The traditional date for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18-25. The week has been celebrated continuously since 1894, but was a dream of many Christian leaders since the early years of the 19th century.
This year the Churches of the Caribbean were chosen to draft the material for this year's study and worship resources. The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. Very regrettably, during five hundred years of colonialism and enslavement, Christian missionary activity in the region, with the exception of a few outstanding examples, was closely tied to this dehumanizing system and in many ways rationalized it and reinforced it. Whereas those who brought the Bible to this region used the scriptures to justify their subjugation of a people in bondage, in the hands of the enslaved, it became an inspiration, an assurance that God was on their side, and that God would lead them into freedom. (source: World Council of Churches)
We at Aylmer United Church have ties with the people of the Caribbean nation of Haiti. For several years, since the massive earthquake in 2010, through our partners we have sent bed mats and children's clothing as assistance to some of the poorest people in Haiti.
Haiti and Haitian people have been in the news again recently. During this past year asylum seekers from the US streamed across the Quebec border, fearing the rhetoric there. Just this week Haitians have been added to the list of "unacceptable immigrants" to the US.
During Epiphany we talk about the light of Christ shining in the darkest corners of the world. This news is a "dark corner" that the light of Christ exposes and brings to our attention. Our task as Christians - as ones who profess to follow that light - is to take the next steps to work for justice and unity. May it be so.
In a couple of weeks we will start up our book study group again. The first book we studied (3 years ago) was The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg. We found his writing and his approach so helpful that we are going back to study more of his work. Even if you are not able to attend the study session read the book anyway. Go to Amazon.ca and order Marcus Borg's Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith.
Why do we need to read such a book? Why do we need to know who Jesus was? And Is? Because we cannot be the church if we don't know what he stood for and what he really taught and preached.
The book is a very helpful and engaging read. It will be another guide for us as we continue our visioning work as Aylmer United Church.
Wednesday evenings from 7 to 8:30 in the parlour
Jan 24 chapter 1
February 7 chapter 2
February 21 chapter 3
March 7 chapter 4
March 21 chapter 5
April 11 chapter 6
Why do we look at the stars? What do you see on a cold winter's night when you turn your face skyward and look into the depths of the universe? What do you see in those pin-pricks of light? Do you see science? Do you see mystery? Do you see both?
This weekend is the celebration of Epiphany. Epiphany is the "church" word for the time when educated VIP visitors arrived at the the place where Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus were. Some versions of the Bible call them astrologers, some say kings. The Bible does not tell us how many there were. Tradition has concluded that there were three because there are three gifts mentioned in the story in chapter 2 of the gospel of Matthew. Neither does the Bible story mention camels - but camels have become a lovely part of our creche scenes and pageants!
Sometimes we lose some of the meaning of the story in the embellishments.
There is much we do not know about these travelers from the far east. What we do know is that they represent for the gospel writer a global event in the birth of Jesus. This event of the love of God bursting into the world like a new star born was for everyone. All nations, all peoples. Once again we hear the reverberations of the covenant made so long ago "I am your God and your are my people".
Love explodes in the galaxy and showers blessing on all creation. Our task is to expand that Love and make sure it finds its way into every corner of darkness. May we have the courage of wisdom to make it so.
The Gospel of John proclaims that the light was coming into all the world
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.
—John 1:5, 9
God begins with a musical idea,
and then sings it.
The song shines in the darkness.
Everything in this universe is God's song.
It's a love song.
Listen for God singing the world into being.
Look for the light shining in the music.
Notice this cosmic song, this act of Creation,
rising in you, unfolding, radiating,
shining in the darkness.
The true light that enlightens everyone
is coming into the world.
How wonderful to be part of this singing the light into being! This is the invitation to Christmas. We see the Christ-Light, we are offered this Light, we are this Light. It is Jesus' gift to us. May we use it well and offer it to the whole world for the glory of God.
Let us live in and of that Light.
What is the heart of Christmas for you this year?
