Vol 10 No. 49 Note on New Year and Resolutions, Preparing to Read Scripture in the New Year and Two Advent Devotionals on the Shepherds

Dear Friends,

Words have great power and influence…take the first paragraph of Bev Willm Best’s reflection on Luke 2:8-15

I am not a writer, but I do know this. Words have power. Words have called into being people and planets; they have started romances and ended wars. They have inspired nations and soothed babies. Words have broken hearts and healed troubled souls.

More from Best and Luke later. Words are powerful and even when the words are righteous, passionate, and well intended (I’m being generous to myself here), they can rattle to the floor ineffectually.

I feel passionately about scripture and the whole people of God needing the whole word of God. There have been real alarm bells ringing in recent Evangelical Fellowship of Canada research called Confidence, Conversation and Community: Bible Engagement in Canada, 2013, showing a real decline in Biblical literacy in Canada. (Found at http://www.bibleengagementstudy.ca/) We had a discussion about this in 2013 at the EFC’s Denominational Leaders Cluster and one of the points raised was the use of the standard lectionary for; 1. literacy in scripture and 2. for a missiological approach to relating to the 22 million Canadians whose worship tradition use the lectionary which means Sunday morning gets four readings instead of the typical one.

David Wells, one of our speakers at Banff, noted the use of the lectionary as his first point in his workshop. I firmly believe that the lectionary is one way to encounter a broader relationship to scripture but you who in your church are using another method to embrace a broad swath of scripture, more power to you and the Spirit as it works its will in your lives. I gave examples of churches that are practitioners of the lectionary, but there are many who do just fine without it. I regret I may sound too zealous in this area and will continue to look for and listen to other ways of celebrating the Bible in our congregations.

I want to share two advent devotionals from my home church, Kitsilano Christian Community. One is from Bev Willms Best, the other is my own. Each week until Christmas I will be sharing different devotionals that I have found particularly helpful to me.

Thanks for being patient in having a newsletter on what is essentially three different topics.

Peace of the Lord be with you as you have begun this advent season. Just a reminder: Advent is the start of the new year. Happy New Year.


In Christ,

Jeremy Bell


Bev Willms Best:

Luke 2:8-15

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people; to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you; you will find the child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known.”

I am not a writer, but I do know this. Words have power. Words have called into being people and planets; they have started romances and ended wars. They have inspired nations and soothed babies. Words have broken hearts and healed troubled souls.

I like to think of words as millions of glittering stars that writers catch and form into constellations that give us stories, histories, poems and songs.

And into the darkness, on an ordinary night, God spoke the words of Christmas that speak to me still, “Do not be afraid.” Oh yes, all that comes after is beautiful and breathtakingly lovely, but the words on to which I hang are the first four, hanging on to them with my own dear life.

When ISIS looms and Ebola threatens – do not be afraid.

When my thoughts and actions as a parent, teacher, spouse, or friend are never as I would like them to be – do not be afraid.

When my parents age and care providers become needy – do not be afraid.

When finances are tight and stress is high – do not be afraid.

When children are lovely, but relentlessly needy – do not be afraid.

When panic attacks come at 3:32 am – do not be afraid.

When it has rained for seven days straight and our house seems too small for the inhabitants who bicker therein – do not be afraid.

When the hours in the day don’t stretch far enough to meet my obligations and desires – do not be afraid.

When life sucks – do not be afraid.

I try to keep up the practice of contemplative prayer. My participation has been spotty and on every occasion, my mind wanders. In silence however, the word I return to is “trust.” On mornings that begin with this quiet focus, it seems the rest of the day falls into place more easily and I carry with me a more peaceful outlook. The presence of God is brought into my awareness and these words stick to my soul like glue:

Do not be afraid.


God is with us,

Today and forevermore.


Jeremy Bell:

Luke 2: 10

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions in the human experience. It was for the shepherds. It is for many of us reading these reflections, including me. Fear stalks the land.

From random shootings to ISIS, from concerns about food security to the degradation of creation, we live in a world that is wrought with very real anxieties and indeed haunted by fear.

For the shepherds it was the fear of the unknown God. Shepherds, going about their ordinary lives and work were ambushed, as it were, by the Heavenly Host.

This was not a welcome experience. It was not something to which any of these shepherds would have aspired. To be exposed to God or one of His messengers was invariably thought to indicate that a person was an object of displeasure. From the Roman occupiers to the natural predators that hunted both sheep and shepherds, these tenders of the flock had enough to worry about without being traumatized by encounters with angels.

Let us put to each other the core of this verse. It is at once simple, powerful, and mysterious. We were once afraid, we need not be afraid any longer. For Christ, in the incarnation, lives, breathes, and takes on all that might be fearful and says of the Father and Himself “Be not afraid, I am with you, through every breath and step of this journey of your life.”


In Christ,