Advent Letter

by Anne Moore

Dear Friends,

How time flies! Is it really Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for Christmas, already? There is so much to do at this time of year: decorating and baking (well, not me actually!), visiting and feasting, choosing just the right gifts and wondering what gifts might be received.

In the midst of this flurry of activity, and, generally, numerous flurries of snow(!),  simple questions might pop into our heads: ‘Is this what it’s all about?’ or, ‘Is there something more?’ or even, ‘Have I gotten something wrong here?’ Perhaps, after the food is eaten and the gifts unwrapped, you ask yourself, ‘Is there a gift out there somewhere that would really satisfy me?’ If we are honest with ourselves, that is what we want in life—something that can meet our needs, help us with our problems and decisions, bring comfort, happiness, peace.

I came for you nite view w script.jpg

The good news is that there is such a gift. It is custom-made just for you and is given by someone who knows exactly what you need right now. It gives you more than anything money can buy. And it comes from someone special, who knows you and loves you deeply, and who wants only the best for you.

Does that sound like a great gift? Does it sound too good to be true?  I assure you that it is true because I received that gift 39 years ago. God, who created each one of us, who loves each one of us individually, perfectly, and without any conditions attached, sent His only Son, Jesus, to live as an ordinary human being on earth. We celebrate His birth at Christmas.

‘So what?’ some may ask. In the Bible there are four different writers’ interpretations about Jesus’ life. We call those stories the gospels, which translates to, 'good news.’ Matthew and Luke probably heard the stories second-hand; Mark and John told their own stories. They all wrote about what Jesus said and did, what He was like, and how He died. That’s all fairly normal for a biography. What is not normal is they went on to tell how He was alive after He died! The event which Christians call the resurrection changed the world, the course of history, and can also change us if we accept the gift He offers.

Jesus is God’s gift to us. As the Son of God, He can give us freedom from our fears and worries, forgiveness of our past, healing of our bodies, minds, and relationships, and the assurance of God’s unconditional love for us. We can be free, safe, and fully alive like never before. We don’t need to do anything special to receive this Gift from God; we don’t have to be good (God isn’t like Santa); we simply have to accept this Gift. Unwrapping it involves learning about Jesus and learning how to follow Him. We call that ‘church,’ which is hanging out with a bunch of people who are also in various stages of their learning.

As we learn to trust Jesus we will come to the point where we want to give Him a gift—that gift is our lives as obedient followers.

I pray for each of you as you begin, and continue, following our Saviour whose birth we are about to celebrate.

Advent and the End: Preparing for Jesus’ coming

The time of preparation for Christmas we call 'Advent'. 'The End', according to apocalyptic literature, secular writings and the Bible—well, we all know what that means. Anne Moore recently presented a fascinating look at how interconnected the two concepts really are, basing her talk on Jesus' warnings to his wary disciples in Luke 21:5-19.

Signs of the End

(5) Some of Jesus' disciples were talking about the temple. They spoke about how it was decorated with beautiful stones and with gifts that honored God. But Jesus asked, (6) "Do you see all this? The time will come when not one stone will be left on top of another. Every stone will be thrown down." (7) "Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"(8) Jesus replied, "Keep watch! Be careful that you are not fooled. Many will come in my name. They will claim, 'I am he!' And they will say, 'The time is near!' Do not follow them. (9) Do not be afraid when you hear about wars and about fighting against rulers. Those things must happen first. But the end will not come right away." (10)Then Jesus said to them, "Nation will fight against nation. Kingdom will fight against kingdom. (11) In many places there will be powerful earthquakes. People will go hungry. There will be terrible sicknesses. Things will happen that will make people afraid. There will be great and miraculous signs from heaven. (12) "But before all this, people will arrest you and treat you badly. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons. You will be brought to kings and governors. All this will happen to you because of my name. (13) In that way you will be witnesses to them. (14) But make up your mind not to worry ahead of time about how to stand up for yourselves. (15) I will give you words of wisdom. None of your enemies will be able to withstand them or oppose them. (16) "Even your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends will hand you over to the authorities. They will put some of you to death. (17) Everyone will hate you because of me. (18) But not a hair on your head will be harmed. (19) If you stand firm, you will gain life.

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore  

When I read the newspapers, I usually sense hopelessness: a horrible election season, unemployment, violence, abuse, racism, natural disasters. disease. The world no longer seems secure or stable. Look at Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. It never seems to end. We’re kind of separated and protected here in the Haliburton Highlands, but Jesus tells us it won’t always be so. Apocalyptic literature reads much like this.

How could the temple be possibly thrown down, the disciples wondered in the reading above. As Jesus gives what to look for, he speaks not only to his first-century disciples but to us, about our modern-day ‘temples’.

We all have differing reactions to unsettling news.

(1)    Fear:  Build bunkers, install alarm systems, arm yourself, turn off the news! Does that help?

(2)    Who cares?  Eat drink and be merry!  ‘I’m going to get the most of this life while I can.’ Yet this attitude still tends to lead to depression, discouragement, loneliness and resentment.

(3)    Watch and pray (Jesus’ advice), secure in the face of insecurity. We cannot know when the end will come. As we read in Mark 13:32, “But about that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Canon Andrew White (once known as the Vicar of Baghdad), in his book Faith Under Fire: What the Middle East Conflict has taught me about God, writes that the verse most important to him is 1 John 4:18: "Perfect love drives out fear." What he especially appreciates is that before the verse even mentions fear, it speaks of LOVE. It presents the solution before the problem.

“I do not fear much, but I talk constantly about love. When my people are afraid, I tell them that they are loved—loved by God and loved by everyone in our community. It is simply love that sustains us and keeps us going. So often in books and sermons we are told about the importance of love in our faith, but to us in Iraq love is a matter of life or death.”

He also quotes 2 Timothy 1:7: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

So power and strength co-mingle with love, “the power to persevere through the heat of the fire and the power to do what others may consider impossible. It is this kind of love that can enable all Christians to deal with the difficulties they encounter, even in the safety of the West. It is a love that will always prevent fear from taking control of us. At times, things may seem impossible: how will we accomplish the tasks that we need to, which are often so immense? Jesus gave us the answer: “What is impossible with men is possible with God’ (Luke 18:27).”

Are we ready, this very moment, to meet God? That’s what these scriptures talk about.

To quote an unknown author, “Christians are those who have been let in on an open secret. In the end, when all is said and done, when the last tick-tock of time has sounded, GOD WINS.” Yes! Amen.