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December 24,2021


Tonight is Christmas Eve, and once again we will have to rely upon our technology to get us through the time of worship.  I wish it weren’t so, but out of an overwhelming concern for your health and well being, we have decided (after much anguish and debate) to limit our Christmas Eve Service to FB Live streaming.  I hope that you will tune in, and join the worship team as they provide a time of carols and candlelight.  There will only be 5 people in the Sanctuary, well distanced from each other… Pulpit, Lectern, Piano, soloist, and AV Tech table.  You may wish to print the bulletin so that you can sing along with the carols.

See you online!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


December 19,2021


We hear the Christmas story every year. There is nothing new about the manger, the angels, the shepherds, or the magi.  We know this story so well that perhaps we’ve never noticed that it lacks one important detail:  we never hear about the actual birth of Jesus.

Was Jesus born as a human child?  Certainly he was.  But we are never told the length of Mary’s labor, the time and date of birth, or the size and weight of the newborn.  What’s more, we do not know if he was born in a cave (perhaps), a barn (doubtful), or at the home of one of

Joseph’s relatives (probable, since that’s where peasants placed their mangers).  The story tells us very little about the physical birth of Jesus.

And maybe it is presumptuous to want to see such a sight.  Strangers are rarely allowed to enter a maternity ward.  So we have no right to intrude on Joseph and Mary; let them have their quiet moment as new parents.  The storyteller knows the birth of Jesus is an event that is too magnificent and too intimate for casual onlookers to see.  Luke doesn’t show us much about the birth.  Neither does Matthew.  Mark – nothing.  John – nothing.

What Luke does show us, however, is the way that the Light of the World reflects from the faces of people who gathered around the manger.  Dirty shepherds came to Bethlehem, smelling like animals, transformed from terror to praise.  Onlookers dropped their jaws when they heard what God’s angels had to say about this birth.  Mary of course  treasured the shepherds’ message and “pondered it,” becoming the first Christian theologian.

The Light still shines, thank goodness, even with all the artificial light of the season.  If we stand near the manger, it will also shine onto our faces.  Sooner or later God’s Light will overcome every dark corner of our lives and the world.

In the meantime, Merry Christmas!

See you in church,
and on Christmas Eve!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

BTW, if you have contributed a poinsettia for our sanctuary, be sure and let us know the name of the person or persons you are honoring or memorializing.  You can leave a message at the church office.


December 12,2021


I have never really been fond of the name Stanley. It’s what my mother called me when I was in trouble.  “Stan” seems fine. And I I have always thought that “Stanley” would fade into history.  So I was pleasantly surprised when one of our new LAUCC families have named their youngest Stanley!  After me, I thought.  But no.  His mother told me that they just like the name.  How sweet.  I now need to rethink my lack of fondness!

Names are important.  My family is from New England, and believe it or not, the Puritans of the 17th century gave their children names that reflected their faith.  The names they gave their kids were so unusual that they leave us to wonder if, after all, the Puritans were just kidding.  One couple named their new baby boy “Kill Sin.”  So Mr. Kill Sin Pimple shows up in a marriage list of official county records.  I wonder if he had any nick-names? Did they call him “Kill,” or “Sin,” or maybe just “Bubba!”  Then there was Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, who named their child “More Fruit.”  He appears in court records as a juror in a trial in 1607.  Mr. More Fruit Fowler!

And one family named their son, from Paul’s letter to Timothy, “Fight the Good Fight of Faith.” It’s like being tagged with a bumper sticker!

But even today some people feel burdened by their names.  So nick-names come to the surface, and it gets tricky when doing hospital calling, because sometimes the person you have known for years as Mary is really named Ethel, and Dick is really named Jonathan.  “I’m sorry Rev. Smith, but we don’t have any record of that person here in the hospital.”  How was I to know!

But the one I like best is the one for Jesus, from Isaiah 9, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”  

Even the Puritans would have been proud!

