MB Herald Digest | December 2021

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Come let us adore him Worship channels the refreshing waters of unity

VOLUME 60, NO. 12


Sixty years of sharing the life & story of the Mennonite Brethren in Canada

Q: How do you speak well about marriage with your neighbours, knowing that marriage can be difficult? A: Check out the Faith and Life online pamphlets about marriage and family. www.mennonitebrethren.ca/ nflt-resources

Mennonite Brethren Herald Digest is digitally published monthly by the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, primarily for the use of its members, to build a Canadian MB community of faith. We seek to 1) share the life and story of the church by nurturing relationships among members and engaging in dialogue and reflection; 2) teach and equip for ministry by reflecting MB theology, values, and heritage, and by sharing the good news; 3) enable communication by serving conference ministries and informing our members about the church and the world. However, the opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the church as a whole.

Digest DECEMBER 2021 | VOLUME 60, NO. 12 EDITORIAL OFFICE 1310 Taylor Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 3Z6 Phone: 204-669-6575 Toll-free in Canada: 888-669-6575 MBHERALD@MBCHURCHES.CA W W W. M B H ER ALD.CO M

ISSN: 0025-9349 The Mennonite Brethren Herald is a publication of

Blue Christmas 9 25 6




BLUE CHRISTMAS Shauna Caldwell


What can you do when the holidays hurt?


Sixty years

of sharing the life and story of Mennonite Brethren in Canada


ON THE COVER Northern cardinal in winter. Marker and

coloured pencil by Carson Samson.



From the editor

draw birds; it’s what I do. I am not a birder, mind you; I struggle to identify well-known bird species. But my dad loved birds, especially cardinals. When he passed away in 2014, I picked up my pencil for the first time in 15 years and started drawing birds. Hundreds of birds. This practice became my way of processing my grief while honouring dad. In Blue Christmas: What can you do when the holidays hurt? (page 20), Shauna Caldwell writes, “I think of ways to acknowledge the loved ones now lost to me: hanging a sentimental item in a prominent place, preparing their favourite food, or setting a place for them at the table.” Shauna speaks to the heart of those who grieve this Christmas in an epilogue to her series on loss. Christmas stirs up all the feelings: sadness, nostalgia, contemplation, and joy. Oh, and stress, let’s not forget that one. So often, in our efforts to make Christmas memorable for our families and others around us, we can bring ourselves to the brink of exhaustion and burnout. On page six, Bonita Eby’s resilient leadership column outlines the importance of self-care during the season. Regular contributor Phil Gunther gifts us with a series of Advent passages based on the traditional refrain, O Come Let Us Adore Him. Phil and I partnered on this series; he penned the words, and I provided the artwork. I ask readers to spend time in worship through these contemplations (and to look past my self-indulgence) and in these moments to “make space for JESUS to speak to our motives, thoughts, words and deeds.” Deeper searches into scripture in the context of Christ’s coming reverberate in Pierre Gilbert’s Project Redemption (page 12) and Joe Welty’s Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near (page 16). What can we learn? How can we respond today to what occurred thousands of years ago? This has been an excellent year for the MB Herald Digest; I thank contributors and readers alike for making this possible. Merry Christmas.




Communications director





BCMB opens support fund for flood-affected churches

O T H E R W AY S TO H ELP BC: >> Donate to Mennonite Disaster Service’s BC fire and flood response >> Make a donation to MCC’s BC flood response

As British Columbians continue to process the impact flooding continues to have across many parts of the province, they prepare for a long road of rebuilding. “Many are praying for the victims; and assisting in the clean-up work or donating to those affected by the flood.” Says BCMB's director of resource ministries, Denis Federau. MDS, Samaritan's Purse, MCC and others are working to assist in affected areas. BCMB encourages continued support to these disaster-relief specialists. To help MB churches whose properties have been damaged, BCMB has set up a designated support-fund account. Says Federau, “The rebuilding phase has just begun, and it will be a long journey. This is the time to come together as a family of churches to assist and support each other.” If you can assist, please designate financial contributions to BCMB by marking them as BCMB Emergency Response and sending them to the BCMB ministry centre, #302 – 32025 George Ferguson Way, Abbotsford, BC V2T 2K7 “We have seen God use this unfortunate natural catastrophe to bring new opportunities to present the gospel in our communities,” says Federau, “we believe God will continue to use these events for the furthering of his kingdom.” Please pray for Arnold Community Church, Broadway Church, Central Community Church, Greendale MB Church, Main Street Church, Sardis Community Church, and Yarrow MB Church.

Follow God’s Call On Your Life Train for ministry and build a solid Biblical foundation in Christ-centred community.






