Live your Unitarian Universalist values out loud. Make your year-end gift today!
Lois Van Leer
George: This is Angel Gabriel of KGOD airwaves, coming to you live from the downtown mall in Bethlehem. The air is positively solar as frenzied shoppers scurry from store to store, their camels and donkeys weighted down with purchases. The beasts bawl. There are only, count ‘em and weep shoppers, 9 days left until Christmas and you of the plastic and debt and no payment down and no interest until next year have yet to buy ALL those presents. Panic is filling the air. You can almost taste it.
Nan: Give me a P
Nan: Give me a R
Nan: Give me an E
Nan: Give me a S
Nan: Give me a N
Nan: Give me a T
Nan: What’s that spell?
Nan: What’s Christmas ALL about?
Seamus: So I don’t get it.
Seamus: ALL this present business
Logan: You don’t like PRESENTS?!
Seamus: I do like presents but I thought we were UU’s.
Logan: What has that got to do with anything?
Seamus: Well, we don’t really believe that Jesus was the only special child of God and that he was born of a virgin and that—
Logan: Forget Jesus. Focus on the presents.
Seamus: That’s my point: if you don’t believe ALL that stuff then why the big birthday celebration for Jesus and why the presents for us—
Logan: YOU DON’T LIKE PRESENTS?!!!
Seamus: I like presents. I already told you that.
Logan: SO, what’s the problem? This is the time of year to score big time.
Seamus: Well, when we were in RE class and we were talking about—
Logan: You were paying attention?!
Logan: Bummer for you.
Seamus: As I was saying, when we were talking about what we believe—
Logan: I believe I will ask for—
Seamus: WHAT WE believe about stuff.
Logan: I believe I love stuff.
Seamus: You know what I mean. About things and having so much stuff already and how we are using up the earth—
Logan: What does this have to do with presents?
Seamus: Well, as a UU, can you want presents?
Logan: Every body wants presents!
Seamus: I mean is it ethical?
Logan: You have been paying way too much attention in RE class.
Seamus: If we don’t believe ALL this stuff about Jesus, why do we celebrate Christmas?
Jen: Honey, go ask your father, I ‘m baking Christmas cookies.
Seamus: Why do we celebrate Christmas if we don’t believe all this stuff about Jesus and God?
Ken: Go ask your mother. I’m busy putting up the tree.
Seamus: Why do we have a tree? What does it have to do with Christmas?
Ken: Go ask your mother.
Seamus: Mom, why do we have a tree and what does it have to do with Christmas?
Jen: Honey, go ask your father.
Seamus: Why do we have a tree?
Ken: Because I like squashing you and your brother and your mother and the dog into the car and going to the forest to argue with your mother about which tree to kill every year while you whine about the cold and your brother wets his pants and the dog rolls in something we have to smell all the way home.
Seamus: Is this something all families do at Christmas?
Ken: Only UU’s.
Neil: What is the big deal about a tree? I mean, it takes up room, the cat always drinks up the water in the stand, the tree dries out, it drops pine needles all over, and the dog takes off half the tinsel every time he wags his tail.
Jan: I want a tree. My family always had a tree. We’re having a tree.
Neil: And that’s that? End of discussion?
Jan: That’s that. End of discussion.
Neil: Okay, so what does this tree thing mean to you?
Jan: It means the smell of the forest, green when all the world has lost its vibrancy, a bit of the outside coming in, something to string with popcorn and cranberries and cinnamon sticks and dried orange peels, and wooden ornaments that my parents had. It means a place to sit in front of in the dark and be quiet, watching the candles and the fire. It means remembering…
Neil: Remembering what?
( sounds of wind, rising and fading, a moaning of trees moving in the wind. If possible, imitate the sound of the ocean)
Shaun: The moonlight falls upon the rise of the rock circle . Frozen light in a winter 's night. Shadows dance. I hear the call of the island sea, wave upon wave nudging a shore of rock and sand. I step into the ancient circle and cast my spirit . Here in this place , made holy by ALL those who have trod here before me, I touch the sacred. Winter. Solstice. My heart waits. The spirit awakes.
ALL: (whispered, quickly, with emphasis on first syllable) Win'ter—
Logan: Fading sun.
Logan: Lingering night.
Marv: Dying of the day.
Shaun: In the darkness
comes the birth:
(whispered) on this day/in this moment
Jen: light is furthest from us
Neil: at its weakest
Seamus: the day is at its shortest
Ken: darkness is at its fullest
(whispered) mystery lingers.
