Dear UUCLB Members and Friends,

It was Christmas in Minnesota, my first and only as a student minister at Unity Church, Unitarian in St. Paul with my mentors the Revs. Rob and Janne Eller-Isaacs.The first snow fell shockingly in October and continued to fall steadily each week. The Sunday before Christmas, I was invited to go caroling through the streets with a group of members after church, just as we do today. I was skeptical about being outside in the bitter cold, even though I was assured that there would be hot cocoa and cookies before and a soup supper afterwards.

Truth be told, it wasn’t just the cold that made me skeptical about caroling. I wasn’t so sure how I felt about the idea of caroling at all.

I loved reveling in the caroling tradition in the comfort of the sanctuary, but out in the neighborhood? I imagined us walking the frozen sidewalks and singing Christmas carols to cars speeding by and knocking on the doors of indifferent strangers. The church was located in a neighborhood where it seemed like most of our neighbors were quite different than us, culturally, economically, and religiously.

Many of the houses were boarded up with eviction notices and foreclosure signs—not welcoming in the least. What would our neighbors think of us, UUs singing.

And yet, I was convinced, persuaded ultimately by a seven-year old girl named Vivian.

After church, she had presented me with a beautiful drawing of a red rose, my favorite winter flower, and promised to hold my mittened hand if we could carol together.

How could I say no? So I bundled up in my winter best for our carol sing.

We were a jolly crew, about a dozen of us, roaming the streets with our voices and spirits strong. We sang “Joy to the World” to the speeding cars and noticed their friendly honking and waving as we walked by. We sang “O Christmas Tree” to the hungry cardinals in the tall, snow-covered evergreens and began to hear their sweet winter songs joining ours. We sang “Deck the Halls” to the boarded up houses and noticed children smiling at us through cracked and shuttered windows. We knocked on doors singing “We Three Kings” and were welcomed with cookies and the kind eyes of old friends. As promised, Vivian held my hand, encouraging me to sing loudly and joyfully. My fears melted away and I hardly noticed the cold at all.

Christmas is a time when we muster the courage to give our hearts to one another, stranger and friend, to choose hope in spite of the pain of the world. It is a time when we stretch through fear to find a larger love that unites all people, across our perceived differences. To prepare for Christmas is to prepare a way for risk, vulnerability and tenderness. To raise our voices in carols of hope, peace and joy is to bless the world and in return be blessed. I hope you will join us for our holiday celebrations, to raise your voice, be together in community and welcome all the blessings of the season.

With love,
Rev. Lissa