May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
And Winter Solstice blessings to you! At 11:27 tonight (Atlantic Time), the earth will be tilted on its axis so that here in the northern hemisphere we will be pointed as far away from the sun as we will get, and by tomorrow morning the earth's axis will begin tipping the other way, slowly pointing us back towards the sun over the next 6 months.
This makes tonight the longest night of the year, and yet to me it is a very hope-filled night. The summer solstice (on or around June 21) has always felt a bit melancholy to me, knowing that the days are about to start getting shorter; but tonight we can be confident that this is as short as the days are going to get. Things aren't going to get any worse than this.
Hope is a future-oriented thing. Hope looks at the right now, and says "this night isn't going to last forever - the sun is going to return." Hope means (to borrow words from author Frederick Buechner) that "the worst time is never the last time."
We don't need hope on the summer solstice, for we are already in full sunlight. Hope is a winter solstice sort of thing, as we know that we are on the threshold of beginning to tilt towards the sun.
And so my wish for you is that the hope of the winter solstice might worm its way into any shadows that you are carrying in your soul; and may that hope, that confidence that the sun is returning, illuminate your soul so that you sing the dawn into being.
Here in the northern hemisphere, Christmas falls just days after the winter solstice. We will be celebrating the birth of the Light of the World just days after the light begins to return to the world. And so my winter solstice blessing becomes a Christmas blessing - that the Light of the World might be born in you this Christmas, so that you might know that God is with you always, and that you might join the eternal dance of love that is God.
For announcements this week, we still have a bunch of things going on!
This year, our Blue Christmas Service falls on the solstice. We will gather this evening at 7pm at Summerville United Church to search for that hope I was talking about earlier. This is a space where you don't have to pretend that everything is "merry and bright" in order to experience the hope of Christmas. It is a space where you can take off any masks you might be wearing - where you can stop pretending that everything is OK, even when it isn't - so that the hope of Christmas (and the solstice) can seep into your soul.
This evening is also the Live Nativity at Westfield United Church from 5-7pm. Stop by, visit the animals, chat with Mary and Joseph, and leave a Christmas present for the food bank.
On Sunday morning, we will just have one service at Westfield United Church at 10am (with livestreaming on Facebook). I've joked that this is our "Fifth Sunday of Advent" as we started Advent a week early so that we could get 4 full Sundays of Advent. Technically Christmas Eve doesn't begin in the church until Sunday evening, but the morning service, while shorter than usual, will have a more Christmas-y feel than our other Advent Services.
Our Christmas Eve Services will be in the late afternoon / evening. We will celebrate Christmas at 4pm at Summerville, 6pm at Long Reach, and 8pm at Westfield. This is when we will light our Christ Candle in the center of our Advent Wreath, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. (The Westfield service will be livestreamed on Facebook, beginning just before 8pm Atlantic time.)
We will also have a Christmas Day service at 10am at Westfield United Church (no livestreaming for this one). I love this service each year - it always feels so light and joyful (plus we get to ring the church bells on Christmas Day).
Jumping ahead a week, we will have services on December 31 - 9:15 at Summerville and 11:15 at Westfield. These services will be a bit shorter than usual, so that we all have time to get to the community potluck at 12 (see next announcement!)
There is going to be a New Year's Community Potluck on December 31 at noon, hosted by the Grand Bay-Westfield churches. St. Matthew's (45 Dollard Dr.) has agreed to host us in their hall. Come, bring a dish to share, and celebrate Christmas and the new year ahead with our neighbours! You can click here to see the Facebook Event that has been set up for more details. (And yes, this potluck is open to those of you from Long Reach and Bayswater-Summerville, as well as Westielders!)
The celebrations continue the next day, January 1, with a New Year's Levee at my house (address redacted) from 2-4pm. This is the first time that we've been able to do this since before the pandemic, and I look forward to being able to celebrate the new year with our church family. I'll have a pot of apple cider on the stove and nibblies to snack on, so feel free to stop by at some point that afternoon!
I am going to be on vacation the week after Christmas (Dec. 26 - Jan 2), which means that there won't be a mid-week message next week. For any pastoral emergencies in that time, you can call Margaret (phone number redacted) and she will connect you with the minister who is covering.
And finally, if you have some free time over the holidays, and are responsible for any parts of the Annual Report, Elaine needs your reports by January 15! You can e-mail them to the church office (Word documents preferred over .pdf) at firstname.lastname@example.org
We have lots of opportunities to celebrate Christmas over the next couple of weeks! (I'm glad that the weather forecast looks like we are going to have good weather on Sunday/Monday after 3 weeks of stormy Mondays!)
For a closing thought, this is a perfect opportunity to share my favourite Winter Solstice song - "Bringing in the Light" by Gathering Sparks, a duo from Ontario. This song proclaims hope better than any of my imperfect words ever could. You can listen by clicking here.
Blessings to you and yours, today and always!
Rev. Kate Jones
Two Rivers Pastoral Charge
(506) 757-2201 (office)
(506) 343-1307 (mobile)
"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."