DH Update 3, Third week of Advent, 2022
Wed. December 13, 2022
Wednesday Meditation (Isaiah 35:1,2)
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.
The third week of Advent is set as a time for joy. Yes, we are to prepare the coming of our Lord with joy.
I sometimes wonder if joy is something we can really share in today’s world. People are busy. Their faces are often stoic expressions, revealing their hard lives. A cashier at one of our supermarkets, a late middle aged woman, had one of those tired and ready-to-go-home looks. It must have been a long day for her, even though I was there before 4 pm. She had no particular enthusiasm for doing what she was doing. People who were before me had similar facial expressions. They exchanged very formal matters of courtesy greetings with the cashier. They did not engage in any small talks. Everyone was going through motions.
When she uttered, “Hi, how are you?” in her tired and uninterested tone, I responded back. Then, I made a small talk asking if it has been a busy day and whether she was ready to go home already. She began answering questions as she passed what I was buying over the laser, known as Point of Sale Terminal. Her facial expressions began relaxing. By the time all my groceries were put into my shopping bags, she told me with smiles that she had a couple more hours to go, but she did not mind working for those hours. In fact she was a very friendly person, after all. She needed just a tiny prompting to find her joy of checking people’s groceries.
Little joyous moments are everywhere, if we know how to find it by sharing a bit of our joy. This, I have found out, is not rocket science. It requires each of us treating one another with humanity. Even in the case of meeting strangers, if we can bring our humanity and share with them, joy enters into our lives. As Isaiah speaks of the desert blooming, our lives can share joy when we meet and welcome strangers as Christ would meet and welcome them. In these encounters, when we smile together, the glory of Christ is revealed to the world through our joys.
This is the week of joy. Our joy in Christ compels us to tenderly say to one another when we share in the communion as we pass the cup, “the Cup of joy!” As God shares God’s delights with us through Christ, we become his people when we share the joy that Christ brings to us.
Just after getting ordained, I was immersed in preparing for the first Christmas Eve service with the congregation. Of course, I wanted to make this first Christmas Eve worship as a newly ordained minister, a wonderful experience for all. I had all the right pieces in place. Everyone responded wonderfully. Choir’s cantata went over splendidly. Readers were amazing. At the end of the worship service, everyone was really buoyed and excited about the service. As people began drifting out I could feel my adrenaline level drop. By the time I ended up in my bed, I was exhausted and completely done.
This way of making sure that the Christmas Eve service became a routine year after year. Initially I was full of excitement and was glad that I was so exhausted at the end of the evening each year. I felt that I gave everything I had and that my exhaustion was the sign that I did everything I could. As the years went by, people began noticing more and more how tired I looked on Christmas Eve. They began asking if I were okay.What I did not know, then, was how much pressure I was putting on myself to make sure everything was done right on Christmas Eve. You see, by the fourth year, as surely as Christmas approached I began to get this dry cough in December. Doctors could not understand because I was very healthy. If I tried to get rid of the cough, it became worse. More interesting was that on Christmas Eve, I did not cough. And by January, there was no sign of cough anywhere.
At the same time, it became clear that I was getting more and more concerned about doing things exactly as we planned on Christmas Eve. I noticed that I was very anxious and was very irritated if something did not go as we planned the service. People in the worship committee commented that I did not look happy with certain things quickly.
One Christmas Eve, after another exhilarating service, I was at home exhausted. That was when a thought came to me. It was not mine. I remembered what a minister with whom I trained for a while during my college said in a conversation. He said that it took twenty five years for him to actually worship instead of leading worship. That remark of long ago suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. I was making sure that the Christmas Eve service had to be as close to perfect as it could be instead of worshipping with the people in response to God’s love shown through Christ. I was not worshipping. Rather I was leading worship. I was not part of the crowd, but an officiant. All those times when I felt exhausted had everything to do with my attention to the service, but what did it matter if I did not worship along with the crowd?
Christmas celebrations are like this for all of us. We want this year’s Christmas to be a wonderful experience for all. Often in that “all” we do not include ourselves. If we serve, but do not enjoy, celebrations are for other people, not for us and do not carry the deep joy that we want to share with others. Yes, Christmas is ours also to celebrate and enjoy.
Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18: Love (Christmas Carols Sunday)
Christmas Eve, December 24: Lunch at noon followed by worship service
Christmas, December 25: Christmas Worship at 10:30 am
Christmas Turkey Dinner Takeout
Like last year, we are taking precautions to keep everyone safe as we present our Annual Christmas Turkey Dinner Takeout. Yes, the Annual Christmas Turkey Dinner will be available for takeout. It will cost $25/person. Please contact Betty-Ann and reserve your takeouts.
The takeouts will be available on Saturday, December 17 between 3 and 5 pm.
Love Your Church
In order to carry on our ministries, we are asking you to help us raise $20,000 on top of the regular offerings. You may choose to help us with small amounts weekly or monthly. Another way is to make a one time donation. Whatever you can help will be greatly appreciated.
Christmas EvePlease note that on Christmas Eve, December 24, we are inviting everyone for lunch at 12 pm in the church hall. This lunch will be followed with our Christmas Eve worship. There will not be a regular Christmas Eve evening service. Though we are intending to have an evening gathering of desserts and carols.
Time of New
Time of “renewal” is over. Renewal does not work. Reviving what worked in the past may sound good, but in reality, the best things of the past did not prevent the misery of today. Trying to renew or revive is to ignore how things have changed around us and a clear sign that we do not understand what is happening today.
When we are lost in a new place, what we usually try to do is to retrace our steps and get back to the place where we began. This is natural. The trouble is if we are truly lost, then, we do not even know how to begin a way back. This is what happens to many people who get lost in thick forests. People lose all sense of direction in thickets of trees and cannot go back to where they started from.
We have been working to help our homeless neighbours for a long time now. When we began BBQs, not many churches or groups were helping the homeless in Niagara Falls. Of course there were a few, but not many. Then, soon many churches began to do the same. Like church members shopping for church we found many of them moved from one supper to another. Soon, we realized that we needed to help the homeless differently. What we did was meeting needs, but was not really helping them in a meaningful way. In the meantime, COVID lockdown measures gave us time to think and imagine a new way of supporting these folks.
We know COVID changed many things for us. What we have not paid attention to is how COVID affected the homeless in our area. There used to be regular ones we knew. Some of them were very helpful and cooperative. Remember Lionel? He was a small person, but with big smiles and a heart of independence. He was one who used to slim in $20 bills in my hand as he left our dinners. He made sure that many were taken care of. He used to ask me for aspirins when others had pain. He had a heart as big as the best Christian I met. He died not too long ago.
His passing marks a significant change. All those whom we used to know and have around are no longer found. Instead, we have a new group of people whom we do not know. They tend to be younger. They are seen to be more dangerous by many because they seem to get angry quicker than ones we knew. Our neighbours have changed. Old ways are not going to work with them. We need a brand new way to be their neighbours. My guess is that once we get to know them and they get to know us, we will find them to be good neighbours like Lionel. What worked in the past no longer works with this new group of neighbours. Renewing is not going to work. So with our other neighbours like Museum and the City, we will work to find a new way to find out who these neighbours are and begin loving them.