Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Home for Christmas

The idea and ideal of coming home for Christmas is one of our warmest images. After all, who wouldn’t want to be home with our loving families on Christmas morning (after going to church of course) gathered round the Christmas tree opening presents. Then later in the day everyone would gather round the dining room table for Christmas dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. Home for the holidays; it doesn’t get better than that. Or if it doesn’t quite live up to our hopes and expectations it certainly should.

My parish undertook a study series this fall entitled ‘The Prodigal God’ which was based on the Prodigal Son Parable in the Gospel of Luke. The theme of the study was the idea of returning home to God and the central image of the banquet.. In the parable the father who represents God, throws a banquet to celebrate the return of the prodigal son who left home after claiming his inheritance from the father and lived a dissolute life of wine, women and song. The father declares that, “we had to celebrate.” He had no choice. Unfortunately the elder son – the dutiful one remains outside the feast refusing to come in despite the father’s pleading. Unlike the younger prodigal son who has repented his life and returned home, the elder brother is in a self-imposed exile. In his deluded self-righteousness he cannot accept that invitation.
Unfortunately this is sometimes how our family relationships and Christmas gatherings turn out – less than we had hoped and longed for. We may hope that Christmas will bring peace and goodwill on this occasion if not on the whole earth. Families do not always live in peace and harmony as God intends. In addition many people live in circumstances that do not make this ideal Christmas possible. However, as Jesus shows us in the Parable, the feast is open to each of us. The family table at Christmas dinner is a wonderful image of the feast that God offers to each and every one of His children. God’s feast is offered to us through the love of God. That love came down to earth and was born on Christmas.

The poet Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” That may not necessarily be true but it should be. However, God’s banquet that is represented so well by the Christmas Dinner table is a place where you are always welcome. God’s love is there for each of us. The door is open and Jesus Christ is there to welcome you.

It is my hope that your Christmas may be a reflection and a fulfillment of the love which God offers to all of us through the symbol of that tiny baby in a manger in Bethlehem. May all of you have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Reflections on Remembrane Week

Yesterday we celebrated the beginning of Remembrance Week with Remembrance Services in the Parish.   I have grown to be more appreciative of the importance of Remembrance Day and Remembrance in general during my time in the parish. My role as chaplain to the Parkhill Branch of the Legion has certainly helped inform my views on the military tradition of Canada and the history of Canada’s involvement in armed conflict. Remembrance week is quite a busy one for me as the Chaplain. In addition to the services yesterday members of the Legion placed poppies on the graces of veterans in the Parkhill cemetery. We are holding a family Service of Remembrance at St. James tomorrow night which is the latest edition of monthly family services that we started last month. That is followed by a pot luck dinner at the Legion which Scouts are hosting for veterans. Remembrance Day, Friday will have a full day starting at the High School for their Remembrance Day service. This is followed by the service at the Cenotaph in Parkhill with lunch at the Legion. After lunch we have the service at the Cenotaph at Lieury and then the Dinner at the Legion. All in all a full day but one that is very worthwhile.

 I must admit that I have been somewhat conflicted about Remembrance Day but I think that is part of what it means to be a Christian today – being conflicted about our role in society. Christians follow the Prince of Peace and as such we should do all in our power to bring about peace on Earth. That is after all the central message of Christmas when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace in Bethlehem. I believe that whenever there is war it is sign that the kingdom is not yet here on earth. But of course it is only one sign of many that God’s Kingdom has not yet been established. War does seem inevitable in our current fallen estate and we do not declare the current war to be the war to end all wars. Given the current state of the world where men and women are asked to serve their country in armed conflict it is incumbent on us to honour those who have served their country in the armed forces. In the service Sunday we used the following prayers for the Book of Alternative Services which I believe reflects this reality.

Prayer For the Armed Forces

Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping
all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace;  strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through
Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 Prayer For Peace

O God, it is your will to hold both heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrows, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

I hope you all will take time out on Friday to honour those who served and died for Canada in wars. Consider attending a service at the local cenotaph if you are able to or if not pause for two minutes of remembrance at 11:00 a.m.