- The Forum, Philippi, Macedonia

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   Philippians 2:5-11

If, like me, you are wondering why we are reading from the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Philippians on Christmas eve, explore with me the history of the epistle and the background story in Acts 16.

Paul is writing during his first imprisonment in Rome, unsure of his future but secure in his faith in Christ Jesus. It is a letter of thanks to the Philippian church who, after hearing of Paul’s imprisonment, sent Epaphroditus to Rome bearing necessary supplies to sustain the apostle during his imprisonment.

Who were these Philippian Christians and why were they so special to Paul? To find the answer we must look at Acts16. Here we find Paul in Philippi, the capital city of Macedonia, after having been called there in a dream. Here we meet three founding members of the Philippian church:

 Lydia, a wealthy, skilled, and godly Asian woman whom Paull met outside the city gate, sitting with a prayer group of women and who, after accepting Jesus and being baptized, opened her house as a meeting place for the early Christians

A demonically controlled slave girl, who persisted in following Paul and Silas proclaiming loudly for several days “These men are servants of the Most High God which show us the way of salvation.” Irritated, by her constant proclamations, Paul delivers her from possession and greatly aggravates the girl’s masters who take the matter to the Magistrates.  Paul and Silas are beaten with rods and cast into the innermost part of the jail, where they keep other prisoners awake singing songs at midnight and praising God until an earthquake occurs which wrecks the prison, opening its doors and unshackling the prisoners. who Paul dissuades from escaping.

Next, we meet the jailer. We are not given his name, but he was probably a retired Roman veteran. He knew well what his fate would if his prisoners escaped or came to harm.   He was about to commit suicide when Paul intervened and called to him “Do thyself no harm. We are all here.” Terrified, he utters the words, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul’s answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. He takes Paul and Silas into his house, tends to their wounds and feeds them whilst listening to the “good news”. Paul and Silas are set free the next morning and after comforting warning and consoling the new church members they depart.

Thus, began the Church in Philippi. (See further historical notes about Philippi as a Roman Colony after the musical selection)

Now we must return Philippians 2: 5-11. Here we find the appropriateness of the reading on Christmas eve, for in the passage Paul encapsulates the whole gospel message telling how God so loved the world that laid aside his glory and became in fashion of a man, died on the cross, was raised to life again and highly exalted by God so that, at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father.

 If the poetry of the verses seems familiar it is because it is the foundation of the Apostle’s Creed that we say as part of the daily office. And so, we say with the Angels “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to all peoples on earth” as we celebrate with the shepherds, the birth of the Christ Child over 2,000 years ago and wait with anticipation for His return in Glory.

- Barb Edgcombe Green

Roman Colonies (adapted from Google)

Philippi attained the status of a Roman Colony.  These Roman Colonies had begun by having a military significance.  It was the custom of Rome to send out parties of veteran soldiers, who had served their time, and who had been granted citizenship, and to settle them in strategic road centers.  The colonies were the focal points of the great Roman road systems They were founded to keep the peace, and to command the strategic centers in Romes far-flung Empire. Their original significance had been military, but in the later days the title of colony was given by the Roman government to any city which they wished to honor and to repay for faithful service.

The colonies had one great characteristic: their pride in their Roman citizenship. The Roman language was spoken; Roman dress was worn, and Roman customs were observed.  Wherever they were located these colonies were stubbornly and unalterably Roman. They were miniature cities of Rome, and they never forgot it.  We can hear the Roman pride breathing through the charge against Paul and Silas in Acts 16:20,21: These men are Jews, and they are trying to teach and to introduce laws and customs which it is not right for us to observe for we are Romans.  Nowhere were men prouder of being Roman citizens than in these colonies.  And such was Philippi.

"You are a colony of heaven." Paul wrote to the Philippian Church (3:20).  Just as the Roman colonist never forgot in any environment that he was a Roman, so they must never forget in any society that they are Christians.



                                     -St. Jude Anglican Church, Arima, Trinidad

 Psalm 150

1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!

