May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
We are now half-way through Advent! Two of our Advent candles have been lit (for hope and peace), with two candles left to light (joy and love). We have had our December 6 service (for the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women) with the UCW Christmas Communion service happening tonight, and the Blue Christmas service next week.
Last week, I shared a link to a Christmas Carol with you, and this week I have another Christmas Carol to share. This carol is likely familiar to you - "O Holy Night" - but the arrangement is probably unlike anything you have heard before (unless you heard this version of it when it was released last year).
Ben Caplan has taken a familiar song and set it in a minor key, giving it a very different feel. One of my sisters, who loves "O Holy Night" with it's sparkling beauty, does not like this version. It feels very raw and bleak.
But to me, that is the point of the Christmas message. God didn't wait until everything was perfect to be born into the world and laid in a manger. God was born into a time and place that knew oppression and violence and fear. And because of that, we can trust that God can work in all difficult places and in all difficult times in the world. As we talked about a couple of Sundays ago, when life is good, we don't need hope - it is only when everything is hopeless that hope is all that we have left to cling to.
And to me, this is what I hear in Ben Caplan's version of "O Holy Night." God is breaking in to a world of brokenness and pain and fear; and nothing will ever be the same again. Despite the minor key, this version of the song sings hope more strongly than any other version of the song I've heard.
You can hear the song by clicking here. (And as a fun side-note, the video for this was filmed at Fort Massey United Church in Halifax - as you watch it, I challenge you to look for hints of the United Church of Canada in the background!)
On Sunday, we will be lighting our Advent Candle for joy - the only pink candle in our Advent wreath. This week, our bible story of waiting for the light will be the story of Elizabeth, the kinswoman of Mary and the mother of John the Baptist. You can find her story at Luke 1:5-25, 39-45 (and Elizabeth's story continues at Luke 1:57-80, but we won't be reading this second part on Sunday). Our worship will be at 9:15 at Long Reach and at 11:15 at Westfield, with livestreaming of the Westfield service.
In terms of other things coming up this week:
As I mentioned earlier, our UCW Christmas Communion service will be this evening at 7pm. It will be a fairly short service, so you should be able to get home before the heaviest of the snow in the forecast. Everyone is welcome at this service which shifts us from Advent towards Christmas - you don't have to be a UCW member, or identify as a woman - this service is for everyone!
Contrary to what was printed in the bulletin announcements (but in keeping with the schedule you received with the Christmas letter), the Westfield Choir Christmas Concert will be this Sunday evening, December 12, at 7pm. I am excited for this - I missed this concert last year when it couldn't happen because of Covid. It has been so lovely having the choir back these past couple of Sundays, and now we get a full evening to listen to them. Admission is by donation, with proceeds going to the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge benevolent fund which directly supports people in our communities.
Next Thursday, December 16, is our Blue Christmas service at 7pm at Summerville. This is not a "sad service" but instead is a place where it's OK to admit to feeling sad at a time of year when the world expects everyone to be 100% happy, 100% of the time. But at this service, even as we admit that we may not be having a "holly jolly Christmas" or it may not be "the most wonderful time of the year," we search for a message of hope and healing in the Christmas story. If you know someone who is struggling with the holiday season, I encourage you to invite them to this service - and to offer to pick them up and bring them to the service if needed.
This Sunday is our last week to offer our White Gifts - Coverdale is asking for Gift Cards (dollar store, Lawton's, Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobeys, and Superstore), as well as new personal items (e.g. nail polish, hair elastics, individual nail sets, razors, or chocolates).
Christmas families - this is the last Sunday to bring your donations for our Christmas families at Long Reach and at Westfield. Gift cards or monetary donations only, please. (And Bayswater-Summerville folks, if you had Christmas family donations that you forgot to bring, please get in touch with Bette ASAP.)
And I think that's it for announcements this week.
As a closing thought this week, here is a poem by Emily Dickinson about hope:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -
And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -
I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.
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."