This is a question that Boyd and I have been asking ourselves and each other since Advent began. Sometimes we ask it another way - "what does Christmas mean for us this year?"
For the two of us as ministers it always means extra services and events, so increased workload. It also means that because of this we are steeped in the scriptures and church traditions. We begin to breathe them it seems - they begin to permeate our world. For me this takes me to the heart of Christmas.
I love the trees, the lights, the music, the cookies! But sometimes they distract me from the heart of the Advent and Christmas message. Which is God's reminder that God is as close to us as our own breath. God is here with us - in each other and in us. That's what incarnation means after all. The word "incarnate" comes from the Latin verb incarnare, from in- ‘into’ + caro, carn- ‘flesh.’ God is with us "in the flesh". The only way that can happen is through people, through us and our embodied spirits.
The scripture story of the baby Jesus is a reminder to us that God is already with us (that's what Emmanuel means - "God With Us"), God is with us all the time, in every moment. Our call as people of God is to live like this all the time. In every decision we make, and every action we take.
And what a very lovely and profound way God has chosen to remind us. To invite a young woman of no social or political status to offer herself as the gift-bearer. To invite a man of great integrity and little economic power to accompany her on this life-journey. To invite foreign dignitaries and scholars to pay homage to this child who is "God-With-Us". To invite shepherds - hard working people - to witness and celebrate this wonderful truth.
And so it is that once again this year God invites us to simultaneously celebrate the incarnation already among us and within us, and to ready ourselves for a deeper experience of this "God-With-Us" mystery/miracle.
Join us for our special Christmas services:
These words caught my eye earlier this week as I was checking out my FaceBook page. "Human. Kind. Be both." "Humankind - be both!" It's a call really - to all of us who share this planet to be the best that we can be. To celebrate the best about being human, and to be kind to one another. Each act of kindness goes a long way. One act of kindness can turn my whole day around. How about you?
This first week of December holds several poignant moments and anniversaries. It is a big week that makes me stop in my tracks. Even as I am getting ready for Christmas I stop to remember these important moments in history.
December 1 is World Aids Day (since 1988),
December 6 is Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women (White Ribbon Day). On December 6 1989 fourteen young women were murdered and ten more injured by a single gunman at École Polytechnique in Montreal.
December 7 marks the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941.
December 8 marks the anniversary of the assassination of John Lennon in 1980.
As we move through Advent the Bible readings are all about waking up and noticing what is going on around us - the good and the bad. The great prophets Isaiah and John the Baptist are striking figures who do not mince their words. "God is here" they tell us. "Wake up and notice!" They are calling us to get on board, God needs you, they are saying. God needs us - all of us - to live God's peace, and hope, and love, and joy. To live these Advent gifts. To embody them. To offer them to the world for healing..
Perhaps the best way we can do this is to simply be human. And together to be humankind. Be human. Be humankind. Be both.
Here is an idea to help you remember and practice the true spirit of Christmas. Don’t feel confined by these ideas - they are just suggestions. Advent is short this year because Christmas Eve is on Sunday but don’t stop till you finish all four weeks! (with thanks to our friends at Orleans United Church for the idea).
A Different Kind of Advent Calendar
Week 1 HOPE (December 3 to 9)
Sunday: Pray for our Aylmer United Church family
Monday: Make Christmas cookies to share
Tuesday: Go outside for a walk with your family
Wednesday: Phone someone who needs cheering up
Thursday: Take a deep breath and notice the beauty around you
Friday: Put up the crèche in your house - if you don’t have one, make one!
