The Earth, Spirit, Action Team Newsletter
St. Matthew’s United Church
December 2023 No._22______
Welcome to the Advent-Christmas 2023 issue of “Good Tidings”, the ESA Team newsletter that provides information on local and global environmental and climate change issues; suggestions for personal and political actions that will build a healthy planet; information about resources, and actions from other environment and climate change organizations; and information about environmentally themed worship and prayer opportunities.
We welcome feedback from readers who would like to share their thoughts with us. Our email is: email@example.com
We Come Bearing Gifts.
You know the story. An angel appears to terrified shepherds in the cold and dark of night saying, Don’t be afraid! I have good news, joyous news, for you and everyone. A Saviour has been born for you, Christ, the Lord!” In this Advent world as we still wait for peace, justice, love, and joy, God’s coming in Jesus with these gifts is good news indeed. Like the shepherds who went to see Jesus for themselves, we have great news to celebrate. God has come in Jesus with gifts to heal us and the world.
In this Christmas issue, we are grateful for the reflections of several friends who have shared their thoughts on the connection between the Christmas message and their concerns and actions on the climate crisis. These lovely reflections are scattered throughout the Issue. We have a Christmas Message from our Minister, a report on the November Lunch and Learn with David Constable from Kindred Works on ‘Building Green’, handy links to other environmental organizations plus a few gift suggestions, and a recipe for a vegetarian Christmas side dish from Marg Machum. We wish you and our world peace, hope, and joy as you celebrate the Christmas “good news”.
Christmas and the Climate Crisis…
Christmas is… When the land, sea, and air are "well again" (I'll even taker better) because of everyday angels -- Christmas is.
When those living rough, hungry, homeless, without - have 'enough' (or more) because of people of conscience and care -- Christmas is.
I long for, watch and pray for little and large 'advents' - that are happening, that make angels sing and stars shine; when weapons of wealth and war, are turned into ploughs and pruning-hooks; when the earth heals, and nations war no more. (Isa 2:4) Rev. Gordon Murray
'Tis the Season of the Nativity’ Rev. Betsy Hogan
Over the past week or so, you may have seen a photograph posted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bethlehem of their Nativity scene displayed in the rubble of continuous bombardment by the Israeli army. Christmas services are cancelled in Bethlehem this year. There are no safe travels and no safe spaces to gather. The people of Bethlehem too are surrounded by rubble, searching for food and clean water, burying their dead.
Nativity scenes hold tremendous and poignant power to convey the full import of God's incarnation and birth into our human life... as it is. The infant Christ laid in his manger in Bethlehem rubble evokes not only God's furious unwillingness to cede the field to the ravages of war, but also the infants that have been born under this bombing. The Holy Family riding the top of a refugee bus evokes not only God's furious demand for safe harbours and safe havens for the terrified, but also the refugees currently fleeing violence and hunger in too many places. A heavily pregnant Mary leaning on Joseph in a tent encampment evokes not only God's furious identification with the poorest and most desperate, but also the grim reality of those in our city for whom there's no room in the inn. Nativity scenes are powerful.
Another photograph: this time of the Nativity scene outside Saint Susanna Roman Catholic Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts. The stable, the manger, the star. Cattle lowing as shepherds and Mary and Joseph gaze down at the newborn Jesus. Wise kings approaching and an angel hovering above.
But the waters are rising. Already the stable floor is under water, plastic bottles floating around the manger. The wise kings are struggling -- one is already on his knees, close to being overcome by the flooding. The sheep struggle to find purchase, holding their heads aloft. A lamb must be carried on the back of one of the shepherds so as not to be lost.
"It's not a political statement," the priest says firmly. "It's a moral call to arms." If the Incarnation in the Christ-child is God's ultimate love-letter to the earth and to humankind, the earth that now greets the holy birth is under rising waters because of humankind. The Saint Susanna Nativity evokes not only God's furious commitment to fiercely and unconditionally loving all creation and the human family, but also the climate-related destruction that's already forcing mass migration and causing crop failures and even ruining our own pretty neighbourhoods.
