THE ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS

On the second Sunday in Advent, our gospel lesson was the beginning of the first chapter of Mark. What is immediately apparent to any reader is that there is no Christmas in this gospel. Jesus makes his first appearance as a fully grown man and we are immediately drawn into his ministry. Two other gospels, Matthew and Luke, do contain the stories that we retell at Christmas-time: the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream, the journey of the young couple to Bethlehem for the census, the child being born in a manger because there was no room in the inn, the angels appearing to the shepherds, the wise men following a star, arriving at Herod’s court, and finally making their way to Bethlehem to present their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are what we now call the Christmas stories, but when you think about it, there is no Christmas in their gospels either. For Christmas is a festival and a season in the church’s life that only began to be celebrated much later, making use of the infancy stories that these writers tell.The need for some festival of the birth no doubt arose from the growing popularity of the birth narratives. Christians recognized the importance of Matthew’s and Luke’s stories on several fronts:

Coincidentally, in the late third century, the emperor Aurelian proclaimed that date as the Festival of the Invincible Sun, marking the beginning of the lengthening of days. Christians in Rome, witnessing the pagan festivities, eventually began to rename this date the celebration of the birth of the “Sun of Righteousness,” and began, in effect, to colonize the pagan festival. By the year 336, Christmas was clearly in existence and began its spread from Rome throughout the Christian world.
By tradition, the Christian season is regarded as consisting of twelve days, and ends with Epiphany. It remains the most widely observed of all Christian feasts, perhaps because this festival combines the human need for a party to enliven the gloom of winter, the natural response to childbirth, and the message of ‘Emmanuel’ — ‘God with us.’
Though Christmas was not a part of biblical times, it was inevitable that a Feast of Christmas would one day come to be, for the angel’s message — “Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord,” — is a message that cannot be met with austerity but must welcomed with celebration.


Merry Christmas from
Robert Campbell


doctrinally, because the accounts bear witness to the Incarnation, the truth that God has, in Jesus, taken flesh, become human; politically, because the accounts reveal a God who partakes of the common and lowly, and in so doing exalts the common and lowly; devotionally, because these wonderful pictures of the birth provide many different gateways into participation in the life of the Son of God. By the third century, church fathers such as Hippolytus and Tertullian were speculating as to a date for the nativity. They identified the date of the crucifixion as March 25 and adopted the same datefor Jesus’ conception, thus making December 25 the date of his birth.



A Message from Joan


Rush, rush, rush seems to be the expected order these days of Advent, leading up to Christmas. For many people, there is little sense of surprise. Stores begin advertising Christmas merchandise in October (or earlier) and people start dropping hints of what they’d like for gifts. Calendars are marked well in advance with activities for the busy days of the holiday season. Christmas carols are blaring forth everywhere we turn. The Christmas story is so familiar to us that we think we’ve heard

it all before. We have lost sight of the meaning of Advent when we once again hear the word declaring God’s comfort to the people. Advent marks the start of a new year. It provides us with a time to prepare ourselves as we journey to the birth of Christ and what that still means for our world and us. Unfortunately, in our busy round of activities, we often cut ourselves off from the potential for spiritual renewal that this Season offers.
We would do well to look to the Celtic approach to God that opens up a world in which nothing is too common to be exalted and nothing is so exalted that it cannot be made common. These words invite us into a different approach to Advent and Christmas – one that keeps these seasons open to spiritual renewal and strengthening of our relationships with God and with one another.
This is a time of hope – a time of hope for our world, our families and for ourselves. This is a time when we seek once again those signs of assurance of ‘God with us’ in the ordinary and not


so ordinary events of our lives. In Advent we need to recognize God’s claim on our lives.
In these days of preparation and celebration, we are challenged to hear the voices of the prophets who proclaimed that a new age would dawn. In the midst of glitter we are encouraged to keep in sight the power of God’s presence and the strength of God’s consolation. In the midst of the busyness of this time we acknowledge the joy and laughter that only God’s peace brings.
We celebrate the humble birth of the exalted Prince of Peace, God’s Word made flesh that dwelt among us. May the ordinary events of our lives in this extraordinary time of year be blessed so that we know God’s presence with us and with our world. May we each find room in our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child and the gifts of love, hope, peace and joy that are offered in this time of celebration and throughout the coming year.


