The holiday season is upon us. A time for cheer, celebration, gratitude, joy, and enjoying the company of those whom we love. However, the holidays also bring sadness, mourning, pain, and challenge. For one, we know that even though some things have changed since a year ago plans for many of us will still be affected by the pandemic. Yes, the day will come when we can travel as we once did, and family and friends can gather as they once did. It is coming. But it is not now. Not yet. This is bad news for those missing these types of gatherings. One more time,  circumstances beyond our control separate us from one another. We want to cry out, “Enough already!” Enough with the distance and separation. Enough with the solitude and isolation. Enough!”

For others, though, separation comes as good news. I spoke with a friend recently for whom getting together with family is more a challenge than pleasure. Memories of holidays past bring pain, not joy. People with this experience struggle with hurt and to make a way forward for their well being. Still others struggle with the loss of loved ones they will miss this holiday season. Collectively, we mourn lost lives over the last 20 months and the struggles of people across the globe experiencing hardship due to poverty, injustice, immigration and asylum policies, war, and other struggles over power and resources.

As our faith community celebrates this holiday season, we recognize the joy, pain, hope, and heartbreak of the season. Thus, we offer opportunities to address before God our whole range of experience. This week we invite you to two opportunities to observe Thanksgiving. First, our Service of Gratitude during our regular morning worship at 10:30 am. Second, the interfaith Thanksgiving service hosted by Congregation Anshei Israel (5550 E 5th Street, please make reservations at for Zoom and in person attendance). Then we will enter the season of Advent. Each Sunday of Advent we will read scripture from the gospel of Luke, listening for the songs of God’s liberation. Additionally, we will hold a Blue Christmas service on Thursday, December 16 at 6:30pm. Finally, we will worship together with communion and candlelight on Christmas Eve at 7pm.