May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
Here we are, in the final days of Advent, the final days before Christmas, the final days before we get to celebrate God’s Eternal Word becoming flesh and blood in order to dwell with us. The weeks of waiting are almost over, Christmas music is in the air, and most of us have found time to watch a favourite Christmas movie or two. (I still say that A Muppet Christmas Carol is the best Christmas Movie ever! I watched it last Saturday evening, and may watch it again before the season is over.)
In the upcoming days, we have the following opportunities to celebrate Christmas as a church family:
Live Nativity – parking lot at Westfield United Church on Thursday December 23 between 4pm and 7pm.
Christmas Eve Services – Friday December 24 – 4pm at Summerville, 6pm at Long Reach, 8pm at Westfield. Pre-registration is not required this year, but masks are required at all times, and proof of vaccination must be shown at the door. The Westfield service will be livestreamed at 8pm for anyone who is not able to make it in-person, or who feels more comfortable joining us virtually.
Christmas Day Service – Saturday December 25 – 10am at Westfield. This is a more intimate celebration of Christmas for anyone who would like to join with their church family on Christmas Day! (This service will not be livestreamed.)
Sunday December 26 – our regular Sunday service falls on Boxing Day this year. Our services will be at Long Reach at 9:15 and Westfield at 11:15 (with livestreaming of the Westfield service). This will be a “Lessons and Carols” format with the service including readings that tell the Christmas story, along with Christmas Carols to match.
A reminder that all of our livestreamed services can be found on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/tworiverspastoralcharge – you don’t need to have a Facebook account to watch, just look for the video near the top of the page with a little red box that says “Live.”
I will be on vacation for the week after Christmas – December 27–January 3. Layton Peck will be offering pulpit supply on January 2 at Summerville and Westfield; and Rev. John Roy is available in case of any pastoral emergencies. If you need to get in touch with Rev. Roy, please call Margaret at 721-4307, and she will connect you. There also won’t be a mid-week message next week, and our Facebook page will be more quiet than usual.
And finally, most of you probably heard that (to nobody’s surprise and everyone’s disappointment) we are going to be moving into Covid-level 2 on Monday December 27. What this means for the church, beginning after Christmas:
There will be no singing in worship – congregation or choir. There is a provision for a single soloist with extra physical distancing - Bertis and I are working out what that might look like. (We will be leaving the hymn books in the pews in case you want to follow along with any of the words, but if we hear anyone singing, even quietly, we will have to remove the hymn books from the sanctuary again.)
We will be taping off half of the pews again (along with pool noodles in the longer pews at Westfield) for physical distancing. Because the social contact rules will bring us back to “Steady 10,” you will be welcome to sit with people who you live with, or with people who are in your 10-person bubble.
If we (the church leadership) feel that there is a particular risk to our church family, we may choose to move our services completely online. We hope that this doesn’t happen because we recognize the value in being able to gather together, but we also want to make sure that we keep everyone as safe as possible.
The government is encouraging everyone who is able to work from home to do so; and so when I come back from vacation, I will be returning to my home office for most of the week, except for my regularly scheduled office hours (Tuesday mornings at Summerville, Tuesday afternoons at Westfield, Thursday mornings from Long Reach). Elaine will work from the office (mostly on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons) since she isn’t able to do her job from home. No matter where I am though, I am always available by phone call, text message, or e-mail!
Like last week though, I don’t want to end this e-mail with Covid news, and so I am going to end with another Christmas Carol. You may have had a sense, through my past couple of e-mails, that I love lesser-known carols, or unusual arrangements of Christmas Carols, so here is another one for you! "Als I Lay on Yoolis Night" is a medieval Christmas song where the singer/narrator has a vision of Mary rocking the infant Jesus and overhears a conversation between mother and infant son. As well as a haunting melody, it is also a fascinating study in how the English language has changed in the past 800 years! The singer is singing in Middle English, but there is a Modern English translation in the video so that you can follow along with what is being sung. You can hear it by clicking here; and may it bring comfort to you knowing that 800 years later we are still celebrating the birth of our Messiah. None of the plagues of the past have been able to stop Christmas from coming, and neither will the current pandemic. Christ was born over 2000 years ago, and he will be re-born in our hearts a couple of days from now, even if our external celebrations need to look a bit different than before.
Christmas blessings to you all and to all those whom you love; and I'll see many of you - in-person or online - over the weekend!
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."