morgenster

The magi have been a favourite theme of Christian art, ever since there was such a thing. Long before shepherds appeared on Christmas scenes, even before Jesus was sculpted and painted in a crib with ox and donkey behind, the coming of the magi was portrayed. From the earliest times, from as early as the third century, the magi are to be found depicted in catacombs and on sarcophagi.

So many wonderful themes are entwined in the story of the magi (Matthew 2) – these include the affirmations that faith is a journey, and there is great joy in giving. But as I have been considering this story, it is God’s grace that comes to the fore for me this week. The magi were ‘outsiders’ who were not of God’s covenant people, but God sought them out and lead them to the side of the Christ. The magi sought meaning in the inanimate stars, but God used their seeking to bring them to he who John would declare is ‘the way, the truth, the life’ (John 14:6). This story is all about God’s grace, and our joy. No wonder it has been a favourite scene in the worship of Christians through the millennia!

Radiant One, every day is an epiphany in which I, too, can pay you homage. Every day I can kneel before you and open the treasure chest of my life. In there, I find unending gifts of every kind to offer you. Every day I bring my gratitude to you, my desire to grow more loving, my longing to be true. Every day I reach into that treasure chest and offer my trust that you are near, my hope for all you promise, my belief in what is unseen. Every day I offer my desire to live justly, my commitment to be generous, my struggle to be whole. Divine Light, I give these gifts and so much more … Bestower of Gifts, thank you for all that my treasure chest of life holds. (Joyce Rupp)

Join us as we hear the story and sing the joy of Epiphany this Sunday. A nursery for infants is available during the service. Free parking is available along the streets and in a city lot off Queen Street just behind the church.

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Join us, as we consider the nativity of our Lord with the assistance of a Roman fresco of the early third century (perhaps the earliest image we have of the infant Jesus with him mother Mary) and an English carol of about the year 1400, ‘The Cherry Tree Carol’, as recorded by Judy Collins.

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Holy God, thank you for this night and for all it represents. Thank you for the hope you bestow, the peace you bring, the love you pour out, and the joy you give. We praise you most of all for Jesus, your Word among us, as one of us. In him we have seen you, and the way of life, free and full. Amen.

The bells of the tower will ring us into the sanctuary from 7:15 p.m. Readings, carols and candles will be awaiting. Join us, 7:30 p.m.

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I have been looking forward to this Sunday since Monday. Our church school director, Laura, made it known that the children of the congregation will be presenting a re-telling of the nativity of our Lord, focusing upon the ‘memos’ of the angels, in the stead of a sermon … and that this would be their gift to the Minister! I was, and am, very moved.

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Jesus was a refugee – nativity display along Princess Street Kingston, December 2015.

So rather than the customary time at my desk this week with books and pen and computer, I took up with Ben carpentry tools and paint brushes, and fashioned a new nativity scene for the lawn outside the church. It was exciting to make Christmas ‘real’ in a context of our life today. For long I have celebrated ‘what’ God worked in Jesus -healing for every human heart and hope for every human life. But this week I have been thinking that perhaps the ‘how’ of  God’s nativity might be just as important. Perhaps God came as vulnerable as the infant of a family that had to flee their homeland for their lives … to elicit the dynamic of embrace in us today. Perhaps the joy of Christmas is known, deeply and truly, when we participate in the overflowing love of God … Perhaps Christmas is as much a call as it is a festival of faith.

I shall be pondering this and much more on Sunday, in a pew rather than a pulpit. I invite you to join me. And again …

Christmas Eve : Carols, Readings and Candles, 7:30 p.m. (with nursery for infants)
Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree : Sunday December 27, 10:30 a.m.

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We may not have snow in Kingston as this third Sunday of Advent begins, but we have joy!

This Sunday we celebrate the story of how God has come among us in Jesus through a series of readings and carols that speak of God’s faithfulness and our hope. It is an hour of beauty and of joy lead by the St. Andrew’s Choir and the St. Andrew’s Baroque Ensemble, conducted by our Director of Music, John Hall.

