Monday, December 31, 2012

Boxing Day vs. the Feast of Stephen - a reflection - Denyse O’Leary

The Christmas season, increasingly called the Holiday season, is easily disparaged---the words form themselves.

 At one time, the season was celebrated very differently, and the difference is sobering. Far from the indulgence starting even before Thanksgiving, Advent (beginning at the end of November) was celebrated as a mini-Lent, a season of sober reflection and penitence in preparation for Christmas.

We have all done things of which we are ashamed and ought to recognize as worthy of judgment. Even today, among traditional Catholics and many other traditional Christian groups, abstinence is encouraged during Advent. Pope Innocent III (1198--1216) stated that
... black was the colour to be used during Advent, but violet had already come into use for this season at the end of the thirteenth century. Binterim says that there was also a law that pictures should be covered during Advent. Flowers and relics of Saints are not to be placed on the altars during the Office and Masses of this time, except on the third Sunday; and the same prohibition and exception exist in regard to the use of the organ.
If you love chocolates and give them up for the four weeks of Advent, you will hardly be disgusted by the sight or smell of them on Christmas morning! More.

Denyse O’Leary is a journalist, author, and blogger, and co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thank God for Rear View Mirrors - HIRD

By Rev Ed Hirdechoes across Seymour

Every New Year sends us on a new journey along the Highway of Life. Where do we want to drive? What do we want to see? What do we want to become? My forty years of driving in BC have shown me that I am better off when I check my rear-view mirror. Even though ICBC gives me one of the top categories for safe driving, I had a close call once when I neglected to check the rear-view mirror. Without a rear-view mirror, we are driving partially blind.

I am so grateful this New Year 2013 for all the hard work by Janet Pavlik, Desmond Smith and Eileen Smith in producing the brand-new ‘Echoes Across Seymour’ history book. Without a sense of history, we are driving blind. History makes us a safer driver on the journey of life. History helps us discover where we want to drive, what we want to see, what we want to become. History is our rear-view mirror.

The longer I live, the more that I love the gift of history. History is about story-telling, story-remembering, and story-celebrating. Janet Pavlik and her dedicated team remind us that life has meaning, pattern and flow. Sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. Life feels chaotic and overwhelming. History helps us realize that we are not alone, that there is direction on the journey of life.

The book Echoes Across Seymour took six years to be born. There were many anxious times when it seemed like there might not be a way forward. Congratulations to Janet and team who kept going and never gave up. Janet’s team gave immaculate attention to each subneighbourhood in the Seymour/Deep Cove area. You will want to have your own copy, as it is a great conversation starter. Special thanks are due to Pacific Arbour for making it possible to have the book in colour. The photos make the book a real keepsake.

History is about real people. Literally hundreds of key residents had their stories told and their family history recorded for posterity. Anyone who has lived or worked for any time in the Seymour/Deep Cove area will recognize face after face of gifted dedicated people who have made a lasting difference. It is remarkable how many local residents have given hundreds of hours to serve their community. An example of such unselfish dedication is seen in the Mount Seymour Lions birthed under the leadership of Joe Thornley. We are a stronger and healthier community, thanks to the investing of the Lions in affordable housing for families and seniors. They do indeed live up to their motto: ‘We serve’.

I was very pleased to see the recognition given to Bruce Coney and the Deep Cove Crier, a unique community newspaper that has done so much to bring the Seymour/Deep Cove community closer together. Jesus gave us the famous Golden Rule, that we should do to others as we would have them do to us. I am thankful for so many people illustrated in Echoes Across Seymour who seek to do to others in practical ways. Thank God for the gift of this memorable ‘rear view mirror’, as we drive into a happy New Year 2013.

p.s. The book can be purchased online or directly at

Deep Cove Heritage Society

Send to friend
4360 Gallant Avenue
North Vancouver
British Columbia
V7G 1L2
T:             604 929-5744      

Rev. Ed Hird, Rector

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in the Americas (Canada)

-an article for the January 2013 Deep Cove Crier

award-winning author of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’

p.s. In order to obtain a copy of the book ‘Battle for the Soul of Canada’, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD. This can also be done by PAYPAL using the . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide : Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God Did It - Arends

What follows is my most recent Christianity Today column (from the November issue)--addressing the creation debate and some fundamental issues concerning the way we read Scripture..  It was a piece I resisted writing for a long time--I knew it would trouble several of my close friends and quite possibly my mom--but I eventually decided the stakes around these matters are too high to not try to at least have some dialogue about them.  The column generated "dialogue" indeed ... from enthusiastic endorsement to heated denouncement.  I'd love to know what you think.