Walter Wiebe (r) walks with Princeton Baptist Church Kyle Nichols (l) along a muddy formerly flooded street in Princeton, BC


MDS Canada calling for volunteers to help with BC flood clean-up Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada is calling for volunteers to help with cleaning out homes in Princeton, BC following the catastrophic flood that hit that town in mid-November. Around 20 volunteers are needed by December 6 to help people in that interior community clean out their flooded homes. The call comes after a visit to Princeton on November 23 by Ross Penner, Director of Canadian Operations for MDS Canada, and Walter Wiebe of Abbotsford, who is serving as response coordinator on behalf of the MDS BC Unit. The two met with emergency response officials, took a tour of the community with Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne, and met other members of the community responding to the disaster. Initial reports indicate about 300 homes need to be cleaned out due to the flooding. MDS Canada is doing its work in partnership with MCC BC, an organization supported by Mennonite churches in BC that responds to people suffering from poverty, conflict, oppression and disaster internationally and at home.




“We see ourselves working in support of MDS Canada and local churches needing help in responding the flood,” said Wayne Bremner, Executive Director of MCC BC People who want to volunteer with MDS Canada for a week or for a day can contact Kelsey Friesen at 204-261-1274, 1-866-261-1274, or kfriesen@mds.org. Volunteers should be 16 years of age and older. Accommodation and food will be provided for volunteers who go to Princeton. All COVID-19 health and safety protocols will be followed by MDS Canada in the response, and all volunteers must be fully vaccinated. While MDS Canada is responding in Princeton, Samaritan’s Purse is responding to needs in Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Merritt. Donations are welcome for B.C. fire and flood response at mds.mennonite. net/donate JOHN LONGHURST

MDS Canada communications manager

Originally published November 18, 2021 It has now been several weeks since heavy rains caused massive flooding in southern BC The situation is rapidly evolving, and we are actively assessing where our help might be needed. We are now inviting cash donations for our BC Flood Response for those impacted by heavy rains and flooding. MCC is not at this time inviting donations of goods or material aid for those effected. There was an incorrect message from the City of Abbotsford and other outlets indicating that MCC Thrift Shops are receiving donated goods to be sent to flood victims. This is not the time for us to send unrequested donated goods into flood zones. Our response is still in the process of being developed as we discern

the needs that are not being met by others. At this time, we are not involved with the front-line emergency response. Our focus will be to assess the unmet needs of the most vulnerable members of our community and step into the gaps, support Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS) in their response, and to support churches that are responding to the needs in their communities and congregations. We are honoured and humbled to be receiving offers of assistance, including volunteers and donated good, which we will track for future reference. At this point, we can invite cash donations. Your prayers are appreciated. Please consider all of those working on the front lines of this crisis, for families who have been forced from their homes or have lost loved ones,

for farmers who have lost livestock, other businesses who have been deeply impacted, and for our civic leaders as they make challenging decisions. We will keep you posted on our website, Facebook and periodic emails as needed. With our deepest gratitude,




Executive director, MCC BC

For more information, contact: MCC British Columbia 201-33933 Gladys Avenue, Abbotsford BC V2S 2E8 604-850-6639 bcadvancement@mccbc.ca

Gif t s o f

y o J fort and m co

Delight your loved ones this Christmas by sharing God’s love with our global neighbours. Choose from gifts like goats, mosquito nets, clean water, books and more.

Find more gift ideas online.





Resilient Leadership The gift of self care

For leaders, Christmas brings a medley of excitement and challenges. While numerous opportunities arise for connections with our congregations and workplaces, community and neighbours, we often experience heightened levels of stress, obligations, and weariness. Let's talk about how we, as leaders, can care for ourselves during this season.

P H Y S I C A L H E A LT H Christmastime presents infinite opportunities to serve and extra duties surrounding the traditions we cherish. We often push ourselves hard, trying to get everything done. Perhaps we get less than optimal sleep due to burning the midnight oil. We may work through mealtimes and try to gain energy from caffeine and sugary snacks. Or maybe we skip our workouts to make time for additional work. Responses: Focus on healthy habits that support your well-being, enable you to work at your peak performance, and empower you to feel your very best. 1. Eat healthy meals that nourish you. Whether this means packing a lunch or picking up takeout from a restaurant that supplies fresh, wholesome meals at an affordable price, nourish your body with healthy foods. 2. Book your workouts into your schedule. Easy ways to bring exercise into your daily routine include going for a walk at lunchtime or transforming one meeting each day into a walking meeting. Implement five-minute fitness breaks throughout the day by doing sets of pushups, squats and planks right in your office. These quick bursts go a long way to improving your energy and focus.




M E N TA L H E A LT H During December, we tend to engage with people who are suffering. They entrust us with their stories and look to us for help. Loads of extra pressures and expectations present often expressed with less than adequate grace. All of this can add up and cause leaders to feel inadequate and stressed. Responses: Taking care of your mental health is essential for ministering for longevity. You must establish methods to help you keep your mind healthy, focused and clear. 1. Spend time in Scripture. Romans 2:12 says, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Memorize Scripture and recite it often to renew your mind continually. 2. Set aside time daily for mental health respite. One of the most effective ways to do so is getting into nature. Abundant research shows nature has a calming effect on our minds and bodies. Simply being in nature changes the way we think. Find an outdoor sanctuary where you can get away and commune with God daily.

There is no time like Christmas to bring out people's emotions. Grief from personal and professional losses, hurt from broken relationships, and anger from pent-up frustrations tend to come out at this time of year. As leaders, we are not immune to the energy people exude. Nor are we immune from our emotional conflicts.



