Virginia`s Blog - Jan. 8, 2021 Virginia’s Blog: Through the Eyes of a Child AMBER ALERT! Missing child – boy - 12 years old - dark skin and hair - about five feet tall - wearing a brown tunic and sandals - last seen walking with his parents on the road to Nazareth – goes by the name of Jesus...if you have seen this child please report to the nearest centurion.
If only Mary and Joseph had access to today's modern Amber alert system, it might not have taken them four days to find their son. Can you imagine the panic and fear that must have been running through their minds after walking for a day presuming their child is among the crowd travelling with you only to discover that he is not? They knew that the road to Nazareth would not have been safe for someone travelling alone.
Mary and Joseph rush back towards Jerusalem scanning the throngs of other travellers on the road, scanning faces as they hurry by. A day to travel back to Jerusalem then three long days searching the city only to find him safely in the temple speaking and asking questions. Upon finding their child Mary says, "Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." (Luke 2:48 NSRV) As a parent who had a child with a tendency to wander off, I am sure Mary had a few more words to say to her son once they left the temple.
As parents, we want to keep our children safe and when they put themselves in danger (as we perceive it), we tend to get angry. How dare our children cause us anxiety, we think to ourselves. What we forget is that children see the world differently then we do. Children don't see the dangers around them, they see the wonders. As adults, with our heavy load of responsibilities we forget to get down to their level and see the world from their vantage point.
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn encouraged adults to "practice being like a child...learn to be curious like a child ... Kids can ask a million questions. You think they're through. They've got another million ... Kids use their curiosity to learn. Have you ever noticed that while adults are stepping on ants, children are studying them? A child's curiosity is what helps them to reach, learn and grow."
Last spring when schools reopened for six weeks, I was placed with a reduced class of grade 5 students - five girls and four boys. The advantage of being in this small group was that we were able to have some very interesting and surprising conversations, ones that never could have taken place in a classroom of 24 kids. I learned how they see the world, what they think is fair in life, and why it is hard to be a child in today's society, all from their perspective. Our frank and varied conversations allowed me to see the world through their eyes and taught me that sometimes I need to practice being a child. Sometimes I need to view the world from their angle. Sometimes I simply need to leave the crowd and go to my Father’s house. - Virginia Wallace
Rev. David's Blog - Jan. 8, 2021 Rev. David’s Blog: “New Year 2021” I have in the past lived many experiences of Christmas, most crowded with much work and many people. 2020 was the quietest Christmas on record. It was also the most reflective and a return to the simplicity of the birth of Jesus. Simplicity and reflective is a positive combination and invites one to listen more deeply.
The blank page before me for the first Blog of a new year is also an invitation to listen to an inner world needing to adjust to the ongoing pandemic and new lockdown measures. My new year resolution is simple: to live health in body, mind, and spirit. As I slowly unpack how to reach this goal I recognize that it needs a reflective approach to eating, a deeper listening to my body and a determination in my spirit to choose health, exercise, and that often illusive balance of the whole. Feeding my mind and spirit as well as my body means reorganizing time, priorities, kitchen, rest. As I walk through my home, my resolution reimagines how my living space can be reconceived for health. I ponder the invitation of the hymn (VU 374) that says: Come and find the quiet centre in the crowded life we lead, find the room for hope to enter, find the frame where we are freed: clear the chaos and the clutter, clear our eyes, that we can see all the things that really matter, be at peace, and simply be.
Silence is a friend who claims us, cools the heat and slows the pace, God it is who speaks and names us, knows our being, face to face, making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun, raising courage when we're shrinking, finding scope for faith begun.
The next two weeks are vacation weeks. I am hoping for enough fresh snow to cross country ski and go hiking on local mountains. I have the equipment ready to use and the determination to live out my resolution in the every day. I’ll hold you in my heart and prayers every day as I do this.
The Youth Group initiative of gift bags for Christmas was appreciated in almost 50 homes, in both our pastoral charges. The pocket prayer shawls included were not something most people were used to. A hand stitched square with an emboldened cross was knitted with love and prayer. It is a sign of care, of our life as community and the affirmation of what holds us together: grace, love, hope and faith. Touching it reminds us of our interconnectedness. The last verse of Shirley Murray’s hymn (1989, VU 374) reads: In the Spirit let us travel, open to each other's pain, let our loves and fears unravel,
celebrate the space we gain: there's a place for deepest dreaming, there's a time for heart to care, in the Spirit's lively scheming there is always room to spare!
