Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

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Friends, family and neighbours, 

You are warmly invited to join us on December 24 for a Candlelight Christmas Eve Service. The service will begin at 4:30PM at Redemption Church (3512 West 7th Ave, Vancouver, BC) and will include a time of singing together and a brief reflection. All are welcome!

Contact the church office at 604-732-5577 or info@redemptionvancouver.ca if you'd like more details.  

"Christmas Time is Here"?

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (NIV)

As I sit in front of my computer to write this blog sanctioned by Sarah, I'm feeling the anxiety of procrastination. I was very eager to take part in this wonderful opportunity to write for the church, but the deadline was already yesterday...

I have to admit: every single year, when Christmas rolls around, it catches me off guard. Even without the chaos of final exams this year, I still find myself lacking in readiness. And looking at the calendar year, Christmas sure seems like the last item on a to-do list.

All too often for me, Christmas can feel like just another holiday. And as a third culture immigrantthank you David for this useful wordeven holidays themselves lack any specialty in relation to any of my other nuclear family-wide celebrations. Then there's the commodification of Christmas, but what kid doesn't like presents?

So this is sort of where I'm coming from. But as I consider the theme of this advent seasonBeholdI realize that my life is not at all aligned with this season's message. It took me writing this post to actually ask myself, ‘Hey, what's wrong with me? Where is my excitement for the living hope that is Jesus Christ our King?’

It's times like this that I've learnt to go to the Word. And conveniently, I was told I had to read a passage. I got 1 Corinthians 1:3-9. Let's read it together (you should read it now).

...

It took me a couple of reads for me to refocus my heart on His Kingdom. And as I considered the passage from the context of our church in the past year and a half that I have walked alongside you, I truly had to thank God for you.

I remember one of the first services I attended at Redemption being Tim's resignation. And from then, the theme really has been 'waiting upon the Lord' as we endure our transition phase.

But throughout my time here, I've witnessed wonderful giftings God has imparted into this church. Gifts that I have not seen anywhere else, and I can certainly say that we as a church are not lacking in spiritual gifts. I mean, we could always have more, but it is just as encouraging to see more people receiving the heart to serve.

And with that context, I was very encouraged and transformed by the message behind Chris Mukwavi's sermon on Ephesians 4:1-6 where it talked about oneness. Of the many points of unity in the body, it became an incredible knowledge to me to understand that the very same Holy Spirit flows in all of us every Sunday; and every day as we are sent off in all directions. This gives me boldness.

We've been through a lot together. And although some have been called to serve elsewhere, He has been steadfast in His presence with us. And it gives me great joy to consider you my family in Christ. From this context, I want to encourage us to keep our eyes peeled and hearts open to watch what the Lord is going to do next.

Hebrews 12 talks about Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Jesus will keep us firm to the end. This is who we are excited for, the one who we are fortunate enough to know has already come and will come again.

I love worshipping with you. I love praying with you. I truly am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and I am excited to behold this season of advent with you.

Simon Jung

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Simon involves himself in hip hop, anime, and Young Life communities. He loves Jesus, kale, and getting brunch after church. He also has an anime blog somewhere on the internet. 

Behold: Advent 2017

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The Advent season, like the rest of the liturgical church calendar year is a way for a us to carve out time that is intentionally focused around aspects of Jesus’ life on earth. Focusing on Jesus’ life allows us to keep our faith centered on the Gospel message. The Advent season looks at the time leading up to and including the birth of Jesus. 

This Advent season we invite you to join us as we ‘Behold’ our inheritance in Christ. Through the humble birth of Christ as a newborn, we have received the greatest gift of all, and that is our inheritance and adoption into God’s family. However, we do not receive this gift passively. We are called to actively take ownership of our inheritance. 

Behold! Something great is about to happen…

Keep up to date on Advent by checking this page! 

