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Dear Friends in Valhalla Parish—

In these days after Christmas, I often find that I lose track of time. I lose track of where I am and what day it is. I spend days in pyjamas, reading books, drinking coffee, building Lego with the kids, going for walks in the woods with the dog. This year, these cold days have kept me inside. Each day bleeds into the next. Some days I look up and wonder what day it is. Hours have passed since I last looked at a clock or my phone and I wonder what time it might be.

There is a beauty in this lostness, in not needing to subscribe to a particular schedule—at least for a time. And yet, in the midst of this blasted pandemic, such days have lost a bit of their shine and shimmer. A month or so ago, Ericka and I had been talking about our plans for the new year, and our hopes to visit my family in Ontario—who we haven't seen in far too long. In this particular moment, that seems all but impossible. 

This week's gospel reading is all about time. "In the beginning was the Word," John writes. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The gospel writer in mystical, poetic language, draws our memories back to the dawn of time. We are here and now, and yet we are being invited to imagine where it all began.

Stuck in a moment we can't get out of, the gospel writer grounds our story in time. He grounds the story of God and God's faithfulness in time, as if to say that this story, the story of Jesus, the story of Emmanuel—God With Us—is no story at all if it does not take place grounded in time. But before we arrive in the particularities of the here and now, we are invited to look over our shoulder at all that has been, at all the places God has shown up throughout human history.

And when we look back towards the dawn of time on the horizon, we start to count the many places that God has shown up. 

On Christmas Eve, we touched on these things in both the liturgy and in the homily (and if you missed that service, you can always go back and participate through this link here). The God who comes down at Christmas does not come down into a serene and peaceful world, but a world in tumult and strife. A world of division and political intrigue. A world of war and deforestation. A world, that is to say, not too unlike our own. 

And yet, the gospel reminds us, the Word—Jesus—has come to bring life. He is the whisper of what will be. He is both now and not yet. He is the first word of the sentence that God is inscribing on our hearts, the first "let there be" spoken over the waters in the beginning. And we—John's gospel will later go on to tell us—are called to do greater things than these. 

How can such a thing be so?

Today we find ourselves as inheritors of the Jesus way. We find ourselves as children of the God who is boundless creativity.

We find ourselves as children of the God who enters the chaos of this world, the disorientation we face in this time, and who proclaims—in word and in action—that there is life to be had, and that there is enough to go around for everyone. 

This is an audacious claim, and it's one I can't shake.

I can't shake this promise that even in the midst of this bleak midwinter, God declares a word of life that is for us and all people. I can't shake this repeated invitation to our community of Christ-followers to embody this very hope in our lives. And how might we do this? In the way we care for one another. In the way we pray with one another. In the way we accompany one another through life's trials, and celebrate in one anothers' joys. In the ways we seek to ensure that each one has enough, and knows that they are enough—beloved children of God, each and every one of us.

These days, many of us have questions—good questions!—about what the church might look like in the years aheadd.

The church through time will always evolve. At times the church will shift and change in response to the needs in the world around it. We will find ways to embody our deep gladness in response to the world's deepest needs. At other times, we will take rest, regroup, and contemplate where Holy Spirit is leading now. We need the time after Christmas to regroup, to rest, to get our heads on straight before the Magi come, and more surprises come our way. The church can and will change. We have, many times over.

But one thing, it seems to me, does not change. And we see this in this week's gospel. T
he God of the Universe—the one we have come to know in Jesus—steps into time, into life, into our relationships, offering love and care-filled ministry to us all. And, this same God invites us to embody that same ministry for one another. This ultimate reality does not change. It's a reality into which each of us is invited. 

Even as we enter the disorienting fray of another COVID wave, God is born amongst us again this year.

Into such a world as this, God enters. God is born as a baby, inviting us to care for the One we meet in the child, in the refugee, the widow, the person without stable shelter or adequate income. God is born amongst us.

And, do you believe it? God invites us in.

Not just to observe the child's birth. Not to stand at a safe distance, a good 2m apart. God invites us in to hold the baby, to walk alongside his parents, to offer our own care and support, to offer a wide welcome, and to bear witness to all the ways that God is being born—again and again and again—in our very own lives. 

We are invited to bear witness to and to bear the light. As the days grow longer, and the shadows fade, may we be such people. May we be those who pay attention to the times and places God shows up. And may we tell the story of the one who was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever, in all the particularities of our meeting.

Every Blessing,

Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Valhalla Parish Missioner