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The True Meaning of Christmas

When I was growing up Christmas day meant getting up, eating breakfast, going to church and then opening presents.  Christmas day, to my parents, meant celebrating the true meaning of Christmas – not the presents but the celebration of the birth of Christ. 

Growing up in church didn’t mean I was “saved”, it meant that I was brought up in church.  I was taught the Bible, learned the books of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm, the Lord’s prayer and other “requirements” going through the Sunday School “system”.  I even did my confession of faith, not realizing the exact meaning of what I was learning/confessing.  As a teen, I drifted from going to church and didn’t come back to the church until I was a young adult when Jesus became a reality to me.  Imagine my surprise when I changed denominations and discovered that there was no Christmas Day service! To say I was disappointed is an understatement.  Why wouldn’t Christians want to be in church on one of the most important celebrations in the Christian calendar? 

Over the years, it hasn’t been too difficult to forget Christmas mornings spent in church.  I have to admit, I got caught up with the secular events that overwhelm our society today – the sleeping in, the presents, the big tree, the travel, and overladen tables of abundant food.  While we always stressed to our children the real meaning of Christmas - the celebration of the birth of Christ - I wonder how much the real meaning of Christmas has been replaced or overshadowed with the secular meaning of Christmas. 

I love Christmas time - the music, the classic and modern movies, and the kindness that seems to be on display more at Christmas time than other time of the year.  I love going to candlelight services on Christmas Eve, listening to the Word of God being spoken, and singing the classic centuries old Christmas hymns, but nothing can replace the wonder of going to church early on a cold Christmas day morning and sharing the joy of celebrating with other believers – what a day to celebrate!

I have gone to some of the most beautiful and meaningful Christmas Eve services; one where all the lights are turned off in a large auditorium and the pastor lights a candle and, with his one candle to represent the birth of Christ, each person in the auditorium lights their candle.  The beauty and the singing that follows the lightening of every candle is very beautiful, reverent and representative of what the birth of Christ does, but I have to admit that I still miss getting up on Christmas morning and starting the morning celebrating the “Reason for the Season”.

As a child, I found waiting until after church to open presents, very hard on my patience.  As an adult, I thank God for parents who showed my siblings and I what the true meaning of Christmas was.

Submitted by C. Hunter

Editor's Note:
We invite you to join us in family worship on both Christmas Eve & Christmas Day.  Services start at 7pm and 10am, respectively.  Celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with us!

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Feasting on His Word

I'm watching all these seagulls which are following my husband's tractor as he ploughs the grain field.  The plough is turning over the earth rich with goodies for birds. They follow closely to feast on their findings.  A few follow him around the field, while more than half of these seagulls stay put and only feast when he comes to their side of the field. 

Then there is one lonely bird who stays back and watches all the rest. Every once in awhile, the group that's waiting for my husband to come back around would all rise up above the ground and sweep around all in unison.  The lonely one joined them.  The sun was shining on their bodies as they swooped all around.  The looked silver and beautiful.   I've never thought of seagulls as beautiful birds before, but maybe I've never truly looked at them before.

As I watched them, I got to wondering, "Is that how we look as Christians?"  Some follow Jesus eagerly, feasting on His every word.  Some sit and wait to be spoon fed.  They don't eagerly look for His word to feed on.  Some feel they are all fed up and can just sit back and relax.

I wonder how we look to God, after feasting on His word & His Son shines on us, and we're filled with the Holy Spirit.  Are we all silver & beautiful?

My husband stopped the tractor to come in for lunch.  All the seagulls settled down on the ground together.  They were all watching him walk away.  Before he could finish his lunch, they were all gone. 

Is that what we do?  Do we wait upon the Lord, get distracted or impatient, and move on?

Waiting, watching, and listening to the Lord is something I need to work on.  How about you?

Submitted by P. Currie

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Godís Splendor on Display

I had the opportunity recently to take a trip to Ottawa.  I wanted to make sure that I drove cross country rather than take the highway as I wanted to drive through “God’s country”.  I am so thankful that I did!  The splendor of God’s handiwork was all around me as I drove through those hilly roads.  How can anyone drive through the beauty of the fall colours and not praise and thank God for the magnificence of that sight?