Marv: A pinpoint
Tam: From beyond the horizon
Seamus: out of darkness
Linda: moving toward us
ALL: the promise
George: the pivot point of the year
Jen: light growing stronger and brighter
Linda: the goddess was said to lie sleeping
Jim: her consort, now old would die
Marv: a newborn babe, a new god would come into the world
Ken: to grow strong and become the goddesses new lover
Tam: the Romans called it the Birthday of the unconquered sun
Neil: a 12 day festival that marked the ending of one year and the beginning of another
Seamus: it was a gigantic fair and festival of the home
Logan: halls of houses were decked with boughs of laurel and evergreen trees
Nan: temples were decorated with evergreens, symbolizing life's continuity
Jen: lamps were kept burning to ward off spirits of darkness
Marv: friends visited one another bringing good luck gifts
Linda: mistletoe, considered sacred because it mysteriously grew on the sacred oak tree, was cut and a spray given ceremoniously to each family to be hung in doorways for good luck
George: it was know as "ALL-Heal."
Tam: kissing under the mistletoe was a pledge of friendship.
Seamus: In Scandinavia, the winter festival was the Yule
Jim: great logs were burned,
Neil: the Yule log was believed to have a magical effect, enabling the sun to burn brighter
Marv: people drank mead and gathered around bonfires
Logan: poets spoke and musicians played and sang
Linda: We beg and borrow
each from the other
layer upon layer
build and rebuild
overtaking one another
incorporating one another
trying to make sense of
trying to connect
the meeting of the divine without
and the divine within
fullness of being
Jen: Give me some guilt!
Neil: I have enough already
Marv: Gelt, it’s gelt.
Jen: Whatever, give me some.
Marv: Say please
Jen: Please give me some guilt.
Marv: Gelt! Chanukah gelt!
George: festival of lights
Shaun: an 8 day celebration falling anywhere from late November to December
Ken: it commemorates events which took place in 165 BCE
Jim: under Syrian rule all forms of Jewish religious observance had been forbidden
Tam: the holy Temple of Jerusalem had been destroyed
Seamus: statue of Zeus had been placed on the ritual altar
Marv: In the village of Modin, not far from Jerusalem, a priest named Mattathias the Hasmonean and his sons, organized a successful rebellion against the Syrian troops. This small band of freedom fighters won against the massive army.
They then headed to Jerusalem to liberate the Holy Temple. They captured the Temple from the Syrians and destroyed the Greek idols. They purified the ritual areas. The ceremonies of rededicating the temple to its holy purposes took 8 days. Legend has it that when the sons of Mattathias prepared to rekindle the sacred eternal lamp of the Temple, they discovered that all but one vessel of purified oil had been destroyed by the Syrians. It was enough oil to last for only one day. The miracle was that the oil burned not for one day but for 8, the days needed to purify the temple.
Neil: Gifts are exchanged at Chanukah as tokens of love and affection. One of the traditional gifts is "gelt," money. This time when the candles are burning are to be a time of relaxation and enjoyment. Often family members play with a "dreidel, "a four sided top. Each side contains a Hebrew letter which stand for the words "A great miracle happened there." Chanukah is a celebration of the bringing of new light into darkness.
Jen: What dear?
Seamus: I want to be Jewish?
Jen: You do?
Seamus: Because they get presents for 8 nights, not just one crummy day like Christmas.
Jen: Well you’ll have to talk with your father.
Marv: Candles are lit in a candelabrum known as a menorah. It has 9 branches: one for each of the eight nights of Chanukah . The 9th, known as the shamash or servant candle, is used to light the others. Candles are placed right to left and lit left to right. A prayer is said as the candles are lit: "Baruch Atta Adonoi...Blessed art thou O Lord our God , Ruler of the Universe, who has created us and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah lights."
Tam: We beg and borrow
Ken: Put your hearing aids in.
Jim: I am, I am. What did you say?
Ken:I said you can’t just ignore Christmas and pretend like it doesn’t exist .
Jim: Why not? We’re UU’s, we don’t have to do anything.
Ken: Yes but the whole culture is all caught up in it.
Jim: So? When did we ever do what everybody else does?
Ken: Well don’t you think it could have some meaning?
Ken: Turn up your hearing aid.
Jim: I can hear you, I can hear you, I meant what has to have meaning?
Jim: How’s it supposed to have meaning when it has all become commercial and children know more about Santa than Jesus and think it is all about presents.
Ken: It is about presence.
