I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.... In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3) Later, as described in Genesis 17, God changes Abram's name from Abram, “exalted father,” to Abraham, “father of many.” In the New Testament, in the book of Acts, Saul becomes Paul, as his conversion from persecutor of Christians (Saul) transforms him into a leading disciple of Christ (Paul).
Of course, the most important transformation takes place inside our hearts, minds, and souls, not simply in our names. Yet, my name reminds me of who I am. I like the sound of it because it was given to me by my loving parents. Occasionally someone from my past still calls me “Dennie.” I smile as I remember the days of my youth and how much I've changed.
Of course, our Savior was born as Jesus. Later, as his disciples and others came to know of his blessings and true identity, his name changed to Jesus Christ. And yet, he spoke of how we must remain a child and maintain our child-like characteristics in order to serve him. He never rid himself of the “Jesus” part of his name, reminding us that he was truly human, Jesus, and truly divine, God, Christ.
I have often seen how people who have encountered God and received a blessing have changed to be more fully servants and disciples of Christ.
Jesus was born at Christmas in order to make it easier for us to encounter God, easier to receive and know God's blessings, and easier to be open to the new life God has for us. Therefore, it is God's plan that blessings given to us will change us.
What blessings might we receive this Christmas season that will change you and me again? If you are a father or a mother, perhaps the blessing of love will give you the opportunity to more fully appreciate and enjoy your children. If you are a child, perhaps the blessing of taking more responsibility for yourself, your actions, and your obligations will change you.
The Blessing of Christmas for each of us is that we are so loved by God. We are blessed to revel in our very creation, enjoying the sounds, laughter, and fun that our children share with us. We can enjoy the blessings of being a child all of our lives by accepting the invitations that our children give to us to play, to be silly, to laugh, to have fun, to not take ourselves too seriously.
The Blessings of Christmas can be a realization that God is giving us something new that will change our direction and maybe even how we spend our time, money, and life.
I'm not expecting you to change your name, but when you encounter the unconditional love of God, no doubt the way you hear your name spoken will change. If you accept a blessing of greater service people will speak your name differently than they once did. Your name might be spoken more often and in different places than it once was.
My mother calls me “Dennis” now. It took her awhile, but she quickly conformed to my request. I am still the same child I was when she called me “Dennie.” But now, I am something more, taking responsibility for my life and the many blessings I have received from God in my many encounters with God.
Just as the birth of Jesus changed the world, so, too, does the birth of Jesus change you and me. It's not like a decoration that we put out for awhile and then put away. Rather, Christmas invites us to accept God's blessings and the changes they bring, whether it be in our name, heart, mind, soul, and/or actions.
IN THE SANCTURY
December 23, 2007 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
10:00 A.M. Morning Worship
Christmas Pageant led by the children of the church.
The Pageant tells the story of the Birth of Jesus through our unique dramatic interpretation.
December 24, 2007 – Christmas Eve
5:00 P.M. Candlelight Service in the Sanctuary
Music by the Youth Choir and a Christmas Message by the Rev. Dr. Bailey.
Familiar Carols, Christmas Scriptures concluding with “Silent Night” in candlelight.
Designed with children in mind.
11:00 P.M.Candlelight Service in the Chapel
A joyful celebration of Jesus’ Birth with the aid of Scripture, Preaching,
Music by our Senior Choir and Familiar Carols.
The service concludes with “Silent Night” in candlelight.
December, 30, 2007 – First Sunday after Christmas
Morning Worship 10:00 A.M.
Children may worship with their families for the entire service.
All children are invited to take part in the Christmas Pageant on Sunday, Dec. 23 during worship. Due to the snow storm, many children were not able to be at church this past Sunday. Don’t let that stop you from participating. There is still time to join in the fun. We will have a rehearsal on Saturday, December 22. All those with speaking parts please arrive promptly at 10 am. Animals, angels and street fighters should report at 11 am.
On Sunday morning, we will run through everything again - we will meet in Todd Hall at 9 a.m.. If you have any questions please call Linda Ladd at 781 334-6170.
Most parts will have a prop or something to wear on their heads to indicate who they are. If you can wear the colors suggested for your part below, you’ll look great!
Angels: We have halos and angel costumes. Please wear predominately white or off white clothes underneath. If you have your own angel costume or accessories, you may wear them.
Prophets: We’ll give you a scroll and a stole. Please wear a solid color (may be white) to make the stole stand out.