God Did It

But I don't know exactly how the world was created.

Carolyn Arends

Recently, my 14-year-old son announced he was leaning toward attending a Christian university, which sounded good to me. But I was troubled by his reason: "I don't want to sit in some biology class in a secular school and be told I descended from apes."

I was surprised. Although I was a keen young-earth creationist as a teenager, my understanding has evolved (pun unavoidable) to the point where the notion of gradual creation over eons isn't a threat to my faith. "Have you considered the possibility that God may have used evolutionary processes in his creation of the world?" I asked.

"No! Mom! I believe the Bible!"

"Me too," I assured him. "But I think it's possible that Genesis 1 and 2 are more about the who of creation than the how."

Later that night, I read him something Billy Graham wrote in 1964:
I don't think that there's any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think … we've tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren't meant to say …. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story …. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process … makes no difference as to what man is and man's relationship to God.
"Maybe you're not a total heretic," said my son.

After we both exhaled some relieved laughter, I whispered, "I believe God created the world and holds it together. Just how he did that is up for debate, but whatever conclusions you come to about the earth's origins, God did it. Okay?"

I've since been able to explain that it wasn't science that changed my position on creation. I know there's consensus in the scientific community regarding the age of the earth and the importance of genetic variation, but I also know there are many areas of contention. Besides, if I believed that the Bible truly asked me to reject the scientific consensus, it would be the end of the debate.

But it's actually been biblical scholarship that has convinced me that Genesis does not prescribe any particular scientific view. A significant number of Hebrew scholars who affirm the authority of Scripture argue that the biblical creation accounts simply are not concerned with the science of creation at all, having been written long before the dawn of enlightenment empiricism.

These scholars affirm two important principles. First, although the Bible is written for us (and for all people in all times), it was not written to us. Thus, we must understand what any particular passage meant to its original audience before we can know what it means for us. Second, the Bible is not a book; it's a library containing books of many different dates and genres. That's why it's not inconsistent to read Genesis 1 and 2 as an (inspired) ancient Near Eastern cosmology that poetically declares Yahweh to be the Creator, while reading the Gospels as (inspired) first-century, biographical-historical eyewitness accounts of events.

In 2009, Answers in Genesis published Already Gone, in which they link a reported exodus of young people from the church to a variety of factors, including and especially doubts those kids have about the literal accuracy of Genesis. They conclude that it's critical to affirm the "authority of Scripture" by teaching children that six-day creationism is the only faithful understanding.

Of course, there's a different way to interpret that data. If we've misread Genesis when we've taken it as a scientific account, and if it turns out God has used millions of years and evolutionary processes to make this world, then we've asked our children to believe something untrue as part of accepting the gospel. Couldn't that lead them to leave the church, when the cognitive dissonance between the empirical data and what we're asking them to believe becomes too great?

Granted, allowing the possibility of evolutionary creation is fraught with difficulty. It requires a hermeneutic more nuanced than reading every genre of the Bible as a postenlightenment textbook. It demands a careful delineation between the theory of evolution (which describes a process) and a philosophy of naturalism (which assumes that the process is all there is). And it brings up all sorts of new issues of theodicy.

But there's no point in hiding these difficulties from our children. The world—and our understanding of God's ways within it—has always been full of mystery and challenge. Our task is to raise up believers willing to affirm the authority of the Bible in all its fascinating and culturally situated complexity. We need kids who are unafraid to ask the sorts of tough and exciting theological, philosophical, and scientific questions you can only ask when you know that, however this world came to be, God did it.

Carolyn Arends


Monday, December 17, 2012

What Are the Different Types of Editing?