Responses: Build emotionally healthy practices into your life to deal with the emotional energy you experience during this season. 1. Spend time daily experiencing and expressing your emotions. Suppressed emotions remain stuck and can smoulder for years. Practice journaling to pour out your feelings on a page. Speak to a coach or counsellor to learn new coping strategies. Combine a physical, mental, and emotional outlet into one by going for a walk in the forest while talking to God about how you are feeling. 2. Find ways to release your emotions creatively. Do you love music? Play an instrument or sing to your heart›s content. Do you enjoy creating? Become absorbed in drawing, painting or woodworking. Engaging your creativity invites peace, calm and tranquillity into your being.

S P I R I T U A L H E A LT H Christmastime offers an opportunity to speak about faith openly to a world that desperately seeks hope, fulfillment, and meaning. Additionally, the pandemic has caused much isolation, vast mental health struggles, and financial worries. People deeply desire spiritual insight, yet there is much opposition to the theology of one God, one hope, and one saviour. As leaders, we may experience these contradictions pointedly, along with the spiritual opposition from the unseen realm. Responses: Rooting yourself in Christ is vital to your spiritual health and critical to your effectiveness. 1.

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts

through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Spend time daily reading Scripture, praying, and listening to God›s voice. Rootedness in Christ gives us the power to minister and live an authentic life of leadership. 2. The above Scripture passage continues with Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen." You may feel pressured to find solutions to everyone's problems, including your own. Keep pointing to God as the answer. His power is adequate to sustain and flourish you and others beyond what you can even imagine.





R E L AT I O N A L H E A LT H There is no time like the holidays to bring out the rifts in relationships. Unsettled conflicts and unresolved inner struggles come to the surface during this time of year. As leaders, we hear countless stories and witness innumerable squabbles related to perennial issues. And we carry our battle scars that tend to become more noticeable when we are weary. Additionally, we can become so absorbed in our increased workload and elevated relational challenges that we have a little reserve left for our families and friends.

Endless opportunities arise in December to spend money. The world loves to tell us that money buys love and prestige. We may feel stretched by our family›s desires, needs, and donation goals. Meanwhile, many households struggle with the ability to feed their family and pay their most basic bills. Many come to our churches and institutions for hope and help. Responses: Making healthy financial decisions allows us to invest in the causes we care deeply about while maintaining peace of mind. 1. Evaluate your financial position accurately and create a budget based upon current reality. Determine an appropriate amount to spend, so you experience the joy of giving without stretching yourself thin. 2. Open conversations with those you exchange gifts with to find creative gift-giving alternatives. Perhaps set limits or exchange homemade gifts rather than purchased gifts. If your loved ones are on a similar wavelength, opt to donate to churches and charities rather than exchange gifts.

Responses: This year, make your closest relationships a priority. 1.

As a leader, you will always have more work than you can accomplish. An important skill is learning to work on the most significant tasks and becoming okay with letting the rest fall to the wayside. Discern your most important responsibilities and schedule them in your planner. Become comfortable with letting go of what is less valuable. By doing so, you will maintain greater reserves to foster relational integrity with your family and friends. 2. Too many leaders have lost their most significant relationships because their focus was consistently on those they serve at work. Deeply invest in your family and close friendships. Schedule weekly time for those God has given you as your primary ministry.




P R O F E S S I O N A L H E A LT H We tend to find ourselves overly stretched during the Christmas season due to the extra responsibilities and pressures of the season. This time of year is perfect for taking stock of how we are living our lives. Responses: Take time between Christmas and the New Year to evaluate what has worked well and what needs to change to flourish. 1. Use the Year In Review guide to reflect upon your past year and evaluate how you aspire to grow and change in the coming year.

2. Prayerfully examine how you have lived this past year compared to how you wish to live in the future. How have you struggled? What would you like to change to attain greater peace and fulfillment? Who can you approach to develop you in these areas? Reach out to a mentor or coach to help you reach your goals, dreams and vision.


attends and is a former pastor at WMB Church in Waterloo, Ontario. She is a burnout prevention strategist, executive coach, and owner of Breakthrough Personal & Professional Development Inc., specializing in burnout prevention and wellness for organizations and individuals. Connect with Bonita at bonita@break-through.ca.

HOW DO I PASTOR DURING COVID-19? e have been asking ourselves that question a lot over the last while. It’s not that we’ve forgotten to seek the Lord, study and teach the Word, live and share the gospel, and care for the church. Still, our context has changed significantly, and the people we lead are often not at their best. James’ letter is pastoral to the core. In closing, he writes, “My dear brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back again, you can be sure that the one who brings that person back will save that sinner from death and bring about the forgiveness of many.” (James 5:19-20 NLT) There are some challenges in interpreting this passage, but the thrust is clear. Many of our people have disengaged from the church during Covid. There are a lot of reasons why and some of them are entirely valid. Many continue to connect online, and others have come to drop out


of the community after watching streamed worship services. While we don’t always know why they are wandering, James reminds us that the work of bringing back the wanderers is eternally significant. We are all encouraged to do our part. Why not make Christmas 2021 a season of reaching out and restoring the lost and wandering? Gather your leadership and begin prayerfully planning how to engage as many people as possible in reaching out to people you haven’t seen for a long while. Doesn’t the whole story of God’s rescue mission to earth lend itself to this theme? Let’s be the light of Christ in this dark time and join Him in rescuing the wandering.


is the provincial director of the British Columbia Conference of MB Churches (BCMB).