Nativity scenes are powerful. We place Baby Jesus in the midst of our real world -- and the fearsomeness of its profound insecurity is heightened. Written over the Saint Susanna Nativity is the familiar reminder of the Christmas season: God so loved the world. But then, two more words: will we?
Christmas and the Climate Crisis…
“Around winter solstice when humans have always gathered around light, food, and music to give and receive comfort, I, as a Christian celebrate the birth of Jesus who brings light into a dark world. I feel more at one with creation. And I gather with my loved ones and my planetary health community to celebrate the miracle of creation, dispel the darkness of climate doomism, and renew my determination to engage in climate action.”
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.” Voices United 59
Christmas and the Climate Crisis…
For me, Christmas is a time of hope: love for our human family and the gift of Creation itself.
In this year of turmoil on virtually every front, hope is sorely needed. Creation suffers.
Jesus walked the earth as one of us; he walked on the soil, among the trees, beside the waters. We are walking on that same earth, among the trees, beside the waters.
To be stewards of this earth in the face of turmoil, demands Hope. The source of that hope for the Christmas people is Jesus - that he walked among us in Creation allows us to face each day knowing we walk surrounded by the world of nature He created and loved. How can we not be hopeful, walking where Jesus walked, now especially on this Birthday of Birthdays.
Lunch and Learn – Nov. 2023
Earth Spirit Action’s Lunch and Learn on Zoom, held on Sunday Nov. 28th with David Constable from Kindred Works was a huge success. About thirty participants heard an informative presentation on green building, followed by a Q&A period, and according to members of the ESA Team, Constable was impressive for his knowledge and grasp of the green science, his experience with different ways of doing things, and ‘what works and doesn’t work’, and his candor.
Constable indicated during the Q&A that he was available to respond to queries about interim measures, greening our facilities while Legacy Project negotiations and organizational processes are happening. His input could include advice on energy audit recommendations, such as insulating the Sanctuary attic or installing heat pumps in the Church, options that the ESA Team would like to research and explore. This informative Lunch & Learn was recorded and a Link will be available in the Minister’s weekly letter shortly.
Lunch & Learn January 28th, 2024.
The next Lunch & Learn will take place in person in the Hall following church, with Sera Thompson, Climate Engagement Specialist for the HRM, on Sunday Jan. 28th, 2024. Ms. Thompson will speak on how citizens can assist in greening our city. Come with your questions and suggestions. Gluten free soup is on the menu!
Christmas and the Climate Crisis… Reflections on Birth, Re-Birth, and the Environment - Tim Matthews
In John 3, Jesus advised the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. … unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
What is this dual inheritance? In effect, I believe, Jesus was addressing the two natures or aspects of human beings. Our worst instincts flow from our physical and mental faults – our greed, fear, short-sightedness, traditionally called our sinful nature. Out of these instincts, we have pursued domination of other human beings, other species, and the earth itself. This is founded on a belief that all of creation exists for our selfish benefit; that we hold absolute rights of exploitation without any responsibility for wise stewardship.
Our better nature, the spiritual instincts to which we must be born again, lead in the opposite direction. As we do not “own” the world around us, but simply occupy and enjoy part of it for a short lifespan, we have a moral obligation to preserve it, to protect it, to enhance it, for the benefit of all those human beings and other species, both animals and plants, that will come after us.
Re-birth requires repentance, in the sense of “changing our minds” or “turning around”. To address the climate emergency, our better nature must come to the fore.
A Christmas Dinner Side Dish Recipe contributed by Margaret Machum
Brussel Sprouts with Almonds
3.5 cups Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
1 cup almonds, sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup oil
1 lemon, juiced
salt, and pepper to taste.
1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with cold water. Turn on oven to 300F.
2. Place Brussels sprouts in a colander. Slowly pour boiling water over them.
3. Transfer sprouts to cold water. The sprouts should be firm but no longer raw.
4. Place almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes.
5. In a small frying pan, saute garlic in small amount of vegetable oil until softened.
6.Combine Brussels sprouts, almonds, and garlic in large mixing bowl. Add lemon juice, oil as desired, salt and pepper.
