By Larry Schram
It is hard to imagine a more welcoming word than with. Think of the people you love the most, and then imagine being with them. Consider family coming home for Christmas, loved ones returning from long trips, holding hands with your soul mate, or cuddling a newborn. Think of the surprising joy of seeing someone you love—but believed was half a world away—suddenly walk into the room, and knowing they came to be with you!
That is the power and the gift of with. It drives our lives, directs our choices, and stirs our souls as we try and express its beauty in poetry, art, and music. Lack of with, on the other hand, generates fear, disease, and aloneness. Simply put, lack of with throughout the global pandemic, made many people unwell and revealed that with may very well be one of the most powerful needs of our lives.
It is also one of the most life changing gifts of Advent.
Theologians love to use words and phrases rooted in ancient wisdom and languages to describe complex truths, especially during this season. Words like incarnation, epiphany, kenosis, nativity and hypostatic appear regularly and these words represent important truths for those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. But there is one word that describes the heart of Advent, and you don’t need a crash course in theology and ancient languages to understand it. It is the word with.
Let me explain.
When Matthew describes for us the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus, he quotes the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and ties in a crucial verse of scripture, declaring that in the birth of Jesus, God is with us. This is far more than poetic marketing or the overactive imagination of someone who is clearly fixated on the Old Testament. Matthew wants us to understand that in the person of Jesus, God came into the world for one express purpose—to be with us. Let that truth settle into your heart and soul, because when we really grasp it, everything changes.
Think of some of the soul-stirring truths of the New Testament and how often they highlight the message of with. Think of John 3: 16 and the description of God’s love for this world, or the last section of Romans 8 and the incredible declaration that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Or think of our adoption as children of God and the life changing gift of abiding in Jesus. All these truths, and the gifts they represent, are just the unfolding of this incredible core truth: Jesus is really with those of us who know Him, and nothing can stop Him from being with us forever.
The little word with takes the deep and complex truths of Advent and scripture and moves them from technical doctrine to heartwarming grace and love. Make no mistake—that is why Jesus came. He moved heaven and hell to be with us…to be with you. May that gift—and the truth it represents—warm, restore, and heal your soul in fresh ways this Advent season.
Immanuel – God With Us
By Marleen Bahr
Sometimes I tremble
At the challenge of the journey ahead.
Will it be smooth or rough, short or long?
Will there be strength and wisdom
To conquer each unforeseen turn,
Courage enough to claim His presence
And respond in positive song?
When I’m tempted to complain
Or crumble under the pressure at hand
I’m reminded of Mary.
She must have trembled in dismay
As the message of the angel invaded every corridor
Of her quivering heart and questioning mind.
Gripped by conflicting human emotion she grapples with the truth:
“God in human form – developing within me!”
Her response is astounding: “I am the Lord’s servant…
My soul praises the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem must have been a roller-coaster experience;
Extreme weariness, body wrenching pain and heavenly rejoicing.
From Bethlehem to Calvary, from the empty tomb to the Ascension
She must have been torn between hanging on to her son
And letting go of the Divine Immanuel.
Mary was there with the early disciples
To wait, to pray and to experience the coming of God’s Spirit.
Mary was there to carry on the work of love her child had begun.
I, too, want to be available to carry within this human form
The gift of God’s love to a hurting world.
As God was with Mary He will be with me!
“Immanuel, God with us!”
Marleen Bahr is a member of West Vancouver Baptist Church, with ministry to Women. She is an accomplished poet with several self-published books.
We honor the following ministers for their tireless perseverance in serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you for your faithfulness, the many prayers, the numerous seeds, and for the hope and encouragement you shared with those touched by your ministry. You have truly made a difference and we thank God for you. Wishing you God’s richest blessing as you move into retirement.
- Les Clarke, Pastor of First Baptist Church Penticton (Nov. 30)
- Allan Walker, Pastor of Qualicum Community Baptist Church (Nov. 30)
- Laurie MacKay, Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church Vernon (Dec. 31)
- Del Riemer, Pastor of Summerland Baptist Church (Dec. 31)
- Grace Wulff, Chaplain of Vernon Jubilee Hospital (Dec. 31)
Introducing our New and Interim Pastors
Derek Baker, Interim Pastor at Riverdale Baptist Church
My name is Derek Baker, and I am the interim pastor at Riverdale Baptist Church in Whitehorse, Yukon. I along with my wife, Jenny and my two teenagers, Em and Dawson are from New York State. We came to the Yukon 15 years ago with SEND International as church planting missionaries. Some of my favourite things to do are cooking, hunting, and fishing. Riverdale Baptist Church became our church home over 3 years ago, and I was incredibly honoured that they called me as their interim pastor.
Wayne Snider, Interim Pastor of First Baptist Church Nanaimo
Wayne served as pastor of the Cranbrook Fellowship Baptist Church in Cranbrook BC, then as pastor of Armstrong Bible Chapel, in Armstrong BC. In late 2020 Wayne stepped back from ministry and moved to Nanaimo, so along with his wife Rita, they could come alongside their daughter Sarah and her family as Sarah battled cancer. Wayne responded to a call from FBC Nanaimo to step into a part-time role as Interim Co-Pastor, starting on Nov. 1, 2021 and again on Sept.1, 2022. Wayne and Rita have a son living in Victoria, a daughter in Calgary, and a son-in-law in Duncan, who is also a great dad to their 3 grandkids. In his free time Wayne loves spending time with family, drinking coffee with friends, riding motorcycles, and walking his dog, Angel.
