Monday, December 28, 2015

Angels from the Realms of Glory

In the world of commerce, "Christmas" begins sometime in October, often clashing the red and green of new life with the orange and black of the hallows of Hallowe'en.  No wonder the secular world decries the playing of Christmas music (musak) by the middle of December.

   In the Christian tradition though, Christmas doesn't start until Dec. 25.  In the four Sundays preceding Christ's birth we celebrate Advent with candles and carols such as "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and "On Jordan's Bank."  If we adhere strictly to the Christian calendar, we sing Christmas carols in the days between Christmas Day, Dec. 25 and Epiphany, January 6.
   In that we differ markedly from the shopping mall and the radio stations who seem to think that Christmas ends at noon on the 25th. By Boxing Day there isn't a hint of a Silent Night or Little Town of Bethlehem.  It makes me sad to see Christmas curtailed in such a way, so I'm glad we've got twelve days of Christmas in the church.
    One of our Christmas carols that may be sung during that time is "Angels from the Realms of Glory."  The author, James Montgomery was the child of Moravian missionaries.   The parents placed young James in Moravian settlement in Ireland when he was only six, in order to answer their call to missionary work in the Caribbean.  Sadly, they died without ever seeing their son again.  
     James was unsuccessful at school so was apprenticed to a baker.  Again, not his field.  After drifting about Great Britain for a time, he finally settled in Sheffield and began writing for the Sheffield Register.  At last, he'd found his niche.  The paper was politically active and the owner had to flee the country to avoid imprisonment.  James Montgomery bought the Register and renamed it the Sheffield Iris.  He kept it's Reform leanings and was twice imprisoned for his editorials.  He persevered in his devotion to Christ and the gospel, championed the cause of foreign missions and the British Bible Society. 
    Eventually, he became a respected leader in Sheffield and his writings much admired.  On Christmas Eve, 1816, the forty-five year old James opened his Bible to Luke 2: 13.  "And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying:" (KJV)  The story of the angels sparked an idea and by the end of the day his new Christmas poem, "Angels from the Realms of Glory,"  was being read in the pages of his newspaper.  Later it was set to music, Regent Square, by Henry T. Smart and was first sung on Christmas Day, 1821 in a Moravian Church in England.
   Montgomery was a prolific writer and poet, but "Angels from the Realms of Glory" is probably his best-known contribution to the world of letters.

Ed. Note  The inspiration for this post came from a book donated to SPPC by one of the saints of this congregation who has passed on to her heavenly reward.  It seems especially fitting that her gift be celebrated at Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Pageant 2015

This was Pageant Sunday. There is always a special buzz in the church on the day the Sunday School presents the Christmas Pageant.  Whether we have a cast of half a dozen or dozens upon dozens, the excitement is the same.  "Is my crown on straight?"  "Where are my wings?"  "The shepherds have lost a lamb."  "What's frankincense?"  

  Our pageant this year opted for simple.  Diane wrote a script that told the story.  Max and Rebekah narrated.  Our regular Sunday School members acted the parts and we had an import to round out the angel chorus.  Everything a pageant should be.

Arrival of Joseph and Mary and the Babe at the Stable.

 Angels surround the manger.

Followed by the Shepherds.

Then the Magi.
The scene is complete.
The story we know and love is told again and we rejoice.  We kneel with Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, we marvel with the shepherds, we hear angel choirs and we offer gifts with the wisemen.   Truly, Christmas is here.

Monday, December 14, 2015

White Gift Sunday

White Gift Sunday at church this week.  I remember wrapping up cans of tomato soup when I was a kid, so I wondered what was the difference between White Gift Sunday and our regular Food Bank Sunday.  Thanks to Norma for filling me in.
   White gifts are used to pack hampers for shut-ins from our own congregation.  So, that jumbo package of Shredded Wheat isn't suitable here.  Most shut-ins live alone and don't have room to store the family-plus size of anything.  However, if you did drop off one of those super-sized bargains, we'll put it directly into the Food Bank box and it will be most appreciated.
   So, back to white gift.  This is our opportunity to send a Christmas gift to members of the congregation who are no longer able to get out on a regular basis or attend worship services.   A packet of special tea or coffee, some pretty soap or hand cream, chocolates, fancy cookies, even a pair of gloves or a scarf can find their way into a Christmas hamper.  A Christmas card or small book is also welcome.  
   Of course, Christmas isn't the only time we remember shut-ins of the congregation.  They receive regular visits from elders and other congregants.  They are invited to the sunshine lunch (there was one just this past Monday), and our minister keeps in touch.  But Christmas is a special time, and can be lonely for those without close family or good health.  That's where our white gift can make a difference.  A basket of goodies that says, "You are not forgotten, we care about you." There are twenty-two people on our list -- "our" family.  
  Thanks to all who brought mysterious packages wrapped in white paper and thanks to Norma and her team for sorting and re-packing in a Christmas bag.  In the next few days these tokens of friendship and offerings of joy will find their way into the hands and hearts of those we love.  If you receive one, may it brighten your day and bring a smile.  And may we all enjoy the blessings of this holy season.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Celebration

  If you weren't at SPPC on Sunday night, here's what you missed.

Sing-along carols.

Our talented "orchestra."

A surprise telephone call with God.

A lovely solo

And Humphrey, the Lonely Cello

Neighbourhood kids who won't let him play with them.

A dancing doll who won't dance to his music.

A choir who won't sing with him.

But then, Mary asks him to play for Jesus, and that changes everything.

 You also missed out on some great snacks. 

Blanche's shortbread.

                         And the crew being silly.

Thanks to all who made our "Advent Celebration" special.  May you find love and hope and joy and peace this season.