7. Toss and serve.
Christmas and the Climate Crisis… Carol Smillie
The Christmas Community Creation story of a new born baby coming into our world reaffirms for me that we are surrounded by natural helpers who come forth to support us at our time of need just as they did for Mary and Joseph and the new born baby. Someone found a donkey when it was needed. Someone found a bed for the newborn and the shepherds and the kings who had traveled to offer care and expertise. There was a community of helpers who were willing to step out and be counted. I believe there are also today a community of individuals who work with no thought of personal gain to care for humankind. They are the volunteers who are using their knowledge and expertise to offer care for our environment. They are those who recycle garbage, turn off lights that are not in use, walk or cycle, enable and protect our local food market and publish current information in accessible format. These are the people who will make a difference. These are the risk takers who use their savings to put turbines in our water or build wind mills to generate power. They are not waiting for government and big bucks to solve our environmental concerns. They are all around us just as they were for Mary and Joseph. There is a volunteer spirit surrounding and within each living organism. There will be change but we are not alone.
Turner, Chris; How to be a Climate Optimist: Blueprints for a Better World,
Random House Canada, 2022.
And Mary said, “His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” Luke 1: 51-53
Watching and Waiting… A Prayer for COP 28
Awaiting the outcomes of COP28, the UN’s annual climate crisis meeting involving representatives from nations, people’s organizations including religious and youth groups, and fossil fuel and other energy industries, is ’Advent watching and waiting‘ in ‘real time’. We are hoping for game-changing breakthroughs that will mend and heal a world suffering the effects of climate change. We are looking for rescue, praying that these world leaders, making crucial decisions about the climate crisis and its devastating effects, will listen to the Lord. We are asking the Lord to send justice and wisdom, courage, along with just a small portion of God’s longing for the healthy future of the human family and all creation. We are asking the Lord to guard these leaders from being tempted by riches and power, so their decisions will be just, and bring healing to creation and all people. We are thankful that wealthy nations have committed to fund remedial efforts in poor countries that without having contributed to global warming, have suffered damage due to climate disasters. May this be followed by many more decisions that are just and healing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Christmas and the Climate Crisis
UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN by Margaret Machum A quiet night, a couple seeking shelter. Angels singing, shepherds and magi arriving. Animals adding their presence. These images are Christmas to me. As I journey through life, I embrace the quiet moments, the sharing of significant events, while appreciating the diversity of people, fauna, and flora. These experiences inspire me to advocate for behaviours that help us grow and thrive, and for thinking that will save us from overwhelming the balance of the Earth.
Christmas and the Climate Crisis Anne Marie Dalton.
Christmas celebrates the incarnation of God. God enters into human history carrying forward the prophetic tradition of justice and charity. As the perfectly authentic (sinless) person, Jesus takes on the qualities of humility, simplicity of life, sacrifice for what is good, and advocacy for righteousness. In today’s world where human-caused climate change exacerbates all other issues, an authentic human life requires climate action. But also, God takes on the earthiness of human flesh. That is what differentiates Jesus from the other prophets of the Bible; Jesus is God enfleshed, sharing with all of creation from stars to earthworms to humans the same elements, cells, emotions, desires etc. The Incarnation of God completes and witnesses to the sanctity of the physical world, already holy from origin, poured forth from the loving word of God. To me, to endanger such a creation to the point of irreversible harm is the ultimate act of sacrilege.
Some Green Christmas Gifts that will make the world a better place for our children. Margaret Machum developed this list of gift possibilities that focuses on helping children of the world suffering from emergency situations.
Gifts of Joy from Save the Children https://www.savethechildren.ca/
*Medicine and Vaccines to provide life-saving protection
*Animals such as goats, sheep, and chicks to provide a daily supply of milk and eggs, as well as wool and fertilizer
*Hygiene and Clean Water Kit to help prevent disease
*Emergency Food for children caught in crises such as drought, food prices, and war
*Education and School Lunches (con’t)
UNHCR Gifts Shop. https://www.unhcr.ca/ Help to provide shelter and dignity to an entire refugee family
*UNICEF Survival Gifts: Real Gifts with Real Impact
*Help to educate a girl, restock a malnutrition centre or an emergency medical centre
*Reunite a child with their family
*Provide for vaccines against measles, polio, or tetanus
*Provide school essentials and supplies
*Give urgent aid for children threatened by emergencies.
