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A Christmas Message
from Robert Campbell

If there is a word that sums up December, it must surely be “preparations.” By now, our preparations for Christmas are in full flight. Trees and lights have gone up, decorations have been hung, poinsettias are being purchased, baking being churned out, malls being thronged, cards and gifts being mailed or delivered, donations being made, travel plans being finalized, lists being composed, and, in organized households, lists being ticked off.

So much is happening: the frenzy of shopping and gift-giving, the busy round of recitals and school concerts and caroling engagements, the social calendar of luncheons and parties and family gatherings, and, for ministers, the churning out of special liturgies and services. In the midst of all the busyness, we can easily be seduced into imagining that Christmas is something that we do rather than something that we receive.
That is why I am glad that, in our church, we gathered at the Communion Table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of Advent, right at the beginning of the busy season. What happens at the Table reminds me that, before Christmas can be about our preparations, it is about God’s preparations. The Table is about what God has done and what we may receive. It speaks of God how took this flesh of ours and made it holy. It speaks of how God, through the fruit of Mary’s womb, forever anointed humanity with grace. It speaks of how “the Word became flesh and lived among us . . . full of grace and truth” and how “from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:14, 16).


John Calvin, a towering figure of the Reformation and one of the greatest-ever theologians of the church, says that, in the Sacrament of Communion, we have a witness to our life in Christ, a life in which “whatever is Christ’s may be called ours.” Imagine: Whatever is Christ’s becomes ours. How could this be, that we should receive his blessings, his glory, his riches, his life? Well, here the sacrament points to the mystery of the incarnation, in which Christ comes to share our life and give us all he has to give. Calvin calls this the “wonderful exchange.”

“This is the wonderful exchange, which out of his measureless benevolence, [Christ] has made with us,
that, becoming Son of Man with us, he has made us [children] of God with him;
that, by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
that, by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us;
that, accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power;
that, receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us;
that, taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself, he has clothed us with his
righteousness.” (Institutes, IV.xvii.2)

When you think of all that Christ has done for us, how can you label it anything other than a wonderful exchange? In a season full of exchanges, this is one that, in the end, will make a difference. So may our preparations this season focus on the wonderful exchange and may Christmas be for us a time for living in response to Christ’s measureless benevolence.

Murray Kerr & Roy Halstead with the annual
Mitten Tree with thanks to our knitters who
make it happen
Shelley, Shayna, and Kayla Giesbrecht lighting
the First candle of Advent on December 2nd.
The First Sunday in Advent and the
Membership and Pastoral Care Committee
was busy sending out poinsettias to our shutin
members. Sue Fenwick is shown giving
plants to Bob Burton for delivery while Mary
Yanke and Mary Ann Taylor wait for their
plants to deliver.

A Christmas Message
from Joan Jarvis

Mary’s Song, the Magnificat is one that certainly does not need an introduction. Perhaps this is so, not only because it is a familiar piece of scripture, but also because so many wonderful musicians have composed special music, capturing the passion - composers such as Monteverdi, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart to name a few. And so it is that in this Advent season we once again are blessed to hear a woman break out in song, praising God for coming to her in a special way in her pregnancy.

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my
Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.”
(Luke 1:46-49)

Mary is saying something like this… “My whole self shouts and sings that God is great because God looks upon me, a most ordinary woman, and asks me to give birth to the holy child.” Mary is the woman asked by God to birth One who turns upside down all of our values and shows us the real meaning of our lives. Mary is so moved by this vision of God, the lover of the lowly, that she breaks forth in song - a song that has come to be known as the Magnificat.

The Magnificat reminds us that Christmas is about God coming in ordinary life to love us fully in our concrete everyday day-to-day lives. God steps into our lives, to say, “I love you. I can give meaning, hope and joy to your life. I can help you love others too.” In some ways, it is as simple as that! This is what Christmas is really all about. And yet the paradox is, that’s what we still have trouble believing - that we have an everyday God, who is with us every moment of our day, in all our situations, to hold us, to love us, to remake us, to give us a new birth for life.

Over the years, many in the Christian church have venerated Mary to such an extent that she has been placed high on a pedestal, and in so doing, we miss the real point of Jesus’ birth. The miracle of Christmas is not so much that Mary was a Saint, but that God chose a most ordinary woman for the birth of God in our midst – a birth that brings new life to the whole world.

This is the Good News of Christmas - it is not our presents, our good food, or our heart-warming music. It is that God becomes ordinary through a most ordinary woman to love all of us ordinary people into a full life. That’s where we can find meaning; that’s what we can share simply with others searching for new life today.

In this blessed season, may God once again be born into our lives so that we may find new life and, like Mary, be called blessed, as God works through us to share God’s love with others in our midst.