On behalf of our global partners, we want to say

thank you. Your generosity is making a real difference. We’re so grateful that in the midst of a pandemic, you reached out to help others.





O Come Let Us Adore HIM


Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. Hebrews 13:15 (NLT)

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Westminster Shorter Catechism, 1647

“Rejoicing in the Lord is an audacious act of faith in Christ and a bold defiance against the darkness threatening to engulf us.” Beth Moore

In my thirty years of pastoral ministry, I have never

felt a greater need for unity and harmony in the Mennonite Brethren faith community. Equally, I have never felt as disillusioned by the toxic influence of our current social climate upon the Body of Christ—ideological, philosophical and political. Much of our sense of being on mission together for the sake of Christ has been made ill by this unhealthy reality. This fall I was pained in my spirit about how to encourage the people under my care during Advent. After days of Jacob-like wrestling with the Lord, appealing for a blessing of understanding, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me the word “worship.”2 Shortly, thereafter, the 18th century hymn “O Come Let Us Adore Him” began filling my thoughts. Could it be that worship is a potent catalyst for unity in advancing the Gospel; a prophetic word that I need to champion for such a time as this? Perhaps whole-hearted worship during Advent could serve to bring unity as we lift our individual eyes from those things that divide us to the One who can unite us – JESUS. 3 As we come to adore JESUS, are we ignoring or disregarding our deeply held concerns? No, in worship we are, in fact, bringing them to the One who is our peace; the One who breaks down walls of hostility.4 In worship, we prostrate ourselves and lift Him up. This Advent, I pray that the sound of our collective voices being lifted up to adore JESUS will also inspire us to reach past




our often myopic fleshly agendas to the great commandment and commission to which our Savior has called us. Let us genuinely worship JESUS – to adore Him – humbling ourselves and declaring Him Lord. Let us worship JESUS in truth and spirit proclaiming not our, but His, will be done.5 I am not naïve, and I do not hold to unity at all costs. I understand the complexity of the challenge before us, but there must be voices that continue to boldly advocate togetherness for the mission. There is no silver bullet, but with JESUS there is always hope and opportunity. In our sacred moments of worship, can we make space for JESUS to speak to our motives, thoughts, words and deeds? This Advent, it seems to me that worship can serve as a powerful channel to bring the refreshing waters of unity to our family of faith. And so, my friends, come let us adore Him.

O Come Let Us Adore Him6 O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord. For he alone is worthy, For he alone is worthy, For he alone is worthy, Christ the Lord. Let’s praise his name together, Let’s praise his name together, Let’s praise his name together, Christ the Lord. We’ll give him all the glory, We’ll give him all the glory, We’ll give him all the glory, Christ the Lord. O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

1 Rev. Philip A. Gunther 2 Genesis 32:24 3 Colossians 2:19 4 Ephesians 2:14 5 John 4:23-34; Matthew 6:10 6 Refrain, Adeste Fideles by J.F. Wade. Music – Cantus Diversi, 1751.





hristmas still and surprisingly evokes more than just pure entertainment. For a few weeks, there is a strange but noticeable kind of sentimentality that unexpectedly emerges. Hollywood sings the praises of the “Christmas spirit.” Ebenezer Scrooge erupts on our TV screens, and once again that old miserable, tight-fisted creature is transformed by the spirits of Christmas into a generous, turkey-giving, benevolent elderly gentleman. It’s clear to me that we maintain a sweet and sour relationship with Christmas. While we see it as a time to party and spend big—the survival of our economy, no less, being at stake—the Christmas season compels us to reflect on the less fortunate. Until New Year’s Eve, that is, at which time we are free to let go of our therapeutic guilt and wallow in the welcomed excesses of the New Year celebrations. There is something extraordinary about Christmas. The birth of Christ still has an energy that the enormous weight of a 21st century secular humanism is unable to crush. Christmas is about…To understand the significance of Christmas, we need to ask a most basic question:





What is it really all about? A cursory look around us will reveal that Christmas is about glitter, crowded malls, nauseatingly sentimental TV specials, time off, sumptuous meals, the traditional heartburns and let’s not forget the presents. There is, of course, a baby in there somewhere. Everybody loves babies. What is not to like about them? They are cute, cuddly and have an uncanny ability to attract politicians. Is that it? Is that what Christmas is really all about? Those of us who are a little more theologically sophisticated believe that Christmas is primarily about God taking on human form. It’s about God becoming one of us. But why would God do this? What could possibly motivate the infinitely powerful Creator of the universe to put himself through this kind of trouble? The answer is both simple and profound: God has a project. From eternity past, God intends to create a people made up of men and women who will be free and who will choose to love and serve him for all eternity. For thousands of years, God has been painstakingly working at this project—calling, prodding, redeeming one man and one woman

at a time. This project predates the creation of the world, spans all of human history and is even now rushing into eternity. Great projects, great obstacles But great projects always involve formidable obstacles. From the very beginning, something goes terribly wrong with humanity. You can read all about it in Genesis 3. The fall, as we now call it, is catastrophic. It affects the cosmos, human nature and the entire course of human history. The aftermath is so devastating that God should walk away. But infinite love and commitment never give up. After the fall, God immediately sets his eternal plan of redemption into motion. The first stages of this initiative unfold throughout the history of Israel. When the stage is set, the last piece of the puzzle is then put into place: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).1

