Grace Abounds!
Sermon writing and worship preparations are a holy art. I prayerfully engage the living word with imagination, curiosity, and an openness for the Spirit to dance!
My hope as your pastor through “Neeley’s Notions” is to offer stories and perspectives to ignite your own imagination, curiosity, and openness to the Spirit. - this will be a periodical email offering as the Spirit leads!
From Generation to Generation
I love the season of Advent!
It is an opportunity to embrace the expectant hope of the good news of the Christ child born to us anew. I was pregnant with Paisley on Christmas 2014. She was born on January 14, 2015. I remember being in awe of Mary the most that year. Mary, with child, traveling to Bethlehem. The exhaustion, the unknown all the while feeling her baby kicking inside her belly!
Kately on the first Sunday of Advent 2014, giving her baby sister kisses!
It was a holy experience on Christmas Eve has we sang Joy to the World, and I prayed words of hope for my own little child growing inside of me. I prayed that she too would bring hope and good news to the world in her own little way! Since Christmas 2014, I have paid close attention to Mary as a mom called to give birth to our Savior. The calling, the birthing pains, the hope, peace, love, and joy! 
This Advent we will lean into the scripture found in the gospel of Luke known as Mary’s song of praise (Luke 1:46-55): 
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowly state of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name;
indeed, his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his child Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
“The promise of the Christ child is meant to be lived out and passed down from generation to generation. Our theme this Advent “From Generation to Generation” reminds us of the ways our lives, histories, actions, and stories are interconnected and woven together. In the midst of the narratives, policies, and rhetoric designed to divide us, what does it look like to practice belonging to one another? The work of God is always unfolding – in and through us. This Advent season, how will we carry it forth?”
Our stories of the past shape who we are today. The Christmas story is a story passed down from generation to generation. A story of God with us, Emmanuel. A story of a baby born in a time of conflict bringing hope and light. A story that speaks to us anew each Advent season and calls us forth to be changed for the better.
Thanks be to God for the stories passed down to us that we too are invited to pass on to generations to come. 
A Table of Acceptance
Some of my favorite family traditions especially around the holidays are passed down from generation to generation. 
I am named after my maternal great grandmother, Kathleen Neeley Burnside. Neeley was her maiden name. My mom is Debra Kathleen Burnside Rentz. She was the first grandchild to my great grandmother. And I, the first great grandchild, my name is Kathleen Neeley Rentz Lane. I have always cherished being named after my great-grandmother. I don’t remember meeting her. I met her as a baby (pictured here with my mom holding me) at her home in an assisted living home. Mom says, Great grandmother Kathleen, was so excited to meet me that day. 
Kathleen Neeley Burnside
Three generations of Kathleen Neeleys
One tradition my mom has passed down from my great grandmother is the acceptance found around the table. My great Grandmother had a dairy farm in Columbia, SC.
It was a tradition, my mom remembers dating back to her childhood around 1960s, that all the work stopped on Saturdays at lunchtime. And the table – well, everyone gathered around the table to enjoy fried chicken, green beans, rice and gravy, mac and cheese, and the best buttermilk biscuits in all the land!
Great Grandmomma wanted everyone around the same table – the family, the workers on the farm, the neighbors. It was a feast of acceptance and love and the award-winning southern cooking!
The Burnside family dairy farm in Columbia, SC
My childhood was the same. My mom carried on this tradition. At our home in Dahlonega, we grew to expect neighbors, friends, and even strangers to be seated with us at the table any day of the week! The example my great grandmother passed on to my mom was passed down to my sisters and me. A table of acceptance. I pray, I too, pass a table of acceptance on to our three girls from generation to generation! All stories woven together, interconnected, around the table of grace! 
One of my favorite songs to date is "Crowded Table" by The Highwomen.
Thank you,
Great grandmomma,
for the tables, the stories, your name!
Stories of home, of family, of Christmas
This Advent we will remember and carry forth the ancient and yet living stories of our faith! 
We will begin with the genealogy of Jesus found in Matthew. “In that long list of names, we remember the trauma and triumph of those who came before; each names holds a story and their story gives way to Christ’s story.”
There’s room for every story! 
The Angel Gabriel will meet Mary reminding us that God meets us in our fear. “From generation to generation, faithful people have said “yes” despite apprehension.” Do not be afraid. 
For our Lessons and Carols service, we will sing songs of the faith and hear the story told of our Savior’s birth. A story we as Christians have told with wonder, anticipation, and joy year after year.
And through the voices of our children in the Christmas Pageant we will see God in each other, in Mary, and in Elizabeth. 
On the Longest Night of the year, we will honor our weary hearts in a weary season in a weary world and travel the road of Advent together honestly as we can on a quest for encouragement, hope, and strength in the places we are currently living - emotionally, spiritually, and physically. 
A Weary World: Reflections for a Blue Christmas by Kathy Escobar
Church family, 
Let’s us gather around the table, the fire, the light of Christ, this Advent Season. Expectant, hopeful, and eager to share in the stories from generation to generation! 
This Advent, I would love to hear your stories passed down from generation to generation! Stories of home, of family, of Christmas. You are invited to email me! Either by replying to this Notion, or sending a separate email to!
 Looking through pictures of traditions past are a gift we give ourselves!
All in the congregation are invited to bring framed photographs of loved ones - ancestors, present day family photos, and children and grandchildren, as well as family Bibles or other meaningful tokens of your tapestry of faith. 
Please bring these to the church by November 26 and deliver them to Alicia to be a part of sharing your ancestral story for the first Sunday of Advent!
This Advent, may you remember that you belong - to a story etched into the wrinkles of time, to generations that have come before and will come after, to a love that won't let you go.
Neeley Rentz Lane