Honest Lent

Rev. Rhonda Waters says she may have written more about Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year. This year’s reflection ended up as a Porous Church column, which you can read on the Anglican Journal website.

Christmas is for those who fear

Be not afraid

Forget “Merry Christmas” – a more appropriate holiday greeting is “Be not afraid” (perhaps the response could be “Thank you. Nor you”)  Not only would this better capture the tone of the Christmas story, echoing the angel’s greetings to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, it would better address the emotional strain of December.

There is so much to do in December, with such a firm deadline.  Gifts to buy, trees to decorate, parties to plan and attend, concerts to prepare for, cookies to bake, cards to write, groceries to buy – and so many more church services than usual on top it all!  And the pressure to not only get it done but to get it done well – to ensure that you and everyone you love will have a Merry Christmas, filled with peace and love and wonder – is enough to fill even the most organized among us with fear.

And what about those of us who do not have the financial resources, the happy family, or the emotional or physical well-being to even attempt the miracle of a so-called Merry Christmas?  What about those of us who are lonely or ill?  Those of us grieving a death or a job loss?  Those of us who are simply not happy?  “Be not afraid” may  be just as difficult to accomplish as “Have a Merry Christmas” but at least it’s a more accurate place to start.

Because Christmas is not only for people who are happy and healthy.  In fact, Christmas is most particularly for people who are not happy and not healthy.  Christmas is for people who are afraid.

Consider the Christmas story.  Jesus was not born under a Christmas tree but in a barn to parents who were exhausted and powerless and scandalous.  His birth was not celebrated with family and feasting but dirty strangers and livestock.  His birthday presents were accompanied with a warning to flee to Egypt for an indefinite period of time.  Fear and worry.  Worry and fear.

And yet the angels sing, “Be not afraid!”  Take courage; cling to hope.  This child will be the salvation of the world.  This child is God’s presence with us, in the midst of our fear, to proclaim that our fear does not make us unworthy and that we are not alone.

This is indeed a joyful message but it is not an easy, sparkly kind of joy.  It’s a better joy – a joy that can co-exist with our sadness and our fear because it comes not from our celebrations or our families or our own strength but from God.

“Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”

If you are in need of a time to offer your worry, fear, grief, or exhaustion before God,
join us at Church of the Ascension for the Blue Christmas service at 7:00 on Monday, December 19th.

This piece was originally published by the Rev’d Rhonda Waters
in December 2014 on the website of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal.

Advent Prayer for Home

Advent at home

With the retail world in full Christmas-shopping swing, workplaces and schools scheduling concerts, parties, and charity drives, travel plans, dinner plans, extra baking, extra church services, extra everything – December can make us feel like we don’t have enough time, money, cheerfulness, energy, good will, or anything else. Which is ironic because we are supposed to be preparing to receive the gift that reveals we have already been blessed with everything we need.

Advent gives us an alternative path through this month. It’s not a path that requires us to skip past the fun parts of the shopping or the decorating or the partying but it is a path that gives us permission to set them aside in favour of a little quiet, a little prayer, and a little perspective.

It’s a path that reminds us we are preparing for something much bigger than a party, something that requires nothing more than exactly everything we already are, people filled with love, hope, and a desire for justice, peace, and joy. We are preparing for the Kingdom of God, brought near to us in the person of a baby named Jesus.

Celebrating Advent at home is a quiet way to strengthen our faith. Take the time to light a candle and focus on the deep, lasting promises of God, rather than the shallow ones of consumer culture.

And, to help you do just that, here is one possible set of prayers to download:

May you have a blessed Advent, filled with expectation and with peace.


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