December 1 | Advent Week 1

WATCH! • Mark 13:24-37; Isaiah 64:1-9; 1 Corinthians 1:3-9

December 10 | Advent Week 2

PREPARE • Mark 1:1-8; Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a

December 17 | Advent Week 3

LISTEN • John 1:6-8, 19-28; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

December 24 | Advent Week 4

OBEY • Luke 1:26-38; 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Romans 16:25-27

December 31

  • One service at 10am
  • Kids are in the service (a quiet activity table will be available)

January 7 | Epiphany

  • Regular services resume at 9am (with kids' classes) and 11am

Suggested Resource List

  • The blogs above will be printed out into a booklet for you on Sunday, December 3rd to take home and read this advent season!
  • The Most Wonderful Time of All Years by Darrell W. Johnson
  • Watch for the Light - Readings for Advent and Christmas by Bonhoeffer et al.
  • Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp [great for families]
  • Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin Jr.

Bayview Christmas Hampers

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This season we're helping families from Bayview Elementary School across the street by collecting items for Christmas hampers. If you are able to contribute a gift to these families, join us as we bless these families this Christmas season! 

For privacy reasons, we will not be posting the list of families online, but feel free to speak to Sarah or email her at sarah@redemptionchurch.ca for more details. The list below is a general list of the age groups and genders. 

  • Boys in Kindergarten, grade 2, 3, 9, and 11, and early 20's
  • A 3 year old girl
  • Parents (moms and a dad)
  • A small dog :)

If you'd like to contribute, please place items in the designated bins that are located to the right of the stage by Sunday, December 10

* Please note that the items need to be new as these hampers are given as gifts to the families.

Epiphany

We apologize for the missed link. If you're looking for Lisl's blog this week, it's here: http://www.redemptionchurch.ca/blog/2017/1/12/ordinary-time-from-epiphany-to-lent

 

Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes --
Some have got broken -- and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week --
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted -- quite unsuccessfully --
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers.

… for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.

                 -W.H. Auden, from For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio

This poem, which I first heard a few years ago in an Epiphany sermon, captures so well the mood of early January. After a December full of celebrations, lights, carols, gifts, and rest with friends and family, a January of work, bank statements, diets, and routine may come as a relief, but may also feel like a major let down. Compared to the miracle of the Incarnation we prepared for during Advent and celebrated at Christmas, ordinary life can seem meaningless, un-spiritual, indeed “the most trying time of all.”

At Epiphany, we remember the Magi who came from the East to worship Jesus. What we know about them is minimal: they appear and disappear in the course of Matthew 2:1-12. They were Gentiles, likely Zoroastrian astrologers. Though they knew nothing of Israel’s God, they were compelled by a star to travel a great distance, bearing valuable gifts for the king of the Jews whose reign and message of salvation would extend also to the Gentiles. I wonder what it was like for them, having seen and worshipped the Christ child, to slip secretly away to their home country, Herod’s soldiers hot on their tails. When the fatigue of their journey, the adrenaline of a narrow escape, and the joy of beholding God himself wore off, perhaps they felt let down like we do after Christmas. Perhaps their stargazing felt purposeless, their remaining days bleak and empty.

In the face of these feelings, I find the prophesy of Isaiah 60:5-6 quite encouraging. He speaks of the eschaton when Gentiles from every nation will stream into Jerusalem, the city of God, bringing the most valuable treasures of their culture with them:

“Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
    to you the riches of the nations will come.
Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”

As we try to negotiate life in early January, we may be tempted to see our material life as the enemy of true spirituality.  We may imagine that if it weren’t for the tasks of ordinary life we could hold on more tightly to the hope and joy we felt at Christmas, that vision of the Child, even if it was dim or incredulous.

To be sure, we need to take seriously Jesus’ cautions against being overly identified or concerned with this world. However, Isaiah indicates that the pattern of the Magi has eschatological significance. Just as they responded to the call of the star and laid their riches at the feet of Jesus, so all the nations will have the opportunity to respond to the light of God’s glory and offer their riches for inclusion in the New Jerusalem. What we (and our non-Christian friends, neighbours, and coworkers) design, build, cook, write, engineer, compose, and earn in this world has the potential to be included in the world that is to come, if we are willing to lay it at the feet of the King in worship.