2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!

3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!

4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Today is a special day in the life of my parents as they celebrate their 69th wedding anniversary. They were married at St. Jude Anglican Church in 1951. When I was 13 years old, I started accompanying an Anglican congregation at church services held at the School for the Blind about 15 minutes from my home. A couple of years later we relocated and I was then playing a pump organ for the Anglican Church of St. Michael’s and All Angels. I was amazed and thrilled to graduate to a Baldwin with bass pedals and two keyboards a couple of years later.

During my time as organist I played at many weddings and came to love three psalms that were regularly sung at weddings. They were Psalm 67, 128 and the one that is in my readings today – Psalm 150. While Psalms 67 and 128 were sung with contemplation and quiet melodies, Psalm 150 would be belted out in celebration with a shrill descant proclaiming the last line, LET EVERYTHING THAT HATH BREATH PRAISE THE LORD.

Let us praise and thank God for all that he gives us, life, shelter, companionship and most of all His Son, Jesus Christ, who was born in humility in a manger to a now famous couple, Mary and Joseph. Happy Anniversary!

- Wayne Edwards




                                - St. George's Anglican Church, Banff, AB (2014)

Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!” (Psalm 80:19)

As I read Psalm 80, I am reminded of a story that has been told over the generations in my family.  It is the story of a lonely Christmas Eve ride made about a century ago, by a man who, like the psalmist, was at the tipping point of brokenness, feeling the weighty unfairness of life, and wondering if God was busy elsewhere.

Old Joe and Emelia were immigrants to what is now Southern Alberta.  Having gone through the challenges of leaving their homelands and of working a homesteading life in Western Canada, they now found themselves raising ten children on a single quarter-section of land.  Then, in the midst of a hard year, one Christmas proved especially harsh, and Joe and Emelia had no money to buy presents for their large brood.  Under the weight of this desperate emptiness, Joe made an equally crushing decision – he would sell the only thing of value that he owned at the time – his seed grain for next year’s planting.  This would give him the money to buy his children some presents, and perhaps provide a respite from their lack.

However, after a long trip into town, once the grain was sold, old Joe found that in spite of his terrible sacrifice he wasn’t left with enough money to buy anything more than a simple bag of candy for each of his children. 

Yet, in spite of that profound disappointment, and the hardness of life that would follow in the years ahead, Joe carried on – he continued to work hard, he continued to love his family, and he continued to trust his God.  At the end of his life, with his dying breath, he prayed God’s blessing over his devoted children.

Psalm 80, like the Advent season, indeed like the entire liturgical calendar, is a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness through all of life’s deprivations.  As we continue to be beset by the challenges of this most peculiar of years, and even the disappointments it may bring to this Christmas season, we can be encouraged in knowing that God’s face still shines, and we will be saved.

- Lee Cutforth


                               -Henry Ossawa Tanner, 'The Annunciation' (1898)

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  Luke 1:29-38

In this well-known passage from Luke, Mary hears the astonishing proclamation that she will give birth to a child who will “be called the Son of the Most High” who “will reign over the house of Jacob forever,” and of whose “kingdom there will be no end.” Mary is understandably perplexed at the arrival of the angel and his words. Despite the strangeness of this news, and despite the lengths to which this will change Mary’s life completely, she assents to this news, saying, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

Having recently given birth to our first child in October, this assent strikes me as all the more remarkable this year. Pregnancy takes over not just your life, but your whole body, each week bringing new symptoms along with a growing awareness of the life-changing reality that is, in truth, already with you. Now that our son is here he has, of course, entirely re-created our day-to-day lives: time is no longer linear but exists in three-hour cycles; things that took so little thought previously, like eating, sleeping, and dare I say it, showering, become secondary; and the love you feel expands exponentially, creating and filling new spaces in your heart that you didn’t know were possible.