See you in church,

and on Christmas Eve!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


December 5, 2021


I suppose that this year you may be sending more hopeful Christmas Cards to family and friends.  More hopeful because we are coming out of this pandemic that has altered our lives so dramatically.  While there are still concerns, the science is in our favor.  And I do trust the science!

It reminded me that several years ago, scientists in the United States sent a unique message to unknown recipients.  The message was from Earth to whoever-might-be-out-there. Edward Hays writes: “The communication was brief: a three-minute transmission in a mathematical code, describing the make-up of our solar system, the inhabitants of Earth and the present population of this world. The target of this signal was a cluster of some 300,000 stars located on the remote fringe of the Milky Way, a cluster called Messier 13. The message was addressed simply to ‘Occupants.’

“Earth’s Christmas signal, traveling at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, will not reach the star cluster for 25,000 Earth years!  If anyone is listening and cares to answer it, it will take at least as long to reply!  But nonetheless, a response to our greeting is requested by Christmas of the year 51974 A.D.” 

I can hardly wait!

Hays goes on to note that Christmas is a celebration when God sent us a message. “The Word was made flesh.  Unlike our message sent to the outer limits of the Milky Way, God’s message was not mathematically coded, but made clear and understandable.  We are not alone; Emmanuel, God is with us!”

See you around the Advent Wreath,
Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

November 26, 2021


The holidays seem to be coming faster this year.  Maybe it’s because we have not been able to celebrate for so long.  Now here we are at Thanksgiving, and Sunday is Advent!  It feels so overwhelming!

So what do we do?  The next best thing…  Wait!  And that is so appropriate for Advent.  It is precious and rich and steady waiting.  Waiting for the BIG EVENT, the crashing in of God’s love upon our spirits once again.  Some are waiting to be born.  Some of us feel we are born to wait.

But to too many of us holidays that began as a gift from God have become holidays more of gift giving than thanks giving.  We forget that the holidays themselves are a gift.  A gift of time.  A time to be with people we love.  A time to miss the people we loved.  A time to review why one’s life is going down hill.  A time to look at mountains we will yet climb.  A time to light a candle against the darkness.  A time to reflect on what star we follow.  And for all of these gifts, it is worth the wait.

What else is there to remember except love?  Life can be a series of great victories, or cunning triumphs or sensational good fortune, but the memories of love overshadow everything.  That is what Christmas really means – the gifts express it, the tree expresses it, the food and fun express it.  Christmas is when God loves the world more than ever before, and so a baby was born in Bethlehem.

I hope that no one misses Christmas.  You don’t need money or gifts or much of anything.  All you need is love and the willingness to give a little of it to those around you. You don’t even need friends when you start loving – you will have more than you can count before you know it.

This gentle Advent season, when the Christ child comes breaking afresh into your life, may you be blessed and may your love be overflowing!  Walk slowly.  Wait.  Don’t miss anything.  And I will see you here at church!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor

November 19, 2021


   Thanksgiving does not really come naturally.  In fact most children will not say “thank you” unless they are told to do so and then they will do it only without much thankfulness.  For many people saying “Thank you” is common, but it can also be just a throw away line.  It means nothing if it is said without any feeling.  It is just something to say like saying “How are you?” to people we see in passing when we have no intention of their actually telling us.
But maybe that is a little too cynical.  There are times when we do feel thankful and say it meaning something.  I have heard many people when they get a good report after surgery or medical testing say “Thank you” to God for the good report.  When someone does something really nice for us don’t we say thank you usually?
What is really hard I guess is being thankful when we don’t feel very good or things are not going as well as we like.  It is hard to be thankful when we are worrying about things.
Worrying has become a national pastime.    One of the reasons we have occasional major stock drops is that panic snowballs.  Once some folks panic about a price, the panic spreads to others and soon the stock market has a major setback.  But of course the stock market is only one of many arenas of life in which people worry.
I think maybe the antidote to worry is thanksgiving.  So here is a little help…

I am thankful for
Love, Friends, Breathing, and Food
The rest is gravy

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


November 12, 2021


Pledge cards for the year 2022 have been mailed out this past week. Let us know what you believe you can contribute financially to ministry here at Los Altos United Church of Christ by completing this voluntary faith commitment.  As circumstances change, you may change this pledge simply by contacting the church office. Please return your pledge cards to us by Sunday, Nov. 14th.