The miracle of Christmas is that the divine has come down to earth. The miracle of Epiphany is that the earthly has the potential to be divine.

 

If this is true, how will we live? Will we see the work of our hands and the money we earn, as a distraction from work of the Kingdom or as a potential contribution? Will we see it as the end of what is passing away or the beginning of what is eternal? Will we look at secular culture only to find what is depraved and corrupting that we may condemn it, or what is good, beautiful and true, that we might celebrate it?

In this season of Epiphany, may we, like the Magi bring our best work as a gift to the King.

 

Kasey Kimball

Kasey was raised in Boston, MA and spent six years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Baltimore, MD before coming to Regent College in the fall of 2014. When she's not studying doctrinal theology, she can be found cooking, working on her latte art, running, biking, reading, following the Red Sox and befriending people with dogs. She hopes to teach theology when she grows up, whenever that is.

Silent Reflection

Christmas week is one of my favourites.  After the frenzy of preps and events it seems like the words from Chris Tomlin's Winter Song reflect the pace I'm seeking--quiet, soft and slow.  The song refers to the entry of Jesus to earth quite unlike the mighty storm or a tidal wave he might have chosen.  No, "he came like fallen snow."  Christmas cards with Mary as the focal point, Joseph in the background, the infant Jesus in the foreground, and shepherds and animals looking on, reflect a peaceful family scene. 

However, those kinds of cards aren't able to capture the noise surrounding Jesus' birth. 

Not just the politics and business of the census taking, but also the exuberance of the shepherds recounting the extraordinary sighting of a celestial company that had announced his coming.  As the poet Malcolm Guite writes:

We think of him as safe beneath the steeple
Or cozy in a crib beside the font,
But he is with a million displaced people
On the long road of weariness and want. 

In the midst of the chaos Mary's character emerges several times. 

Luke tells us that at the centre of the noise Mary takes it all in -- in silent reflection.  First, Mary ponders the words spoken during the shepherds visit and treasures them in her heart.  Scholar Tim Perry notes the Greek word, usually translated 'pondered,' means combining or bringing different ideas into a coherent whole.  It suggests that in silence Mary began to put together the details about the census, the trip to Bethlehem, the manger, and the angelic appearance to the shepherds.  Whether Mary understood God's plan for her child is open to question.  Mary, Luke tells us, kept these things in her heart.  The phrase 'kept these things' is not new.  The Old Testament records several, for example Jacob – kept the matter in mind - after son Joseph aroused his brother's jealousy by boasting about his dream.  Daniel, likewise, 'kept the words in his heart' after a troubling night of visions.  Mary does the same -- she searches to comprehend the difficult matters concerning her life and those she loves.   

When Jesus is presented in the temple Mary becomes the recipient of divine revelation once again.  This time it comes through Simeon's prophetic word. It wasn't easy for Mary to hear that her child was destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, to be a sign that will oppose "so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed."  Simeon then prophesies that a sword will also pierce her heart.  This is not good news for the future of Mary.  Her response again is not clear at that moment; doubt, fear perhaps, and most likely more pondering. 

One thing that is revealed however: Mary remained faithful to Jesus in spite of her suffering.  She models a courageous, unstinting faithfulness. 

Being the recipient of the word of the Lord can be as exhilarating and fulfilling as anything you could ever experience.  Divine revelation can also cause confusion and uncertainty unless our relationship of trust is grounded in faith in the One who reveals.  As God told Simeon through the Holy Spirit that he would not die before seeing the Messiah; similarly, God promised to entrust his secrets to Cyrus and give him the treasures hidden in the darkness (Isaiah 45:3); we too can hear today as we seek to understand what he is saying to his church and us individually. 

My prayer for you this week is that you'll find time for silent reflection. 