Shepherds: Please wear earth tones
Street Fighters: Please wear black or dark colors
Wise Men and Speaking Parts: We’ll have everything you need (robes, crowns, gifts, etc.)
The Giving Tree
We will be collecting the following gifts for residents of the Crombie Street Mission in Salem, MA until Sunday, December 23:
Socks, underwear, sweatshirts/pants, hats, mittens and gloves of all sizes. Please leave the gifts unwrapped.
Our annual Christmas Pageant will be held this Sunday at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary. Everyone is invited to attend. There will be no nursery care provided.
Please notice the cards on the tree in the narthex from your friends who are opting to send a gift to City Mission Society instead of sending individual cards.
It’s Not Too Late! Cards will be added to the tree as they are received and another list of names will be in the next issue of Tower Notes.
|Annabel Aldrich||David Balser||Chuck, Debbie & Jason Cotting|
|Ginny Daniels||Hal Holappa Family||Betty Hayter|
|Sue & Phil Johnson||Kim, Tyler & Heather Nardone||Jack & Charlotte Orrall|
|Edie & Earl Richard||Cindy Trayers||Bradlee & Larry Troy|
|Shirley Wendel||Edith Wendt||Olive & Carl Wood|
Each year our special Christmas Offering is divided between local Centre Church needs and a recipient designated by Outreach Ministries. This year the Outreach portion of our offering will be divided between Haven from Hunger in Peabody and the North Shore Community Action Plan for their fuel assistance program. Your generosity will be appreciated by many in need. You will find special envelopes in your envelope packet or the pew racks in the sanctuary.
My Brother’s Table
The High School Youth Group will be going to My Brother’s Table in Lynn on Thursday, Dec. 27. Please plan on meeting in the church parking lot at 4 p.m. and we will carpool over. We will plan on returning around 7:30 p.m. Youth will be dropped off at their homes.
“Our Whole Lives Program” (OWL)
Sexuality and Faith Program for the UCC
All parents of 7th - 9th Graders are invited to attend an information session in which they will have the opportunity to meet the leader, gain an overview of the program, ask any questions they may have and express their hopes and concerns for their children’s education. This meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 2 at 7:00 p.m. in the Fireside Room.
Youth Group News
There will be no Youth Groups on Sunday, Dec. 23 or 30. Our next meeting will be January 6.
We would like to send a group of youth from Centre Church to attend the UCC National Youth Event which will be held at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, TN July 24-28. Youth who are interested are invited, along with their parents, to an informational meeting on Sunday, January 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Fireside Room. Current 8th through 12th graders are welcome to attend.
Sunday Morning Nursery Assistance
We are in need of some adult volunteers to staff the nursery during school vacations and long weekends. We are asking volunteers to arrive by 9:50. If no children arrive in the nursery by 10:15, we invite you to join in worship. The following dates are available: Dec. 30, Jan. 20, Feb. 17, April 13, April 20 and May 11. Please call the church office to volunteer your time.
Boy Scout Troop #48 News
Congratulations to Jeffrey Robinson of Troop #48 who passed his Board of Review for the Rank of Eagle Scout on December 10. We congratulate Jeffrey, his parents, John and Heidi Robinson, and Troop #48 which is sponsored by Centre Church.
The Troop’s next trip will be a ski trip to Quebec in January.
Thanks to the generous response from the congregation, we are getting closer and closer to our $25,000 goal. We now have $18,605 in supplemental contributions. That's wonderful news - let's keep the momentum going. If you have not had a chance to make your donation, please consider doing so soon. With everyone's participation, we can meet this challenge. Debbie Cotting for Stewardship
Claxton Fruitcake, sold by members of the Get-Together Wheel, will be available after church on Sunday, December 23 or at Karen’s Bakery in Lynnfield Center during the week. Cost: $4.00 per bar.
|4th Sunday in Advent
|Pageant Participants – Todd Hall
Christmas Pageant - Sanctuary
|Candlelight Service – Sanctuary
Candlelight Service - Chapel
|10:30 am||Scripture Study - Pastor's Office|
|10:00 am||Morning Worship - Sanctuary|
Our thoughts and prayers are with:
We also remember Greg Lengyel, Paul Folkins and Brian Bisakre in Iraq.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Head Usher: Linda Ladd
Greeters: George and Perry Hayden
Coffee Hour: Ann Decker
Church Office Schedule
December 24 – December 31 – Open 9:00 am -12:00 noon.
There will be no Tower Notes the week of December 24.