Blessings and Peace to you all
Joan Jarvis


The Marion Abra Circle is a group for the younger women of Westminster Church. The goal is to provide fellowship and service opportunities for mothers with young children and teens, working women…in fact, every woman looking to make friends and feel a little more connected to the Westminster community. Some of our activities include a book club, a movie night, a bake exchange, a craft night, helping out at the Garage Sale, and putting together a hamper for a family in need at Christmas.
The Marion Abra Circle meets on the last Tuesday of every month (excluding December) at 7:00 pm, usually at the church. If you are interested in attending one of our meetings, please come! For more information, contact Joan Jarvis at the church 784-1330, Katherine Abra at 453-2498 or kath_abra@yahoo.com, or Marilyn Huband at 284-5514. Just ask to be put on the e-mail list/phone tree, and we will keep you up to date about what the group is up to.



Here is a list of our upcoming events in 2006:

Tuesday, January 31
- Movie Night - movie TBA
Tuesday, February 28
- Book Club, Book: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Tuesday, March 21
- Craft Night
Tuesday, April 25
- Guest Speaker: Val McIntyre, who will talk about her experiences with International H.O.P.E.
Tuesday, May 30
- Year End Potluck

DECEMBER 18

After Service
Fellowship Luncheon
4:00 pm - Blue Christmas Service
A service for those
experiencing loss.

DECEMBER 24

Christmas Eve
7:00 pm.
Family Christmas Service

10:30 pm.
An Organ Recital of Carols given by Don Menzies
11:00 pm.
Choral Candlelight Service

DECEMBER 25

Christmas Day
10:30 am
Worship Service

JANUARY 14, 2006

1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
An Epiphany Journey

JANUARY 20

Deadline for Annual General Reports

APRIL 9

Palm Sunday

APRIL 13

7:30 pm
Maundy Thursday

APRIL 14

Good Friday



Website of The Month:

http://www.earthlight.org/index.html "Earth Light" calls itself a journal of spiritual and ecological living. In their own words "Empowering indivduals and communities to live and work in touch with Earth and Spirit." The current issue has some thoughtful quotations from the writings of Annie Dillard.
Children Shop Christmas Sale

How far can you make $300 go this Christmas season? A Christmas dinner for the extended family? New jackets for the kids? How about the latest video game system? Thanks to the generous donations of Westminster’s congregation,this year $300 will be given to West Broadway’s Art City drop-in art studio, where it will fund a variety of community-enriching programs. The money was raised at the sixth annual Children Shop Christmas Sale, held December 4th at Westminster.
The Christmas Sale is organized by Outreach Committee member Lisa Caldwell, though its continued success hinges on the support of many volunteers and donations from the congregation. The list of valued volunteers includes Outreach Committee members as well as others like the Friday morning Disciple group and the adult choir, which moved its practice into the sanctuary on the Friday evening before the sale. The congregation, meanwhile, pitched in items for the sale, sewing bags and provided treats for those involved.
The value of the sale is felt throughout the community, as evidenced by a phone call one Outreach Committee member received a few years ago. Speaking with the Outreach worker at nearby Mulvey School, the committee member heard how much the sale means to the area’s children. Many of these children, she heard, come to school on Mondays after the sale and speak with excitement about their purchases.
Back to Art City. Established in 1998 by painter Wanda Koop, Art City has transformed a boarded up nightclub at 616 Broadway into an art studio that offers programming for people of all ages. Each month over 275 participants take advantage of its free programs, which include aboriginal arts and crafts, adult and kids’ pottery, photography and trips to cultural institutions around Winnipeg. Snacks are also offered to participants, many of whom may have not eaten previously that day. Art City’s brightly painted storefront has become an integral part of the neighbourhood over the years. Seven years after its creation it remains a focal point for community members to get to know each other and develop their own sense of self-esteem and pride.


MILESTONES


David Huband Again!
The Globe and Mail Reports: “In the new comedy series The Buck Calder Experience, Hollywood screws up Canada's history but gives us the last laugh." The series, six episodes on CityTV early in 2006, features David Huband as the bombastic, dim-witted Director, Buck, who "Hollywood- izes" Canadian history (Louis Riel dog-sledding in the North Pole, actors wrestling "Arctic Pythons" and so on). Another star in David's comedy acting career.

