Christmas is a beautiful time to remember how thankful and grateful we are. It is a great time of celebration as we prepare to celebrate both the birth of Jesus, and the truth that he will come again. A time when families get together. Join us for the prayer night this Tuesday either in person or online as we gather as a church family with our Father in heaven. Please don’t miss the opportunity to be a part of this important event in the life ofour church. The last two years COVID has changed many lives and families and for most of us our family gatherings havebeen different. Those with families overseas are learning to skype and connect electronically. Its not the same but it a wayof connecting. COVID has also affected our church family and we would like to encourage our church family to re-connect with each other. Our relationships across the congregation have been affected by lock-downs, limited social events, social distancing, so we are hoping that these events, the family picnic, morning teas, carols etc will encourage us to mix together and provide opportunities to invite friends and others along. COVID has had other effects. Some people have lost employment, and though government assistance has helped families, many are struggling financially and our Community Helping Hand is one way that we seek to assist people. Yourcontinuing support financially or with time and skills enables this ministry to continue and people’s lives to be changed for the better. Thank you to Ros and Jo and the team. Through the hampers of hope and joy we have been able to reach to needy families who have sought assistance from our local school chaplains. Next week’s lunch for those who are a part of Community Helping hand sees us reaching out to those in our community. Others have suffered bereavements and our service of Solace next week provides a gentle, reflective way to honour those we have lost. This is also an opportunity to invite friends or others who are more on the edge of our church community. They are welcome as we gather andcelebrate. Take some time this Christmas to pray for those who are in need. For those refugees and those seeking asylum, for those in quarantine waiting for permission to go home, for those who live rough on the streets. Though we can not meet everyone’s needs we need to start somewhere and make a difference. Thank you to those members of our congregation who do just that. In this Advent/ Christmas season think about how you can enrich and bless the life of at least one other person. Share with them the truth of Emmanuel, meaning God with us this Christmas.
There are so many good things happening this week and so much to be thankful for. It is the end-of-year Boys and Girls Brigade Parade, which is a great opportunity to celebrate the partnership between the Emmanuel Congregation and Boys and Girls Brigade. This partnership is real and it is fruitful as witnessed by the young men and women that are currently, and those that have been in the past, blessed by the leadership and programs of the Brigades to grow and develop in faith. There are men and women in our congregation who owe some of their Christian growth and development to the energy and effort of their Brigade leaders. It is a tremendous opportunity today to celebrate that partnership. Today is also the beginning of Advent and the start of the church year. Advent is a time when we take seriously the desire to prepare well. The lead-up to Christmas and to the end of the year is always a busy time. There are lots of events and activities both within and outside the church. Advent is a time when amidst the hustle and bustle we take time to reflect on what Christmas is really about. Christmas is about the coming of Jesus and so we prepare ourselves by looking back and celebrating Jesus’ birth and also to look forward to celebrate Jesus coming again. Both are important as we think about what Christmas is about.
Amidst all of the celebrations that happen at this time of year let’s make sure that Jesus is in the middle of our celebrations. I encourage you to use our Advent devotional material. The Jesse tree material reflects on the people and events from Creation to Jesus birth following the genealogical line of Jesus family. It reminds us of God’s saving grace through the lives of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Solomon, Elijah, Esther, Isaiah, Jonah, Habakkuk, Daniel, Micah, Zachariah, Mary and Joseph leading up to Jesus’ birth, reflecting on a different person each day. We have an event packed Advent season here at Emmanuel so please have a look at what is happening and how you can be a part of things.
It is hard to believe that we are in November already and that the end of the year is fast approaching. November means a few things for me. The most pressing one is preparation for the Advent and Christmas. How do we celebrate in a meaningful way the anticipation and expectation of both the coming of Jesus and his promise that he will come again. How do we get ready to inspire ourselves and others with the miraculous birth of Jesus. And its important to remember that Advent and Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus in the manger 2000+ years ago. It is also about preparing ourselves for Jesus coming again. In fact originally Advent was solely about preparing for Jesus coming again, and the focus on the first coming and the birth of Jesus only came later. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration, while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. And so Advent is a balancing of those two themes of remembering Christ’s coming and anticipating he coming again. For the church we celebrate this season of Advent from late November till 24 December. The 25 December is the start of the Christmas season for the church. And as the song goes there are 12 days of Christmas with Christmas officially ending on 5 January. So amidst the hustle and bustle of the world celebrating ‘Christmas’ how do you ensure you have time and space to prepare for celebrating both the birth of Jesus but also his coming again? Do you actually think about Jesus coming again, and what difference would it make if you did? Jesus is coming again. What difference does it make? And what are you going to do about it?