1 U nless otherwise indicated, all Scripture citations are from the New International Version (2011).

Why does Christ have to die for the sins of humanity? What does he save us from? This may seem like a trite question, but throughout history, powerful forces have sought to trivialize the answer. And our generation is no exception. The Gospel of Matthew offers a profound insight into this question.


Massacre of the Innocents

In the story known as the Massacre of the Innocents (Matt. 2:13-23), the evangelist opens a window on the terrible alien-ness that infects human nature. Herod the Great hears that magi from the East are looking for a newborn king. This is bad news for everybody, for Herod perceives this as a personal threat to his rule. The announcement that a new king is born represents an issue for most kings, but this is particularly true for this Herod. It is tempting to describe Herod as a mentally ill man who comes from a family where mental illness runs wildly through the genes, but that is not fair to those who truly suffer from mental disorders. While the members of the Herodian dynasty can fairly be described as disturbed individuals, I don’t think mental illness does justice to what’s really going on with King Herod. It is far more accurate to describe Herod the Great as a man who has, like so many before and after him, given in to the siren call of the evil that inhabits us all (Matt. 15:18-19). He fed his evil impulses until they became a raging fire, an irrepressible corruption that consumed him from the inside out, rising to within a fraction of an inch from the surface of his skin, leaving the moral pus to gush out at the slightest touch. The darkness of the soul has grown long and thick tentacles around the king’s heart. This is the Herod who has his wife, Mariamne, tried and executed on suspicion of unfaithfulness. Mariamne’s mother,

Alexandra, her grandfather and brother suffer the same fate. Around 6 B.C., he has his two sons, Aristobulus and Alexander, executed as well. On his deathbed, he orders the members of prominent families to be shut up in the hippodrome in Jericho, to be executed the moment he dies. Herod wishes to ensure an outpouring of genuine grief upon the news of his demise. The order is never carried out, but you get the picture. In any event, Herod is unable to locate the child. But this evil man will not be so easily thwarted. He orders the murder of every little boy who lives in the territory where Jesus is believed to be. “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matt. 2:18).

What’s wrong with us?

The Massacre of the Innocents is not only about one man’s surrender to evil. It’s also about the brokenness that feeds our ferocious hostility towards the living God (Col. 1:21). Matthew tells the story to compel us to face our humanity and to ask the question we must all ask sooner or later: What’s wrong with us? As this question arises from our souls, we despair and grieve and desperately wonder if there is a cure for what we have become. It is the meaningless death of innocent children that mercilessly reminds us of what sin has done to

us. In fact, human history is so tainted by sin that even God could not intervene to save us without getting entangled by the evil that is part and parcel of the fabric of human society and the human heart. Keep in mind that Christ’s birth indirectly sentences to death 30 to 40 little boys who would otherwise have lived. But such is the tragic nature of reality. Who shall deliver us from the suffocating weight of sin and the scandal of death? For a lot of people today, there is no answer. That’s just the way things are. No use thinking about it. But for those who desperately seek a solution, Matthew doesn’t leave us hanging in midair. In verse 20, a ray of light cuts through the darkness. “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” What a promise! The one who faced death and opposition even in childhood and throughout his life has and will be victorious. But his victory doesn’t only extend over an evil ruler. As incisively painful as sin and death might be for us now, the story of Christ’s victory over Herod is the promise that one day death will be engulfed in a hurricane of life and joy. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:13-14).


is associate professor of Bible and theology at Canadian Mennonite University and the author of God Never Meant for Us to Die: The Emergence of Evil in the Light of the Genesis Creation Account (2020). Project Redemption first appeared in the December 2013 issue of Christian Leader. Read it on line here.




First Advent O Come Let Us Adore Him In the depth of darkness and despair... “...darkness and despair will not go on forever.” Isaiah 9:1 “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David.” Isaiah 9:6-7 O come let us adore Him this Advent as we journey our space and place of despair and darkness. Let us adore Him amid our brokenness and desperation. When gloom closes in choking out joy, let us worship the Lord of lords, King of kings, and God of gods. Let us adore Him even when doing so seems to others like an act of hopelessness and helplessness. Let us adore Him because He knows our spirit, understands our heart and provides grace sufficient for our time of need. “My soul glorifies the LORD, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary, Luke 1:46-47

O Come Let Us Adore Him1 O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

1  Refrain, Adeste Fideles by J.F. Wade. Music – Cantus Diversi, 1751.





Second Advent O Come Let Us Adore Him in the throes of battle... “...the Lord will rescue you there; he will redeem you from the grip of your enemies.” Micah 4:10c “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth. Then at last his fellow countrymen will return from exile to their own land. And he will stand to lead his flock with the Lord’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace.” Micah 5:2-5a O come let us adore Him this Advent as we labour on in hardships and challenges. Let us adore Him amid our troubles and trials. Let us adore Him even when disillusionment looms large. As our adversaries mount their assault and deplete our joy, let us worship Jehovah Sabaoth – the Lord of Armies.1 The joy of the Lord is our strength. Let us adore Him because He is sovereign, His good plans for us will prevail, and we can do all things through Him who strengthens us. O come let us adore Him for He is our peace.