Congratulations to Sarah Joyce who celebrated her 101st birthday on December 7th.

Congratulations to Murray and Bonnie Kerr who celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary, December 19th.


Amahl Has Come and Gone


A great way to begin the Christmas season, we had our own production of Amahl and The Night Visitors. This was a Three Choir Presentation with host, Westminster Choir, and guests, Fair Warning Women's Chorus and Brochan Lom Men's Chorus. The chorus of shepherds and shepherdesses never sou nded better. Leads were Cathy McIvor, Mother, Tyler Drachuk, Amahl, and the royal connection Fred Simpson, Steven Byquist, Bradley Taylor-Pirogov and Roy Halstead. Glen and Margaret Harrison guided us through the production. Proceeds went to the Betty Halstead Music Bursary Fund.

FUNDRAISING EVENTS at WESTMINSTER UNITED CHURCH

During the course of each year, regular fundraising events are organized to support the operations of Westminster United Church. These events also provide fellowship opportunities for the congregation and surrounding community. A committee has been established at Westminster to look at new opportunities that may exist for fundraising. This committee also coordinates the scheduling of new and existing events. At this time the following projects are in the works for the coming year:


September to December – Sale of ‘Peak of the Market’ Recipe CDs. These CDs will be available for $12 each at all events.
March/April – Sale of potted plants – Christian Education Project
April – Afternoon of Bridge (with door prizes and dessert)
May – Giant Garage Sale (volunteers needed all year)
June – Golf Tournament (with dinner)
September to August – ‘Be our Guest’. Details to be announced


Other events will be announced as they are confirmed. Volunteers are needed for all events. If you are interested in assisting in any of these projects, please call the office at 784-1330 and your name will be forwarded to the appropriate liaison person.


Rita Menzies, Chair, Fundraising Committee

Advertise your Company in the
‘WESTMINSTER NEWS’

Ad size - 9 1/4cm x 12 1/4cm (one-quarter page) – ‘camera ready’ Newsletter published monthly
Price - $200 for 10 months or $100 for 5 months.


Distribution - The newsletter is copies are distributed throughout the church; the newsletter is posted on the church website.
Please contact church office at 784-1330 for print deadlines.

from Bradley Taylor-Piragov

Imagine this…


Having to pack up and travel almost 150 km because the government told you to! Moreover, because they want to count and tax you. So you pack up what little you have (which isn’t very much) and prepare your pregnant wife for the journey….Yes, I said pregnant wife! And not just a little pregnant; Nine months pregnant at that!

Imagine this…
You are going to travel all that distance with the expectant mother, not on a plane, or a train, or even a bus. No car, not even a horse-drawn cart. You are traveling on foot; She is riding a donkey! Now I ask you, for someone who’s pregnant, what’s worse: walking for ten



days or riding a smelly animal over a bumpy landscape for that time? (If her body wasn’t ready to give birth at the beginning of the trek, she’ll definitely be ready when they reach their intended town.)

Imagine this…
Finally after all that traveling, you reach your destination (and by now your wife is groaning from contractions) only to discover there is no place to sleep! What now? Fortunately, one of the innkeepers has taken pity on the two of you and has offered his stable. Now we’re talking about a dwelling that is open to the cold of night and full of more smelly animals. (Just what the mum-in-labour needs.)

Not the ideal conditions to usher in a new life to the world. Sure, they may have received “clean” cloths and quite probably a
midwife was fetched to “catch” the baby; but imagine with all the sounds and smells, and flies, flying around, it could not have been pleasant for poor Mary. (Anyone who has given birth can attest to that.)

Never-the-less, a child was born that night in the little town of Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph that was destined to cast out darkness and shed light, not only for the proud parents, but ultimately, for the whole world as well.

Born in blood and pain, He came into this world and through pain and blood, He left it; This begotten Son of God.
Imagine that!




Reminder: In case you missed our report on the great light display and train ride out at Bill Taylor’s place here’s a picture of Len La Rue “engineering” the train with young guest.

