“For to us a child is born, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace….” Isaiah 9:6
Some weeks ago, I became a hazard in the grocery store aisle. Somewhere between tomato paste and rolled oats on my shopping list I stopped abruptly….too abruptly for several other shoppers and an employee with a supply cart. What caused me to stop up short was a display with messages I would never have expected to find in a grocery store: slogans such as “Forgive and Forget”, “Turn The Other Cheek”, “Kiss And Make Up”, “Bury The Hatchet”, “Clean The SLate”, and “Bygones Be Bygones”. The display was the latest product to come from “Peace By Chocolate”, bars of lovely dark chocolate with cashews, produced in Antigonish, NS by the Hadhad Family. Well-known chocolatiers in Syria, they had to flee their homeland some years ago because of the civil war and came to Canada as refugees. They settled in Antigonish and early on, as a way of expressing gratitude to those around them, they made some chocolates in their kitchen as a contribution to a community dinner. They, and the chocolates, were “a hit” and so began a new chapter in their lives: re-developing their family’s chocolatier tradition here in Canada as they continue to re-build their war-torn lives.
Once the shopping and supply carts got untangled, I paused looking at the display of chocolate bars with their slogan-covered wrappers. It took me some moments to integrate the indulgence of a chocolate bar with the message, or call, for reconciliation, from those who have experience some of the worst division and unrest humanity can inflict upon humanity. Yet, I rejoiced that this family is using their knowledge, their skills and their heart-felt gratitude for a renewed life to share a message of hope in peace and reconciliation in the midst of daily life.
The Christmas season is often cause for people to consider their relationships with others. For some, it is a time of sharing love and companionship with family and friends. It is love, affection and caring that motivates people to exchange gifts, gather together with others in special ways and reach out with messages and greetings. For others, the days bring introspection and the recognition that all is not well with them and their relationships with others. As a minister, I’ve been a witness to some people who have felt a deep need to reach out and rebuild bridges of connectivity and care in relationships that have been marked by estrangement or tension. I’ve often been deeply amazed and awed by how an offering of “an olive branch of peace” has opened up unhealthy situations to new ways of being. For me, such insights are a sign of God’s amazing work in people’s lives and the power of love to heal and make new.
In celebrating the coming of Jesus, God reaches out to us with the gift of divine love. God yearns for our companionship. God yearns that we place our trust in divine care and faithfulness. God yearns that we come to our senses and begin to see the world through the eyes of divine love, forgiveness, compassion and care. In sending Jesus into the world, God is inviting us, and all of humanity, to place our lives in the heart of God’s peace, or well-being, for all of creation where healing happens and bridges are re-built, where love endows risk-taking for others’ well-being and restorations brings renewal and new life. God chooses to declare this message in a most unusual way: in the birth of a child…a vulnerable, helpless baby, born in a cattle stall, in the darkest and cruelest of times. This child would be named Jesus. This child would come to be known as Lord, Saviour, Prince of Peace, Son of God. In his living and in his dying, this child would show us the depths to which God loves us and the world God has created.
As we walk through these days of preparation and come to the celebration of Christmas may we do so joyfully and gratefully, that God has indeed reached out to us, offering us the best God has to offer: new life in divine peace and love through Jesus Christ, His Son.
As this year draws to a close, I’m delighted to report that the re-roofing of the church building has been completed, our Sunday School of six to eight children and the community youth group of around twenty youth continue week by week, that there are monthly opportunities of Bible Study and fellowship, and that we continue to have presence in institutions of care and in the community at large. Worship is all that more special when you are there to be a part of the congregation. Please continue to pray for the life and work of St. Andrew’s and remember the congregation in your financial gifts. Thank you.
Wishing you God’s blessing and every good wish for 2019
Re. Marion Barclay MacKay (Minister)