This year again we approach the holidays with caution as the pandemic persists and COVID variants arise. Many have been vaccinated and boosted; some have not, for a variety of reasons. They too, have worth and dignity. We are still masking at UUAvl and figuring out how to gather safely. We continue to grieve COVID losses having surpassed 800,000 deaths in our country and countless more worldwide.  We grieve for our planet and a nation whose leadership is unable to unite and pass a bill to alleviate the hardship this pandemic has caused to so many. We are tired and traumatized. In the words of Maya Angelou in her poemAmazing Peace

“Into this climate of fear and apprehension, Christmas enters,
Streaming lights of joy, ringing bells of hope
And singing carols of forgiveness high up in the bright air.
The world is encouraged to come away from rancor,
Come the way of friendship.”

Take a moment to breathe and acknowledge your feelings, your bodily sensations as you think about this reality.  And take another deep breath. Think of the moments of joy and delight you have also experienced this past year. What manifestations of beauty and compassion have made you smile?  What friendships have sustained you?  What have you done to bring joy or delight to another?

I have found delight in the continued engagement of our UUAvl community. Our buildings may have been closed but our congregation has always been open. You have participated as you are able given all the challenges of this past year. The Christmas Caroling and Cookie Exchange & Tree Decorating gatherings this month filled our campus with joy and connection. It was delightful and heartwarming to see many of you again. Our community remains vibrant. On-line or in-person, we continue to show up for each other.  Programs for all ages continue to be offered, in person or on-line for you to participate as you are able. Committees continue to meet to do the work of the congregation. We have not been idle! Staff will be taking a much-deserved break after the Christmas Eve service. We will spend time with our families and friends and recharge our batteries. We hope this holiday season, whatever your practices, you have an opportunity to celebrate, rest and reflect as you prepare to welcome a new year.

May we observe the winter holidays in a way that resonates with our UU values.
May we act in the spirit of giving and generosity that permeates the season.

Feliz Navidad,
Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development