So, you've written a book and you've gone over it a thousand times. You've shown it to your friends and family and maybe they caught one or two typos, or suggested different wording here and there. But, is it good enough to submit to a publisher? Probably not. You need to give your work to a professional, so that they can bring the added polish you need to your manuscript.
I knew exactly what I had to do if I wanted my book to succeed. After talking to several members of The Word Guild and attending a Write! Canada conference I chose Word Alive Press to help me polish my book and get it into the hands of the public.
Yes, I went the self-publishing route again, however this time it wasn't just a matter of printing off a certain amount of books, now it would get distribution and promotion throughout Canada and into the United States. I wasn't on my own, the wonderful people at WAP worked with me, made suggestions and encouraged me as I made changes to my book.
The new book would have the same title, but a different cover. One that was more generic so that it would sell not just at Christmas, but at any time of the year. I also added more to the story, so that the book ended up with 100 extra pages than the original. Since I added more to the book I knew it once again needed a substantive edit. After finding someone suitable for that job I then sent everything to WAP (Word Alive Press) who did a copy edit.
Perhaps you are now wondering what the difference is between a copy edit and a substantive edit. How many different types of editing services are out there? The following may help you with your next project.
  • Developmental/Project Editing - a developmental editor assists the author as a writing coach by taking the rough draft of your manuscript from its initial concept and makes suggestions about content, organization, and presentation. A developmental editor will incorporate input from the author, reviewers and consultants. Plot and characterization will be analyzed and reworked if needed. Suggestions will be given for rewriting confusing and awkward areas to create better flow. Sentence structure, punctuation, grammar and spelling may also be considered. This type of editor is basically with you from the beginning, helping you to develop your manuscript.  You would probably have a developmental editor under contract with a publishing company. I don't know of any self-publishing companies who provide this type of editor.
  • Substantive or Structural Editing - many times this type of edit may mean rewriting your entire manuscript! So, don't take it personally. I rewrote my manuscript at least 12 times. A substantive edit can involve marking errors in punctuation, grammar and spelling, editorial comments on style, structure, content and flow. It will involve reorganizing sections and paragraphs for better flow of content. Heavy editing will check URL links,  captions, references, foot notes, quotes, bibliography,etc. to make sure permission has been granted to use copyrighted material. It will check your formatting, page numbers, index, table of contents, etc., to make sure everything is where it should be. This is where you have to let go of your book and trust your editor because many times they will want to change something that you don't want changed. You need to keep in mind that they are trying to present you with a clean manuscript, so trusting your editor is important.
  •  Copy-Editing - A copy editor will check for grammar, style and punctuation. They will also make sure your work is complete and consistent. Usually, a copy-editor works on a manuscript that has already been heavily edited. Formatting styles, such as headlines in bold, are checked for consistency as well.
  • Proofreading - is not done by your mother after you have written your manuscript! Proofreading is done after your MS has already been heavily edited by a professional. Although many people use the terms interchangeably, editing and proofreading are two different stages of the revision process. Both demand close and careful reading, but they focus on different aspects of the writing and employ different techniques. Basically, copy editors get involved in the book production process at an earlier stage than proofreaders. Typically, once a book has been commissioned, a copy editor will work with the author to bring it up to a publishable standard. The proofreader comes in once the typesetter has set the book. Their job is to read the typeset 'proofs' and mark up any errors they find. Unlike the copy editor, the proofreader is not concerned with improving the text, and it is not their role to make stylistic changes. Their job is simply to look for clear mistakes (typos, omissions, etc.) and ensure that they do not make it into the finished book.
One more word on editing - just because someone hangs out a sign and says they "do editing" does not make them an editor. Editors - good ones, will have had special training and should be certified. If they aren't certified and can't show you the proof that they are, just say "thanks, but no thanks" and be on your way. The same goes for proofreaders. You may love to read and might catch the occasional error in a novel here and there, but that doesn't make you a proofreader. Again, they have training and are certified as well. Investigate your editor/proofreader before you place your work in their hands. You'll be glad you did!

Until next time!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Baby, it's Cold Outside - Meyer

For those of you who don't know, "Baby, it's Cold Outside" is a song written by Frank Loesser in 1944, and recorded by Dean Martin in 1959. The song makes an apt title for my blog post at this time of the year as the temperature is dipping down into the 30's (below that is).

It's still not as cold as it was the day I took a picture out of our Balmertown window and the temperature was minus 44 Celsius, which is minus 47.2 Fahrenheit. I used the photo for the back cover of my book, Get Lost! which is a Christmas story for age 8-12.

