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, 4 days before the beginning of Advent, and again I find myself commenting, where has the time gone this fall?! This week, I put together my Advent/Christmas to-do list (a chart with all of the services between now and Jan. 1 listed on it, and two boxes to check off for each - one for getting the bulletin information put together, and the other for getting the rest of the service ready to go) so now I get to start checking off boxes as we fly through this busy season!
I measure the start of the "Christmas" season with the beginning of Advent (even though I know that Christmas doesn't properly begin until Dec. 24), and I know that many people use either Nov. 12 (the day after Remembrance Day) or Dec. 1 to mark the beginning of the season. But I also know that for our neighbours to the south, the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday. And I also know that the Black Friday chaos has been spreading north. I don't know about you, but most of the advertising I'm encountering right now is Black Friday focused, as are all of the marketing e-mails that pass through my inbox.
But do you know that there is a counter-cultural movement pushing back, that marks the day after Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day? A day when we are encouraged to resist the lure of over-consumption and impulse purchases. A day that says that not buying something is even better than the 75% off sales. A day to pause and remember that Christmas is about more than consumption and humans are more than consumers.
Another way of pushing back against our culture's emphasis on consumerism is to observe the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday (the digital version of Black Friday) as Giving Tuesday. This is a day when people take the money that they saved by not observing Black Friday and Cyber Monday (or an equivalent amount of money that they spent) and donate it to a charity of their choosing. This helps us to remember that all of us (humans and all of creation) are interconnected and interdependent, and that we need to look beyond ourselves and our immediate circles to help others.
I am really excited about our Advent services this year! Through the four Sundays of Advent, we are going to be tracing Jesus's genealogy as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew. You can read his genealogy - his family tree - by clicking here. This is one of the parts of the story that we don't usually read in church, because I think that our scripture readers might quit en masse if they were asked to read this long list of names! But if you read the names carefully, you will discover that in and among all of the men listed, there are 5 women - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba (though she is only named as the "wife of Uriah"), and Mary.
Throughout Advent, each week one of these women is going to visit us in worship and share her story with us, and offer Jesus, her newborn descendant, a blessing that she gleaned from her life. (If it helps, you can picture the beginning of Disney's Sleeping Beauty when the fairies attend the christening and give their gifts to the baby princess!)
This week, Tamar will be our guest - you can read her story in Genesis 38:1-30. We will also be lighting our first Advent candle as we begin our journey towards Christmas. Our worship services will be at 9:15 at Long Reach and 11:15 at Westfield and on Facebook Live.
In our Stories for All Ages over the next 4 weeks, we are going to be talking about family trees. Do you have an ancestor in your family tree who intrigues or fascinates you, or is there someone you feel a strong connection with? Are you willing to share what you know about them with your congregation in a short interview? If so, please let me know! (I'll be starting us off this Sunday with my family tree.)
And finally, our Christmas letters have been at the backs of our churches for the past 2 weeks, and Elaine is popping any that weren't picked up in the mail this week. If you haven't received your letter yet and would like to take a peek, you can download it (minus the graphics that Elaine adds to the letter when she prints it) as a pdf file by clicking here. The second page includes the full schedule of events and activities coming up in the next month-and-a-bit - this is a good page to stick to your fridge or add to your calendar.
In terms of other announcements to pass along this week:
White Gift Sundays - this week, at both Long Reach and Westfield, we are going to be collecting donations for Avenue B Harm Reduction. This is an organization that serves some of the very most vulnerable people in Saint John, offering support and helping to keep them safe. Their wish list includes warm winter clothing (e.g. hats, mitts, socks, gloves, coats), hygiene items (e.g. toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, hairbrushes, deodorant), Ensure and other single-serving food items that they can hand out (e.g. granola bars, apple sauce, cereal bars), and empty plastic jugs (e.g. laundry detergent jugs, kitty litter jugs).
UCW Bake Sale - this will be held on Saturday (Nov. 26) from 9-noon (or whenever they sell-out... you might want to plan to visit them earlier in the morning rather than later!) at Westfield United Church.
Bible Study is cancelled next week as I won't be available, but will resume on Wednesday December 7.
The Cool Chicks and Ugly Doclings (a musical group made up of current and retired nurses and doctors) are back this fall, and will be offering a concert at Westfield United Church on Saturday December 3 at 7pm - admission by free-will offering.
Funeral Planning Party - thank you to the UCW for looking after tea, coffee and sweets; thank you to Rod and Billy from Fundy Funeral Home who came to share their expertise with us; thank you to Bertis for sharing his (legal and musical) expertise with us; and thank you to everyone who came out on a cold Sunday night! I didn't know how many people to expect, and we had to put out extra tables as you kept arriving (and I had to go upstairs when Rod was talking to make more photocopies)!
Looking ahead, Broadview subscribers have probably received their December issue in their mailbox, and we will be gathering on Monday December 5 to discuss it - 10am in the Westfield United Church parlour. And if you aren't a subscriber, you can read many articles from this issue by clicking here. (And if you don't subscribe yet but want to, Joanne is probably going to be advertising annual subscriptions soon! There is loads of great reading in every issue.)
And I think that is it for announcements for today. (I am going to be sending out an e-mail later to each congregation with some congregation-specific announcements.) 'Tis the season for lots going on!
As a closing thought, I had something else that I was planning to share this week; but on Sunday, when the news of the shooting at Club Q reached the media on the Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20), I knew that I needed to find something different to share. You can click here to read a Transgender Day of Remembrance reflection from Queer Theology (CW - mild language). And if you missed the lament (and a beautiful poem by Jay Hulme) that I posted on the Two Rivers Pastoral Charge Facebook Page on Monday, you can click here to read 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."