Christmas Flowers in the Sanctuary in Remembrance

Joyce Bennett – In loving memory of my beloved Peter and others so loved.
Derraugh Family – In loving memory of Orville Derraugh.
Betty Dick – In loving memory of loved ones.
The Mort Family – In loving memory of Ernest Mort, husband and father; and Susan Peters, mother and grandmother.
Effie Isford – In loving memory of loved ones.
Carol Macoomb – In loving memory of Anne Smith.
Robert, Linda and James Campbell – In loving memory of Susanne Campbell.

Yvonne Ballentyne Chase – In loving memory of my parents – Alfred and Ruth Ballentyne.
Ron Clement – In loving memory of my parents, my sister – Claire Stubbs and my nephew – Robert Stubbs.
Karen, Jennifer and Michael Romanoff – In loving memory of Barrie William Romanoff a wonderful husband and a great father.
Ron and Elizabeth Russell – In loving memory of Anne and Ray Fines, and Mary and Laurence Russell.
Sigrid Schibler – In loving memory of my husband – Jim and my daughter – Suzanne.
Isabelle Tiwari – In loving memory of my precious son –Rudy Tiwari, I miss you so much.
Connie, Elizabeth and Mercedes Toral – In memory of our dear mother and father – Dinora and Belarmion Toral.
Eileen Weir – In loving memory of my beloved parents – Mary and David Weir.
Pat Allan – In loving memory of Perry Lynn Allan
Ted and Margaret Cuddy – In loving memory of our parents and Keith, Ted’s brother.
Ross and Shelagh Yarnell – In loving memory of Marguerite and J.E. Yarnell.
Judy Hill – In loving memory of Tom and Vernice Hill.
Bob and Ann Peeler – In loving memory of family and friends.
Roy Halstead – In loving memory of Betty May.
Deborah Riley – In loving memory of Kathryn Bracken and Campbell Wright.
Deborah McCawley – In loving memory of Kathryn Bracken and Campbell Wright.
Mary Yanke – In loving memory of my dear husband, Dan.
Margaret Pattison – In loving memory of my husband – Gordon, and our parents – Edna and Gilbert Manning, and Elizabeth and John Pattison.
Margaret Johnstone, Jim and Teresa Young, Larry and Joan Coombe, Jack and Beryl Lammens, David and Mary-Beth Parrish.
A Memory of Kathryn Bracken
from Keriah.................

I met Kathryn one and a half years ago. Kathryn was helping me to sponsor my sister and her family. Through this time we got to know each other very well. We have developed a great friendship. Through the process of all the paper work we had to meet numerous times at the church and at her house. What can I say? She is a wonderful person with positive attitude. Every time we met she gave me a big smile and a big hug. I felt the same way and happy to see her too.
Through our meeting I had a chance to meet her husband and her mam. They are wonderful people. I was glad to know them. Sometimes we just call each other just to say Hi.

One day we were supposed to meet on the weekend at her house but it didn’t happen. She called me to tell me that she had flu and was feeling too tired. I told her don’t worry about it. We will meet when you feel better. After a couple of days I called her back to see how she was doing. She told me they

had to run some tests and she was not feeling well. I told her to take it easy and get some rest.

One morning she called me and told me about the disease. I was speechless. I felt so bad about it. I told her you know why before I moved to this house my neighbor 37 years old was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was helping her get through the disease emotionally and physically. Now she is cancer free, so don’t worry about it. You are young. You will fight this disease. I will help you in every way I can. She said to me thank you very much. I really need to hear that. Through her illness I had a chance to see her once. After that we have talked over the phone. I know that each day she was getting tired. I told her me and my family are praying for her.

I have never met a person like Kathryn. What a big loss. I missed her terribly. She is too young to die, but it’s God’s will. We have no power. May God bless her and us. Amen.


Thank you.
Keriah

IN MEMORIAM


Our sympathy is extended to Gary and Cheryl Drachuk and their sons, Jeremy and Tyler, on the death of Gary’s father, John, on November 15th., and on the death of his mother, Lena, on December 6th.
We extend condolences to Margaret Hudson on the passing of her daughter, Karen Kowbel, at the end of October
 

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