Farnham & St. John's
The Weekly Message
REMINDER: Click here for Torrence's Fireside Chat Zoom Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. Meeting ID #874 6422 3213
Christmas Wishing

What are folks wishing for this Christmas? What are you wishing for this Christmas? What is available to fill a wish list this Christmas? And where can you and I find what we may be wishing for?

Strange times we are in. The winter surge which has us all more and more cautious or more and more frustrated is not really the colder weather or shortening days/longer nights. It is the predicted fall/winter surge in COVID that is sending us back to sheltering in place out of concern for not only our own health and safety but for the health and safety of those around us.

A byproduct of this “surge” is expanding ways to seek and find Christmas gifts for those on our Christmas list. While stores and shopping malls have indulged in their usual over the top holiday decorations, fewer folks are out and about with their Christmas shopping lists. Instead, it seems that the favored way to complete our Christmas lists is on-line. So, what is being marketed as the favored gifts for Christmas 2020? I turned to Dr. Google, Facebook, and other internet “sites” to find out. The posts on “Facebook” were illuminating. What seemed to attract the most “hits”? Things like the “worry free/healing drum”, weighted blankets that promised calming, soothing sleep, and my personal favorite a “Celtic Serenity Fairy Light Spirit Tree.” Things that promise comfort such as the furriest slippers, the perfect pillow, candles that give off heavenly glows and calming fragrances, balsam scented fire logs (thank you Yankee Candle) to bring a glow to any room with a fireplace.

Lots of tabletop or small space games/activities showed up where two or three could play together in small spaces. My personal favorite (I actually bought one) were the mini indoor little circular “drones” that move through the air just by pushing/directing the air around the drone with your hand.  Designed so that the little drone senses when something like a wall, door, a lamp, or piece of furniture is in the way. Get several, circle two or three of your “tribe” and watch it move as if by magic around the group.  Craft type gifts: metal legos (Moza) out of which you can build fantasy creations, a 3d coloring pen/pencil set that stimulates designs that actually leap off a flat page, and memory games to stir the imagination as the participants share stories. All of them very interactive and creative. And home gadgets. My personal favorite? A snowflake shaped tool with multiple “points” that served a variety of functions that otherwise required multiple tools (screwdriver, bottle opener, wrench, etc. etc.). Gadgets to help us prepare nourishing, savoring meals. A high powered “tactical” flashlight to dispel any darkness surrounding one’s home place.

Oh, I had fun surfing the internet Christmas marketplace from the comfort of my kitchen table as I lounged in my bathrobe and slippers. However, after awhile as I paused as something deeper started taking shape in my awareness.

Christmas is arguably the biggest market season of the year. Any company selling anything is more sensitive to the needs, desires and wishes of buyers for this time of year than any other time. What patterns was I seeing in the market reflective of the conscious or unconscious wishing in all of us that the market had sensed for Christmas 2020? The deepest core desires that seemed to have emerged? Serenity, comfort, healing, ways to be more peaceful. Ways to be creative, imagine new things, or ways to reimagine old ways. Desire to interact with each other, the ones we love and who love us within the shelter of home. Gifts that stir our senses: scent, taste, touch, sound, light.

As troubled and distressed we may feel as we seek hope and renewal as 2020 ends and thrusts us into an uncertain 2021, perhaps the greatest gifts this Christmas are the ones that touch upon the hopes and dreams of our truest, deepest self. As we touch base again with the truest meaning of Christmas as a child enters our hearts once again, the greatest gift in the greatest story, touching our essential need for togetherness, hope, peace, love and joy.

May it be so that we may be open to the gift . . . 

Background image is from Bishop Goff's 2019 painting "The Light Shines in the Darkness." See the full image in her meditation for the week in "From the Diocese," below. Used with permission.
A Special Memory

We began this new section last month. Do you have a special memory to share? If so, please send it to torrence.harman@aol.com

A Favorite Memory by Courtenay Altaffer

One year, I was on altar duty for the Christmas Eve Service which was held at St. John's that year. The altar had it's finest linen and hangings on it and we had set it for Holy Eucharist. The poinsettias were placed in their usual places behind the altar. The windows were dressed in more poinsettias and greens along with a candle in each. The candles on the altar and those in the windows had all been lit. The lights in the chandeliers were turned down to almost their lowest setting giving the congregation just enough light to enable our old eyes to read the prayer book and hymnal. At the appointed time to start the service, the priest walked up front and informed us that Ben Cox, our organist had been injured in an automobile accident on his way to the church. There would be no one to play the organ that night. Without the organ, an unusual quiet set in -- but when we stood for that first hymn, and every hymn after, we sang our hearts out. The final hymn was Silent Night and I don't think I've ever heard it sung as beautifully as it was that night.

