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Christmas Eve Schedule – Sunday, December 24, 2023
10:00 AM Advent 4 featuring Children’s Christmas Party followed by HeBrews Cafe
7:00 PM Christmas Eve Communion with special guests Winnipeg Church of the Deaf
9:00 PM Candlelight Communion with Senior Choir
Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us at Charleswood United Church.
Welcome to worship for Christmas Eve, Sunday, December 24, 2023.
It has been announced that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will be closed for all services this Christmas. Manger Square, which is just outside the Church of the Nativity, is traditionally the focal point of Christmas observation worldwide (at least symbolically) but this year it will be empty. Silent Night is taking on a whole new meaning.
None of this should come as a surprise. Though it is accessible by a short ride on a Jerusalem transit bus, Bethlehem is in the West Bank, Palestinian territory. With the war between Israel and Hamas ongoing in Gaza there is no sense in risking the well-being of vulnerable people. Though the conflict can be described as existing between Jewish and Muslim people, the prospect of thousands of Christian pilgrims descending on the place of Jesus’ birth is too fraught with danger to consider. There is no need and no place for religious tourism in the midst of open warfare.
But it is shame. The story of Bethlehem 2000 years ago has a lot to say about the Bethlehem today.
In the story of the birth of Jesus, Bethlehem is not a place of piety, it is a place of refuge. Those coming to Bethlehem, including Mary and Joseph, were doing so at the order of an occupying Imperial power. The crowding that resulted in ‘no room at the inn’ was a consequence of an entire generation displaced against their will. And yet a light shone in the darkness. A new life was born. A babe wrapped in swaddling cloths was nothing less than order in the midst of chaos.
More than that, though Bethlehem was, and is, a specific and parochial place, the events that unfolded in Bethlehem were cosmic in scope. The birth was announced to nearby shepherds by an angel as good news of a great joy. It was trumpeted by a heavenly chorus who did not sing ‘peace in Bethlehem’. Rather they sang “Peace on Earth and good will to all”. It is refrain that begins in Bethlehem but reaches out around the world that God so loves.
There will be no carols, no communion, and no pilgrims in Bethlehem this year. But we will sing for them. And we will pray for them. And we will gather in the spirit of an ancient and transcendent song. Peace on Earth is possible.
Indeed, in Christ, it is inevitable.
Grace and peace,
- For news and events please have a look at Life & Work on our website: Life and Work
- Did you know you can support this ministry by e-transfer, automatic withdrawal (PAR), and gifted securities, in addition to weekly or monthly cheques? For Offering Information please visit: https://charleswoodunited.org/support/ Thank you for your generous support.
- Through the United Church of Canada’s membership in the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, an appeal for donations has been issued for the Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East. For more information and to donate please visit: Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East Appeal
- Michael Wilson’s book “A Pastoral Pandemic: Remaining Connected in a Time of Disconnection” is available in store and online through CommonWord Bookstore (Canadian Mennonite University). For more information visit: https://www.commonword.ca/go/3408.
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- The reading for this week’s service can be found at: Luke 2:1-14