That God comes to us first not as the grown man who says “follow me” to his disciples, but as a baby, as a life that grows within and from Mary’s very body tells us, I think, of the closeness of the relationship that God desires to have with us and the immediacy with which God intends to meet us and inhabit our lives. Indeed, as Brother Jason told us at the end of a recent sermon, we are reminded in Advent that God is with us even while we wait. And in this waiting, God is not far off from us, waiting to come closer. God is already with us, a mustard seed growing in ways that are already changing us, even as we anticipate the fullness of his love and his presence to arrive in the perplexing vulnerability and tenderness of a newborn baby.

One of my favourite Christian thinkers is a woman from the 14th century called Julian of Norwich. She wrote about God during a time of great anxiety and grief that has parallels to our own – a time that saw both sociopolitical upheaval as well as several waves of a medieval pandemic, the Black Death. Even – and perhaps especially – in a time when people must have asked where God was in all of their loss and suffering, Julian insists that God is closer to us than we can imagine. She writes, “He is our clothing, who wraps and enfolds us for love, embraces us and shelters us, surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us” (Revelations of Divine Love, Chapter 5).

And let us not be fooled by the vulnerability of God’s coming; this is a tenderness that will move mountains. As Mary will tell us just a little later in Luke, this is a vulnerable love that will bring down the mighty from their thrones and lift up the humble. This is a tender love that will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. This is a God that loves us so closely and so immediately that we are already being changed, even in the waiting.

God, we know you are with us even while we wait. With Mary, help us to say yes to your coming, even when we are perplexed and uncertain about what you might bring. With Mary, help us to say yes your presence within us in even the small changes that you are already making in our lives. With Mary, help us to say yes to you as the one who “wraps and enfolds us for love,” who “embraces us and shelters us,” and “surrounds us for his love, which is so tender that he may never desert us.” Amen.

- Gillian Breckenridge



                                        William Kurelek “A Cowboy’s Christmas”

 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. Revelation 21:1-4

After his conversion to Roman Catholicism, Canadian artist William Kurelek published a book called “A Northern Nativity,” in which he used his talent to explore what it would look like if Jesus were to arrive here and now. One page of this beautiful book features the painting “A Cowboy’s Christmas,” in which Mary and baby Jesus are spotted in a hay shed during cattle work. What a wonderful image! What a powerful way for us, parents of young children on a farm, to help show them that this is much more than a story that took place 2000 years ago somewhere far away. It is a story for all places, all ages, and all people, including us. Jesus was once found in a stable, and can still be found in such places today.

We spend a lot of time in our house repeating the stories of a census and a woman on a donkey and shepherds and wise men. The kids know the story of that little baby well. We wait patiently (and sometimes impatiently) throughout the four weeks of Advent for the day to come when we can celebrate the event which has shaped the world and shapes our lives.

But even though Advent culminates in the miraculous birth in the stable, that is not the end. It is really only the beginning of something much greater. Jesus is born, lives, and dies. His ascent to Heaven means that he lives forever. He will return. The waiting continues. Only now, the waiting is illuminated by the peace, hope, joy, and love that we reflect on throughout Advent.

The Book of Revelation tells us, “He will dwell among them and they shall be His people and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” We know that God is and will be among us and within us, because He has already been here.  He remains among us; in stables and hay sheds and all the other places our lives will lead us. He is the one who will one day wipe away every tear. How profound to read this passage as parents who regularly wipe away tears and wish with our whole hearts that we could take all pain and suffering away from our children. What a comfort to lead them in a faith that promises that day will come, and that in the meantime, we have only to seek Him and give our hearts over to Him. Because if He is in our hearts, then He is as present in our lives as if He had been born in our very own hay shed.

 - Jay and Ceri Penner



Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. Psalm 61:1-3

This is not the first Advent I have spent wearing a mask. Seventeen years ago, during the Advent season, I was in the middle of chemotherapy treatments for an aggressive form of breast cancer. The treatments left me seriously immuno-compromised, hence the mask. It was during this season that I was asked to speak to my church about hope. After a lot of prayer and soul searching, I found three reasons to be hopeful even in the face of cancer.