From the Diocese -
Darkness Cannot Overcome 
Bishop Susan Goff
"The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it." John 1:5

"The Light Shines in the Darkness." Susan E. Goff 2019 >

Yesterday afternoon, my husband Tom and I hung colored lights on our porch. It was a beautiful afternoon for the task, the air crisp and smelling like winter. The challenge was that I had to keep turning the ladder to ensure that my back was to the sun as I wound the lights around the pillars, otherwise I'd be blinded by the blazing light, low and strong in the afternoon sky. Light blinds as surely as it illumines. Light pierces as surely as it comforts. 
In this holy season of Advent, as we look for the light of Christ to come blazing into our world, we experience the darkness of a continuing Coronavirus pandemic. What we know about increased infection rates pierces our hopes for Christmas. The news of a dramatically increasing death rate shatters our annual traditions and plans. We've known for a while that the late fall and winter could bring us to a crisis point, and that crisis for our health care system is upon us. Hope for effective vaccines is on the horizon as well, and fulfillment of that hope is drawing closer every day. Still, the dangers remain ever-present. As the days grow shorter and the darkness of night increases, the darkness of fear and frustration, anger and worry increases as well.
The light of Christ illumines our darkness more powerfully than a spotlight sun on a winter afternoon. The light of Christ pierces this winter of our discontent. It has the power to shatter our restlessness and scatter our dis-ease. The light of Christ shines in our darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. 
In this blazing, piercing, blinding light of Christ, we are called by God to make the sacrifices we must to protect those we love and to save the lives of the most vulnerable -- and we can do it. We can worship the newborn King in blazing joy without gathering physically in our church buildings for this one year. We can hang out with extended family and friends without being together in the same room. We can support and serve others without threatening their health. We can share treasured traditions in new ways, knowing that all of these sacrifices are for the sake of love and are only for a short time. In the light of Christ, we can love others in these and so many more concrete ways. That is, after all, why Christ was born on earth in the first place -- to teach us how to love fiercely in the midst of a dark and fearsome world, to show us by word and example how to sacrifice our own desires for the sake of others. We honor the incarnate, crucified and risen Christ by following his example in the ways this time demands of us and in countless other ways, large and small, throughout our lives. 
May the Sun of Righteousness shine upon you and scatter the darkness from before your path as you make sacrifices today, throughout this Advent season, and always. 
The Return of Torrence's Fireside Chat

Join me for an Advent Fireside Chat on Wednesday, December 9th and 16th from 5 - 5:45 p.m. as we Zoom together.

I'll be sitting by the fire in the Clopton Parlor at St. John's with a cup of tea or hot cider. Won't you share this time with me?

We'll talk together about this 2020 Christmas season and share thoughts of how to live into the four Advent themes of HOPE/PEACE/JOY/LOVE in this strange unsettling time.

I HOPE you can join in,
  that we can find PEACE warmed by the firelight,
    know JOY in simply being together,
      and share the LOVE that binds our hearts together as we look towards the coming of the Christ child,
         who comes into the world, yet again, to bring LIGHT into our lives.

Zoom instructions for Advent Fireside Chats
Dates: Dec 9, 2020 and Dec 16, 2020
Time: 5:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Click here to join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 874 6422 3213

For Audio, only - Dial 1 301 715 8592. Use Meeting ID: 874 6422 3213
The people ringing the bells on Saturday, December 12 at Tractor Supply from our churches are:

  • Susan and Jim Crowley,
  • Arline Hinkson
  • Becky and Ed Marks,
  • Sabrina and Carl Barber
  • Mercer O'Hara &
  • Stan Terhune.
The Haven is in need of individual microwaveable meals for its program participants. Some of the folks that they serve are staying at hotels with limited access to a large fridge and stove/oven. So, they need help with the donation of microwaveable meals and other snacks or non-perishable items for program participants to eat. These could be a single meal of frozen chicken nuggets or other kid-friendly meals that you find in the frozen aisle of your local grocery store. Instant noodles, soups, or other canned meals are very useful as well. If you plan to drop off any donations, please call (804)333-1099 to let them know when to expect you to ensure that appropriate safety measures can be practiced.
Our services going forward are e-mailed videos which will be sent on Saturdays.

December 13th
The Third Sunday of Advent

December 20th
The Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 27th
The First Sunday of Christmas
The Parish Prayer List

for those in need of God's comfort and healing
Courtenay Altaffer
John Barber
Martha Berger
Randall Bone
Sue Bowie
Nancy Allin Bush
Constance Edwards
Bob File
David Gallagher
Regina Griggs
Barbara Grander
The Rev. Howard Hanchey
Weir Harman
Billy Hooper
Rebecca Hubert
Marcia Jenkins
Stephanie, Nick & Donovan Kaywork
Jim & Sharon Krider
Mary Douglas Lawton
The Rt. Rev. Peter Lee
Susan Lewis
Frank Lynch
Susannah Marais
Pat Merkel
Tommy Neuman
Judi Newman
Kirsten Palubinski
James Rynd
Bennie Shepherd
Debbie Belfield Stacks
Scott Strickler
Waldy Sulik
Billy Tennyson
Roclyn Tennyson
Matthew Yates
Rose Mary Zellner and
the family of Harry Grander
and for those serving in our armed forces.
Royce Baker
David Berger
Ryan Berger
Allen Crocker
Randy Crocker
Court Garretson
Cameron Heidenreich
Dan Heidenreich
Charles Jones
Daniel Kirk

Mark Lawton
Scott Longar
Luis Loya
Christopher Strickler
Gavin Wade McClung
and Travis Pullen
Please e-mail any updates to the prayer list to parishchurchnews@gmail.com Replying to this e-mail will send it to Torrence.
December Birthdays & Anniversaries

1st – Brenda Harhai
3rd –Micheline Conn
9th – Vanelia Gallagher
9th –Elena Milsted
16th – Torrence Harman

17th - Brother Mark Jenkins
30th – Lynn & Ed Elliott
There are no in-person services this coming Sunday. We will e-mail a video service on Saturday and subsequently post it to our website farnhamwithstjohns.org, youtube and facebook pages.
Farnham Church
St. John's Church