Let us resolve to be knitted in love and grace in 2021. Strong and resilient! Rev. David
Rev. David`s Blog - Dec. 18, 2020 Messengers of Light Over the last few weeks as I choose more walking and activities outdoors to keep my body from aging too quickly, I have tried to choose the times when there is sunshine. Its absence is felt by all of us in these shortest days of the year. And the cloud-covered skies have given an apocalyptic feel to being outdoors when there is no warm sunshine to be found. So I learn to always be ready. When the sun is shining, warming up the air and feeding our need for vitamin D, I get out and enjoy its warmth. I do the gratitude pose, face to its glow, maybe even hands in praise reaching upward.
Angels have entered my pandemic world this year in a big way. From those found in the Christmas storage bin to others discovered at Récup on South St. or SOS Dépannage Granby, they have been messengers of hope and promise to my heart these darkened days. They have been present throughout the history of God’s salvation, appearing to Jacob, Moses, Daniel, and Zachariah (Elisabeth), Joseph, Mary and the holy family to warn them of the wrath of a jealous Herod. Their presence as messangers of the churches in Revelations remind us that when they apppear things are about to change. Be ready, light is on its way.
The angel beside the manger outside of Emmanuel speaks a simple message. It announces that the first Christmas was simple so ours can be too. It sparkles in the bright lights as dusk settles and the outdoor sensor awakens the glowing colours. It says, we may be Zooming services for both pastoral charges this holiday season, but the promise of a Child awakens hope and faith in our hearts.
As Simeon held the baby he said: Now, Lord, you have kept your promise and you may let your servant go in peace. With my own eyes I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples: A light to reveal your will...(Luke 2: 29-32)
We live many challenges this Christmas and do our best to affirm the message of light in dark times. We are also messengers of hope through our words and actions.
The building called Wesley United in Bedford has been sold and there is a lessons and carol service from their sanctuary this Sunday, the last one after almost 150 years of ministry. The Bedford Pastoral Charge continues but we are saying goodbye to a big part of our local United Church history. Join us for this service. Be light to the members of this congregation at this significant moment of their history.
A Christmas gift bag initiative from the youth group at Emmanuel is bringing a message of caring to many, bags filled with home made: cookies, cards, decorations, pocket prayer shawls and an inspirational CD compiled and recorded under the capable musical abilities of Susan Reininger. Wow!! The delivery on Monday of these gifts are a sign that the Christmas message continues!
Where is the light on short and dull winter days? It is as close as our breath, our beating hearts and our emboldened faith.
Angel messengers have announced God’s promised Advent, they sang in the skies above the shepherds and awakened people to a Presence that would turn the world upside down.
Let us be Messengers of hope, peace, joy and love to each other and to all who need to feel the Light in their lives. Let us be angel messengers to those who need us this Christmas. Rev. David
Rev. David's Blog - Dec. 11, 2020 Inspiration That Leads into Light The Advent hymn that begins worship these recent Sundays is both well-known and well-loved (Voices United 1): O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel. Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! When the angel appeared to Joseph to ask that he see in Mary’s baby God’s promised advent coming to earth, we read: A virgin will become pregnant and have a son , and he willbe called Emmanuel, whic h means God is with us. (Matthew 1: 22) The promise has come in this Babe of Bethlehem.] What an inspiration in these days to affirm that God has come into our history, into our world and, if we welcome him, into our lives. These two prayers come from Celebrate God’s Presence, a liturgical resource of the United Church. O come, Emmanuel, come to us, for we are lonely for God. Come, bring the peace of God-with-us. O come, Wisdom from on high, lead us in the ways of knowledge, and show us the paths of peace. Glorious Shoot from the Jesse tree, come and bring life, fresh and green and lovely, to our spirits. O Rose which blooms in the snow of winter, come and grant to us the blessed gift of hope. O Bright Morning Star of the darkened world, come and be for us the Light, the Truth, and the Way. Jesus our Christ, we welcome you. Come and be known among us, for we want to be your people. Amen
O come, O come, Emmanuel, to the empty-handed and the heavy-hearted, to the despairing and the despised. Enter this world, giving love to the lowly and hope to the downcast. Dwell among us,and teach us your ways,
saving the lost and strengthening the weak. Be made incarnate within us, that we might cast away fear and live boldly by faith. With gratitude that you come to be with us, we worship joyfully this day. Amen. This Emmanuel is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations and even more precious this pandemic year. One lit candle brings: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. It guides us into places as yet unknown and guides us home. O Come, O Come Emmanuel! - Rev. David
Message - Frances Jones - Dec. 6, 2020 Discovering Peace.