Commitment Sunday is November 14!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


November 5, 2021

Beloved… From my Stewardship Thoughts!

“A Buck in the Basket Isn’t Tithing”
Tithing… the biblical exhortation to return to God 10% of God’s gifts… may be common in some denominations, but remains rare in most American churches.

Researchers have found that although about 80% of Americans profess to be Christians, and many say they believe in tithing, about 3% of adults are consistent tithers. Why? One reason—say researchers, clergy and parishioners—is that some simply don’t have a tradition of tithing and annual pledging.

Many continue to drop $1 in the offering basket, as they did 30 years ago.

A senior cleric described the state of giving as: “If you have $50, you go out to dinner. If you have $20, you go to a movie. If you have $10, you get fast food. But if you have $1, you go to church.”

Unlike governments that can raise taxes and companies that can raise prices to offset inflation, LAUCC has no such ability. It is up to us, as members.

Understandably, some cannot give more than they do. But, if you have given the same amount for many years or made only small increases, consider that the costs of LAUCC budgeted items have increased significantly.  Perhaps, you may be able to raise your level of giving—and commit to doing so periodically.

Commitment Sunday is November 14!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


October 29, 2021

I hope to see you in worship this Sunday, dressed in your Halloween costume.  The children will parade down the aisle.  It should be fun.

Traditionally, Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve (October 31) is the day of Reformation.  We remember the good work of those who sought a more faithful church.  All Saints’ Day (November 1) celebrates those who have received their heavenly reward.  All Souls’ Day (November 2) remembers those who are still in process, once described in terms of the purgatorial journey.  All three are joined together this Sunday which we simply call All Saints. It is an important day.

This Sunday we will celebrate the Saints in our lives. I ask you:  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   If you would please email, text, or call me TODAY with your names and stories.  If not, you can bring them with you to worship.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


October 22, 2021

Two Things…

First, as I indicated last week, on October 31 we will celebrate the Saints in our lives. I ask you:  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   If you would email, text, or call me with your names and stories.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.

Second, it is THAT time of year! Again!  Yes, this Sunday we will begin our annual stewardship campaign.  The theme is Rooted In Love. Commitment Sunday will be November 14.  You will be mailed an invitation and commitment card for you to indicate your pledge to support the ministries of Los Altos United Church of Christ in the 2022 year.  Think about what you are grateful for… and consider how you can continue to live a life of service toward others.  And may you feel God’s encouragement to live a life of compassion and love!

Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


October 15,2021

Dearly Beloved…

Autumn is my favorite time of year.  We find ourselves in the beauty of a variety of colors.  A mixture of orange, red, yellow and purple appears in the trees as seasons change (yes, even in So. California, although we will never have what New England has) from summer to winter.  We owe this of course to the process of photo-synthesis — and those little chlorophyll molecules that are present in leaf cells.  So as the length of days and average temperature begin to drop, then the trees “know” it is time to get ready for winter, their sleep time, and the leaves stop making food.

