Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Good morning, and Merry Christmas! Okay, you may be reading this on Boxing Day, or beyond, but I had to write something for this day. The painting above is called Christmas Morning 1894 by Carl Larsson. Times have changed, but the excitement of children hasn't.
Friday, December 24, 2010
At the end of the visit I asked Murray if I could read the Christmas story from Luke. Then I asked the other two if this would be alright, since folk in a hospital room are a captive audience. Sure, they said, so I read the familiar words. When I finished I saw one of them dabbing tears from his eyes. I seized the moment and asked if they would like to be included in my prayer with Murray. Yes, they replied, and I did pray for them by name.
As I have said to you before, there are these remarkable moments in ministry which often touch me very deeply. When I walked in the door these two men were total strangers but I left to their smiles and their thanks.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The other woman turned 90 in June and she is a cheerful soul who is dealing with mild dementia, bright most of the time with moments of vagueness and disorientation. Maybe that is all of us at this time of the year!
She held out her aged hands with a smile on her face, and it took me a moment to realize that she wanted me to see her fingernails. A young woman comes in to attend to their hands and she had painted this woman's nails, not just with some sedate, boring polish but bright blue with snowflakes. Then our member turned her hands over so I could see the piece de resistance -- her thumbnails adorned with tiny perfect snowmen! She laughed and told me that she is the envy of her seven-year-old great-granddaughter.
We then had a more sombre moment as I admired the collage of photos on her wall. I commented on the pictures of her late husband who was in the hospital last Christmas and died a couple of days later. She isn't always clear as to where he is, but she offered "I told him not to die, but he did." It was a poignant moment, and its simplicity spoke to me of the realities of life and death. I came back to my study and looked at the funeral message from last December to see that they had been married 64 years. Does a partner of that duration ever really leave you?
In both cases though, the visits were positive and we expressed our thanks for life and the birth of Christ.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I also did something this year for the first time. I wrote Christmas cards with notes to those who had experienced tough losses since last year. I have thought about this before, but this season my cold meant that I was restricted for a few days in visiting people, so I made good on my intentions. I was a little surprised when more than 15 cards were completed and posted. Many of the recipients had experienced the most difficult losses of their lives and others I knew were weary from care-giving. It's hard to know what to say, but I gave it my best try.
I received a response from one person who had been wonderful with her mother, providing loving palliative care at home. She thanked me for acknowledging "the elephant in the room," to use her phrase. While she didn't elaborate, I know she meant the grief many feel in a season which can be almost manically upbeat. This woman is a grandmother herself, and I know she will find hope in her grandchildren and savour their excitement for Christmas. At the same time she will deal with her loss.
Please keep all those who struggle through Christmas in your prayers.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Last Thursday I attended the Christmas dinner for the Making Connections Clarington drop-in which takes place twice a week at St. John's Anglican church. A group from St. Paul's cooks the turkey dinner with the fixin's, and one of our members, Anne Marie, is a key person in working with this group all year long.
All I had to do was eat and chat with the gang, many of whom I have known for a number of years. They come to the Lunch Out dinner at St. Paul's (what wonderful people we have!) and they came to our first Gathering Place meal. I sat with two people I hadn't met before including an older woman named Pat. Pat didn't have her teeth in, so our conversation involved a fair amount of guess work on my part.
She immediately asked me to pray for a situation in her life, and it was clear that she expected me to respond on the spot, which I did. I kidded with her as we ate and she cackled: "Dave, you're a regular Woody Allen." I'm assuming that's a good thing, although I'm a little dubious. As we ate our meal she held up her fork with beans impaled on it, announcing "these are good for your bowels!' No argument here.
As I left I thanked her for the date and she responded "don't tell your wife." This is a group of people who have not always been treated well in life, in part because of struggles with mental health. They might be bitter and wary. Yet they are, for the most part, amazingly open, express gratitude without hesitation, and have senses of humour.
They are loved by God and Christ came for them. For me they are a gift of the Season.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Friday, December 17, 2010
A colleague shared the clever You Tube Digital Nativity which you can watch at the attached link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkHNNPM7pJA It's "over the top" and effective at the same time.
