May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be always with you!
This morning, I joined Joan Small and some singers from both Long Reach and Westfield at the Snow Centre in Hampton as we led an Advent service for the residents there. (They offer a worship service every Wednesday morning, and have enough clergy from different denominations and congregations that our turn only comes up every couple of months.)
We read some of the Advent readings, sang some (mostly) Advent songs, and lit battery-operated candles (thank you, Eleanor!) on our improvised Advent wreath. All of this in a room that was packed with residents, some in wheelchairs and some ambulatory, a couple of volunteers, and some family members / friends.
While I was standing at the front of the room, pondering this unique congregation, I was also thinking about how last Sunday, Tatum and Ken began working on this year's Christmas Pageant with some of our congregants on the other end of the age spectrum.
The Christmas story (alongside all of the stories that ground our faith) is one that speaks across age divides, across gender divides, across class and wealth divides, across nationality and language. At the heart of Christmas is a story that is so full of awe that it has the power to touch all people.
When you think about the whole Christmas story, what part of it fills your heart with awe and wonder? Is it God choosing to be born as a vulnerable baby? Is it Mary's faith and trust that allowed her to say "yes" to the angel? Is it the miracle that accompanies every single birth? Is it the choir of angels that appeared to the most humble members of society? Is it the promise that the world will never be the same again? Is it the peace that the day brings that can transform hearts? Or is it something else?
I also invite you to ponder - is there someone in your life who might benefit from being reminded (or maybe hearing for the first time) the Christmas story - the story of God becoming human as Jesus? If so, why not consider inviting them to join you at some of our Advent and Christmas gatherings in the weeks ahead?
We lit our Advent candle for hope last Sunday, so I wish you an abundance of hope for the season ahead (along with peace, joy, and love)!
In terms of announcements for this week:
At Westfield, our Advent Socials continue this week following worship. As always, Session will provide the coffee and tea, and this week anyone with the last name beginning with M-P (inclusive) is invited to bring "eats and sweets" to share with everyone.
Our White Gift Sundays began last week, and will continue through the season of Advent. As in previous years, we are partnering with Hestia House, Avenue B, and Coverdale. You can download their wishlists by clicking here, and there are boxes for all 3 organizations at the back of each of our churches where you can leave your gifts. On Dec. 17, we will acknowledge these gifts in worship, and after that our Church in the World committee will deliver our gifts to the three organizations.
On Saturday morning, the Westfield UCW are holding their annual Christmas Bake Sale at the church from 9-12 (though experience tells me that you will want to get there closer to 9 than to 12, since they often sell-out early!). Along with hand baked goodies, they will also have soups and stews for sale. You can click here to see their poster.
Then on Saturday Evening, the UCW are hosting the Cool Chicks and Ugly Doclings for a Christmas Concert at Westfield United Church. Admission is by free-will offering. The concert starts at 7pm, but again you will probably want to get there early to get a good seat. I know that this musical group has a active fan base in our community! You can view the poster for this concert by clicking here.
Next Monday will be our monthly Broadview Magazine discussion - we'll be discussing the December issue this time around. Everyone is welcome; and we always have engaging and enriching conversations at this gathering. (Usually I would include a link to the current issue on the Broadview website, but this month the website seems to be glitchy when it comes to categorizing articles into issues of the magazine. Many of the articles from this month are still available on their website, just not neatly organized by issue.)
Next Wednesday, December 6, is the National Day for Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As in previous years, we will be holding a gathering at Long Reach United Church that day at 7pm to remember, to mourn, and to pray for a transformed world where gender-based violence will be a thing of the past. Everyone is not only invited, but encouraged to attend this gathering. Gender-based violence is not simply a "women's issue" but is something that touches people of all genders; and one of the gifts of our faith is the reassurance that the world as it is right now isn't the world that God envisions, and one day the world will change.
If you want to look a bit further ahead, the Westfield United Church Choir Christmas Concert this year will be titled "Peace on Earth: A Concert of Hope" and it will be on Thursday December 14 at 7pm at Westfield United Church.
If you have an e-mail account, you probably already know that yesterday was "Giving Tuesday," a response to the consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (I don't know about you, but my inbox was flooded with hourly reminders from organizations and charities that I've supported in the past, reminding me that I had x hours left in Giving Tuesday to make a donation.) I'm not going to flood your inbox, but I will give you this one nudge that this is a good occasion to consider giving an extra donation to your church so that we can continue to reflect Christ's presence in the communities where we are located. You can place this donation in the offering plate next time you are at the church or you can mail it to the church - all three of our churches share the same mailing address so just make your cheque out to your congregation (Westfield United Church, Long Reach United Church, or Summerville United Church) and we will get it to the appropriate treasurer: 133 Nerepis Rd Grand Bay-Westfield, NB E5K 2Z3 And Westfield United Church people - you have the additional option of donating by e-transfer by sending the donation to email@example.com
'Tis the season for lots going on every week!
For a closing thought, let me share with you this poem that was on the back of last Sunday's bulletin. I thought that it was particularly appropriate for the start of this season of Advent when we will be reading stories of midwifery and birth. You can read "Fierce Blessing" by Jan Richardson 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) 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."