This year for my birthday, I received money toward purchasing a record player. After ordering the model I wanted, before it even arrived at my house, I curated a modest shortlist of vinyl for which I would keep my eye out.

One album that made the list was  A Very Kacey Christmas  from pop-country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves. With its translucent green pressing and timelessly retro-western vibe, I had dreams of it becoming our home's resident Christmas album for years to come. So, as soon as I set up my new turntable, I ordered  A Very Kacey Christmas ... in April. And because I'm not a crazy person, I waited the eight long months to drop the needle on that album. I am happy to report, two weeks into December the record is still spinning strong. 

If you haven't heard the album, you really should give it a listen. Like any great Christmas album, it has plenty of classic tunes as well as a handful of originals. I enjoy all the new songs written for the album, but the standout for me is a track titled "Christmas Makes Me Cry." It stands out because it's beautiful, but also because it feels out-of-place, right in the middle of the album. It plays directly after the festive "Feliz Navidad" and is followed by "Mele Kalikimaka", which always reminds me of  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation . These two songs, which no one can take too seriously while singing, bookend some incredibly heartstring-tugging lyrics...

"Seems like everybody else is having fun
I wonder if I'm the only one
Who's broken heart still has broken parts just wrapped in pretty paper...

And they always say, 'Have a Happy Holiday'

And every year, I sincerely try
Oh, but Christmas, it always makes me cry"

"Christmas Makes Me Cry" is about the real presence of grief at Christmastime. And in a way, this song transforms the entire album into a metaphor for this kind of grief.
The first time you hear it, it sneaks up on you. One moment you're wishing everyone a merry Christmas from the bottom of your heart, and the next, out of nowhere, you're hit like a ton of bricks, left picking up the pieces of your holiday spirit, which everyone expects to be "green and bright." As for repeat listens, hearing the song, even though you're expecting it, doesn't necessarily get any easier. In fact, because you're expecting it, its presence looms over the whole experience. And when you do hear it again, there's a good chance it hits you in a way completely different than it did the last time.

If you're experiencing grief this Christmas, if joy is not your default setting this season, please know that you are not the only one, nor are you alone. On Sunday evening, three days after the raucous carol sing-along at Sola Coffee and a day before Good Shepherd's spirited staff Christmas party, a space will be created for those who grieve to sit in their grief at the Longest Night service, 5:30 pm in the sanctuary. Come, unwrap the pretty paper and be present with your true self. Share in the hope of Christ's coming, or at the very least, let us hope for you. And may you, and your grief, never feel out-of-place in Christ, the Good Shepherd.

Andrew Buck, Director of Cross-Generational Ministry

This Sunday's Readings
Genesis 3:1-22
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Isaiah 40:1-11
Isaiah 64:1-9a
Isaiah 7:10-15
Micah 5:2-4
Luke 1:26-38

The second week of Advent is about living out our baptism to transform the world. This week, we are collecting pajamas for children being housed by Families Together, a Raleigh non-profit that works to transition homeless children and families into permanent housing. Purchase a set of pajamas and bring them to worship this Sunday; they will be received as part of the offering and blessed.

The Longest Night - Sunday, December 17 at 5:30 pm  - In a season of joy, some hurt remains. This service is for those who are remembering someone or something this Christmas.

Holden Evening Prayer - Wednesday, December 20 at 7:00 pm -
Join us for our final Holden Evening Prayer this Advent season. A light reception and time for fellowship will follow the service.

Worship on Wednesday - Wednesday, December 20 - This monthly worship service in the Fellowship Hall is geared towards families with small children but all are welcome! Join us for pizza at 5:15 pm followed by a family-friendly worship at 5:30-6:00 pm.

Christmas Eve - Sunday, December 24
  • Lessons & Carols at 9:30 am - Join us for Lessons and Carols worship, our one worship service on this morning. Stay after the service to help decorate the Sanctuary for Christmas Eve and enjoy refreshments together!
  • Christmas Eve Worship at 5:00 pm -  Come celebrate the birth of Christ at our family service.
  • Christmas Eve Worship at 7:00 & 9:00 pm - Come celebrate the birth of Christ at our candlelight worship services.

Sunday, December 31 at 9:30 am - Join us for our only worship service on this day.

More information about upcoming events is available in  this week's bulletin announcements .
The December edition of The Shepherd's Voice is now available online.
Health and healing for Zachary Weigand, friend of Lillian O'Neill; Bill Grunow, friend of Alex & Judy Plavocos; and Jim Stelfox, uncle of Cortney Tyson.

Thanksgiving for this Sunday's baptisms of Carolyn Hales Dupree Goldston, daughter of Benjamin and Rosalie Goldston; and Madelyn Anne Duquette, daughter of Pete and Karen Duquette and granddaughter of George and Jeanette Kuchenreuther; and to Ron and Cheri Kurz celebrating the birth of twin grandchildren, Evan and Ada Serozi to daughter and son-in-law Alicia and Brent Serozi. 

Sympathy  to the family and friends of Jim O'Sullivan, Regina O'Sullivan's husband; Barbara Jean Hoffman, Debra Alis' mother; Shirley Ann Roagman, Woodie Ischer's aunt; and Kathy Ross, Jim Sloman's sister. 

For the orphans of Mnene Parish, including Wiseman Moyo and Nyaradizai Dube.

Wiseman is 20 years old and taking Form 5 classes at Masase Boarding School. He is dedicated to improving his studies and enjoys singing in the church choir. He is 1 of 5 siblings in the GSLC support program. His Mail For Mnene partners are the Whittecar Group and a GSLC Christcare group.

Nyaradzai is 17. She attends Form 5 at Mnene Boarding School. She enjoys her math and science courses. She manages her physical disabilities with crutches and a wheel chair, both provided through GSLC support. Her Mail For Mnene partners are Duane and Woodie Ischer and Abigail Beebe.

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