It's really encouraging to be part of a church where prayer is such an important part of our culture and values. Many years ago we named 'Fervent Prayer' as a core value - part of our DNA - and this continues to be the case today. Our corporate prayer on Sunday is the tip of the iceberg. Small groups and prayer triplets are meeting every week. We read our Bibles and pray individually. We pray for and pray with each other in good times and difficult times. This is a simple but effective ministry in which we all share - to uphold each other in prayer, and uphold our neighbours in prayer too.
I'm struck this week by the pace of change. COVID rules and risks, energy transition, inflation, property prices - we live in crazy times. I'm sure it's overwhelming for many. How our world needs to know more than ever that there's an Almighty God who cares for them (Mt 6:26)! As we work through Paul's spiritual armour in Ephesians 6 as part of our current teaching series, we are reminded in v. 18 that an important part of sharing the Good News is prayer: "Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests."
So, if you pray regularly and fervently, thank you. If you're part of a group that meets regularly for prayer, thank you. If you're part of leading and modelling prayer in our worship services, thank you. This is all important work. Please continue to pray for our church as we navigate change and transition. But above all pray for God's Kingdom to come a bit closer every day.
On 7 December (a Tuesday evening) we're planning to run a prayer meeting which is open to anyone who would like to attend. If you are part of a small group, please consider coming to the prayer meeting instead of your regular gathering that week. We want to continue highlighting that prayer is the engine room of the church. Dedicated events such as this raise the profile of prayer within our church and help us encourage each other.
It is hard to believe that we are in November already and that the end of the year is fast approaching. November means a few things for me. The most pressing one is preparation for the Advent and Christmas. How do we celebrate in a meaningful way the anticipation and expectation of both the coming of Jesus and his promise that he will come again. How do we get ready to inspire ourselves and others with the miraculous birth of Jesus. And its important to remember that Advent and Christmas is not just about the birth of Jesus in the manger 2000+ years ago. It is also about preparing ourselves for Jesus coming again. In fact originally Advent was solely about preparing for Jesus coming again, and the focus on the first coming and the birth of Jesus only came later. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis, they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. And so Advent is a balancing of those two themes of remembering Christ’s coming and anticipating he coming again. To balance the two elements of remembrance and anticipation, the first two Sundays in Advent look forward to Christ’s second coming, and the last two Sundays look backward to remember Christ’s first coming. Over the course of the four weeks, Scripture readings move from passages about Christ’s return in judgment to Old Testament passages about the expectation of the coming Messiah to New Testament passages about the announcements of Christ’s arrival. For the church we celebrate thi season of Advent from late November till 24 December. The 25 December is the start of the Christmas season for the church. And as the song goes there are 12 days of Christmas with Christmas officially ending on 5 January. So amidst the hustle and bustle of the world celebrating ‘Christmas’ how do you ensure you have time and space to prepare for celebrating both the birth of Jesus but also his coming again? Doi you actually think about the second coming, and what difference would it make if you did?
Yours in Christ
Front and centre
This week in worship we welcome Chappy Anna, and Chappy Sarah who work as Chaplains in local schools in Enoggera and Everton Park, where they live out their faith by bringing hope to students and families each day. The SU QLD website says “chaplains, or ‘chappies’, provide spiritual and emotional support to school communities. They are in the prevention and support business: helping students find a better way to deal with issues ranging from family breakdown and loneliness to drug abuse, depression, and anxiety. They provide a listening ear and a caring presence for children and young people in crisis, and those who just need a friend.”
On top of this, they also: feed children through weekly breaky clubs, lunchtime banana discos and food hampers; facilitate programs that help give students a voice and build their resilience; bring laughter to the school community by running lunchtime trivia and games sessions, and facilitating dress up and crazy sock days; show communities how to love each other through positive affirmation walls and gratitude chalk walks; and support staff and parents who are finding it tough to keep going with all of life’s pressures. Chaplains have a unique opportunity to be in schools and support the community through all these ways and more. I like to think of them as “being Jesus with skin on”, a real-life person, who shows the love of Jesus by walking and talking and living with real people in real situations every day.
I was incredibly encouraged and supported by the chaplain who worked at my high school, 20 years ago. Myself, and some of my friends went through pretty hard times during high school and having someone that was available and willing to walk beside and support us was a great. I think the support that I received from my school chaplain then, assisted to form my passion to help others today. I am also blessed by the chaplains that work at my children’s schools, and the ways they help me be a better parent by being part of my village, and supporting me and my family.
Chaplains don’t work alone though; they need to be, and are, supported and encouraged by their own village. The LCC (Local Chaplaincy Committee) is part of that village and helps the chaplain financially through fundraising and budgeting; physically by helping plan, prepare and run events and programs; and emotionally by being there to say, “you’re doing a great job”, give a hug of encouragement or pray when things are good, and bad. Working with others to support chaplains reminds me of the body of Christ and the different parts that we all play. When we step in and do the things that we can (like counting or donating money, flipping pancakes, washing up and shopping for food) we allow Chaplains to be able to focus on the things that they are good and gifted at.