We've also got a LOT of snow - we got 2 feet in one day (that's 60 cm for all you metric people).

Recently, the Lord has been speaking to me about living in the moment. I tend to always be thinking ahead (worrying about this or that) instead of just relaxing and enjoying the day. My recent walk in the snow was a time to just relax and enjoy God's beautiful creation.

Dorene Meyer

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gifts of a Different Sort by Ruth Smith Meyer

Birds of a feather flock together is a well-known adage.  There is evidence of its truth all around us.  Nationalities, alma maters, family ties, occupations, denominations and more give us reasons to identify with a certain group of people.  We are born into some of these circles, some we enter by choice.   Now and then we are yanked from one of our circles of comfort and thrust into one that isn’t of our choosing. Those on a cancer journey are a motley and varied crew, but another such flock none-the-less. 

The chemo unit isn’t exactly and up-beat place to be, but during our regular times of waiting for treatment and during the slow drip of poison entering the bloodstream,  a sense of camaraderie slowly develops.  We, patients and spouses or loved ones who accompany the patients, become a somewhat cohesive flock.  Some are just starting treatment, and some are just about finished with their prescribed series but there are many veterans who are back for the second or third rounds.   Among all the reasons for fear and heartache, one could expect to see bitterness and gloom. There are many moments of inspiration, for instead there are smiles of encouragement, calm acceptance and a quiet belief that all will be as it is to be. 

When people have gone through great difficulties, their lives are subtlety changed and they form a society of their own. There’s a level of understanding and connection that can’t be fully shared outside that circle.  There’s perhaps no greater symbol of this than the loud Bo-oing of the large gong that a cancer patient sounds at the end of their treatment and the spontaneous cheer and clapping of a waiting room full of fellow-travelers.  That gong sound isn’t bragging, but  a deep thankfulness born out from a  recognition of how tenuous life and breath are and for that, for the time, the battle has been won. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a similar gong to sound to mark other moments of success in our lives, and to hear the claps and cheers of fellow travelers!

I guess that is why we have The Word Guild Awards, but that recognizes only the few whose works win out over others that may have just as or more lasting effects on other’s lives. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jesus is the Christmas Message by Rose McCormick Brandon

With the all the references to Jesus’ arrival as the Babe in the manger, have you taken time to contemplate why the Savior came?
From his jail cell, the apostle Paul carefully crafted a life-changing message to the Philippians. He didn’t preach a religion, a lifestyle or a Christian worldview. Paul’s message was simple. He preached Jesus. He said that everyone who believed in Him would have an intimate relationship with Him — a friendship so tight that His life would consume theirs.
When a human being meets the living Christ, a deep bond develops between the two. This divine friendship awakens new appetites, new desires — a thirst for spiritual understanding, for holy living, and all things pleasing to the Father. We find ourselves loving God instead of fearing or ignoring Him. No wonder we use the expression “born again” to describe this experience.
Christ not only awakens new and wholesome desires in us, He gives us power to act on them. His power releases us to live in a manner that delights the heart of God. Paul encouraged believers not to try to walk in Christ’s footsteps but to allow Him to walk in theirs. What a dynamic difference! Why should we plod along in our weaknesses when Christ offers us His strength? His strength pours into the crevices of our souls and reaches places that no sermon, letter or lecture can touch.
Paul bid farewell to the men and women, boys and girls from every strata of society in Philippi knowing they had one thing in common: Jesus living in their hearts.
When we introduce others to Jesus we can confidently trust Him to do His work in their lives. We are still called to mentor, nurture and teach, but Christ is the most important person in their lives, not us.
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6, KJV).
Paul preached Jesus. He's a life-changing message. Let’s make sure the content of our message matches his.
A prayer for today: “Lord, this Christmas I'm thankful for this born-again experience. I treasure my friendship with You. Help me to share your message with others — not a lifestyle or a list of rules, but only Jesus.”
Rose McCormick Brandon’s most recent book is He Loves Me Not . . . He Loves Me. Her articles and essays are published in magazines, books, newspapers and devotionals in Canada and the U.S. She is an award-winning writer who specializes in personal experience, faith, life stories and the British Home Child Immigration period of Canadian history. Rose is married to Doug and lives in Caledonia, Ontario. She has three adult children and two grandchildren. Visit her blogs: The Promise of Home and Listening to My Hair Grow. Contact her at: 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fact, or Fiction? -- Peter A. Black

