Vol 10 No. 52 Final Advent Reflections

Dear Friends,

I feel a bit like Yenta from Fiddler on the Roof; she was the matchmaker… in the film she introduced families and their children to each other so they could form relationship… in Yenta’s work, marriage… I feel like Yenta sometimes. I introduce families… churches, church communities and families to each other. I am only one of many who do that… Making Connections, this letter, Regional letters, Assembly, Banff Pastors Conference, leadership forums, celebration dinners, and Partnerships & Possibilities all do that introduction as well…. Very well indeed. So this Christmas, as a Yenta (my sisters, all four of them, call me a Jewish mother, which requires no further comment), I say “Merry Christmas to each church family”… and say that on behalf of each church family to one another in our CBWC family, stretching across four provinces and two territories, some of the most wonderful places to live in God’s world.

As before I have chosen 2 Advent devotionals; one from Tom Mei, in the CBM reader, entitled “Far from Home.” Tom and Grace know our love and prayers from far away… The second is from Jenn Milley, one of the most expressive writers I know. Jenn writes for the Kitsilano Christian Community Advent reader…

Peace, hope, love, joy, and the Christ who in his birth and more has given us all these.

On a sad note, Bob Bentall, father of CBWC Vice President Laura Nelson and of Barnabas founder director Rob Bentall, passed away on Monday, December 22 in California. He was the last of three brothers (the other two being Howard and Clark) who, along with their families, have contributed significantly to the CBWC. Bob has not been part of the CBWC for some time now but his contribution to West Vancouver Baptist, and particularly the then unusual architectural building, is noted here.


In Christ,



By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion.

Psalm 137:1


Far from Home

My wife and I are from a small town on Vancouver Island. There was only one high school in our town then and still only one high school there today. I grew up playing hockey with the boys in our neighbourhood and we knew everyone on our street. Mrs. M, the Italian lady who could hardly speak English but made great pasta, and her small quiet husband who knew how to make wine from the grapes he grew himself. Grouchy, cantankerous Mr. A who would yell at us every so often for playing hockey on the road in front of his yard. Our next door neighbour Mr. C always had a snide comment whenever he decided he’d give you a moment of his precious time. Small town folks all of them, including us.

Now we live and work in a big city in the middle of China, with an official population of 14 million (and an unofficial population of 22 million). It is quite a change for us. The sounds, smells, language and food are the polar opposite of the small town we grew up in.

Christmas here is different. There is nothing in the culture or history that remotely resembles the Christmas story we grew up with.

There is one Christmas tree on our street. It is a large commercial tree that stands outside the shopping centre at the corner. No one, save this Canadian couple, has a Christmas tree in their home. We hear Christmas music – no sacred Christmas music – “Rudolf,” “Santa is coming,” etc. People know it’s Christmas music imported from the West but no one understands what is being sung. So Christmas in our home away from home is rather hollow, out of place: a foreign ploy for shop owners to sell more stuff. Even among believers here, Christmas is not the season they prepare for. Families don’t get together for Christmas. There is no special food, no Christmas cookies, and Christmas hymns are only sung in churches. Advent and Christmas do not belong to this culture, even to the Christians of this culture – it is foreign.

Spending Christmas in this city, among these ancient people, whom we have grown to love deeply, makes me think of the Jews living in Babylon so many years ago – longing for home.

Tom Mei, Global Field Staff
Hong Kong, CBM

Luke 1:76 – 80

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

To give knowledge of salvation to his people

By the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God,

The dawn from on high will break upon us,

To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,

To guide our feet into the way of peace.

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day

He appeared publicly to Israel.


Wide Awake in the Dark

There is this moment in the night, when I know the dawn is coming, but a large part of me doesn’t believe it will.


Eyes rasp in dry sockets.

Spent grief.


A baby sleeps fitfully nearby.

A slick trace.

This insomnia

for its current comfort.


Whatever the reason, it is a profound moment of darkness, within darkness. And yet. In the midst of this trance-like state, another, more important, mement arrives. The room is suddenly less dark. Shapes begin to ease into view; blurred objects sharpen. The day is arriving, despite my fears, despite my sadness, my exhaustion, my failed belief. The world rebooted. Beginning again in light, it is the promise of itself.

Zechariah’s words to his son and gathered hearers remind us of this profound and beautiful congruence. Every dawn is a metaphor, and a lived event. And, because of His mercy, we’re told, God is about to send his own 2-in-1; God-and-Man, Son-and-Equal, Jesus. He is a Light to see by, like daybreak, but he is more than a metaphor, Zechariah promises. This “morning light from heaven,” God’s love manifest for us, will also show us the way to the path of Shalom.

As we find ourselves in the dark – figurative or literal – ay His light break in upon us, and be all that God promised. May it bathe us in love from Heaven, may it illuminate our way, and may it guide us into the way of peace.

Jenn Milley