 First, I had confidence in God always being God no matter my circumstances. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and I found great comfort in the fact that I didn’t need to know the “why” of my diagnosis, but that I could rest in the hope that the God who created the universe and has power over death was in control of my life.

 Second, I found hope in the fact that I had received God’s gift of salvation when I was a little girl and I had the hope of spending eternity with my Saviour. Psalm 62: 1-2 says, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” The scary thing about a cancer diagnosis is the uncertainty it brings. Would the treatment work? Would I be ok? In spite of the uncertainty, I was confident in my position as a daughter of Christ, and that whether I lived or died, I was loved by the King.

Third, I found hope in my church family. Through the journey many people were praying for me and my family. I could face surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation with hope because I was being lifted up in prayer. I was extremely thankful for those prayers and all the practical ways that God’s people showed their love to us. They were “Jesus with skin on” in my life and in the lives of my family members.

God is a God of hope. I pray for us all during this time of pandemic, that we will experience the hope of God in our present circumstance.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

 - Linda Bateman



                                                        Christ the King 

Today’s readings for Evening Prayer include John’s Gospel 3:16-21 and Psalm 8. No better pericope of the Good News in Jesus Christ can be found than these words (rendered here from the Message translation so that their familiarity may not obscure impact). This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. (John 3:16-18). 

Deep currents of doubt pervade our society, undercutting the wonderful hope these words contain – from two contradictory but equally devastating directions. One is the denial of all human dignity by insisting that life of any sort has equal value: ‘Animals (plants?) are people too’; with constant badgering against all human significance. Undoubtedly the source of so much agony, angst and distrust; guilt, fear; a deep, unsettling questioning of all values and certainties. This haunts our every step, and the more so when humanity’s very existence seems at threat from virile RNA vectors like SARS-Cov-2. The other: coarse attempts to re-assert human dominance and pre-eminence regardless of running rough-shod over our (weaker) neighbour. All in desperation to retrieve seemingly lost significance. From either direction, how can the Good News of the Saviour break through, challenged on the one side by a refusal to contemplate any vestige of the right to salvation, and on the other by overweening arrogance, incapable of receiving Grace?

What a joy, then, to re-read the wonderful eighth Psalm!

1 O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
    and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

In its Hebraic context, the wonder of human significance is so strongly attested, yet within the perspective of our littleness with respect to both God’s Majesty and the vastness of His creation. Scholars note that in the Jewish commentaries and literature, this Psalm is most often employed as ‘What is man?’ in emphasis of the insignificance of human beings. Interesting. But surely it is the dual emphasis that sets so much right – we are mere specs, grains of sand on the beaches of the Universe. We are threatened by pestilence, famine, fire and flood – it is estimated that about 8 percent of the human genome originated from viruses that have inserted themselves right into our DNA – testimony to the constant fight life has sustained from just this one kind of danger. And yet we have the dignity by creation of a relationship with the Creator! Given a pre-eminent role, crowned with glory and honour, with dominion over the work of [His] hands. The ennui of contemporary society results from a loss of understanding, of memory, that this contradiction between humanity’s promise and status with its evident distress and desecration is only resolved in Christ and his Incarnation.

So, to follow this thread to its conclusion, remember that Psalm 8 is appropriated by the author of Hebrews, in Heb 2:5-9.

But someone has testified somewhere,
‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    or mortals, that you care for them?
You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned them with glory and honour,
    subjecting all things under their feet.’

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (NRSV)

“[This passage] provides a concrete expression of ‘the way of the Son’, by which the Son of God leaves heaven, adds humanity to his deity and walks among us, suffers, and is raised and exalted to the right hand of God.” [G.H. Guthrie in Commentary on the NT use of the OT.] That is Advent! We appreciate once again a reminder of Christmas and all that the incarnation initiated, but above all we rejoice in His Glory and anticipate His coming.