There is another out of Australia which is very sweet sent to me by daughter Jocelyn: http://markpetersen.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/a-refreshing-take-on-the-christmas-story/
PBS offers a seven-minute explanation of the tradition of nativity scenes at this link http://video.pbs.org/video/1696164037/ I think its worth watching.
Do you have a nativity scene with a past? Would Christmas just not be Christmas without it? Any passed on from generation to generation?
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
I really do enjoy finding the right gifts for the important people in my life but I find the experience of mall shopping a soulless nightmare. In one store we went to check-outs at opposite ends so that we wouldn't be aware of the other's purchases. As I waited in line I saw the sign at the register -- Happy Giving. Happy Giving? Once upon a time we could say "Merry Christmas" because the season was and to mind still is about Christ. It eventually morphed into "Happy Holidays," such an innocuous phrase. With Happy Giving, can Happy Spending be far off?
Do I protest too much? Do you find that there is too much emphasis on stuff at Christmas? Do you feel pressure to spend what you don't have? Have you seen Christ anywhere lately?
Sunday, December 12, 2010
One from a man who recalled the moment of greatest collective joy in his life. It was at the end of WW2 when he was still a young Dutch citizen. The news came that the war had ended and there was a tremendous eruption of jubilation across the country. He told me that when I spoke of experiences of joy the memories came flooding back.
The other was from a woman who told me her elderly mother had died on Friday. She had donated her corneas and someone will see for Christmas. The daughter told me that it was meaningful for her to hear about joy in the midst of her loss, and that her mother will bring joy to someone else, even in death.
There are some topics I approach with trepidation, not wanting to trivialize the often difficult experiences of others. It was good to speak with both of these individuals. I'm going to trust that Christ's joy was present this morning, dreary weather and all.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
The Boston Globe Big Picture is offering its own version of the Advent Calendar, offering a different photograph of the universe each day -- like, Cosmic man! It's not exactly traditional, but why not? Part of the challenge of Christmas is considering an event so ordinary as a birth and contemplating the cosmic implications. I know most of us consider birth to be a little miracle, but there will 163 million babies born on planet Earth this year. Our Christian faith invites us to ask what one birth which took place 2000 years ago means for us. Bye the way, there were only about 200 millon people of Earth at the time Jesus was born, or about a 33rd of today's population.
Take a look at the photos and enjoy. And ask yourself what the hype of Christmas is all about. Thoughts?
Friday, December 10, 2010
Perhaps it needs to be sung on behalf of the people of China today as human rights activist Liu Xiaobo is awarded his Nobel Peace Prize in absentia. There will be an empty chair in Stockholm acknowledging that he still languishes in a prison cell. China and a number of other nations with dubious human rights records will be boycotting the presentation.
The Chinese government has blocked news of the award today and created an absurd "alternative" Confucius award in a rather pathetic attempt to divert attention from the Nobel prize and the country's miserable human rights record.
This past week the Chinese government also held a conference of Roman Catholic bishops where they appointed their own puppet leaders or forced those duly appointed to attend. Those who refused were punished. It is another attempt to control religion in China while claiming religious freedom.
I'm baffled as to why these violations stir so little response, even when they include persecution of brothers and sisters in Christ. In my opinion we should be outraged.
Why are we so unresponsive? Does might really make right?
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Monday, December 06, 2010
Of course I have no children in our junior congregation, my three all being well into their twenties. But the wee girl who accompanied her father when I was picked up at the airport for an interview nearly eight years ago is now quite grown up and was a capable participant in both the junior choir and a skit. And the infant boy who was just about the first child I baptized at St. Paul's now sings in the same choir with great verve. A girl who is painfully shy and insisted she didn't want to be involved suddenly changed her mind a couple of days before the final rehearsal and did well. I saw her parents look at one another and smile. How good is that? I was struck by how confident these children seemed in this environment where they are affirmed for their God-given gifts. The teens who were soloist and accompianist were wonderful as well.
I got the greatest satisfaction from watching them and many other kids do so well. I felt the pride of family because they are part of my church family. We have the privilege of being involved in the faith formation of these children, of being partners in raising them in the Christian faith. We saw that in action yesterday.Much credit belongs to Sunday School, youth, and Junior Choir leaders.
Were you there? I'm interested to know if your reaction was similar to mine. A number of parents are readers, so feel free to brag about your remarkable kids. Thoughts from those who weren't there about the role of children in congregational life?