O Come Let Us Adore Him2 For he alone is worthy, For he alone is worthy, For he alone is worthy, Christ the Lord.

2 Refrain, Adeste Fideles by J.F. Wade. Music – Cantus Diversi, 1751

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Heavenly Host, Luke 2:14

1  1 Samuel 1:3





“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” A unconventional Christmas message

Moses by sculptor Leo Mol. Moses is the first recorded prophet in scripture. John the Baptist is the last. Photo by Carson Samson




“Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.” Are you still reading? I don’t blame you if you aren’t. This is a jarring message at the best of times, but how much more so at Christmas?


Christmas we are inundated with voices sending us messages of joy, love, and anticipation. These voices are both sacred and secular ranging from messages like “Joy to the world,” to, “It’s the hap, happiest season of all.” We know there is a tension running through these many, divergent voices yet most of us have negotiated a tenuous peace between them. It is a peace that the Baptizer’s words do not so much disturb as shatter. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” We don’t often associate this message with Christmas. I have yet to read or even write a Christmas story that includes it. It doesn’t seem to fit. John’s message and ministry as a whole doesn’t seem to fit. And yet, when our four chief story tellers set out to tell us the Christmas story in the most




If we want to be prepared to understand and celebrate the message of Jesus’ advent—his coming, then we need to be prepared to hear and respond to John’s as well. basic of terms, they each include John’s message and ministry. So Luke begins the story of Jesus’ birth with the story of John’s. Matthew ends his account of Jesus’ beginnings with an account of John’s. And the Gospel writers Mark and John skip over Bethlehem completely, going straight to John and his message in the desert as their “Christmas story.” For the Gospel writers it is clear, if we want to be prepared to understand and celebrate the message of Jesus’ advent—his coming, then we need to be prepared to hear and respond to John’s as well. It is why Christians over the centuries have connected this season we call Advent not with Bethlehem, angels, or shepherds, but with John the Baptist in the desert. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” It is a jarring message. It is the message to look at what we are doing and where we are heading. To acknowledge the need to change the direction of our lives and what we spend so much time grasping after. To instead head towards God and what he has to bring. And not just this, but then John speaks warnings about wrath, an ax, a winnowing fork, and fire—his message confronting us with all the subtlety of an ax and fire. John’s message seems to have no place among messages like, “Peace on earth! Good will to all!” It can feel like his message


threatens to burn up whatever peace we might find and chop down whatever good will yet grow. And yet it is John’s voice that the people needed to hear and respond to if they were going to be prepared to hear and respond to Jesus’. They needed to hear his voice calling out their hypocrisy, exposing their need, pointing them in the direction of life, grace, and wholeness. John’s voice confronted the people with the reality of their situation. It exposed it like a fire and cut away at their false hopes and empty practices like an axe, the scorched soil and pruned limbs making room for the new life Jesus and his kingdom brings. Rather than destroying their hopes, it pointed them to where their true and deepest hopes are found. And it is John’s voice that we need to hear not just even now at Christmas, but especially now at Christmas. It is a voice that confronts all the others we are listening to, revealing what has our hearts and our hopes and where we are looking to find peace, joy, and love. Rather than destroying these things, John’s voice opens the door to being able to actually receive and experience these things as we stop looking to the people and things around us to give us what they were never meant to give. Maybe we experience John’s voice like an axe or fire cutting and burning away those obstacles that we don’t want to or even know how to let go of. But maybe we experience them like a lantern’s light or surgeon’s scalpel that works to reveal and to heal as we come to realize that what we need is more than a baby in a manger or some other sentimental moment of beauty or innocence. What we need instead is a King who comes for a throne by way of a cross. The one who invites us to change course and follow him. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

is the lead pastor at Crossroads Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg’s downtown and diverse St. Boniface neighbourhood. He and is wife, Ang, are parents to three teenagers plus one more who wants desperately to be one.




Third Advent O Come Let Us Adore Him In the grip of sin... “And she will have a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21 “All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:22-23 O come let us adore Him this Advent as we struggle with, and often fail at, living godly lives. Let us adore Him amid our conflict with selfishness and sin. As guilt and shame condemn and the power of sin crushes heart and spirit, let us worship the One who casts out our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. Let us adore Him even when the weight of our shortcomings is immense. Let us adore Him because He knows our weaknesses, was tempted as we are, and because He, the Lamb of God, brought us a complete and final forgiveness. “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” Magi, Luke 2:2

O Come Let Us Adore Him1

Let’s praise his name together, Let’s praise his name together, Let’s praise his name together, Christ the Lord.