But trees can be fooled.  I remember the birch trees behind the sign of my first church… as the spotlights in front of the sign kept shining through the night, the upper portion of the trees that were illuminated kept their leaves.  Green on top, multi-colored in the lower portions where no light seeped. Evidently the various branches did not communicate with each other.  In midwinter it was an odd sight.
The other reason I like the season of Autumn is the succession of special days, the lengthening of the nights, the evening wind blowing leaves at my feet, and the darkness coming earlier each day.  It is almost as if nature is telling us to pay attention, that all things change, whether we want it or like it.
The holidays begin with Halloween, and this year it falls on a Sunday.  So we will celebrate All Saints Day on October 31.  And Saints are not to be forgotten.  Sometimes we happen to be in the presence of something or someone great. Our lives feel changed, renewed, alive!  My friend Dick Wing told me about a Jewish legend called “Lamed vav Tsaddikim” (pronounced any way you like!).  The legend says that there are 36 truly righteous people on the entire earth called Tzaddiks.  They do not know who they are, but God does.  And if it were not for them, so the legend goes, God would give up on the human race.  A Tzaddik goes about their life with great integrity.  They are humble, unselfish, and wise. They love truth and justice and mercy above all things.  And a Tzaddik would be the last to think of themselves as a Tzaddik.
The author Robert Fulghum knew a Tzaddik named Stuart.  When diagnosed with cancer, he didn’t miss a beat, but went down to the church to voluntarily clean the restrooms as usual. Fulghum found him scrubbing the toilet with his dignity intact. “Pastor, good sermon — you’re a good minister.”  Fulghum blurted out that he could not be half the minister of Stuart even if he lived 100 years.  Like all Tzaddiks, Stuart didn’t know how to handle a compliment.

But then again, they are the ones who give their gifts so freely and generously.  We are the ones who get to say “Thank you, that makes me feel good!”  And we wonder if we have been touched by a Tzaddik!

So on October 31, we will celebrate the Saints in our lives.  Who has been that person in your life?  Whose words and actions have shaped your faith?  Is it a parent, a friend, a towering historical figure?  Is it a person unrecorded in history books due to their unlikely status?   Please  email, text, or call me with your names and stories.  We will take time in worship to name the saints in our lives, and I hope we have a long list of living, unlikely, and faithful people to help us better understand God’s call to love this world.


Stan Smith, Supply Pastor


June 25, 2021

Dear Beloved…

This  week we go back to in-person church!  We’ve longed to return for over fifteen months. This coming Sunday, our wishes will be realized.  On June 27, we return to in-person worship.  Hallelujah!!!

When churches closed, everyone thought it would be for just a month or two. But the pandemic extended month after month.  As 2021 arrived, few Protestant churches were meeting and if so, at a significantly reduced capacity.

Thanks to vaccines and falling infection rates, things are changing.  Now, we get to return to in-person worship.

As our church opens, there will still be precautions. If you are fully vaccinated, and feel comfortable, you can worship without a mask.  If you are not vaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask and socially distant.  If you are bringing children, you will need to make an RSVP with Sumer Lesser, our Youth Director (  There will be nursery care and children/youth classes.  On Communion Sundays individual communion kits will be offered as you enter.

Worship won’t be the same as it was before closing.  We will face mixed emotions. Returning to the rhythms of worship prompts us to remember the Sundays and holidays we missed.  Part of celebrating finally being together is grieving the time spent apart.  Empty seats will remind us of the members who haven’t yet returned, or who left the church or moved away during the pandemic. Some will be missing.

With great anticipation, I look forward to worshipping with you, in person.

Don’t worry, if you can’t make it, we will be live streaming it on Facebook for you and you’ll be able to access it there throughout the week. This week the service can be viewed through  LIVESTREAM ON FACEBOOK at  You do not have to be a Facebook subscriber!   We will NOT be streaming on Zoom.  


Stan Smith, Supply Pastor



Dear Beloved:

Today, Friday, is the 49th anniversary of my ordination.  Back in 1972 it was a Sunday – Pentecost!  I had chosen that day for obvious reasons.  What could be better than beginning my ordained ministry on the birthday of the church?  Of course things were different back then.  There were only a few women in ministry in the Disciples of Christ  or UCC.  Inclusive language had not yet caught on.  The war in Viet Nam was ending, thankfully.  Computers hadn’t been invented.  In fact there were no Xerox machines.  I still had a manual typewriter.  Gas was 23 cents a gallon.  And I had no idea what I would do for a job.

Fortunately I discovered a small church in Northern California that took a chance on me, and the rest is history!  Now I am beginning my 50th year.  And here we are about to celebrate Pentecost once again.  Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast day. It started with the Festival of Weeks, when Jews from all over the Mediterranean basin came to Jerusalem on pilgrimage bringing the first fruits of the wheat harvest.

