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The Minister's Christmas Message


This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed..., "I am not the Messiah." And they asked him. "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"

He said,

"I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

Make straight the way of the Lord.’"

as the prophet Isaiah said.

...They asked Him, "Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?" John answered them, "I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal." - John 1:19-27


We are waiting, in this season of Advent, for the arrival of our Lord. Waiting like the Jews to whom Isaiah sang, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." Waiting like those faithful folk who heard these words and believed them and were patient, and suffered so much in spite of, and even because of, their belief in a good God. We are waiting like the Christians in those early churches in Asia Minor who expected Jesus to return again soon, but who, even then, had endured many years of persecution and disappointment.

We are waiting, in these days of Advent, for a God who will come to us and set things right, who will break into and move in our lives, who will cure what ails us. Waiting like those who expectantly surged out into the desert to hear John the Baptist announce that, at last, the time was fulfilled.

"Make straight the way of the Lord," said John, quoting Isaiah before him. God has at last come to be among us, to be with us. God's advent is now.

And yet, the experience of the Baptist, as it is recorded in the first part of the gospel of John, seems to indicate that things were not working out quite as expected. Not that there was a problem with God's advent, with God's arrival, with God's coming. No, the problem, quite simply, was that people were unable to see God's advent right before their very eyes. That was the problem.

According to the gospel writer, John the Baptist was doing just what he was supposed to do, that is bear witness to the light, the true light that enlightens everyone, the light that was right then coming into the world. John was prophesying, and the light had dawned, but many people seemed to be quite unaware of it.

When the Messiah finally came, the Messiah who was foretold by John, they failed to see him. John was reduced to saying, "Among you stands one whom you do not know." Why was it not more obvious when, at last, their thousand years of waiting were over? Why do you think they failed to see who Jesus was?

The traditional answer is that those Israelites were operating with a deficient theology, that they were looking for the wrong kind of Messiah — a general on a warhorse, not a carpenter's son from Nazareth. Just as plausible an answer, it seems to me, is that it has to do with human nature. Perhaps these people were a lot like you and me; they were just too busy, too preoccupied with this and that, too involved in preparing for Christmas that they managed to miss Christmas when it finally came.

And now, here we are, one more time, observing a season dedicated to awaiting the advent of Jesus into our lives. At such a time, the passage I have quoted from John's gospel ought to give us pause. People missed Jesus before. It could happen again. John did his part. He prepared the way. He presented the gift. But it was not received. The gospel writer says, "The true light...was coming into the world," but he has to add, "He came to what was own, and his own people did not accept him." God help us if that should ever be said of us.

Let us take John’s words as a caution that perhaps we do not know as much about the Messiah as we think we do; that perhaps the ways of God are not as clear to us as we think they are; that perhaps the Messiah is to be found in unexpected places and in unexpected company; that it is so easy for us to be so blinded by other lights that we are in danger of missing the one true light which is always gentle, not glaring; beckoning, not blinding; ordinary, not overpowering.

"By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us." God is coming among you now, to touch your life, to make you whole, to give you peace. This is the joyous announcement of Zechariah in the Gospel of Luke (1:78) that God is keeping his promise and the Messiah is near. But beware. Consider the experience of the prophet who announced him: "Among you stands one whom you do not know." The advent of God among us in the babe at Bethlehem can be so fragile and delicate, and in the carpenter of Nazareth can be so unassuming and unpretentious, that we might just miss it.

So our Advent prayer must be, God, give us eyes truly to see your light when it dawns among us.

Rev. Robert Campbell

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IN MEMORIAM

Winnifred Havelock

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Calendar of Events and Meetings

Regular Meetings

Tuesday First

7:30 p.m.

Outreach Committee Meeting

Tuesday First

7:30 p.m.

Property Committee Meeting

Wednesday First

1:30 p.m.

Board Executive Meeting

Monday Second

5:00p.m.

Westminster Housing Society

Tuesday Second

6:30 p.m.

