Christmas Message from Rev. Jeff
What was your favorite childhood memory growing up around Christmas?
For me it was Christmas eve. It began with midnight mass (which ended up
later changing time to 9pm and I would always laugh when people would
call the house and say “What time is midnight mass? And we would reply
We would arrive and the church would be decorated for Christmas and,
of course, the larger corner manger scene was up thanks to myself and my
high school buddy Danny Cote. Believe it or not we were allowed to take
the lumber from below the manse and the tarps and using staple gun and
hammer and nails we would put up a replica of where we thought Jesus
was born complete with a painted biblical tarp as backdrop. It had more
nails and rope and hooks to keep it up. I am sure most building codes
were ignored…but two high school students were proud to have done our
part to await the arrival of the baby Jesus.
I know I waited for the official signal that Advent had finished and
Christmas had truly arrived. I did not understand the depth of the story at
my age…but I did realize that being a part of this night was important to
me. My family were church go-ers and we watched as the upstairs and
down filled with the familiar faces and with the guests. The entire church
joined in to “O Come all Ye faithful” along with the choir and I could feel the
excitement through my body. And as we sang “O come ye to Bethlehem…”
we were being drawn into the story once more. A story of a crazy cast of
characters. An unwed mother, a worried husband to be and a child…a child
that would be the answer to an untold number of prayers. And words
announcing this birth from angels to smelly shepherds who also heard
heavenly choirs. This was a full out Broadway production number to get the
message across. And even though I could not possibly understand fully the
message, I knew I had to be there. This story was part of my faith journey.
But the celebration did not end there with the service.
For you see, I am French Acadian on my dad’s side. And I remember after
midnight mass heading over to my grandparent’s place on our street (we
called the Flat) for what the French know as a réveillon. This is a festive
meal served after Midnight mass. We would head over to my
grandparents who were affectionately known as Puss and Amy to their
family and friends.
And this was more than a festive supper…it was a feast. I remember
turkey (which has always been my favorite) and Grampy’s famous
TOURTIÈRE meat pie and his mince meat pies and incredible homemade
brown bread among other wonderful treats. Along with the food, many
members of the extended Doucette family and neighbors we welcomed
who were like family as we watched Gram and Gramp open their gifts. We
shared laughter and food and filled the living room with love. Somehow we
managed to stay awake but soon we were gathered and walked the few
houses back home. My parents still had to put the presents under the tree
and so my sister and I when we were younger had to be convinced to go to
sleep. I remember mom taking the jingly bells off our door and shaking
them (I should have remembered the familiar sound coming in the door)
and shook them saying “You better get to sleep…there is Santa’s sleigh
and he is over at the Giberson’s house and won’t come until you are
sleeping”. I remember closing my eyes and trying to force myself to fall
Funny…I don’t remember what gifts I got at Christmas…but I remember
the church gathering and the family feast at my grandparents afterwards.
Christmas for me has always been about the story and living out the story
in my family. It has never been about the gifts.
And with the world the shape it is in…we need so badly to attach
ourselves to the Christmas story and a faith family once more. For it never
gets old to me. It reminds me that no matter what I am living…God is near
and wants to be even more near to us. The story of this child who grew into
the person of Jesus and felt that love of God and found his way into the
lives of people who suffered and needed those words and actions of
healing, inclusion, new beginning. We need to hear those words again, to
sing the songs, to join as family and let the Christmas story speak to our
lives today. And this story comes to life in the midst of a church family.
So I am inviting you as you read this, to join us this year for our
Christmas family service on Dec 24th at 7pm or our Communion service at
11pm. And in between either service, stay after or come early before the
11pm and join us for a lunch in the old sanctuary between the two services.
A relaxed atmosphere to rekindle friendships, to meet new people and to
be welcomed to hear the story once more. Come and find your place in our
We also will be here at 10:30 a.m. for a Christmas day service in the
main church. Some will choose to gather at Erskine cemetery historic
church at Finch and Fairport for a Christmas sing song which has been
happening for many years. There are no bathrooms and no heat so dress
And if you are on the road heading to visit with family. Take our greetings
of love and may your visit be filled with family stories and good food and
the Christmas story to root your family gathering.
And may the Christmas story and the songs and the family rituals and
gatherings bless you abundantly.