Sharing Our Stories: Tuesday Edition (12/22)
This was an email originally sent out to the parish on Tuesday, December 22, 2020.
Here are the latest group of stories we have collected. This is a wonderful way for us to stay connected with one another and to accompany one another on this journey. We would love to have YOUR story. Check out the broad guidelines HERE. And if you have already submitted a story, please let us have another one!
Reflection by Dwight Russell
Some of us (maybe you too?) are suffering from pandemic frustration and fatigue. Another affliction that permeates the populace is boredom from lack of our usual connections and adventures. To fill the resulting vacuum, I submit a few activities that have been helpful to us.
Pulitzer Prize winning professor and novelist Adam Johnson says that publishers have held back books this fall due to interest in the election, but many will be issued in January. Until then, consider The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton, describing his journey into faith. Lately I have been working my way through The Apocrypha (between the Old and New Testaments in the Bible). Its stories are replete with examples of the strong faith of the Israelites and the people of the time – fascinating. If you have transportation, remember the public libraries. You can’t go inside now, but you can check out books on-line and pick them up curbside.
2. Daily devotions
I recommend Richard Rohr and his considerable wisdom, available online at www.cac.org and, as the Apostle Paul said: “Pray unceasingly”.
3. Phone contacts
While we can’t greet each other as in church, there are many parishioners who would love to hear from you. Just pick a few that you know and give them a call; you will be surprised at the warm welcome you receive.
Shirley and I have had a lot of fun looking at family pictures and travel albums – great memories, but I sure looked a lot younger back then, a little scary!
The lock-downs have produced a renewed interest in eating (as if it were ever lost). We like to cook and this has been a wonderful time to resurrect those good recipes and discard those that no longer fit our tastes. I invite you to research yours and then indulge in some delicious gourmet endeavors. Desserts are particularly in order (and especially late-evening eggnog, perhaps with some of your favorite spirits).
We are fortunate to have a yard with trees and nice foliage, but we tend to take it for granted. Recently we have begun to re-visit its beauty and creatures, spending a few minutes just watching, or to paraphrase Yogi Berra: “You can see a lot by observing”. The rain brings out the grubs in the lawn, providing lunch for the small birds. The squirrel buries a nut in a planter and a crow digs it up for his breakfast. Endless entertainment! And, obviously, if you are able, go out for a walk which is good for the soul and for the body.
I leave you with a quote from the Presbyterian minister, Dale Turner: “Try to be kind to everyone you meet, you don’t know what kind of burden they are bearing”.
Reflection by Anne Thomas
CELEBRATING A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER FOR A LIFETIME
Go Tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere!
Go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born!
Christmas 2020 will stand out as different from all others in our lifetimes. Just when I catch myself looking forward to the St. Thomas Christmas eve candlelight service, I remember that Christmas 2020 will be different, yet special in many ways. All around the world, people will need to find new ways to celebrate Christmas this year.
For nearly 35 years, I have been celebrating the Good News of Jesus’ birth with the mountain peoples of SE Asia. I work among indigenous peoples who have never before heard the Gospel story. These first-generation believers take turns celebrating village by village from mid-December through early January, joining in as many celebrations as they can. Rice is served on banana leaves, and brass gongs ring in harmony, the melodies carrying great distances between the villages. Bonfires light the cold dark nights in villages far from electricity. In these remote corners of SE Asia, I visit as many celebrations as I can, helping people to read the Scriptures and their newly written songbooks. The celebrations focus on Christ coming to earth, without the distraction of commercialism. Meanwhile, some in North Americans and Europe may wonder if the Gospel message is relevant to people who have never heard the name of Jesus? Is He really the Light of the whole world, or are we proclaiming a message that is relevant only for western cultures who grew up knowing the Christmas story? The answer is written on the faces of these vibrant believers. They are the first generation of believers in the history of their peoples to have experienced first-hand the Gospel story. They rely on the love of their Heavenly Father. They no longer walk in the dark fear of malevolent spirits but instead know the love and power of their Heavenly Father. They have experienced finding light in the darkness.
Christmas 2020 will be a new experience for everyone this year, not only in my hometown of Medina or far-off SE Asia, but around the world. Many are finding creative ways to spread the light to loved ones as well as those without families. An aging widowed friend living alone in Scandinavia wrote yesterday:
‘Such a surprise! In the middle of the black, dark, freezing night outside my window, my dear children and grandchildren are standing and shining in the dark, even holding lights in the shape of a tree. I have a feeling that this Christmas will be one of the very best, because I don’t take anything for granted, and I receive everything with a big THANK YOU. And that gratitude is first directed to Jesus for everything He gives and has given me’.
Instead of the gongs and bonfires of the Highlands of Cambodia, or enjoying my first candlelight Christmas Eve carol service in North America in several decades, I will be lighting a candle at home alone and joining online services. Instead of open-air celebrations in the mountains of SE Asia with first-generation believers as they go village by village to teach old and young alike to read and sing from their new songbook, I will be observing COVID precautions. For me, Christmas 2020 will be a Christmas to remember for a special reason. This is the first Christmas that my mother will be singing from heaven. I plan to celebrate with a campfire, singing carols from my Mom’s St. Thomas hymnal from which I sang with her on the first two Sundays of Advent before she passed on to glory.
Many families will have a hole in their family circle due to COVID deaths or travel restrictions. The wait for the vaccine parallels the Advent season as we look forward with hope and joy to Christ’s coming. The usual Christmas celebrations may be on hold, but the Birth of the Christ Child remains the same. We can find news ways to celebrate Jesus Christ, who is the Light of the World and the light of our lives. We can choose to make Christmas 2020 special, worthy of remembering for a lifetime, whether we celebrate alone at home or are able to join our families.
May Christ light up your heart and world, and make you a light to those around you. May we all seek out new creative ways to share Christmas love, hope and joy with others.
Let’s sing along with the angels:
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! the herald angels sing:
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Jesus said: I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.