A Pastoral Message from Christ Church

Dear Friends of Christ Church,

You won’t find Advent mentioned explicitly anywhere in the Bible; the season is a human creation designed to focus our attention on some very important aspects of our spiritual journey.

 

The Advent cast of characters includes the Prophets who foretell the coming of one chosen by God to bring about the reign of God on earth.  Next, we have the Angels who, in various Gospels, speak both to Mary and then to Joseph about a particular birth that is about to take place.  In Luke’s Gospel, because the author always has the poor and struggling in mind, it is the Shepherds – those who are the bottom of society’s laborers - who receive the announcement of Jesus’ birth.  Although the Kings (or magi, magicians, or sorcerers) materialize immediately in almost every church Christmas pageant, in the Bible they don’t show up until much later.  

 

From the late Middle Ages until the mid-20th century, Advent was known as “the little Lent.” Not only was it two weeks shorter, but the assigned scripture lessons of the two seasons paralleled each other with their emphasis on sin and repentance.

 

The late 20th century brought a return to the person of Mary and her role as an example for us all.  The emphasis shifted from sin and repentance to expectation and hope.  Yes, as in every pregnancy, there were experiences of unpleasantness and sometimes even pain.  However, the overall accent was on this new thing that God was doing in the world.  While pregnancy was the theme, the birth of Jesus would serve as the beginning of the story that would culminate in his imminent return, perhaps even in our time.

 

The so-called “Second Coming” became the main thrust of Advent, as evidenced in many wonderful Advent hymns. Even in scripture, Jesus, in his good Jewish tradition, expected a final day of judgement and a physical return of a victorious Christ over the powers of evil.  Today, most Christians do not await a physical return but rather a longing for the reign of God in our world as manifested in the spirit of Jesus’ own prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

 

Here at Christ Church, we will mark the change of the seasons from Ordinary Time to Advent in several ways.  The color of the vestments and hangings will change from green to blue, the color of Mary.  Different music will call us to worship on Sunday mornings.  The Advent wreath will be lit and a different style of praying the Psalm will be appointed for each day.  We will offer a Eucharistic Prayer from “Enriching Our Worship,” a 1997 supplement to the Book of Common Prayer that contains many Advent themes.  Finally, the Prayers of the People will call us to prepare for Christ’s coming in the way in which we anticipate a birth, as new life among us and within us.

 

This is the first Advent that is almost “Post-Covid.” During Covid’s prime time, many of us got out of the habit of regular worship in the company of our faith community. Around this nation it is reported that in-person worship attendance is about half of what it was before the pandemic. While we could grouse about that, I would rather issue this invitation to anyone who has gotten out of the habit of being here on a Sunday morning: Please come, for your sake and for ours.  Your presence makes a difference.

 

God came into this world in our flesh in the person of Jesus to share life with us. There is no getting away from the centrality of the incarnation when we think about Jesus.  One of my favorite philosophers, Blaise Pascal, noted, “One Christian is no Christian.”  That may be debatable, but he meant that ours is not a faith for people isolated from one another. The Church is the Body of Christ in the world and for the world - when we are a gathered community.  We need to be together, to see each other face to face, to shake hands and hug, to argue and affirm. Please make regular worship with your community of faith here a priority in your life, for I know both you and the world will be blessed if you do.

               

Someone asked me recently, “What do you want for Christmas?”  My answer, “I’ve already received a great gift this year.” I consider it nothing less than a gift from God that I can spend these months with you.  For as you wait in hope for a new rector, it is my joy to be with you.  You are an inspiration, and like those crazy angels who shouted the good news from the hilltops, I’m telling everyone I meet about the faithful band in Newton. 

 

Have a blessed Advent everyone, and I’ll look forward to seeing you in church.

 

Joyfully yours,

The Reverend Timothy Mulder,

Interim Rector

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