Children’s Religious Education: It Takes a Congregation

The twin themes of our December 20th multigenerational worship service are giving and celebrating the holidays UU-style. We will hear personal sharing from congregants, listen to stories and sing some carols. If you or your children would like to participate as a reader or have a UU family tradition to share, please contact me ( ASAP. To get you thinking about what makes the holidays special, here is a personal story of my own.

     What is the true meaning of Christmas? What makes Christmas Christmas? I have spent many, many holidays away from my family of origin; 1987, when I was in Antarctica from mid-October until early January, was particularly instructive and meaningful with regards to what the true meaning of the holiday is for me. Back then I had not been home for Thanksgiving more than twice in ten years, but it was only my second Christmas away from home. I wrote to my parents on December 12th from our camp at the La Croix Glacier in Taylor Valley, “It doesn’t feel at all like Christmas here. We won’t be in McMurdo for the holiday. We probably won’t even get in at all before we pack up our field camps for the season sometime the first week in January.”

     A couple of days later, I sent a radio message to my family,

Greeting[s] to all for the solstice and holiday season. As your days start getting longer, mine are getting shorter. It won’t be long now. Rocks for everyone next year at this time [;] they won’t be in your shoes on Saint Nicolas Day! Thinking of you all and appreciate all your letters… Hope your days are full of love and warmth. Which are what make[s] the candles glow through the night…

     I didn’t get Mom’s reply until December 30th. In it she mentioned that I probably wouldn’t get her package for Christmas, but hoped that I would get letters. She also said that they would be thinking of me and “trying to picture how [I was] spending the day.”

     In the letter that I wrote from the Upper Marr Glacier Camp on the 26th, I was able to thank her for a small pre-Christmas package containing: “…Allerest, Vitamin C, Each Day A New Beginning and the stocking. I received it on the 22nd in time for Christmas. I hung the stocking up in my tent over the camp stove, but it remains empty. I got a bunch of greetings that day including Dad’s postcard from Paris…”

     This same letter describes what made Christmas Christmas for our Antarctic research team. I wrote,

We had a very nice Christmas together… We invited “156 Bravo” Camp …to come up and join us for turkey dinner since they didn’t get one, but they weren’t inclined to make the hike up here. …And anyway, the weather wasn’t great. …It was pretty heavily fogged in and blowing snow, so we had a “white Christmas” — near white-out conditions, but not actually and not very severe (still condition I).

          So, I spent the morning doing crossword puzzles which mom sent. “Santa” (i.e. Dave) left me some magazines outside my tent, which I will enjoy reading, …I also wrote a letter… Then we sat about the cook tent in the afternoon whilst our (pressed) turkey roast cooked in the oven. We played charades as we had the night before (Christmas Eve) when we stayed up late being festive. Thom and Scott each shared treats they had received in the mail; Dave, too, had stuff to share. (The only thing I had to share was the advent calendar…) In the late afternoon, I took the other oven to my tent to bake potatoes. At that time I wrote another letter… Dinner was good and plenty. Besides the above mentioned, we had corn and stuffing made from cabin bread. Fruit for dessert and more of the peach pie that was sent out by helo with all of the mail on Tuesday. We hung out in the cook tent listening to music and chatting on the radio.

     After we got back to McMurdo Station in early January, I sent a postcard thanking my mom for the cards and letters and the package I found waiting for me there. Three weeks later I was back at grad school in Maine and wrote, “I was not upset about not hearing from you before Christmas, rest assured. One has to temper expectations in an environment like that. Otherwise it is detrimental to oneself and the group as a whole. I was always pleased when I received mail, it would make the day. But there was no sense depending on getting anything.”

     What is the true meaning of Christmas? I wrote a poem that sums up what made Christmas Christmas that season that I spent in Antarctica. I sent it to my family as their Christmas present that year. At the time, I titled it “End of the Earth.”

There is nothing here.


The rocks of mountains.

The ice and snow of glaciers.

The wind which is the only sound

          apart from an occasional avalanche.


The Sun –

and sometimes the Moon.


That is something.


I am here –

And your thoughts are with me.

That is something else again.

     The true meaning of Christmas is loving-human-kindness and right relationships. The words of the song “Welcome Christmas” tell us: “Christmas Day is in our grasp / So long as we have hands to clasp / … / Christmas Day will always be / just as long as we have we / … / Welcome Christmas! While we stand / … / Heart to heart and hand in hand.”

     Knowing that both the Grinch and Scrooge found themselves transformed by the love which is at the heart of the Christmas holiday, if you found that you had a moderately-sized extra stash of cash or an abundance of something of value, more than you need for yourself, what would you do with it? How would you make Christmas Christmas? How would you reinforce the true meaning of Christmas in your life?

CRE Opportunities for All at FCB

  • Would your family like to lead the Chalice Lighting during the worship service one Sunday this year? CRE is coordinating this effort to involve families in this element of the worship service on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Click on this link to sign-up: You will receive an e-mail reminder.
  • Non-parent teacher-volunteers are needed to assist our Childcare Provider, Denise Azar, in the Nursery at 9 and 11 am each Sunday. You can easily sign-up here: You will receive an e-mail reminder.

Special Activities for families in December

  • Multigenerational Worship Service on December 20th – celebrating the winter holidays, UU-style. Your participation is encouraged. Contact Charlotte ( for ways you can help.

Children’s Religious Education Program Registration and Information:

  • If you haven’t registered your children for CRE, please do so ASAP using the registration link found on the Children’s Religious Education web page (org/childrens-re/) which allows you to register children from birth through 12th grade. All children must be registered for CRE.
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