It is officially the election season. Although we cannot endorse a specific candidate, we urge you to remain informed about environmental issues, particularly climate change. Stay informed, use your voice, and vote – hopefully with environmental issues as a priority.
Be Not Afraid
Christmas Eve Homily – Dec 24, 2015 – Rev. Dr. Michael Tino
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester
©2015 Michael Tino
Be not afraid.
The angels that appear in the story of Christmas say words to this effect three times—to Mary when telling her of her pregnancy, to Joseph when he hesitated to marry Mary, and to the shepherds in the fields, who were called to greet the infant Jesus.
That baby, the infant Jesus, arrived into a world ruled by cruel empires that conquered people and forced them into bondage. In his time, the power of emperor, governor, and priest were all perpetuated through the strict division of society by class and status.
There was much to be afraid of then, and the messengers of God could have stoked that fear in order to make people follow their orders without question. That’s the way fear works, after all.
But instead, the angels announced themselves by declaring, “Be not afraid.”
In the Bible, God and his messengers send this greeting again and again: do not be afraid. It is, in fact, one of the most repeated phrases in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.
So the ancient people hearing the story of Jesus’ birth would have known what this meant: that whatever was going on in the world around them, however difficult it would be to usher in the beloved community promised by the Christ child’s birth, there was no room for fear in the struggle, that however much change this child would bring into the world, their God would be with them through it.
I could be poetic and metaphorical about this tonight, on Christmas Eve, but instead I am called to be real, to be plain. We live today in a time where people clinging to power or seeking more power for themselves use fear as a weapon.
We live in an era where the empires of wealth divide people against each other so that, in our fighting, we fail to notice that the emperors are growing richer and more distant from the possibility of justice.
We live in a society that needs desperately to usher in a new era—an era of peace, an era of goodwill, an era of justice. A new era in which the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed and the sick are cared for. A new era that sees humanity as but a small piece in the intricate web of creation, and not its ultimate goal.
And the story of Christmas tells us that such an era is possible, even if getting there evokes fear and anxiety in us.
We are reminded not to be afraid, and not to let those who would make us afraid have power in our lives.
We are reminded that when we refuse to let fear and violence stir up our most primal instincts, we can see our fellow humans as humans—we can heal the divisions amongst us and turn our collective attention to changing the systems that need to be changed.
Jesus grew up to preach a message of radical equality, a message of powerful love, a message of forgiveness and generosity and goodness. His message was dangerous to an empire that survived on the fear of the people, but necessary to a bruised and broken world.
His message is still necessary in today’s bruised and broken world. And it’s still dangerous—especially to those who would rather we stayed afraid than hear it.
People of Jesus’ time were reminded by this story to be not afraid. If they let go of their fear, they were promised, they could hear the words of the angels proclaiming the possibility of something new.
People of our time need also to be reminded: be not afraid. Let go of your fear. Refuse to let those in power and those seeking to control you make you afraid. Find the courage to resist the empire. And hear the angel voices this Christmas.
The voices calling us to peace. The voices calling us to love. The voices calling us to build the beloved community that Jesus taught us about so many years ago. Let us build it together, unafraid.
If you calculate your carbon footprint or if you have a home energy audit, it is easy to become overwhelmed in the work – and expense – of making your life sustainable to the highest level of ideal green living. You do not have to become “ideal” overnight. It is a journey. You may not ever reach the “ideal”, but you will become greener every step that you take.
As an example, the Chairman of the Green Team recently had a home energy audit. The report identified $10,000. worth of improvements that can be made to their home with a 13 year pay-back period. Jack and Nancy are thinking about it, considering their budget. However, we will take the first step – caulking around the windows and weatherstripping our doors – as it is relatively inexpensive and we can do it ourselves. Low hanging fruit.
What if you wanted to use your iPhone to help solve climate change. Oroeco, an app available both for iOS and Android, allows you to track your actual carbon footprint with its automated calculator.
In their own words, the app will:
- See how every aspect of your life connects to climate change, from your home energy and transportation decisions, to your diet, shopping and entertainment choices.
- Automatically track the climate impacts of how you spend your money with the world’s most powerful carbon footprint calculator.
- Save money and the planet with personalized tips and actions on how you can lower your impact for the environment.
- View your carbon offsets from award-winning clean cookstove projects.
Read about more amazing things you can do with your iphone here:
Check your doors and windows for drafts. Where you feel cold air flowing in, insulate with low cost strip tape insulation.
Be aware of your driving habits. Keep your tires inflated. Keep your car tuned. Be conservative on use of air-conditioning. And, in the long term, think about the purchase of as better efficiency vehicle for your next automobile.
Change your incandescent lights around your home to compact fluorescents – or better yet – to LEDs. You will not only reduce your carbon footprint, you will save money on the energy that you are conserving
On November 22 – UUFNW’s Green Team introduced a green pledge project. No, we are not soliciting financial donations. We are seeking from all congregants a pledge to do whatever you can to reduce your carbon footprint in your lives. The introspection period begins this Sunday and extends to the end of the year. By January 1st, we are asking you to submit your forms to us and begin taking action to achieve each self green improvement that you have listed.
The form will be distributed at the Green table by the fireplace immediately after services. Stop at the Green Team table after Sunday’s services and talk to us about small, medium or big steps that you can do to create a greener world. Remember, you are leading the way, by example. Imagine billions of people around the world emulating what you are doing. It will make a huge difference.
Starting November 22, 2015, the Green Team will initiate a congregational project to improve each of our lives with a greater level of ecological sustainability. Stay tuned for a brief announcement during the service and information at the Green Team Table after the service. So, mark your calendar for the November 22nd service. If you can not make it check the UUFNW website or contact Jack Kozuchowski at firstname.lastname@example.org