A Death in the Family – also interpreted from One came Two

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were splendid occasions.  As a family we were able to go to our first village Weihnachtsmarkt in Bad Krozingen to sample some of the local Gluwein and cast our eyes on the three story high Christmas Pyramide (usually a small wooden windmill-like structure that is turned by the heat of candles).  We had family visitors stay with us for four days.  Anke’s parents, Helmut and Eva brought with them a couple of tins of homemade Christmas cookies which we are still able to enjoy.  They also brought with them gifts, and a bird named Hansel.  Hansel, a yellow canary, made the journey down from Stuttgart and sang for us through Christmas. Hansel was the bird of Anke’s Aunt Gretel, who sadly died several years ago.  You see the theme already with the names of the owner and the small bird. The day that Helmut and Eva left to return to Stuttgart, our new house mate sung his final song.  While changing water and food and giving his cage a tidy Hansel died.  We were upset to say the least.  It was difficult to see that Hansel had large tumours under his wings and had managed to service with cancer for a few years.

A few days since, we have had an empty and well-scrubbed bird cage sitting in the corner of the room.  An empty tomb in Christmas made things feel more like Good Friday.  I have always enjoyed birds, both wild and as pets, so it did not take long to find some new house mates.  Out of the death of one elderly and ill canary has come two Zebra Finches named…yes, you guessed it – Hansel and Gretel.  Now with each new day we are pleasantly woken with tiny trumpet like chirps from this lovely pair of small birds. (We have been informed that as long as nothing nest-like is available to them, it will stay as two birds chirping, rather than a flock squawking).20151228_132213

For some of us it seems like death should play no part in our Christmas celebrations, but in my past ministry it often seemed that as the cold wind blew and the days were dark and icy that it was then that some of the more fragile community members did die.  As we approach Epiphany the gifts that were given to the infant Christ were significant and symbolic of the Messiah’s birth, life and death.  Within this season we also remember in the church the Holy Innocents’ killed because of Herod’s fears that one would usurp him in his power and reign.  Christmas is the birth of Jesus, but it is also a reminder of God incarnate being with us, suffering for us, and rising to save us.

 

 

 

Lists

I suspect that this time of year, it isn’t only Santa who has a list.  Over the past several days my To-Do list has grown in size.  Just when I think I can check a bunch of stuff off the list, more appears.  Obviously, one of the things that has remained on my list is sorting out phone and internet at home.  I can confirm that my whole family is addicted to the contacts made via phone and internet.  I was able to keep some peace in the house by getting a cable to connect the old tv with a modern DVD player.

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Various wires in our wall – on the ToDo List

Communication is really important, especially when one has recently moved to another country, as it would be great to hear a family voice over the phone.  Communication is also really important for me in preparing for worship and staying in touch with readers, musicians, and all who are involved in making worship…well, worshipful.

This past Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Advent, we had a great time with a Nativity play, and following worship, we had a Christmas party in which the sanctuary was transformed and decorated into a dinning hall.  Many Christmas games were played, such as, get to know the Parsons Family BINGO.  I am certain that there are photos out there with Anke and I wearing balloon filled nylons on our heads as the children in the church transformed us into Santa’s reindeer.  Santa did show up and presented a gift to each child (I lost track at about 31 children of various ages so Santa has a better memory than I do).

Since I am madly communicating whilst at the apartment that the church still has until the end of the year, and in which I have been using as an office for now; I shall end this post with a nice video that I originally saw on the Guardian Newspaper website.  I think it fits the theme of communication well.

 

 

 

Nativity

Plans for a Nativity play have been put off because of a limited time to rehearse with the children.  Things are afoot for an “everyone” Christmas Pageant on Sunday where those who wish to can play a part as the story is narrated.  In the meantime, I thought I would post a cute link that I have seen in the past. It is a wonderfully choreographed nativity play using a familiar tune from Queen, and some ‘liturgical aids’, also known as puppets.

 

A Sign, sign… everywhere a sign.

Advent is a season full of signs and symbols whether it is the Advent candles, or the signs of watchful expectation that Jesus calls us to in the scripture readings.  There are also many other signs that I have seen as someone who is learning German and is at times dependent on info-graphics for getting around.  Most of the familiar signs are the “EXIT” signs that show a person running through a doorway.  These picture signs are frequently seen on the British Columbia Ferries that anyone from Vancouver Island knows well.  The new vessels were actually built in Germany so they have many of the same signs.

Not only are there exit signs, but there seems to be a sign for just about everything.  Many of the written signs that I see end with stern punctuation (!!) alerting those not to park in this spot, or walk through this private roadway.  It is not always easy to figure out what is being asked in the signs so I bring out my dictionary to help me translate.

