Advent 4 – 23 December, Christmas 1 – 30 December 2018

G’day. With a Pew Sheet only every other week, I feel that I need to say: blessings for the last Sunday of Advent, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Right, now where? Let’s start with Advent.
As we sit with the expectancy and excitement of what is coming; not just Christmas, but about the expectancy of new life, new goals, new tones and new thought patterns, where are you? As
we prepare to welcome the Christ child again into our midst, our homes and our lives, can you remember that we are a people of the ‘now’ and ‘not yet’? That even when Christmas gets here,
Advent is still a part of our being, our worship and our lives. We constantly live in the hope of God as not yet, whilst realising the reality of God already here. I continue to pray this Advent for peace and unity among humanity and indeed within our families and communities.

Now, Christmas. Christmas provides a unique opportunity each year for us all to re-focus. Not only are we reminded of the awe-inspiring, world-changing, life-altering gift that is Jesus; but we are also reminded of our need for this Jesus to heal us in our brokenness. That is indeed why he came, isn’t it? To bring peace between God and humanity. To be the bridge, when we just can’t make it on our own. This is why the angels declared triumphantly “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14). So, this Christmas, I wish you all the blessings and gifts of not only the season, but also of the new born king, who brings with him, the expectancy of the whole of creation. We sit expectantly on the cusp of breathing, as we again live in the hope of peace supreme. As we celebrate our lives, and the complexity of our existence, let us remember the gift of our saviour, who has given us unfettered access to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not just for Christmas Day, but for every day since that first Christmas and every day after. Perhaps this Christmas you might like to try and envision the world that Christ imagined. What would that world look like with good will to all humanity, and true and everlasting peace among us all.

And lastly, New Year. What does the new look like for you? Are you one of those people who are glad to see the back of 2018 and live in the hope that 2019 will bring you more happiness or at least some peace. Perhaps you are one who can’t wait for the possibilities of 2019. I might suggest to you, that wherever you sit from these two poles of thought, the world you envision, whatever that may be, cannot become a reality without your help. God calls us to remember every year, the perfection of a gift with no expectation or need for reciprocation, so that we can catch a glimpse of God’s vision for humanity. Can you help? Instead of New Year resolutions which are bust by the end of January. February if you’re lucky, can you think about the lasting and enduring call of Christ to be his people in the world. To give anyway, to love in the face of hate, to forgive 77+ times the annoying person who is driving you mad. Can you let Christs love and vision, cloud your own need to own, conquer, take, ignore or just not care and be for humanity what God envisioned in us, even from when we were created?

I’d like to leave you with this thought. In God, humanity is an absolute delight and joy, all humanity, all people, everywhere. Can you put your bias and bigotry aside in 2019 and let the
hope of Christ in instead? Can you put aside the conflict, and angst of conflict and let the peace of Christ reign and let those awful negative feelings go? Can you turn your sadness into Joy in Christ? And lastly, can you love without judgement? Can you give without exception? Can you take what Christ offers on his birthday every year and give it away, not once, but over and over again?

My prayer for you this end, beginning and not quite yet, is that you realise all these things are already yours, are already God’s greatest gift to you, at no cost and no price, to you all. Just reach out and grab them, then give them away whilst living them yourselves.

Blessings, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, but more appropriately, Shalom Cheverim (pronounced Haverim); God’s everlasting and enduring peace be with you all.

Donna – Vicar, St Peter’s Wynnum.

Advent 2 – 9 December, Advent 3 – 16 December 2018

We are now in the midst of the advent hype and Christmas trees are popping up all over the place. I invite you to take an opportunity to wonder with me about the Christmas tree, one of the beloved symbols which has grown to universally represent Christmas. For people of different cultures and religious backgrounds it marks the celebration of the “festive holiday season”. But perhaps it, like so many other things which seem inoffensive to the majority, has lost the meaning of its roots. Let’s see if we can dig through history to find out just how this innocent tree made its way into our homes, churches and shopping centers and what it may offer us today.

The decorative and symbolic use of evergreen wreaths, trees and garlands predated the modern Christmas tree. The ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Hebrews along with the Vikings and Saxons used these as a symbol of everlasting life, encouraging hope in the dark depths of winter. European pagan converts to Christianity continued to decorate homes and barns with evergreens to scare away the devil in the dark season. It is no surprise then that the modern Christmas tree was received so well, echoing a beloved ancient practice for so many cultures.

We can see it developing popularity in folk law where the tree inspired saints and sinners alike to reflect on the nature of God. One such 8th Century folk story sees Saint Boniface using an evergreen tree, after miraculously having grown in place of an oak tree he cut down as a demonstration against pagan worship of trees, as an example of the trinity with its triangular shape which he claimed was pointing the pagans towards heaven and belief in the one true God.

A fir tree was used in medieval mystery plays given on the 24th December (commemoration/ name day of Adam and Eve) when the “tree of life” was decorated with apples (forbidden fruit) and wafers (Body of Christ in Eucharist). Eventually over time the apples were replaced by red balls (baubles) and the wafers with other sweet treats – which I’m sure we can recognize in the popular decorations for trees today.

The domestication of the Christmas tree was born out of Germany in the 16th century Lutheran reformists’ tradition. There is a fanciful tale that Martin Luther himself, began the tradition of putting candles on the tree, to represent the light of Christ. Often topped with a star – to represent the star of Bethlehem, or an Angel – to represent one of the many angels who are part of the Christmas story, the tree made its way into Church as early as 1539 at the Cathedral in Strasburg.

Its popularity spread in the 18th and 19th Century through Europe, to Britain and the Americas through German influence, picking up cultural adaptions as it became part of both the public and private celebrations of Christmas wherever it was introduced. It has been used as a tool for reconciliation in the practice of gifting a tree to mark armistice and the breaking of hostilities between nations previously at war. In 2004 Pope John Paul called the tree a symbol of Christ.

There are many more historical details and representative symbolisms that could recommend the Christmas tree to us. You may like to learn more yourself. It certainly seems to me that if more people had an opportunity to learn the meaning behind the Christmas tree it will continue to be a tool for reconciliation, peace and celebration. The greatest gift we can give this year may be sharing the Christmas tree and all its meaning with those around us… Who will you invite to TREErific? Who will find Jesus through the Christmas tree you share with them this year?

Wishing you all every blessing and many decorated Christmas trees

The Rev’d Jamee