In the midst of the flood of seasonal holiday jingles and Christmas carols, sweet lines float in the air, many of them extolling the virtues of the Virgin Mother and Child. They pass though our heads from one ear to the other, but do they engage our thoughts and cause the significance of the words to touch our hearts?
Away from bright mall lights and decorative illuminations of main street, however, thought is given to the Virgin Mother and Child. Christmas inevitably brings the conception and birth of Christ into focus. Whether it happened the way the Bible says is a rather controversial issue in some theological circles.
It is not at all surprising to me that some people who make no claim of being Christian believers, treat as incredulous, the biblical claim that Jesus Christ was conceived in and born of a virgin by a specific act of God, without human sexual relations. What might be considered surprising is that numerous ministers and theologians also disbelieve that account as written. Most often they would hold to a liberal view of the biblical scriptures.
Such a view typically considers that the Scriptures contain creatively written accounts of historical events with elements of fact mixed with myth or legend, which provide allegorical or metaphorical explanations of events.
The approach tends to suggest that God – if He exists – teaches us, through the Scriptures, lessons about the realm of spirituality and the spiritual nature of human beings. The Scriptures certainly do teach those things.                             
Conservative Christians, on the other hand, more often hold the view that the Bible, in its original manuscripts, was completely free from error, and comprised the actual Word of God. And also, that the collective testimony of the large body of ancient manuscript copies still available to us, comprises God’s Word. The Bible, when faithfully translated from the manuscripts and correctly applied, still speaks to us as God’s Word.
Some scholars, holding the first view mentioned, accept the statements from Matthew and Luke’s gospels, about Jesus’s being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a young Jewish virgin, as a myth imported from the mythologies of other cultures.
The other view holds that the teaching is true and that a divine conception was necessary in order for the Christ Child to be born completely untainted by original sin and free of a sin nature.
But why? Because His earthly mission was to live a life of perfect purity and obedience to the will of God, qualifying Him to give His life up to death on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice to redeem us from our sins – the crowning task of His earthly mission.
What a wonderful story! The biblical account of Jesus’ birth is given so beautifully. A transparent purity is naturally fitting – in a supernatural way – to the bringing of the Saviour and Redeemer into the world.
I don’t find it incredulous at all. Why would the Divine Creator not put this significant part of His plan into action in a miraculous way? Don’t you love it?
Here are the first and last verses of Silent Night:
Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
‘Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, Love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.


© Peter A. Black, 2012.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children's / family book." Another edition of the above article will be published in his weekly column in the December 13, 2012 issue of The Watford Guide-Advocate. His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario.

Friday, December 07, 2012

THE CRY OF MARY- Alan Reynolds

A Meditation on Luke 1:19-55

We call it "The Song of Mary," the Magnificat, and so often consider it a song of triumph: "My soul magnifies the Lord . . . ."  I suggest another way of hearing it, not as a song of triumph but as a cry of pain, the pain of the poor and helpless of the ages of human history, those who have been left on the doorstep, unwanted little ones, treated as non-persons, less than others, like Mary, the mother of Jesus.

 And Mary was a woman, a young woman, no doubt hardly more than a girl, probably younger than those young women who lost their lives in what we've come to call "the Montreal massacre."

 It was December 6, 1989, a young man named Marc Lepine deliberately shot and killed 14 women at l’Ecole Polytechnique, Montreal, Canada.  He deliberately chose women, excluding men. December 6th is still remembered as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

 The years pass and the media moves on to other more immediate tragedies, but at the time the event burned itself into the collective consciousness of the nation.

 We are becoming more aware, uncomfortably aware, of the abuse of women by men; some refer to “the war against women.” Women, though they do not live always in fear, know that they must live with a certain level of care beyond that of men, careful not to walk in a park at night, or to be seen in a compromising situation with a man.  The reasons are evident in the crime statistics. One of every four Canadian women will be sexually assaulted during her lifetime, experts claim. On average, three sexual assaults are reported every hour

 One recalls with shame the way men used too talk of “making girls.” Now it is recognized as sexual assault, “date rape.” One hears, with a degree of incomprehension, reports of me statements that reveal contempt for women, even hostility.

