VOLUME 1, NUMBER 13, NOVEMBER 14, 2010Winding Down the Church Year—and Looking Ahead in Hope
The Church operates on a number of different calendars. Some are practical. Fiscally we tend to operate from January to December (though this isnít set in stone) along with much of the secular world. Programmatically we tend to operate on something close to an academic calendar, with the program year more or less September through May (I try to tame this to the Church year by thinking more about it more as Holy Cross through Pentecost/Trinity Sunday/Corpus Christi).
But the real year for the Church is the Church year and that runs from the first Sunday of Advent through Christ the King. It is a rhythm that takes us through Godís great and powerful works of salvation in the world, but also recognizes and makes a place for all those places we find ourselves in our life in Christ. Right now we are nearing the end of the year. We have celebrated All Saints (that great feast that celebrates Godís power to transform our fallen and broken lives into the shape and vitality of the life of the Son of God) and next week will celebrate the feast of Christ the King, that fulfillment of all of Godís work in the world when we celebrate the revealing of Godís reign over all of creation.
And right after that it begins again and we enter Advent—my favorite season. The truth is, all of them are my favorite season, but Advent is my favorite favorite season. In this hemisphere at least, Advent is a season of darkness. But itís not all darkness. Lights appear in that season that arenít like the lights of any other time of year. There are Christmas lights, of course, promising the hope of that great holiday (even if so many who celebrate it are only marginally aware of its meaning). But there is also the light we see in the windows of homes that suggest warmth and happiness (even if a promise is sometimes all it is) and also the light of the stars shining down through the cold, dark sky offering their own promise of a coming King, a Messiah, who will join heaven and earth.
I have been thinking about this and am writing this because darkness and fear, but also light and hope/promise—have been on my mind lately. Itís nearly impossible for Ďlay peopleí to make sense of whatís happening with our economy and so many have been effected by it to a greater or lesser extent, the Church in general and Grace Church no less than anyone else, that itís natural for us to wonder what will happen to us—each of us and to our work as Godís Church in this part of the world. Itís easy to settle into the darkness of fear.
But Advent is a season of hopeful expectation. Itís a season about promise. It means Ďcomingí—as in, God himself coming into this broken world to heal it. This is a season of darkness, but for Christians, darkness is never just darkness. For Christians, darkness can never be a giving in to fear. For Christians darkness is always about promise, about hope for the light that is coming and even now breaking through that darkness.
Advent is my favorite season because I think the Church is in some sense always in Advent—that hopeful expectation of a promise fulfilled—until the Kingdom comes. We are a people who live in hope, even when it seems darkness is all there is. We are a people who donít stay in the darkness, but notice those small, fragile lights shining here and there in the darkness and know that these, not the darkness, is the Truth. We are a people not of fear, but of hope—a people not locked into a dead past, but whoís God has the power to create everything out of nothing and to raise the dead to new and abundant life. When we belong to such a God, what is there to fear?
Advent is my favorite season because I know that my future and yours—and that Grace Churchís future—is in the hope, the promise of that light—of that God. Advent is my favorite season because it invites us forward into that future—into Godís future—of light and life.
You Are Cordially Invited
PRAYER LIST... On Sunday, November 28th, the First Sunday in Advent and the beginning of a new church year, we will begin the prayer list anew. Names that are currently on will be removed and a new, up-to-date list will be started. If you have names on the current list that you would like to continue, you must let the church office know by next week, November 21st. Thank you!
SUNDAY MORNING ADULT CHRISTIAN FORMATION... will continue today after the 10am Mass. This week the Rector will conclude the (now) three-part series on the theology of death, communion of and with the saints, and the Burial Rite of The Book of Common Prayer.
CONFIRMATION... If there are any youth of at least 13 years (though, if the true nature of the Sacrament of Confirmation is understood, older is probably better) who would like explore their faith more deeply and prepare for a life of committed ministry in the Church, culminating in the Sacrament of Confirmation by prayer and the laying on of hands by our bishop, please let the Rector know. If there is enough interest, the Rector will call a meeting to discuss the process.
THANKSGIVING BASKETS... Again this year Grace Church will participate in the Thanksgiving basket program for our neighbors in need. Baskets will be assembled next Sunday, November 21st at Zion Lutheran Church at 6:30 pm. Volunteer help is greatly appreciated.
CHRISTMAS AT SEA... A collection box is in the narthex for items for the Seamenís Church Instituteís Christmas at Sea program for mariners. Items needed are travel size toothpaste and tooth brushes, playing cards, puzzle books, individually wrapped candies & gum, lotion and sunscreen, and lip balm.
THANK YOU TO ALL WALK-IN-DINNER PARTICIPANTS... On Thursday, November 4 Grace Church served a dinner of chili over rice, salad, bread, cookies, and beverage at the county Housing, Health and Human Service Center in Hackensack to 112 persons. Thank you to all who prepared food, contributed items, or went down to Hackensack to serve the meal. Our next Walk-In-Dinner is scheduled for Thursday, January 6, 2011. To volunteer, speak to Jim Freeman during Coffee Hour.
COMMUNITY HOSPICE... Celebrate National Hospice Month at an ďAll You Can EatĒ Fall Festival on Sunday, November 14th, 12 noon - 4pm at United Water, Harrington Park. Music, childrenís activities, food and fun! Tickets $20 adults, $10 children & $60 for family of 5 or more.
PLEASE SUPPORT FOOD FOR FRIENDS THIS PROGRAM YEAR... The fall season provides a timely opportunity for dedicating or rededicating ourselves to support the Food for Friends ministry. St. Paulís Community Development Corporation Food Pantry in Paterson, which receives our contributions, especially welcomes high protein items, such as beans and canned meats. Otherwise, their wish list asks specifically for tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's Community Development Corporation and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paulís at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501.Thank you.
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