Thank you to our school chaplains and thank you to those in our community who give up their time to support them in their roles. I consider myself blessed to get to support the work of chaplains in local schools, and I encourage you to think about how you might be able to help too.
Front and Centre
For a while now I've been trying to understand what it means to lean into and emphasize the relational nature of our Christian Faith. It's something that repositions the way I think about God, and challenges me to consider how I can live out my faith in a way that reflects this understanding, while not compromising on the truth of who God is. On Sunday, one of the phrases that Peter James used in his sermon was "Bring Jesus with you" as he explored what prayer can be. As I used my imagination to continue this idea into everyday life I asked myself "How would I describe Jesus if I was asked to describe him without using his name or explicitly stating his identity?" "How would I excitedly talk about 'my friend'?" Below is what I thought of
He's great with kids, He always has time for them
He surprises people you know? Sometimes, when people THINK they KNOW he helps them see what they are missing
I'm amazed by his wisdom, he sees things as they are, and sees things as they could be
He has time and energy for people, even when they think they don't deserve it
In all things, he points towards the Kingdom of God
He's patient, He's kind, And he loves
He's the kind of friend who would put his life on the line for someone who doesn't even know how he is
What I've written is an incomplete picture of Jesus, because his Triune identity is central to who he is. I'm not saying we should ignore Jesus' divinity. However, for me, it's helpful as an exercise to describe Jesus' character without using his name and choose to focus on his characteristics that might help people relate to Him. It helps me to realise what it is that I think is important when I share who Jesus is with others. It's helpful because it helps me answer "how can I shine the light of Jesus as I share my life with people?" It's helpful because it helps me to feel closer to Jesus and helps me to "bring Jesus with me" as I build relationships and grow disciples who grow disciples. If you were to talk about Jesus the way you would talk about a friend, how would you do it? Feel free to email me your thoughts
Grace and Peace
Front and Centre
At Church Council on Monday evening we were we were reflecting upon what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and a part of Emmanuel UC, and what we feel the next steps are. Paradoxically what was clear was that we were not clear. Emmanuel has done really well to weather the storm of the past few years with COVID and other things. As things start to return to the new normal, whatever that looks like, we were conscious that we need to enter a new season at Emmanuel. We have weathered the storm and though more storms will arise, at the moment we are in a place of calm. How do we use this space of relative calm well before the next speed bump comes? Though it would be nice to just stop and take a breather in the long-term that will not be helpful. However we also acknowledge that people are tired and fatigued, not so from church but from life. People are genuinely tired.
The continual pivoting around COVID have left many exhausted. At Church Council, as we shared this, the question that arose was what will help restore energy and vitality. How do we recapture momentum? We agreed on a couple of questions. The first is what does God want us to do? What is he calling us to do or who is he calling us to be? Until we work that out we will be working in vain. We need to be serious about seeking God in prayer and approach with a listening heart. The Prayer Course has been really good in this space.
The second is that though we are uncertain of the pathway we feel the next step involves building more strongly into the relationships we have. Our relationships need an up (with God) an in (within the body of Christ) and an out (the general community). Focussing on prayer and relationships is the start of capturing God’s purpose and hope for his church at this time. We do want to encourage those who can, to return to the building. We will continue live-streaming and it is a good stop-gap and a valuable ministry for those who can not come but it is not the same as being there in person. As more people return there is more energy, and people are excited to see each other. We do look forward to seeing you soon as we share together what God is saying to us.
Rev Brian Hoole
Front and Centre
Our small group has continued to meet via video conference throughout the pandemic and participating in the Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) has been a real highlight of the last few weeks. The eight-week series is freely available online and each session consists of a 20-minute video and a few questions. It is highly accessible to people of all ages and there is something for everyone to learn. For example, I had never thought about the difference between intercession and petition before.
Intercession is praying for others and petition is praying for ourselves. It is such an important contrast – so often we muddy the two together and the focus of our ‘intercessory’ prayer can very quickly turn inwards. The acronym ‘P.R.A.Y.’ (pause, rejoice, ask, yield) was also a helpful guide for personal prayer. But the most impactful experience of the last few weeks was hearing powerful stories of answered prayer from other group members. To be honest it completely refreshed my personal prayer time and gave it a renewed feeling of purposefulness.
The pandemic has put a pause on several small groups and it’s understandably difficult to get started again. It is even more difficult to start a new group or join in for the first time. But it is worth it! The relationships formed as we learn together and pray for each other are life giving and life changing. Joining with a few others to work through the Prayer Course (prayercourse.org) might be an easy way to start or restart a small group.
Please continue to pray for our Elders. Church Council will meet next Monday (11 October) and has several important issues to work through. We have a very talented bunch who faithfully serve as Elders. Please pray that we will be gifted with wisdom and discernment, and a real sense of where God is leading His church in this time of great change