Hello to everyone, A note to tell you that I haven’t lost track of time. My last post did not go out as scheduled. Once discovered I changed the number of days. I must have missed the final button to make the change a reality. Like the picture above, sometimes things are just a little wobbly this close to Christmas. God Bless you all. Janet
Are You Ready?
By Rev. Janet Stobie
Just six days till Christmas – are you ready? I’m sure many of us are scrambling around doing the last minute stuff required when family comes home for Christmas. Sixteen years ago on December thirteenth, with the help of the wonderful members of Pontypool and Bethany United Churches, I moved into my home in Dunsford. I remember the joy and excitement of owning my own home, but most of all I remember the help I received from my church family. They lifted and lugged and filled the rented truck. Once in Dunsford, they lifted and lugged some more. I remember that some of the women unpacked the kitchen boxes and put things away. They said, “We may not get everything exactly as you want it, but at least you’ll have what you need rather than chaos.” I was grateful.
In my mind they were preparing for Christmas through helping me. It’s the caring, the kind deeds, the giving and receiving of love that prepares us for Christmas. In fact, even when we offer ourselves a caring compliment, a rest, time for prayer, we are also preparing for Christmas.
It is common today to make prayer shawls for the sick. As the shawl is knit, the knitter prays, asking God to bring peace, love and healing to the wearer. For the next six days, I encourage you to begin a Christmas ministry. With each cookie baked, each gift bought and wrapped, ask for God’s peace and joy for the recipient. When you wrap your Christmas in prayer, your heart will be open to the Christ child. You will be truly ready for Christmas.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (Ephesians 6:18)
Tinsel and Tears at Christmas
We all have times when waves of weariness and pain threaten to erode our best defenses. They bring cold, dark water with a dangerous undertow. Sometimes December intensifies the pain, the fear. People are laughing, singing, wishing us a “Merry Christmas”. Our world expects us to be happy.
We forget that from its very beginning, Christmas has been a mixture of tinsel and tears, joy and sorrow. Our Christmas story tells us that God’s coming to live among us on earth brought joy amidst sorrow and fear. Mary and Joseph, engaged but not yet married, far from family, are homeless in a strange place. In the midst of their distress new life comes. Their beautiful baby is born.
The promise of Christmas is not a life free from pain, grief or illness. The promise of Christmas lies in hope, hope for new life. The promise of Christmas is God’s presence among us, God’s endless love surrounding us. Julian of Norwich, a thirteenth century mystic offers us this centering prayer: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This is faith. This is hope. God has promised to guide our footsteps, to carry us when we falter and to bring forth new life within us.
Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book, “Simple Abundance” tells us that when she is overwhelmed with life, she repeats Julian’s prayer over and over like a mantra. Rather than offering understanding or answers, this prayer brings hope and peace. The words bring strength enough to hold on until the night gives way to a new day, a good day.
This Christmas season, open your heart to God’s hope in the midst of your darkness. Trust that eventually, ”all will be well”, maybe not today, maybe not as you had planned and dreamed, but in God’s time and in God’s way. Believe with Julian of Norwich, “all manner of things will be well.”
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
How Do I Prepare For Christmas?
By Janet Stobie
Many of us have begun Christmas preparations. Whether or not we are religious or Christian, it’s important to understand why we celebrate Christmas. The easiest way to learn is with our children. At a used or new bookstore, or your local library, choose four story-books based on the Christian biblical story of Christmas. With your child (grandchild, neighbour’s child) read one a week as part of your Christmas preparations. The list of Christmas books is endless. Sift through the stories. Choose carefully. Find ones that have meaning for you. Take time to talk about the message of the book. Even if you have no children in your life, read the children’s books anyway. You’ll be surprised by what you learn. Remember that Christmas is a Christian celebration of God’s choice to come and live among us in the person of Jesus.
Of course, I suggest my two Christmas books, “Spectacular Stella” and “Can I Hold Him?” They are both available directly from my website www.janetstobie.com, from Journeys Bookstore in Millbrook, from Kent Books or Footprints Bookstores in Lindsay. A few more suggestions are “God Gave Us Christmas,” by Tawn Bergren, “Room for A Little One,” by Martin Waddell, “The Gift of the Magi,” by P.J.Lynch, and of course, the Bible, Chapters 1&2 of Matthew and Luke. If you’re looking for a novel with a Christmas theme, try my latest book, Fireweed. I’m receiving rave reviews about it.
This year, make Christmas a time of learning for you and your family. Step away from the commercialism of Christmas and discover its meaning in your world today. I guarantee that understanding will add to your joy this Christmas season.
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.” (Luke 2:4-7)