A Christmas letter for families and guests
Trinity United Church – 2017
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree
that a census should be taken
of the entire Roman world.” (Luke 2)
And so begins the story we know and love so well: Mary and Joseph on the way to Bethlehem because of the Roman census, the Inn that had no room for them, the stable that witnessed the birth of the Saviour, and the Shepherds in the field keeping watch when the angel interrupts their usual routine with the words, “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. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
In a culture ever increasingly devoid of deep connection with the original Christmas story, we might be led to despair and worry that the real meaning of Christmas is lost or overlooked. But, if you look at the original story, that’s what happened in the first place. The birth of Jesus did not make anybody’s top 10 list of special events that year (except of course for the Magi, aka, the 3 kings, and even they kept the news mostly to themselves). But here we are, still celebrating and singing and sharing in this special season.
Why? What captured our attention in the first place? How did we get from the birth of a babe in the backwater town of Bethlehem to something that continues to capture the attention of billions of people? Something profound and significant and wonderfully unique lies at the heart of our Christmas story that still interrupts our normal routine.
It’s the simple truth that reaches into the desperate need of our world, a world so often overcome with violence and hurt and sorrow, with the simple message “you matter to God.” And you matter so much, God loves you so much, that God came to this world in Jesus Christ to live and die for that truth. In the midst of whatever or wherever you find yourself at this time of year, celebrating greatest joy or seeking to survive deepest pain, God will not abandon you! Nothing can break God’s deep love for you. Nothing we do, nor anything that life throws our way, can break the love revealed in Jesus!
Christmas is the celebration of God with us in Jesus, who lived so we could live, who died so we could be forgiven, and who lives again so we can all know God’s love. The real meaning of Christmas? You matter! You are loved with a love so deep and so broad and so strong that nothing can destroy that love for you! So, let the angels sing, ‘Joy to the World!’
The shepherds were minding their own business when the angel interrupted their normal routine with the amazing news, “to you is born this day a Saviour”. May our normal routines be interrupted with this same Good News! Christ is born! Our Saviour is near! And he shall lead us in hope, and we shall be filled with all peace in believing, and love will reign forever!
The Reverend MARK ARNILL
Easter and Anniversary
We began our Easter worship service with the traditional greeting and response:
“Christ is Risen!”
“The Lord is Risen indeed!”
This ancient greeting has been used at the beginning of worship in most Christian traditions throughout the world. Opening our worship with words proclaiming hope, is as needed today as at any age in the life of the church.
Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the heart of each and every worship service, but, it is especially highlighted during this season. We look to our ancient story of resurrection to help us see and understand how Jesus Christ is present with us today, calling and guiding each generation to life and service.
Speaking of generations, we are coming to a time of celebrating our generations at Trinity. Our Anniversary service will be held on Sunday, April 30th (at the usual time of 10:30). The guest speaker will be The Reverend Dr. John Young. The service will be followed by a luncheon. We will be celebrating our 177th year of Christian worship and witness here at Trinity. Included in this mailing is the traditional invitation for you to offer a special anniversary gift to help with our ongoing life and work at Trinity.
Speaking of life and work, we are in the midst of a very special renewal program called “reVision”. Most of you will have heard of this by now, and for those who have not, please visit our website for more detailed information. This program is a wonderful opportunity to get to know each other in our congregation; to see with a clearer vision what our gifts and callings are; to see our local community with deeper understanding; and to engage the entire congregation in a season of prayer and thoughtful discernment of God’s calling for us today!
Speaking of God’s calling today (by now you should have expected this turn of phrase), we are also celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this year. The Reformation’s impact upon the world is absolutely amazing. Much of how we understand ourselves in western society has been deeply influenced by the Reformation. It has also deeply influenced our worship with the introduction of hymn singing, the printing of the Bible so everyone has access, the priesthood of all believers, and of course, worshipping in the common language of the congregation.
Speaking of the common language of the congregation, the choosing of our congregational theme for this year was influenced, in part, by this idea of common language. “In their language…” is the theme we are celebrating during this year of 2017. It is guiding our worship, witness and work as we welcome new people, involve new generations, celebrate our history while breathing new life into our traditions, all the while lifting up ‘the old, old story’ of Jesus and his love.
Speaking of worshipping, witnessing, and working together, our vocation as a congregation is threefold: to bear witness to the risen Christ, to engage in deeply joyful worship, to follow the leading of Jesus Christ into the world through acts of loving kindness.
Speaking of vocation, we are in a period of deep discernment as a congregation; we are meeting and praying and studying together through our reVision project as we seek to follow God’s leading today. We are in a period of heartfelt celebration as a church in the midst of the great festival of Easter. We are coming to Anniversary Service, a time of remembering and celebrating our own story at Trinity. We are in a time of celebrating our larger history as part of the Protestant Reformation. And, our year’s theme “in their language…,” invites us to look for ‘the other’ in our midst.
May we continue to celebrate this amazing news “Christ is Risen!” And as we live and share this good news, may we come alive to this most amazing and transforming truth, “the Lord is Risen indeed!”
The Reverend MARK ARNILL