Christmas Reflection from the Chair of our Board
Christmas Spirited Reflection – by Rev. Paul Gehrs
Rev. Paul Gehrs serves as Assistant to the Bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and represents the ELCIC on the KAIROS Board. He lives in Winnipeg, on Treaty One Territory.
I begin by acknowledging that I am on Treaty One Territory as I prepare this spirited reflection.
Now after [the Magi] had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Out of Egypt I have called my son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)
In 1984, there was a famine crisis in Ethiopia. Musicians came together as “Band Aid” and hosted a giant global telethon. Millions of dollars were donated. From my place of privilege and naiveté, I somehow believed that millions of dollars could solve any problem. Yet, people were still hungry.
I wrote down a short prayer: “God, why are people hungry? Show me what I can do.”
A few days later, I received a letter in the mail. It was a brochure inviting me to “Youth and Hunger Retreat: Myths and Reality about Poverty.” Unaccustomed as I am to receiving written responses to my prayers, I thought “I don’t have time to go.” But the sign was too strong. The retreat was the beginning of a life-long journey to understanding words such as justice, greed, bias, marginalization and opportunity.
For last four years, I have served as chair of the KAIROS Board. My second two-year term as chair is ending on December 31. With is a two-term limit on executive positions, the Board has elected Desmond Jagger Parsons to serve as chair for the next two years. I will continue to serve on the Board as the representative from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Thank you for the honour for serving as chair of the KAIROS board; personally, it was yet another answer to the prayer “show me what I can do.”
Looking back, I will boldly say that the last four years have been “wonderful” for KAIROS.
Four years ago KAIROS lost our CIDA funding from the Government of Canada. In the midst of lost resources, we “wondered” how we were going to get by. KAIROS continues to get by focusing on the mission of ecumenical justice initiatives, and by the generosity of all connected with the movement.
Mary Corkery retired, and we “wondered” who will be the next Executive Director (E.D.). It was “wonderful” news when Jennifer Henry accepted the call to serve as E.D.
The KAIROS Indigenous Rights Circle (KIRC) challenged the Board to “re-set the relationship” between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples. This has been a process that includes many moments wondering what is going on, and many moments of wonder as we discovered the wisdom, truth and faith in various traditions. The process continues from a good place.
I could continue to mention moments in the life of KAIROS, but for now I ask you to recall the wonder that God is among us, in all that we are and all that we do.
Matthew’s Christmas story includes what is called the “Flight to Egypt” or “The Slaughter of Holy Innocents.”
When I hear about Joseph’s dream, I remember the letter I received and the retreat that caused me to change roads. Sometimes, God makes the next step obvious.
At the same time, I am aware that I have never experienced anything like what happened to Mary, Joseph and Jesus: lives threatened, fleeing to Egypt as refugees, and the horror of neighbours/children being slaughtered. But many have experiences like this and many continue to know oppression and threat. Sometimes, the essential message is “God weeps with those who weep.”
The words: “search for the child, to destroy,” echo in my soul. Sometimes the next step is not obvious, but all the more essential.
The prophet’s words “Out of Egypt I have called my son” link the story of Jesus’ birth and incarnation to the story of Exodus and freedom from slavery. Sometimes all we have is hope, and it is enough for today.
I still pray “Why are people hungry? Show me what I can do.” I think it is still relevant. It is tempting to avoid opening my mail & email. I don’t always feel the courage to know the suffering or face the opportunity. But I open it; because I fundamentally believe that seeking justice and peace are an integral part of God’s mission for the church.
May you know the wonder of God’s presence, and may you recognize the Kairos moments.