Laura Nelson, Interim Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church Gibsons
Laura is no stranger to the CBWC, having been involved in a variety of capacities. Prior to her retirement in June 2021, she was the Lead pastor at Olivet Baptist for 12 1/2 years. Since then, she has been involved in ministry as an Interim Pastor. She has been with Calvary Baptist since May 2022. A notable fact about Laura is that she has written a book called, Avoiding the Potholes: Preventing Clergy Sexual Misconduct. It is her prayer that she can be of encouragement and help to those who are struggling in this area.
Crystal Campbell, Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church Prince George
I became the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church-Prince George in July 2022, with a focus on the Sunday worship time and volunteers, along with preaching in the regular rotation. I am not sure which part of my ministry is my favorite: getting to know people, planning worship, being part of music teams, or preaching…. It is all pretty great! That said, I am also still so new, that everything is an adventure at some level. I am currently looking forward to advent, so Christmas is on my mind!
On a personal note, my husband Ray and I have been married for 23 years. Ray works at the local correctional facility, and Sundays off are not that common, but when he is there, he is often onstage helping with music as a vocalist. We share a love of music, labradoodles, and games of all kinds (online, ttrpg, board… if it is a game, we will play it! except Monopoly. I will not play monopoly). Oh, and we both love a good dad joke and terrible puns.
Stephanie Fehr, Pastor at Olivet Baptist Church
Stephanie became Lead Pastor at Olivet Baptist Church in New Westminster, B.C. on November 1st, 2022. She moved to B.C. in October with her husband, Scott. and two children, Margot (6) and Jameson (4) from Edmonton, AB. For the last 9 years, Stephanie has served as Pastor of Worship Arts and Discipleship at Greenfield Community Church in Edmonton, which has been her home city since she was a child. Growing up as a pastor’s kid herself, Stephanie always felt a burden for the church and sensed God’s calling into ministry when she was 15 years old. That calling led her to serve in a variety of church ministries and pursue theological education, including a Master of Divinity from Taylor Seminary (now called Kairos). She is passionate about the church gathered and scattered and hopes everything we do as the body points people to the love of Jesus Christ.
Deb Judas, Associate Pastor at The Neighbourhood church
Deb Judas is currently serving as an associate pastor at The Neighbourhood Church in Surrey and Burnaby, BC. As well, she is the Director of Formation for Forge Canada – also a relatively new role for her. Deb has served in pastoral ministry for more than 20 years in various roles including discipleship, worship, and interim pastoring. Her passion is for the next generation and she has served in camp ministry as well, creating and implementing leadership training programs for summer staff. Soul care and holistic spiritual formation are also an area of passion for Deb and she has her own side business called Creating Space that offers retreats, workshops and coaching. Before coming to serve at the Neighbourhood Church, Deb was very privileged to be involved as a co-pastor in merging two churches from two different denominations, working with both Elders Boards and staff to establish a healthy and thriving new church. It was an absolute delight to see how God orchestrated things and brought unity between the two congregations.
Deb is a graduate from the Centre for Spiritual Formation and holds a Master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Carey Theological College. Her vocational ministry has spanned through various churches and denominations, but she feels excited to have come full circle back to CWBC which is the denomination she grew up in. Deb is married to Walt and together they have three grown children, two of whom are married, and their latest greatest joy is their two grandchildren. They are keeping the airlines in business traveling to see all their kids. Deb loves tennis, cycling, fitness, travel, reading with a good cup of coffee as well as finding the best plate of nachos around the city.
Jon Emanuel, Pastor of Mill Bay Baptist Fellowship
Jon was born and raised in Louisiana and moved to the Cowichan Valley in 2017. Jon has been involved in full time ministry for over 10 years and is excited for the season ahead as Lead Pastor at MBBF. He is committed to reaching out to the “farthest person out” with the gospel and love of Jesus Christ. Jon also loves to lead worship on occasion. Outside of work, Jon can be found with his lovely family. He and his beautiful wife, Amanda have three children and enjoy frequenting local hikes, beaches, and markets. Jon also enjoys woodworking and DIY projects.
Aden Mari, Youth Pastor at Summerland Baptist Church
Aden grew up in Lloydminster Alberta for the majority of his childhood. It was there that he committed his life to Jesus at Pleasant View Bible Camp in 2012. He then got plugged into First Baptist Church in Lloydminster and began to feel like God was calling him to be a pastor. After graduating High School, Aden then went to Briercrest College where he received his BA in Christian Ministry. Aden then moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and worked at a church called Lakeview Church for five years. After his time at Lakeview came to an end, Aden’s brother who works at Maple Springs Bible Camp informed him that Summerland Baptist was looking for a Youth Pastor. The more he learned about SBC and interacted with their people, the more he felt God pulling him to head there next. The feeling was mutual, and in August of 2022 Aden moved to Summerland to begin serving as their Youth Pastor.
Lorne Willms, Interim minister at Qualicum Community Baptist Church
Lorne is starting his ministry at Qualicum on December 1. Over the years he has given himself to serve the church and desires to see healthy, vibrant churches that engage in their community. Lorne has his MDiv in Pastoral Ministry and more recently has been continuing his education by taking courses in transitional ministry. He’s been active in transitional ministry in Alberta and BC these last 3 years and now looks forward to serving at Qualicum with his lovely wife, Heather. Lorne is a sports enthusiast and admits he is a Canucks fan – but don’t hold that against him =). He’s recently became a pickleball player in addition to all the other sports he enjoys. An exciting news item within the Willms family is that they have just welcomed their first precious grandchild into their family circle.
John Lunn, Interim Pastor at Fairview Baptist Church
This regional newsletter is published quarterly within the CBWC’s monthly newsletter, Making Connections. Have a story idea? Email our senior writer, Jenna Hanger: firstname.lastname@example.org