Saturday: Say hello to a stranger
Week 2 PEACE December 10 to 16)
Sunday: Pray for our White Gift recipients
Monday: Make a donation to your favourite charity
Tuesday: Smile at everyone you meet
Wednesday: Phone someone to wish them Merry Christmas
Thursday: Remember what the Christmas Spirit is all about
Friday: Write a hope-filled Christmas letter to your friends
Saturday: Offer a sincere compliment
Week 3 JOY (December 17 to 23)
Sunday: Pray for our Christmas family
Monday: When stopped at a traffic light, wave to the people in the next car
Tuesday: Say thank you for a kindness done
Wednesday: Invite someone out for coffee, tea or hot chocolate
Thursday: Make a donation to a charity you have not supported before
Friday: Read a story to a child
Saturday: Thank someone for helping you
Week 4 LOVE (December 24 to 30)
Sunday: Pray for the world God loves so much
Christmas Day: Open Christmas presents together, appreciating each one
Tuesday: Bake some more Christmas cookies to share
(remember the season of Christmas lasts 12 days!)
Wednesday: Bring greetings to your neighbours
Thursday: Take some quiet time to count your blessings
Friday: Tell someone you love what you have learned this year
about the meaning of Christmas
Saturday: Send someone a love note
Have fun and let me know how it goes.
This Sunday is the end of the year. No, you have not missed a whole month! It is the end of the church liturgical year. "Liturgy" refers to all those things that we associate with worship. As we follow the liturgical year we celebrate the different seasons of the church. Just as the calendar year has winter, spring summer and fall, the liturgical or church year begins with Advent and moves through the seasons of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Creation and Thanksgiving. We end the year with Reign of Christ Sunday (this Sunday, November 26). That means next week is the beginning of Advent. Throughout the four Sundays of Advent special symbols and reminders of the coming of Christmas - the coming of Christ - will appear as we prepare for that most important moment - Christmas Eve when we celebrate Jesus' birth.
Here is our Advent-Christmas schedule:
Sunday December 3 10:30 - Advent 1 HOPE Communion
Sunday December 10 10:30 - Advent 2 PEACE Sunday School Service and White Gift
Sunday December 17 10:30 - Advent 3 JOY
Thursday December 21 7:00pm Longest Night Service
Sunday December 24 10:30 - Advent 4 LOVE
December 24 5:00pm Community Christmas Eve Service
Come to church. Bring your family and friends as together we journey through Advent in anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
It is snow tire season in Québec. As predictable as the leaves falling in October, every day in November there is another vehicle sporting snow tires in our neighbourhood. Seasons change. Times change. And we do too.
What is shifting inside you these days as autumn slides into winter? Do you look forward to the colder weather? The promised snow? Does your soul open up as the leaves fall? Or do you feel yourself closing in; looking for moments and places of comfort and warmth? When you look inside, what is happening inside your spirit? Inside your mind? Inside your body?
These are soul questions. These are theological questions. They give us clues into our relationship with God. They help us see what God is up to in our lives.
There are no right or wrong answers to such questions. We need both the times of opening up and anticipation, as well as the more reflective times in our lives. It is the balance of engagement and introspection; of offering and receiving; of moving outward and returning to our centre, that is essential to our well-being. In all of these places, in all of these moments we have the opportunity to meet God. God is there waiting for us to notice and to respond. Sometimes I think God loves these shifting season times because we are more likely to be aware when things are changing. When we are aware we are more open to welcoming God more deeply. And this, I believe, makes God's heart sing!
This weekend I will be in New Brunswick helping my Mom celebrate her 95th birthday. Boyd will lead worship on Sunday in my absence. We are grateful to him for his generous gift of worship leadership. We will be back to the regular schedule of 10:30 worship.
Let's go deeper. Deeper into the heart of who we are at Aylmer United Church, and where we want to go in the future.
That's exactly what we will do this Sunday, Nov 12 when we engage in our third congregational visioning day as we look toward a sustainable and life-giving future for our church. Again, Sharon Moon will be our facilitator. As always Sharon has some fun exercises to help us do our work.
This Sunday will take a different shape than usual. Our worship and workshop will all take place in the downstairs hall.
Come join us! Bring your enthusiasm, and your creative minds and hearts - oh yes - and a cushion for your chair!