Jim: Give me a break.
Ken: I mean spelled PRESENCE.
Jim: Yeah but not of some bedraggled kid in a manger with no place for his head.
Ken I know, I know but it is about the presence of something.
Jim: Of what?
Ken Oh, I don’t know. Possibility.
Ken: Oh just turn off your hearing aid.
Jim: Turn up your hearing aid. I said "peace."
Ken: What about it?
Jim: About the possibility of peace. Born anew in our hearts. Born in the life of every child.
Ken: What was in that punch?
Tam: Joseph, quit standing around and do something useful for once. The kid needs a diaper change. I’ve got to muck out this barn.
George :Stable, Mary, it’s a stable.
Tam: Stable, barn, Hotel 6, the Hilton—it’s all the same to me. Animals, manure, hay, drafty, crowded. You’d think all these angels and wise men could help out a little.
George: Well, they did bring him presents and they do adore him.
Tam: You call frankincense, and myrhh presents? Why don’t you light some of that frankincense and myrhh, maybe it will help the smell around here. Who needs adoration?
George: There is the gold they brought.
Tam: Gold aluminum covered chocolates. Gelt! These men, don’t they know he can’t have solid food for months yet? Do they have nuts in them? I'm allergic to nuts.
George: They’re just plain dark chocolate.
Tam: Figures. I only like milk chocolate.
George: Tam, the boy needs to be fed.
Tam: You feed him them.
George: Tam, that is a physical impossibility.
Tam: Here, give him to me. Men. Worthless. Good luck Jesus.
Linda: Good luck Jesus. We have placed all our hope in you, a mere child. We ask of you the impossible. Teach us truth. Bring peace into our world. Good luck Jesus.
ALL : Kwanza
Shaun: Swahili for "first fruits."
Logan: created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966
Seamus: for ALL people of African descent
Jen: to reaffrim African culture and values
Neil: celebrated for 7 days from December 26-January 1.
Nan: Swahili is the language used at Kwanza because it is spoken widely throughout Africa.
George: There are 7 principles of Kwanza, one for each day:
Marv: Umoja. Unity
Tam: Ujima. Collective work and Responsibility.
Ken: Ujamaa. Cooperative Economics.
Linda: Nia. Purpose.
Jim: Kuumba. Creativity.
Logan: Imani. Faith.
Shaun: Each morning one is greeted with the words "Habari gani" which means "what news?" The answer is the name of the principle for that day. 7 candles, one black, 3 red, and 3 green stand for the 7 principles. each night a candle is lit and the family talks about the principle for that day. There are 7 symbols:
Jim: Mkeka—a mat on which all the symbols rest. A symbol of history.
Tam: Mazoa—fruits and vegetables representing the harvest. A Symbol of the harvest and for all the work African Americans have done.
Jen: Kikombe cha mazoa—a unity cup from which all drink. A symbol of staying together.
Neil: Kinara—candleholder with room for 7 candles . A symbol of all the people who lived in Africa years ago.
Ken: mishumaa saba—the 7 candles. Candles light the way: The black candle is in the center, the three red on the left and the three green on the right.
Logan: muhindi—an ear of corn for each child in the home
Nan: zawadi—gifts from the parents to the children. Rewards for promises kept during the year.
Shaun: One should also have a bendera: an African-American flag. It was created by Marcus Garvey in the 1900's.
ALL : Black.
George: symbolizing Black people staying together.
Marv: symbolizing the long struggle for fairness and freedom.
Seamus: Symbolizing the future.
ALL: a people
Tam: seen as less than
Neil: or mere humanity
Logan: for honor
Nan: for dignity
Seamus: still waiting
ALL: to be free
Neil: We beg and borrow
Jen: Yes dear?
Seamus: It sure seems like no matter what the holiday, candles are involved.
Jen:Yes, you are right.
Seamus: Why is that?
Jen: Go ask your father.
ALL: ‘Tis the season of
Copyright: The author has given Unitarian Universalist Association
member congregations permission to reprint this piece for use in public worship.
Any reprints must acknowledge the name of the author.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Thursday, April 24, 2014.
Sidebar Content, Page Navigation
More Ways to Search
Donate to Support This Program and the Ongoing Work of the UUA
Read or subscribe to UUA.org Updates for the latest additions to our site.
Learn more about the Beliefs & Principles of Unitarian Universalism, or read our online magazine, UU World, for features on today's Unitarian Universalists. Visit an online UU church, or find a congregation near you.