 We know, deep, deep down, that all this is not just recent or local, not something sociological or peculiar to Canada in the late twentieth century. It has been, and is, no doubt, even more deeply imbedded in other places and other times. We know that it has something to do with all men and women who ever lived, including you and me.

 W. H. Auden, in his Christmas Oratorio, For the Time Being, imagines Joseph hearing that Mary, his intended wife, is pregnant by God the Holy Spirit. Auden imagines Joseph trying to understand and accept this. He is told that he, a man, is being placed in that position of passivity and tolerance in which men have placed women down through the ages.

For the perpetual excuse

Of Adam for his fall -- "My little Eve,

God bless her, did beguile me and I ate,"

For his insistence on a nurse,

All service, breast, and lap; for giving Fate

Feminine gender to make girls believe

That they can save him, you must now atone,

Joseph, in silence and alone.

While she who loves you makes you shake with fright,

Your love for her must tuck you up and kiss good night.

For likening Love to war, for all

The pay-off lines of limericks in which

The weak resentful bar-fly shows his sting,

For talking of their spiritual

Beauty to chorus-girls, for flattering

The features of old gorgons who are rich,

For the impudent grin and Irish charm

That hides a cold will to do harm,

Today the roles are altered: you must be

The Weaker Sex whose passion is passivity.

For those delicious memories

Cigars and sips of brandy can restore

To old dried boys, for gallantry that scrawls

In idolatrous detail and size

A symbol of aggression on toilet walls. . . .

 For having said,

         "no woman has a business head!"

You must learn now that masculinity,

To Nature, is a non-essential luxury.

No doubt, some men are more guilty than others.  But each one of us who is a man, shares in some sense and to some degree, the reason why the girl Mary voiced her cry of oppression and her expectation of justice.

 This whole issue is not just a "women's issue."  The solution involves us all.  We are learning, sadly, what a deceptive half-truth was Pierre Trudeau's dictum that "the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation." Two women a week die at the hands of a current or former husband or lover.

 Questions regarding our sexual identity, relationships and roles, can never be just "women's issues," or men's either. Whether questions of equality in employment or equal rights in marriage, problems of sexual harassment or violence against women, or the question of abortion, recognizing how women have been victimized, neither men nor women should ever say that these are only women's issues.

 For what is involved is the value of human life -- whether a person who is a woman, or a child, or black, or poor, or old, or unborn, or native, or immigrant.  And the value we place on the life of another is the value we place on our own life.  And if our society, our government and our national institutions do not value the lives of all our people, then our own life, liberty and right to happiness and security are imperiled.

 Let us pray for the day when the words of the prophet Zephaniah may be the expression of rejoicing of us all:

 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;

Shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exult with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you,

and has cast out your enemies.

. . .  The Lord is in your midst,

and you shall fear evil no more.

(Zephaniah 3:14f.)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Are We Expected to Feel Merry Throughout Christmas?/MANN

Recently, I watched a Santa Claus parade and I listened to the joyous chorus, We Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Each walker's glowing countenance reflected a sincere wish for those of us along the curb. The words evoked hope and anticipation for a season filled with joy. People grasped the truth in the words and connected to the excitement of Christmas and New Year celebrations.

I looked over the crowd and saw a couple of women wipe away tears. My first thought was one might have been a grandmother watching a grandchild break forth in sound, or perhaps the song has opened a sentimental moment in this person’s memory. However as I watched, I remembered a recent obituary in the local newspaper of a person who died too young, too tragic and with too much suffering.

I often find myself wondering if we say Merry Christmas before we think about a person's personal circumstance. Or maybe it’s become such a generic statement to some that regardless of a faith stand, we’re sure they'll understand these words. Maybe it's really for ourselves that we proclaim all Christmases should be merry and these words especially lift our hearts to remember and claim how special a merry Christmas can be.

Perhaps we offer people this greeting hoping that merriment and cheerfulness will help them to overcome any burdens they might be carrying after being thrown into the depth of sorrow by particular circumstances. Or do we want them to hang on to the words as a promise that God’s gift of Jesus will bring all people joy. Personally I love that old song and I often hum it while decorating the tree and putting up lights.