1  Refrain, Adeste Fideles by J.F. Wade. Music – Cantus Diversi, 1751.




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Fourth Advent O Come Let Us Adore Him In the face of fear... “Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant—the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.” Luke 1:67-75 “And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!” Luke 2:6-11

O come let us adore Him this Advent as we look into the face of our fears. Let us adore Him even with trembling hands and anxious souls. He is Love, perfect in kindness and compassion, and able to vanquish fear. Let us adore Him even when all we hear and see tells us to flee and hide. As the terrors of the night—fright and dread—encroach, let us worship Jehovah Shalom—the Lord is Peace.1 Let us adore Him because He is our eternal bulwark, impenetrable fortress, and unfailing tower of refuge. “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” Luke 2:20

O Come Let Us Adore Him2

We’ll give him all the glory, We’ll give him all the glory, We’ll give him all the glory, Christ the Lord. 1  Judges 6:24 2 Refrain, Adeste Fideles by J.F. Wade. Music – Cantus Diversi, 1751.

Blue Christmas What can you do when the holidays hurt?





or some of us, life will be tough this Christmas season. Culturally, Christmas comes with expectations that everything and everyone is happy. In contrast, however, Christmas has a way of sharpening our awareness that all is not well in our lives. The joy of the season seems eclipsed by our community-wide losses. Our inability to pay bills—never mind buying gifts, fear about prospects for employment or relationships, accepting that a friend is dying in ICU, or sorrow over a loved one’s empty chair, can threaten to rob us of joy. As we continue in quasi-isolation, we wonder what happened to “Joy to the World” and “it’s a Holly, Jolly Christmas.” I ask myself, “how do I reconcile a season of celebration with the palpable reality of loss”? Even five years after the deaths of our sons, Jordan and Evan, the time passed has not made the Christmas season any easier to get through. Adjustments were necessary. I fortify myself for the season ahead by understanding my feelings, developing coping strategies and focusing on the hope within my realities.

Understanding feelings

The feelings associated with loss and change are both unfamiliar and overwhelming. Still, those feelings are normal. Even years after their deaths, my emotional threshold remain low during special holidays. When I am easily overwhelmed, I must pace myself. When I feel tentative and uncertain, I need to lower my expectations and avoid over-committing. When I am swinging on the emotional pendulum, I remind myself that this season will be a blend of both heartache and joy. It is common to have internal struggles with joy or laughter: I feel guilty as I enjoy lighthearted fun. Disappointment threatens to rob me of simple pleasures;

it pushes me —again and again—to wrestle with the idea that faith in God doesn’t insulate me from pain. Everyday events sometimes ambush me with fresh waves of grief: a song, a fragrance in the air, specific words or gestures. Some triggers I anticipate (pulling out ornaments or old family photos), but some triggers will catch me off-guard (running into a friend whose child has arrived home from university for Christmas break). Anticipating and recognizing these triggers and their effects is an important way to develop healthy coping strategies.

Coping Strategies

It is easy to neglect myself when sadness invades, but I’ve come to realize that self-care is necessary. I’m mindful that I should eat healthily, develop a balanced sleep pattern, and exercise. I avoid attempts to numb my pain by drinking, self-medicating, or other destructive behaviours like eating my pain away. It takes courage to permit myself to feel my hurts rather than run from them. I turn to an understanding person I know will listen to me without judgement. When asked, I accept invitations tentatively. I’ve learned to be honest with the host, sharing with them that I have good and bad days. I am ready to back out of commitments if I am feeling emotionally fragile. Pre-planning a tactful exit strategy is wise so that I can use it when my capacity for socializing has ended. I try to think of ways to honour the past and create new traditions. I think of ways to acknowledge the loved ones now lost to me: hanging a sentimental item in a prominent place, preparing their favourite food, or setting a place for them at the table. It is especially meaningful to talk about them freely; I invite others not to “walk on eggshells” around me.

Everyday events sometimes ambush me with fresh waves of grief: a song, a fragrance in the air, specific words or gestures.




I must embrace the practical limitations of my circumstances, purposing in my heart that they will not rob me of celebrating with those closest to me. My current mission is to accept and adjust to the facts. There is no perfect way to navigate this mission, it can feel like a roller coaster, so I need to extend grace to myself and others.

Hope in our reality

When it feels like the world is caving in, I remind myself that I won’t always feel this way. Things change. Though it is emotionally hard to work through grief, I recognize that I am moving away from a “relationship of presence” to a “relationship of memory.” This is one of many helpful insights of Dr. Alan Wolfelt, whose website is a great resource. The Christmas season offers me yet another tangible opportunity to trust God with my heart pain. The message of the Messiah’s birth invites God into our personal worlds of darkness. How desperately I need that light to cut through my darkness! Isaiah 9:2 (NIV) says, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” God sure did show up on that first Christmas night when the bright star pierced the sky, guiding the wise men to the place where Jesus lay. A celestial spotlight announced, “Here I am! God with skin on”. Fear is a predominant emotion for me at Christmas: I am not who I once was, and I struggle to get through Christmas. I take comfort in the angel’s message to Mary, Joseph, and to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid.” God acknowledged their fear, and he sent a direct message to calm their hearts. Why should I fear? God is with us. The awareness that I hold—that all is not right in my life—points me to that babe in a manger.


