Today in the car, I was listening to a seasonal offering on audible.com from their narrators who were sharing their experiences about the holiday season. That got me to thinking about what I would like to share concerning Christmas. I recalled that many years ago, now; I loved to listen to Morningside on CBC radio, especially on Monday mornings when Peter Gzowski and Stuart McLean would share stories on numerous subjects. I remember one story where Stuart reminisced about the Christmas windows at Eaton's and Simpson's, which, every Christmas, were filled with moving mechanical scenes to celebrate the seasons and which were a favourite thing for families wherever they had stores. I believe Stuart grew up in Montreal.
I well remember all of my brothers and my cousins piling into the Queen Street streetcar, in Toronto, with my grandfather for the trip downtown to view these displays and the wonder and delight we took in it, especially as we drew closer to these iconic stores. It was something we always looked forward to.
Stuart went on to describe the intricacies of the mechanics that went into these displays and had even hunted up the folks who worked on putting them together. Then, he went on to talk about the holiday season in terms of the winter solstice. He spoke about how ancient peoples, especially in northern climes, feared the coming of winter and the shorter hours of daylight. He described how pagan peoples feared the dark and believed that the sun might go out. They devised rituals to appease the gods and looked forward to solstice celebrations which they used to convince the gods to bring back the light. At their height, these celebrations centred around December 21st.
I am sure that Stuart was aware of the analogy between the Christian celebration of Christ's birth and the return of the light, and this story has always resonated with me ever since. How clever our church fathers were to make this connection with new converts to Christianity.
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the light of the world and that his followers are also to be light in the darkness.
In John 8:12, Jesus tells us, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Matthew 5:14-16 says; “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’
And in Ephesians 5:7-14 it reads; ‘Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth).”
The celebration of Christmas is a time of renewal of hope and recognition of God's greatest gift to us - the coming of the Saviour of the world and the completion of God's plan for mankind.
Through Jesus’ coming, death on the cross and resurrection, our relationship to God can be restored and indeed, we are assured that God sent the Son to bring light to the world and we need never fear that darkness will overcome it. Indeed we are called to shine the light we have received to others in the world to share the free gift we have been given.
For me that is part of what Christmas is all about.
Like the star that the wise men followed, we can show others the way to the Saviour.
By Lynne Willoughby
Enjoy this song by a local artist, and CHRI announcer, Care Baldwin, “The Light of Christmas”.
The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still. Proverbs 27:9 (CEV)
After combing through hundreds of definitions and stories about sisterhood, and based on my own experience of having godly “sister-friends”, and doing ministry with all of you this past year, I’m sharing my understanding of what it means to have a sisterhood community.
Sisterhood is a bond that exists between women who are not related biologically, but who share an exceptionally strong connection as they do life together, sharing in the ups and downs, all the while enabling each other to thrive because of the connectivity of their relationships – relationships that are pure, and truthful, and authentic, and organic. In other words, real relationships. Relationships that are a way of life!
The Apostle Paul talks about the value of those types of relationships. In Titus 2, Paul instructs groups of people, through his letter to Pastor Titus, on how they ought to model proper behavior and he provides us, women, with some specific instructions on how we ought to mentor younger women. Before you discount this statement as not pertaining to you, let me say that no matter our age, we all know a younger woman.
Here’s the passage:
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This short passage can take a long time to fully grasp and an even longer time to actualize in real life. We may never entirely get all of it, but we can definitely give it a good try. Do not be mistaken, ladies, we need each other to grow and to be successful in what we’ve been called to do by God.
A while back, God placed it on my heart that I needed to develop some healthy, godly female friendships which I intentionally sought out. It also meant that I had to let go of some unhealthy relationships that were not adding value to my spiritual walk. Of course, not all my friends are Christians, but I’ve learnt the importance of choosing how to spend my time wisely and to focus on things that are life-giving and setting limits on the other things.
How may God be speaking to you through Titus 2:3-5?
Paul wrote this letter to Titus as he (Titus) was pastoring a small, struggling church on the island of Crete and while his church was living under the oppressive Roman Empire and the evil leader, Nero who wanted to get rid of all Christians. Imagine living under that kind of persecution!
Yet, in that context, Paul was instructing them to persevere and lead godly, exemplary lives as a model for the younger women (and men) in their community. Our oppression today may not be as obvious, or it may be, depending on your perspective. The point is that we have opportunity, under somewhat better circumstances to carry out these instructions.
Our women’s ministry has been gifted to us by a God who loves us dearly and desires the best for us. AW Women’s Ministry exists to provide opportunities for the women in our church family and our community to authentically connect with each other and to have a deeper understanding of the value of healthy, godly friendships. This is not only important in our own lives, but it is essential for the life of the church and for our mission as ambassadors for Christ. The different gifts we've received through the Holy Spirit enable us to be a source of strength and encouragement to our “sisters” during difficult times. What a blessing the women in my life have been when I’ve felt lost or overwhelmed!
Our Secret Sisters ministry, as a vital part of AW Women’s Ministry, is not simply a program; it is a lifestyle that we hope you have developed over the past year as you have prayed for your “sister” and observed her life unfold through the veil of those faithful prayers. Now, you have the chance to “reveal” yourself to her and deepen that relationship face-to-face.
Enjoy this gift; nurture this new friendship. Perhaps you’ve been paired with an older woman from whom you can learn some things about life. Perhaps it’s a younger woman to whom you can pass on some nuggets of wisdom. Perhaps it’s a fairly equal match where you can share your experiences and begin to build a true friendship. Some of us are extroverts, some are introverts, some are serious, some are funny. It is precisely these uniqueness that make for interesting friendships. But, be mindful that it will take time to build. Lasting friendships aren’t built overnight; they take years, so be patient!
“True sisterhood cannot be forced. It has to be developed with interest, patience, reciprocity and over time. Not every woman will be your best friend, nor should she be invited to be in your inner circle, but every woman is deserving of your respect and support when you are able to provide it. Sisterhood is not a trite word we throw around. Being your sister’s keeper should be a reflex. It should be based on how you would want to be treated if you were walking in her shoes. Sisterhood knows no boundary, no race, no class or geography. Sisterhood transcends, and it transforms us for the better. Sisterhood is from the heart."1
By: Sue Bloomfield & Yolande Knight
Enjoy another Carole King classic in which she joined a few “sisters”, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain to sing - “You’ve Got a Friend”