May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
The countdown continues! 10 days until Christmas, and only 9 days until Christmas Eve! Are you ready for Christmas? Is your house decorated? Is your meal planned? Are your gifts purchased?
What if we were to look at Christmas preparations differently? What if we were to ask questions like: Is my heart ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Is my soul filled with generosity, ready to share with others the same way God has been generous with me? How will my spirit deeply celebrate Christmas this year, remembering that Christmas means that God is with us always?
We have a lot going on in our churches in these last couple of weeks before Christmas:
Tomorrow (Thursday December 16) at 7pm will be our Blue Christmas service. This is a service that offers a safe space for anyone struggling with the season - a respite from the "toxic positivity" that Christmas tends to bring. However you are feeling right now, it is OK to feel that way; and together we will search for hope in the Christmas message. Click here to view the poster for this service.
This Sunday will be our last Advent service for this year - 9:15 at Summerville and 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live. We will light our Advent candle for love this week, and explore the Christmas story from Joseph's perspective (Matthew 1:18-25).
Next week, we will be having a gathering with caroling around a bonfire in each of our parking lots - Monday December 20 at Long Reach; Tuesday December 21 at Westfield; and Wednesday December 22 at Summerville. We will begin at 7pm each evening. Last year, these gatherings were the highlight of my Christmas - it was so beautiful to be together, outside, with the light and warmth of the bonfire, singing the Christmas story. Please help us to spread the word and invite friends and neighbours to join us! Click here to see a poster, and feel free to share it on your social media. Also - please note that our parking lots - especially at Long Reach and Summerville - can be quite dark, so you probably want to bring a flashlight or a headlamp in order to read the words to the songs.
Next Thursday, December 23, there will be a live nativity in the Westfield parking lot from 4-7pm - thank you, Tatum, for your time and energy in organizing this. Click here to see the poster. Just as the magi brought gifts to Jesus, we will be collecting items for the food bank as well as warm socks, hats, and mittens to share with our neighbours in need.
Next Wednesday (the 22nd) will be our last bible study before we take a couple of weeks' break. We have read the Christmas story from Matthew and from Luke, and next week we are going to have some fun comparing the two stories using pictures and Christmas carols. 10am in the Westfield parlour - everyone is welcome!
And finally, our Christmas Eve services will be at Summerville at 4pm, Long Reach at 6pm, and Westfield at 8pm on the 24th - more details to come in next week's e-mail!
I also wanted to include a quick Covid update for you this week. As you are likely aware, the Covid situation here in New Brunswick (and elsewhere in Canada and in the world) has been changing very quickly, and is likely to continue to change. As of the current provincial plan, the impact on churches is:
Level 1 (where we are now) - proof of vaccination and masks required for in-person gatherings
Level 2 - proof of vaccination and masks still required, plus no singing, plus 50% capacity (ie we would be roping off half of the pews again)
Level 3 - no indoor in-person gatherings. We would shift our services back to livestreaming only.
Our Session had a conversation around this plan when it was first announced - we recognize that there is value in gathering together, and so we will plan to gather in-person for as long as possible, even if that means no singing in Level 2. We also recognize that loving our neighbours includes keeping our neighbours safe, and so if we perceive the risk of gathering together to be high in our communities, we may choose to shift our worship services to livestream-only even if we haven't been moved to Level 3 yet. We love all of you, and don't want any of you to get sick from coming to church!
And the other thing to keep in mind, as we saw this week with the modified guidelines, is that the government plan might change with very short notice as the situation in the province changes and as researchers learn more about omicron (and any future variants). We are prepared to be nimble so that we can pivot our services as needed; and will do our best to communicate any changes with you as quickly as we can.
And that is all for today; though I don't want my final thought in this e-mail to be all about Covid. So instead I will end with the words from one of the hymns we will be singing on Sunday:
"O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
cast our our sin, and enter in; be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!"
As our days tumble towards Christmas, even in these uncertain times, may you know the blessing of Emmanuel - "God-With-Us" - and know that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can ever separate you from God and from God's love. You are beloved, and God is with you!
And may God bless you everyone you love, 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."