Presbytery Meeting

Tuesday Second

7:30 p.m.

Ministry and Personnel Committee Meeting

Thursday Second

4:00 p.m.

Membership and Pastoral Care Committee Meeting

Thursday Second

7:30 p.m.

Worship Committee Meeting

Tuesday Third

7:30 p.m.

Church Board Meeting (Except May 2005)

Sunday Third

After Service

Fellowship Luncheon

Tuesday Last

7:00 p.m.

Marion Abra Circle

Sunday First

After Service

Christian education Committee Meeting

Events

Sunday January 9

Service

Minute for Mission

Sunday January 30

After Service

Sacrament of Communion

Sunday February 6

Service

Minute for Mission

Sunday February 20

2:30 p.m.

Organ Series

Wednesday February 23

Noon

Spring Newsletter Deadline

Sunday February 27

Service

Minute for Mission

Sunday March 6

Service

Newsletter ready for pickup

Sunday March 6

After Service

Annual Congregational Meeting

Sunday March 13

Service

Covenanting of The Church Board

Saturday March 19

2:00 p.m.

Getting Ready For Easter Event (C.E. Committee)

Sunday March 20

Service

Palm Sunday Service

Thursday March 24

7:30 p.m.

Maundy Thursday

Friday March 25

7:30 p.m.

Good Friday

Sunday March 27

Service

Easter Sunday Service


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Important Notice - Sunday December 12, 2004 at 12:00pm


A congregational meeting will be held to extend a call to a minister whose name will be put forward by the Search Committee. Members are entitled to a vote, but Adherents are not. Adherents are welcome to speak during the meeting and sign the call document, if a call is extended .

Please plan to attend.

Please note the time has been changed from 12:15 to 12:00

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Habitat For Humanity 2004 - A Summer To Remember!


What made it a "summer to remember" for you? The fact that there were virtually no mosquitoes? Or that it was one of the coldest summers on record? Well, for three members of the Westminster congregation, it was a "summer to remember" because it gave them the opportunity to make an unforgettable difference in the lives of seven families by donating their time and energy to the Habitat for Humanity Build. Teresa and Jim Young spent four days working with a team of 22 volunteers building one of the houses. From constructing walls, nailing on insulation, installing windows and doors, applying vinyl siding - if it was part of building a house, it was part of the team's job!

The house building teams were eager to work but never could have accomplished what they did without the work of the food crew team. Loretta Basiuk worked as part of this team for the full seven days. This group was at the food site well before the workers arrived, setting up the breakfast each day. The food crew was responsible for setting up, serving, and cleanup of breakfast, lunch, and two coffee breaks each day for over 200 volunteers!

At the end of the week, all three agreed that the experience was extremely rewarding."It was wonderful to be a part of such a worthwhile cause." "Hearing the gratitude of the families who were going to be living in these homes was so moving that even the pain of my hammered thumbnails was worth it!"

There are hundreds of workers needed to make each build a success - and there is a job for everyone! Volunteer time can range from one or two days of the week, to the full seven days. If you want to make 2005 a "summer to remember", consider donating some of your time to Habitat for Humanity.

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Westminster Collectibles


Campbell's labels, used stamps, eyeglasses, aluminum pull-tabs and crushed cans; these are items that are turned into computer equipment, Bibles and specialty wheelchairs.

So, please start saving your Campbell's labels (the whole label including the bar code); cancelled stamps from your mail (leaving 1/2 inch of paper around the stamp- do not remove stamp from paper); old eyeglasses (it doesn't matter whether they are single vision or bifocals); aluminum pull-tabs and crushed aluminum cans. One more way of being a good steward of God's creation. For more information please speak with Edie at the church office, 784-1330.

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Garage Sale News

Amazing transitions have occured over the eleven years of the Westminster Garage Sale. We are processing an increasing quantity of donated items. Since we welcome and receive recyclables all year long, we have become the drop-off point for an ever-widening circle of members, relatives, friends and neighbors.