In addition, John will be playing the bells of St. Andrew’s every Sunday in December at noon. Be sure to linger for a moment and enjoy! (There is an article about the peal in the most recent copy of the congregational newsletter found on pages 6-7 at https://drive.google.com/a/standrewskingston.org/file/d/0BzbM1QYuC2_uVHdUQVlvVGFqanM/view?pli=1 )

Be sure to read the announcements within the Order of Service. You will notice that we are welcoming our new nursery caregiver, Ashley Reynolds, who will be awaiting our infants and toddlers …

Many of us have been following a series of devotions based on the writings of the theologian Henri Nouwen. Here is one that touches upon the themes of great gifts and deepest joys, a perfect preparation for me this third week of Advent:

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:7

Many things in our lives matter intensely to us, but those are what we must be careful to ‘hold lightly.’ Holding lightly to all that is important in our lives means remembering that we are not what we acquire and we accomplish as much as what we have received. The deepest joys come not from the money we earn, the friends we surround ourselves with, or the results we achieve. We are the gifts we are given, not just the conquests we make. As long as we keep running around, anxiously trying to affirm ourselves or be affirmed by others, we remain blind to One who has love us first, dwells in our heart, and has formed our truest self.

O God, may we be grateful for the incomparable gift of faith you have granted us through the redemptive grace of your Son Jesus. Amen.

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The film ‘Room’ is being screened in Kingston, based on the novel of the same title by Irish-Canadian Donoghue. Jack is a five year old whose world since birth has been a small room, where he and his abducted mother are being held hostage. It is a moving story of a mother’s strong love for her child, determined to grow him in life and love despite their confined space and hard circumstances. Their struggles continue however after their escape. The realities of a larger life can be a challenge.

On this second Sunday of Advent we continue with the passages of scripture used by Jennens and Handel in their oratorio Messiah. Immediately after the opening words of assurance ‘Comfort, comfort my people’ (Isaiah 40:1), there are words of warning. ‘The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come … But who can endure the day of his coming?’ (Malachi 3:2). When the long-expected ‘day of his coming’ finally arrives, there will be freedom and justice, but everything will change, including us. The prophet described the experience like that of a ‘refiner’s fire’ by which black lumps of ore give way to precious silver and gold.

As Christians we believe that God has come, in Jesus Christ. And Jesus has shown us the larger life, broad and deep, true and eternal. This life is so much more than we have known that it can be a challenge, even a struggle, to accept and to grow into. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:29-31). The challenge often lies more with the second commandment than the first. ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger … and did not minister to you? Truly I say to you, as you did it not to one of these the least of these, you did it not to me’ (Matthew 25:31-46).

The Lord has come, and we are growing into a new life. It is all new, and it can be hard. It can be as if our homeland had become a war zone, and after years of deprivation we are suddenly granted the opportunity to escape. But we have only six hours to pack our belongings, and can take only 100 kilos on the plane. There are excited arguments within the family, about what would be taken and what would be left behind. At the airport, ‘Ready?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Did you weigh everything?’ ‘Yes’ ‘Did you weigh the children?’. In a moment, the family albums, jewelry, laptops and so much more become garbage. As we encounter the Holy One in Christ, as we take up our freedom in him, our priorities change.

As I hear this passage sung, I feel myself being asked, What is most important in my life? What do I need to let go of so I can hold onto and enjoy that which is most important? In the footsteps of Christ, I know that the answer will have little to do with things, and everything to do with people … friends and strangers, neighbours and refugees.

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He had been raised in security and love. He had developed his gifts and tasted success. But he found himself increasingly isolated and struggling with despair. The year was 1741. His name was George Handel.
Then Charles Jennens handed him a selection of scripture passages and invited him to set them to music. Handel received the hand-written pages, and those words of scripture took hold of him. It is said that he didn’t leave the house in which he was staying for 24 days, barely taking the time to even eat, as he composed the accompanying, incredible music.
Messiah begins with the words ‘Comfort, comfort my people’. They were the words of the Lord for a people who were overwhelmed by despair. They had wandered from good and God. They were in exile, far from their homeland and culture. They had been humiliated. They felt alone and abandoned. And to them came their God with words of embrace and comfort, born of promise …  ‘the glory of the Lord shall be revealed’ (40:1-5).
As we gather and hear these words this Sunday, we mark the beginning of the season of Advent and the journey to Christmas. But there is more. We celebrate the revelation of the Lord in that babe of Bethlehem, and that man of cross and empty tomb, all for us and our salvation. But upon that historical foundation we celebrate a present experience – the promise of God that new beginnings are possible for us even now, by the grace of God.
It is a promise that creates its own reality, as testified by Handel. As he felt despair lifted from him and life renewed within him, he composed over two hundred and fifty pages of music that he concluded with the letters ‘SDG’. Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory.
And so with anticipation we light the first candle around the wreath, the one known as ‘hope’ …

If you are able to join us in the worship of God this Sunday, you would be welcome! (And have a look at the beautiful prayer of the Iona Community of Scotland, included in the Order of Worship below – ‘Thank you God for the waiting time, the looking time, the loving time, the keeping time’)

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