Each year, during the Advent season, we seem to relive what happened over 2000 years ago – the Prophets' fore-telling of things to come; Mary's annunciation; Elizabeth giving birth to John the Baptist, with his famous message - “Repent!” as he became the forerunner of the long-awaited Messiah. And, of course, we love to share once again the story and songs of the miraculous birth of Jesus under very extraordinary circumstances. We empathize with Mary as she wondered why, at this particular time in her life, she had been chosen for such a task – that turned out to be a blessing. And we can relate to Joseph's emotions as he struggled with this very unusual news. Many of us enjoy re-living that Christmas experience – the shepherds, the angels, and the wise men who followed the special star. It's all so familiar – but a very special part of our Christmas tradition and celebrations. We are accustomed to attending candlelight worship services, listening to the old familiar Christmas tunes; and we sing songs of peace on earth. There seems to be a feeling of hope and peace, joy and love everywhere. It's a time to forget our worries; to escape those things that cause us stress, at least for a little while. This is truly a time like no other. Don't you find that people seem kinder, more considerate and more compassionate toward others during the Christmas season? There seems to be something in the air that makes us more generous and thoughtful; more giving, not only of material things, but of ourselves. Donations to charities roll in as the end of the fiskal year approaches. Wouldn't it be great to live this kind of peace all year, and to believe that all is at peace around the world? But that would be 'dreaming in colour' as they say. We know that the whole world is not at peace now, and neither was it at peace at the time of Jesus' birth – that very first Christmas. I'm not sure how peaceful it might have seemed in the little town of Bethlehem where several citizens from many areas around had gathered to be registered and to pay their taxes. Bethlehem was busting at the seems as the hotels, or inns were filled to capacity. There was definitely not enough room for the influx of people. Let's put ourselves in Joseph's place. We bang on door after door, asking for a room for the night, and meet refusal at every one. It's quite obvious that your wife is very pregnant, and this could be the night that she delivers! How would any of us feel about being directed to a barn? When we think about it, there wasn't that much about Jesus' birth that could have been described as tranquil, comfortable, or peaceful. Sharing a space with animals; being layed in a manger of hay. And it wasn't long after Jesus' birth that anxiety and trepidation originated from another source, causing this couple with a new-born babe, to escape for their own safety, and especially for the safety of the baby. When King Herod heard that a king had just been born in Bethlehem, he was furious at the thought of being replaced, and commanded that all boys, two years old and younger, in that town and in the vicinity around Bethlehem, be killed. Herod was a 'legend in his own mind', as Clint Eastwood might say, and refused to be considered a loser. No other king would take his powerful position, if he could help it. But, as a result of his command, many families suffered terrible loss and tremendous sadness and heartache as they witnessed their children slaughtered by soldiers who were following King Herod's orders. Peace? And think about the expectations of those faithful souls who had relied on the Prophets' words about the coming Messiah. They were filled with anticipation and the hope of freedom from bondage, from injustices. Their promised king would set up his kingdom and they would no longer live under enemy rule. A kingdom of peace! Peace? What a disappointment when this babe of peace and hope didn't turn out to be what they expected. Throughout his life on earth, he inspired many, healed multitudes, and lived by example, but where was his earthly kingdom? Where was the peace they longed for? Now, here we are, living in the year 2020, soon to be 2021 – centuries after that first Christmas. How have things changed over all these years? Is there peace on earth – good will toward all people? We know that turmoil and violence still exist. Injustices are rampant. Individuals in powerful positions who fear loss of their authoritative positions, and of their reputation as world leaders, simply refuse to face the truth as the facts are revealed to them. Peace? Every year around this time of year, we read about the angels who sang glorias as they proclaimed the arrival of the Prince of Peace. So why are we still searching for this peace on earth over 2000 years later? There was another title given to this new-born