A Blessed Mixing

To begin, I want to thank all of you again for the wonderful 20th anniversary celebration last Sunday. It was great. It meant the world to me. I still am not sure who all was responsible for the planning, but I know Peggy Webbe did a lot of it, along with Sylvia Ounpuu. Anne Carr, Jackie Heintz and Edie Lacey were helping out in the kitchen. Not sure who else. But please know that I am exceedingly grateful to the planners and the worker bees; and I am also exceedingly grateful to all the members and friends of this congregation over the past 20 years who have trusted me to serve as your minister. Thank you so much.

Right now the message I want you to hear on this Sunday at the beginning of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, this Sunday a few days before the winter solstice, this Sunday a week before Christmas, is that I love the way it all mixes together. I love menorahs mingling with nativity scenes on town greens. I love all the pagan references embedded in the celebration of Christmas—the evergreens, the lights, the ornaments, the wreaths, the elves, the reindeer, and Santa Claus, who has both Christian and pagan origins. I love the solstice bonfires. I love the giving and receiving of gifts, which has pagan roots, which in Europe was historically a more secular New Years tradition, but which has, over time, made its way into Christmas and Hanukkah. And as I said last week, I love the darkness of the season, which is always interacting with the light. It’s a blessed mixing.

It’s not surprising that we find Jewish, Christian and Pagan resources—songs, readings, decorations—mixed together in our holiday music service. It reminds us that in virtually any Unitarian Universalist congregation, there are pagans worshipping next to Christians (or people of Christian heritage) worshipping next to Jews (or people of Jewish heritage); and of course there are Buddhists, the occasional Muslim. There are so many formers: former Catholics, former evangelicals, former Mormons, sitting next to each other in Unitarian Universalist worship. And folks in any of these categories might be theists, might be atheists. And all of us, I swear, to some degree or another, are religious agnostics. We’re not willing to make definitive statements about any of it because we know there might be more information or data or evidence out there that hasn’t been discovered yet but which might change our hearts and minds regarding what we believe. We know there are experiences we haven’t had yet which might change our hearts and minds regarding what we believe. And we know that when you scratch beneath the surface of any faith tradition, when you peer beneath all the human-made aspects of any faith tradition—if you look to where the tradition is pointing—there’s often more mystery than anything else. So why not honor it all? Why not bring it all in? Why not put it all into the worship pot and mix it around, especially at the holiday season, a blessed mixing.

I am reminded that in the current listing of the sources for our Unitarian Universalist living tradition, we describe a blessed mixing: Direct Experience of awe and wonder; words and deeds of prophetic people; wisdom from all the world’s religions; the love at the heart of our specific Christian/Jewish heritage; humanist teachings; and the wisdom of earth-centered traditions. As many of you know, that source language that we’ve grown used to over the years, along with the seven Unitarian Universalist principles is up for revision. If the proposed revision goes through we’ll no longer have that specific list of sources. But we’ll still have a blessed mixing. The proposed new language refers to our inspirations. It reads: “As Unitarian Universalists, we draw upon, and are inspired by, the full depth and breadth of sacred understandings, as experienced by humanity. Grateful for the religious lineages we inherit and the pluralism which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.” I’m going to dedicate a Sunday service in January to offering my reflections on the proposed changes to our sources and principles. Right now what I know is this: whether one likes the old language or the new language, the underlying message is the same. Our faith has many sources, many inspirations, many lineages. Our people individually and collectively draw on many sources, many inspirations, many lineages. To prioritize one would run counter the religious pluralism that resides at the heart of who we are. And who we are is a blessed mixing.

I say, honor it all. Bring it all in. Put it all into the worship pot and mix it around, especially at the holiday season. Receive what you need for your own spiritual flourishing. Enjoy what you like, for the health of your soul. Celebrate all the goodness, diversity, abundance and the love in the world. Be inspired to work toward the future you desire. All this is possible in the midst of this blessed mixing.

Happy holiday!

Amen and blessed be.