The physical condition of what is affectionately termed the “Bat Cave”, that area of the basement immediately under the sanctuary, has improved greatly. What was once a dark and dusty place is now well lit and clean. The cameraderie of the volunteer staff, the “bats”, has remained as strong as ever.

We can assure any new volunteers a pleasant, friendly time on Tuesday mornings. “Many hands make light work” they say. It’s true that the more helpers, the more fine items and “junque” can be cleaned, sorted, priced and packed away for the April 30, 2005 sale day.

Just turn up any time after 9:00 AM on a Tuesday morning. You will be trained for and given a job that suits you in the gym or general area, furniture or small electrical appliances. No matter what your skills, we have a job for you! If you have a truck or larger vehicle, there are loads to be picked up anytime. If Tuesday mornings aren’t good for you, watch for an announcement in the New Year of a Saturday work bee. We bats are flexible.

Remember, you can contribute to this major fundraiser and have a good time doing it- a winning combination!

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Special Worship Presentations at Westminster

December 12 4:00 p.m. Our Annual Blue Christmas Service for folk who have suffered loss
     
December 19 10:30 a.m. Sacrament of Holy Communion
     
December 24 11:00 p.m. Christmas Eve Choral Candlelight Service
     

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Refugee Committee Update


The Refugee Committee has continued to be actively involved with sponsorships;

Our sponsorship of Khalil Raza from Afghanistan was completed as of Oct. 1, 2004. Khalil has achieved level 4 English and is working towards his level 6. He works part time and is studying very hard. He plans to go to Red River Community College for an auto body repair course of 2 years. He is very happy with newly found Canadian friends and has found contentment in his new home. He would like to express his appreciation to Westminster United Church and its congregation for the opportunity to create a new life for himself.

Mr. Khin Maung Thaw, the Burmese gentleman we sponsored, was arrested in Thailand and put in jail for being an illegal alien. He managed to escape to a refugee camp at the Myanmar (Burma) border and contacted the U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees, who classified him as high risk. The U.S. accepted him immediately and within two weeks he flew to Arizona, and made his way to Indiana where he has friends. His son in Winnipeg is very disappointed that his father can not join him here, but is relieved that he is safe and can communicate with him. (The process with Canadian Immigration would have taken at least 6 more months) This Westminster sponsorship is now officially cancelled.

Another cancelled sponsorship involved an Ethiopian gentleman, Abdul Aziz Yussuf. He had escaped to London, England, and was able to take some courses in leather-making there. While waiting to be accepted to come to Canada to live with his brother, he was accepted for residency in England. Having become accustomed to living there, he decided to stay, much to the dismay of his brother here in Canada.

Our committee has now taken on a new challenge. We are looking at possible options for sponsoring a family of 9 (5 adults and 4 children), who escaped from Eritrea, and are presently living as refugees in Egypt. They have a very caring and hard-working community of relatives and friends living here in Winnipeg, who desperately want them to come to Canada. We are hopeful that we can help make this happen.

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April - June 2005 Events


Monday April 11 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. Dessert/Bridge Fundraiser
     
Sunday April 17 8:00 p.m. Organ Series Concert
     
Saturday April 30 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Garage Sale
     
Sunday May 1 After Service Sacrament of Communion
     
Tuesday May 3 7:30 p.m. Bob Gold Night
     
Sunday May 8 Service Mother's Day Service
     
Sunday May 15 Service Pentacost & Sunday School Teacher Recognition
     
Wednesday May 18 Noon Deadline for Summer Newsletter
     
Thursday May 19 Evening Winnipeg pops Orchestra (Church fundraiser)
     
Sunday May 22 Service Blue Jean Sunday School Starts
     
Sunday June 12 Service Sacrament of Communion

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WEBSITE

Check out the web site www.westminsterchurchwinnipeg.ca. You will find information about what's happening at Westminster, the Weekly Bulletin and Robert's recent sermons.

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