You can find more suggestions for green gifts in past Christmas issues of Good Tidings on the Earth Spirit Action page of the St. Matt’s website. You’ll also find suggestions about climate change and environmental groups you can donate to in the name of a relative or friend.
And Another Way to Give a Green Gift This Christmas…
We can all give a green gift to our world and the global family by keeping informed about local and wider environmental and climate issues, such as decision-making at COP28, and finding ways to advocate for our concerns. The groups below are committed to working on environmental and climate crisis issues. They provide information and research on current environmental threats. They plan advocacy efforts and offer ways for you to contact local or national political leaders to register your opinions on critical issues, through petitions, letters, and phone campaigns. You can support their work by becoming members, and by supporting them with your financial gifts.
Here are links to some of these groups you might like to check out:
Ecology Action Centre, Halifax https://ecologyaction.ca
Kairos Canada (A program of the UCofC) https://www.kairoscanada.org
For the Love of Creation (UCofC program) https://fortheloveofcreation.ca/
Citizens for Public Justice https://cpj.ca
David Suzuki Foundation https://davidsuzuki.org/
Sierra Club of Canada https://www.sierraclub.ca/ https://www.sierraclub.ca/chapters/atlantic/
Greenpeace Canada https://greenpeace.org/canada/en/
Nature Conservancy of Canada https://natureconservancy.ca/
Best wishes as you consider how you can give green gifts this Christmas.
Christmas and the Climate Crisis… Margaret MacDonald
At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God's most wonderful gift to us. What has humankind done in response to this gift? As far as our beautiful planet is concerned, we have abused it and shown little care about the consequences. Do the Lord's people deserve any further gifts? We must show our love and respect by doing as much as each of us are able to combat climate change. Every small thing that each of us do is a positive step towards a healthier earth. How many steps can we each take today and every day to show our gratitude?
This Announcement Just In…
From Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club of Canada.
“Late yesterday afternoon, when it looked like we were getting close to receiving notice that a new license to drill for oil and gas off of Nova Scotia was going to be rejected, the first thing I said was “We can win!”
It's easy to become cynical or even depressed about how hard it is to see progress on the issues we tackle. The lobbying of the oil industry at COP28 makes it clear that this industry will even use the climate emergency itself as an opportunity to leverage power and profit.
This time round, a license to drill for oil and gas the world cannot afford to burn has been vetoed at the get go, meaning: No more public resources spent fostering development that cannot occur if we are to keep our communities safe from more climate pollution.
No more years spent trying to convince elected leaders that seismic blasting to look for more oil really does harm ocean life and endangered whales like the northern bottlenose whale found near this license.
No panic that a spill out there could damage the fragile sand spit that is Sable Island National Park.
No need for legal challenges to try and get our laws to be put to work as they were designed to do, to protect the environment.
No need to wonder if our elected leaders can put aside party politics and have mature conversation about climate solutions.
No late nights thinking: if we fail, I have failed to protect my daughter and others like her who just want the adults in her life to create a safe place for her to grow into.
I cannot thank you enough for keeping the faith for the hard work we do every day. Together, we can win! “ Gretchen
Christmas and the Climate Crisis…
A Tumbleweed Prayerpoem by Gordon Murray
That frosty morn
in Bethlehem long ago
when the chill that laid upon plain and mountain
was as much from inhumanity as the December night.
Still he came!
In this frosty now,
where cities swell (or empty) in fear
where locals cower from war's long and destructive night;
where the chill that 'here' is no longer one's own.
Still - he comes!
When sea and sand, temple tall and city mall are abused for gain,
when faith is ruled by state;
when the 'holy' are not devout
and the devout are kept without;
when justice lacks mercy
and peace is far too thin –
Still - he comes!
If God can find a welcome
in a carpenter's dream
and a teenager’s womb;
If angel song can find an ear
in the pure or poor in body or soul;
every fragile “yes” however small
was... is... enough!
And he comes.
We long for your life, and your gifts of peace, , justice, love, and joy. Come Lord Jesus, Come.