Emmanuel, God is with us. Oh, how I need Him! God’s incredible gift to me is eternal life; I have repented and believe in His name. Christ is the gift I hold dear, especially as I reckon with the realities of death and loss. I cling to God’s faithfulness. My pain is not the end of me! By trusting God with my heartache, I know that there are better days ahead. My days won’t always be this dark. Because of Christmas, my pain has a meaningful purpose. My capacity to cope increases because I have hope in the bigger picture. I am living life in partnership with him—I am not alone. God has rescued me from isolation. God is with me forever. With God, I have a whole and rewarding life. A life in which He loves, accepts, and forgives me.

Personal challenge

The pain of loss and change has a way of turning us inward. One outward way to care for yourself is to serve others. Open yourself up by connecting with someone else who is hurting or alone. Reach out to them, shovel snow for a neighbour, bake a cake, write a card, send a text, or offer to pick up groceries for someone. Take the initiative to phone a friend. You will discover that you become the unintended beneficiary of your acts of kindness. Did you know that you can be a “Hope Hero” to a friend who is struggling with loss? No cape required! Don’t underestimate the value you bring with simple acts of kindness. My friend Shirley Thiessen, author of The Little Back Funeral Dress, presents meaningful ideas on being a “Hope Hero” to a grieving friend. You will discover three simple suggestions in her short online video. God bless you this advent season. As you prepare your heart: feel all your feelings, build coping strategies, and reclaim the incredible hope of Christ.

lives in Calgary with Jason, her husband of 26 years. In one calendar year, they were gifted with three children – Katie, Jordan and Evan. Parenting “Irish triplets” provided opportunity to learn to cling to Christ for needed daily strength. Shauna’s twins graduated to heaven in 2016, after a dreadfully public accident. The Caldwells own a small IT company. Shauna is grateful to her Uncle, G. Neil Parker, for his significant editorial assistance with her writing.




ETEQ appoints new president L’ETEQ (L’École de théologie évangélique du Québec – the Quebec Evangelical School of Theology) is an educational institution at the university level. L’ETEQ is the result of the merger of l’Institut biblique V.I.E. and of l’École de théologie évangélique de Montréal and is partnership with the Faculté de théologie et de sciences religieuses of Laval University. The Board of ETEQ is pleased to announce that Jean-Christophe Bieselaar will become the new President of ETEQ. The transition from Jean (John) Martin’s time of service as President to Jean-Christophe Bieselaar’s beginning in this role will occur on December 4, 2021 at ETEQ’s annual general meeting. Jean (John) Martin has been at ETEQ since its origin at the merger of l’Institut biblique V.I.E. and l’École de théologie évangélique de Montréal. He first served as Academic Dean from 2016 to 2019 and then as President from 2019 to the

present. Under his direction, ETEQ has consolidated its financial situation, seen an expansion in academic programs and grown in the number of students. Jean Martin is moving progressively toward retirement. He will remain a professor at ETEQ along with working to develop and to maintain donor relations. Mr. Bieselaar brings to his position at ETEQ solid pastoral experience, service in hospital chaplaincy as well as involvement in higher education in Europe, the United States and in Quebec. He has pastored with the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Gatineau, Quebec, in Paris and in New York City. His work as chaplain has been done in several hospitals in Paris as well as at the Nyack Hospital in the state of New York. Jean-Christophe Bieselaar holds a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) from the King’s College - University of London in the United Kingdom. He also holds a Master of Theology

(Th.M.) from Westminster Theological Seminary and a Master of Divinity (counselling) from the Alliance Theological Seminary in the state of New York, USA. In the years prior to his pastoral experience and his academic career, Mr. Bieselaar had significant involvement in business that helped him to develop his management skills in the areas of finance and human resources. Jean-Christophe shares this vision for ETEQ: “I dream of a school that will renew and energize our churches in Quebec and beyond and of teachers who will profoundly influence the spiritual life of students, encouraging them to make a positive contribution to Quebec society.” Mr. Bieselaar will begin serving as President on December 5, 2021, following Mr. Jean (John) Martin (2019-2021) and Ms. Kristen Corrigan (2016-2019) in this leadership role at ETEQ.

An online family conversation on: • Vaccination mandates • Loving well, LGBTQ+ neighbours

Jan. 20, 2022

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A moment in time


People celebrating Christmas at the Gospel Light Mission Church at 406 Logan Ave. in Winnipeg's core. Men and women hand out presents to the children gathered. The mission church was an outgrowth of the downtown Sunday School ministry of the Winnipeg City Mission, a Mennonite Brethren sponsored initiative. Courtesy of the Mennonite Archival Information Database

S U B S C R I B E T O M B H E R A L D D I G E S T W W W. M B H E R A L D . C O M / S U B S C R I B E -V I A - E M A I L