One of the more entertaining areas for signs is near my new home in the Kur Park of Bad Krozingen.  A natural setting with health activities and health services being located all around.  There is a nice area with garden sculptures, peacocks shaped out of a variety of bright flowers.  Dogs on leash, pick up after your dog, don’t walk on the grass, don’t walk through the flower beds, don’t feed the birds, Watch your step, and don’t sit on the fence.  All these signs are visible from one point in the walk. Oh, and don’t litter.  At times it seems a bit overwhelming, and at others, it seems a bit absurd to have so many directions.

What about the call of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Lord? Make his path straight, bring the mountains low and fill the valleys so they are flat.  At times the signs, although clear, can be confusing.

I am particularly mindful of the special Nine Lessons and Carols service that we will be holding at the Anglican Church.  How much effort has been made in preparations for music, singing, readings and readers.  It is a worship service that attracts a lot of people who don’t normally come to church.  There have been loads of advertisements, and personal invitations.  Will we make the signs clear to those whom we welcome? Will we, with all our preparations, not forget the simple message that people long to hear? That Christ is coming this Christmas season.

The age old readings form a tradition that climaxes with the pointing of the coming of the child Jesus, God’s Son.  I know that in welcoming those to our church that we will not overwhelm them with a mixture of signs, rather we will welcome them in to hear the simple message of God’s word, and promise of salvation.  Gratefully, the church is clearly marked for finding the front door, the elevator, the sanctuary and the washrooms.  We are so blessed with those who also ‘show the way’ with their words and actions.  Gratefully, the church is not full of confusing messages telling us in pictures that there shall be no parking, no skateboarding, no walking on the grass, and no fence sitting.  (Thank goodness, as I would not feel so welcome, myself).

I am most grateful for those who have prepared, and those who will enter to hear the simple signs of God’s promised Son.

Adventsimpuls

This evening I was fortunate to have the opportunity to worship with others from the Anglican Church in Freiburg as we prepared a moment of quiet contemplation in the midst of a busy Christmas Market in the heart of Freiburg. German and English prayers and readings along with some beautifully played flute music. There was a good congregation of folks that took time out to enter the quiet sanctuary of Sankt Martins Roman Catholic parish. Great to meet some fellow clergy in the person of Fr. Marcus and to know that he makes the space in the city for such ecumenical prayer.

Of course there was time for the children to make some candles and for the adults to enjoy some local gluwein.

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Men’s Breakfast

‘Breakfast of champions’ is how I would describe my morning with some of the men from the church.  Not only is the food great, but the discussion of our ‘light’ topic was stimulating.  What impressed me a great deal was the openness of the group to welcome new people who had just visit the church the same day as my first Sunday.  Not only was there a warm welcome, but there was good discussion.  Real discussion where I felt that people are able to speaking about different views and look at different opinions on issues that are meaningful to men in a Christian community. It is a place to question, discern and discuss – oh yes, and eat.

It was a pleasure to meet some new men, as well as practice my name recognition for those I have already met.  Pastorally, it was important for me to get an understanding of the background of many men.  The way they think, and discuss, and how they continue to grow in faith.  Whatever the discussion, and the opinions that are expressed, we stand side by side in the kitchen afterwards and clean up so that things are prepared for Sunday worship.

Everyday of the Week

Having now met a great number of people in Anglican Church Freiburg (ACF) I realize that many of these faithful people are also busy people.  Busy with work, family, and changing circumstances.  There are many activities that happen throughout the week for all of us, but what is it that keeps us truly together when we are apart?  I think this is prayer.

Often there is the temptation to feel that by doing something we are being active and productive.  Yet, when we are the most busy it is good to spend more time in prayer.  Ha! you say.  How does one make more time to pray when already the day seems to slip past so quickly.  I realize myself, that it is close to midnight as I type this out, but as soon as this is sent I will gather my thoughts into the ancient worship service called Compline.  It is a quiet and contemplative prayer that marks the completion of the day and prepares one for sleep.  The prayer helps me to set aside all that has been part of the ‘doing’ and allows me to simply fall into ‘being’.

How then does a growing parish with many lively activities during the week support itself? Perhaps it is not so much in the ‘doing’ that marks productivity, rather the quality of ‘being’ that is important.  As always the doing and being issues arise as they did for Martha and Mary.  I like to think of both aspects of our lives as life giving, just as one cannot hold one’s breath – breathing in and out is much like doing and being – part of a life-giving system.

My prayer, this night, if for the family I wait for.  For the people I have met today.  For the kindness of new friends. For the people who go unnoticed quietly working away for the kingdom of God.  For those who offer themselves in gracious ways to communities of people in need.  For those who feel that the day has been spent doing so much and yet they see so little accomplished, that they not grow weary.  For those who want to be more with God despite the chaos in their lives.  For the grace of God to let go of the things that we cannot change, and the sleep which will come, once we learn to put both the ‘doing’ and the ‘being’, into God’s hands.