babe; possibly a more significant title. And that was Immanuel, meaning God with us. Not an above-us-God, or a somewhere-out-there-God, but God with us. Jesus - God with skin on. That's a comforting word – 'with'. Sometimes we request someone to accompany us – to a doctor's appointment, to meet with another person to relay an important message, or just because we don't want to be alone. Having someone with you, a person that you trust by your side, is comforting, encouraging and strengthening. And, with those friends that we can count on, there are no strings attached. The same is true with the God we worship; the one who sent Prophets who foretold the news of a Messiah to come; the one who sent Angels to humble shepherds in the field to proclaim the good news of his arrival. The one who sent a part of himself to rescue humankind – with no strings attached. The God whose love for believers is unconditional; the God whose promise is to be with us always – not only if we attend a certain church or worship venue; not only if we give generously on the offering plate. His promise is to be with us always and everywhere – even to the ends of the earth. But there are times when it might feel like our Lord is absent. Human emotions overpower us as we become anxious over finances, our jobs, relationships, health, the future for our children and grandchildren. When we become overcome with worry and fear, there is no place for peace. And the same was true of Jesus' close followers. There were times when fear and anxiety irradicated their faith too. We remember how they trembled in the upper room after Jesus' crucifixion, believing that they could be next. Again, in the boat on the lake in a terrible storm, as the waves and wind tossed them about like a cork on the water, they feared for their lives, even though Jesus was present with them. Their faith had faltered. Finally, as Jesus was leaving his disciples in charge, to carry on his ministry in his absence, he spoke these words to them: “Go to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit . . . I will be with you always, to the end of the age”. Yet again, they lacked faith – the faith to believe that they would be enabled to carry on – to continue this serious and important mission without their teacher, their leader, their friend physically by their side. Every time the disciples' faith faltered, Jesus' words were “Peace”; “Peace be with you”; and “Be still”, followed by three very significant questions: why are you so afraid?; don't you remember who I am?; don't you remember that I am with you? “I will be with you always, to the end of the age”. As we allow those words to be the song that keeps repeating in our heads over and over again, let's remember, that even though there are, and will be, storms in our lives; moments when our faith is pushed aside by fear, anxiety or worry; when things don't turn out the way we expected them to; we are not alone. Here we are, revisiting the Christmas story once again. About shepherds, gathered together in a field with their sheep, receiving the angels' message of peace; about the young maiden, Mary, and Joseph, to whom she was to be married, each one enabled to accept their unexpected news of peace in unique and individual ways. This young couple surely did not imagine that their lives would take such a detour from what they had planned. But, we notice from reading their story again at Christmas time, that each of them was able to find peace with the news – only through messages from God. So when we too experience detours – paths that we did not plan or expect to travel, by opening our hearts and our minds to God's plan for us – as a group, and individually – will enable us to be open to receive his peace in whatever manner it is offered. Immanuel – God with us. Not just during the Christmas season, not only during our worship time – but always.There is the peace I need. So, let there be peace on earth. Let it begin here and now – with you ; with me.
Rev. David's Blog - Dec. 6, 2020 The Best Laid Plans.. Hear these words of wisdom from John Lennon:
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans!
Were you surprised to hear the news that gatherings over Christmas were not happening and that restrictions were being imposed for holiday shopping? How did you feel at hearing the news? We are all changing plans for our holiday celebrations!
In the lead up to the birth of Jesus there is a wonderful story about yet another angelic visit. Joseph wrestles with the news that his fiancé is pregnant, and that he is not the father. (Matthew 1: 18-25). Imagine how he felt when told that an angel came to Mary and that the Spirit would impregnate her with the coming Messiah, God’s Son? Pregnancies can catch you off guard, but a divine source? An angel’s visit? No human father? A lot to take in.
