parkdale united church

429 Parkdale Avenue, OTTAWA, Ontario K1Y 1H3

December 2018

Minister’s Advent/Christmas Message  


By Rev. Dr. Anthony Bailey


“First keep the peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.”  

­-Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ


It is almost impossible to convey in literary form, but imagine with me that I am writing these words in a – shhh – whispering tone. I have been trying to learn from the story in I Kings 19:9-13 that tells of Elijah’s experience with God’s presence. Told to wait for a visitation from God, Elijah obeyed trying to discern the presence of God in a strong wind, in an earthquake and in fire. God’s voice was in none of these. However, the voice of God came to Elijah in a “still, small voice.” In another translation of the Hebrew, God was in the “sheer silence”. Could this be a metaphor for the way in which the urgings, the promptings, the presence, yea the voice of God is trying to come to us? The presence and blessings of God can be found in “sheer silence”.


(I’m still whispering here) Indian activist and author Arundhati Roy proclaimed at the World Social Forum in Brazil: “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” What could God be whispering to us this Advent season that the roar of frenzied preparations, shopping, buying, partying, visiting and traveling might be drowning out? How can we help each other build in “quiet day” moments so that we can hear and experience the “breathing” of God’s reign – which both is and is yet to come?


To remind ourselves, Advent is the season that begins four Sundays before Christmas day and signals the beginning of a new Christian year. For followers of Christ and stewards in the service of God, this season is both invitation and summons. We are invited to recommit ourselves to the wondrous story of God and God’s relationship with creation as embodied and enacted principally in the birth, life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. As well, we are summoned by the contagious grace and love of God to delve more deeply into the implications of our formation as disciples of Christ and stewards for God.


The design of Advent is to intentionally permit us to choose to live time differently. Of course there are demands on our time over which we have little control. However, we do have great choice in many areas regarding how we live the time given to us. As a community of faith we are called to support each other’s alternative preparation for the gift of mystery that Christmas day celebrates. Instead of concentrating on “x” amount of shopping days left before Christmas, we are being graced to anticipate, welcome and “listen” for the countless moments in each day when comes the whisper of God reassuring us of our belovedness, or nudging us into forgiving a family member or another who has harmed us, or challenging our lifestyle choices, or urging us towards promoting greater justice in the world community, or challenging us to spend more time in prayer and other contemplative practices.


So perhaps instead of standing in line in the frigid cold for a new electronic gadget, we can stand together in the warmth of God’s grace and love, and in fellowship with each other. We can sing, serve, and worship our way into a new listening posture that makes us more vulnerable to the embrace and love of God, to the needs and delights of each other and to the plaintive cries for peace and justice of our sisters and brothers in the world.


Shhh…can you hear it? It’s already happening…God’s whisper is becoming more resonant in our hearts, our lives and in our life together.


I pray for us all a blessed time of joyous Advent preparation and anticipation, and a rich Christmas celebration of the gift of Jesus.