However, I remember my mother’s death and funeral service mid December back in the early 80s. Even though we celebrated her life, talked about God’s gift of eternal life and sang about God’s promise of comfort and love, it seemed that the word ‘Merry’ in the Christmas greetings that year somehow grated my spirit. I remember consoling myself by saying they didn’t know Mom just died or they’re hoping their greeting will lift me out of my grief. But, when we are grieving a loved one’s death, do we want to set aside our mourning for joy - just yet? But . . . perhaps our hope is that God will enter our world of sorrow, ‘sit and sup with us’ as was my hope that particular year.

Due to faith and family connection, suicides do not increase over the holiday season, but depression does (2012 Canadian Mental Health Fact Sheet). Many churches, in their wisdom, offer a Blue Christmas Service prior to the Christmas celebration services, usually on the longest night of the year. In a griever’s heart, life sometimes resembles the longest, darkest time in their life as they live through the firsts such as Christmas, birthday and anniversaries. Thanks to Ruth Coghill for initiating this blog on Words to Inspire radio show (airing on December 23 and 24th) when we discuss challenging thoughts of grief and Christmas.

So what kind of a greeting do I give you this Christmas? Perhaps that you will experience God’s peace, hope and love in new ways through this Christmas and into the new year.

Donna Mann

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if you hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to you, and will sup with you, and you with me” (Rev.3:20).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat--Carolyn Wilker

Christmas is coming,
The geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny
In the old man's hat.

If you haven't got a penny,
A ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny,
Then God bless you.

                                                                       -old English rhyme

Christmas is coming, really it is. The stores advertise it, albeit since Halloween. And we knew all year that it was coming. 

The mail brings flyers with ads: Buy this for your honey for Christmas. Get your personalized Christmas cards here. Buy this book for your reading pleasure.

Oh, wait, that last one was mine. I’m not immune to advertising my own wares. We authors have to advertise too, and not just at Christmas.

 The goose—or the chicken or turkey— is getting fat, so that our Christmas feast is assured, and we are urged to start preparations early so we are not overwrought by Christmas when the festivities are upon us. 

Ads urge us to get our shopping done, while the deals are good. Decorators invite us to fill our homes with pine boughs and candles, and of course, to fill our tree with beautiful ornaments, so the warm glow of Christmas will be with us all season.

I like to decorate my home too and have my favourite pieces that I put out. Our tree goes up, but not until the 10th or so of December. The cards get mailed early so our recipients will be sure to get them on time, wherever they live. In fact, the cards we receive are part of the d├ęcor. I enjoy waiting for special mail during December.

But back to the rhyme. It admonishes children to share with others. If they had a penny to give, that would do. If they had no penny, then the singer of the rhyme blesses that child. 

Where did that message come from? Was it from a teaching in the Bible, or a lesson offered up by the church, parents or grandparents? And if it came from the parents, did they demonstrate giving?

I’m thinking that the little rhyme for children applies to young and old alike. To share from what we have, whatever that may be, at whatever stage of life we may be. It could be coins in a Salvation Army kettle or a small gift. If the budget is limited, it could be a pair of mittens or two to go with a food hamper, or maybe some cans of food for the food bank. If resources are greater, a larger gift may be appropriate. 

We’re urged to share because there are people for whom Christmas is not so jolly, not overflowing with food or warm clothes for a cold Canadian winter. Some folks are very lonely as I was reminded again at a recent Kiwanis meeting where I was speaking. The Christmas dinner delivered by folks for Meals on Wheels may be the only outside contact some poor souls have that day.

Our church collects food items and takes it to the local Food Bank. We also have people coming to the church who are in need, and that goes on all year, not just at Christmas.

Our family has cut back on gift giving at Christmas. It began one year when we had a student in the family, someone laid off, and another family member buying their first home. My husband and I no longer struggle with what to buy each other. We set an amount and pick a cause. We really do have what we need.

Who penned the rhyme, Christmas is coming? Does it really matter? Pay attention to the lyrics of the songs and carols you sing this season, that is if you’re not tired of them after shopping throughout December. 

When you’ve sent out your cards, decorated your home and wrapped your gifts, remember the reason that this celebration is called Christmas—the gift of a Saviour, Jesus.

 “ you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”      -Luke 2:11, The Bible (NRSV)

Carolyn Wilker

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