Joseph doesn’t want to disgrace Mary and questions how to break off their engagement discreetly. His heart is heavy, he is uncertain what to do. In a dream an angel visits him (the same Gabriel so busy throughout the Christmas Story?) and shows how God has interrupted their plans, and wants him to love and raise a child not his own.
Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spiritconceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus-God saves! (v. 20- 21, The Message).
It is a lot to ask, yet Joseph shows such inner strength as he accepts to marry Mary and welcome God’s Life growing in her womb. He will be a wonderful father: caring as they journey to Bethlehem, seeking shelter for a birth in a barn, protective as they flee the wrath of Herod, faithful and loving. He will teach Jesus the family business of carpentry and father his siblings. He is anchor and example to this child, an exceptional father who will be the face of God to his adoptive son. I admire him and celebrate that love is greater than biology!
We read the stories of the Bible and imagine that those involved in the unfolding of salvation and grace are super humans, that they are not ordinary folk. We imbue them with saintly qualities and ignore that God comes to ordinary people and asks of them to disrupt their plans for Life! God interrupts the best laid plans, comes in moments of vulnerability and pain to speak a message of hope, peace, joy and love. In the lighting of the Advent candles we let Light displace shadows and disappointments. We let the angel visit us in our dreams to make possible, with our help, the impossible.
Come by Emmanuel and see the recycled crèche made of left over wood and free materials with lights donated from your basements and attics. The lights will be on soon and these words will be added: The first Christmas was simple...ours can be too!
May Joseph’s yes to loving Jesus be an example to each of us as Life interrupts the best laid plans.
A blessed Advent! - Rev. David
Zoom carolling will be part of our Christmas celebration in both pastoral charges (Dec. 20th & 27th). Please let Karen at Emmanuel or Wendy at Bedford, know if you wish to reserve a Voices United hymn book. Details for Emmanuel pickup or delivery will be in next week’s newsletter. (See p. 4 for contact info.)
Rev. David's Blog - Nov. 27, 2020 Christmas’ First Miraculous Birth
For those who like to put Christ back in Christmas, they may be surprised to read in Luke’s gospel that the first angelic visit and miracle birth was to Zechariah and his spouse Elizabeth (1: 8-14, 18-25). This older couple had longed for a baby for many years. The angel Gabriel appears to this Levite priest while he was fulfilling his duties in the service of God in the Temple. As Zechariah burned incense on the altar he was startled by the appearance of God’s Messenger. “Don’t be afraid! God has heard your prayer, and Elizabeth will bear a son. You are to call him John.”
This is the other miracle birth and a parallel to the story of Jesus’ birth. Both have an angel, unusual circumstances, a prophecy being fulfilled, with John the forerunner who prepares the way of his cousin Jesus. Mary and Elizabeth will share precious months as both babies grow in their wombs, the quiet before the births of Prophet and Messiah who bring good news of God entering human history to reverse the existing order and ruthlessness of the Empire and begin the revolution of the Kindom of God. Exciting times, challenges and lives that both end in tragic deaths as mothers will grieve deeply the loss of their first born.
As we set on the Advent journey towards Bethlehem, we need to return to these incredibly rich stories of our faith. If we only read of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, we miss the braiding of so many strands of hope, light and joy, that touch real people in real times. We benefit from a wider reading of the birth stories, that of John and Jesus. We hear the fear and wonder of these servants of God who are willing that their lives beturned upside down so Light can dispel darkness that continues to surround us today.
Zechariah was incredulous when Gabriel spoke to him and was struck mute for the months of John’s pregnancy. His tongue is loosened at the birth when he confirms that John is the name of his child. He will prophesy in a psalm of praise (the Benedictus) the wonders of God for both children (1: 67-80). His words inspire and are the fruit of that long silence of listening deeply to Gabriel’s message during the months of pregnancy.
As we begin our Advent journey in these darker November days, we light a candle of Hope. Brian Wren wrote this lovely hymn (VU 7):
1 Hope is a star that shines in the night, Leading us on till the morning is bright, When God is a child there's Joy in our song. The last shall be first and the weak shall be strong, and none shall be afraid.
Let us journey into the wonder of the Christmas story, together. - Rev. David