May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Now that the Saint John zone has moved back to yellow (it's hard to believe that it was less than a week ago), things are in full-Christmas-preparation-mode here at the church. I am spending my days putting together services and sending them off to Elaine and Marilyn to transform into bulletins, then creating sermons and prayers to flesh out the services.
But in the middle of our Advent preparations for Christmas, it is also good to pause. And to breathe. Breathe in the Holy Spirit who is the breath of God, allowing your heart to be filled with peace and with joy; and breathe out God's love to the world around you. Christmas is a special season - a time when we remember that God is with us, Emmanuel. God is closer to us than our very breath, and there is nowhere we can go and nothing we can do that can ever separate us from God and from God's love.
Because of Covid, this Christmas is going to look different than previous Christmases, but nothing can change the fact that God chose to become human in Jesus and was laid in a manger so many centuries ago. And nothing can change the hope, peace, joy, and love that are at the heart of the Christmas message.
Here is the schedule for our Christmas celebrations at Two Rivers Pastoral Charge:
Thursday December 17 - Blue Christmas, 7pm at Long Reach. As I mentioned in Monday's e-mail, this is a service where we not only have a chance to lament all of the things we are grieving this year, but we also have a chance to look for hope in the Christmas message.
Sunday December 20 - 4th Sunday of Advent (9:15 at Summerville; 11:15 at Westfield). This week we get to read about Mary - how she was visited by the angel Gabriel, and then the powerful words that she proclaims in the Magnificat (Luke 1:26-38, 46-55).
Monday December 21 (Long Reach) and Tuesday December 22 (Westfield) at 7pm will be our Outdoor Caroling Services. This is a chance to get together to sing the Christmas carols that we aren't able to safely sing together inside our churches. Physical distancing will be practiced at both of these events.
Wednesday December 23 from 5-9pm at Westfield United Church is the Outdoor Live Nativity that Tatum and Gaby have organized. Click here to see the poster for the event. You are asked to park in the lot across the street from the parking lot, and process through on foot. They will be collecting donations for the food bank at this event. (If you are interested in helping out for an hour that evening, they are still looking for volunteers - please get in touch with either Tatum or Gaby for more information.)
Thursday December 24 - Christmas Eve. We have started receiving messages from people reserving their spots for the Christmas Eve services. Because our seating is limited, you must phone the office to reserve a seat so that we don't have to turn you away at the door. As of this moment, Summerville and Westfield are getting close to full, so please phone the office as soon as possible if you would like to attend Christmas Eve in-person. (We will be streaming the service at Westfield on Facebook live for anyone not comfortable or able to be with us in-person, or for anyone who didn't phone the church soon enough.)
Friday December 25 - Christmas Day. As in other years, we will be having a service on Christmas morning at 10am at Westfield. This is generally a more relaxed and informal service than Christmas Eve with a lower attendance, so pre-registration is not required. You could even attend in your Christmas PJs (or regular PJs) if you so desire!
I also have a couple of non-Christmas-service related announcements this week:
Annual Report - yes, it's that time of year again! At the last Official Board Meeting, we set dates in February for our annual meetings, which means that the reports need to be compiled and printed in January. The deadline for submitting your reports to Elaine in the church office (firstname.lastname@example.org) is January 10. As it was last year, this deadline is a firm deadline - if you submit your report after that date, it will need to be an addendum to the original report. This allows us to distribute it to all 3 congregations in advance of the annual meeting so that people can read through it. We are also planning, this year, to circulate it electronically and print fewer paper copies (though there will be a paper copy for anyone who wants a paper copy).
Bible Study - we are now on Christmas break and will resume on Wednesday January 6 (in-person if we are still yellow; or online if we can't meet together in-person).
Broadview Discussion Group - the January/February issue is arriving in mailboxes this week, so we will gather on the first Monday in January (Jan. 3) at 10am for our discussion (again, as long as we are still yellow at that time).
Church in the World Book Study - Ida and I have chosen the next book that we will be discussing (date to be determined, but likely in the spring). The group decided to read a graphic novel this time around, and after tossing a couple of ideas back and forth, Ida and I decided on Tangles by Sarah Leavitt. We have copies on order for all 3 churches that should be available in January, but we are letting you know the title before Christmas in case anyone is looking for some reading over the holidays. (It is also available through the New Brunswick Public Library.) This book is a memoir about the author's experience of caring for her mother after her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers. It is a graphic novel (think comic books but without the superheros), so the story is told through both text and pictures.
And I think that's it for today. The countdown is on... only 8 more days until we celebrate the birth of Jesus!
Blessings to you and yours, today and always,
Rev. Kate Jones Two Rivers Pastoral Charge (506) 757-2201 (office) (506) 343-1307 (mobile) www.tworiverspastoralcharge.com Pronouns: she/her/hers "Teacher, what is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "You must love your neighbour as you love yourself."