May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
I can't believe that it's almost Advent! I'm writing this letter in my office at Westfield United Church, and the "Decorating Elves" are busy out in the sanctuary decorating things for Christmas. I spent Monday afternoon working on my Advent sermons, and I currently have my Christmas playlist queued up on my phone beside me. (My own personal tradition is to turn my Christmas Lights on for the first Sunday of Advent - I've already checked to make sure that they still work after the summer - and then to set up my Christmas tree the evening of Advent 1.)
I know that I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Advent is my very favourite season of the church year. It is the season of not-yet Christmas. It is the season of waiting and preparing and longing. It is a season of anticipation. Once Christmas is here (and yes, I know that we have 12 full days of Christmas, right through to January 5), it's all over.
It's a bit like how I prefer the winter solstice (Dec. 21) to the summer solstice (June 21). The winter solstice feels full of hope because I know that the daylight is going to begin lengthening and the night is going to shrink. To me, the summer solstice always feels a bit melancholic, because I know that we will never get more daylight than we have that day.
I guess that I'm just a person to whom times of longing, and hoping, and anticipation speak to more deeply than the times of fulfillment.
This year, for our Advent services at Two Rivers Pastoral Charge, we're going to have a theme of midwives and birth. When I was thinking earlier this fall about what thread might work to carry us through this season, this felt right. Midwives accompany women through their labour - through that time of pain and danger, trusting that it will come to an end, and that a new life will be brought into the world. This seems to fit well with Advent - we are traveling through the period of time before the birth of Jesus - essentially through a 4 month labour. At the same time, in our world we are still moving through the time of pain and labour, trusting that a new world will be born out of it. (This wasn't one of the readings I chose for Advent, but the Apostle Paul writes about how all creation is groaning in labour pains, and we ourselves groan inwardly as we wait for the fulfillment - Romans 8:22-25.)
And so I've selected 4 stories from the bible to fit with this theme of midwives and birth that we will be reading over the next 4 Sundays. Some of the might be expected stories; some of them might be unexpected. We will begin to light our Advent candles this Sunday, and sing our Advent music new and old. And as we do so, like Mary did, and like all parents do, we will dream of and prepare for the time that we trust is coming when new life will enter this world.
In terms of announcements this week:
Worship this Sunday will be a Long Reach at 9:15 at at Westfield and on Facebook Live at 11:15. This week we are going to be reading the story of Shiphrah and Puah, the midwives to the Ancient Israelites when they were slaves in Egypt (Exodus 1) and hearing their story of hope.
Westfield Advent Socials - thank you to Chris and to Session for organizing these for another year. Throughout the season of Advent, beginning this Sunday, there will be a social time in St. Giles Hall immediately following worship. Session will provide tea, coffee, and juice, and you in the congregation are invited to bring "eats and sweets" according to your last name: Nov. 26 - surname beginning with A-L (inclusive) Dec. 3 - surname beginning with M-P (inclusive) Dec. 10 - surname beginning with P-Z (inclusive) Dec. 17 - Session members, and anyone else who missed their week This is always a fun way to usher in the season with your church family!
Christmas Letter - thank you to Elaine for printing this for us (and making it pretty!); and thank you to everyone who has helped us to deliver these letters. If you haven't picked yours up, they are going into the mail this week, so you should have it soon! And if you want to read it ahead of time, you can download a copy of it by clicking here. As always, the second page has a full list of our Advent and Christmas services and events.
Christmas Eve Clarification - because it isn't clear in the letter, and because I've heard some questions about it, I want to clarify the service schedule on December 24. Our Christmas Eve Services will be at 4pm at Summerville; 6pm at Long Reach; and 8pm at Westfield. But because Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year, Session had a lot of discussion about what to do with the morning of the 24th, and in the end, decided to have a single simple morning service at 10am at Westfield. This isn't going to be a full Christmas Eve service, and will probably feel more like an Advent service than a Christmas Eve service. There isn't going to be a sermon, no communion, and it will be fairly short. (I don't want anyone to come at 10am expecting a full Christmas Eve service, and feel disappointed! And yet I also know that there are people for whom the Sunday morning ritual of going to church is important to them, and so we wanted to offer something for the Sunday morning.) In the Christmas letter, the morning service got lumped together with the evening services and I apologize for this - it should have been kept separate for clarity.
Board Game Night - our next Family Board Game Night is going to be this Friday, November 25, at 7pm in the parlour at Westfield United. As always, you can bring your favourite game to play with others, or you can come out to play someone else's favourite. All ages are welcome; and as always, snacks will be provided!
UCW Bake Sale - Saturday December 2, 9am-noon in the St. Giles room (or until they are sold out... this happened long before noon last year!). This is an easy way to get your Christmas baking done for the year, and to stock your fridge or freezer with delicious soups and stews.
Cool Chicks and Ugly Doclings Concert - Saturday December 2, 7pm, Westfield United Church. Admission by freewill offering. This is always a popular concert, so you will probably want to come early to grab your favourite seat in the sanctuary!
Broadview Magazine Discussion - Monday December 3, 10am, Westfield Parlour. We will be discussing the December issue this time around - for Westfield folks there is a congregational copy at the back of the sanctuary that you are welcome to borrow, read, and return.
And I think that's it for announcements this week!
For a closing thought - I think that I share this link every year around this time, and this year is no different. Ben Caplan's version of "O Holy Night" speaks to my soul. It speaks to the deep longing that marks Advent for me. It speaks to the hope for the future that keeps us going, even through the very worst of times. It is gritty and down-to-earth; and yet it speaks to the birth of Jesus, to the time when God chose to enter this world as human flesh and blood. I can feel that "thrill of hope" every time I listen to it. You can listen to it by clicking here.
(Fun trivia fact - this video was filmed at Fort Massey United Church in Halifax. Even if you aren't familiar with this specific building, there are a couple of "Easter Eggs" in the video - little glimpses of things that let you know that this is a United Church of Canada building. Can you spot any of them?)
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."