Now, as the third great feast day of the Christian year, Pentecost is our annual reminder of who we are, what great gifts God has given us, and what we are called to do with them.  We read the story in Acts 2 every year.

However, what is happening in that sacred land today bears no resemblance to a feast day.  There are no “first fruits” being offered.  Only relentless violence and no peace in sight.  What are we, as Christians, to do?  What are we, as faithful people, to do?

And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!”  (Genesis 4:10)

I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  Hate does not lead to love.  Hate only leads to more hate.  I pray for all the people of Palestine and Israel.  May there be peace!  Lasting peace!

Blessings,  Stan

Supply Pastor, LAUCC



Dear Beloved:

A friend of a friend told me this story about a physician and her daughter.  It seems the doctor was driving her daughter to pre-school one morning.  The mom had her stethoscope sitting on the seat next to her and the daughter began playing with it. “Be still my heart,” thought the mom, “my daughter wants to follow in my footsteps.” Then the child began to speak into the instrument: “Welcome to McDonald’s.  May I take your order?”

The plans we have for ourselves and for our children are not necessarily the way life unfolds.  While planning is important, it is no less important to plan on having our plans broken.  And our heart too, to the extent we have our heart set on our plans.  Be patient. Our plans have plans for us.

We are now in the “Yellow Tier,” and as children go back to school, and we get to go back to routines, be open to what may be before you.  Our leadership has put together a plan for returning to a sense of “normal,” whatever that may be.  But plans change.  This is why we need to be patient.
And faithful.
Faith is a way we hold on by letting go.
Faith is letting go of what we thought we needed and discovering what is in our heart’s reach!
So reach a little these coming weeks, and join us in the journey, wherever it may lead!

Blessings, Stan
Supply Pastor, LAUCC



Dear Church,

Thank you for your gracious acceptance of worshiping at home. All of you have been kind with your comments regarding our worship streams and patient with us as we work through our learning curve. Many of us are new to this, which makes us appreciate the collective talents of our Staff. Thanks to Cindy Dufford, our office “overlord” who keeps things running smoothly; thanks to David and Michelle Joseph for their musical contributions to our worship; thanks to Sumer who continues to keep in contact with our youth; and thanks to Roxy as she navigates the difficult waters of our closed pre-school!

We have been overwhelmed by the response to our streamed services during this time that has thrown us all for a loop. So many messages of support, love, kindness and hope, and those who have chosen to contribute to our church financially too. Your help is needed and appreciated, and we continue to be the church. There is no separation when hearts and minds listen to God and the prayers made for each other bind us together. We long and hope for the day we reunite in our beautiful sanctuary and share fellowship together. Until then, know that you are loved and cared about.

I am also grateful for those of you who have supported us behind the scenes… Steve Delaney and his financial wizardry; Judy Ekmalian and her good work with worship; Bill Berry who takes care of our closed campus; Lori Delaney who has helped with our personnel… and so many more of you who just show up (figuratively speaking!).

We will get through this! We are a faith-filled people, and we trust in the One who has given us life. Let us prayerfully continue to be attentive and kind…

Pray this…
May we who are merely inconvenienced remember those whose lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors remember those who are most vulnerable.
May we who have the luxury of working from home respect and support those who must choose between preserving their health or paying their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for our children when their schools close remember those who have no options.
May we who are losing our investments, remember those who have no home.
During this time, when we can not physically wrap our arms around each other, let us each find ways to be the loving embrace of humanity to our neighbors.
Be aware. Be accepting. Be supportive. Be kind.



Keeping in Touch…

Hello Friends…

The weather has finally turned, and the warmth is a welcome change after so many cold and rainy days. Spring seems to be everywhere, although at 94 degrees today it feels more like summer!

One of my favorite movies is “O God” with John Denver and George Burns. The by-line goes like this… “When God appears to an assistant grocery manager as a good-natured old man, the Almighty selects him as his messenger for the modern world.”

