Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Program

Stuart McLean -- Order of Canada
   One of my favourite story tellers, Stuart McLean, died early this year.  He was only 68.  I never met Stuart, but I listened to his show, The Vinyl Cafe, every week on the CBC.

At a time when our news media is filled with tales of disaster, violence, fraud and "the evil that men do" Stuart sought out stories of every day people doing good, helping their neighbours, volunteering at the food bank, or the school concert.  He telephoned people out of the blue to tell them they'd won a ticket to one of his shows, and let the rest of the country listen in on the excitement. 
     There was something special about a Stuart McLean broadcast.  It gave hope in an often dark world.  It reminded us of the goodness that lives in the hearts of men and women.  I'm not sure how he worked that magic, but I suspect it was because he listened. He listened to the people who wrote him letters.  He listened to the man on the street.  He listened to the child on her way to a music lesson.
     Part of his show were the original stories he told of Dave, Morley, Stephanie and Sam.  For regular listeners, Dave and his family and his neighbourhood were like an old family friend.  When Stuart died, that family and and the neighbourhood died too.  I miss them very much. Stuart McLean showed us the best of ourselves, even in our foibles and mistakes. His legacy is a gift to the nation.
    Thanks to the CBC and modern technology, we can still listen in.  In this season of hope, I invite you to click here and listen to his last show.  

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Carol Sing-Along

 As has been our custom for the past few years, SPPC held a community carol-sing on Sunday afternoon.  It was well attended and I saw lots of smiling faces while we raised the roof with old favourites like Joy to the World, and Hark the Herald Angel's Sing.

    We began, though, with a quieter carol, one the choir has been using as an introit this month, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
This ancient hymn originally comprised a series of seven antiphons which would be sung in the monastery on each of the seven days of the week preceding Christmas.  Sometime around the twelfth or thirteen century five of them were put together to form the verses of a single hymn,  Each stanza concentrates on a different Biblical name for Jesus making the whole work rich in allusions to Scripture and thus a fine guide for our meditation.
One of the problems with our Advent hymns is deciding whether they refer to the first advent or to the second coming.  A quick reading of these verses will show that the reference is to the birth of Jesus.  The opening verse compares the Church to "captive Israel" languishing in exile in Babylon, longing for the worship of the temple now lying in ruin.  to these exiles came the word of the prophet Isaiah telling them that a virgin would conceive and bear a son and she would call him "Emmanuel." - God with us. (7:14) as the people of Israel in Babylon longed for the coming of their deliverer, so the Church longs for release from this world and the coming of its rightful King.
This Emmanuel is also the "Lord of might" whose name was proclaimed to the children of Israel at Sanai, where the law was given to the accompaniment of thunder and lightning so that the people were afraid to draw near, and Moses alone went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone. (Exod. 19: 16-20)
The third verse describes him as the Rod of Jesse.  Isaiah, again, had foretold that a deliverer would appear from the house of Jesse.  This was the family of which David was a member but the promised One would be greater than even David, the greatest of the Israelite kings.  He delivered a lamb out of the mouth of a lion. (1 Sam, 17:34-35) and later rescued his people from the tyranny of the Philistines and other enemies, but before Christ, even death must flee away.
When we think of Jesus as "the Dayspring from on high" (Luke 1:78) a number of pictures come to mind: the dispelling of darkness by light (Isa. 9:2), the  rising of the sun (Mal.4:2), the giving of life (John 1:4).  These are referred to along with the dispersal of the "clouds of night" and the putting to flight of "death's dark shadows".  What a ministry is carried on by our Messiah!
The concluding verse refers to Jesus as the Key of David".  The function of a key is to open or to close a lock.  So Isaiah refers to the placing of the key of the house of David on the shoulder of Eliakim, "he shall open and none shall shut, and he shall shut and none shall open? (Is. 22:22) The same words are used of Jesus by the angel of the church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7).  Through the coming of Jesus the way to "our heav'nly home" will be opened wide and "the path to misery" will be closed.  That is good news for a captive people.
The thought and imagery of this old hymn is very remote from our modern approach to religion, but if we take time to think seriously about it, there is so much to encourage us.  Here we see aspects of Christ's work that we might not ordinarily think about.  More than that, if we can look beyond our Lord's first coming, here is a prayer that still needs saying as we await His return.
                                                                 -- devotional by Rev. Dr. Cecil Kirk

We hope all who came enjoyed singing the carols.  A reminder, that the Christmas Eve service at 7:00 pm on Sunday, Dec. 24, is another opportunity to sing the music of Christmas and enjoy the beauty of a candlelight service.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas and Food

In my world, Christmas is associated with lots of company and feasting.  It seems my church, Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian, shares that culture.  We have cookies with coffee hour after service every Sunday. 

On Monday, the Sunshine lunch bore a Christmas theme and special goodies for the season.  This is a wonderful ministry in our church, designed to give those who are single, whether by choice or through bereavement, an opportunity to share a meal together.  One of the great, hidden sorrows of our culture is loneliness.  The Sunshine lunch is a great antidote.  Rides are provided for those who no longer drive.  Thank you to the faithful crew of volunteers who cater this event.

On Sunday afternoon, there was a Christmas tea.  This is part of the fundraising drive for the Mission to the Dominican Republic in the spring.
  This time the volunteers served high tea, complete with three tier serving dishes and fine china.  Who needs the Empress when we can enjoy such festivities at home?  And the money raised goes to a good cause.  

Next Sunday, Dec. 17, we'll participate in another favourite tradition, carol singing.  Come and bring your friends, lift your voices and sing out the joy of Christmas.  The music starts at 2:00 pm and we promise not to keep you for more than an hour.  There will be hot apple cider and shortbread afterwards, if you wish to linger.  So there we are, back to festive goodies, again. 

Many bemoan the extra calories consumed over the Christmas season and gyms are full of those with good intentions at the beginning of January.  But I make no apology for associating special foods the the celebration of Christmas.  After all, food unites and strengthens a community, providing a common identity among those gathered at the table.  Good food is best enjoyed as a shared experience, its the social glue that binds families and friends and, yes, strangers together in a common event.  Even Christ spent his last moments with the disciples sharing a common meal, on the special occasion of Passover.
So eat heartily, sing lustily and give thanks for the privilege of sharing food and fellowship.


Monday, December 4, 2017

December brings a full calendar of special activities around Christmas at SPPC.  This coming Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3:00 pm the Mission Team to the Dominican Republic is hosting a Christmas tea.  This is a fundraiser for the House Upon the Rock Mission, the group that hosts our team of volunteers in the DR.  
The organizers assure me there will be plenty of food, enough that you won't have to cook Sunday dinner afterward.  There is also some lively entertainment planned, so it will be a fun time.  Plan to invite your friends, make up a table of eight, and kick off your Christmas socializing.  The cost is $22.00 per person and all proceeds after expenses will go toward sponsoring our mission team.

    Speaking of Christmas entertaining, Linda has offered to manage a bottle drive over the next few months, with most of the proceeds going toward the DR mission.  So, bring those empties to the church and put your refund to good use.

   On the fund-raising topic, we are pleased to report that over $500.00 was raised with the dessert and soup sales.

  'Tis the season when many feel overwhelmed with busyness -- shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating -- but remember the small child, born in a manger.  Angels sang His birth, but there was no room at the inn.  Wise men brought costly gifts, but Herod sought to kill Him.  As we rejoice with friends and family, sharing love with those closest to us, remember that Jesus instructed His followers to care for the poor and the hungry and the thirsty and the stranger and the naked and the prisoner -- "Inasmuch as ye have tone it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matt 25:40 (KJV)