“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)
The story of the first Christmas is the story of a miraculous intervention in the life of the world—one that caused the heavens to rejoice, but was decidedly more quiet here on earth. The shepherds in the field may have been met with the uncontrollable energy of the heavenly host, but God was welcomed into the world by the sounds of a stable, and the loving arms of a mother who had one brief moment to gaze on her beautiful, precious, newborn child before the whole world began to change.
Christmas, this year, was similarly subdued. There were no large dinner gatherings, no crowded pews, no candlelight vigils. But the work of Christmas is ongoing. Here at St Saviour’s our mission priorities are broken down into three areas: Worship, Grow, and Love.
At Christmastime this year our Worship primarily moved online. We gathered together on YouTube on Christmas Eve to sing some of our favourite Christmas carols and to hear again the story of God’s plan of salvation in the world. This was followed by a group “cheers!” on Zoom. Our talented musicians went all out with the harmonies for this Christmas service. Piano was met with organ and we had a number of amazingly talented duets by our singers (recorded independently at home and edited together digitally). In true Lessons and Carols fashion it was a showcase of the richness of talent and passion brought by our parish family for the glory of God.
As a community we’ve Grown together in these seasons of Advent and Christmas by the outpouring of care people have shown one another. Phone calls have made their way around the parish, and at this point we’ve planned a great social soirée on Zoom in order to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Church History trivia anyone? One of the most memorable occurrences for me this year was the gift of an Arabic recitation from the Qur’an (Surah 19 – Maryam) by the children of a Syrian family who, every year since they arrived in the city, have played the magi in our nativity pageant. It was a tremendous gift for us to receive the grace of their heritage this year.
As for our mandate to Love our neighbour and the world around us, this Christmas has brought some unique opportunities, quite literally, to our doorsteps. We were able to partner with the local women’s shelter to provide space for them to collect and sort their Christmas hampers. They also generously provided gifts (including a new bike!) to a family in our own parish orbit who was struggling financially this year. Our own deacons have been busy assembling hampers and distributing stocks of clothing to over a dozen social agencies in the city. While the pandemic brought many of our programs to a screeching halt, the new ways we’ve found to make them work have been met with grace and have given us a clearer path ahead.
Christmas is a season for blessing. It reminds us just how far God is willing to go in order to convince us of God’s great and mighty love for us—a love whose outpouring is ongoing and alive today, even in the midst of a global pandemic, just as much as it was 2,000 years ago.