We are blessed to live in the country that we do!  While fall is probably my favourite season of the year, each season shows God’s amazing handiwork.  In the winter, we see the amazing beauty of a brilliant and pristine field of freshly fallen snow.  It is incredible to think of the intricacies of a single snowflake.  And, while many people don’t like winter for the cold and the snow, they can’t deny that God gives us so much beauty in this season also.

Spring is such an amazing season; new birth is everywhere, whether it is the buds of the trees or the newborn animals along with the sound of the birds as they return after.  As people who live in Ontario, spring is also a time when we breathe a sigh of relief that the cold and snowy winter is coming (or has come) to an end.

Summertime is a time that so many people look forward to – hot weather, holidays, no school for all the students and so much more.  How can we not thank God for summer also?  He gave us the heat of the summer, long hours of sunlight, the sound of the waves lapping on the beach, the happy chatter of children laughing and playing outside again. 

Many of us could write endless reasons and descriptions of our wonderful country, but how many of us actually take the time to thank God for all those endless reasons; I know I don’t thank Him enough. 

Submitted by C. Hunter

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Look around our world. How many things are you involved with that allow us to come together across multiple generations and participate? Occasionally our family celebration dinners at Easter and Christmas, but that applies to only those of us who have our family close at hand. For families who are spread across a country, a continent, a world, these celebrations are few and far between and treasured. Do we treasure our weekly church celebrations or do we take for granted that great grandma and infant Billy are together in the same place? Do we notice? We may notice the gurgling or cry from a little one during prayer. In fact, we may feel disrupted in our own personal experience of worship. But what if we remembered that church is not principally about a personal expression, but about a unified, together one – a corporate one. What if we celebrated the disturbance? What if, instead of pursuing the initial twinge of annoyance, we thought through the amazing legacy that exists in the lives of these little ones and our older children too. 

There is some evidence that the younger people (millennials aged 20 to 35) who go to church will, over their lifespan, go to church less over time, but the millennials who didn’t go to church at all when they were young have a much harder time coming through the doors at all when they are older. Embracing children is important to  lifelong involvement in the church community. Jesus said “Suffer the little ones to come to me for of such is the kingdom of heaven”. Perhaps the suffer refers to the allowances we have to make as adults and the disturbances that we have to experience and the surprises the young ones will always bring.  Making our church a friendly place for children and grandchildren is incredibly important because it allows the church community to be a part of their lives. Just think, as an adult, the role your church has had in your life. The church has changed a lot in many respects over the years, but in one it remains the same. It is a place of multi-generational celebration to come together and focus on our awesome God, remembering what He has done.   

I am not just talking about family friendly services or youth-oriented music. We need to celebrate our younger generation. Speak to them. Make eye contact and wave or smile – they will usually smile back. Cheer them on! And they know who has  the candies – they call you the Candy Man. Suspend some views on music or clothing/hair/outward expressions and just “suffer” it for their sake. In doing so, we allow them to enter into an experience of family that could be a part of their lives forever. It is our privilege.

Submitted by K. Michel

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Forever Grateful!

Today, for the first day of Lent, I read Luke 4:1-13.  While this passage is one I have heard and read many times over, something new struck me this time (or maybe it is something I have never really thought about before).  The Bible says, in this passage, that Jesus was tempted by the devil the whole 40 days that He was in the desert.

It never really struck me before that Jesus was tempted the whole 40 days He was out there; not just the three temptations we read about in that Scripture passage – but every single day of those 40 days!  Not only was He tempted for those 40 days – but He was tempted while going without food!  I know He is God, but being in human form He still would have been very hungry!  I know how vulnerable and grumpy I can be when I am hungry; and how hard it is to resist temptation.  It is just easier to give into temptation.

I look forward to daily reading more passages that are directly put together for Lent, passages that will lead me on right up to the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. And, as I keep reading and studying each day, I have to keep reminding myself that He did that just for me (and you)!  Many days, I have a hard time understanding how God can love me as much as He does. 

We can go to church and hear the sermons, sing the praise songs, be everlastingly grateful for salvation but, to fully understand just how much God loves me – to know that Jesus had to go through the temptations, the beatings and the excruciating pain of the cross – is just beyond my comprehension. 

Submitted by C. Hunter

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