DH Update 2, Second week of Advent, 2022
Wed. December 7, 2022
Wednesday Meditation (Isaiah 11:1-4)
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
A wonder of wonders is that, when a baby is born, that little person is a stranger to us all except to her mother. We welcome the infant not only because we know the mother, but because she comes in total innocence and as one of the most vulnerable human beings. Something about such a newborn who gathers all our attention and care. Instinctively our hearts reach out to care and protect this new life. When this baby is brought into a room full of people, it is fascinating to see how everyone tries to relate to and get a smile from her. Voices become more playful and full of gentleness. Faces relax as smiles become their expressions.
Yet, when this child grows up and becomes an adult, our way of receiving her would be totally different. At the introduction, we measure the person up. We take cues from her expressions and demeanour responding appropriately. Is she happy to see us, cast judgmental eyes, friendly towards our outstretched hands, or hide ill will behind those smiles? Our radars go up fully.
I often wondered how we would receive Jesus if he were to walk into our Sunday worship. Though we have been reminding ourselves to receive Jesus as we would receive a newborn baby, I see so many of us measuring up in order to figure out who this stranger is. After all, our lives have been full of disappointment, sometimes ending up in fights, and once in a while experiencing cruel behaviours. Yes, we have been ghosted, manipulated, betrayed, and used by others. It is right for us to be careful. The thing that may hurt us is that before we may receive Jesus, we treat him with all the same cautions we have for all strangers.
In Advent, we do our best to rethink our ways of receiving Christ among us. As we prepare to celebrate Jesus coming as a baby, we are full of joy. However, if Jesus is to come as an adult stranger how will we receive him into our community? Will we take our sweet time until we feel secure–like waiting a year to become one of our members? Will we look at his outward appearance, measuring carefully what danger he may pose to us?
Each year I get in conversation with people who lament how Christ is missing in Christmas. They mean that people have gone away from truly honouring the birth of Jesus the Messiah and the way people get caught up in spending time and efforts for their own enjoyment. We also hear a great deal about how this Christmas season can be faced with loneliness and a high rate of depression for many people. This is also the time we are inundated with appeals to help others by donating toys, monies, etc.
This year, however, my suggestion is that we look at it from a-cup-is-half-full rather than from a-cup-is-half-empty point of view. This perspective can actually make us be thankful for God’s abundant grace and realize how deep and wide God’s presence is in our world. I would argue that a-cup-is-half-empty folks tend to try to fix the world around them and are always seeing where people fail in spite of God’s grace whereas a-cup-is-half-full crowd can appreciate how little joys and delights in life are displays of God’s blessing in our world.
As a starter, think. Do we ever give thanks for those who come to church each Sunday? Sadily, we are more worried about empty pews. We do not appreciate all those who make efforts to worship God every Sunday. Simply being able to accept those who come and thanking God that these folks are out to worship with us changes our view of what we as a church should be. Of course we can lament over so few who are listed as our members.
In running a marathon, one gets to see the power of perspective and how a-cup-is-half-full way of seeing things can help you finish the race, rather than give up. When you are a runner, you know that in long distance running, you hit a wall. What that means is that our limits have been reached. Our bodies feel that they can no longer move ahead. Our minds are convinced that there is no way we can go that last mile. In this situation, we think of how far we have come in comparison to how little we need to go, then, we usually find that third wind to make to finish. On the other hand, we think about how far we still need to go when both the mind and body tell us that we are at our end, we see that same distance as an impossible obstacle to overcome. We cannot go that last mile because we know it is impossible for us to go another mile after having given everything so far.
This year, it would be wonderful to see how Christ’s love is popping out everywhere in small doses. For example, we still have so many people coming out each Sunday to worship and share God’s grace with each other. This coming Sunday and Sunday after, there will be many of our members singing and rejoicing together preparing for the returning of our Lord. We are here again together in worship. In spite of illnesses and deaths, we are a vibrant group of people who praise and worship God.
And don’t you know that there are so many of our own members at home worshipping with us each Sunday, even when they cannot come out in person? They are as much part of us as those of us who are worshipping in person every Sunday. See how God sustains us?
Third Sunday of Advent, December 11: Joy
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
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.
We thank you for your contributions. Almost all that have been collected were delivered to the Salvation Army. Some were given out by us to those who were in need.
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.
Please 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 Praise
If anything, Christmas is a time of praise. We sing Christmas hymns all the time, reminding us of God’s grace and love. But what about all those secular Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Jesus and his birth? For example, Rudolf the rednosed reindeer, Jingle Bells, I,ll be home for Christmas and White Christmas are heard throughout December. It is true that we get sick and tired of listening to these songs. Everywhere we go, especially in shopping malls and box stores, these songs are played so that we can impulsively open our wallets, reminding us that Christmas season is at best a marketing ploy, not the celebration of the Messiah.
Yes, it is true that the world has taken over Christmas and is doing their best to exploit every aspect of human psychology in order to make us part with our money. It is also true that this binge of Christmas shopping leaves many people in serious trouble. At the same time, the human cost of the cheery Christmas season is well documented in terms of people suffering breakdowns and depressions.
Yet, without too much effort, along with another weird rendition of Jingle Bells, we hear Silent Night, Holy Night. Without realizing, those hymns glorifying God are played over and over again. I was in a Canadian Tire store a few days ago to buy a double sided tape. As usual, speakers were blaring out O Holy Night as well as Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
A strange thought came over me. Try and ask a manager of a Canadian Tire store or any other stores big and small for that matter if we can tell their customers about Jesus Christ. You guessed it. We know the answer even before we ask. I remember being refused an entry to a public school because I was a Christian church minister. Religion, I was told, should not be spoken and shared in public places. Yet, these same managers are shamelessly playing songs describing God’s grace, majesty and love. We have been warned out, pushed out, and locked out from sharing the Gospel. Yet, here we are in this strange shopping world where many people are forced to listen to these songs praising God. The irony was not missed on me.
And you know what? I noticed that no one minded when I sang along these Christmas hymns softly enough for others to hear. No one came and told me that I could not sing along to those words coming out of their speakers.