- Dr. Rene Boere



Psalm 33, Matthew 3: 1-12

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

 "A voice of one calling in the desert: 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him!'"

The reading from Evening Prayer is one of the most familiar quotations in the Bible and closely associated with Advent. So, for what are we preparing?                         

Due to the odd juxtaposition of Advent and Christmas in the church calendar, it is the season of the birth of Jesus for which we are preparing but John is actually preparing the people for the start of the Lord's public, earthly ministry. His baptism in the Jordan river and the descent of the dove signifying the gift of the Holy Spirit. We wait, and we wait in darkness for the coming of the light, the light that shines in the darkness. In the words of an advent prayer " this is the time to clear out every nook and cranny of my soul" (Lord, help me so to do) and prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child.

 As Jesus comes towards John at the Jordan river, the wild, strident John immediately recognizes Jesus. I wonder if I always recognize our Lord when He comes, perhaps in the person of a friend or stranger, or even to myself, (Lord, help me so to do).

I love to think of Jesus and John as youngsters, playing together, if Elizabeth brought him to town, perhaps kicking a ball around or going swimming whilst the mothers were visiting. We know that Jesus was aware of His destiny: was John at that time? 

An alternate psalm for Evening Prayer and one which delighted me is Psalm 33 the first line of which is: "Sing joyfully to the Lord you righteous!” Someday we shall do just that all together again!

The last few lines I shall leave with you as a prayer:

 "We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us O Lord, Even as we put our hope in you. Amen and Amen, even so Lord Jesus, come.”

- Frances Stillwell



- Active Pass Mayne Island 2020

Psalm 119:49-51, 57-60

49 Remember your word to your servant,
    for you have given me hope.

50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
    Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully,
    but I do not turn from your law.

57 You are my portion, Lord;
    I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
    be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
    and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
    to obey your commands.

Psalm 49:1-3

Hear this, all you peoples;
    listen, all who live in this world,
both low and high,
    rich and poor alike:
My mouth will speak words of wisdom;
    the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.

 The scripture readings for today, like all scripture for this season of advent, are rich and very thought provoking.  The few verses I have shared are all from the amazing and time enduring Psalms. The words hope comfort and wisdom speak volumes to me in this time of watching and waiting.

I find the season of advent to be exciting as we again anticipate the birth of Jesus but also reflective as we pray on current and past experiences.

The date December 16th  brings back memories of a time 61 years ago when I, as a young six year old, was faced with the death of my father.  In the last two months of his life, I spent every evening before sleep with him.  We had moved to Calgary the fall of 1959 and lived in a 3-bedroom house… there were 10 of us!!! I shared a double bed with my mom and my dad had a hospital bed in the same room. Mom would put me to bed and I was told to go right to sleep and not to disturb my dad.  Sometimes this is what would happen but on some nights my dad and I would talk.  I remember him telling me not to be sad when he left, or to enjoy my life as he had enjoyed his.  He said he would be okay as he was pretty sure he was going to heaven and I could talk to him whenever I chose.

For many years after his death, I looked upon the time before Christmas with great excitement for presents, gifts, family, Santa and Christmas music.  My priorities for this season have changed and I now look upon it as a time to dig deep into my faith and the constantly changing ministries that God kindly gives me. As I reflect on the world in 2020 and the many changes, we are all enduring, I will share the words I wrote when I first read the scripture for this day.

An end of a chapter for my dad but a beginning for me… all done with faith, hope, comfort and love. Once again watching and waiting but for different things.

Thanks be to God. Amen

-Karen Larsen



Psalm 47

1. Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. 2. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. 3. He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. 4. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. 5. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. 6. Sing praises to God, sing praises sing praises to our King, sing praises. 7. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. 8. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. 9. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.

