Good Afternoon family of St John’s

Advent III – Rejoice!

Lord Jesus Christ, who chose at Bethlehem to meet us, Make us ready to lose and leave all that makes us proud and sufficient. Let our knees bend to you, Our hearts cradle you, Our lips sing you songs of love. Amen.

Good afternoon to the family of St. John’s,

This past Sunday was another wonderful day in the life of our church! Advent III is commonly called “Gaudete” Sunday: Rejoice! We light our third Advent Candle, the Candle of Joy, and we turn our hearts toward the coming arrival of the baby in Bethlehem — the one who shows us the way to reclaiming human joy, joy for all of humankind. At our 10:30 am service, we began by lighting our Advent candles concluding with the candle of Joy. It was then the children of St. John’s who took over and helped us reflect on the gift of JOY through their Christmas Pageant. It was a wonderful message, and the children did a fantastic job of presenting it. We are grateful to each of them for their hard work and generosity. We are grateful to their caregivers for helping them to make this commitment. And we are grateful to all our Sunday School helpers for their incredible leadership. After their presentation the children were off to have a special celebration and even painted some cookies to enjoy! How were they Howard?

Water Project & Refugee Sponsorship at Christmas

You can give differently this year at Christmas: Give the gift of Water or Refuge to someone you love this year! How? –Make your donation to St. John’s Church. –Mark your memo line or envelope as “Water Project” to give toward clean water in the First Nations’ Community of Pikangikum. or Mark “Refugee Sponsorship” to give toward our Refugee Sponsorship Project. -Take a Gift Card from the table near the Christmas Tree. –Give the Gift Card to your loved one at Christmas (instead of a gift certificate, jewelry, neck tie, etc.) -Hang an icicle on the Giving Tree to give visibility to this act of Christmas Generosity!

Gift Giving at St. John’s:

Advent TreeLove Your Neighbour in the name of Jesus this Christmas, and bring your gifts to our Advent Tree. Each week’s gifts will be collected and then shared with community organizations at Christmas. Week III—Joy—toys Week IV—Food—non-perishable food items.

Christmas Services @ St. John’s

December 24th—5pm – Children’s Service with Eucharist and Carols, 7:30 pm & 10pm – Candlelight, Choir, Communion, Carols – what could be a better way to celebrate with friends and family the miracle of Christmas? December 25th – 10am – a simple Eucharistic celebration on Christmas morning in the Mewburn Chapel.

This Sunday we will have be having Lessons and Carols at the 10:30 service Question of the Week: Why is Advent so different in the church than in the holiday season in the rest of the world? I was amazed (and somewhat disheartened) to realize how much things have changed this year when I saw some children’s Advent calendars now have 31 chocolate squares to open. It’s no longer a count-down to Christmas Day, it is a countdown to the New Year. I also feel a small knot in the pit of my stomach when I skim through magazines this time of year and read that some celebrity or another is “crazy for Christmas”…. but what it means is that said-person is crazy for decorating, shopping, wrapping, and throwing parties. There is no reference to any of the story, the prayer, the hope, the invitation which is the actual purpose for Christmas. All of this makes our church Advent season feel delightfully weird. Perhaps more than any other time of the year, the church gives us a place of shelter and reflection which allows us to breathe and to absorb the richness of what is being offered to us. You might notice that blue is the colour of Advent. It is the blue of the morning sky, just before the first light of dawn. Advent is a season of waiting and anticipation, a season in which we know that God’s light, God’s joy, God’s peace and promise and love is coming, is coming to touch our world and our lives. We take a step back from the frantic pace of life. We learn to watch and wait. At the beginning of our service through Advent, we light the Advent candles, lighting one more candle each successive week. Although this is probably a tradition with which you are familiar, it is still important to reflect on why we do this. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus was actually born in December. Instead, the church chose December as the time to celebrate the feast of Jesus’ birth because it is the darkest time of the year. It is therefore the time in which remembering and enacting the in-breaking of God’s light is so fundamentally important. We see this impulse all around us, even in the secular world. The days get shorter, and people begin to light lights, to bring brightness and hope and colour into the gloom. In the church, we use candles so that our hearts and our prayers can focus on light as a reminder of this promise and hope. Traditionally the first candle is the candle of hope, the second the candle of peace, the third the candle of joy, and the fourth the candle of love. On Christmas eve, we light the centre candle, the Christ candle. These symbols and signs are coupled with ample opportunity for action and celebration that is truer to the Christmas Spirit that was first offered to us. Our Advent Giving Tree reminds us that this is a time of year to be particularly mindful of the needs of those who are hurting. Our Gift Giving at St. John’s invites us to give different sorts of presents at Christmas to those we love (and maybe to put different sorts of requests on our own Christmas lists too!)

-giving the gift of Clean Water or Refuge to some of our world’s most vulnerable people. Sunday at our 10:30am service, the hard work and talent of our youngest members in this community was shared with us in a special Pageant presentation – our children inviting us to a new perspective on the meaning, joy and miracle of Christmas. As we have and continue to worship and journey together through these Advent weeks, may we find God’s gifts, God’s word, God’s blessing, touching us in truly preparing for Christmas.

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Canon Val

 

Musings from Canon Val

Musings from Canon Val

As I sit here in my living room by the fireplace, sun streaming through the window, I find myself pondering the meaning of all the events that are taking place in the world.

As we come closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus I wonder what you all are pondering in your hearts. We do know from scripture Mary “pondered all these things in her heart” when the angel announced to her she would have a child, the Prince of Peace.

It is hard for us to imagine what Mary, all those years ago, was going through as a young woman, unmarried yet with child having to leave her home and family and travel with the man, Joseph, who had agreed to marry her. It must have been a very frightening time for both Mary and Joseph as they made their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem only to arrive and find out there was no room for them! A family… on the move…challenges…a baby on the way…no home…where were they to go…who would help them? How would they survive? What lay ahead for them?

How many people in our world today find themselves in this position? How many children have never even known a home outside of a refugee camp, how many children haven’t had the opportunity to attend school? How many parents fight to feed their children on a daily basis? How many parents have to take their children and flee from their homes to try to keep them safe? How many children have witnessed unthinkable atrocities? Do we sometimes forget that the Holy Child was once a refugee, his parents having to take him and flee to save his life from the wrath of King Herod? I am sure they didn’t want to leave their homeland, all that they had come to know and love, however they could see no other choice if they wanted their child to live. And so they became refugees…

Here at St John’s we are in the process of exploring how we can help sponsor a refugee family. We, along with Holy Trinity Chippewa and Christ Church Niagara Falls have already started conversation about a joint campaign to raise funds that will help us do just that. Anyone at St John’s who wishes to make a donation to this mission can do it by putting your donation on the plate or bringing it into the office…just please make sure to mark your donation “refugee sponsorship fund” so it can be tracked. It can be a time consuming project, however I am told, it is also very rewarding. We will keep you posted on the process and how we are to proceed as we get everything in order.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you, I have called you by name; you are mine. -Isaiah 43:1

Blessings…Canon Val