But my greatest learning from the movie was when George Burns (AKA God) surprises John Denver in his bathroom one morning, and the obviously traumatized Denver is reassured by Burns that when you are really shaken, do something that is familiar, like brushing your teeth or washing the dishes. In other words, calm comes from doing things we find most natural. I like that.

I have long believed that the sacred lurks in the ordinary. Most of the time we don’t notice it. But by slowing down (even if we are forced to) we may be able to experience a calm that reveals the sacred. This is the heart of meditation… to see even the simplest of tasks as spiritual.

So I am off to make my bed, and do a load of wash. Lord, help me to pay attention!

I hope to see you on Sunday morning at 10 am.


Keeping in Touch…

Dearly Beloved…
The love and support you have offered each other is amazing. In this time of “social distancing,” care and comfort are all the more important. Many of you have shared the ways you are communicating with each other, especially the most vulnerable members and friends. As the pandemic continues to evolve, we are staying in careful contact as staff and church leadership.

We are grateful for your willingness to support our ongoing ministries. Your generosity helps us maintain the incredible congregation that is Los Altos UCC.

Please continue to find a place to pray, offering thanks for your friends and loved ones, for all health care workers; EMS, police, fire and first responders; and grocery and restaurant workers and preparers who make essential medical and nutritional services available in this time of the Covid -19 crisis. And remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

I hope you will join us on Sunday mornings, via ZOOM or Facebook Live. Below are the links you can use.

Blessings to you all.


MIDWEEK EMAIL Tuesday, March 24

Good Morning Los Altos UCC Members and Friends…

I hope that you are all healthy and well.  As this new week begins we are still bombarded with continual coverage of this Covid-19 crisis, and it seems that each day this is something critical that we need to consider.  And we are adjusting to church “technology style.”   I hope that most of you were able to tune in last Sunday on ZOOM for our morning worship.  If not, it has been posted on the “Los Altos United Church of Christ” Facebook page.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was a good start.

While our campus is closed, be assured that the staff and others are working from home or in other ways to keep our community of faith in communication.  Please check your email daily, and watch for invitations to participate in Sunday worship either on FaceBook or through ZOOM.

We are also working on a link in our web page ( where you will be able to continue your financial support of the church.  This will probably be through PayPal, but all you will need to do is click on the link, and it will instruct you what to do.  Of course you can use the USPS.  We encourage you to continue to support the ministry of LAUCC, especially in light of the loss of income from our renters.

However, we also want to caution you about scammers during this crisis.  The FCC Long Beach put our a few helpful suggestions which I have adapted for you.
An Important Alert: Scammers are trying to take advantage of church members by creating fake Gmail addresses and emailing requests for gift card donations. This is not real, do not respond. In addition, a few practices to keep in mind:
Pastors and Church Staff do not ask for gift card donations. By policy and practice, the solicitation of donations by the church is carefully monitored by the Finance team at LAUCC, to prevent inconvenient or irresponsible asks. Because we care about being generous and have carefully set our giving goals, we don’t just “pop-up” with requests, as a matter of respect to our donors.
If you get an email asking for gift cards or donations from an unusual email address, ignore it or report it to your local authorities. It is a scam, and a form of fraud.

This coming Sunday we will again live-stream our morning worship via ZOOM and on Facebook.  You will receive an invitation in the mail on Saturday, and you can join the ZOOM meeting around 10 am on Sunday.  If you have a FACEBOOK account, you can go to Los Altos United Church of Christ FB page and follow the service there.

As you are aware, many events are being postponed (as of this morning even the July Olympics until 2021), and no doubt you will learn of these as the days go by.  You can go to for Conference information, or to  for national information.   We want to keep in touch with each of you as the days go by.  Please feel free to email the church office ( or me ( with any pastoral concerns.

I wish for each of you health and safety.  May God’s blessings be abundant in our lives, today and into the future.

Assorted Blessings,
Stan Smith, LAUCC Supply Pastor