In peace and celebration
Robert received an email after the 115th Anniversary service, a pat on the back to the Choir. the text as follows:

“I have made a request for the CBC2 Radio Request show in case you are home. I had asked for St. Cecelia’s Day but had no idea that they would play it on the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s death. I was so impressed by the Westminster’s Choir’s version of John Rutter’s All things Bright.... that I have asked to hear it again. Maybe they will read my text which said that I was in Winnipeg (that weekend).”

Our thanks to the gentleman who sent the message.
In Memoriam

Blake Rodrick Rouxel: Died November 18, after a long illness. Our sympathies are extended to his wife, Alaina, and his in-laws, Al and Judy Graham of Westminster Church.

A Sarcastic God?
By Ernest Janzen

This time of year thoughts turn to baking, decorating, crowded malls and even-worse-than-usual-drivers (it appears that many Manitobans suffer from amnesia brought on by the first snow – have you never driven in this before?).

My thoughts turn to the cold. Is there a nihilistic element among the reasons that keep us plugged into this deep-freeze year after year? I have often heard that Winnipeggers have a healthy self-image, if not a delicious sense of humour that provides us with the bravado to endure the bitter cold.

Humour is one of the ways we deal with something as mundane as the weather. My friends and I “comfort” each other with near-daily e-mails that at some point contain the following: ODC. It stands for One Day Closer. And so, every day we are ODC to the snow melting. In a slightly warped way, the message of ODC is comforting.

Humour is an innate part of life. Sarcasm on the other hand, is discovered and/or learned behaviour. I did not teach my children to laugh. Each of them came to enjoy the world of laughter in their own unique way. But I distinctly remember as each of my children began to notice that sarcasm was a particular manner of communication … and they began to catch on to when I was being sarcastic.

Sarcasm can be used to teach valuable lessons. Witness the statement: going to Church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

Have you ever thought about God as being sarcastic? In October, we noted that God had many human-like attributes (eyes, hands, face, etc.). Last month, we commented on the linguistic capabilities of God and how this resulted in our assumption that regardless of the languages we speak, God must understand them.

The notion of an anthropomorphized God is advanced further as we read about a God who is not necessarily the progenitor of stand-up comedians, but who is nevertheless a God who can fling sarcasm with the best.

The text in question comes from Job. Just before the climax of the text in chapter 42 (when all wrongs are righted), the reader is given the impression that God has been “silently listening” to all the musings of “why-bad-things-happen-to-good-people”. In chapters 38 and 39 (and trickling into 40 and 41) God lets loose with a barrage of sarcasm that is unparalleled in the biblical text. In “confronting” those who think they are so wise, God lambastes them for their arrogance with repeated tongue-lashings.

My favourite “jab” from the Creator comes in the response to one of the many rhetorical questions that are levied throughout the extended tirade. To the reader it is very clear that answers are not available because the questions refer back to the beginning of time. Nevertheless, God says, dripping with sarcasm: “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:21).

The exchange in its entirety is worth a read. In the end, and in spite of the charged language, God accepts and responds in restitution to the humility posited by Job.

Returning to the question that guides this series, do we have sarcastic capabilities and tendencies because that is part of God’s being? Or, have our “creative” abilities been read back onto the Creator – as with the other anthropomorphisms? The presence of humour and sarcasm is of existential relevance to those of us who deal with Winter in a quasi-sarcastic manner (e.g., through the mantra of ODC). Given where we live, sarcasm is far from the lowest form of humour. I tend to view it as a required element to maintain one’s sanity in anticipation of the day … the day that the perennials start to push their way up gently through the earth that only recently was as hard as concrete. Thank God for sarcasm … wherever it comes from!

Sarcasm aside, ODC!

Westminster Mincemeat

The crowd gathered at Marilyn Huband’s in November 16th to put together the Famous Westminster Mincemeat.

137 2-cup containers were produced and sold to the congregation to raise a profit of $462 for the Church. Once again Roy Halstead was proudly responsible for adding the liquid zip which makes our mincemeat so special!


Alice Nichol, Elaine Finbogasson, & Gladys Comeault, apple peelers

Beth Derraugh, another happy peeler

Marilyn Huband, in her kitchen, grinding the
apple pieces

Sigrid Schibler fi lled the containers, while Elaine lurked!



Every Christmas Communion we give a portion of our collection to L.I.T.E. (Local Investment Towards Employment). And once a year LITE holds a Blueberry Pancake Breakfast to further raise funds.

This year Joan, Robert, and Roy went to eat and support this community organization. While there they met Lisa Caldwell, teacher at Red River College who had her class at the event to work as volunteers.

Good food, lots of entertainment, some people with balloon hats and Joan almost bought a picture.


Westminster has a Singles group

An informal lunch-once-a-month collection of as many people who show up on a Sunday after Church. Sometimes it’s 10. Sometimes it’s 5. Carol Latter ( is Chair and CEO! Send her a message if you would like to be included in the group. No fees. No hassles. No apologies if you can’t make it some months. It includes women and men. And you pay for your own lunch! Carol makes the arrangements and keeps everyone informed. Can you make it in January?


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