Take time 'to ponder.'  Your heart will be strengthened in ways you cannot imagine.  The year ahead may not meet all our expectations, but our hope remains because faith assures us that God is always at work on His plan for us. 

Deborah A. M. Phillips

Deborah A. M. Phillips is an Elder at Redemption.  She is the author of the novel Argonauta.  Her poetry, and essays have been published in English and French.  Deborah previously worked as a church planter.  She taught at Institute Biblique du Québec, and is the former Director of Women's Ministries - Québec. 

Silent reflection and good pondering time is sometimes spent on the golf course with Glen.  

Christmas

Mama, who is "God"? 

My four year old looks at me and asks this profound question loudly and with confidence - surely mama knows! 

A few years ago I would have trembled. I would have been so nervous to get this right. How can I possibly distill that question for a four year old? How can such a profound mystery begin to be articulated? Obviously I am not able to reveal who God is. Our advent scripture reading this week, John 1 tells us there is only One who can answer this.  

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning."

Echoing Genesis 1:1, the apostle John brings us back to the foundation of our knowledge of God - as creator. He then makes the astounding claim that Jesus is the Word with God in the beginning - and is God.

"By calling Jesus "the Word" John calls him the embodiment of all Gods revelation in Scriptures and thus declares that only those who accept Jesus honor the law fully." [1] John 1 is possibly the most dense piece of literature ever written, so I'm not going to do an exegetical study. 

Instead I will focus on the essence of the passage- God coming to us in Jesus.

Back to that question; I can't reveal the fullness of God to my little boy, but I can point to the One who can. The first time he asked me this question there was a long pause - to savor the moment and to gather myself! 

"That's a good question. Who can know God? How can we see God? He made everything! The whole earth! All the animals (I list some choice animals. It's a big part of a four year olds world, listing animals). He made me; he made you! God is so much bigger than us, so different. But you know what? God wants us to know him. He wants us to know what he thinks about and what he feels and how he works. So, he came to us, on earth. He came as a baby and grew into a man and taught us and showed us, so we could know what God is like. Do you know his name? The one who shows us God?" 

"Jesus!" He smiles and goes back to playing. 

Of course he will have more questions about who God is, this explanation is only meant to crack open the door - to point to the One who reveals the Father, the light of the world! All I'm saying to him is- if you want to know about God, look to Jesus. There you'll find the Truth of God revealed. This is the foundation of our Christian faith; Jesus is the Truth of God. And it's a different truth than one might expect.

Richard Rohr explains how Christ turns common ideas about God on their head. "In one sense or another all ancient religions felt we had to spill our blood to get to God. ...God couldn't possibly love me in my radical unworthiness... Jesus is turning around of all primal religion...Instead of us spilling our blood to get to God we have God spilling blood to get to us! Pray on that for a week, it's enough to transform you." [2]

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Do you know what Jesus wants to reveal to you is Grace and Truth? Do you know when his light shines on the darkest areas of your life, though it may be uncomfortable, it will wake you up to the abundant life Jesus talks about? His light is life.

Let's read that verse again, from the Message:

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighbourhood.
We saw the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like son,
generous inside and out.
(John 1:14- The Message)

This Advent season- we waited-and he came. He did the moving- he did the coming. He did the sacrificing. I encourage you this Christmas to make time to meet with God. He has shown us He is a God who wants to meet with us. Receive his grace and love today- as creation responds to creator, not having anything to give back except what is first given to you.

The song "Simple Gospel" by United Pursuit has been on my heart while writing this post.

Let's rejoice today in the most important knowledge we can possess- Our God loves us.

References:

[1] Keener, Craig. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 1993.

[2] Rohr, Richard. Feister, John. Hope Against Darkness- The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis of in an Age of Anxiety. Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001.

Emily Barry

Emily Barry is most often defined these days as mom of two little boys and wife to a medical student. Not long ago she studied English Literature in Victoria and travelled as much as she could. Camping, swimming and reading probably make her happiest, as well as friends, old and new!