Psalm 47: God Our King

 As I was reading all the scriptures for today, I was struggling to think of how they connected me to Advent. I was thrilled to read Psalm 47, which is the scriptural base for songs of praise that many of us know and love.  Today, I attended the Lessons and Carols service that connected me to Advent through song, prayer, and scripture reading.  The ancient scriptures and traditional songs connected me to past Advents through history.  I was reminded that people have prepared for Christ’s birth in times of great unrest and hardship, since the first Advent.  

 My Advent and Christmas seasons this year are very different from every other year in my life.  While I miss many seasonal traditions, I am learning to focus my attention on preparing my heart to welcome Christ, rather than on rushing around to finish up Christmas baking, present wrapping, party organizing, etc.  This year, I am looking forward to a time where I focus on the things that are truly important during Advent, rather than on the trappings of a typically busy Christmas season.  Christ is here with us.  I need to trust in that truth, be at peace, and praise him as Psalm 47 demands.

 The psalm begins with an invitation to clap our hands and shout to God with a jubilant cry.  The Lord is awe-inspiring and a King above the whole earth who subdues people and nations under his rule.  In 2020, we have lived through many hardships and demanding experiences...and it is not over, yet!  At times I have felt overwhelmed with the uncertainty in my life and the demands being made on me for continual change.  Sometimes I feel if there is one more change, I must creatively address, or one more demand made of me, that I will run away screaming in frustration! 

 All of Psalm 47 is a joyful declaration that God is here, that he is the master of us, of nations and of all creation.  When I feel angry and lost, I need to return my eyes to God, as I am confident, he is navigating us through this pandemic. Keeping my eyes on positive outcomes and changes helps me remember that God is continuing to do great work in my life and in St. Augustine’s Church.  We are blessed by the ministry of Steve, Jason and a huge host of volunteers who have embraced the pandemic as an opportunity to be God’s hands and feet among his people. I have found there is peace and joy in focusing daily on God’s love for me and the people I love.  Finding ways to stay connected with people, sharing their joys and sorrows, reminds me that God continues to love us and wants us to stay connected with Him.  Let us continue to embrace ministry and mission through these perilous times as we have God as our navigator and He will not let us down.

 I pray that you will find renewed hope and understanding of Christ’s love for you through parishioners’ reflections on this Advent Calendar.  I pray that you will experience the great anticipation of waiting through Advent in new and creative ways.  I pray that you will know the love God has for you in the birth of his Son, Jesus. I also hope that the photo of my Christmas quilt will remind you of the heart of this season, a simple family doing and being God’s work on earth.  As well, I hope the song, “Clap your Hands and Sing!” will remind you to be joyful in your present circumstance.  For my fellow choir members, I hope you sing along with your part, as the video takes us right back to choir practice.  Have a joyous and blessed Christmas season.





Isaiah 8:22-9:1 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. 9 Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.

Luke 22:52-53 52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.”

As a young boy growing up Advent meant very little to me, certainly not the preparations for Christmas, the furious shopping or list making or focusing on hope, love, joy, and peace. My focus was on toy catalogues from Sears or Eaton’s, practicing for the pageant, being nice to everyone around me and of course, stringing up the lights around home, and the decorating of the Christmas tree.  One tradition that particularly stands out was turning off all the lights in the house, including the B&W TV to ensure total darkness and then turning on the tree to the amazement and glee of all of us gathered.  The tree was full of colours, bubbling candle lights, and bright angels, casting a warm glow on the surrounding living room.  It was this light that took away the darkness.

Isaiah spoke of the doom, gloom and darkness that the earth felt and witnessed.  I wonder how Isaiah foresaw Co-Vid, lockdowns, isolations, quarantines.  God promised him light would release his people and all from this.  Jesus told the leaders the reign of darkness they were in, and merely hours before his own death upon the cross, the “light of the world” would remove that darkness. 

For me, it is those lights on buildings, trees, advent wreaths, a flickering candle in a singer’s hands, that represent the “light of the world” that takes away the darkness of sin, strife, pain, fear, loneliness, disease and suffering .  It is my prayer that each of you reading this embraces the season of hope, love, joy, and peace.

- Michael Larsen